Archived Posts September 2012 - Page 8 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Note: “Walzer, ‘In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible’”
Michael Walzer, In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

In this eagerly awaited book, political theorist Michael Walzer reports his findings after decades of thinking about the politics of the Hebrew Bible. Attentive to nuance while engagingly straightforward, Walzer examines the laws, the histories, the prophecies, and the wisdom of the ancient biblical writers and discusses their views on such central political questions as justice, hierarchy, war, the authority of kings and priests, and the experience of exile.

(more…)

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, September 6, 2012

Video: At the Democratic National Convention, delegates opposed to adding language on God, Israel’s capital to platform shout, “No!” in floor vote.

On Powerline, John Hinderaker quotes from a recent Rasmussen Reports poll to show that “Democrats, bluntly put, have become the party of those who don’t go to church.”

Among those who rarely or never attend church or other religious services, Obama leads by 22 percentage points. Among those who attend services weekly, Romney leads by 24. The candidates are even among those who attend church occasionally. Romney leads by seven among Catholic voters and holds a massive lead among Evangelical Christians. [Ed.: Remember when one of the chief worries about Romney's candidacy was that evangelicals wouldn't support a Mormon?] Among other Protestants, the Republican challenger is ahead by 13. Among all other Americans, including people of other faiths and atheists, Obama leads by a 62% to 26% margin.

CNN reports that atheists were “deeply saddened” when Democrats inserted the word “God” back into their platform.

Perhaps because of the Republican Party’s ties to conservative Christianity, atheists tend to be Democrats. According to a 2012 Pew study, 71% of Americans who identified as atheist were Democrats.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, September 6, 2012

Should we use spending cuts or tax increases to reduce the government’s budget deficit? New research suggests it depends on how much we like recessions:

This paper studies whether fiscal corrections cause large output losses. We find that it matters crucially how the fiscal correction occurs. Adjustments based upon spending cuts are much less costly in terms of output losses than tax-based ones. Spending-based adjustments have been associated with mild and short-lived recessions, in many cases with no recession at all. Tax-based adjustments have been associated with prolonged and deep recessions.

Sadly, the choice between spending cuts/tax increases has become a partisan political issue with each party choosing their preferred method rather than focusing on the empirical evidence of what would be most effective. Reducing the deficit will likely require a mixed approach, of course, but the decision of how much of each we use should be guided by values that liberals, conservatives, and libertarians can all agree to. In this we could learn from Hippocrates:

The physician must be able to tell the antecedents, know the present, and foretell the future – must mediate these things, and have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm.

Replace “disease” with “deficit” and you have a wise suggestion for how to approach the problem. While we are not always sure what will “do good” we have a better idea of how “to do no harm.” Since recessions tend to hurt the poor and working classes even more than spending cuts, solutions that do not lead to prolonged and deep recessions should be preferred.

(Via: Greg Mankiw)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, September 6, 2012

Stanford economists Russ Roberts and John Taylor offer a helpful discussion potential GDP, recessions, and recoveries. Their comparison of previous recession/recovery cycles to the most recent one helps to illuminate just how unusual (read: terrible) our current recovery has been.

(Via: Cafe Hayek)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, September 6, 2012

Circumcision in Germany: New Information and Lessons for America
Greg Forster, Hang Together

You may have heard about the report that a rabbi in Germany (of all places!) is being criminally charged for practicing circumcision. But over the long weekend, word came through from a local source to Ed Whelan that the story has been misinterpreted.

Campaign 2012: Burke vs. Hobbes?
George Weigel, First Things

This is a contest, to take symbolic reference points, between Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Jubilee and Justice
Art Lindsey, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

How does Jubilee relate to justice? What does it mean for Christians and our call to serve the poor and oppressed?

The Bible and Economics: Will There Be Inequality in Heaven?
RJ Moeller, Values & Capitalism

It used to be said that the goal of a fair and just society ought to be “equality of opportunity,” but somewhere along the way we supplanted that noble goal for a twisted, utterly arbitrary one.

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Last night, there was a moment at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte that may have alarmed some. The line from a video produced by the host city of Charlotte, declared, “government is the only thing we all belong to.” While some have simply used the line as a reference point for partisan purposes, it needs to be widely discussed. I have to admit I found the words profoundly disturbing. Not because I blame Democrats as a whole but rather whoever penned the script in the video really had no understanding that the line was troubling. I am sure we could say that of too many Americans regardless of political affiliation. In fact, partisans are more apt to embrace this message if their guy or gal is in power. It looks like the Obama political campaign at least felt uncomfortable with the language, as they wasted no time distancing themselves from the quote.

The line omits the whole notion in our Declaration of Independence that, “We our endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” It flips the meaning on its head and posits that our rights and responsibilities flow out of government. The Constitutional message of “We the People” is becoming lost on a large segment of our population. The tentacles of D.C. now vastly stretch across the land acting more in a suffocating fashion rather than a partnering one. Truthfully, the amount of debt Americans now owe and the centralization that is crippling this nation makes the statement in the video accurate not in theory but certainly more so in reality. Many are now serfs in support of profligate spending and the entitlement culture. Sadly, the longer we delay our debt crisis the truth of the line from the convention becomes actualized. An email from Stephen Miller, a spokesmen for U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, noted that the government “awarded a recruitment worker for overcoming the ‘mountain pride’ of people living in rural North Carolina” in order to expand enrollment for food stamps. Our government that is broke is aggressively recruiting more people for handouts.

It’s a sad reduction of the human person, when a worldview creeps in that you find a deeper community and deeper meaning in government.

The disconnect is deeply troubling and needs to be highlighted by deeper discussions and education about our civics. The whole idea of establishing an earthly kingdom is what the Founders rejected. Ownership belongs to the people. The government works for us and receives its direction from us. We are the ones who give the government its consent.

There is a clash of worldviews all around us, and unlike before in American history, they are not competing American worldviews. Language like this seems quite alien to our American experiment and ideals.

You have to hand it to Theodore Dalrymple: he doesn’t mince words. In an August 2012 piece in The Telegraph, Dalrymple let it be known that British plans to continue international aid to India are a, well…bad idea:

…our continued aid to India is nevertheless a manifestation of the national administrative, mental and ethical torpor, as well as incompetence and corruption, that is leading us inexorably to economic and social disaster. It is high time we stopped such aid, and not only to India.

Dalrymple knows whereof he speaks. His collection of essays, “Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Our Culture, What’s Left of It”, stemmed from his experiences with the mentally ill in Birmingham, England and their struggles with poverty. He continues in The Telegraph:

Aid is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of the economic development of a poor country; there is no country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid, which is a form of international social security for corrupt governments. I saw this in Africa, working on a project that enriched an inefficient British company and its personnel, and those local government officials whom it bribed, while the country remained poorer than ever, a kind of tropical Merthyr Tydfil. The economic growth that Africa is now experiencing is thanks to higher commodity prices and somewhat wiser government policies, and has nothing to do with aid.

Foreign aid creates a myriad of problems, and does not, unfortunately, do what it is intended to do: create wealth. Worse, as Dalrymple points out in The Telegraph article, foreign aid perpetuates paternalistic attitudes and corruption. Let’s keep repeating Mr. Dalrymple’s words: “It is high time we stopped such aid, and not only in India.”

Read The Telegraph’s ‘India is heading for Mars: it doesn’t need British aid money to pay the bills’ here.

This piece was cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Silla cedro TutankhamonGideon Strauss, my friend and sometime debate-partner, is the executive director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, and this week marks the launch of the center’s Fieldnotes magazine, which aims to “provide examples and stories and practical wisdom from men and women who are intensely involved in the day-to-day work of managing businesses, non-profits, churches, and other organizations.” In his introduction to Fieldnotes, Strauss invokes the powerful image of sitting in a chair as “a theological experience.”

“The chair communicates to me that I live in a wonderful world, beloved by God. It communicates to me that work matters — also work done in offices and at desks,” he writes. “And from what I know of its manufacture, it tells me that the work of designers, factory foremen, millwrights, and upholsterers is all worthy work — work to which people are called by God.”

Strauss hints here at the complexity of what might otherwise be considered a simple thing: a chair.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Margarita A. Mooney considers how personalism has influenced the development of Catholic social doctrine:

When people think of Catholic social teaching the first thing that comes to their mind may be the call to charity or solidarity with the poor, as exemplified by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. However, Gregg contends that for Wojytla/John Paul II, a proper understanding of human work is central to all Catholic social teaching.

So what does John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens say about human work? I walked over to my bookshelf and picked up a pile of encyclicals that my mother gave me more than a decade ago which had belonged to her father. My grandfather, Manuel Suarez Carreno, was an avid reader of Catholic social teaching and tried to put them into practice in his homeland of Cuba by promoting agrarian reform to help small farmers, among other things.

As I flipped through the pile of encyclicals with my grandfather’s signature on them and lines filled with his underlining, I got teary-eyed. For my grandfather, debates about the meaning of human work were not just abstract philosophical discussions. Debates about work and the organization of the economy tore about Cuba in the early 1960s, leading my grandfather and millions of other Cubans into exile.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sign of the times of the day:

Food-stamp use reached a record 46.7 million people in June, the government said, as Democrats prepare to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term with the economy as a chief issue in the campaign.

[. . .]

Food-stamp spending, which more than doubled in four years to a record $75.7 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2011, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s biggest annual expense. Republicans in Congress have criticized the cost of the program, and the House budget plan approved in April sponsored by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s vice- presidential nominee, would cut expenses by $33 billion over 10 years.