Archived Posts October 2012 - Page 5 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thanks to Fr. John A. Peck at the Preacher’s Institute for sharing this article with the PowerBlog.

On Consecrating the Entire Economic Order

By Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

St. Luke’s account of Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree (19:1-10) is a story rich in spiritual reflection; preachers and Bible-readers, coming from a variety of backgrounds, have explored the narrative unto great profit for the education of the soul.

A certain liturgical use of the text is particularly instructive; namely, the story of Zacchaeus has long been read in the dedicatory service of a new church building. This liturgical custom—warranted by Jesus’ assertion,

Today, I must stay at your house

indicates a symbolism: The home of Zacchaeus represents the consecrated places where Christians gather to meet, worship, and commune with Jesus.

Harvesting apples for Calvados in France

There is an irony here: Even as we insist that Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor, he sometimes did so in the homes of wealthy. The reason was very simple: the wealthy had larger homes; a greater number of people could actually assemble there. (Some folks, doubtless, will be offended by this consideration, but let me mention that the first complaint on the point was made at the time-Luke 19:7).

This consideration of wealth is pertinent to the custom of reading the story of Zacchaeus when a church building is consecrated. It is a tacit admission that the construction of a church building absolutely requires a significant accumulation of wealth. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, October 18, 2012

In his excellent post yesterday on the presidential debates and how both candidates misrepresents facts, my colleague Dylan Pahman wrote:

Wishing to be charitable, I might characterize the politicians vying for our nation’s highest offices as “repeatedly mistaken,” but somewhere along the line someone on both sides is simply choosing to overlook the facts, unless we are to believe that both our president and his challenger have hired utterly incompetent researchers to support their campaigns—hardly a concession that instills me with much confidence in either of them.

Had Dylan not included this sentence I likely would have whole-heartedly agreed with his diagnosis (it doesn’t take much to convince me that both candidate are less than honest). But that line forced me to do some soul-searching since I have been a researcher for two different presidential candidates during two different primary seasons.

While it might be the case that I should be included among the “utterly incompetent researchers,” I made an honest effort when preparing debate prep materials to provide my candidates with accurate and wholly truthful information. The problem is that what constitutes “accurate and wholly truthful information” is far from obvious. Some facts are straightforward. When I included data such as “the economy grew by X% in quarter Y,” I had sufficient references to back up the claim. But other assertions, particularly about a candidate’s prior statements or political record, required relevant context in order to be established as truly “factual.”

(more…)

Too often, aid for the poor looks like this: A person, organization, or government notices a problem, decides upon a solution for the problem and implements it, with varying degrees of success. One step that is typically missing: no one consults the poor about the problem. No one asks, “Is this really a problem?” or “What do YOU think should be done about this problem?” Instead, an outside entity does it all.

Rose Molokoane, a South African woman, is sick and tired of it. She told an audience in Brazil just that last year: “We are sick and tired of becoming the objects of development. We want to build our own destiny.” With the help of  Slum Dwellers International, she is getting that chance.

With 34 affiliate countries, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) explains its work as this:

In each country where SDI has a presence, affiliate organizations come together at the community, city, and national level rooted in specific methodologies. SDI’s mission is to link urban poor communities from cities across the South that have developed successful mobilisation, advocacy, and problem solving strategies. Since SDI is focused on the localized needs of slum dwellers, it has developed the traction to advance the common agenda of creating “pro-poor” cities that address the pervasive exclusion of the poor from the economies and political structures of 21st century cities. Further, SDI uses its global reach to build a platform for slum dwellers to engage directly with governments and international organizations to try new strategies, change policies, and build understanding about the challenges of urban development.

SDI believes that the only way to manage urban growth and to create inclusive cities is for the urban poor to be at the center of strategies for urban development.

Diana Mitlin, a researcher who has worked with SDI, commented on the model of putting the poor in control, “All successful urban initiatives have been ones that have placed people’s knowledge and people’s action at the centre of the process. That doesn’t mean professionals are not needed, but it means professionals acknowledge the limitations of their role.”

Rather than objectifying “the poor” as a problem to be solved, SDI embodies the notion that the poor have the same capacities to solve problems, tackle issues and influence society in a positive manner. As the Rev. Robert Sirico asserts,

It’s so often the case that when people come from the developed world to the developing world and they see the wretchedness of poverty in such close proximity, they experience a kind of a guilt about their own prosperity and translate that guilt into policies that fail to recognize that these people are made of the same stuff as the people in the first world, that they have the same capacity that enabled the developed world to be so prosperous in the first place.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Fund for American Studies has produced a superb It’s a Wonderful Life-style video about life without capitalism. The video not only shows what life would be like if we banned free enterprise (i.e., a lot like Soviet Russia) but also makes the point that when you lose economic freedom you lose other freedoms too. As the angel says, “When you take away the carrot, all you’re left with is the stick.

My favorite part of the video:

Anti-capitalist activist: “I just wanted to get rid of the greed. I didn’t want to get rid of my microwave, my air-conditioner. . . ”

Angel: “Your Xbox.”

Activist: “My Xbox is gone?”

Angel: “Yeah, well, in this world that greedy Bill Gates work in a bowling ball factory in Akron. Lose-win, right?”

(Via: Cafe Hayek)

Entrepreneurs, in the words of Andreas Widmer, co-founder of The SEVEN Fund, are people who see “an additional color. Everybody sees chaos; they look out, they see chaos. An entrepreneur sees patterns.” They think differently.

Kara Ohngren, at Entrepreneur, has compiled a list of ten documentaries to help entrepreneurs strive to make patterns out of chaos. Acton Media’s “The Call of the Entrepreneur” is featured.

Why it’s a must-see: This doc is a non-stop barrage of uplifting tales. The inspiring story of Michigan dairy farmer-turned-composter, Brad Morgan is enough to remind you that our society thrives on entrepreneurial ideas.

Lesson: Sometimes all the modern-day entrepreneur needs is a little inspiration to press on, even though failure could be right around the corner.

Other “must sees” for entrepreneurs are “Freakonomics: the movie” and “Ayn Rand: In Her Own Words”.

Visit “The Call of the Entrepreneur” website to learn more about the documentary.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, October 18, 2012

NHS Age Discrimination A Warning About Obamacare
Wesley J. Smith, Human Exceptionalism

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service rations care and, evidence shows, discriminates against the elderly. Now, the Royal College of Surgeons finds that elderly patients are being denied life-saving surgery based on age rather than fitness.

5 Myths About Voting
Ericka Anderson, The Foundry

If you think early voting is a healthy trend, just read on, as we explode five myths about voting.

Can Only Priests and Pastors Make An Impact?
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

How many of us feel our work is not “spiritual” enough or doesn’t matter in God’s grand design? Understanding this concept of a priesthood of all believers can help us see how all our vocations bear great importance.

Godly Stewardship versus Environmentalism
E. Calvin Beisner, Economics for Everybody

In the last twenty years, the American evangelical church has jumped on the “green” bandwagon and embraced environmental stewardship as an ethical responsibility. In principle, this is good.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico appeared on the Frank Pastore Show Oct. 15 to discuss Vice President Joe Biden’s claim that the HHS mandate was not a threat to religious liberty and the quick rebuke he received from the Catholic bishops. Rev. Sirico also discussed broad faith and policy themes, including how best to reduce poverty, in this hour-long program.

Click the media player 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.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg offers an analysis of last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. Gregg begins with the assertion by Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post that the candidates are ignoring poor and working-class Americans. Gregg responds:

… what’s generally missing from the discussion of poverty in the context of this presidential election — though Romney did obliquely reference it in the second debate — is acknowledgment that: (1) the economic causes of impoverishment are more subtle and less amenable to wealth redistribution than the Left is willing to concede; and (2), with a few exceptions, liberals are generally reluctant to acknowledge some of poverty’s non-economic causes, not least because it throws into relief some of the more destructive effects of their cultural agenda.

If poverty was simply a question of wealth redistribution, the sheer amount of dollars spent since the not-so-Great Society programs of the 1960s should have resolved the problem. In 2011, Peter Ferrara calculated that “total welfare spending [in 2008] . . . amounted to $16,800 per person in poverty, 4 times as much as the Census Bureau estimated was necessary to bring all of the poor up to the poverty level, eliminating all poverty in America. That would be $50,400 per poor family of three.”

The effects in terms of reducing poverty have, however, been underwhelming. As Ferrara observes: “Poverty fell sharply after the Depression, before the War on Poverty, declining from 32% in 1950 to 22.4% in 1959 to 12.1% in 1969, soon after the War on Poverty programs became effective. Progress against poverty as measured by the poverty rate then abruptly stopped.” In short, America’s welfare state, which now easily accounts for the biggest outlays in the federal government’s annual budget, has proved inadequate at realizing one of its central goals.

Read “Who’s Really Forgotten the Poor” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A new study has produced an inflation-adjusted list of the richest people of all time. To give you an idea of just how rich the rich people on the list are consider that Sam Walton and Warren Buffett are the poorest guys to make the cut.

The richest person in history, according to the study, was Mansa Musa I of Mali—an obscure 14th century African king. Musa, who made his fortune on salt and gold, would have an inflation-adjusted fortune of $400 billion. Mali likely benefited from cronyism and a feudalistic command economy, but many of the others on the list made their wealth through free enterprise. Indeed, entrepreneurs crowd out emperors; out of the top 25 men (and they are all men), 14 are American businessmen.

What is most interesting about the list, though, is how much we benefit from the products and services created by these wealthy men. From cars and computers (Henry Ford and Bill Gates) to cheap consumer goods and toilet paper (Sam Walton and Friedrich Weyerhaeuser), we are better off because of the innovations and inventions that made these men wealthy. They got rich by improving the lives of millions (or billions) and contributing to the economic growth of the world.

The fruits of this economic growth are often worth more than their weight in gold—or in Musa’s case, salt and gold. The price to replace the American middle class living standard most of have now is almost incalculable. Who would trade their 21st century comforts in order to be the ruler of the Malian empire? Not me. Even to convince me to move back to the 1970s—an era before iPhones, Amazon.com, and central air conditioning—you’d have to promise me a minimum income of $10 million dollars.

Such is the magic of free enterprise. Not only does it make some people extraordinarily wealthy, it makes the rest of us extraordinarily better off too.

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Wednesday, October 17, 2012

With two presidential debates and one vice presidential debate already behind us, fact-checkers across the nation must be pulling their hair out. A brief survey of factcheck.org sheds some important light on the many claims and figures that have been tossed around in the last two weeks, revealing little concern from either ticket for the facts of the matter. Why is this the case? And must we simply resign ourselves to this dismal state of affairs? (more…)