Archived Posts October 2012 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: hunter.baker
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
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
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

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.

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…)