Archived Posts September 2012 » Page 4 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, September 20, 2012

Economic Freedom Matters for a Flourishing Society
Jay Richards and Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Economic freedom is the best system known to do this. It provides almost limitless possibilities for individuals to unleash their creativity and offer it to the world.

Anglican Bishops Against Free Speech
David Mills, First Things

Four Anglican bishops serving in northeastern Africa and Cyprus have written the United Nations asking that “an international declaration be negotiated that outlaws the intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith.”

Is QE3 Ethical?
Timothy Terrell, Economics for Everybody

Most people don’t think about the ethics of inflation, but it’s our duty as Christians to recognize the ethical implications of our central bank’s economic actions.

Protecting Property Rights from the Army Corps of Engineers
Damon W. Root, Reason

Does the Takings Clause still have any teeth left at all? We may soon learn the answer.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tyler Cowen fielded an interesting topic on his blog last week, focusing on economists who are (or were) clergy.

There’s an interesting list, including notables like the Salamancans, Paul Heyne, and Heinrich Pesch. I didn’t realize that Kirzner is a rabbi. Malthus is named first, but as the initial comment on Cowen’s post notes, anytime you mention Malthus you should mention Anders Chydenius in the following breath.

How about Edmund Opitz of the Foundation for Economic Education, or even Rodger Charles, S.J., or James Schall? It depends largely on how narrowly you define being an “economist,” of course, as the inclusion of the Salamancan theologians indicates. Being a moral theologian who focuses on ethics and economics might not be enough to qualify. Does being a political philosopher/political economist count? But certainly A. M. C. Waterman should be noted.

And of course it also depends on how narrowly you define “clergy.” As Asher Meir notes in the post, how about non-ordained academic theologians, or economists with theological training (or theologians with economic training)? Then the list would start to get very long, indeed.

Any other names come to mind?

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Writing in National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg weighs in on Mitt Romney’s remarks about the “47 percent”:

Ever since the modern welfare state was founded (by none other than that great “champion” of freedom Otto von Bismarck as he sought, unsuccessfully, to persuade industrial workers to stop voting for the German Social Democrats), Western politicians have discovered that welfare programs and subsidies more generally are a marvelous way of creating constituencies of people who are likely to keep voting for you as long as you keep delivering the goods. In terms of electoral dynamics, it sometimes reduces elections to contests about which party can give you more — at other people’s expense.

For several decades now, it’s been a playbook successfully used by European parties of left and right, most Democrats, and plenty of country-club Republicans to help develop and maintain electoral support. As Tocqueville predicted, “Under this system the citizens quit their state of dependence just long enough to choose their masters and then fall back into it.” In such an atmosphere, politicians who seek to reduce welfare expenditures find themselves at a profound electoral disadvantage — which seems to have been Mr. Romney’s awkwardly phrased point.

Of course, it all ends in insolvency, as we are seeing played out in fiscal disasters such as the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, the city of Philadelphia, the city of Detroit, the city of Chicago, and the state of Illinois.

Read “Mitt de Tocqueville” on NRO by Samuel Gregg.

Writing in the American Spectator, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg says the “enlightened” Western mind can no longer think seriously or coherently about religion:

Given the decidedly strange response of the Obama Administration and much of the Western commentariat to the violence sweeping the Islamic world, one temptation is to view their reaction as simple incomprehension in the face of the severe unreason that leads some people to riot and kill in a religion’s name. But while the Administration’s response has plenty to do with trying to defend a foreign policy that has plainly gone south, it also reflects something far more problematic: the Western secular mind’s increasing inability to think seriously and coherently about religion at all.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Religious Freedom vs. Exclusive Humanism

The Catholic Church asks—and, if circumstances require, the Church demands—two things of any political community and any society.

Obama makes ‘unwavering’ pledge to protect religious liberty in new video
Alicia M. Cohn, The Hill

President Obama on Monday made a campaign pitch to “people of faith” in which he reaffirmed what he called his “unwavering” commitment to “protecting religious liberty.”

Why Do We Work?
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Why do people work? This is a question economists constantly try to answer. They refer to it as the “labor-leisure tradeoff.

Who Knew the Most Creative Seed Fund Was in Grand Rapids?
Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic

They fund two ideas each week. They choose one, we/you choose the other.

A video surreptitiously filmed during one of Mitt Romney’s private fundraisers was leaked and captured the Republican presidential nominee talking to donors last April in a Florida home (watch below) during a very candid moment.

While Romney states the facts and opinions as he sees them regarding the prevalent public welfare culture in America, he quotes figures that will surely stir animosity from within the Obama administration and his loyal Democratic voters.

Here’s a summary of what Mitt Romney told his campaign donors:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. ..They will vote for this president no matter what… And so my job is not to worry about those people. I will never convince them [that] they should take personal responsibility and care for their own lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, the look at voting one way or the other…

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ray Nothstine, Associate Editor at the Acton Institute and Managing Editor of Religion & Liberty, appeared on Relevant Radio’s “On Call” today to discuss political messianism, Calvin Coolidge, and school choice. Click here or on the link below to listen.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Related:

As Secularism Advances, Political Messianism Draws More Believers

Moral Formation and the School Choice Movement

Calvin Coolidge and the Foundational Truths of Government

Financially strapped politicians in Europe think they may have found a way to tap into a new source of revenue: tax the Catholic Church.

Rubio, a city council member in Alcala, is leading an effort to impose a tax on all church property used for non-religious purposes. The financial impact on the Catholic Church could be devastating. As one of the largest landowners in Spain — with holdings that include schools, homes, parks, sports fields and restaurants — the church could owe up to 3 billion euros in taxes each year.

“We want to make a statement that the costs of the crisis should be borne equally by every person and institution,” said Rubio, a 36-year-old former accountant in his first term in office.

Similar efforts that target church coffers or powers are underway in neighboring countries. In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti has called for a tax on church properties or on those portions of properties that have a commercial purpose. In Ireland, the minister of education is fighting to end church control of many of the country’s primary schools, and the government has slashed in half the grants it gives poor families for first Communions. More than half the city councils in Britain have eliminated state subsidies for transportation to faith-based schools, leading to a precipitous drop in enrollment.

Once an untouchable institution in some parts of Europe, the Catholic Church has come under fire for its government subsidies at a time when the continent’s economies are faltering and the population is subject to painful cuts in jobs, benefits and pensions.

Read more . . .

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“Petty” bribery is an accepted way of life in much of the world. A person simply understands that he or she will need to “grease the palms” of certain officials in order to get a business license, a work contract or help with a legal matter. In Rev. Robert Sirico’s book, ‘Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy‘, he recounts how economist Hernando de Soto decided to see how long it would take the average person to set up a small business in Peru.

He [de Soto] and his colleagues decided to test the question by establishing a two-sewing machine shirt-making business in a Lima shanty town, and he took himself out of the equation by sending out four students under the supervision of a seasoned lawyer to do the work of trying to comply with all of the legal requirements. “I’ve discovered that to become legal took more than three hundred days, working six hours a day,” De Soto writes. “The cost: thirty-two times the monthly minimum wage.”

This type of corruption is a leading cause of poverty. While many times the amounts of money may seem small – therefore “petty” – the cost is enormous when viewed more globally. Eduardo Bohórquez and Deniz Devrim, of Transparency International, Mexico, have studied “petty” bribery and concluded that this type of corruption not only hampers economic growth, but is truly devastating to the economies of developing nations, calling bribery a “regressive tax on the poor.”

The Index on Corruption and Good Governance suggests that while Mexican households with an average income spent 14% on bribes in 2010, households with the minimum income spent 33% of their monthly income on corruption, a percentage that by no means can be considered to be “petty”. The survey on experienced corruption in the Western Balkans confirms the finding that the average number of bribes paid is higher among lower income groups than wealthier citizens.

Further, Bohórquez and Devrim conclude that bribery doesn’t simply cost the poor money; it weakens their trust in public officials and institutions  and undermines struggling democratic underpinnings of government. In fact, they state, “Calling corruption in public service delivery “petty” minimizes its devastating effects and the high damage it has on the development of societies. Therefore, the term “petty bribery” needs to be banned from the anti-corruption vocabulary.”

Read Bohórquez and Devrim’s ‘Cracking the Myth of Petty Bribery‘.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pope Makes Plea for Religious Freedom
Kareem Fahim, New York Times

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday implored young Christians not to emigrate from Lebanon, saying they were “meant to be protagonists” as the country moved forward, and urging them to forge closer bonds with Muslim youth.

Where’s our ambassador for religious freedom?
Robert Joustra, Comment

What do our ambassadors do, and what are they for? Asked that way, the fast and furious closure of our increasingly marginal embassy in Tehran looks less shocking than the prolonged absence of an ambassador for religious freedom.

What’s Driving High Poverty Numbers?
Rachel Sheffield, The Foundry

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual poverty numbers. It reports that 46.2 million Americans remain poor; the figure was unchanged from last year. The percentage of Americans who were poor remained at a near-record 15 percent.

The Constitution Still Matters
Wesley Gant, Values & Capitalism

The center stage of contemporary political debates seems dominated by questions of economics and entitlements, as though government’s role is to simply decide which levers to pull and how far. Were Americans better educated in the history and philosophy of the U.S. Constitution, we might be better equipped for this discussion.