Category: Public Policy

Air-ConditioningI know why Victorian women fainted so much. They were too hot – literally. Wearing layers and layers of clothes, corseted to the point of not being able to breath, attempting to make merry in rooms draped and swathed and festooned with velvet furniture and bric-a-brac. If you think about London in the summer … you’d faint too. I will happily keep my modern clothing and my air conditioning, thank you.

Not so fast, says Pope Francis. His encyclical, Laudato Si’, suggests that air conditioning is one of those modern features that is giving us environmental woes.

Some countries are gradually making significant progress, developing more effective controls and working to combat corruption. People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive. (55)

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On Friday, the Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil published a Portuguese translation of Samuel Gregg’s recent article about the economic flaws in Pope Francis’s environment encyclical. Matheus Pacini of the IMB translated Gregg’s commentary, originally published June 19 in The American Spectator.

Nos dias posteriores à publicação da nova encíclica do papa Francisco, Laudato Si’ (Louvado Seja), a maioria dos comentários abordava as possíveis implicações da mesma para o debate sobre as mudanças climáticas.

Um esforço para influenciar esse discussão — sendo que boa parte dela, como Al Gore, já desapareceu das manchetes dos noticiários e se confinou a organizações internacionais, ONGs, burocratas governamentais e lobistas profissionais — é claramente parte da intenção imediata da encíclica.

Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research. The full Portuguese translation can be read here, and the original The American Spectator article in English is here.

 

A French translation of Samuel Gregg’s The American Spectator article on Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical was published earlier this week in Nouvelles de France. Gregg is the Acton Institute’s director of research, and the article, titled “Laudato Si’: Well Intentioned, Economically Flawed,” was translated by Emmanuel d’Hoop de Synghem.

Peu avant la publication de l’encyclique du Pape François, Laudato Si, la plupart des commentaires focalisaient sur les implications et les liens qu’a cette encyclique avec le débat sur le changement climatique. Une tentative d’influencer ce débat fait clairement partie de l’objectif de cette encyclique, alors que cet exercice n’étaient plus effectué que par des organisations internationales, quelques ONG, des bureaucrates gouvernementaux et des professionels du lobbyisme. De plus, malgré les quelques intrusions dans des aspects très techniques, tel l’impact de l’air-conditionné, la véritable signification de ce long texte, ardu à lire par endroits, se situe plus généralement au niveau d’une réflexion théologique sur la relation de l’homme avec la nature.

The full translation can be found here, and the original English article is here.

calvin-coolidgeThis weekend marks the 143rd birthday of the best president you (probably) don’t know: Calvin Coolidge.

Most presidents are judged by what they do in office. For instance, they are expected to “do something” about the economy even if their actions are counterproductive and detrimental. Coolidge took a different approach: he preferred to do “nothing”—to take as much inaction as possible.

The liberal journalist Walter Lippman once wrote, “There has never been Mr. Coolidge’s equal in the art of deflating interest [in government]” and “the skill with which Mr. Coolidge can apply a wet blanket to an enthusiast is technically marvelous.” (We need a politician like Coolidge today who can lead a new Wet Blanket movement.)

Coolidge did take one notable action, though. He shrunk the government—and the American economy boomed. Is there a lesson to be learned? Award-winning author, historian, and biographer Amity Shlaes thinks so.
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Pope Francis will begin a tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay on Sunday, returning to the continent of his birth for the first time since his election in 2013 and visiting areas of extreme poverty. Peter Johnson, the Acton Institute’s external relations officer, told the Associated Press that the pontiff’s criticism of the free market neglects to account for the economic improvements made in Latin America in the last decade.

The three countries on Francis’ tour all have made economic advances over the last decade, improvements that business leaders say have come thanks, in part, to the very sort of capitalistic ventures the pope recently has criticized as materialistic.

Bolivia, for example, has cut the number of people living in extreme poverty from 37 percent to 19 percent in less than a decade due in large part to increased natural gas exports under President Evo Morales.

“Francis is constantly impugning the free market and never holding up the good that it can do,” said Peter Johnson from the Acton Institute, a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based think tank focused on the intersection of economics and religion.

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Bridge-building-w-cranesThe state of Michigan is in the midst of something of an infrastructure crisis. We’re consistently ranked as among the states with the worst roads in the nation, something of an embarrassment for what used to be the automotive capital of the US. This infrastructure challenge is also no doubt part of a legacy of a state with one of the more troubled economies in the nation over the previous decade. (In spite of all this, Michigan remains a beautiful state with wonderful people, something Thrillist noted in recently ranking the Mitten state as the best state in America!)

To President Obama’s quip about infrastructure to business leaders, “You didn’t build that,” one might be tempted to retort that, in Michigan at least, that’s also increasingly true for the government. The roads aren’t being maintained in anything like a responsible fashion.

The voters of Michigan recently defeated Proposal 1, which was put forth by the state’s politicians as the only feasible solution. The voters actually saw it for what it was: a game of brinkmanship and blame-shifting. The defeat of Prop 1 put the onus back on the elected politicians to actually do their job and undertake the tough work of governing.

There have been a number of other ideas floated after the end of Prop 1, and part of that overhaul of our state’s approach to infrastructure investment and maintenance includes debate over so-called “prevailing” wage laws that require “union-scale wages and benefits on public construction contracts.”
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pope plant“Laudato si, mi’ Signore!” Both the title and first line of the most recent papal encyclical come from St. Francis’ canticle which looks at nature as a great gift, but you all know that. Every news source worth its salt made that clear before the encyclical was released (either time); yet, we as Christians are called to be salt of the Earth. This entails more than a brief glance at the word on the street about the ecological pronouncement. What is at stake here is the central call of humanity: to till and keep the gifted garden (Genesis 2:15). The first human was placed in this role of cultivation of the earth even before being told to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. There was a promise to act and a law to keep. The Bible is divided into two halves: law in the Old Testament and promise in the New Testament. The call to be salt of the earth is about the Christian life fulfilling that promise. Note that the law followed the promise in the order of our creation. Core to human being was first the love of the life of the world–the greatest commandment as Christ said. So, then why is the reactionary focus of the encyclical even before it was released surrounded upon the policy, the law, that it would inspire and not the call to promise?

Surely within the encyclical there is language that leads to law being created. What Pope Francis has seen in the world directly articulates the life he leads–one unaccepting of a “globalization of indifference” for any child of God’s in need. (more…)