Archived Posts February 2013 - Page 11 of 15 | Acton PowerBlog

david-mccullough-02Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough is author of popular biographies such as Truman and John Adams, and at 79 years old, he’s still going strong. When asked by Harvard Business Review whether he is ready to retire, McCullough offered some interesting perspective on how he views his work through the American founders’ understanding of the “pursuit of happiness” (HT):

I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning. To me, it’s the only way to live. When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The love of learning. The pursuit of improvement and excellence. I keep telling students, Find work you love. Don’t concern yourself overly about how much money is involved or whether you’re ever going to be famous. I’m giving a talk at Dartmouth this week. It’s called the Hard Work of Writing. And it is hard work. But in hard work is happiness.

As I’ve examined before, defining happiness can be an elusive task, yet McCullough seems intent on pushing for much more than rainbows and lollipops. Indeed, his understanding of ultimate human fulfillment meshes quite easily with Lester DeKoster’s focus on work as a process for finding “meaning.” Arthur Brooks’ emphasis on “earned success” also comes to mind. (more…)

Benedict ResignsToday, Acton’s Rome office and the world were stunned by what the Dean of the College of Cardinals said was a “bolt out of the blue”: just after midday Benedict XVI informed the public that he would be stepping down as the Catholic Church’s pontiff and one of the world’s preeminent moral and spiritual leaders, effective on February 28. He will be the first pope to abdicate voluntarily the Seat of St. Peter in nearly 600 years. The last one to resign was Gregory XII in 1415 as part of deal to end the great Western Schism.

(You can read and listen to the latest reports issued by the Vatican Radio (also here and here) and the Catholic News Service of the US Bishops Conference).

Pope Benedict XVI, a disciplined, humble and soft-spoken German, is certainly not known for Roman caprice nor does he have a flare for the dramatic. Notwithstanding, he surprised us all in a brief statement issued in perfect Latin (translated below) at the end of a consistory held in the Apostolic Palace for causes of canonizations: (more…)

The Rev. Robert Sirico offers his thoughts on the announcement this morning from Pope Benedict XVI that he is resigning from the papal office as of February 28.

It is a sobering thought to think that the last time a Pope resigned (Pope Gregory XII in 1415), America had not yet been discovered. Yes, the possibility of a Pope’s resignation is anticipated in Canon Law (Canon 332), as long as it is disclosed “properly” and of his own free will. Pope Benedict met both the conditions in his statement earlier today to the consistory.

Rev. Sirico also notes that, “Anyone who tells you there is a “front-runner” [for the new pope] simply does not know what he is talking about.”

Read “On the Pope’s Resignation” at National Review Online.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, February 11, 2013
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Full Text of Pope’s Declaration on his Resignation
Vatican Radio

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.

Benedict XVI resignation: details of press briefing
Vatican Radio

The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, gave a briefing to journalists in the Press Office of the Holy See at 12:30 PM Monday afternoon, during which he clarified the following points.

Pope Benedict XVI resigns. This is unbelievable news, but evidence of the his deep humility
Damian Thompson, The Telegraph

Catholics will be deeply shocked and, in most cases, dismayed by this decision, which I see above all as an act of self-sacrifice by a man not prepared to see the Church suffer as a result of his increasing frailty.

Pope’s announcement bolt out of blue, says dean of cardinals
ANSA

Italian cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement he was stepping down from the helm of the Catholic Church was a “bolt out of the blue”.

George Weigel on Benedict: “Realities of World Where People Live Much Longer”
Matthew Schmitz, First Things

Pope Benedict XVI has said on numerous public occasions including his most recent interview book that were he to come to the judgment that he did not have the physical stamina left to give the church the leadership it deserved, that he would abdicate.

Pope Benedict XVI:a papal timeline
Vatican Radio

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on April 19th 2005.

Facebook reaction to Pope Benedict XVI plan to resign papacy
Vatican Radio

The reaction on Vatican Radio’s Facebook page (www. facebook. com/VaticanRadioEnglish) to the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI intends to resign on February 28th has been one of shock.

9 Things You Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Here are nine things you should know about the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Blog author: kjayabalan
Monday, February 11, 2013
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Shock waves went through Rome at about noon today and the rest of the Catholic, make that the entire, world, as news came that Pope Benedict XVI will resign as Pope on February 28.

We’ll have much more from Rome about this tremendous, unprecedented event (Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 in very different circumstances).

Here’s what Pope Benedict had to say about a Pope resigning in the 2010 interview Light of the World:

Q:The great majority of [the sexual abuse] cases took place decades ago. Nevertheless they burden your pontificate now in particular. Have you thought of resigning?

A:When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now [2010] is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from the danger and say that someone else should do it.

Q:Is it possible then to imagine a situation in which you consider a resignation by the Pope appropriate?

A:Yes. If a Pope clearly recognizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has the right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.

And here’s the text of the Pope’s letter explaining his decision to the cardinals who are currently gathered in Rome:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.

With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

“We’re becoming like Europe” captures many Americans’ sense that something has changed in American economic life since the Great Recession’s onset in 2008. An economy once characterized by commitments to economic liberty, rule of law, limited government, and personal responsibility appears to be drifting in a distinctly “European” direction.

Across the Atlantic, Americans see European economies faltering under enormous debt; overburdened welfare states; high taxation; heavily regulated labor markets; aging populations; large numbers of public-sector workers; and governments controlling close to fifty percent of the economy. They also observe a European political class seemingly unable—and, in some cases, unwilling—to implement economic reform.

In Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg examines economic culture—the values and institutions that inform our economic priorities—to explain how European economic life has drifted in the direction of what Alexis de Tocqueville called “soft despotism.” He reflects on the ways in which similar trends are manifesting themselves in the United States but argues that America is not yet Europe and economic decline need not be its future. The path to recovery lies in the distinctiveness of American economic culture. Yet there are ominous signs that some of the cultural foundations of America’s historically unparalleled economic success are being corroded in ways that are not easily reversible.

rheeMichelle Rhee isn’t afraid of controversy. In 2007 she took the job of chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools, one of the worst districts in the country. Given a free hand by the city’s mayor, she instituted a number of reforms that, while modest and sensible (accountability, standardized testing), were considered “radical” by many residents of D.C.

Rhee even fired 266 teachers and defended her actions by saying, “I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?”

Putting kids before the teachers unions is not always a path to popularity, and following the logic of such convictions can lead an educational reformer to accept some uncomfortable positions. For Rhee, that was accepting the legitimacy of school vouchers:

(more…)

As occurrences of preventable diseases increase and the debt deepens, some look to “sin taxes” as an easy to solution to both problems. Thirty-three states have even gone as far as to implement a soda tax in an attempt to curb obesity. At first glance sin taxes seem to be a good idea, but they can actually cause more harm than good.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just published a working paper on sin taxes and their negative effects. The study was conducted by Adam J. Hoffer, William F. Shughart II, and Michael D. Thomas.  They have found that taxing specific goods or services based on perceived “negative externalities their consumption generates”  is an ineffective source of revenue.

The authors summarize their findings in a recent U.S. News and World Report op-ed:

  • Lobbying: Millions of dollars have been spent to thwart taxation of the soft drink industry’s products and to prevent existing taxes from being raised. In 2009 alone, the industry spent more than $57 million on lobbying. Such lobbying expenditures are socially wasteful. How much money is now being spent attempting to block Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on 32-ounce soft drink containers?
  • Regressive taxation: Far from being income-neutral, such taxes are regressive because their burden falls most heavily on people with the fewest options—the poor. Low-income households who continue to purchase goods that are sin-taxed will have even less money left over to spend on other items.
  • Revenue not used for its intended purpose: Sin taxes raise revenue by transferring money from those who continue to buy the taxed items straight to the coffers of the public treasury. Taxing sin might be reasonable if the revenue from these taxes was used to address the underlying negative consequences of consumption. In the real world, however, money generated by the tobacco settlement financed general spending and not smoking cessation programs or treating smoking-related diseases. The social security trust fund has been replaced with treasury IOUs, and the highway trust fund filled by taxing the sin of driving will fail to meet obligations as early as 2015.

You can read the entire working paper, “Sin Taxes: Size, Growth, and the Creation of the Sindustry” here. Acton president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico has also written about the consequences of sin taxes. You can read his “Hate the Sin, Tax the Sinner?” here.

Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD Magazine, just listed Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future in his mid-Winter roundup of books to read. He says:

Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (Encounter, 2013) is a lucid account of the Europeanization of America’s political culture not only through quasi-socialistic programs but through personnel. Gregg shows how European leaders typically attend indoctrinating universities and then spend their whole lives in “public service.” With no understanding of how business works (and how hard it is to run a business), they adopt policies that lead to no or low growth and a lack of full-time, long-term jobs. Gregg notes that “at the beginning of 2012, an incredible 40 percent of workers aged 19 to 39 in most European Union countries were on temporary contracts.”

You can read Olasky’s entire article here. If you would like more information about Samuel Gregg’s latest book or are interested in reading a free sample, click here.

Rev. Sirico will be on Real News tonight between 6-7pm EST. You can find the program on Dish Network (ch. 212) and online at Glenn Beck’s internet channel, The Blaze.