Archived Posts August 2012 - Page 3 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

As I leafed through this week’s Wall Street Journal Europe political commentary, I finally felt a little redemption. Hats off to WSJ writers Peter Nicholas and Mark Peter whose brief, but poignant August 20 article “Ryan’s Catholic Roots Reach Deep” shed light on vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s value system. This was done by elucidating how Paul Ryan views the relationship of the individual with the state and how the local, small-town forces in America can produce great change for a nation gravely concerned about its weak and vulnerable.

The article references a standard Catholic but still-very-unknown-teaching on “subsidiarity.” Go figure, not even my word processing program recognizes the term in its standard U.S. English lexicon. Alas, subsidiarity is not a word you read about in the secular Wall Street Journal, either, whose op-eds debate many critical intuitions of the free market and democratic society yet seldom examine the intersection of theology and economics, like the Acton Institute does so well.

Indeed the WSJ Europe article was not that erudite (for other more elaborated pieces on subsidiarity go here and here and be sure to watch Fr. Robert Sirico’s  enlightening video (below). Neither do the WSJ writers spell out the details of Ryan’s various economic and welfare reform proposals inspired by the principle of subsidiarity, which include a repeal of nationalized medicine and drastically reducing spending on various excessive national welfare and other expansive public agencies.  Nonetheless, last Monday this secular media outlet gave its readers a very Catholic glimpse into  Ryan’s political world view which is  a product of a hardworking, Irish  Catholic family from  “small-town” America  (Janesville, Wis.)  trying to solve its own problems by the teachings of the Catholic Church. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 23, 2012
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Louisiana College, a Baptist school in Pineville, La., is the most recent institution to file a lawsuit over the Obama administration’s contraception mandate. Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed the the school’s president, Joe Aguillard, about the decision to sue the government:

LOPEZ: The president contended last week that there is a compromise. So why would you sue?

AGUILLARD: Any repeated claim that the government has compromised is recycled nonsense. The HHS mandate will force us to cover abortion pills in our health plans at no cost to employees. The facts are as simple as that. The only compromise the administration has made is with the truth.

Read more . . .

The Markets, Culture, and Ethics Project’s Third International Colloquium on Christian Humanism in Economics and Business, “Free Markets with Solidarity and Sustainability: Facing the Challenge” conference is coming up this October 22-23 at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Academic conferences do not necessarily strive to be attractive or inviting (13 word titles and 13 letter words aren’t really all that “catchy”). But I would encourage anyone who is in the area or who is willing to make the trip to seriously consider attending this one. But why this conference? (more…)

Brace YourselvesI was a guest on today’s Coffee & Markets podcast, where we discussed the complex challenges facing America as reflected in recent demographic trends. What do declining birthrates across the developed world indicate?

For one thing, they show that crises are not limited to one feature of our lives and there are important spillover causes and effects across social spaces. So financial crises have impacts on the home, and vice versa. Or as I wrote last year, “Healthy and vibrant economies promote the flourishing of healthy and vibrant families. But the reverse is also true. The vitality of each social institution is linked with the welfare of others, and the microeconomic effects felt by families necessarily have macroeconomic implications.”

The family is in significant ways the vanguard of civilization, and as family life is threatened so too are all of the other civilizational institutions. As Elias Boudinot put it, “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people degenerates, their political character must soon follow.”

So what about social reformation and renewal? There’s no better place to start then your own family and no better time to start than right now. As Hunter Baker observed:

The first moves are the most immediate. If you are a child, be a respectful child who wants to learn and grow. If you are an adult, take care of your parents as they age. If you are a husband or wife, stay committed to your spouse. Work on sustaining a stable and peaceful household in which all the members feel heard, cared for, and respected. If you are a parent, focus on loving your child’s other parent, providing financially and emotionally for the child, and encouraging the child in learning. If you are a grandparent, help young parents adjust to the newness of their role and encourage them in the hard work of taking care of children.

Check out the podcast episode as well as some of the recommended reading below:

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 23, 2012
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The great both/and of Catholic social teaching
Fr. Robert Barron, Catholic News Agency

For many on the left, Paul Ryan is a menace, the very embodiment of cold, indifferent Republicanism, and for many on the right, he is a knight in shining armor, a God-fearing advocate of a principled conservatism.

The Implications of Calling
Art Lindsey, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

We have lost sight of this perspective, and as a result we have lost any sense of calling. What is calling, and what does it mean for our lives?

Are Free Markets Compatible with the Bible?
Timothy Terrell, Economics for Everybody

A couple of years ago, I heard a talk given by a religion professor in which he argued that free markets were incompatible with the Bible. Let’s look quickly at some of the texts he used.

Prime Time for Paul Ryan’s Guru (the One That’s Not Ayn Rand)
Adam Davidson, New York Times

Ryan has repeatedly suggested that many of his economic ideas were inspired by the work of Friedrich von Hayek, an awkwardly shy (and largely ignored) economist and philosopher who died in 1992. A few years ago, it was probably possible to fit every living Hayekian in a conference room. Regardless of what happens in November, that will no longer be the case.

“As Secularism Advances, Political Messianism Draws More Believers” is my commentary for this week. So much can be said about religion and presidential campaigns but for this piece I wanted to elevate some important truths about virtue and discernment in our society today. Here’s a quote from the piece:

Worries about religious imagery in campaigns and Messianic overtones are warranted especially if these religious expressions replace a vibrant spirituality in churches and houses of worship across America. If spiritual discernment and spiritual truths wane in America, the public is crippled in its capacity to discern political truths such as the proper and limited role of government.

If any Powerblog readers are near Raleigh, North Carolina, I will be giving a lecture on religion and presidential campaigns at the John Locke Foundation on August 27. At Locke, I will give more attention to the historical analysis of religion in campaigns, with special attention to recent history.

For this election cycle, I think it’s fairly certain in a race this close and heated, criticism of Romney’s Mormon faith will resurface, but from the political left this time. It’s already happening now, but will certainly increase after the conventions.

Religion and faith is such an instrumental part of presidential campaigns that in 2004, George W. Bush spent considerable time courting the old order Amish vote in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The presidential race was so tight that the Bush team did not want to cede one religious vote that might turn out for him in those states. He made a historic stop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and met privately with around 50 members of the Amish community asking for their prayers and support. As separatists, most of the old order Amish do not typically vote in national elections. The encounter left Bush visibly moved and some said tears welled up in his eyes. At another meeting with the Amish Bush declared, “Tell the Amish churches I need their prayers so I can run the country as God wishes.”

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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What was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution? Hans Rosling makes the case for the washing machine. Rosling explains how the productivity gains of the washing machine (and similar labor-saving devices) lead to increases in education and economic growth in the developing world.

(Via: David Henderson)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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Pakistani Christians, fearing backlash, flee community after girl is accused of blasphemy
Richard Leiby, The Washington Post

Amid the conflicting claims, this much is certain: As many as 600 Christians have fled their colony bordering the capital, fearing for their lives, officials said, after a mob last week called for the child to be burned to death as a blasphemer.

In the color of money,
 red staters more charitable than blues
Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times

A major survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy confirms that residents of states that lean Republican and are most religious donate more of their money to charity, while more secular regions — and areas that tend to vote Democrat — give less.

Read more: In the color of money, red staters more charitable than blues – Washington Times

Why the U.S. Must Oppose Blasphemy Laws — Not Just Their Abuse
Nina Shea, National Review Online

Christians, Ahmadiyyas, Shiites, and Hindu have been disproportionately targeted under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. But moderate and reformist Muslims from the country’s Sunni majority have also been victimized by this very bad law.

German Circumcision Ban Bags First Victim
Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary

As the Times of Israel reports, criminal charges have been filed against a rabbi in Northern Bavaria for performing circumcisions.

“She must not have any friends,” my wife says all too frequently. “Because if she did they wouldn’t let her go out dressed like that.”

Although the cattiness of her comment always makes me cringe, my wife does have a point. One of the roles friends play in our lives is to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves in public. Editors play a similar role, though they are not as beloved as friends—at least by writers. One of our most essential functions is to say to a writer, “You probably don’t want to say that.” Or, as happens too frequently, we insist, “No, seriously, you really don’t want to put that in writing and make it available for the entire world to read.”

Of course writers don’t always listen, which is why they can make a blunders similar to the recent gaffe by Erika Christakis. I can only assume Ms. Christakis overrode the advice of both friends and editors. I can’t imagine anyone who cared about the Harvard College administrator would support her making this outrageously silly claim in Time magazine:

(more…)

Rev. Robert Sirico’s book ‘Defending the Free Market’ has a review in today”s Washington Times. It notes the timely aspects of the book, given the upcoming presidential election:

As the presidential race centers on America’s economic woes, President Obama and many of his supporters depict capitalism as a system that allows greedy CEOs and Wall Street insiders to profit atthe expense of the common good. Increased government regulation is their proposed solution for checking corruption and standing up for the rights of the average American.

But do Americans really have to choose either exploitative capitalism or excessive government intrusion? In “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy,” the Rev. Robert Sirico argues that popular rhetoric presents a false dichotomy between “the free market and the nanny state.”

Read the entire review here.