Archived Posts April 2013 - Page 8 of 13 | Acton PowerBlog

2787733The second-hand clothing industry in parts of Africa is big business. In fact, many charities receive substantial revenue from the sale of these clothes. Why buy a t-shirt for 10 dollars when you can buy one for 32 cents? These trends should come as no surprise to Americans because consignment shops and thrift stores are plentiful. However, the difference is that in many parts of Africa second-hand clothing is the primary means of buying clothes and is, therefore, inadvertently stifling the growth of local African economies. Sadly, charities are playing a role in killing this growth.

For example, CNN just ran a story about how Americans sending over old clothes is killing Africa’s economy:
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Every day we hear about contemporary, serious concepts (e.g., chained CPI) and new, silly fads (Vadering), but in the modern age it’s not always easy to tell which category a new idea falls into. Take, for instance, Bitcoin. As Jordan Ballor wrote yesterday,

bitcoinIt is certainly a phenomenon worth greater attention, and something of significant cultural, social and economic import. But I’m not buying Bitcoin, at least not yet.

My initial skepticism is in part due to my lack of familiarity with the details of the currency and its formation. I certainly need to learn more.

Many of us are in the same situation as Jordan. We recognize that Bitcoin is a significant phenomenon but need to become more familiar in order to develop an informed opinion and be able to “think Christianly” about it’s value and implications. While Bitcoin is not a topic every Christian should know something about (at least not yet), it does overlap with many subject areas of particular interest for Acton PowerBlog readers: business, technology, regulation, ethics, etc. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to write a series on Bitcoin for Christians.

Over a series of three posts I’ll provide some background information on Bitcoin, explain how it works, and consider some of the reasons why Christians need to develop an informed opinion about the cryptocurrency. The purpose of these posts is not to tell you what to think about Bitcoin (though I have begun to form my own opinion) but merely to provide information that will help you to develop an informed opinion of your own.

We should start with the question “What is Bitcoin?” but before we can answer that we need to consider a more fundamental question, “What is money?” And that question brings us to the story of the rai of Yap.

What Yap Can Teach Us About Bitcoin
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James Kim was sentenced to death by North Korea in 1998. He was accused of being an American spy for the CIA and spent 40 days in jail. His crime? He was arrested for taking food to children. Kim was tortured and ordered to write out his will to the government. “I love the North Korean people. I always have,” he wrote. Kim told the North Korean government that they could have his body and harvest it for research. He offered to donate all his organs to the regime. Amazingly, his actions moved upon the government to set him free and he regularly returns to North Korea today. The government apologized to him for his treatment while in prison. “Christ like patience and love is the only thing that can touch North Korea,” declared Kim.

More of Kim’s amazing story can be found here and here. His work and witness has allowed him to hold citizenship in South Korea, China, the United States, and North Korea. He was last night’s speaker at a C.S. Lewis Institute dinner.

He also addressed an economic matter saying the North Korean people love the U.S. currency. He noted the great thing about our system and money is that does not just hold material value, but the imprint of “In God We Trust” is influential and noticed around the world.

In the book The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Victor Cha notes,

North Korean school children learn grammatical conjugations of past, present, and future by reciting “We killed Americans,” “We are killing Americans,” “We will kill Americans.” They learn learn elementary school math with word problems that subtract or divide the number of dead American soldiers to get the solution.

North Korea’s past and present is one of horrific suffering for its people. In his 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush included the nation as one of the three amongst the axis of evil. Kim notes that through Christian suffering “peace comes at a price.” Last night, he showed that even in one of the world’s darkest, hostile, and most oppressive regimes, there is reason for hope.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, April 12, 2013
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Wealth from A Christian Perspective
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

A sincere young man who was just starting his career asked, “As I continue to work and earn more money, should I at some point restrict the amount of my income?”

School voucher bill headed to full Texas Senate
Will Weissert, Houston Chronicle

A Texas Senate committee on Thursday approved a high-profile school voucher plan, sending it to the full chamber for what could be a fierce floor fight.

Artist Mako Fujimura Redefines the Bottom Line
Julia Thompson, Values & Capitalism

In a recent Trinity Forum Academy lecture, Mako described the concept of generativity as a model for living integrated lives and caring for our culture.

What Chained CPI Means
Patrick Brennan, National Review Online

What kind of economic metric can be called “a moral and economic disaster,” “unconscionable,” and “a fraudulent premise”?

The Separation Of Church And State“What right do they have to do this, to take away our freedoms?” Mary Anne Yep, co-founder and vice president of Triune Health Group in Chicago, recently asked of the  Obama administration regarding the HHS Mandate. On Monday when the official comment period closed, thousands of individuals swamped the Department of Health and Human Services with concerns about the HHS Mandate and the effect it would have on religious liberty in the United States. The Heritage Foundation recently posted an update about HHS and the people against it:

After more than a year of public outrage, over 50 lawsuits against the anti-conscience mandate, and a federal judge’s demand that HHS fix its coercive mandate, the Administration published a “notice of proposed rule making” (NPRM) on February 6. That proposed rule neither changes the underlying mandate finalized in law and currently in effect nor provides any workable or adequate solutions to the mandate’s trampling on religious liberty.

Several organizations have published statements on the NPRM and HHS Mandate in general.  Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Catholic bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty released a statement on Monday regarding the mandate: (more…)

Obama’s new budget is in. The usual political wrangling is taking place, but there are some undeniable facts about the budget. Taxes are going up (is anyone surprised?), but some of those taxes are “sneaky” ones on senior citizens designed to fund things other than their health. In all, the president’s budget will raise taxes by $1.1 trillion dollars. (That number shouldn’t shock you: President Obama is the first president to ever spend $4 trillion in one year.)

One area of great concern in this budget is abortion funding. Despite the fact that a solid majority of Americans don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions, Obama’s new budget calls for $30 million more to do just that. In 2011, $542 million taxpayer dollars went to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization, yet reported last year revenues in excess of $87 million, and assets over $1 billion.

In addition to heavily funding Planned Parenthood, the budget will fund abortions for Peace Corps volunteers, prison inmates, immigration detainees, and American military personnel.

On the Fund Abortion Now website, there is this:

President Obama unveiled his 2014 budget this morning. We commend the President for striking restrictions on D.C. funding of abortion for low-income women in his budget and for moving to lessen some of the restrictions on coverage for women in the Peace Corps. However, we join many other groups in the women’s health and rights community in our disappointment that he did not take a critical step toward lifting the current Medicaid coverage ban. President Obama could have taken this historic opportunity at the dawn of his second term in office to present a clean budget to Congress; he did not.

Every year politicians use the budget process to deny abortion coverage for women enrolled in any federal insurance plan. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A budget is a moral document: it reflects our values. [Emphasis added.]

Again, there are undeniable truths about this budget. It increases the amount of taxpayer money that will fund abortions, a move which most Americans disapprove of. It funds this is some “sneaky” ways. It increases the groups of women receiving abortion coverage as “health care”. And most undeniably, this budge makes a moral statement: President Obama doesn’t care that you don’t want your money to kill babies. He’s going to do it anyway. Just like the kid who steals the lunch money of the weaker classmate in the school bathroom, Obama’s going to take your taxpayer dollars and use it just the way he wants. That’s bullying.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 11, 2013
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While the Acton Institute has a network of international affiliations around the globe (in places like Brazil, Austria, and Zambia), we only have two offices: our primary headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Istituto Acton, our office located in Rome, Italy.

Having an office in Rome provides a base camp for Acton’s work around Europe. But it also gives Acton, as co-founder and executive director Kris Alan Mauren once explained, a vantage point from which to keep close watch on the international happenings of the Catholic Church. Although located in Italy, it’s just a short stroll from our Rome office to one of the most peculiar countries on the globe: Vatican City.

If like me you’re a curious Protestant (or just an underinformed Catholic) you’ve probably wondered what exactly is Vatican City: Is it a city, a state, a religious nation? The video below provides an entertaining explanation to that questions and others you may have about the world’s smallest state. (For example, if Michael Severance was arrested for jaywalking in that country, I now know who’d arrest him. Answer: The VC police, who work for the King of Vatican City and could throw him in the VC jail.).
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Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 11, 2013
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Bitcoin-coinsWe’ve had some intriguing discussion about Bitcoin at the Acton Institute offices today. It is certainly a phenomenon worth greater attention, and something of significant cultural, social and economic import. But I’m not buying Bitcoin, at least not yet.

My initial skepticism is in part due to my lack of familiarity with the details of the currency and its formation. I certainly need to learn more.

But also in large part my skepticism is due to my doubt about the productiveness of the effort that generates the currency. Is it merely fiat money without the pretensions? Is it the logic of subjective value-theory brought to the final conclusion? I worry that the computing power expended to mine BitCoins is vacuous and parasitic at its core. It does not represent a good or service that has been provided for or contributed to anyone.

A Bitcoin has value simply because people have decided it has value. People “mine” Bitcoins because, as Whately would note, “they fetch a high price.”

But what does a Bitcoin block represent in terms of actual human utility? I worry too that this is a system that relies parasitically on real-world resources, e.g. coal which provides a large part of the electricity, which is used to run computers so that they can then in turn “mine” something entirely virtual.

What is Bitcoin teaching us, really?

If you’ve had experience with Bitcoin or thoughts about the phenomenon, please share them in the comments below.

What is the President’s budget?

Technically, it’s only a budget request—a proposal telling Congress how much money the President believes should be spent on the various Cabinet-level federal functions, like agriculture, defense, education, etc.

federal-budgetWhy does the President submit a budget to Congress?

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires that the President of the United States submit to Congress, on or before the first Monday in February of each year, a detailed budget request for the coming federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

If it’s due the first Monday in February, why are we just now hearing about it?

President Obama turned in his budget late—again. This will be Obama’s fourth late budget submission in five years, making him the first President to present three consecutive late budgets. According to the House Budget Committee, “All presidents from Harding to Reagan’s first term met the statutory budget submission deadline in every year.” Reagan and Clinton both missed their deadlines once in eight years.

What is the function of the President’s budget request?

The President’s annual budget request serves three functions:
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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 11, 2013
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Is Self-Sacrifice Ultimately Selfish?
Hugh Whelchel and Elise Amyx, The Gospel Coalition

If joy is a fruit of the spirit, why would God want us to feel bad for doing something good?

Prosperity requires more than rule of law
John Kay, Financial Times

The idea that “institutions matter” is a relatively recent amendment to the standard corpus of economic thinking. Only in the past two decades has it become a mantra of development economists.

The U.S. and the Murders at the Cathedral
Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary

While attacks on Christians were hardly unknown during the long reign of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, it isn’t possible to separate the heightened tension from the expectations of Islamists that they have the Christian minority on the run.

Want an 82% Graduation Rate for Low Income Students? Go Voucher
Daniel Greenfield, FrontPage Mag

http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/want-an-82-graduation-rate-for-low-income-students-go-voucher/