Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 12 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

So … what happened? With regular coverage of the US “Fiscal Cliff” running up to the new year, PowerBlog readers may be wondering where the discussion has gone. While I am by no means the most qualified to comment on the matter, I thought a basic summary and critique would be in order:

  • With six minutes to read this 157 page bill, the US House of Representatives passed it. (Note: either I’m an exceptionally slow reader or none of them could possibly have read it.)
  • According to Matt Mitchell at Neighborhood Effects, the bill itself, comically titled “The American Taxpayer Relief Act,” has three strikes against it:
  1. “It ignored the evidence that tax increases are more economically harmful than spending cuts.” The bill puts the Cliff’s spending cuts off for two more months. (I see a sequel in the works: Fiscal Cliff  2: The Reckoning, perhaps?)
  2. “It opted to raise revenue through rate increases rather than loophole closings.” Why is this bad? “Put simply, a rate increase has deleterious demand and supply-side effects, whereas a loophole closing only has deleterious demand-side effects.”
  3. “It actually expanded corporate tax loopholes!” He continues by adding some valuable substantiation to this claim: “On the last point, don’t miss Vero’s pieces here and here, Tim Carney’s pieces here and here, Matt Stoller’s piece here, and Brad Plumer’s piece here.” The point: the primary (and likely the only) taxpayers who will see any relief from “The American Taxpayer Relief Act” are crony capitalists.
  • Small businesses, on the other hand, will be hit the hardest by the bill. As Eileen Norcross writes at The Spectacle Blog,

With tax rates raised on those earning over $400,000 some may imagine that only a rarified tier of high earners will be forced to fork over more income to the federal government. However, tax increases in this category also includes [sic] small businesses. These hikes will affect decisions over hiring, expansion, and wages. The outcome — slower economic growth for all.

In summary, the bill—which the House had only six minutes to read—does almost nothing to address our debt and deficits, and what it does do is mostly negative and/or sub-optimal (unless you’re a crony capitalist, that is). Not only does this bill negatively affect most Americans today, it puts off, yet again, any hard decisions of reigning in our unsustainable spending addiction. We now have two more months before we careen over that cliff, but with how much time Congress had to negotiate an alternative deal before settling for a poorly designed, 157 page bill they only had six minutes to read, I’m not holding my breath. (more…)

Note: This is the third in a series on developing a Christian mind in business school. You can find the intro and links to all previous posts here.

When people ask me what business school was like, I’m tempted to say, “A lot like a medieval university.” Unfortunately, that comparison makes people think b-school is dark, musty, and full of monks—which is not quite what I mean.

In medieval universities, the three subjects that were considered the first three stages of learning were the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Our use of those terms, however, fails to convey the broader meaning they had in earlier centuries. In her excellent book on the trivium (Latin for “the three-fold way”), Sister Miriam Joseph explains:

Grammar is concerned with the thing as-it-is-symbolized,
Logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known, and
Rhetoric is concerned with the thing as-it-is-communicated.

These three language arts, adds Sister Joseph, can be defined as they relate to reality and to each other. Similarly, while the arts learned in business school are very different from the classical trivium, every course can similarly be classified in a “three-fold way”:
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It’s that time of year: we’re making resolutions to get on the treadmill, join the gym, eat an apple every day. And yet, Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Is it the government’s fault? Dr. Jenna Robinson, at The Freeman, believes so. The food pyramid, farm subsidies: it’s all failing us.

In the 1990s, American women blindly gobbled up low-fat Snackwells desserts masquerading as sensible treats. After all, Snackwells cookies met government standards: they were low in fat and contained “safe” sugar. Parents send their kids to school assuming school lunch contains healthy fruits and vegetables—never stopping to ask what their kids are actually eating each day.

Government recommendations also dissuade private nutrition groups from attempting to compete with “official” advice. Consider Dr. Atkins’ critical reception when he wrote Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution; although a best-seller, it was panned by the nutrition establishment. The USDA’s Agricultural Resource Service still warns that the diet started out as a “gimmick” and hedges on whether it’s ultimately “worthwhile or worthless.”

Over the years, government recommendations have contributed to the replacement of lard with trans-fats (the latter of which are now considered deadly), the substitution of butter for margarine and back to butter again, and conflicting recommendations about eggs, orange juice, vitamins, certain types of fish, and the temperature at which it’s safe to eat meat. Is it any wonder that Americans are no closer to their health goals?
Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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marylazarusWe humans have a pesky tendency toward earthbound thinking. The natural world comes more easily to us, for obvious reasons, and thus, even when we aim to overcome our disposition and contemplate ways to improve things beyond the immediate, it’s hard for us to break out of the box.

Much like Judas Iscariot, who reacted harshly to Mary’s outpouring of expensive ointment on Jesus’s feet, we are prone to react only to the material implications, ignoring altogether whether God might prefer us to do something so peculiar as “keep it for the day of [Jesus’s] burial,” as was the case for Mary.

It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul urged us to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice” — to not be “conformed to this world,” but be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Such a life, Paul explains, demands a transcendent perspective made up by constant “testing” of the world as we naturally see it, that we might “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is a life consisting of far more than surface-level observations of the physical world, requiring us to submit our reasoning about everything from material prosperity to human happiness to the ultimate will of the Supreme Creator.

This call to active and continuous spiritual discernment reaches into every dusty corner of our day-to-day lives, and it involves plenty of overlap with what we might call the “natural realm” (unhealthy dualism in the other direction is, of course, a competing temptation). Thus, in exploring something as overarching and all-encompassing as our social and economic thought, we should be wary of allowing these natural tendencies and earthly values to serve as the dominating inputs, legitimate and valuable though many of these features may be when properly ordered (e.g. “happiness”).

When we attempt to subvert God’s transcendent reality, the problem can play out in a variety of ways and in varying degrees. Most clear, perhaps, at least in recent memory, is the example of Soviet Communism — an orientation that Whittaker Chambers once described as “man’s second oldest faith,” whose “promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”:

[Communism] is the vision of man’s mind displacing God as the creative intelligence of the world. It is the vision of man’s liberated mind, by the sole force of its rational intelligence, redirecting man’s destiny and reorganizing man’s life and the world. It is the vision of man, once more the central figure of the Creation, not because God made man in His image, but because man’s mind makes him the most intelligent of the animals. Copernicus and his successors displaced man as the central fact of the universe by proving that the earth was not the central star of the universe. Communism restores man to his sovereignty by the simple method of denying God.

But although the glaring errors of atheism help illuminate where things can turn sour, the trickier questions lie with the rest of us who do seek to place God at the center of all things, yet still find ourselves persistently struggling with how that should look in our day-to-day endeavors. (more…)

January 11-13, 2013 has been set aside as a Weekend of Prayer to end human trafficking and slavery. This ecumenical event is meant to not only shed light on the issue but to also pray for victims, slave traders, “johns” and any affected by human trafficking.

According to the Weekend of Prayer website,traffickingMedium2

  • Human Trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world with an estimated 32 billion dollars made annually.
  • There are 14,500 and 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year.
  • Out of the victims of human trafficking 70% are female and 50% are children.
  • Common places where pimps recruit women and children in the U.S. for sex trafficking are parks, playgrounds, homeless shelters,bus stations, junior high and high schools.
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports an estimated 100,000 children are at risk of being commercial sexually exploited annually.
  • The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is between 12 to 14 years old in the United States.
  • The average cost of a slave is $90.00.

There are many state and regional organizations that offer aid to victims of this crime. However, one of the two national organizations that received federal funding, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently lost $15 million in federal funding because of the Church’s pro-life stance, and refusal to provide and administer abortions, artificial birth control and sterilizations. Those funds allowed agencies across the U.S. to offer educational programs, shelter, food, and other necessities to victims. The bishops continue their anti-trafficking efforts, but without any federal funding.

The Weekend of Prayer website states, “In our opinion, God calls his people to lead efforts to eradicate this modern day slavery just as religious leaders in the nineteenth century led the fight to end slavery in their age.”

Nicholas Freiling offers three helpful suggestions for how advocates of liberty can defend the free market:

1. Raising questions is always better than giving answers.

Capitalism defends itself. It is logical, coherent and well-supported. The last thing it needs is your careless, back-of-the-napkin arguments that can sometimes do more harm than good.

Instead of arguing defensively with your friends, try raising some interesting questions. Ask them about their beliefs. Why do they think like they do? What do they think about our economic future? How do they propose the government deal with things like inflation, student loan debt and gun control?

If you’re like me, you’ll quickly find that questions build bridges and create mutual understanding. If you’re lucky, your friends will begin to seriously consider their own opinions, and will become more open to listening to alternative points of view. Helping others come to their own opinions will create more lasting change than asking them to adopt yours.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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The Dangers of Quasi-Capitalism
Howard Husock, National Affairs

Pointing out the inherent pitfalls of the quasi-capitalist approach is necessary in order to debunk it, but not sufficient. Those who would defend traditional capitalism must also address this new movement’s central assumption: that traditional capitalism is an anti-social activity predicated on private gain at public expense.

Religious Liberty in the Military
Matthew J. Franck, Bench Memos

In the waning days of its lame duck session, the 112th Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains this provision . . .

Deregulation as an Anti-Poverty Measure
Iain Murray, The American Spectator

Deregulation could provide a substantial benefit to the poor at no cost to the public purse.

The Biblical Foundations of Economic Principles
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

At IFWE, we talk about whole-life stewardship, which is the concept that stewardship extends far beyond how you spend your money or perhaps how you care for the environment.

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Alan Wallace, editorial writer at the Pittsburgh Tribune, reviewed Sam Gregg’s new book Becoming Europe.

In his article, “Where America is, where it’s going,” Wallace notes that:

Americans increasingly say their nation‘s becoming more like Europe; the Acton Institute‘s research director, [Sam Gregg] tackles that trend and its dangers, which he thinks are greater than many of them realize. He explores the “Europeanization” of the United States via the welfare state, debt, government‘s share of GDP, crony capitalism, taxation, labor regulations, public-sector unionization, an aging population and what the publisher calls “the emergence of an ossifying political class” more concerned with self-preservation than with economic reform. Gregg also examines the role played by the values and institutions that inform our economic culture and priorities. He says America isn‘t Europe yet and sees a path to recovery in what distinguishes our economic culture, but warns that the more European the U.S. becomes, the harder that trend will be to reverse.

Read the entire article here. Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future will be available on Tuesday, January 8. You can pre-order the hardcover or Kindle version here.

Even though the crowds stop paying attention, most fads never completely disappear. Just like Beanie Babies, Furbies, grunge music never really went away, some other 1990s fads—like campus speech codes and absurd political correctness—still haunt us:

From free speech codes and zones that quarantine unpopular speech to freshman orientation programs that force a left-wing world view on impressionable students to outright censorship and threats by Administrators to expel students and fire professors, Lukianoff’s new book, Unlearning Liberty, details dozens of blatant violations of the First Amendment and due process.

For instance, the University of Cincinnati attempted to corral Young Americans for Liberty to a free speech zone totaling an area less than 0.1% of the university’s 137-acre campus. With the help of FIRE and Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, students sued the university, and a federal judge overturned UC’s blatant violation of the First Amendment.

But not all violations make it to court. Lukianoff explains that FIRE often uses the court of public opinion to put pressure on universities to change policies before pursuing legal action.

Keith John Sampson, a nontraditional student who worked as a janitor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was brought up on charges of “racial harassment” for reading a book titledNotre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. The book jacket depicts Klansmen burning crosses against a backdrop of Notre Dame’s campus.

The book details a 1924 confrontation between students and Klansmen in which the students prevailed. IUPUI administrators judged the book by its cover, and Sampson with it. Only after receiving public pressure from FIRE, media outlets, and bloggers did the university reverse its decision and publicly apologize.

Read more . . .

Ernesto Sirolli says we are failing at helping the developing world, and he should know: he’s been doing this work for a long time. In this fresh, funny and insightful TedX talk, Sirolli says the key to bringing people out of poverty is entrepreneurship. Pointing out that the prevailing attitudes of paternalism and patronization don’t work, Sirolli emphasizes that we must become servants to the local passion before any development can occur. He quotes Peter Drucker: “Planning is actually incompatible with an entrepreneurial society and economy. Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship.”

This is exactly the message of PovertyCure. Sirolli’s approach to development is to “shut up and listen.” In the PovertyCure Statement of Principles, it states, “Development is about more than GDP; it’s about integral human flourishing.” Without addressing local needs, customs, dreams and gifts, development fails. All we do is feed the hippos.