Archived Posts April 2013 | Acton PowerBlog

In the summer of 2005 hundreds of thousands of people gathered in ten spots around the globe for a series of free concerts meant to persuade world leaders to give more money to fight poverty in Africa. The idea for the concerts was conceived in May and hastily organized by Bob Geldof. Within two months the former Boomtown Rat was able to convince dozens of actors, musicians, and politicians to join in forming LIVE8, “the largest mandate for action in history.”

Live8LogoUnlike most benefit concerts, though, Live8 didn’t raise a dime to actually end poverty. As the web site noted at the time, “LIVE 8 is calling for people across the world to unite in one call—in 2005 it is your voice we are after, not your money.” Geldolf said the event was intended to raise consciousness and exert political pressure on the G8 summiteers.

The concerts included more than 200 musical acts scheduled to play more than 69 hours of music. Organizers said 5.5 billion people(!) would be able to watch or listen on the Internet and more than 182 television stations and 2,000 radio networks and stations. Coldplay’s Chris Martin called the concerts “the greatest thing that’s ever been organized, probably, in the history of the world.”

So what did the greatest thing that’s ever been organized (probably) in the history of the world accomplish?
(more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Or at least that is what some House Democrats claim. Despite the fact that scientists have yet to conclude that climate change due to human impact on the environment is a proven reality, these Democrats are convinced that it not only exists, it forces women into prostitution. mumbai

David Harsanyi at Human Events has this to say:

[N]othing causes more transactional sex than poverty, and few conditions bring more poverty to women around the world than limiting capitalism and free trade. One wonders if a poor woman in say, Bangladesh, would be happier and healthier with a car, an air conditioner and processed food rather than that light carbon footprint they now carry? I wish they had a choice.

It is difficult to imagine that driving rain, warmer weather or an ice storm would force a woman into prostitution. It is poverty that provokes women and families to make desperate choices. It is also the increase in human-trafficking, one of the most lucrative forms of criminal activity world-wide. The Guardian illustrates: (more…)

John J. Miller, a national correspondent for National Review recently interviewed Samuel Gregg about Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future.

frackingA new report by the Environmental Protection Agency finds that one of our cheapest sources of energy may be cleaner than we had previously thought:

The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is “kind of an earthquake” in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. “This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks.”

The EPA credits stricter regulations, but as Erika Johnsen points out, we should not “overlook the overarching role of the free market in inspiring increased efficiency, innovation, and improved technology.”
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What is this Thing called Virtue?
Bruce Frohnen, The Imaginative Conservative

Today we occasionally hear the word “virtue” used—and not always in sarcasm.

What Jim Wallis, Chicago, and Free-Market Economists Can Teach Us About the Common Good
Tyler Castle, Values & Capitalism

As a conservative Christian who also cares deeply about “the least of these,” I would argue that it should only be government’s job to care for the poor as a last resort.

A Wealth-Creating Vs. A Wealth-Hoarding Culture
Jay W. Richards, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

A wealth-creating culture can be a sign of human flourishing, especially when a culture once in extreme poverty begins to create enough wealth to move beyond destitution.

America’s Schizophrenic Views Toward the Nanny State
Peter Wehner, Commentary

Even as public views of the federal government in Washington have fallen to another new low, the public continues to see their state and local governments in a favorable light.

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Monday, April 29, 2013

Salman Rushdie, the British Indian novelist, has a piece in The New York Times entitled “Wither Moral Courage?” He is saddened that we have “no Gandhis, no Lincolns anymore” and that those who do stand up to the “abuses of power and dogma” are quickly imprisoned or vilified.

While it’s true that it is increasingly difficult to speak freely or practice one’s religious faith without fear of retribution, Rushdie confuses moral courage with shock. He cites the members of the Russian Pussy Riot as courageous, yet they refused to use their real names and disguised themselves in their protests against the Russian Orthodox Church. He also touts the “highly-effective” Occupy Wall Street movement here in the US as those with the courage to stand up against the establishment.

Pussy-Riot_2339711bThe problem here is that Rushdie isn’t really talking about moral courage. He’s talking about shock value. Courage, classically  understood, is a virtue; Cicero (106-43 BC) said, “Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind in harmony with reason and the order of nature.” While we can find many acts of courage around us every day (the fireman who rushes into a burning building to save a child, the soldier who holds his ground under enemy fire), moral courage is more than just this. (more…)

The Pilot, a South Pines, N.C. newspaper, recently featured a review of Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe by Don Delauter. He says:

This is a scholarly work in which the author presents a review of the historical path which led relentlessly to the social and economic cultures of modern day Western Europe. He discusses how America diverged from the European course in important ways which until recently fostered the free enterprise Americans have enjoyed.

However, the future of this phenomenal record of achievement is at risk. Gregg believes that “Europe is the canary in the coal mine” for America.

Gregg notes that America joined the welfare state community somewhat late. The New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society from the Johnson administration were the giant leaps forward. With few interruptions America has maintained a course toward becoming a deficit-spending welfare state, in short, “becoming Europe.”

Gregg concludes that “it would be a grave error for America to go down the European economic path, and not simply because it would result in less economic prosperity. The moral and political cost, in terms of reduced freedom, is simply not worth it.”

The review ends with this sobering thought: “A very worthwhile read, but it may be too late.”

You can read his entire review here and you can find more information about Becoming Europe here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, April 29, 2013

Emperor Theodosius Forbidden by St Ambrose To Enter Milan Cathedral (Anthony van Dyck, 1620)

In the latest issue of Renewing Minds, a journal of Christian thought published by Union University, I examine two different visions of religious liberty. They are roughly analogous to the two versions of the “empty shrines” of secularism described by Michael Novak and George Weigel, respectively, as well as to the visions of the American and the French Revolution. One has to do with the freedom of the church from state control, and the other has to do with freeing the public square from religion.

My piece, “Principle and Prudence: Two Shrines, Two Revolutions, and Two Traditions of Religious Liberty,” is one of the freely accessible preview articles available at the journal’s website. Check out the rest of the contents for this theme issue on religious liberty, and consider subscribing for the rest of the fine content.

After examining some of the premodern history of religious liberty, I pivot with a query about the relevance of Neuhaus’ law:

Given the developments since the sixteenth century, we might wonder if there is a secular corollary to that axiom from Richard John Neuhaus, “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.” Neuhaus wrote this in 1997, and was talking specifically about orthodox doctrine within the context of the church. As he concluded, however, “Almost five hundred years after the sixteenth-century divisions, the realization grows that there is no via media. The realization grows that orthodoxy and catholicity can be underwritten only by Orthodoxy and Catholicism.”

As a devotee of neither Orthodoxy nor Catholicism but who is deeply concerned with orthodoxy and catholicity, I am inclined to wonder if Neuhaus’ Law, as it has come to be called, applies only to Protestantism. In fact, given the secularization that both Kuyper and Gregory point to in their own ways, it seems worthwhile to consider whether Neuhaus’ Law might be applicable outside the church, to the liberal political order as such. If so, the recognition that there is no via media might well apply to the purported neutrality of the secular state.

I conclude that these two visions of religious liberty are, in the end, irreconcilable: “We are faced then, with two competing and ultimately antithetical visions of religion and society. One is the way that leads to life and the other the way that leads to death.”

Read the whole thing at Renewing Minds.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 29, 2013

“Anytime you are going to throw money up in the air,” says Abraham Carpenter Jr., a farmer in Grady, Arkansas, “you are going to have people acting crazy.” Although “throwing money up in the air” is increasingly one of the main functions of the federal government, Mr. Carpenter is referring to a specific case in which the Agriculture Department “opened the floodgates to fraud.”

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.

From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.

Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 29, 2013

Is There a Distinctively “Christian” Way to Be a Bus Driver?
Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition

My sense is that often a singular question is being asked but multiple questions are being answered. The result is more confusion than clarity.

USCIRF Report on Religious Freedom in Syria
Mark Movsesian, First Things

Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report, Protecting and Promoting Religious Freedom in Syria, that describes the religious contours of Syria’s civil war and makes recommendations for US policy with respect to the conflict.

Rethinking Religious Liberty
Benjamin Wiker, Catholic World Report

Why religious liberty cannot mean the right to believe whatever we want.

Orthodox Bishops Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry
Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops

We, the Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, kindly bring to your attention the urgent and very serious plight of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, who were abducted this past week by “a terrorist group” in the village of Kfar Dael as they were carrying out humanitarian work.