Archived Posts September 2012 - Page 3 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Monday, September 24, 2012
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Today’s post is by Jenica Lee, part of the On Call in Culture team. She shares about where God has her working and why she is privileged to share His love with others on the job.

For the past few months, I have been working as a Chiropractic and Physical Therapist Aid. For various reasons, I absolutely love my job. One of those reasons is that I get to work with people; more specifically, people like me.

About 6 months ago I was hit by a car while riding my bike and suffered a spinal fracture. Because of this injury and the hardships that have come with it, I am able to relate with many of our patients in a way that others cannot.
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A review of Rev. Robert Sirico’s Defending the Free Market is featured in the National Catholic Register, written by Fr. C. J. McCloskey. The National Catholic Register is reviewing a number of books, in an effort to help readers discern issues pertinent to the upcoming election.

In Fr. McCloskey’s review of Defending the Free Market, he notes:

Father Robert Sirico could not have written a timelier book than his latest, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy….Why do I say his book is timely? Because we are mired in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, one that is all the worse for being global and that shows indications of worsening in the years ahead. All of this follows by a mere couple of decades the almost total collapse of Marxism throughout the world, with the fall of the Soviet Empire and its dependents.

Fr. McCloskey cites the warm anecdotes and biographical aspects of the book, drawing the reader into Fr. Sirico’s own journey to understanding the free market and the hope it presents to the world’s struggling economies. He goes on to say that, while the book certainly has global application, it is deeply rooted in American values.

Father Sirico quotes Alexis de Tocqueville — perhaps the greatest observer of the unique character of America — who observed, “Freedom is, in truth, a sacred thing; there is only one thing else that better deserves the name,” and that is virtue. And then he asks, “What is virtue if not the free choice of what is good?” Both Father Sirico’s masterful endeavors at the Acton Institute and this book contribute needed guidance to help our country reclaim its status as “exceptional and virtuous.”

Read the entire review of Defending the Free Market and the Register‘s other reviews here.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 24, 2012
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Do Social Programs Intrude on ‘Moral Space’?
Benjamin Wiker, National Catholic Register

It is primarily the Church’s moral duty to care for the poor, not the state’s. Thinking it’s the state’s duty has led many well-intentioned Catholics to believe that their moral responsibility to the poor is fulfilled by lobbying for state social welfare programs.

What does it take to feed the hungry?
Jason King, Catholic Moral Theology

How can we as Christians do this? What does it take to meet the needs of the neighbor and strangers during this time?

The Founders’ Free Speech/Press Clause
Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy

Some saw the freedom of the press as broader and some as narrower. Some saw the freedom of the press as including the freedom to publish what had been earlier seen as “seditious libel” and some saw it as not including this.

Food Stamp Participation Doubled Among Able-Bodied Adults After Obama Suspended Work Requirement
Rachel Sheffield, The Foundry

A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirms that food stamp participation doubled among able-bodied adults after the Obama Administration suspended the program’s work requirements.

Writing in Public Discourse, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg notes that while Constitutional law has often been used to shape economies, there are limits to the law’s ability to influence economic culture:

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare sharply reminds us of constitutional law’s significance for economic life. NFIB v. Sebelius, however, is not the first or even the most controversial effort to use constitutional law to shape economies. Both America and European countries have a decades-long history of doing so.

Throughout America, for instance, amendments to state constitutions have been used to cement right-to-work laws in place. Across the Atlantic, European nations such as Germany and Spain have written public debt limits into their constitutions. In 2010, the Nobel Prize economist James Buchanan called for what he described as the “constitutionalization” of money. Ongoing failures to prevent the politicization of monetary policy meant, Buchanan argued, that America’s constitution required amending to bestow genuine independence upon a monetary authority. In Buchanan’s words: “Something analogous to the independent judiciary, under the Supreme Court, seems required—a monetary authority that is independent of politics, but which remains itself bound by the parameters set out in the constitution itself.”

Read more . . .

The deadline to apply for a scholarship through the Calihan Academic Fellowship program is one month away!

If you or anyone you know are looking for financial aid opportunities for next semester, I invite you to visit the Calihan Academic Fellowship page on Acton’s website for details about this competitive scholarship program. This page is where you can: download the application form and obtain additional information about eligibility, conditions, the selection process, application requirements, and deadlines. To qualify for the upcoming deadline for the 2013 Spring Term, all application materials must be postmarked by October 15.

Bill Gates, easily one of the richest men in the world, recently talked about his wealth and his children’s inheritance, philanthropy and taxes in an article in the the UK’s The Telegraph.

He acknowledged that “[c]apitalism has worked phenomenally” and one need only look at North Korea vs. South Korea to see evidence of that. He also noted, “Capitalism has shortfalls. It doesn’t necessarily take care of the poor, and it underfunds innovation.”

Gates made several remarks to the British audience about the American tax system:

Just raising taxes on the rich won’t solve the crisis, but it seems reasonable to people – and there’s plenty of room to do that without creating disincentives or distortions.”

The news that the mega-rich Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, pays 15 per cent tax “wasn’t shocking at all. That’s the US system. If people want capital gains taxed more like the highest rate on income, that’s a good discussion. Maybe that’s the way to help close the deficit.”

What Gates failed to note is that the American government’s deficit problem is largely due to government over-spending, not under-taxing its citizens.

He announced at the time the article appeared that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was making a $750 million donation to fight AIDS, malaria and TB in Africa, and was also focusing on helping subsistence farmers on that continent. (In July of this year, Melinda Gates announced a “family planning summit”, hoping to raise $4 billion to give more women access to artificial birth control, largely focusing on Africa and Asia.)

Interestingly, Gates said he didn’t expect the Foundation to continue very long after he and his wife were dead.

“Our foundation won’t last long beyond Melinda’s and my lifetime. The resources will last about 20 years after whichever is the last of us to go. There is no family business, and my kids will make their own careers.”

While Gates doesn’t downplay his role in technological innovation, he says the personal passion he once spent on entrepreneurship is now focused on ending disease and starvation for the world’s poor. The Telegraph article also focuses on some fascinating aspects of Gates’ relationship with long-time business rival Steve Jobs, especially in the months leading up to Jobs’ death.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 21, 2012
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Trends in Voter Preferences Among Religious Groups
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

A new interactive graphic tracks voting preferences for the upcoming presidential election among several major religious groups.

Welfare Reform as We Knew It
Wall Street Journal

This new standard didn’t appear out of thin air, but is part of a liberal critique of welfare reform that has made its way into the Administration.

‘Doing God’
British Religion in Numbers

The majority of Britons are keen to keep religion apart from politics, according to a study published on 13 September 2012. 81% affirmed that religious practice is a private matter, which should be separated from British politico-economic life.

Why Christian Pacifism Is Inconsequential to Real World
Keith Pavlischek, Institute on Religion & Democracy

So, what does a pacifist do if he wants to get a serious hearing in the “halls of power?” Over the past several decades Christian pacifists have tried to come to grips with this problem.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 21, 2012
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Book Note: “As If God Existed”
Maurizio Viroli. As if God Existed: Religion and Liberty in the History of Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Religion and liberty are often thought to be mutual enemies: if religion has a natural ally, it is authoritarianism–not republicanism or democracy. But in this book, Maurizio Viroli, a leading historian of republican political thought, challenges this conventional wisdom. He argues that political emancipation and the defense of political liberty have always required the self-sacrifice of people with religious sentiments and a religious devotion to liberty.

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Forbes recently ran a profile of Christian billionaire and Hobby Lobby CEO David Green. According to Forbes, Green is “the largest evangelical benefactor in the world,” giving “at upwards of $500 million” over the course of his life, primarily to Christian ministries.

Yet, for Green, his strong Christian beliefs don’t just apply to how he spends his wealth; they’re integral to how it’s createdin the first place:

Hobby Lobby remains a Christian company in every sense. It runs ads on Christmas and Easter in the local paper of each town where there’s a store, often asserting the religious foundation of America. Stores are closed on Sundays, forgoing revenue to give employees time to worship. The company keeps four chaplains on the payroll and offers a free health clinic for staff at the headquarters–although not for everything; it’s suing the federal government to stop the mandate to cover emergency contraception through health insurance. Green has raised the minimum wage for full-time employees a dollar each year since 2009–bringing it up to $13 an hour–and doesn’t expect to slow down. From his perspective, it’s only natural: “God tells us to go forth into the world and teach the Gospel to every creature. He doesn’t say skim from your employees to do that.”

Economists have increasingly recognized the ways in which healthy stewardship and property rights are linked—how increased ownership leads individuals to weigh costs and benefits more thoughtfully and effectively. Green’s comments add a slight twist to this approach, calling Christians in particular to reconsider who the “owner” actually is and how we might weigh particular costs/benefits and subsequent action accordingly:
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In his magisterial work on the twentieth century, Modern Times, historian Paul Johnson highlights how in the 1920s Germany transformed from being “exceptionally law-abiding into an exceptionally violent society.” A key factor, according to Johnson, was an erosion of the rule of law and partisan acceptance of political violence against groups disdained by the State. Johnson notes that from 1912-1922, there were 354 murders by the Right (proto-Nazis) and 22 by the Left (Marxists).

Those responsible for the every one of the left-wing murders were brought to court; ten were executed and twenty-eight others received sentences averaging fifteen years. Of the right-wing murders, 326 were never solved; fifty killers confessed, but of these more than half were acquitted despite confessions and twenty-four received sentences averaging four months.

The conditions that lead to the rise of Nazism in Germany are complex and varied. But this tolerance by the state of several hundred murders certainly aided in the creation of a state that would, within a decade, sponsor the murder of several millions. As history has repeatedly revealed to us, government hostility to specific groups is highly correlated with social hostility to those same groups.

That lesson is reinforced by the latest Pew Study on the “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Liberty.” As their research shows, “higher scores on the Government Restrictions Index are associated with higher scores on the Social Hostilities Index and vice versa. This means that, in general, it is rare for countries that score high on one index to be low on the other.”

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