Archived Posts March 2013 » Page 16 of 16 | Acton PowerBlog

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal that every conservative should read—and heed:

Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America’s poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

Some say the solution for conservatives is either to redouble the attacks on big government per se, or give up and try to build a better welfare state. Neither path is correct. Raging against government debt and tax rates that most Americans don’t pay gets conservatives nowhere, and it will always be an exercise in futility to compete with liberals on government spending and transfers.

Instead, the answer is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, March 4, 2013

At The American Spectator, Jackson Adams reviews Samuel Gregg’s new book, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future:

“Europe” is a concept Europeans are still getting used to. It should not, therefore, be surprising that it took a book written primarily for Americans to determine the sort of morass into which Western European social democracies have stepped.

In his new book, Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg provides a detailed dissection of Europe’s economic climate and the culture that has created it. The analysis offers few surprises for anyone who has followed European news closely for the last five or so years: European governments, entitlements, and spending are out of control, and politicians cannot create the political will to do anything substantial about it. Here the topic is systematically demonstrated with facts and figures in a manner that is never boring and often insightful.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, March 4, 2013

The Moral Case for Capitalism: More than Utility
Jacqueline Otto, Values & Capitalism

If we focus too much on the utility of capitalism, we miss its beauty and elegance.

Becket Fund: HHS Makes a “Theological Judgment” with Mandate
Bart Gingerich, Juicy Ecumenism

Duncan explained why the mandate represents a “grave, unique, and unprecedented” threat to religious liberty.

Minimum Wage Increases Can’t End Poverty
Brittany Baldwin, Doublethink Online

Imagine this: A high-school student gets out of school and heads to her job at the local diner. All the while, her father has been working at the plant all day. Both make $9.00 an hour.

Businesses more likely to thrive with international trade, study shows
South Florida Business Journal

Small- and medium-sized enterprises are more likely to prosper in today’s economy if involved in international trade and cooperation, according to a study HIS Global Insight and DHL Express.

In a story about looming budget cuts associated with the federal sequestration, Acton Research Fellow Kevin Schmiesing was called on by Aleteia to suggest “ways Catholic social teaching might be used to guide the cuts.” Schmiesing pointed out that the “cuts” are really “only a slow-down in the rate of growth in federal spending.” More:

“Much more dramatic cuts and/or revenue increases are needed to reach a position of fiscal responsibility,” he said in an interview. But the principle of “solidarity,” from Catholic social teaching, he suggested, would guide specific cuts in spending to be made in a way that “expresses shared responsibility for our nation and its problems.”

“For example, firing a lot of lower staffers while preserving intact the comfortable salaries and benefits of the higher-level staffers might be seen as a violation of solidarity,” he said. “It puts all of the sacrifice on one segment of the population.”

Schmiesing suggested too that cuts should be “managed in a way that encourages rather than undermines the institutions that operate at a level more local than the federal government.” This would be based on the principle of subsidiarity, which, to cite one example, would be violated by “closing a military base – cold turkey – that serves as the foundation of a local community comprised of families, churches, and businesses.”

In addition, budget decisions “must keep foremost in mind the effect on those who are most vulnerable,” Schmiesing said. “It would not be in line with Catholic social teaching (and its principle of a preferential option for the poor) to preserve inviolate the comfortable salaries of upper middle class bureaucrats while at the same time firing” lower-wage office staff.

Read “The Concrete Impact of Sequestration” on Aleteia.com

Alex Chafuen’s Forbes article on “champions of innovation,” which Michael Miller blogged here recently, is now one of the top features on the contributors page at The Blaze. Here’s an excerpt:

When Adam Smith wrote his famous “Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” he helped shift the terms of the discussion. Centuries earlier, work focused on different aspects of poverty. Jurists and city authorities analyzed whether the poor should be allowed to beg freely and move to other cities. Charities were set up to help the destitute. The great Florentine Saint, Antonino Pierozzi (1389-1459), even set up a charity to serve the “shameful poor” (poveri vergognosi). These were formerly rich people who were impoverished by government attacks and injustices, but who would prefer to die rather than beg. It is easy to be poor; it is harder to understand how wealth is created. Smith changed the approach.

PovertyCure tries to create a similar shift among those who work in this field. It seeks to move efforts from aid to enterprise and from paternalism to partnerships. We often ask how to alleviate poverty. But the real question is: How do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and communities?

Read “From Aid to Enterprise: Intelligent Poverty Cures” by Alex Chafuen at The Blaze.

Should Catholics be concerned about the looming budget cuts? The National Catholic Register asked several Catholic leaders and thinkers, including Acton’s Samuel Gregg, for their response to the sequester:

NCRlogo_tagRe-establishing fiscal discipline and welfare reform are necessary components to securing the common good, a key principle in Catholic social teaching, said Samuel Gregg, author of the new book Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture and How America Can Avoid a European Future.

Gregg, director of research for the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, told the Register that there is room for prudential judgment among Catholics when it comes to budget cuts and that cutting welfare programs is not necessarily unthinkable from a Catholic perspective.

“There is no reason to maintain welfare programs that are, for example, inefficient or ineffective,” said Gregg, who added that government-assistance programs should not be permanent features of the economic landscape. Wealth generation, he said, is more effective at lifting people out of poverty and making them self-sufficient.

“Another thing to consider is that, when it comes to thinking about something like a budget, a government budget, the criteria we are looking at are not simply the interests of the poor,” Gregg said. “Those are, of course, accorded a certain priority, but the overall good is the promotion of the common good, and that includes and goes beyond the well-being of the poor.”

Gregg added that, while government has a role to assist those in need, it should not be supplanting the role of organizations in civil society in carrying out those responsibilities.

“Solidarity doesn’t necessarily equate to excessive government spending,” Gregg said.

Read more . . .

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Friday, March 1, 2013

I have yet to read a moral argument for why the taxes collected from working men and women should be redistributed to businesses. It’s called “corporate welfare.” This is the odd state of affairs where, business owners compete for government funding rather than exclusively competing for customers in the marketplace. In fact, many of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare are the same businesses that hire high-priced lobbyists to help write laws in Congress that protect them from competition. Why, then, do voters turn a blind eye to corporate welfare?

Bloomberg.com reports that:
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In 2002, the Justice Policy Institute released the report “Cellblocks or Classrooms” in which they claimed, “Nearly a third more African-American men are incarcerated than in higher education.”

Since the report was issued a broad range of people—from NBA star Charles Barkley to President Barack Obama—have repeated the claim. But as Howard University professor Ivory A. Toldson explains, the statistic is based on inaccurate and incomplete data: “Today there are approximately 600,000 more black men in college than in jail, and the best research evidence suggests that the line was never true to begin with.”

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Tollefson says the increase in black male college enrollment over the past 10 years is due to three primary factors: “1. IPEDS more precisely tracking enrollment (artificial gains), 2. social advancements (authentic gains) and 3. the rise of community and for-profit colleges (authentic gains).”
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, March 1, 2013

Former Swiss Guard: Benedict, John Paul had personal touch
Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN

Andreas Widmer knew two men – one who was pope and one who would succeed him – who despite their immense responsibilities were keen to the spiritual needs of the people around them. The sort of people others might hardly notice.

The Five Biggest Career Mistakes Christians Make
J.B. Wood, The High Calling

For years I was stuck in a mindset that placed an irrationally high value on ministry while under-appreciating God’s interest in using my talents, skills and interests to pursue His kingdom in a variety of alternate forms.

Food Stamps for Pets? New Initiative Sees 45,000 Pets Sign Up for Food Stamps
Jessica Rodriguez, Christian Post

Pet Food Stamps’ founder and executive director Marc Okon has said, “We’re not looking for government funding at this point. Should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.”

Ethiopia elects new leader for influential Orthodox church
Associated Press

Ethiopia’s orthodox church has elected a new leader of the influential body in the predominantly Christian nation.