Archived Posts 2012 - Page 56 of 112 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, July 23, 2012

Last month, a Christianity Today editorial noted some of the intellectual foundations for ecumenical efforts in the public square, particularly relevant to evangelical and Roman Catholic cooperation against the HHS mandates. The editorial focuses on Chuck Colson, and says “you can credit Colson, who died on April 21, for a major part of evangelicals’ reduced anxiety about relations with Roman Catholics.”

The editorial goes on to describe how Colson’s ecumenism and broader theological foundations were inspired by “key evangelical theologians,” particularly

the words and deeds of the great Dutch theologian and politician Abraham Kuyper (died 1920). Kuyper carefully articulated the doctrinal and philosophical differences between Rome and his beloved Geneva. Yet he admired Romanism’s vigor in countries where it became disestablished. Kuyper believed that in the fight against modernism, Protestant Christianity could be effective only if it partnered with Roman Catholics.

In the course of filming the last interview given before his death with the Acton Institute, Colson describes the influence of Abraham Kuyper on his work in his own words:

For more, check out Colson’s concluding plenary address, published as “How Now Shall We Live?” in the proceedings of “A Century of Christian Social Teaching: The Legacy of Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper,” held at Calvin at Calvin College in October of 1998, in which Colson discusses “the remarkable and still controversial idea of Calvinists and Catholics coming together.”

In 1973, a pair of Supreme Court rulings helped convince many evangelicals and Catholics to align as co-belligerents in the struggle against abortion. In 2012, an executive branch mandate is having a similar effect, this time bringing the groups together to defend religious liberties.

A new level of cooperation occurred last week when Wheaton College, a leading evangelical liberal arts school, joined with The Catholic University of America in filing a federal lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services “Preventative Services” mandate. As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty notes, “This alliance marks the first-ever partnership between Catholic and evangelical institutions to oppose the same regulation in the same court.”

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Over at Y’all Politics, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel penned an excellent essay on conservatism and the moral order. Deeply influenced by Russell Kirk, McDaniel’s words are worth the read. They are a reminder that sustainable political liberty has to have a proper moral order and foundation for society to flourish. Below is an excerpt of his essay:

The embrace of Judeo-Christian morality is an indispensable component of American life and conservative ideology, particularly in the State of Mississippi.

It is the acceptance of an astute understanding shared by the founders — a belief that moral truths exist and are necessary for people to responsibly self-govern their own affairs.

Although we are all imperfect, Mississippi conservatives believe that moral limits to human behavior are intertwined into our nature, not simply accidents of history. We regard such limits as something that must be conserved to protect character from avarice, envy, unhealthy ambition and destruction. As Russell Kirk noted in his masterpiece, The Conservative Mind, we have a “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.”

We recognize, as he did, that “political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” Consequently, we do not reject moral certainties; we accommodate them, understanding that good individuals make good citizens.

Self-government and moral order are intertwined. Without moral order, notions of liberty often slide into chaotic license, and expanding government rushes in to fill the void and reestablish order. The result is a corresponding and often devastating loss of personal liberty.

And yet, contrary to other political philosophies which embody the might of centralized authority, we do not propose that it should be the mission of government, by force of law, to dictate to others how they must live or to remake authority in an effort to micro-manage every individual’s whims and desires.

Continue reading “Self-Government and Moral Order are Intertwined.”

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, July 20, 2012

Poor countries are unhealthy countries
Roger Bates, AEI

American leftists might laud the nationalized healthcare provision in Cuba, but cholera outbreaks should remind even these folks that without wealth generation, a healthy nation is rarely attained and never sustained.

The eurozone’s religious faultline
Chris Bowlby, BBC

Discussion among eurozone leaders about the future of their single currency has become an increasingly divisive affair. On the surface, religion has nothing to do with it – but could Protestant and Catholic leaders have deep-seated instincts that lead them to pull the eurozone in different directions, until it breaks?

A Christian Alternative to Health Insurance
Kimberly Leonard, The Atlantic

Exempt from regulation, taxation, and the individual mandate, Christian collectives called health care sharing ministries are paying for the care of their neediest members — if they approve of the morality of their needs.

Thinking About Time with an Eternal Perspective
Carolyn McCulley, True Woman

There’s only one person who will ever complete His “To Do” list and He already did it.

The free-market economist Milton Friedman used to argue that for a nation to prosper, all that was needed was to increase privatization and reduce the size of the state. But the collapse of the Soviet Union and other communist states made him realize that “Privatization is meaningless if you don’t have the rule of law.”

Today, the idea that the rule of law is a necessary component of growth is all but commonplace. So why don’t more economists and policymakers connect the dots between America’s slow growth and our poor ranking, compared to other nations, on measures of the rule of law?

As F. H. Buckley, Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law, points out, America is not as high on the rule of law scale as most of us would assume:
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 20, 2012

Review Essay: “Was Robert Bellarmine Ahead of His Time?”
John M. Vella, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Despite his rehabilitation in the last quarter of the 19th century, Bellarmine’s intellectual legacy remains mixed. In one respect, at least, he was a product of his time because his vision of a res publica Christiana depended on a united Christendom that could never be restored. Yet, what is easy to see, in hindsight, was not so clear in the early 17th century. On the other hand, his defiance of royal absolutism, in defense of rule of law and religious truth, is far from outdated.

Conference: “Sister Reformations II: Reformation and Ethics”

The Theological Faculty of the Humboldt University organizes a symposium on Sisterreformations II, Reformations and Ethics, September 13-15, 2012 in Berlin. In the light of the fruitful collaboration between Reformation historians trained in the German and Anglo-Saxon academic traditions during the 2009 Berlin symposium ‘Sister Reformations: The Reformation in Germany and in England’, a second gathering will now take place in 2012 to examine the theme ‘Reformation and Ethics’. For, although all parties in the Sixteenth Century accepted moral renovation as intrinsic to the Christian life, the exact place of ethics in this process, especially in relation to faith, was one of the most disputed points not only between the Reformers and their adversaries but also between the different strands of the Reformation itself. Consequently, this new symposium, jointly planned by the chairs of Reformation History in Berlin and Durham (UK), shall consider the principal ethical and theological questions involved as well as the actual moral decisions and patterns of behaviour associated with the English and German Reformations.

Lecture: “An Occasional Lecture: Capitalism and the Family”
Steven Horwitz, Institute of Economic Affairs

In this talk, Steven Horwitz will argue that the enhanced freedom with respect to family choices that has characterised the modern family and is celebrated by those on the political left, is largely a product of the economic system, market capitalism, which they often reject. At the same time, those on the right who are troubled by these changes in the family, including the demand for same-sex marriage, need to realise that such cultural changes are an inevitable by-product of the economic freedom they claim to celebrate. Steven will argue it is capitalism that is the main driver of the evolution of the western family and the wider array of family structures, which characterises the 21st century, representing an increased cultural freedom brought on by the freedom to engage in capitalist acts between consenting adults and the wealth it brings in its wake.

Book Note: “Theology and Public Philosophy”
Kenneth Grasso and Cecilia Rodriguez Castillo, eds., Theology and Public Philosophy: Four Conversations

This volume brings together eminent theologians, philosophers and political theorists to discuss the relevance of theology and theologically grounded moral reflection to contemporary America’s public life and argument. Avoiding the focus on hot-button issues, shrill polemics, and sloganeering that so often dominate discussions of religion and public life, the contributors address such subjects as how religious understandings have shaped the moral landscape of contemporary culture, the possible contributions of theologically-informed argument to contemporary public life, religious and moral discourse in a pluralistic society, and the proper relationship between religion and culture.

Book Note: “Reckoning With Markets”
James Halteman and Edd S. Noell, Reckoning With Markets: The Role of Moral Reflection in Economics

Undergraduate economics students begin and end their study of economics with the simple claim that economics is value free. Only in a policy role will values and beliefs enter into economic work; there can be little meaningful dialogue by economists about such personal views and opinions. This view, now well over 200 years old, has been challenged by heterodox thinkers in economics, and philosophers and social scientists outside the discipline all along the way. However, much of the debate in modern times has been narrowly focused on philosophical methodological issues on one hand or theological/sectarian concerns on the other. None of this filters down to the typical undergraduate even in advanced courses on the history of economic thought. This book presents the notion that economic thinking cannot escape value judgments at any level and that this understanding has been the dominant view throughout most of history. It shows how, from ancient times, people who thought about economic matters integrated moral reflection into their thinking. Reflecting on the Enlightenment and the birth of economics as a science, Halteman and Noell illustrate the process by which values and beliefs were excluded from economics proper. They also appraise the reader with relevant developments over the last half-century which offer promise of re-integrating moral reflection in economic research.

Pundits and politicians have been having a field day with President Obama’s speech given in Roanoke, Virginia, last Friday. The quote providing the most fodder is the president’s assertion, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (Here are a couple recent examples from Paul Ryan and Larry Kudlow.)

This has been widely understood to mean that the president is saying that if you have a business, you didn’t build it…and certainly not on your own. Earlier this week I pointed out a way of granting that there is some broader truth in the president’s remarks, even if they betray his own largely statist political assumptions.

But what if the “that” in “you didn’t build that” doesn’t refer to the business directly at all? What if instead it refers to the “roads and bridges” the president had just mentioned? Check out the video and decide for yourself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz59sXwgoYQ

Still not sure what the “that” refers to? Watch it again. I think the video conveys something the text on its own doesn’t.

The case may not be airtight, but the most natural (and certainly the most charitable) understanding of the “that” in “you didn’t build that” is in reference to the roads and bridges, not the businesses.

Why does this matter? For starters, as Christians its important that we do justice to our responsibilities as expressed in the Ninth Commandment, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor,” or more commonly simply, “Do not lie.” As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, one of the positive obligations arising out of this commandment is that I am to “love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it,” as well as to “do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.”

I realize that latter duty in particular is often difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill in the context of political campaigning. But if the president didn’t really assert that business people didn’t build their businesses, then it’s wrong to construe his words as if that’s what he meant.

This leads to another reason that it’s important to deal with what the president actually said: many of his own assertions are problematic enough without being turned into something they aren’t. The real problem is that the president simply dichotomizes between market and state, leaving no real room for the institutions of civil society. The real problem is that the president conflates “community” with the “government.”

Charles Krauthammer gets it right: the president’s assertion is about the relationship of infrastructure (and thereby government) to economic growth, not about entrepreneurship as such. The president is attempting to make the case for infrastructure spending, something he’s been keen on for quite some time (remember all those “shovel-ready” jobs?). But as Krauthammer writes:

Obama’s infrastructure argument is easily refuted by what is essentially a controlled social experiment. Roads and schools are the constant. What’s variable is the energy, enterprise, risk-taking, hard work, and genius of the individual. It is therefore precisely those individual characteristics, not the communal utilities, that account for the different outcomes.

The ultimate Obama fallacy, however, is the conceit that belief in the value of infrastructure — and willingness to invest in its creation and maintenance — is what divides liberals from conservatives.

Conservatives do themselves and their cause a disservice when they react so vociferously to a straw man, or to an assertion that was never really made, and thereby miss engagement of the position that is really held.

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
posted by on Thursday, July 19, 2012

It’s hard to think of anything more onerous than preventing enterprising people from entering the market. To do so is to interfere with their ability to serve others and engage in their vocation. It keeps people poor by preventing them from improving their lives. And one of the worst barriers of this kind is a type of law known as occupational licensing.

And that’s exactly what a group of monks in Louisiana ran into in 2010 when the state government tried to prohibit them from selling handmade caskets to their fellow Louisianians. Kevin Schmiesing wrote on that issue in 2010 on the PowerBlog.

It’s the coffin business that got St. Joseph’s in trouble. By selling its pine boxes without a funeral director’s license, the monastery violates state law. So the abbey is suing the State of Louisiana in federal court.

It’s a classic case of what economists call “barriers to entry”: regulations put in place by existing businesses or professionals to limit competition and thereby drive up prices and compensation. Usually the vested interest posits some rationale concerning the public good (e.g., not just anybody should be allowed to practice medicine…), but frequently enough the reasoning is pretty thin (e.g., should you really need a license to cut hair or drive a taxi?).

The monks are represented by the libertarian public-interest group, Institute for Justice. They won their case in 2011 and appeared last month before a Federal Appeals Court. A decision won’t be out for several months.

This all started when the Benedictine monks at Saint Joseph Abbey started receiving several requests from their community to sell caskets that the monks had constructed for their own deceased members for many years. In a hard hit post-Katrina Louisiana, this seemed like a reasonable way for them to serve their community and bring in some money to the abbey. Unfortunately, they ran into occupational licensing laws, which forbid non-funeral homes from selling caskets. The Institute for Justice argued that such laws could only serve to reduce competition and drive up the prices of caskets. The BBC has a good video on their troubles with the state. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 19, 2012

‘Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values
K. Allan Blume, Baptist Press

“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy said in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.” “That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”

Lessons from Bonaventure on the Spirituality of Work
Ryan Bradley

According to Bonaventure, those in the mechanical arts are fundamentally involved in ministering the mercy of God. Think of the architect who designs a house that literally protects a family from the stigma of homelessness and the suffering of being “in the elements;” a building that makes it less difficult for that family to feel a sense of connection and security.

Chinese Love Free Markets as Much as Americans Do
Cahtherine Rampell, New York Times

Chinese people are as likely to believe that most people benefit from a free market economy as Americans are, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Four Tenets of American Republicanism: A No-Frills Primer
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

One may find four fundamental tenets to republicanism rightly understood. First, for a society to be effective, men must behave virtuously. Second, men must use the gifts that nature or God has bestowed upon them.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 19, 2012

Richard Land argues the case that free-market capitalism is the economic model that most closely fits in with Christian anthropology:

When I lived in England as a Ph.D. student, I was visited during my first fortnight in the country by a fellow student seeking to sign me up for the Socialist Club. In some wonderment I asked him, “Why would you think I would want to join the Socialist Club?” He responded, “Well, I’ve been told you are a Christian minister, and if you are you would have to be a Socialist.”

I responded that if I am a Christian who believes the Bible is the truth, I couldn’t be a Socialist and be intellectually consistent.

Why? The Bible tells us men are fallen, sinful and selfish. Socialism is based on the premise that individuals in particular and as a whole are at best good, and at worst neutral. Thus, Socialists believe men will work according to their ability and receive according to their need. But the overwhelming majority of human beings only do that grudgingly and then only when forced by government coercion. Such coercion never produces the productivity and innovation produced by a capitalist, free market system.

Read more . . .