Archived Posts July 2012 - Page 2 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

In America, too many of our citizens suffer from material poverty. But an even greater number suffer from spiritual poverty. Leon Kass asks, “How fares the struggle against our spiritual impoverishment? Are we Americans, despite our continuing freedom and prosperity, really losing the quest for meaningful lives?”

It would be easy to argue that life in America is spiritually more impoverished than ever. As evidence, one might cite the rising respectability of public atheism and the falling off of religious observance; the eclipse of the ideal of work as vocation; the emptiness of the popular culture; the weakening of marriage and family ties; the failure of higher education to nurture the hungry souls of our young, and the huge increase in clinical depression among college students; the decline of patriotism and national attachment; and new expressions of doubt about America’s future, fueled by a strident cynicism on the left and a growing despair on the right.

But this picture is at best incomplete. As Charles Murray points out in his recent book Coming Apart, marriage, industriousness, law-abidingness, and religiosity are alive and well among the nation’s elite, even as they are in decline among the lower classes. Many of our social indicators show a partial repair of earlier unravelings. Community service is on the rise; so is private philanthropy. There is once again a proper respect for our armed forces. And despite their superficial cynicisms, America’s young people — and not only among the privileged — continue to harbor deep desires for a life that will prove meaningful: a life of love and work, with service to God and country, in pursuit of truth or goodness or beauty.

Read more . . .

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, July 27, 2012

John Kennedy, President and CEO of Michigan-based Autocam, responded in an MLive.com editorial to President Obama’s recent remarks regarding business owners and their success. Obama stated, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Kennedy responded:

As a business founder, I particularly object to the claim, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” I benefited from my dad, who helped instill the entrepreneurial spirit, when I founded Autocam. Our employees’ efforts enable us to offer high quality products. Many people have contributed, directly and indirectly, to our success. But it was my vision and leadership that allowed us to navigate troubled waters and to thrive.

Kennedy also noted a more general attitude about the government’s role in business that underlies the president’s remarks:

The president seems to indicate that the government (“somebody”) creates success through the services it provides for citizens. He fails to acknowledge that the government allocates funds taken from others, primarily from successful businesses and individuals. The government typically redistributes this money such that it only temporarily relieves some misery while creating dependency on government programs. In contrast, I believe that we are each called to contribute from our resources to build a healthy community. We should support those who, through no fault of their own, have suffered setbacks or need assistance to receive the education necessary for success.

Read the entire editorial here.

For more on this, see “Somebody else made that happen: tell it to an entrepreneur” and “Acton Commentary: It takes a village to raise a business”.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 27, 2012

Call for Papers: “The Spirituality of the Heidelberg Catechism”

June 21-22th 2013, an international conference will take place in Apeldoorn on The Spirituality of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism has a characteristic spirituality, which will be explored from historical and theological perspectives, as part of the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of this Catechism.

Call for Papers: “Scientiae 2013: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World”

University of Warwick (UK), 18th-20th April 2013. The premise of this conference is that the Scientific Revolution can be considered an interdisciplinary process involving Biblical exegesis, art theory, and literary humanism, as well as natural philosophy, alchemy, occult practices, and trade knowledge. As such, Scientiae will bring together scholars working in the diverse fields associated with early modern knowledge, all taking early-modern science as their common intellectual object. The conference will offer a forum both for the sharing of research and the sparking of new interdisciplinary investigations, and is open to scholars of all levels.

Article: “Nature is Prior to Us: Applying Catholic Social Thought and Anabaptist-Mennonite Theology to the Ethics of Stakeholder Prioritization for the Natural Environment”
Cathy A. Driscoll, Elden Wiebe, and Bruno Dyck, Journal of Religion & Business Ethics

We develop a spiritual and ethical based understanding of stakeholder theory that treats the natural environment as a primary stakeholder. We consider how Catholic social thought and Anabaptist-Mennonite theology can be seen as important resources for stakeholder thought and management, especially as they pertain to the natural environment as a primary stakeholder. We provide a discussion and implications for academics and practitioners in terms of dignifying both ecology and humanity, and creating solidarity between them. We also discuss how managers can become more attuned to the environment as a primary stakeholder through the development of relationships with the land and communities.

Book Review: “Remedying Overstated Assumptions about Governance in the Developing World”
Thomas Risse, ed. Governance without a State? Policies and Politics in Areas of Limited Statehood. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Reviewed by Bridget Coggins (Dartmouth College)

Today, effective governance is not the sole provenance of the state. Indeed, it may never have been. From governments unable to provide a stable macroeconomic environment to those that fail to provide the most rudimentary human security to those whose healthcare systems are supplemented by foreign nongovernmental organizations during natural disasters, most people live in areas of “limited statehood” where the state’s domestic sovereignty is circumscribed in some way (pp. 4-5).

Fellowship: “Robert M. Kingdon Fellowship”

Robert M. Kingdon Fellowship, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Through a generous bequest from Robert M. Kingdon, a distinguished historian of early modern Europe, the Institute offers 1-2 external, academic-year Kingdon Fellowship(s) to scholars outside the University of Wisconsin-Madison working in historical, literary, and philosophical studies of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition and its role in society from antiquity to the present. Projects may focus on any period from antiquity to the present, on any part of the world, and in any field(s) in the humanities; can range widely or focus on a particular issue; and can explore various forms of Jewish and/or Christian traditions; the interaction of one or both of these religious traditions with other religious traditions; and/or the relationship of one or both of these religious traditions to other aspects of society such as power, politics, culture, experience, and creativity.

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012

In today’s “On the Square” over at First Things, Leroy Huizenga reflects upon “the technopoly” of our daily lives, where so much of our time is captivated by staring at a computer screen, clicking links, reading posts, checking updates, and so on. Huizenga writes,

I worry about becoming a functional Gnostic, plugged into this new matrix, this new pixelated irreality. My reality easily becomes the screens, and the interactivity of hyperlinks means I can go where I will and create my own personal submatrix thereby. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012

Economists have always been moralists, but since the mid-20th century many have also become wannabe technocrats—unelected experts who make public policy decisions based on specialized information rather than public opinion. A prime example is the new “libertarian paternalists” (a group that is definitely paternalistic but not very libertarian) who believe that government should attempt to influence the economic choices of affected parties in a way that will make choosers better off.

In a review of Robert and Edward Skidelsky’s new book How Much is Enough?, Karen Horn explains why this approach often leads to disaster:

The Skidelskys produce a whole list of basic goods that constitute the good life as they see it: health, security, respect, personality (which in their view leads both to the right to a private sphere and to redistribution of property), friendship, leisure and harmony with nature. Not only are these items taken to be universal needs, but ends in themselves as well.

The argument is by no means religious. It is Aristotelian, based on a notion of natural law — and thus axiomatic. It is not a very large step from there to imposing a lifestyle on other people. Such intrusiveness cannot be avoided by paying lip-service to the idea of liberty. Calling one’s version of paternalism “non-coercive”, as the Skidelskys self-consciously rush to do, is not enough. These days, the “road to serfdom” that Friedrich Hayek famously feared to see Western civilisation embark on in the 1940s is paved with the good intentions of a fast-growing group of libertarian paternalists. And the self-appointed messiahs who show us the way along this road are clothed in nannies’ uniforms.

The policy recommendations that flow from the Skidelskys are as old as they are proven recipes for disaster: ever more government influence, massive income redistribution, a basic wage, progressive consumer taxes, a slower economic integration of the world. Some ghosts continue to haunt us.

Read more . . .

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012

Last night, I went to see the newest “Batman” movie with my fellow Acton interns. I thought it was a great movie, and I recommend seeing it and reading Jordan Ballor’s review of it. I also want to echo some of the themes that Jordan discussed in his piece.

After the movie was done, it turned out that the people who had parked behind me were in need of a jump for their car. I didn’t know these people, but I did see that they needed help. And so I did something that people obsessed with government or with markets should think is impossible: I gave them a jump. No one forced me to do it. No one paid me to do it. I just did it, because it was the right thing to do.

The episode sort of represented many of the things that have been annoying me recently about my fellow libertarians (there may also be some guilty conservatives). I think they put far too much emphasis on having a market based solution to nearly every social problem. Yet giving someone a jump seems to defy traditional money-chasing impulses. There simply are things which we do not rely on a market to provide. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 26, 2012

Capitalism Or What?
Isaac Morehouse, Values & Capitalism

When analyzing any social or economic system, the three most important words are: “Compared to what?” Capitalism has its shortcomings. It has shortcomings because life has shortcomings in our own subjective evaluations.

Churches, Pacifism, and Gun Control
Mark Tooley, Mark Tooley

There may or may not be good arguments for more gun control in America. But can a pacifist make them?

Income Equality Is the Road to Middle-Class Taxation
Brian Domitrovic, The Imaginative Conservative

The funny thing about “income inequality” is that it uses taxable income as its measuring point. The problem with this, obviously, is that if high taxes reduce the rich’s taxable income, the rich in turn will not be able to carry the burden of paying taxes—their income will be too low. High taxes on the rich will necessitate further taxation of the middle class.

Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.

Close attention to particular decisions by European institutions and governments, says Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, suggests that many have significantly infringed the rule of law:

Among the many non-economic factors shaping Europe’s current crisis, there is one which, despite its seriousness, has not yet received extensive attention: an emerging rule of law problem throughout the EU.

Many will be taken aback by this claim. Isn’t Europe the continent where the very idea of the rule of law was first developed in its most sophisticated form? And haven’t postwar European governments been so focused upon dispute resolution through shared legal protocols that they have been willing to dilute national sovereignty in order to enhance the authority of pan-European courts such as the European Court of Justice? Close attention, however, to particular decisions by European institutions and governments before and during the present economic crisis suggests that many have significantly infringed the rule of law.

Read more . . .

July 31st marks the 100th birthday of the economist Milton Friedman. Celebrations planned by proponents of free-markets will take place across the country to recognize and pay tribute to his legacy and the power of his ideas. I am speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event in town on the topic of school choice on his birthday.

My commentary this week is on school choice. Nobody has influenced and shaped the school choice movement more than Friedman. In my piece, I stressed the moral power of pivoting away from bureaucratic centralized schooling and encourage greater parental involvement in education. Simply put, school choice allows for parents to better shape the spiritual formation of their children. Nobody can make better decisions about the education of their children than the parents.

Finally, schools that have to compete for students and tax dollars will be forced to improve and be innovative for today’s complex and global marketplace.

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Holland, Mich., teenager is being stopped from opening a hotdog cart due to city zoning laws. It’s really disheartening when you consider the fact that this young person was trying to be responsible and work to help his family and build up savings for his future.

In Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster writes that work is a way in which we provide service to others—a service this teenager has been denied the chance to provide.

The Mackinac Center has a video up about this story.

(more…)