Archived Posts August 2012 - Page 7 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Irony of Ironies: Vatican II Triumphs Over Moribund Modernity
Samuel Gregg, Crisis

Few expressions are better guaranteed to spark passionate debates among Catholics today than two words: “Vatican II.” Though most Catholics today were born after the Council closed in 1965, the fiftieth anniversary of the Council’s 1962 opening on 11 October this year will surely reignite the usual controversies about its significance.

Paul Ryan’s Bishop Defends Him Amid Attacks on His Application of Church Teaching
Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register

Madison, Wis., Bishop Robert Morlino says he’s not endorsing Ryan, but upholds the candidate’s reputation as a serious Catholic committed to applying Church social doctrine.

Greed Is Not Good for Capitalism
Greg Forster, The Gospel Coalition

Christians ought to understand how Weber’s view of capitalism undermines the moral foundations of a humane and genuinely productive economy.

Humanitas and the Limits of the Market
Ralph E. Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

[A] conservative social philosophy must be rooted in the purpose and nature, and thus also the limits, of the market. A free market is intended to provide people with the satisfaction of their legitimate demands such as the basic ones of food, clothing and shelter as well as a host of other items. But it cannot serve as its own foundation; it is not self-sufficient; it is not a source of community; and it is not a cure for other ills.

The key-card was required to get into the building and to operate the elevator, a security precaution added years earlier when protestors chained themselves together in the lobby. But when I forgot my key—and I was always forgetting my key—he never complained. He never uttered a sarcastic remark or had a passive-aggressive sigh to remind me of my absent-mindedness. He’d just leave the guard-desk and quietly help me out.

I suspect Leo Johnson exhibited the same stoic friendliness today, when a young man in his late 20s—who said he was an intern at Family Research Council—asked to be let in the building. Once inside, the man pulled a gun and fired several shots, hitting Leo in the arm. According to news reports, Leo and others wrestled the man to the ground, disarmed him, and waited for police.

From the latest reports I’ve heard, Leo is in the hospital and in stable condition. While he has been grievously harmed, had he not acted swiftly and courageously, some of my friends at FRC might have lost their lives. “The security guard here is a hero, as far as I’m concerned,” said Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, “He did his job. The person never made it past the front.” Leo is indeed a hero—because he did much more than his job.

When I worked at FRC (2006-2008) I would have happily swapped jobs with almost any other employee—except for Leo. Having manned many a guard post while in the military, I couldn’t imagine having to do such a boring, repetitive, often-thankless job. Leo never complained, though, and never became a clock-punching rent-a-cop. He was frequently awarded for being a loyal and dedicated employee and was admired by everyone. Yet the certificates and “Employee of the Month” plaques were modest tributes to his true character, which few people fully recognized until today.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality.” Today, at the point of highest reality, when a dull desk job called for the vocation of a hero, Leo showed he had the form of every virtue. He was willing to lay down his life to protect those he served.

God willing, few of us will ever be called to exhibit such courage at work. But we should pray that God would grant us the courage to be like Leo if we’re ever called to step beyond our normal work routine and into the costly realm of sacrificial love.

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Spiritual Competition and the Zero-Sum Game,” I examine a standard complaint against the market economy: that it engenders what Walter Rauschenbusch called “the law of tooth and nail,” a competitive ethos that ends only when the opponent is defeated. In the piece, I trace some of the vociferousness of such claims to the idea of economic reality as a fixed or static pie:

The moral cogency of the argument against competition is enhanced in a framework where the goods that are sought after are static. Whether conceived of in terms of market share or the size of a firm, business and political leaders often use language that makes it seem as if economic gain comes at the expense of others.

Gordon Rupp and Mo FarahWhere goods are static, or otherwise limited in some way, the competitive stakes are raised. Of course we see this not only in market activities but in other areas of life as well, and perhaps these competitive realities are no better illustrated than in competitive sports. We saw numerous examples of competition in the past fortnight of Olympic coverage that ran the gamut from the good, the bad, and the ugly. One of the most memorable moments for me was the conclusion of the men’s 10k track race, when Mohamed Farah of the UK bested his American friend and training partner Galen Rupp. Here are two fierce competitors who embrace, and Rupp celebrates not only his own silver medal but his friend’s great gold-medal performance.

As I conclude in the commentary, competition that drives us to do and be better, in both spiritual and material terms, “ought to be celebrated rather than scorned.”

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

School reform gets cool
Naomi Schaeffer Riley, New York Post

Maggie Gyllenhaal, the ultimate hipster actress, stars in “Won’t Back Down,” an education-reform drama that hits theaters next month. When did school choice became cool?

Do Sports Build Character?
Justin Dyer, Public Discourse

The recent Penn State scandal reminds us that if sports are to instill moral character, we must approach athletics first as an education in the virtues, not as an avenue to fame and wealth.

Inflation and Debt
John H. Cochrane, National Affairs

We stand at the brink of disaster. Today, we face the possibility of a debt crisis, with the consequent financial chaos and inflation, that the Fed cannot control. In order to address this danger, we have to focus on its true nature and causes.

Is the Fed Really to Blame?
Nicholas Freiling, Values & Capitalism

No doubt, blaming “average Joes” for inflation isn’t as marketable as blaming Bernanke. But when Americans are saving less than four percent of their income, the effects of inflation become palatable—even attractive—to many Americans, and elected officials find the support they need to fund excessive spending with irresponsible inflation.

Blog author: dpahman
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This morning the online publication Ethika Politika, the journal of the Center for Morality in Public Life, published my response to a previous article by Thomas Storck on natural law and political engagement. In his article, Storck contents that though the natural law exists as a rationally accessible, universal standard of justice, due to the disordered passions of our fallen condition political engagement on the basis of natural law is all but fruitless. Instead, he recommends a renewed emphasis on evangelism, emphasizing that the change of heart that comes through conversion is a far more effective way to effect social change and, in his view, necessary before any political change will realistically happen. In my article today, I respond,

While I am sensitive to Storck’s insistence that evangelism deserves renewed zeal for the sake of moral progress in society, I feel his opposition of evangelism rather than political action (or, more accurately, evangelism then political action) is ultimately harmful. In particular, there would seem to be no vocation for the Christian as citizen or civil servant today, no vital service that he/she has to offer to the kingdom of God now in his/her civic capacity before such a widespread evangelization has taken place.

I focus my response to Storck mainly on the relationship between the natural law and the positive law of the state, but the above quote contains something that I would like to pursue a little further. (more…)

Blog author: aknot
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg is featured in The American Spectator today with an article titled, “The Book That Changed Reality.” The piece lauds Catholic philosopher, journalist and theologian Michael Novak’s groundbreaking 1982 book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Called his magnum opus, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism synthesized a moral defense of capitalism with existing cultural and political arguments. Gregg notes this and comments on the book’s timely publication and lasting influence:

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Work is at the core of our humanity, says Anthony Esolen, and our ownership of what we produce precedes laws demanding that we give it back to “community” in the abstract.

“You didn’t build that!” is probably the most preposterous statement I have ever heard from an American politician. A high bar to clear, no doubt, but let me justify the choice. It puts the effect before the cause. Suppose someone were to say, “If it weren’t for cities, there wouldn’t be such things as big family farms,” and therefore farmers owe it to city-dwellers to hand over more of their profits. But the farmer could well reply, “If it weren’t for farms, there would be no such things as cities,” and that is absolutely correct; without a surplus of food that can be stored, no city can exist. The farm is the foundation of the city, and not the reverse.

Similarly, the actions of risk-takers are the foundation of any civil order: they make it possible for there to be something to be governed. Granted, those risk-takers require law to protect their property, and government to enforce the law. But it is crucial to note the order of cause and even the order of being. No one writes a law raising tariffs on imported cotton unless there is already native cotton being grown. No one builds a railroad from Pittsburgh to Chicago unless there is already something to transport on it. Without the creativity and the daring of the businessman (or farmer, or prospector, or rancher, or inventor), we all live hand to mouth, and we take our orders from the leader of our tribe or clan.

Read more . . .