Category: Public Policy

Vatican PopeIn anticipation of the new papal encyclical on the environment (reportedly due out this month, and titled Laudato si’ [Praised Be You]), the press is seeking a way to make sense out of information “floating around” concerning the contents of the encyclical. At this point, no one really knows what the encyclical will say, although there are educated guesses. (See Fr. Robert Sirico’s discussion on the encyclical here.)

Peter Smith at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a “round-up” of various Vatican watchers, officials and teachers, asking for opinions on this environmental encyclical. Included in this group was Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton (Acton’s Rome office.) Jayabalan told Smith that:

… he hopes the pope emphasizes “our freedom and responsibility in caring for God’s creation” and the poor. (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cardinal Turkson: together for stewardship of creation
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Vatican Radio

Despite the generation of great wealth, we find starkly rising disparities – vast numbers of people excluded and discarded, their dignity trampled upon. As global society increasingly defines itself by consumerist and monetary values, the privileged in turn become increasingly numb to the cries of the poor.

Pope Francis endorses climate action petition
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

“He was very supportive,” Tomás Insua, a Buenos Aires, Argentina, native and co-founder of the group, said in an email. “[Pope Francis] even joked that we were competing against his encyclical before it was published.”

Martin Weitzman on Climate Change
Russ Roberts, Library of Economics and Liberty

Is climate change the ultimate Black Swan? Martin Weitzman of Harvard University and co-author of Climate Shock talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the risks of climate change.

Rick Santorum On Pope Francis’ Letter On Climate Change: ‘Leave The Science To The Scientists’
Dom Giordano, CBS Philly

“The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we’re probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good on, which is theology and morality.”

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, June 1, 2015

In the spirit of PowerLinks, we’ll be adding a regular roundup on news concerning Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment and, more broadly, religious witness on environmental stewardship outside the Roman Catholic Church. This may be a daily PowerBlog feature, or you may see it less frequently depending on the volume of news and commentary on the subject. If you haven’t got to it yet, make sure you watch Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s excellent commentary on the encyclical, which was posted on Friday. We welcome your comments and please feel free to add links we may have missed. We’re looking for a robust exchange. That means we don’t necessarily need to agree with your position. But please keep the conversation civil and refrain from personal attacks.

Pope’s environmental encyclical to be titled ‘Laudato Sii’ (Praised Be You)
Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency

Taken from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun” prayer praising God for creation, the likely name of the Pope’s upcoming encyclical was informally announced just weeks before its anticipated publication.

The upcoming “environment” encyclical, “human ecology”, and the everlasting pains of Hell
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Fr. Z’s Blog

Some say that the Pope’s next encyclical – on the “environment” – will be called “Laudato sii“. Some say that that’s Latin. No. It isn’t. It’s the 13th Umbrian which St. Francis of Assisi would have known and in which he penned his Canticle of the Sun.


hypocrisy-1-250x244In every major city that is increasing the minimum wage (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles), labor unions have been at the forefront of the change. For example, in an op-ed for the Huffington Post titled “Raise Los Angeles’ Minimum Wage and Enforce It,” Rusty Hicks, a labor leader in L.A. who represents over 300 unions, wrote:

It’s no secret that we believe the minimum wage must be raised in order to lift working families out of poverty. Most voters and many members of the city council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agree with us. But we believe enforcement is the key to success in any new minimum wage policy.

Apparently, what Hicks meant was that enforcement was necessary except when applied to unions. This week—a month after his HuffPo op-ed—Hicks has taken a different perspective:

… Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

Commenting on this quote, Tim Worstall says, “It’s difficult to know whether to giggle, guffaw or scream in rage at the arrogance of that.”


090806-N-6220J-004President Obama remarked that he would like faith organizations and churches to speak to poverty solutions “in a more forceful fashion” at a Georgetown University summit in mid-May. The meeting included faith leaders from Catholic and evangelical denominations, and included political thinkers Robert Putnam of Harvard, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks.

Putnam said the voice of the faithful in the U.S. is critical to alleviating poverty.

Without the voice of faith, it’s going to be very hard to push this to the top of the agenda,” said Putnam, co-author of “American Grace,” and “Our Kids,” a book about the widening gap between rich and poor children in America.

If religious observance includes an obligation to the poor, the religious can be a powerful force for positive action and social justice, said Putnam.

Rev. Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute, commented on the summit’s call for more involvement by churches in meeting the needs of the poor. (more…)

rules-and-regulationsIn the Old Testament there are 613 commandments. Of those 248 are “positive commandments,” to perform an act, and 365 are “negative commandments,” to abstain from certain acts. Some of those include commandments that are deemed to be self-evident (“laws”), such as not to murder and not to steal. Others commemorate important events in Jewish history (“testimonies”) while the rest are simply decrees of God (“decrees”).

God deemed those 613 commandments to be enough to regulate almost every aspect of the lives of his people for thousands of years. You could read all of them in less than 30 minutes.

The American federal government, however, is not so succinct. There are over 1 million restrictions in the federal regulations alone (i.e., not counting the statutory law). Patrick McLaughlin calculated that it would take the average adult three years to read the whole thing.

In this video, McLaughlin provides a visual example of how much regulation has increased since the 1950s:

The federal government spent more than $100 billion providing food assistance to Americans last year, according to recent testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Eighteen federal programs provided food to 46 million people—approximately 1 out of every 7 Americans. Here are the programs and the dollar amount spent:

gao-foodprograms The GAO found significant overlap between these programs which “can create unnecessary work and waste administrative resources, resulting in inefficiency.” The GAO identified several food assistance programs that provide the same or comparable benefits to the same or similar population groups—and yet each program is managed separately:

Constitutional InterpretationA few days ago I mentioned Michael Stokes Paulsen’s crash course on how to interpret the Constitution. Paulsen outlined five techniques of constitutional interpretation that courts and commentators employ: (1) arguments from the straightforward, natural, original linguistic meaning of the text; (2) arguments from the structure, logic, and relationships created by the document as a whole; (3) arguments from history, original intention, or purposes behind an enacted text; (4) arguments from precedent; and (5) arguments from policy.

Today, Paulsen has another article that addresses whose job it is to interpret “Constitutional law.” As he says, the role is not the exclusive domain of the courts, or even of government officials. Faithful interpretation is the duty and responsibility of faithful citizens.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

FREE-STUFF-Several years ago economist Bryan Caplan provided the most succinct and helpful statement about how we should think about free trade: “We’d be better off if other countries gave us stuff for free. Isn’t ‘really cheap’ the next-best thing?”

As with any simplification, critics could find many reasons to grumble about what that leaves unstated (e.g., trade leads to offshoring of jobs). But it highlights an important point about why free trade matters. Free trade is about as close to a “free stuff” economy as you can get in the real world.

A primary effect of free trade, as Tim Fernholz says, is that when companies hire or set up factories abroad to take advantage of cheap labor elsewhere, Americans’ real income goes up because a lot of the stuff they’re buying is cheaper.

united-states-constitutionThe U.S. Constitution is arguably one of the most important legal documents in the history of the world. Because of this venerated status, though, many people assume that you need to be a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and an expert on recondite Constitutional law to understand how to read the document, much less interpret the Constitution. But as Michael Stokes Paulsen says, reading and understanding the Constitution is not an especially complicated intellectual exercise. It takes lawyers, judges, and law professors to turn it into something difficult and convoluted.

“Ninety-five percent of constitutional law amounts to deciding how to go about the enterprise of reading and applying the Constitution itself,” adds Paulsen. In the first of a two part series for Public Discourse, he outlines five broad categories of techniques one might use for interpretation.