Archived Posts August 2012 » Page 6 of 10 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I have written on several recent occasions about the role of incentives in education, both for teachers and for students (see here, here, and here). Yesterday, David Burkus, editor of LDRLB, wrote about a recent study by Harvard University economic researchers on the role of incentives in teacher performance. Interestingly, they found that incentives (such as bonus pay) are far more effective if given up front with the caution that they will need to be returned if the teacher’s performance is not up to par. When teachers regarded the bonuses as already their property, they fought far more effectively to protect them.

Burkus writes,

A total of 150 teachers were randomized into several groups, including a control group, a traditional pay-for-performance group, and another group given a $4,000 bonus up front and told it would be reduced in relation to their students’ performance. The results were as impressive as they were surprising. On average, the students taught by the upfront bonus group outperformed students with similar backgrounds by up to 10 percentage points.

One possible explanation for this effect is “loss aversion.” Simply put, we’re more motivated to protect assets that we already have than to attempt to gain more assets. Once we are given an object or sum of money, we begin to build psychological connections to it, picturing the ways we’ll enjoy owning it or remembering fondly the ways we’ve used it. Perhaps what was missing from the incentives equation was the subtle push provided by the thought of loss.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jail a new church-state option for bishops?
Terry Mattingly

“I could see myself going to jail possibly at some point over the next 15 years, if God spares me, if I speak out,” the 61-year-old bishop told STV News.

The Market Is an Ecosystem
Joy Pullmann, Values & Capitalism

Farming, like a free market, is an ecosystem. No action a businessman takes is without consequences. My uncle, for one, knows crop farmers suffer when dairy farmers suffer, because both depend financially on exchanging their goods (crop farmers get money, dairy farmers get feed for their cows, which eventually becomes money).

Is This Really the Worst Economic Recovery Since the Depression?
Catherine Rampell, New York Times

Economists often assert that we are in the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Are we? Not technically, but it’s still unusually bad.

Casinos as the Bleak New Senior Citizen Center
Amy Ziettlow, The Atlantic

Are we turning a blind eye to a government-sponsored movement that creates false community, drains money, and undermines dignity for those most vulnerable among us?

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
posted by on Tuesday, August 14, 2012

As an older teen and early twenty-something I hated checking in. I thought telling others where I was or what I was up to was a sign of dependence and immaturity. In my invincible state of mind, I did not see the dangers and pitfalls of being completely on my own. I saw our natural human need to look out for each other as a weakness and not the strength that it is.

Allowing others a window into our lives by checking in is wisdom. Not only does it give the ones who care about us insight into what we are dealing with so they can be a help to us, but it also allows us to process our own experiences by putting our life into words. That is why this summer we have been forming the On Call in Culture Check In Team—to allow those who want to be On Call in Culture the ability to connect with others who value bringing God glory through their work as well as the opportunity to see what they are doing daily as God’s work in the world.
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Earlier this month, India experienced the worst blackout in global history. Over 600 million people—more than double the number of people in the U.S. and nearly one in 10 people in the world—were left without power.

The crisis highlights the fact that corrupt governance and lawless institutions can keep even an entrepreneurial people in the dark:

Along with a lack of investment in infrastructure, the crisis also had roots in many of India’s familiar failings: the populist tone of much of its politics, rampant corruption and poor management in its government and public sector, weak law enforcement, and a maze of regulations that restrict many industries.

Officials said they did not know what caused the blackout Tuesday, although a similar failure Monday was blamed on individual states drawing too much power from the grid, in defiance of regulations.

“It is open lawbreaking that goes on all the time in India,” said a Power Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject. “This time, it went beyond limits.”

Read more . . .

Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, has an article in Crisis Magazine entitled ‘Irony of Ironies: Vatican II Triumphs Over Moribund Modernity‘. Challenging the incoherence of modern thought, Gregg remarks

Another characteristic of late-modernity is the manner in which moral arguments are increasingly “settled” by appeals to opinion-polls, choice for its own sake, or that ultimate first-year undergraduate trump-card: “Well, I just feel that X is right.” For proof, just listen to most contemporary politicians discussing the ethical controversy of your choice.

Such incoherence, however, owes much to many moderns’ determination to limit reason to scientific rationality. Empirical reason is a powerful tool. But it can’t resolve extra-empirical problems. And once you implicitly deny the existence of extra-empirical reason, there’s really no other basis for answering normative questions other than appeals to feelings. Emotions, however, aren’t a rational basis for settling arguments about anything.

Read the entire piece here.

Acton Research Fellow and Director of Media Michael Matheson Miller will be featured on Christopher Brooks“Christ and the City” radio program this evening at 5:00 p.m. EST. Brooks is the pastor of a Detroit church and his program, which airs from 4 – 6 p.m., addresses matters of faith from a variety of perspectives. Miller will be joining the program to discuss PovertyCure, an Acton educational initiative, and the PovertyCure team’s recent trip to Haiti.

Follow this link to listen in at 5 p.m. EST.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, August 13, 2012

Obamacare Mandate Harms the Poor: A Case Study of Catholic Charities
Melanie Wilcox and Luciana Milano, Heritage Foundation

In order to be exempt from fines, Catholic Charities of D.C. would only be able to employ and serve Catholics. That stands in stark contrast with the organization’s mission.

The Images of Progressive Citizenship
Ted McAllister, Library of Law and Liberty

Progressives operate with a very modern almost Rousseauian anthropology in which they assume humans to be naturally good but corrupted by society. Understanding their anthropology and how Progressives conceive of the relationship among individuals, society, and government are essential to understanding both their objectives and their strategy.

Does The President Really Make A Big Difference In The Economy?
Dan Flaherty, CatholicVote

How realistic is it to think the policy differences between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are really going to drastically affect all this one way or the other?

Does Wisdom Bring Happiness (or Vice Versa)?
Robert Wright, The Atlantic

What’s correlated with well-being, say Nisbett, Igor Grossman, and three other authors, isn’t reasoning ability in the abstract but rather “wise reasoning”–reasoning that is “pragmatic,” helping us “navigate important challenges in social life.”

Jonah Lehrer’s recent firing from the New Yorker prompted The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman to author a wrongheaded apologia for the disgraced scribe. Waxman notes that, ultimately, Lehrer engaged in unethical conduct, but places the onus of his misdeeds on those who purchased his shoddy work.

Jonah Lehrer

The 31-year-old Lehrer, you see, manufactured quotes from whole cloth, freely lifted whole paragraphs from previous self-authored pieces and lied about both when confronted by reporters. Lehrer was fired and his promising career in journalism, for the time being at least, lies in shambles. (All three of his bestselling books are now under review by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.)

By any standard, Lehrer’s actions must be deemed unethical, and should serve as a lesson for those who would attempt to circumvent acceptable business practices in all areas, particularly in journalism, which makes specific claims for conveying objective truths. Failure to adhere to these basic standards is a moral shortcoming, deserving of dismissal.

Waxman, however, writes that Lehrer’s ethical lapses should apply equally to greedy publishers who apply too much pressure on unseasoned writers. She acknowledges Lehrer’s credentials – Rhodes Scholar, neuroscientist, bestselling author of Imagine: How Creativity Works – and determines he “was doing too much, too fast, at too high an RPM.”

The poor, dear child, in Waxman’s universe, is a Dickensian tragedy, forced to pick his own literary pockets in order to survive in an unforgiving adult world: “He found himself lifting from one column to fill another. He cut and pasted passages from his book to pad his New Yorker work.” She asserts: “There is precious little protection out there for young writers in the atomized digital age,” bemoans Waxman. “Few places to learn the basic craft of fact-based reporting, checking sources, double-checking footnotes.” Oh, the iniquity! (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, August 10, 2012

Private Debt Is Crippling the Economy
Anthony Randazzo, Reason

There won’t be a recovery until credit card and household debt levels come down.

For the Love of Country: Why We Should Tax Olympic Medalists
Alexis Hamilton, Values & Capitalism

While the Olympics have injected much excitement into the dwindling days of our summers, many media outlets have given significant coverage to what some might see as the most unexciting aspect of these international games: taxes.

Top Ten Books on Faith & Work
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Last week we recommended ten books for people beginning to explore economics. Economics needs context, however. Today I’d like to recommend ten books on integrating faith, work, and culture.

Poverty and Politics
Peter Wehner, Commentary

As the election nears — it is now less than 100 days away — the issue of poverty in America will hopefully play a somewhat more central role.

Last week, I commented on Grand Rapids Public Schools’ new attendance policy and Michigan’s tenure reform bill. To summarize, while applauding GR Public’s new policy as effectively incentivizing students to show up to class and take their studies more seriously, I was skeptical about MI’s new bill which ties teacher evaluations to student performance. In their article “Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching” in the most recent issue of EducationNext, Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler share the results of their study of the unique teacher evaluation system of Cincinnati Public Schools. (more…)