Archived Posts October 2012 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: hunter.baker
posted by on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In the Nov/Dec issue of Touchstone, I have a piece on the issue of whether government jobs can act as a lever for opportunity and social mobility. My answer is a highly qualified “yes” with a number of cultural caveats. Love to get reactions from the Acton community.

The good people at Touchstone published this one online. You can read it here.

Here’s a teaser:

The question is whether the modern liberal approach to improving the quality of citizens’ lives by sustaining mass numbers of government jobs is workable. The answer is that it can be done (though at the cost of significant economic efficiency), but not with the mix of values currently accepted by modern liberals.

In 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It was the culmination of decades of work by women from varying backgrounds and just as varied goals. However, they all shared a vision that women should be part of the political process in the United States.

One woman was Susan B. Anthony. Described as compassionate and having a keen mind, she was a fierce abolitionist and led the legal crusade to allow women to keep their own property and earnings.  She once said,

Forget conventionalisms; forget what the world thinks of you stepping out of your place; think your best thoughts, speak your best words, work your best works, looking to your own conscience for approval.

Her newspaper, The Revolution, extolled the virtues of motherhood and marriage, while maintaining that women needed a political role in helping to define laws that, while not defying moral law, would create a safer society for women and children.

One wonders what Miss Anthony would think of this election season. As Jennifer Marshall notes, we seem to be going backwards on women’s dignity:

Women’s liberation is parodying itself in “The First Time” spot featuring Lena Dunham, 26-year-old creator of the shockingly sexualized HBO series Girls.

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” Dunham provocatively begins the ad. “You want to do it with a great guy.”

“My first time voting was amazing,” says Dunham. She salaciously describes her vote for Barack Obama as a rite of passage to womanhood, dangling a policy teaser about free birth control along the way.

It is an astonishingly base, sex-centric monologue that degrades public discourse and demeans young women in particular.

As Ms. Marshall points out, we’ve gotten to a point where women are allowing their sexuality to be objectified for political purposes. Rather than thinking our best thoughts and speaking our best words, some women seem to be satisfied with titillating campaign videos and innuendo for electoral purposes. She concludes, “To sexually pander toward the youth vote is to degrade the sober calling of citizenship. And to so trivialize female sexuality is to deal a setback to the dignity of women.”

I can’t help but think Susan B. Anthony would agree.

Read Jennifer Marshall’s “Backward on Women’s Dignity” here.

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson says everyone seems to understand that the private sector creates jobs. Everyone, that is, except the New York Times. Samuelson calls the Times’ decree of government job creation “simplistic” and that it has a “flat-earth quality”.

He explains that if the government adds jobs – expands government – it comes at taxpayer expense.

But if the people whose money is taken via taxation or borrowing had kept the money, they would have spent most or all of it on something — and that spending would have boosted employment.

Job creation in the private sector is mostly a spontaneous and circular process. People buy things they need and want. Or businesses and private investors take risks by investing in new products, technologies and factories. All this spending, driven by self-interest and the profit motive, supports more jobs. In a smoothly functioning market economy, the process feeds on itself. By contrast, public-sector employment grows only when government claims some private-sector income to pay its workers. Government is not creating jobs. It’s substituting public-sector workers for private-sector workers.

With knowledge of how the developing world struggles to create jobs, Juan José Daboub, former Managing Director of the World Bank, concurs: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

V. Rev. Paul Jannakos offers an Orthodox perspective on the upcoming election:

As Orthodox Christians we bear witness to Christ in all dimensions of life. This includes participation in civic life, where as citizens of this country we elect into office those who aspire towards the work of public service on both the local and federal levels.

We do not deny that the democratic electoral process is a wonderful gift given to us as citizens of the United States. We thereby vote for those whom we feel would best govern our lands according to the values and principles we esteem as believers.

As we approach the upcoming Election Day, it is beneficial to be reminded about several key issues regarding the Orthodox Church and its role in the social and political life of its faithful.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day Reflections on Calvin and Calvinism
Jordan Ballor, Touchstone

While the concern might simply be with a broader kind of Augustinianism, it would do us well I think to reflect a bit on the term Calvinism and it’s theological and historical usefulness (or lack thereof).

Free Speech on Campus & ‘Unlearning Liberty’
Greg Lukianoff, The Volokh Conspiracy

The first and most dangerous harm is that speech codes and ridiculous “free speech zones” make students far too comfortable with restrictions on their freedom of speech.

The Best Business Plan? Relationships
Ellen O’Gorman, Christianity Today

If Phoenix Christian Jade Meskill’s success is any indication, collaboration and investing in employees isn’t pie-in-the-sky idealism. It’s just smart business.

What Can Evangelicals and Orthodox Learn From One Another
Pravmir.com

The early Christians used to say unos christianus, nolos christianus—one Christian, isolated and cut off from the others, is no Christian. We can extend that saying—una persona, nula persona—one person, cut off, isolated from others is not truly a person.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HermanBavinckBigToday is Reformation Day, and I wanted to pass along a quote that I have found to embody a valuable perspective about the imperative to always be seeking reform of one’s own life and manners, without needing to tarry for broader social or political change.

The quote appears in the newly-published translation of a work by the Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, which originally appeared in 1908.

The point of departure is his exploration of the institution of the family and its social significance, but Bavinck’s words apply equally as well to efforts for improving other spheres as well:

All good, enduring reformation begins with ourselves and takes its starting point in one’s own heart and life. If family life is indeed being threatened from all sides today, then there is nothing better for each person to be doing than immediately to begin reforming within one’s own circle and begin to rebuff with the facts themselves the sharp criticisms that are being registered nowadays against marriage and family. Such a reformation immediately has this in its favor, that it would lose no time and would not need to wait for anything. Anyone seeking deliverance from the state must travel the lengthy route of forming a political party, having meetings, referendums, parliamentary debates, and civil legislation, and it is still unknown whether with all that activity he will achieve any success. But reforming from within can be undertaken by each person at every moment, and be advanced without impediment.

On Oct. 4, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, spoke about social justice at the 2012 Hillsdale College Free Market Forum in Houston. The theme of the Forum, which encourages the study of free enterprise by bringing scholars together for dynamic exchanges of ideas on topics related to free market economics, was “Markets, Government, and the Common Good.” Rev. Sirico spoke about the evolved meaning of the phrase “social justice,” explaining the current usage of the phrase as well as its literal meaning. He also warned that if words and phrases lose their meaning then “chaos can result.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After declaring a state of emergency in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a forceful reminder to merchants: Price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal and will result in significant penalties.

Price gouging—raising prices during an emergency condition over their normal level—is illegal in many states. But is it unethical? Jordan Ballor addressed that question in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina:

(more…)

Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom is just as timely today as it was fifty years ago, argues Joanna Bogle:

Religious freedom is the issue of the hour: in America, in Europe, in what we (used to?) think of as “the West”. But what is particularly interesting is that this comes just as we are marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council – the Council in which the Church explored the whole question of religious freedom and gave the world a valuable document which established the Church’s approach to this subject for the new millennium.

The Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, emphasised that “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.” This duty is fundamental. Religious belief cannot be imposed by government edict, or by coercion using the authority of the State. “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.”

When this was all being debated at the Vatican Council, and in the years immediately following, attention focused essentially on the internal tensions within the Church on the subject. But now the fullness of the importance and value of Dignitatis Humanae is coming into its own, and in circumstances that would have been unimaginable to many of the Bishops gathered in Rome in the 1960s.

Read more . . .

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Everyone agrees that during times of natural disaster, people need help. With “Superstorm Sandy” pummeling the eastern third of the U.S., it is easy to see that many people will need aid in the form of  food, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, and we are obliged to help.

But we should be smart about it.

Brian Fikkert, author of “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…or Yourself”, gives three reasonable guidelines for helping in these situations. First, he says, help must be immediate. No one should have to wait for crucial needs and services. Second, this type of help should be temporary. Why?

 It should only be provided during the time that people cannot participate in their own recovery. Determining when to stop relief is never easy. We can make the mistake of ending our relief too early, but we can also err in creating unnecessary dependency by extending it too long.

Finally, Fikkert says, relief requires partnership. This is a key element in the aid of any sort. When relief turns to pity, a situation of paternalism and not partnership is created, and that is unhealthy for both parties. As Michael Fairbanks, co-founder of The Seven Fund has said,

 …you create that parental relationship. I’m helping you. You should be guided by me because I have a bag of money. The responsibility for your future is actually on me, not on you because I have the resources to develop you. It’s patron-client; it’s master-slave; it’s donor-recipient. It’s all broken.

Fikkert reinforces this:

 Experts say relief is typically needed only for a week or less before you should transition into a rehabilitation development strategy, working with people to help them move forward rather than merely doing things for them. As you do this, look for opportunities to form relationships. As we walk with people over time, we can address the deeper issues of life and what it truly means to be a fully restored human.

As we continue to examine how we can best help our fellow human beings, whether it is in time of naturall disaster, on-going entrenched poverty or personal crisis, it is good to remember that forming relationships is always better than simply dropping supplies into someone’s lap and moving on to the next big problem.

Read Brian Fikkert’s “Help Without Hesitating” at the Gospel Coalition.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.