Archived Posts February 2013 - Page 5 of 21 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, February 22, 2013

Innovation is an ethical matter through and through, says Chris MacDonald, because ethics is fundamentally concerned with anything that can promote or hinder human wellbeing.

Innovation is generally a good thing, ethically, because it is aimed at allowing us to do new and desirable things. Most typically, that gets expressed in the painfully vague ambition to ‘raise productivity.’ Accelerating our rate of innovation is a worthy policy objective because we want to be more productive as a society, to increase our social ‘wealth’ in the broadest sense. The 20th Century has seen a phenomenal burst of innovation and increases in wellbeing, exemplified not least by the fact that life expectancies in North American have risen by more than half over the last hundred years. The extension and enriching of human lives are good goals, which in turn makes innovation generally a good thing.

Indeed, when looked at that way, innovation isn’t just a ‘good,’ but a downright moral obligation. Yes, lives for (most) people in developed countries are pretty good. But many still don’t have happy and fulfilling lives; many children, even here, still go to bed hungry. Boosting productivity through innovation is a key ingredient for making progress in that regard. And if less developed nations are going to be raised up to even a minimally tolerable standard of living, we need innovations that will help them, and we need innovations that will make us wealthy enough that we can afford to be substantially more generous toward them than we currently are.

Read more . . .

Trade and Mutual AidIn the forthcoming issue of Comment magazine, I examine how free trade orients us towards the good of others. In doing so, I argue against the value of pious banalities and cheap slogans. I include examples like, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” or, “When goods do not cross borders, armies will.” The latter is often attributed to Bastiat, and while it captures the spirit, if not the letter of Bastiat’s views, the closest analogue is actually found in Otto Tod Mallery: “If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries on missions of war,” wrote Mallery in 1943, then “goods must cross them on missions of peace.”

I was struck by the disconnect between ideology and reality, or between idealism and realism, in an anecdote from a recent foreign policy speech from Sen. Rand Paul. As Paul notes,

In George Kennan’s biography, John Gaddis describes President Clinton asking Strobe Talbot “why don’t we have a concept as succinct as ‘containment.'” Talbot’s response [was] “that ‘containment’ had been a misleading oversimplification; strategy could not be made to fit a bumper sticker. The president laughed… “that’s why Kennan’s a great diplomat and scholar and not a politician.”

I guess that’s also the reason that I’ll never be a politician, either. As Lord Acton observed, “Every doctrine to become popular, must be made superficial, exaggerated, untrue. We must always distinguish the real essence from the conveyance, especially in political economy.” The key for responsible governance is not to lose sight of the complexity that lies behind popular exaggerations and conveyances.

As I argue in “Trade and Mutual Aid,” the temptation to rest easy with simple formulas to complex problems is common, but must be resisted: “Divorced
from a more comprehensive conception of the human person and social flourishing, an uncritical reliance on free trade to solve the world’s problems can well become destructive.” Even so, I conclude, “Free trade is a system that imperfectly, and yet with some measure of success—as Bono and countless others are beginning to recognize anew—orients us toward the good of others.” In the course of this piece, I draw on a variety of sources, including Frédéric Bastiat, Adam Smith, John Calvin, Johannes Althusius, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Pope Paul VI, and Friedrich Hayek.

To get your copy of the Comment issue on the topic of persuasion, including my piece on the fundamental persuasive nature of exchange, “Trade and Mutual Aid,” subscribe by March 1. You’ll also find content from new editor James K.A. Smith, Anne Snyder, Jim Belcher, Ashley Berner, Jonathan Chaplin, Marilyn McEntyre, Janet Epp Buckingham, D. Bruce Lockerbie, Calvin Seerveld, Natalie Race Whitaker, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

The Acton Institute, founded 23 years ago, is ready to move into its new home in the heart of Grand Rapids, MI. Not only will Acton have more room for events, visiting scholars, and conferences, the new building boasts the best in technological innovations, while seeking SERF (Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities) certification for its re-use and recycling of the original historic building at 98 E. Fulton. According to

photo courtesy of Clark

photo courtesy of Clark

The $7 million remodeling project creates a lecture hall, conference center, library, and studios for television production, radio programming and webcasts, giving the 23-year-old institute an international base for its mission of advocating free market Christianity.

The institute, which was ranked 13th in the “Top 50 Social Policy Think Tanks” by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program in January, is vacating offices it has occupied in the Waters Building.

Built in 1929, the original building has seen its exterior restored as well. One exterior wall boasts a mosaic mural, Tracy Van Duinen’s Metaphorest Project, the 2nd prize winner in the 2011 ArtPrize contest, which will remain in place. In addition, the third story of the building is home to the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), a non-profit which provides a culture of opportunity for people to create social and economic progress in their lives and community through art and career training courses.

John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Corp.,  co-chaired the $12.5 million fundraising campaign.

“It’s part of the ethos and culture of West Michigan to say, ‘How do I do things better?’ and ‘I want to live a better way,’” said Kennedy, a Catholic who co-chaired the campaign with Sid Jansma Jr., president and CEO of Wolverine Gas and Oil Corp. and a member of the Christian Reformed Church.

Kennedy said Acton excels in encouraging entrepreneurs to develop their skills in the marketplace to improve the lives of others.

“They don’t say the markets are moral, but players in the market have a responsibility to be moral,” said Kennedy.

The Acton Institute plans to be in the new building by March 5, 2013.

One has to wonder how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would respond to the state of black America in 2013. From the nonsense that regularly spews from the mouth of rappers like Lil Wayne to the black-on-black violence that continues to plague many black urban and rural neighborhoods, we are moving further away from King’s dream. Did MLK die so that rappers like Lil Wayne could saturate their music with misogyny and materialism? Did MLK die so that young black males could sabotage their lives and the lives of others in their neighborhoods? Moreover, what continues to baffle many of us is the curious absence of a discussion about the promotion of moral values in low-income communities as a way to undermine the mass incarceration epidemic in the black community because of the government’s failed drug policies.

Maria Lloyd, Business Manager for Your Black World Network, recently wrote a column outlining a few of the social consequences of the mass incarceration of African American men resulting from failed federal drug policy including the proliferation of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, and mass incarceration. In fact, a December 2012 recent Justice Department report observes that “nearly half (48%) of inmates in federal prison were serving time for drug offenses in 2011, while slightly more than a third (35%) were incarcerated for public-order crimes.” Lloyd continues,

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, February 22, 2013

U.S. Catholics Divided On Church’s Direction Under New Pope; Three-quarters express a favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI
Pew Research

Among U.S. Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week, nearly two-thirds (63%) say the new pope should maintain the traditional positions of the church, while about one-third (35%) say the new pope should move the church in new directions.

A Christian Approach to Economic Uncertainty
Taylor Barkley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

When economists talk about the free-market economy, they use principles that help explain what may come from certain actions. Their explanations emphasize an element of predictability.

Coolidge: A Man to Be Followed
Gregory J. Sullivan, Public Discourse

Calvin Coolidge is an exemplar for conservative leaders because he was the very opposite of an ideological dreamer; he saw his vocation as a duty to provide the country that elected him with honest and frugal government that respected limits.

NYC Sues Hasidic Shopkeepers Over Dress Codes
Mark Movsesian, First Things

According to the deputy commissioner, the signs are “pretty specific to women,” and requiring women to “dress modestly if they come into the store” is illegal.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 21, 2013

“[He] belongs more in an insane asylum than at the head of a multinational corporation.”

beret-on-cowboyThat was the reaction by a French union official to an amusingly harsh letter by Maurice Taylor, chief executive of tire maker Titan. Taylor was initially interested in buying the French tire factory, which is facing closure following five years of unsuccessful negotiations with unions to enhance its competitiveness. However, after visiting the plant three times, he wrote a letter to France’s industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, saying: “Sir, you would like to open discussions with Titan. You think we’re that stupid?”

Taylor says the plant’s 1,173 workers “have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours. I said this directly to their union leaders; they replied that’s the way it is in France.” The Titan CEO added:

“Titan has money and the know-how to produce tyres. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He doesn’t care if those tyres come from China or India and these governments are subsidising them. Your government doesn’t care either: ‘We’re French!’

Titan is going to buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres France needs. You can keep the so-called workers.

Taylor isn’t exaggerating the problems caused by French unions. In his new book, Becoming Europe, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg writes,

“We have to pass the bill so that you find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

Nancy Pelosi was the House Speaker when she made those remarks about Obamacare at the 2010 Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties. At the time, Pelosi was mocked for not understanding what was in the legislation she was supporting. But the reality is that with all legislation that is considered by Congress, we almost never really know what is in it until it has been passed.

obamacare-redtapeIf you took civics class in high school (or just watched Schoolhouse Rock), you likely know how a bill becomes a law. But what most people don’t understand is the process by which a law becomes policy.

We often think that the judiciary is the branch of government responsible for interpreting the law. But in reality most interpretation is done by the executive branch, through the various regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies handle administrative law, primarily by codifying and enforcing rules and regulations. When Congress passes a new law it usually goes to a regulatory agency to determine how the law will be put in place.