Archived Posts February 2006 - Page 2 of 8 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Today’s BreakPoint commentary by Chuck Colson gives a brief review and survey of Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason.

Concludes Colson: “This book will you give you some very good ammunition to answer those critics who come up with the same tired, old arguments about the fact that Christianity held back the progress of civilization. Nonsense. The evidence is exactly the opposite.”

For previous discussion of Stark’s thesis on the PowerBlog, check out these posts:

Christian Reason and the Spirit of Capitalism

Capitalism and Christianity, Part II

A Stark Contrast

Reason and Revelation

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

As America celebrates Black History Month, Anthony Bradley looks at the forces that threaten the very foundation of black society in this country. “Two aspects of pre-civil rights-era black history — strong men and strong families — will have to be recovered if we wish to have any black history in the future,” Bradley warns.

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jrichards
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Clive Cook has a terrific article in the March 2006 Atlantic Monthly that is worth reading in its entirety. But here’s my favorite paragraph:

What is most striking, so far as the movies’ treatment of capitalism goes, is not the hostility of films whose main purpose is actually to indict corporate wickedness (Wall Street, Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action, The Insider, The Constant Gardener, and so forth). It is the idea of routine, reckless corporate immorality—maintained as though this premise were inoffensive, uncontroversial, and hardly worthy of comment—that drives movies whose principal interest lies elsewhere, whether in the human drama of contemporary geopolitics (Syriana, to cite a recent instance), knockabout comedy (Fun with Dick & Jane), children’s fantasy (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), star-crossed romance (In Good Company), or, classically, in some dystopian near or distant future (Alien, The Terminator, Blade Runner, Robocop, and many others).

The point is not that such movies, or the culture more generally, argue that capitalism is evil. Just the opposite: it is that they so often merely assume, innocently and expecting to arouse no skepticism, that capitalism is evil.

I’ve been compiling a list of popular movies in which the business entrepreneur is treated in a positive manner. It’s a very sparse list. One of the few I’ve thought of is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The fact that Cook cites it in his list illustrates that even this is an ambiguous example. There are bad-guy business people who want to steal Willie Wonka’s secrets, but at least in its most recent incarnation, with John Depp playing Willie Wonka, Wonka is portrayed as a good, if highly eccentric, entrepreneur. Perhaps this is the exception that proves the rule. When Hollywood occasionally portrays an entrepreneur positively, he must highly eccentric–that is, atypical.

I’m sure there are some exceptions to the Hollywood theme of business=evil, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Jesuit journal In All Things devoted its Winter 2005-06 issue to the question of poverty in the United States. The issue brings together a number of perspectives from Jesuits, both liberal and conservative. The Rev. James V. Schall, S. J., contributed an article titled “On Weath and Poverty,” one which the journal editors have described thematically as “choosing not to be poor.”

Here is Schall’s article in its entirety:

The most famous book in economics is The “Wealth” of Nations, not The “Poverty” of Nations. Yet, Christ says, the “poor” will always be with us. Not a few still are. No one needs to learn to be poor. It is easy. Do not make, develop, invent, or concoct anything productive. Someone had to invent the wheel, plumbing, tooth brushes, hybrid corn, and computers The question of poverty implies “how not to be poor.” Unless we talk about the latter question, it is useless to talk about the former one. If we do not know how to produce wealth or if we choose not to learn or effect those things that actually work to produce it, we will be poor. We will likewise make or keep others poor. Not all “good” ideas work for the good. (more…)

This Sunday I went to Mass at a parish I’d never attended before. I was quite pleasantly surprised—the music wasn’t bad, the rubrics were followed, the homily focused on the gospel, they chanted the Agnus Dei, and prayed the prayer to St. Michael afterward; not apparently liberal and better than many typical “suburban rite” parishes. But, during the petitions, one of the prayers was for leaders of nations, that they would eradicate poverty. Here is a classic example of the right desire, poverty eradication, and the wrong way to go about it, government. It also betrays the common misunderstanding that governments solve poverty. Now, leaders of nations and governments do have a role in poverty reduction. They need to create rule of law and enforce contracts. They can help reduce regulation and tariffs and open their borders to free trade. But leaders of nations do not eradicate poverty, nor does aid from the developing world. What eradicates poverty is business. Entrepreneurs and businessmen who create jobs and opportunity and wealth. Michael Novak called small business “the strategic vocation for helping the poor.”

The desire for poverty alleviation through government involvement is a prime example of good intentions combined with unsound economics. Many people have good intentions, but they don’t understand basic economics so they often support solutions without “thinking beyond stage one” as Thomas Sowell says. A prime example of this is the enormously popular One Campaign. Thousands of people are signing on to a good intention without knowing whether the proposed solution will bring about their desired outcome. Good intentions are a start, but they’re not enough and Bob Geldof is wrong when he says do something even if it doesn’t work.

If it doesn’t work—stop doing it. Activism shouldn’t be done for the sake of being active. This is the problem with too many Hollywood stars and other “professional” activists. Activism should have an end that is beyond itself, so if it doesn’t work, we should use our minds to apply reason to the situation and come up with a plan that might. C.S Lewis said that “progress isn’t going forward if you’re going in the wrong direction.” You’ve got to stop and turn around. Acton Senior Fellow, Jay Richards argues that the Bob Geldof idea is reflective of many who believe that their actions or policies will be either good or neutral, but never harmful. But despite what they may believe that is not the case. Often things that don’t work exacerbate the problem. Hence the Acton Message, Don’t Just Care, Think.

We need to have good intentions, but this is only a beginning. If we are going to care about poverty and economic policies then we should begin by taking economics seriously. Some books I recommend include Basic Economics and Applied Economics both by Thomas Sowell, and of course Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. Bono is a force for good intentions, can you imagine all the good he could do if he connected his intentions to sound economics?

Blog author: jballor
Monday, February 20, 2006

A few items of interest from friends on our blogroll:

This story in the UK’s Education Guardian is remarkable for its links to a number of issues.

In contrast to the American system, Britain’s permits “faith” schools that are part of the government system. Thus, this Scottish “Catholic” school is, in the American usage, a “public” school. Now that 75% of its students are Muslim, some Muslims are demanding that the school switch its faith allegiance.

One of the obvious issues is the Islamicization of Europe. Here is a Catholic school in the middle of Scotland’s countryside that is three-quarters Muslim—and another 13% Sikh. France, with its headscarves-at-school controversy, is not the only nation struggling with this new reality.

Another issue is the Catholic identity in educational institutions. (The problem applies more broadly to other kinds of Christian schools as well.) The school is evidently making efforts to preserve it (given the priest’s reference to Mass), but it seems to me that it is possible to reach a tipping point in terms of numbers of non-Catholic students and/or faculty, when Catholic identity becomes impossible to maintain adequately. Serving non-Catholic populations is generally laudable and can even be evangelizational, but Catholic educators need to be realistic about how fidelity to an institution’s original mission can be threatened by a lack of Catholic majorities among students and staff.

Finally, there is the issue of government interaction with religious schools. This Scottish Catholic school benefits financially from depending on the government. But it also thereby depends on the government for its existence. If the state determines that it’s better off Muslim—or anything else, including secular—Catholics (who have made it, apparently, the most attractive school in the area) must stand aside and see it transformed.

HT: Mirror of Justice