Archived Posts February 2013 - Page 10 of 21 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, February 18, 2013

The End of a Catholic Moment
Ross Douthat, New York Times

The collapse in the church’s reputation has coincided with a substantial loss of Catholic influence in American political debates.

Pastor, Teach Your Businessperson to Be a Vine Worker
Sebastian Traeger, 9Marks Blog

My guess is, the longer you pastor businesspeople, or the longer you’re a businessperson in a church, the more likely you’ll experience something similar to one of these two scenes. Let’s call it the Pastor-Businessman Divide.

The Papal Abdication
Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard

Benedict XVI’s problematic farewell.

Syrian Christians ‘running out of places to survive’
Michael Carl, OCP Media Network

Human-rights activists say the situation for Christians in Syria is growing more intense and that the ever-shrinking Christian population is near the breaking point.

“You can be for markets without being against redistribution,” says Erik Angner, a philosophy professor at George Mason University. Angner argues that the Nobel-winning economist Friedrich Hayek offers an alternative to contemporary liberals and leftists on the one hand and conservatives and libertarians on the other. As Amanda Winkler notes,

In a controversial Politco op-ed published in 2012, Angner wrote that while Britain’s National Health System and the price-rigging elements of Obamacare violate Hayekian principles, creating an individual mandate and giving poor Americans some amount of money to spend on health care as they see fit does not. To Angner, vouchers for health care would function similarly to vouchers for education, helping to create stronger market forces and spurring the sort of competition that would lead to a more efficient and robust system.

Economist Tyler Cowan is skeptical that Hayek’s approach would work since, he says, “it is hard to have major government involvement in health care without price controls, or should I write ‘price controls,’ in some manner or another.”

Perhaps more interesting than whether a Hayekian could support Obamacare is the question of whether a Christian who favors free markets should be in favor of income redistribution. Personally, for numerous reasons I’m in favor of encouraging individual redistribution and leery of state-mandated redistribution. One reason, as Arthur Brooks explains, is that “[It] just culturally makes it harder for people who believe in income redistribution to give intuitively, to take personal ownership of a problem.” Believing that aiding the poor is the role of the government provides a disincentive for personal engagement with those in need.

What would most Christians consider a strong, compelling argument (assuming any exist) for free markets and government-mandated redistribution?

“Our world is overpopulated.” If you repeat something often enough, it becomes “truth”. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb, warning that we’d all soon be fighting over food, space, and power as the earth sagged under the weight of all those darned people.last book

He was wrong, of course, and not just wrong: spectacularly wrong. It didn’t keep him from being a celebrity or from his ridiculous notion from being believed. But he was still wrong.

In What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, author Jonathan V. Last attempts to point out the fallacies of Ehrlich and his ilk. Last is clear: our world is not overpopulated; we are vastly under-populated, and it’s a problem. He goes so far as to say that America has a self-imposed “One-Child Policy” that is leading us to demographic disaster.

Last is chiefly concerned with the problems under-population will cause America, but he uses several other countries to illustrate where we are headed. There are a lot of numbers in this book: financial figures about the costs of raising children, population numbers, fertility rates, the changing age of marriage. The conclusion doesn’t get lost in all the numbers: we don’t have the ability – population-wise – to take care of ourselves. That is, with programs like Social Security and Medicaid requiring a vast army of workers to keep them propped up and paying out, we can’t keep up. And if there aren’t enough workers to pay into these systems, there certainly aren’t enough people to take care of Grandma and Grandpa as they age and need more and more care. (more…)

This week, Istituto Acton Director Kishore Jayabalan joined Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio to discuss the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The special broadcast featured Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder of Ignatius Press, who did his doctoral dissertation under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Click on the audio link 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: jcarter
Friday, February 15, 2013

How America Can Avoid Becoming Europe
Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenicism

The slide of western societies, first European societies and now the United States, towards a culture of entitlement, dependence, collectivism, and secularism was the topic of a presentation of Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute.

The Perversity of Sin Taxes
Eileen Norcross, The American Spectator

It’s not too surprising that states often turn to “sin” taxes for more revenues, especially during downturns.

Is Wealth Created or Transferred?
Jay W. Richards, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

A common image of this “Materialist Myth” is a pie. The economy is a fixed pie, and if one person gets too big a slice, someone else will get just a sliver. If you gain wealth, someone else lost it.

Coolidge, The Great ‘No, Thank You’ President
Brittany Baldwin, Doublethink Online

With the federal debt over $16 trillion and the prospect of lowering it remote, conservatives have turned their attention to the last president who accomplished what now seems to be an incomprehensible feat: a decrease in the federal budget and national debt.

On Catholic Online, Fr. Johannes L. Jacobse praised Pope Benedict XVI for his “deep understanding” of the Christian patrimony of Christendom. “The Christian foundation of culture should be self-evident to most, but in our post-Christian (and poorly catechized) age our historical memory has grown increasingly dim,” he said.

Jacobse, a priest in Naples, Fla., and president of the American Orthodox Institute, also lauded the pope for his work at healing the East-West divide between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. “The Orthodox wonder about Pope Benedict’s replacement,” Jacobse said. “If the new Pope is a cultural conservative in the mold of Popes Benedict and John Paul II, then we know that the rapprochement of the last four decades will continue. If not, it will be more difficult to find common ground.”

Benedict, he said, also had a deep understanding of the Orthodox patrimony within Christendom.

The Regensburg Address is perhaps the most penetrating analysis of the contribution of Hellenism to Christianity offered by a Western Christian in centuries. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, February 14, 2013

heartDespite the inevitable flurry of trite sugary clichés and predictable consumerism, Valentine’s Day is as good an opportunity as any to reflect on the nature of human love and consider how we might further it in its truest, purest form across society.

For those of us interested in the study of economics, or, if you prefer, the study of human action, what drives such action—love or otherwise—is the starting point for everything.

For the Christian economist, such questions get a bit more complicated. Although love is clearly at the center, our understanding of human love must be interconnected with and interdependent on the love of God, which persistently yanks our typical economist sensibilities about “prosperity,” “happiness,” and “quality of life,” not to mention our convenient buckets of “self-interest” and “sacrifice,” into transcendent territory.

The marketplace is flooded with worldly spin-offs, as plenty of cockeyed V-Day ditties and run-of-the-mill romantic comedies are quick to demonstrate. At a time when libertine, me-centered approaches appear to be the routine winners in everything from consumerism to self-help to sex, we should be especially careful that our economic thinking doesn’t also get pulled in by the undertow.

In her book Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, Jennifer Roback Morse cautions us against these tendencies and points us in the right direction, challenging us to reconsider our basic view of human needs and potential.

Morse begins with a critique of homo economicus (economic man), a portrait of man as Supreme Calculator, capable of number-crunching his way to happiness and fulfillment on the basis of cut-and-dry cost/benefit analysis. Such a view ignores the social and spiritual side of man while submitting to a cold, limiting, earthbound order. As Rev. Robert Sirico notes in the last chapter of his recent book, “Any man who was only economic man would be a lost soul. And any civilization that produced only homines economici to fill its markets, courts, legislative bodies, and other institutions would soon enough be a lost civilization.” (more…)