Archived Posts March 2013 | Acton PowerBlog

Millennials (born 1982-1994) often get a bad rap for being narcissistic and difficult to employ. However, according to new research by Ranstad, today’s young adults have more in common with those born before 1946 (mature workers) with respect to positive workplace sentiments than any other generation alive today. According to the research,

When asked about their feelings toward their current job, millennials and mature workers responded more favorably than other respondents across the board. In fact, 89 percent of mature workers and 75 percent of millennials say they enjoy going to work every day, and a majority of both groups feels inspired to do their best at work (95 percent of mature respondents and 80 percent of millennials). These workers additionally perceive a higher morale in the workplace than other age groups, with 69 percent of millennials and 64 percent of mature workers finding a positive energy at work, compared to just a 53 percent average among other generational groups.

One important difference between millennials and mature workers is that young adults would give serious consideration to a job offer from another company (57 percent), if given the opportunity this year, and 47 percent would proactively seek out a position with a different employer; however, only 20 percent of mature workers would consider making a career move and even fewer (12 percent) would look for a new job. Given their respective stages of career this difference between the generations should not be too surprising.

When people are in positions where they are ennobled through their work, it is a benefit for employers, employees, and the overall economy because it increases productivity. But there’s more. When we experience joy and dignity through our work, it provides opportunity for God’s people to reflect on the Cross of Christ and the Resurrection, as Pope John Paul II explains in Laborem exercens,
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Explaining why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant, baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” The same seems to be true of Easter church attendance: Nobody goes to church on Easter anymore. It’s too crowded.

church_parkingA survey taken by LifeWay Research last year of Protestant pastors found that 32 percent of Protestant said Easter typically has the highest attendance for worship services, with 93 percent saying it is in their top three in terms of attendance. But a recent survey finds that 39 percent of are not planning to attend an Easter worship service while 20 percent say they are undecided. Only 41 percent of Americans say they plan to attend.

For self-identified Christians, the numbers are much higher. Protestants (58 percent) and Catholics (57 percent) are most likely to say they plan on attending Easter services, followed by 45 percent of nondenominational Christians. While higher than the national average, for only 60 percent of believers to attend on one of our most important religious holidays seems peculiar. What could be the reason they’re staying away?
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A friend at church recently loaned me the New York Times bestseller Same Kind of Different as Me, which tells the story of how a wealthy art dealer named Ron Hall and a homeless man named Denver Moore struck up a friendship that changed both their lives. I’m only half way through it, but it’s already instructive on several levels that connect to the work of Acton.

Denver grew up as an illiterate sharecropper in Louisiana, an orphan who loses a series of guardian relatives while growing up and eventually finds himself in a class a notch below sharecropper—the field laborer who isn’t entitled to a share of the crops he works but simply works dawn to dusk for the food, clothing and minimal shelter he’s given on credit. In Denver’s case, since he couldn’t read, write, or do arithmetic, he couldn’t determine how much he owed, what the interest was, what his labor was worth, or even that he’d been denied his right to an education.

Economic conservatives talk a lot about the morality of the free economy, and the power of the markets to better the lives of the poor. It’s stories like Denver Moore’s that underscore why Acton spends so much time talking about a free and virtuous society, about the importance of ordered liberty. You see, in the book, at no point did anyone put a gun to Denver’s head and make him pick cotton dawn till dusk. At a superficial level, he was a participant in an un-coerced labor market (slavery had been abolished generations ago, after all). But any thoughtful look at Denver’s extraordinary story of struggle, despair, and escape will register the fact that Denver’s liberty had been violated in a host of subtle and not-so-subtle ways during his youth. These were like the strands of a spider web: individually they are of little consequence and hard to see, but taken together they have the power to bind. (more…)

The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44)

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that everything Christ does is for the purpose of raising up humanity. The raising of Lazarus of Bethany in John 11 is of course an obvious prelude to our own resurrection and the power of Christ over death. His power is not just limited to raising the dead but restoring the decayed, literally a corpse that had begun to rot. The spiritual lesson concerning Christ as the chosen one to restore and regenerate humanity is hard to miss. Only the Author of life can resurrect the dead and stand in as the new Adam.

Many today are walking around in their grave clothes. They’re lost and burying themselves in sin, shame, and guilt. In John 11 we have Christ showing up after the funeral where Lazarus’s sisters are mourning his loss. The incarnate Christ, who fully understands the general misery of the whole human race, presents himself as the Messiah with even greater clarity on this day.

When the Word of Life speaks, commanding Lazarus to “come forth,” his voice as Word revives the dead and brings new life. Easter is the seal of the truth and glory of Christ. Amazingly, because of Easter, the Scottish theologian Hugh Mackintosh was able to say, “The heart of man and the heart of God beat in the risen Lord.”

Below is an amazing clip from “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Chicago Public School (CPS) System have reached an agreement that the way to cover the school system’s $1 billion deficit is to restructure the system by closing 54 under-utilized schools. This type of fiscal responsibility may be prudent in the private sector but it is being protested in Chicago as USA Today reports:

Jesse Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, says the number of schools must be pared because many are under-utilized due to a shrinking student population — the number of Chicago residents fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010 — and because the district faces a $1 billion budget shortfall. About 30,000 children will be moved. Schools are currently equipped to accommodate 511,000 students; enrollment now is 403,000.

The school closing disproportionately affects African-American neighborhoods because Chicago’s population loss has been primarily in the African-American community like we are seeing in cities like New York, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. According to recent reporting,
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There is much talk about raising minimum wage, even to the absurd rate of $22 per hour. President Obama has promised an increase to $9 per hour. Some small business owners, feeling the pinch of these raising wages, are turning to technology to solve their economic issues.

Carla Hesseltine, who runs a small bakery, is considering eliminating employees and replacing them with tablets that will take orders:

In order for her Just Cupcakes LLC to remain profitable in the face of higher expected labor costs, Ms. Hesseltine believes the customer-ordering process “would have to be more automated” at the Virginia Beach, Va., chain, which has two strip-mall locations as well as a food van. Thus, she could eliminate the 10 workers who currently ask customers what they would like to eat.

Small business owners can only raise prices so much without damaging sales, in order to cope with increased labor costs. Of course, there are costs involved with the set-up, upkeep and repair of technology, and the intangible cost of the loss of human contact.

Many studies about the effects of higher wages on overall employment tend to be politicized, clashing over whether the benefits of higher paid workers outweigh the costs of having fewer low-wage jobs. To support President Obama’s case for an increase in the minimum wage, the White House cites a 2009 academic study that says any adverse employment effect from such would be of a small and possibly irrelevant magnitude.

The raise in minimum wage to $9 does in fact seem to be minor. However, it is clear from Ms. Hesseltine’s story alone that tinkering with the minimum wage system will have ramifications. One could argue that the loss of minimum wage jobs will be balanced out by sales of technology and the jobs created there. It remains to be seen.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, March 29, 2013

What the Resurrection Means for Our Work
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

The resurrection and the coming Kingdom of God bear great implications for our faith and work. When we talk with biblical clarity about the resurrection, we discover an excellent foundation and purpose for our vocational work in this present world—not, as some suppose, for an escapist piety.

The Case for Prison Labor
Reihan Salam, National Review

In the new National Review, Stephanos Bibas, a professor at Penn Law School, argues that prison labor ought to be part of our efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

Generous Self-Interest
Luke Holladay, Values & Capitalism

We’ve developed a natural aversion to self-interest. An aversion so strong that our altruism is halted by the twisted question, “Do people give because it makes them feel good?” We think it may be better to forego generosity than risk satisfying our self-interest.

Excellence or Faithfulness?
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives

We have a confession to make—we’re sick and tired of hearing so much about the importance of excellence in all things.

We continue to round up media appearances from the days surrounding the election of Pope Francis in Vatican City on March 13. This particular clip features Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Instituto Acton Operations Manager Michael Severance, who discuss the new Pope’s style, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities he faces as he assumes his role as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

I was thinking about just this thing after reading an opinion piece in today’s Detroit News from yet another technocrat who thinks he’s got a solution to the city’s deep, decades-old problems. His plan, dressed up with a lot of happy talk about building “vibrant central cities,” defaults to (surprise) convincing Michigan taxpayers that they should fund “local services” for Detroiters. This sort of abstract theorizing, divorced from political and public policy reality, always defaults to more taxes, bigger government and “public-private partnerships” led by corporate execs and teams of technocrats. This has been going on for close to 50 years in Detroit.

The writer of this article, Lou Glazer of the nonprofit Michigan Future, Inc., says the city, and places like Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Kalamazoo (full disclosure: I’m from Pontiac) need new “delivery systems” for services. And light rail and bike paths. “If Michigan will not reinvest in cities, then there needs to be some new system of municipal finance put in place,” he writes. Yes, investment. Nowhere, however, amid all the talk of growing the city with “young, mobile talent” does he suggest that there might be some people in Detroit with new ideas about how to come to grips with the city’s problems. Or do they all lack what it takes to turn Motown into a “talent magnet,” as he puts it. (more…)

The Acton Institute presents Acton University every June in Grand Rapids, Mich. The course offerings are rich and diverse, but there is often the idea that Acton University is all about economics. It is, but keep in mind that economics is truly about human interaction, and thus the depth of the courses. Who should come to Acton University, and what can they expect to get out of it?

David Clayton, artist, teacher, writer and broadcaster who holds a permanent post as Artist-in-Residence and Lecturer in Liberal Arts at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, has written a blog post about his experience at Acton University:

The last time I attended was my first and in the introductory lectures the speakers described how economics is a reflection of network of social interractions. And the nature of these interractions derives from our understanding of the human person, which in turn comes from Catholic social teaching.

Each person attending must sign up for a an integrated series of lectures so that each builds on the last. It is cleverly worked out so that the first lecture you choose restricts your choice for the second and so on.  As this is my second year there, I will be doing a different set of classes, that build on what I learnt last time.

As a Catholic I tended to pick courses that focus on Catholic social teaching or are consistent with it. They seem to touch on a whole range of subjects that cover topics as varied as economics, theology, public policy, globalization, the environment. What impressed me is that far from being the detached libertarians unconcerned with morality that some had portrayed them as, they were all profoundly interested in the poor and the foundations of a good and moral society. Furthermore, and again this goes against the way they were characterised, they were extremely interested in promoting a culture of beauty and seeing how this was connected to a free economy.

Are you interested in this type of experience? Learn more from our video, and then check out the registration process.