Archived Posts January 2007 - Page 3 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

Higher education is one of those areas—like health care—in which prices are so out of whack because of so many distortions in the market that it’s hard to know just how to go about rectifying the situation.

Richard Vedder, a great economist who has done pathbreaking work on the causes of the Great Depression, offers an incisive analysis of a Democratic proposal to lower student loan interest rates. It serves as an excellent case study in the law of unintended consequences.

By the way, the bill, which was voted on yesterday, passed.

This is one of the images I see on days I drive home from school:




Yes, that’s a shared storefront for a health spa featuring “rub downs” and “American” girls, along with an adult “super store.” Nothing untoward about that connection. Nope, nothing at all.

And even though it touts “American” girls, this parlor isn’t located in a country like Thailand, which was noted by the US State Department as “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.”

In a statement in 2004, Mohamed Y. Mattar, Co-Director of the Protection Project of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, talked about cases in which “massage parlors have been shut down after it was discovered that they were fronts for houses of prostitution. The women working in those establishments did not have massage therapist licenses and traveled from New Orleans to Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, New York, Biloxi (Mississippi) and Grand Rapids (Michigan) to engage in prostitution.”

And as the icing on the cake, these shops are located on this street:




The adventure in cognitive dissonance leading to a street named “Division” to become the site for honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is a whole other story. At least they got one thing right: MLK is “above” division.

Blog author: sgrabill
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
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Duncan Foley’s new book, Adam’s Fallacy, is the latest installment among the critics of free-market economics to spin economic history according to the received wisdom of today’s Center-Left intelligentsia. Lest this statement be too harsh, let it be shown that Foley himself reports that his intention in writing the book is not to get bogged down in historical and textual analysis of the key economic texts of the last three-hundred years but to tell his own “imaginatively reconstructed” account of the broad sweep of modern economic history.

If you tend to be a “splitter” as opposed to a “lumper” where historical figures and key texts are concerned, you should heed Foley’s admonition and be warned that Adam’s Fallacy is his “own take on economics and exploits the great figures in the history of political economy shamelessly for [his] own ends.” If your ends don’t happen to match Foley’s ends, then you may find yourself disgruntled like me. But, at the very least, you can take heart that you were warned twice, once by Foley and once by me.

There is no ordering of the state so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such.

Deus Caritas Est

Last weekend I had the joy of sharing in a special meeting in Newport Beach, California, that was appropriately named the Issachar Project. This small project is the work, primarily, of my friend Andrew Sandlin of the Center for Cultural Leadership. Andrew is convinced that there must be an intellectual and existential coalition of (1) Christians working in Hollywood and elsewhere in the film industry and (2) serious Christian thinkers in the arts.

You may recall that the sons of Issachar are described in the Scriptures as “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Their number was small but their impact was great. This unique gathering included men and women, mostly under forty. The purpose of this group was not to form a “think tank” but rather to explore the neglected dimension of knowing God through beauty and imagination, in other words to explore how we know him incarnationally, not merely intellectually.

Most of the invited participants at this unusual meeting were film and television script writers, producers, teachers of the arts and reviewers. We heard four presentations on subjects like how Genesis 1 provides a storyline for narrative, how we should understand Acts 17 as it relates to the Mars Hill context of our times, and why we should watch films in the first place. Brian Godawa, author of the outstanding, and highly recommended new book Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment (InterVarsity Press), was a major contributor to the event, as was Jack Hafer, who produced the fantastic feature film, “To End All War.” (more…)

I feel FINE!

There’s nothing like a few dreary Michigan winter days to get me into a midwinter funk. And because I’m a nice guy, I thought I’d share some of my funkyness with you, gentle reader. Especially if you’re in a warmer climate.

First of all, David Warren notes that the foundations of society in Canada are still under assault:

The names of the plaintiffs in that case were suppressed by the court. I would be very curious to know who they were. Media reports have implied it was a perfectly normal new post-modern “loving” family unit, in which the child would benefit from the attention of two lesbian moms and one “natural” (i.e. sperm-donating) dad. But I will bet my pension they were in fact activists, recruited or volunteering for the cause. We’ll see: for despite the incuriosity of our liberal media, the truth will out eventually. And it will be important that future generations, who inherit the social catastrophe that must follow from the destruction of the nuclear family, will be able to learn not just what was done through the courts while our generation slept, but how it was done to avoid waking us.

A civilized mind, heir to the deep “Judaeo-Christian” tradition, is filled with horror at the thought of polygamy, which we associate with primitive tribes, and by extension with many other barbarous practices suppressed in Christendom centuries ago. Yet the intelligent student of social history will realize that nothing human is finally suppressed, and that the most primitive behaviour may suddenly revive, usually under some new guise of sophistry. It is why the civilized must be always vigilant — not only against barbarians on their frontiers, but against barbarous desires arising within their own breasts.

If only the barbarians were outside the frontiers

what happens when “moderate” Muslims stop being polite and start getting real.

It’s not pretty. On the one hand, you have the cultural relativists, who insist that right and wrong are nothing but social constructs, devoid of any real meaning except to the individual who defines what they are. As a result, anything goes – all lifestyles, cultures, religions and philosophies are equal, and the foundations of western society are no longer worth defending. On the other hand, you have radical Islamists, who seem more than happy to exploit the freedoms of the West in order to destroy it from within. It’s the perfect storm…

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
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One of ABC’s new dramas, Brothers & Sisters, features Calista Flockhart as a hard-hitting conservative pundit named Kitty Walker.

Despite its title, the show is not all that family friendly (although it has not yet been rated by the Parents Television Council). But for this post, I won’t be focusing on the questionable social and sexual mores of the show. Instead, I’m going to focus on an aspect of the show’s portrayal of politics.

“Politics is about the privilege and the honor of taking care of people.”

In the most recent episode, “Sexual Politics,” Kitty has taken a job as a political adviser to Sen. Robert McCallister, played by Rob Lowe. McCallister is a young and handsome political star from California and is styled as “a John McCain-style Republican.”

Here’s a speech he gives to a group of ladies and donors (My comments are in brackets. The full episode is available for viewing at ABC.com here by clicking on the Brothers & Sisters graphic and selecting the episode marked 1/14/07. McCallister’s speech begins at approximately the 01:22 mark of the show):

I barely left the house most Sundays [not even to go to church?!]. My mom would cook elaborate dinners for neighbors, friends, and sometimes people we barely knew. By ten I could whip up a perfect meringue, to glaze a pan, dress chicken [these last two may be terms for particular dishes and I probably have not gotten them right].

But by the time puberty rolled around I’d had enough. Football, friends seemed more important. So I told her I was done. I was a guy, I didn’t want to spend Sundays in the kitchen with my mom. And you know what she said? She told me that someday I would realize that taking care of people is not masculine or feminine. It’s a privilege and it’s an honor. And she was right.

And one day I realized that politics is about the privilege and the honor of taking care of people, of making certain that the weak are protected, the poor are sheltered, and the hungry fed. My mother passed away six years ago, but I work every day to honor her memory in politics and in my kitchen. Thank you very much.

This captures pretty well the spirit of big government conservatism, as represented in real life by some other California Republicans. In such a view, it is the task of government to “take care of people,” periphrasis for a nanny State if I ever heard one. Indeed, politics are about sheltering the poor and feeding the hungry, taking care of people who obviously can’t take care of themselves. It’s not about empowerment but about infantilization.

Contrast this with a rather different view of politics, as portrayed in the words of Lord Acton, one that doesn’t arrogate politicking to the status of the highest possible human endeavor:

There are many things the government can’t do – many good purposes it must renounce. It must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people. It cannot convert the people.

In Acton’s view, the highest purpose for the government is to promote and protect liberty, which is itself only a precondition for virtuous living.

“There are many things the government can’t do – many good purposes it must renounce.”

This leaves room for a vibrant civil society, represented in McCallister’s speech by the kitchen image. But do you see how in McCallister’s speech the role of the kitchen was subsumed, or rather consumed, by politics? Politics is the nanny, but the kitchen is the mommy.

I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the Pledge of Allegiance, and would find it highly difficult to square such a pledge with Christian doctrine if the qualifier “under God” were removed.

But the concluding words of the pledge do get one thing right and that is the necessary relationship between liberty and justice. You can’t have one without the other, for justice grows from the foundation of liberty. And indeed the ideal of this nation is the realization of “liberty and justice for all.”

Blog author: dwbosch
Monday, January 15, 2007
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Environmental Justice Blog: "If Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive today he would be an environmental justice activist."

Perhaps. MLK went to Memphis in 1968 on a mission for black garbage workers demanding equal pay and better work conditions. He was killed before he got there. 15 years later, black activists would stop a hazardous waste landfill in Warren County, North Carolina, often pointed to as the beginning of the environmental justice movement.

Are the two related? Sure. Martin transformed civil rights, and his agena might have included environmental justice eventually. But I think his priority (like that of his protege, the Rev. Jesse Jackson) was always people, not pollution.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (read on…) (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Monday, January 15, 2007
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Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and rightly so.

Here’s a bit from his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”:

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality.

When I was in elementary, middle, and high school in Virginia, the government celebrated Lee-Jackson-King Day. Res ipsa loquitur.

Blog author: jarmstrong
Friday, January 12, 2007
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In the great discourse regarding the separation of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus refers to the kinds of actions, done in obediential faith that works through love, that demonstrates those who truly love him and those who do not. I have heard a dozen different ways of explaining, or explaining away, these verses over the course of my lifetime. Many consign them to Israel and how we treat the Jews. Others say they must be narrowly limited to the actions of the apostles themselves. Others say this is about doing these deeds for those who are being persecuted for being followers of Jesus. And still others say that only if we know the person we are helping to be a “brother or sister” does this text truly apply. There is some element of truth in each of these ideas, as there often is in such exegetical debates.

But I wonder, as I often wonder about such things: “What do we miss by this kind of narrowing of interpretation? And, further, what do we gain by opening the text up to a wide angle view of all our actions done for Christ, in faithful discipleship?” It seems to me that when verse 36 says, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” the whole point is that such actions done for Christ to any person made in God’s image are done to Christ. This is essentially how Mother Teresa of Calcutta understood this text in her Indian context and thus how and why she practiced what she did for years. And it is the general way that the Christian tradition has always understood these words. When you care for the basic human needs of the poor, when you care for the sick, and when you visit prisoners, you demonstrate Christ’s love in the most profound and, just as clearly, the most simple way. What you do for them you do for Christ. Thus verse 40 adds, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.” Even if the person is not one of Christ’s sheep (and we do not know this for sure since in every case those who belong to him finally are not known to us) if we do these actions in his name and for the love of Christ, we do it to Him. This point seems basic and quite obvious unless we strive to create ways to avoid it.

I thought about this again today because I have had a long-time interest and ministry in prisons. I have preached in jails and visited some major prisons. (I am not reporting this to promote my own piety but reflecting upon the words of Jesus afresh.) As I wrote an inmate today, a brother that I have never actually met, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this when there are so many more important things to be done today that could reach hundreds more people?” But there I was hand-writing one guy who prays for me and is incarcerated far away.

My inmate friend wrote me on January 1 these words from his California prison:

“My holidays were quite pleasant because the Lord has taught me how to be content and peaceful in such circumstances, by ever keeping my focus upon him. We have not had a Protestant chaplain here for nearly two years, therefore as Christmas approached, we were unsure about having a Christmas Day service. Several days before, the Lord blessed me with being chosen to bring the message for that service. Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, the prison was short staffed and we were locked in our housing units. In no way was I discouraged or disappointed because in preparing my sermon, I had spent two days and nights in the presence of the Lord. What a blessed joy it is to live in the Word my brother, as you very well know.”

This brother goes on to ask me if an “old thief” could someday become a prison chaplain? I told him that if an old slave trader and liar like John Newton could become an Anglican minister and write “Amazing Grace” he could surely pursue this call upon his life freely.

Who knows, I may have done more good by writing this man in prison today than I did in anything else that I will do all day. I actually think I did this to Jesus himself if I believe the words that He spoke in Matthew 25, which I do. It just seems to me to be the right way to understand what he plainly tells us there. I will also be on the lookout today for the poor and the sick. Unless I make deliberate choices to include them in my life I will surely ignore them since I do not live in a poor community or find myself looking for sick people day-by-day.

My prayer: “God help me today to have the eyes to see the poor, a heart to care for the sick and a plan to reach out to the imprisoned. Give me the determination and the will to serve them as if I were really serving you, since that is exactly what you told me I would be doing when I serve them. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."