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King Solomon, the original 1%

King Solomon, the original “1%”

Last Thursday, NPR ran an interesting piece by Alan Greenblat that featured the perspective of several of the nation’s rich (read: annual household income over $250,000) in relation to President Obama’s determination that the Bush era tax increases end for the nation’s rich as part of any deal related to the looming “fiscal cliff.” The article features a variety of perspectives, but I would like to reflect upon one particular section of that article here. Greenblat writes,

[Mark] Anderson recognizes that the kind of tax increases Obama proposes aren’t going to impinge on his life materially, and he supports them philosophically. But he adds that he thinks Obama and other Democrats make being rich “sound like a bad thing,” which he says is a mistake.

The top 2 percent of earners already pay 35 percent of all federal taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. In terms of personal income taxes, the top 1 percent alone pay 37.4 percent of total receipts, according to the Tax Foundation — double the share they paid back in 1979. [Edward] Kfoury, who is president of a land trust in Maine, points out that there are years when his personal tax bill has run into seven figures.

“What would make me feel a lot better is if I heard the president say, ‘I want to thank the rich people who, because of our progressive tax system, pay the most — but we don’t have enough money, so we’re asking the wealthy people to help the country out by paying more than their fair share,’ ” says Martin Krall, a 71-year-old “semi-retired” attorney and media executive who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“Instead, you’re made to feel like you’re a bad guy,” Krall says. “People resent the notion that somehow they’ve done something wrong by becoming successful.”

Joe Carter recently examined why soaking the rich won’t fix the deficit, so I will not explore that question here. Instead, I would like to focus on the issue of human dignity, political rhetoric, and an ancient Christian perspective on wealth. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, December 17, 2012

On Friday I linked to MLive’s presentation of two Christian views on right to work. In that article, Rev. Sirico argued in favor of the legislation since it advances the freedom of workers. On the opposing side was Peter Vander Meulen of the Christian Reformed Church. Meulen didn’t argue against the morality of the law, but only complained that it led to further political polarization and harmed the potential for bipartisan support on issues that “make life better for the large majority of people.”

A similar article in the National Catholic Register pits Fr. Sirico against another religious leader, Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Texas-based Catholic Labor Network. Fr. Oubre claims that in Right to Work states workers have had “a much harder time exercising their right to associate into unions.” Such a claim is rather dubious. Since federal laws protects the right of workers to associate into unions in every state, it’s unclear how or why right to work laws would affect such decisions.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, December 17, 2012

Gehenna in Connecticut
John Podhoretz, Commentary

Gehenna, a synonym for Hell, is a real place, or so the Bible tells us. You can see it today.

Jefferson’s Robust Views of Religious Freedom
Brian Walsh, T.J. Whittle, and Garrett Bauman Public Discourse

Notwithstanding his unorthodox views of Christianity, Thomas Jefferson staunchly adhered to the rights of all religious believers, Christian and non-Christian alike, to free religious exercise.

A Win for Religious Freedom in Illinois
Dominique Ludvigson, The Foundry

On Tuesday, the state of Illinois declined to appeal a recent loss in the Illinois Court of Appeals, which ruled in late September that the state cannot force pharmacists and pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religious beliefs.

A Brief History of American Prosperity
Guy Sorman, City Journal

An entrepreneurial culture and the rule of law have nourished the nation’s economic dynamism.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, December 14, 2012

MLive asked Rev. Robert Sirico and Peter Vander Meulen, a coordinator of the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Office of Social Justice, to comment on Michigan’s new Right to Work law.

Meulen says that the change won’t have much impact on the state’s economy but will adversely affect relations between Republicans and Democrats on “just budget priorities” such as Medicaid and energy:

In one fell swoop, with a policy that doesn’t have much effect, we have just trashed an entire future set of possibilities to move forward and have really serious discussions to make life better for the large majority of people. It will be a divided, riven state. The real losers are the moderate progressives like myself and many other people in the CRC (Christian Reformed Church).

In contrast Rev. Sirico believes that authentic social justice is not as a left-wing prerogative, but has to do with liberty that Michigan’s new law promotes:

“The problem is when people hear the term ‘social justice’ they think of it as a set of policy prescriptions, and it’s odd. I think morally sensible, Christian people are going to appeal to principles of social justice. This particular legislation conforms with that because it’s going to advance the freedom of workers to have more opportunities and that, in turn, brings a certain amount of intelligence with it. People are going to make choices based on what their subjective situation is. That promotes a society in which people are going to be better off.

Read more . . .

IkariaThe New York Times has a fascinating profile on Ikaria, a Greek island located about 30 miles off the western coast of Turkey. With roughly 8,000 inhabitants, the island is known for its slow and relaxed lifestyle, thriving communities, and healthy citizenry.

As Ikarian physician Dr. Ilias Leriadis says in the article: “Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here? …We simply don’t care about the clock here.”

Brendan Case offers a good summary of the article at Call and Response (HT), pointing to some significant themes:

“For people to adopt a healthful lifestyle,” reports Dan Buettner in a recent issue of the “New York Times Magazine,” “they need to live in an ecosystem, so to speak, that makes it possible.” Buettner’s exploration of the Aegean island of Ikaria, where people are 2.5 times as likely as Americans to live past the age of 90, showcases the inseparability of individual and communal flourishing.

On Ikaria, a constellation of factors yields long lives: a great diet, and few chances to deviate from it; lots of physical activity (little of which could be classed as “exercise”); even regular napping.

But the likely keys to Ikarian longevity are harder to map. Buettner suggests that social structures — the marriages, families and friendships that knit Ikarians into a densely woven fabric of village life — are what sustain these communities in healthy practices.

At a superficial level, it can be easy for us to overly romanticize such places, especially for those of us who are routinely exhausted by fast-paced Western culture (though I still prefer a widespread concern for clocks). Buettner, for example, often seems over-sold on the notion of Ikaria as Utopia–likely, no doubt, because of his research interests in longevity (understandable). (more…)

Earlier this week Dylan Pahman reflected on the question, “Which capitalism?” He helpfully explores the nature of capitalism and the importance of definitions.

This conversation reminded me of a point made by Michael Novak during his conversation with Rev. Sirico earlier this year at Acton University. In the Q&A session, he argues that it is essential to understand the nature of what distinguishes capitalism from other economic systems:

Novak says that “markets don’t make capitalism,” but rather that “enterprise, invention, and discovery” are its characteristic features.
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, December 14, 2012

A Brief History of American Prosperity
Guy Sorman, City Journal

An entrepreneurial culture and the rule of law have nourished the nation’s economic dynamism.

Bible doesn’t command wealth redistribution, presenters say at theological meeting
David Roach, Baptist Press

Scripture does not require governments to redistribute wealth to help the poor, presenters in a session at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting said this fall.

Called to Creativity and Significance
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Only God can create something out of nothing, but we can, and are called to, create something out of something.

Dem Senators Plead for Delay in ObamaCare Taxes
Arnold Ahlert, FrontPageMag

The unintended consequences of the the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, strike again.

Video: UAW President Bob King thanks Planned Parenthood, environmentalists, clergy, et al., at anti Right-To-Work Protest

LifeSiteNews.com looks at the — at first blush as least — strange alliance between the United Auto Workers union and Planned Parenthood on the Michigan Right to Work issue. Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute, interviewed by LifeSiteNews reporter Kirsten Andersen, says that the UAW, Planned Parenthood and other like minded groups are afraid that right-to-work laws will help defund the progressive agenda.

“I don’t think people outside of maybe the leadership of the UAW or Planned Parenthood know about the strong ties between unions and Planned Parenthood,” Hilton told LifeSiteNews.com. “I don’t think they realize that the president of Planned Parenthood was the keynote speaker for the UAW conference, or that the UAW says on their own website that they ‘strenuously support a woman’s right to choose.’”

The ties between unions and the pro-choice movement go beyond mutual support. The leadership of the two groups overlaps, as well.

Last year, the UAW appointed Mary Beth Cahill director of its national political efforts. Cahill had previously spent five years running EMILY’s list, a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to electing pro-abortion politicians.

UAW President Bob King showered Cahill with praise for her efforts, saying, “During her five years at EMILY’s List, she helped turn the pro-choice PAC into an unrivaled political powerhouse—the largest in the country at the time.”

Read the entire LifeSiteNews.com article, with more analysis from Hilton, here.

It’s no secret that certain parts of the world have been losing population for some time. The tightly-controlled Chinese birthrate is the first thing that comes to most minds regarding this topic. However, large parts of Asia, Europe and now even the United States are beginning to see clear danger signs when it comes to economies and low birth rates.

Taiwan’s birthrate is “dropping like a stone…” says an editorial in the Taipei Times. The majority of people realize there is a demographic problem. It could hardly be otherwise, since the total fertility rate—the number of children per woman—is an anemic 0.9. Few are motivated to do anything about it, however. Taiwan is now heavily urbanized, and city folk tend to have very small families. When asked, younger Taiwanese say that they are not interested in having children because they cost too much money, or take too much time. Women are more motivated to get a college degree and seek professional employment than to marry and have children. In this highly secularized society, children are not seen not as a blessing, but as a burden tying down the women who bear them. Goodbye, Taiwan.

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If you haven’t joined us for this lecture series yet, there’s still time! The final live session for the Globalization, Poverty, and Development AU Online series, Fair Trade vs. Free Trade, has been postponed. This means that you now have a few extra days to catch up on the lectures that we’ve already held before joining us next week for Victor Claar’s lecture on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about topics related to development, trade, globalization, or human flourishing, be sure to check out the recently released DVD Series from our friends at PovertyCure.