Archived Posts April 2012 » Page 9 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I found this video on NPR’s ‘Planet Money’  intriguing.  A young woman reflects on the cost of her wedding dress, which she’s obviously worn once.  She recognizes that there is enormous emotional attachment to this garment, but there is something going on in terms of how much she spent; she just can’t quite put her finger on it.  She eventually finds out that she probably over-paid by about $1200.

She believes she has been ripped off.

There are a few problems with this.  First, no one needs an expensive wedding dress.  Yes, we ladies like to dress up and look good – no more so than on our wedding day.  But need?  Nope.  The decision to spend a bunch of money on a white lacey dress has more to do with desire and certain cultural and personal expectations than necessity.

Second, the young lady complains about ‘asymmetric information’; that is, she went into the dress-buying experience at the mercy of those selling the dresses.  They all knew far more about labor, material, cost, etc. than she did, and she was just along for the ride.  If they said the dress cost $2000, so it must be.

But clearly, she wasn’t at their mercy.  AFTER she bought the dress, she went to a wholesale material buyer and a tailor, and got the low-down.  Why didn’t she educate herself BEFORE buying the dress?

In Money, Greed and God, author Jay W. Richards says this:

 “Free exchanges, by their very nature, will be viewed as winning exchanges by all parties involved.  Otherwise the free parties wouldn’t be involved in the exchange….A free market is best for distributing goods, services and information, whether they are trucks, trumpets, or trashy novels.  But the system doesn’t determine what choices people will make.

In other words, in a free market, one is free to be a bad consumer and/or a bad business person.  But poorly informed or unethical personal choices are not the fault of the market.  As Richards points out, “We shouldn’t expect the economy, free or otherwise, to instill virtue in people.”

Did this young lady pay too much for her dress?  It appears so.  She certainly looked attractive at her wedding, and the photos of this day, she is sure, will be lovingly preserved for generations.  But emotions can make for immoderate desires, poor financial decisions – and really expensive lessons for consumers.

Visit the Acton Book Shoppe and purchase Money, Greed, and God.

Reporter Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service has a story on the new Vatican document titled “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” aimed at educators, entrepreneurs and business people.

Glatz interviews Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton’s Rome office, who praised the document for its pastoral approach:

“It’s trying to encourage and inspire business people” and prompt them to “think about how to incorporate their faith more into what they do,” Jayabalan told Catholic News Service. It shows that “it is possible to be a good Christian and a good businessman; they’re saying there’s no fundamental incompatibility,” he said.

Glatz also explains why the document was published and how its authors aimed for “a simple, concise primer that compiled key principles and aimed specifically at helping business schools form ethical leaders and at guiding business practices worldwide — from mom-and-pop store owners to corporate executives.”

Read “Can business lead to holiness? Promoting virtue in the executive suite” on CNS.

Download a copy of “Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection” by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace.

I came across this news story via Catholic World News. And this intriguing passage about President Carter’s disagreements with Pope John Paul II:

Carter wrote that he exchanged harsh words with the late Pope John Paul II during a state visit over what Carter classified as the Pope’s “perpetuation of the subservience of women.” He added, “there was more harshness when we turned to the subject of ‘liberation theology’.”

I haven’t read the book, so I’m awfully curious to know just how the former President of the United States of America, who was at the time in the middle of fighting the Cold War, defended liberation theology to the Polish Pontiff, who knew the evils of Marxism first-hand. I have little doubt who won the argument, however.

It’s also striking to read that Carter, widely considered the most religious President we’ve had in recent American history and a decent man of good works like Habitat for Humanity, supports same-sex “marriage,” artificial contraception, taxpayer funding of international “family planning” services and embryonic stem cell research, which involves the taking of innocent human life. In other words, he takes the same side on these debates as the most hardened, radical atheist imaginable. Just what kind of Christianity does Carter believe in?

You won’t easily find this kind of muddled thinking and sheer inconsistency matched with moral self-righteousness anywhere else. And if that’s the kind of “Christian” president who can get elected, I’d prefer to vote for a politician who’s quiet about his faith but who’s on the right side of these extremely important non-negotiable issues. Oh, and we know how Carter’s foreign policy and economics worked out, don’t we? What a sham.

Don’t blame the culture wars for the recent debates about contraception, says Phillip W. De Vous in this week’s Acton Commentary (published Apr. 4), the real culprit is statism. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Here are some events worth noting next week:

On Wednesday, April 11, Victor Claar will join us for an Acton on Tap. Victor Claar is a professor of economics at Henderson State University in Arkansas, and previously taught for a number of years at Hope College. I’ll be introducing Victor and the topic for the evening, “Envy: Socialism’s Deadly Sin.” We’ll begin to mingle at 6pm, and the talk will commence at 6:30, followed by what’s sure to be some lively discussion. Join us at Derby Station, and if you’re on Facebook, check out the event page, where some enjoyable dialogue has already commenced.

George Weigel

That same evening George Weigel is visiting Grand Rapids to lecture as part of the Catholic Studies Speaker Series at Aquinas College. Weigel is a prolific author, perhaps best known for his magisterial biography of Pope John Paul II, and holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC. At 7pm at the Wege Ballroom, Weigel will speak on the topic, “John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the Future of Catholic Higher Education.” Check out the event and Catholic Studies at Aquinas College on Facebook.

The following morning, Thursday, April 12, at 8am Victor Claar will be headlining a breakfast at Kuyper College. Kuyper has recently introduced a business leadership major, and this breakfast is the latest event held to promote development among the students, faculty, staff, and broader community around the vitally important challenges of faithful engagement of business and economic aspects of life. Claar is the co-author of Economics in Christian Perspective, and will draw on this well-regarded text as he provides principles for understanding the relationship between Christian faith and commercial activity. There is some limited seating available for this breakfast, so check out the details at Kuyper’s website for more information on reserving a spot.

I’ll also be attending the 21st annual Wheaton Theology Conference, which this year focuses on the theme, “Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture.” One of my many projects at present is a dissertation (my second!) on Bonhoeffer’s ethics, and so I’m looking forward to this event, which runs Thursday and Friday next week and is at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Bonhoeffer, Christ, and Culture

In a world in which experience and reality drove political decisions on the economy, the claims made in the recent op-ed by Sen. John Kyl would be considered too obvious to warrant publication. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, which is why it’s important to have politicians willing to point out the obvious:
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Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kirk Cameron, actor and Christian, is touting his newest production, the documentary Monumental. The aim of the film, according to its website, (http://www.monumentalmovie.com/) is to follow Cameron’s journey “as he seeks to discover America’s true ‘national treasure’ – the people, places, and principles that made America the freest, most prosperous and generous nation the world has ever known.”

This is a fine proposal. The majority of Americans would agree that we live in the freest, most prosperous and most generous place in the world. However, Cameron’s documentary has some problems.

For instance, one of the scholars he interviews, David Barton, notes that in 1782 “Congress printed the first English language Bible”.  There is a mountain of evidence to counter this, including the fact that William Aitken, a Philadephia publisher, produced an English Bible in 1777, not to mention English-language Bibles dating back to 1539.

The real issue with Monumental however, is its seemingly narrow view of the freedoms we Americans enjoy. While our nation was clearly established on Judeo-Christian values, the issues of freedom and liberty go beyond the Pilgrims quest for a land in which they could print and distribute Bibles. Humanity’s desire for freedom has roots in Plato and Socrates, the Middle Ages of Europe and the founding of our nation by men and women of deep faith in God. More compelling than history, however, is the fact that we are created by a God who grants us free will; it is our very nature to be free. Human action does not create freedom: God grants it. From philosophers to abolitionists, preachers to politicians, America’s desire to be a place of freedom for all is indeed a monumental notion – deeply rooted in a biblical foundation and our very human nature.

Acton Institute’s The Birth of Freedom takes a much broader look at this same issue: the ancient roots of liberty, and how America prospered from this rich worldview. If you are seeking a critical, coherent, and prudent discussion of freedom, watch The Birth of Freedom.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izcC7lOtROg&rel=0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&version=3]

Wheaton College recently hosted “A Conversation on Unity in Christ’s Mission” with pastor John Armstrong, founder and president of ACT 3, and Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago. The dialogue between Pastor Armstrong and Cardinal George explored the common ground and current challenges that face Catholics and evangelical Protestants in Christian faith and mission. You can watch a video of the event on the ACT 3 website.

Armstrong also examined this theme in his recent book The Unity Factor, published by Christian’s Library Press. In his book, Armstrong outlines his vision for a deeper unity between Christians of various traditions and challenges our easy acceptance of divisions while helping us envision how our future can be better than our recent past.

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg discusses remarks made by President Barack Obama at a March 30 campaign stop at the University of Vermont. From the White House transcript of the speech, here is some of what the president said:

The American story is not just about what we do on our own. Yes, we’re rugged individualists and we expect personal responsibility, and everybody out there has got to work hard and carry their weight. But we also have always understood that we wouldn’t win the race for new jobs and businesses and middle-class security if we were just applying some you’re-on-your-own economics. It’s been tried in our history and it hasn’t worked. It didn’t work when we tried it in the decade before the Great Depression. It didn’t work when we tried it in the last decade. We just tried this. What they’re peddling has been tried. It did not work. (Applause.)

Gregg on NRO:

… it’s especially noticeable that when insisting we must take care of our neighbor the president said nothing about the role of volunteer associations — or any non-state formation whatsoever — in addressing social and economic challenges. Nor did he mention anything about the often-selfless work of loving our neighbor undertaken by the same religious organizations whose constitutionally guaranteed (and natural) liberty to live, act, and serve others according to their beliefs is being unreasonably constricted by the more ghoulish segments of his administration in the name of “choice.”

Like all good Rawlsians, President Obama finds it hard to conceptualize the possibility that private communities and associations might often be better at helping our neighbor in need than governments. Instead, his instinct is to search immediately for a political state-focused solution. If the president invested some time in exploring the concept of social justice, he would discover that its earliest articulators — mostly mid-19th-century Italian Catholic theologians – thought it should be primarily realized through associations and institutions of civil society with the government playing a supportive, but normally background role.

Read “So Who Is Our Keeper, Mr. President?” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

This video (loads slowly, allow it to buffer for a few minutes before watching) is a very good 20-minute report on Syrian Christianity that offers a glimpse of what it’s like to have lived for centuries as a religious minority in a land dominated by Islam. Indeed, Arab Christians have been worshiping in some of these Syrian communities since the earliest days of the Christian faith.

While the report is from a Catholic viewpoint, produced in 2000 by the Catholic Radio & Television Network, it looks at the ways other Arab Christian faith traditions — such as the Orthodox Church — are working together cooperatively in very tough times.

The Barnabas Fund reports that the “city of Homs, the third largest in Syria, has now seen almost its entire Christian population of 50,000 to 60,000 flee.”

The number of Christians left in the city has reportedly fallen to below 1,000 after the strife between the troops of President Bashar Assad and anti-government forces reached its peak there last month. Christians have fled to surrounding villages, other major Syrian cities, and even Lebanon. Those who remain have spoken of a growing “atmosphere of fear”.

During the worst of the conflict, the opposition forces attacked churches and also occupied an evangelical school and home for the elderly, which were then shelled by the army. Church leaders have reported that Muslim neighbours are turning on the Christians, and that Muslim extremists from other countries have been coming to Homs to join the fighting.

Christians have also suffered kidnappings and gruesome murders. Some Christian families, unable to pay a ransom for their relatives’ release and fearing that they may be tortured, have been driven to ask the kidnappers to kill their loved ones at once.

The Orthodox Church, according to this report, is describing this as “ethnic cleansing”:

The Syrian Orthodox Church, which represents over half of Syrian Christians, issued a statement saying revolutionary fighters had expelled some 50,000 Christians from the embattled city of Homs. That figure is estimated to account for about 90 percent of the Christian community there. Hundreds more — including women and children — were slaughtered, according to charitable organizations operating in the area.

The Orthodox Church referred to the persecution as the “ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians” by Muslim militants linked to al Qaeda. According to its report, the so-called “Brigade Faruq” is largely to blame, with Islamic extremists going door to door and forcing followers of Christ to leave without even collecting their belongings. Their property is then stolen by rebels as “war-booty from the Christians.”

Christians in Homs were reportedly told that if they did not leave immediately, they would be shot. Then, pictures of their bodies would be sent to the pro-Syrian-regime-change Al Jazeera — a media broadcaster controlled by the dictatorship ruling Qatar — with a message claiming that forces loyal to Assad had murdered them.

Also see, “New Martyrs of the East and Coming Trials in the West” by Srdja Trifkovic on OrthodoxyToday.org.