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.
Blurring the distinction between religious faith and totally unrelated political activism has attained new levels of absurdity during the 2013 proxy resolution voting season.
One needs look no further than the network neutrality proxy resolutions submitted to AT&T Inc. by a host of clergy and religious organizations for evidence. These groups assert that net neutrality – described in their resolution as “open Internet policies” – “help drive the economy, encourage innovation and reward investors” when nothing could be further from the truth on all three counts.
Instead, the only groups advocating for net neutrality are left-of-center organizations who wish to shackle the profitability of Internet providers and stifle the growth of what has become one-sixth of the nation’s economy over the past 20 years. Joining these organizations with the AT&T proxy resolutions are the following Interfaith Council of Corporate Responsibility members:
- Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Rose Marie Stallbaumer, OSB;
- Trillium Asset Management Corporation, Jonas Kron;
- Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, Sr. Henry Marie Zimmermann, OSB;
- Christus Health, Delia Foster;
- Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Carolyn Psencik;
- Nathan Cummings Foundation, Laura Shaffer Campos;
- Congregation of Benedictine Sisters, Boerne TX, Sr. Susan Mika, OSB.
The resolution filed by these groups reads: “AT&T expects mobile data traffic to grow more than eight times from 2011 levels.
“A critical factor in this growth is the open (non-discriminatory) architecture of the Internet. Non-discrimination principles are commonly referred to as ‘network neutrality’ and seek to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all content.”
Keep in mind that Comcast sued the Federal Communications Commission over net neutrality regulations in 2010 – and won in a unanimous decision by the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (more…)
Alejandro Chafuen, president and chief executive officer of Atlas Economic Research Foundation and board member of the Acton Institute, recently wrote a piece for Forbes.com about crony capitalism.
Chafuen used to spend his summers in Argentina, so he begins his article with a story about a friend from Argentina. Enrique Piana, known to his friends as “Quique,” was heir to “Argentina’s oldest and most respected trophy and medals companies.”
During part of the ’90s, the government of President Carlos Menem, and then-Minister Domingo Cavallo, had a policy for the importation of gold and exports of gold fabrications that amounted to a major subsidy for exporters. Attracted by the incentives, Quique, who had become CEO of his company, became a key player in a scheme whereby exporting overvalued gold-plated products netted them 30 million in subsidies for fake transactions. As it seems that none of the medals were sold at artificial value to true customers, the only victims here ended up being the Argentine tax-payers.
The scheme involved a “business” in the United States. As there is still substantial respect for rule of law in the United States, Quique was indicted, captured, and—after some months in a U.S. jail—extradited to Argentina. In his book, he lists the government officials who he claims knew about the scheme and who received bribes for his fraudulent activities. I will not mention them here. None of them were sentenced to jail. (more…)
The African diaspora—nearly 140 million Africans live abroad—is such a major source of foreign income that it now outstrips foreign aid sent by Western donors. The money these expatriates send back home is collectively worth far more than the development donations sent by Western financial institutions, says Adams Bodomo:
The exact amount of these remittances is unknown because not all of it is sent through official banking channels. But the official volume to the continent has gradually increased over the years, from $11 billion in 2000 to $60 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank. As a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), remittances in Africa range from next-to-nothing to almost 5%.
Worldwide remittances to developing countries were $351 billion in 2011, far exceeding the $129 billion in official development assistance (ODA), according to the World Bank.
The remittances paid by Africans living abroad also rival official aid to the continent. Total diaspora contributions to Africa in 2010 stood at $51.8 billion compared to the roughly $43 billion in ODA, according to the latest figures from the World Bank.
Bodomo offers several compelling reasons why remittances are a better source of development than foreign aid:
Today is Maundy Thursday in the Western church. One account of the origin of the unique name for this day is that comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means “command.” The command referred to here is that contained in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
There’s a sense in which this command isn’t new, of course. The basic obligations to love God and love our neighbors were constitutive of the covenantal community from the era of the Old Testament. Consider, for instance, Leviticus 19:18, which enjoins the Israelite to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
As Cornelis Vonk writes of the Torah, “It acquaints the church of today with her God, Yahweh, the Creator and Giver of life, who also has shown himself to be a Lover and Preserver of life, of genuine human life. We know that he loved life so much that he sent his own Son so that we might have life.”
So while there is continuity with the old dispensation of the covenant of grace, there is something really new about the commandment as well. Just as we refer to the era of salvation history ushered in by Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection as the “new” covenant, so this new commandment takes up the obligations of the old covenant and displays them in a new way.
The most obvious new way in which this love is displayed is in the life and work of Jesus Christ himself. This is what is “new” about the new commandment: Jesus himself is basis and the model for our love.
Over the rest of this Holy Week, consider just what that love means: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV).
But just as in the old covenant, the covenantal relationship isn’t just about God and the individual person. We are to “walk before” God, to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” But just as Jesus’ example shows us, this love must be expressed in the context of community. There must be “others” for us to love, “friends” for us to show our sacrificial love to.
This is the new community created in the new covenant of Christ’s blood, governed by the new commandment: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”