Archived Posts January 2013 - Page 9 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, recently had two interviews discussing his latest book, Becoming Europe.

Here is his interview on the Armstrong & Getty Show:

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.

Here is his interview on the Dennis Miller Show:

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.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, the vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International and former special adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said this about Becoming Europe:

Highly readable, well researched, and extremely timely. This book is the definitive case why America should cling to its belief that liberty and free enterprise are the source of human flourishing rather than follow Continental Europe into corporatism, big government and economic stagnation. It deserves to be widely read.

Becoming Europe is now available as a hardcover or an eBook. You can read a sample here or purchase it here.

Jefferson_Memorial_StatueIf we asked many of our fellow Americans today “What is the purpose of government?,” undoubtedly, we might be barraged with some vexing or comical answers. But I’m not one to believe that a good deal of our citizens can’t answer this question quite intelligibly. Still, I don’t think it would be enough to embody a healthy republic. It is time for our country to ask these basic questions again. It seems as if the looming chaos of our current national mismanagement demands it.

It was a common belief among the American framers that the purpose of government is simply to secure our rights from God. Unfortunately, I think this is largely forgotten now. That much is evident, given the legislative demands we see today, especially in our nation’s capital. Government overreach is the rule, not the exception. Today we see action taken by the government more oriented toward curtailing our liberties. Instead of natural law, we are inundated with legal positivism, especially when characterized by executive orders contrary to our Constitution. Attacks on the Bill of Rights and the current attacks we are seeing on the 2nd Amendment, is really a fundamental argument against the idea of self-government. In his first Presidential Inaugural Address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson declared,

Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

The idea that humans can govern themselves was a radical notion in 1776. Jefferson eloquently stated,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .

President Ronald Reagan in 1981, would echo Jefferson’s articulation of self government in his Inaugural Address, while facing the monuments to America’s Founders:

From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

We as a people need to again ask those fundamental questions about our capability for self government. When it comes to the 2nd Amendment or the entirety of our Bill of Rights, should we trust a government that is already hedging and placing limits on trusting us, when in fact, it was entirely meant to be the other way around?

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
By

Of all the documents that came out of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Liberty) was, says Omar F.A. Gutierrez, the most revised, debated, and controversial. But as Gutierrez argues, it also represented a development, rather than a reversal of Catholic teaching:

The perception of the Church’s teaching by many was that whenever she found herself in the minority, the Church would cry religious liberty. However, if the Church was in the majority, the state would be obliged to suppress other faiths. If that perception was not addressed, argued the Secretariat, the desire of Blessed Pope John XXIII to make inroads with non-Catholic Christians would be impossible.

This was a tension particularly acute in the Catholic Church in America. Paul Blanchard’s 1949 anti-Catholic book American Freedom and Catholic Power portrayed the Church as a menace to the US Constitution and real religious freedom. Thus Father John Courtney Murray, Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston, Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, and other American prelates agreed and worked to advance the declaration at the Council.

Read more . . .

collaborative consumptionNew rental markets are popping up all over the place, as detailed by a recent Wall Street Journal article. The trend is beginning to drive a larger movement labeled by some as “collaborative consumption,” wherein “sharing” is pushed as a way of “reinventing old market behaviors.”

Over at Carpe Diem, Mark J. Perry provides a helpful round-up on the phenomenon, pointing to the already mentioned WSJ article, a new Collaborative Consumption Hub web site, and a host of relevant products and services:

[W]e’re increasingly becoming more of a “rental economy,” where people can now rent just about anything they need from somebody else: their bathroom, their couch for an overnight stay, designer neckties (and bow ties and cufflinks), their driveway, their private automobiles, their toys, their clothing/costumes/maternity clothing/accessories/jewelry, party/event equipment, fine art, household items and tools (vacuum cleaners, iPads, tents, printers) etc. and the list goes on and on…

Perry also references a review on a leading book on the subject, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. In the review, Reason Magazine’s Greg Beato helps illuminate some on the broader social and economic implications of such a shift:

Just a few years ago, President George W. Bush was still touting “the ownership society” as the surest path to prosperity and personal autonomy. But that was before we could easily search our cellphones for the nearest power drills, sedans, and spacious Manhattan closets for rent. What we really want, sharing evangelists suggest, is access, not ownership. And when we can use the mobile Web to pinpoint sharable goods, the burdens of ownership—which include maintenance, storage, and eventual disposal—begin to outweigh the benefits in many cases…. (more…)

Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research and author of the book “Becoming Europe“, says one of America’s real debt dangers is our increasing sense of entitlement from the government. In today’s Investor’s Business Daily editorial, Gregg states our “insatiable appetites” are getting us into the very deep economic trouble that no one, least of all politicians, seems to want to face:

…Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker famously lamented in 2007: “We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

It’s tempting to see this as a peculiarly Western European problem. This is after all a continent in which even many nominally center-right governments’ default positions are essentially social democratic: i.e., extensive government intervention is simply considered normal.

But can anyone seriously deny that many American politicians — including some conservatives — play this game? Or that millions of Americans from all backgrounds have developed absurd expectations of what government “owes” them in economic terms?

And I’m not just talking about those who apparently regard any streamlining of social security as tantamount to homicide. I’m also referring to those businesses who think they’re entitled to receive corporate welfare instead of competing in the marketplace.

Gregg’s recommended remedy? “To put it bluntly, we need to accept that our participation in democracy cannot degenerate into voting for whoever promises us the most stuff.”

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
By

Russian patriarch says religion law must not go too far
Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters

Any regulatory acts regarding the protection of religious symbols and the feelings of believers should be scrupulously worked through so that they are not used for improvised limitation of freedom of speech and creative self-expression.

Evangelical Christians prepare for ‘largest ever grassroots push on immigration’
Dan Merica, CNN

Though the groups began holding broader discussion two years ago, Monday will serve as the campaign’s first concerted push on immigration, with the goal of getting meaningful immigration reform through Congress in 2013.

Abroad and At Home: Religious Freedom Under Threat
David T. Koyzis, First Things

We have an obligation to support our Christian brothers and sisters, with both prayer and political action.

Hobby Lobby finds short-term way to avoid fines
Baptist Press

Hobby Lobby says it has found a way to avoid for “several months” being penalized by the federal government for not covering abortion-inducing drugs in its employee health care plans.

Do most people value electricity and indoor plumbing more than cell phones and the Internet? In his article, Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?, economist Robert Gordon argues that they obviously do, and offers this thought experiment to prove his point:

_blog_images_cell_africaA thought experiment helps to illustrate the fundamental importance of the inventions of [the second industrial revolution] compared to the subset of [computer age] inventions that have occurred since 2002. You are required to make a choice between option A and option B. With option A you are allowed to keep 2002 electronic technology, including your Windows 98 laptop accessing Amazon, and you can keep running water and indoor toilets; but you can’t use anything invented since 2002.

Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3 am on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose?

I have posed this imaginary choice to several audiences in speeches, and the usual reaction is a guffaw, a chuckle, because the preference for Option A is so obvious. The audience realizes that it has been trapped into recognition that just one of the many late 19th century inventions is more important than the portable electronic devices of the past decade on which they have become so dependent.

Option A does seem rather obvious, even to those who may have to consider the relative merits of Win98 versus an outhouse. But as Kevin Kelly explains, Option A is not obvious at all—at least not to non-Westerners:
(more…)

It has been three years since the nation of Haiti was overwhelmed by earthquake devastation. In those three years, to the naked eye, it often appears as if little has been done. After all, at least 360,000 people still live in tent cities and infrastructure remains dubious.

However, three years is a short time in a nation’s history, especially a nation like Haiti, with its background of political turmoil, slavery and natural disaster. According to Catholic New Service, progress – slow but steady – is being made. Not only that, the progress is being made by the Haitian people themselves, in partnership with others, rather than through a steady-stream of NGOs and stop-gap mission programs. Catholic Relief Services is one of those partners.

“We want to build things with Haitians for Haitians, and it takes a little longer,” Darren Hercyk, country representative in Haiti for CRS, explained in an interview from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. “In the end I have not found a problem where all parties have not bought into it.”

Hercyk said the earthquake changed the way CRS approaches its work from being primarily in rural areas to one with a major presence in urban programming. For example, CRS is tackling the rebuilding of St. Francis de Sales Hospital, which was destroyed in the earthquake, into a 200-bed state-of-the-art teaching facility. The U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency has partnered with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Catholic Health Association to carry out the project.
(more…)

Update: Rev. Jensen has posted part 2 of his review. You can read it here.

Rev. Gregory Jensen, who writes at the Koinonia blog, recently reviewed Rev. Robert Sirico and Jeff Sandefer’s new book A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey.

This is what he had to say about it:

Prudence along with justice, temperance and courage, is a cardinal virtue. Unfortunately as contemporary Western culture has become more secularized it has formed generations of men and women who are deaf to the music of human virtue.  Many of us embrace a vision of human life that counsel spontaneity not habit as the mark of a life well and fully lived.  And since any discussion of virtue necessarily brings with it a discussion of tradition such a conversation is an affront to the atomistic individualism that is at the center of contemporary culture.

And as I read [Hero’s Journey] something unexpected and wonderful happened—I began to see myself in a new light. (more…)

Great Divorce, C.S. LewisI recently discussed our pesky human tendency to limit and debase our thinking about economics to the temporary and material. Much like Judas, who reacted bitterly to Mary’s outpouring of expensive ointment, we neglect to contemplate what eternal purposes God might have for this or that material good and the ways through which it might be used or distributed.

C.S. Lewis captures the tendency powerfully in his book, The Great Divorce, providing a clear contrast of heaven and hell through a series of conversations and spiritual choices.

Beginning the story in a dreary town described as being “always in the rain and always in evening twilight,” Lewis provides us with a setting very much like earth but with a bit more darkness and—take note—a bit more surface-level comfort and security (“they have no Needs,” as one character describes it).

Lewis follows one man’s journey beyond the town (which we quickly discover to be hell or some type of purgatory), toward an ever-increasing light (which we quickly discover to be heaven). Along the way, he encounters a series of fellow travelers, each struggling with his or her own obstacle to the divine—an earthbound idol that must be pried from their paws.

In one particular conversation, Lewis points specifically to the economic sphere, using a character he calls “the Intelligent Man” to propose an economic solution that, according to his limited, earthbound assumptions, will certainly relieve what he believes to be an inevitable, ever-increasing darkness:

What’s the trouble about this place? Not that people are quarrelsome—that’s only human nature and was always the same even on earth. The trouble is they have no Needs. You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) by just imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house. In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life. If they needed real shops, chaps would have to stay near where the real shops were. If they needed real houses, they’d have to stay near where builders were. It’s scarcity that enables a society to exist. Well, that’s where I come in…I’d start a little business. I’d have something to sell. You’d soon get people coming to live near-centralisation. Two fully-inhabited streets would accommodate the people that are now spread over a million square miles of empty streets. I’d make a nice little profit and be a public benefactor as well.

His approach has some charming elements, to be sure. Indeed, if I myself were to encounter a dreary town such as this, I, too, would be quick to emphasize the positive socializing effects of market collaboration and cooperation. “The townspeople boast an unhealthy and isolating sense of entitlement,” I might be tempted to say. “Thus, we should proceed to foster a healthy web of bottom-up independence, interconnectedness, collaboration, and specialization.” (more…)