Archived Posts September 2012 » Page 5 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

In his essay on the eurozone crisis Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves claims there is a misunderstanding about the nature of criticism by “populists”:

That I submit is a problem, a serious problem and a threat to Europe we have only begun to realize. When we still talk about new and old members, we still talk nonsense about “populism” in all the wrong ways. Indeed I believe that the “populism” and the “specter of the 30s” that all kinds of pundits unknowledgeably appeal to has nothing to do with the populism we see in Northern Europe. That is not a populism of the dispossessed, the unemployed. It is a populism more akin to what Calvin and Luther appealed to than what the fascists of the 1930s appealed to. It is, like most populism, based on resentment, and resentment at unfairness. But the unfairness is, as it was in the 16th Century, a resentment of those who flaunt their flouting the rules by which others abide. Resentment on the part of those who take commitments seriously regarding those who do not: Is that the “specter of the 30s”?

As Mark Movsesian of the Center of Law and Religion notes, this isn’t merely a divide between Protestants and Catholic worldviews since some fiscally responsible countries that Ilves praises, like Austria and Poland, are historically Catholic. “Still, one can’t help noticing,” says Movsesian, “that the ‘frugal’ countries happen to be mostly northern and historically Protestant, and the ‘profligate’ countries tend to be southern and historically Catholic (or Orthodox).”

(Via: First Things)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Monday, September 17, 2012

Tom Gilson, in an article at Thinking Christian, gives some thought to the Christian view of stewardship. Too often, he says, that view is “low”:

…our churches are teaching a low view of stewardship. We’re missing the essential goodness of work in particular, even “non-spiritual” work. “Non-spiritual” work, in case you’re wondering, is any work in which God is not interested, which is just to say there is no such thing.

Gilson notes that he works in “Christian work”, which is often esteemed in the eyes of believers. But, he says,

So does any other honest work. I’m deeply grateful for those who make chairs and carpets, who sell breakfast cereals and coffee, who deliver gasoline to service stations and hamburger patties to restaurants. Without such a community of co-creators, I’d be one cold and hungry blogger right now. There is something essentially good about the business of building a world with and for each other. It can go wrong, obviously, and when it does (unless it’s due to factors beyond anyone’s control), it’s a failure of stewardship: the effective and godly management of all that God has entrusted to us.

What Gilson further states is that the Stewardship Study Bible gets the idea of Christian stewardship right.

But it’s not only about work. It’s about creation care, serving the poor, creating beauty through art, guarding the truths entrusted to us, managing our finances, giving, receiving, and so much more. Stewardship extends into every aspect of life; it is the way we live our lives with the resources we have at hand. That’s why it’s a theme worthy of a study Bible.

I’ve read the books of Isaiah and 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the Stewardship Study Bible so far. To me it hits a sweet spot: its articles on stewardship are consistently relevant to the adjacent text, without commanding how that text must be interpreted. Dozens, maybe hundreds of authors are quoted in these articles, providing a wide range of of insight, all of it faithful to the intent and meaning of Scripture.

Is your view of stewardship an elevated one, or do you still think that there is work that God is not interested in?

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, September 17, 2012

Biola University has recently launched Open Biola, an extensive online collection of free educational content created and curated by the school.

The program already includes a large offering of resources on business and economics, including a lecture by Acton’s Director of Programs and International, Stephen Grabill.

In the lecture, Grabill discusses the biblical basis of the word “economics” and its relation to responsible stewardship of time, family, and resources.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, September 17, 2012

10 Steps to Save the Constitution
Julia Shaw, The Foundry

Much like the document itself, Constitution Day doesn’t get the fanfare it deserves. But let’s not allow the day to go unobserved this year.

Clinton Declares Religious Freedom a National Interest
Eric Patterson, First Things

What identifiable actions, in addition to speeches and reports, can be undertaken? The State Department should begin by supporting three initiatives.

Anti-Capitalism Drives Chicago Teacher Strike
Joy Pullman, Values & Capitalism

Who Killed the Liberal Arts?
Joseph Epstein, The Imaginative Conservative

The loss of prestige of the liberal arts is part of the general crisis of higher education in the United States. The crisis begins in economics.

Jubilee Myth #5: Does Jubilee Apply to All People?
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Myth #5: Jubilee is a universally applicable principle – that is, it applies to all people. Actually, Jubilee applied only to Israelites and not to aliens and sojourners (non-Israelites).

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
posted by on Monday, September 17, 2012

Today’s blog post is from one of our faithful On Call in Culture community members, Sheila Seiler Lagrand, Ph.D. who earned her doctorate in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. As an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, she studied anthropology and literature with an emphasis in writing. Currently she blogs at Godspotting with Sheila and contributes regularly at BibleDude.net. Sheila is a member of the The High Calling. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride and in Paul’s Letters to the Philippians: Community Commentary. Forthcoming are contributions to Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive and Wounded Women of the Bible. Sheila and her husband, Rich, live and worship in the foothills of South Orange County, California.

I don’t like being interrupted.
I love being interrupted.

I might be working my way through the grocery store, methodically selecting every item on the list:

(more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, September 14, 2012

Yesterday at Mashable.com, a leading social media site, an article entitled ‘5 Fun Games With a Higher Purpose‘ was featured. The article noted that these types of games attempted to combine fun with some sort of societal impact. One game, Darfur is Dying, allows the player to simulate life in a Darfuri refugee camp for a family. If one family member leaves to get water and is killed or captured, the player must choose the next family member to send out. The game prompts players to make donations to humanitarian organizations.

Another game, Survive125, challenges folks to survive on $1.25 a day, with choices like sending one’s young daughter into a factory job or selling her to a prostitution ring. At the end of the game, the player is once again enjoined to make donations to various charities.

While the main purpose of these games seems to be to heighten awareness of global issues that plague much of the world’s population, there is something decidedly distasteful about playing at poverty. Every human, in every living situation, has dignity, and their lives are not games. Despite living in a refugee camp, a woman has dignity. A man trying to support his family on mere pennies a day has dignity. The image of a person casually punching their smartphone while playfully dodging bullets or sending a daughter off to a life of prostitution – real occurrences in some people’s lives – leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth…and perhaps a callous on one’s soul.

These games don’t do a darn thing, except provide a form of vulgar entertainment. A person may or may not be moved, at the end of play, to make a donation to an NGO or charity. If a donation is made, will it make a difference? What stands in the way of that donation and making a difference in Darfur or another place in the developing world? Corruption, lack of rule of law, lack of private property rights, lack of adequate education….the list goes on. The donation of money to foreign countries is not, and has never been, the answer to these issues. One need only look at Haiti (note this post and this one) to see that foreign aid not only doesn’t help but often hurts.

Such games foster the illusion that a person playing a game, who knows nothing of what it means to live in war-torn country or eke out an existence on a sub-standard income, is more able to alleviate and solve the issues in the developing world than those in the developing world themselves. What the people in these circumstances lack is not donations from the players of Darfur is Dying. What they need are the tools to create a safe, sustainable existence for themselves, supported by those with the capacity to offer real partnership. Games don’t solve poverty; hard, dignified work done by real people with creative minds does.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Public health officials estimate that Americans consume an average of 40 gallons of sugary soda per person per year. But now thanks to the tireless efforts of Michael Bloomberg, NYC’s Mayor and Nanny-in-Chief, the average New Yorker will now only consume 39.2 gallons of sugary soda per person per year.*

On Thursday, New York City passed the first U.S. ban of oversized sugary drinks as a way of curbing the obesity epidemic. Violators of the ban face a $200 fine for selling a soda in a size that exceeds government standards.

While the legislation is absurd, it’s not the first time a big city mayor has tried to promote healthy food consumption through taxation. As Jordan Ballor pointed out in 2005 when Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick proposed a a 2 percent tax on fast food,

The fast food tax, or “fat tax,” is really the newest incarnation of the age-old “sin” tax. The reasoning is that fast foods, which tend to be higher in calories, fat and cholesterol than other types of food, are unhealthy, and therefore worthy of special government attention.

Of course Bloomberg and the other nanny-state proponents don’t really believe the ban will reduce obesity—at least not by itself. For them, this is but one of the first skirmishes in the Fat Wars. As the liberal economics blogger Matthew Yglesias admits, “Giant sodas in one city and calorie menu labeling on chains nationwide are both very modest gestures, but the same forces that pushed for those will keep coming up with new ways to ratchet-up the stigma and inconvenience associated with ‘empty’ calories.”

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, in an article for AEI’s The American comes to the same conclusion:

(more…)

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Friday, September 14, 2012

In an odd story from Maryland, Ari Ashe of WTOP reports,

Many people find speed cameras frustrating, and some in the region are taking their rage out on the cameras themselves.

But now there’s a new solution: cameras to watch the cameras.

Yes, you read that correctly. Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a problem with people vandalizing their speed cameras and their solution is to install additional cameras to watch them. In response, Michael Rosenwald says what many others surely are thinking: “This is 100 percent ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ crazy.” (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Friday, September 14, 2012

Working Paper: “Top Ten Myths of Medicare”
Richard L. Kaplan (University of Illinois College of Law), Illinois Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science Paper No. LBSS13-02; Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 11-28; SSRN, Working Paper Series (PDF)

In the context of changing demographics, the increasing cost of health care services, and continuing federal budgetary pressures, Medicare has become one of the most controversial federal programs. To facilitate an informed debate about the future of this important public initiative, this article examines and debunks the following ten myths surrounding Medicare: (1) there is one Medicare program, (2) Medicare is going bankrupt, (3) Medicare is government health care, (4) Medicare covers all medical cost for its beneficiaries, (5) Medicare pays for long-term care expenses, (6) the program is immune to budgetary reduction, (7) it wastes much of its money on futile care, (8) Medicare is less efficient than private health insurance, (9) Medicare is not means-tested, and (10) increased longevity will sink Medicare.

Conference: “How to Feed Nine Billion People from the Ground Up”
Quivira Coalition, November 14-16th, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Global human population is projected to reach nine billion by 2050, which means food production will need to expand by 70% to keep up. Fulfilling this demand will place unprecedented pressure on ecosystems, including the planet’s grasslands, especially as competition grows for scarce natural resources. How to meet this daunting challenge while ensuring the health of land, water, wildlife and people will be one of the great tasks of the 21st century. In this conference, we will explore a variety of innovative practices that are already successfully intensifying food production while preserving, maintaining, and restoring the natural world. Speakers will share their hands-on experience and ideas for feeding all life – from the ground up.

Working Paper: “The Economics of Religious Altruism: The Role of Religious Experience”
Timothy T. Brown (University of California, Berkeley), ARDA/ASREC Working Papers Series (PDF)

Altruism has many motivations, including religious motivations. Perceived religious experience plays a strong role in the life of many religious individuals in the U.S. and can be a strong motivator of altruistic behavior. Religious altruistic behavior can be described by an economic theory of religious/spiritual health. Empirical tests using a theoretically and statistically valid set of instrumental variables show a strong causal link between perceived religious experience and the frequency of altruistic acts. An additional weekly event during which an individual perceives feelings of love that they believe come directly from God results in individuals increasing their altruistic acts by an average of 4.7% over a one-year period.

Call for Papers: “Ethics, Society, and Cultural Analysis”
Southwest Commission on Religious Studies, AAR session

Proposals for papers and panels are invited on the following topics in Ethics, Society, and Cultural Analysis: Pedagogy and Ethics, History and Ethics, Christian Social Ethics, and Moral Theology. Also of interest are reflections about comparative theological and ethical discourse featuring reflections on Jewish Ethics, Islamic Ethical Perspectives, Indigenous Religious Moral Perspectives, Buddhist ethics and Christian ethics. Constructive treatments of ethical issues including immigration, transnationalism, bioethics, global economics and poverty, health care, food and hunger, environmental ethics, ecofeminism, ecowomanism, medical ethics, theological ethics, sexual ethics, and the use of Scripture or tradition in ethics are also invited. Proposals may also discuss Womanist ethics, Mujerista theological ethics, Latina/o ethics, Native and Indigenous religious ethical perspectives, LGBTIQ ethics, and Feminist ethics.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, September 14, 2012

Defending the Dream: Why Income Inequality Doesn’t Threaten Opportunity
David Azerrad and Rea Hederman, Jr., Heritage Foundation

Those who focus on income inequality have embraced a very different American Dream from the one that is familiar to most Americans. They still use the traditional language of opportunity, but their new dream has very little in common with the real American Dream.

The Biblical Case for Limited Government and Low Taxes
James Arlandson, American Thinker

The main principle here in this article is one that goes wrong: from simplicity to complexity. We need to reverse the process.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/the_biblical_case_for_limited_government_and_low_taxes.html#ixzz26Q8RmMrX

How Licensing Laws Kill Jobs
Lisa Knepper, The Atlantic

Why does a manicurist in Alaska go through three days of training, while one in Alabama goes through 163?

Jubilee Myth #4: Does Jubilee Lead to Income Equality?
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Some argue that the periodic “redistribution” of land at Jubilee kept the rich from gaining more wealth, and the poor from descending deeper into poverty.