Archived Posts April 2013 - Page 9 of 19 | Acton PowerBlog

[Note: This is the third entry in a three part series. You can read the introductory post here and part two here.]

The Disadvantages of Bitcoin

For people who are not obsessed with anonymity and are not waiting for the U.S. to return to the gold standard, the reasons for avoiding entering the Bitcoin market are numerous:

1. Convertibility – Whereas other currencies are convertible into other financial instruments (dollars to checks to certificates of deposit, etc.) and through numerous third-party services (e.g., Visa, PayPal, Citibank), commodity currencies like Bitcoin can only be exchanged for fiat currencies—and then only through an online exchange. Indeed, unless your computer is working overtime on Bitcoin mining, the only way to acquire the currency is to buy it from one of the 30 online exchanges.

These exchanges are completely unregulated and are subject to problems that do not affect other financial markets. For instance, in 2011 the largest Bitcoin exchange, MTGox, had a security breach that resulted in the theft of nearly $9 million worth of Bitcoins. The theft caused the value of Bitcoins to crash from $17.50 to one cent before the market was able to recover.

2. Instability – The MTGox breach—and the subsequent market crash—taught Bitcoin owners a harsh lesson about commodity currencies: they can be wildly unstable. Over the 8 month span from October 1 2010 to June 9 2011, the market value of Bitcoins skyrocketed 9667-fold from a value of $0.06 to $29.

The rate had dropped in 2012 and at the end of last year a Bitcoin was worth only $13.51. Last week, though, Bitcoins were trading as high as $266 before plummeting to less than $100. Anyone who had bought $1,000 worth of currency in October 2010 would theoretically have $4.4 million worth of Bitcoins. However, the convertibility problem would make it nearly impossible to extract that money without crashing the market and devaluing the entire currency. A gradual sell-off over an extended period of time would be necessary to take advantage of increase in valuation.

Still, being the seller of the overvalued currency is preferable to being the buyer. The Winklevoss twins, millionaires famous for their legal battle with Facebook, claim to own around one percent of all Bitcoins currently in existence (around 108,000). They began buying the currency in 2012, making some early Bitcoin holders very rich.

Fr C. John McCloskey, a Church historian and research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, recently reviewed Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future.

He says:

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., has written a very timely book, given the concerning state of our economy and, more importantly, our ever-declining moral life.

Becoming Europe opens with an account of the human slaughter and economic disaster of the First World War, which, as they say, “changed everything.” In particular, it opened the way for the Second World War, in part through the economic collapse of a defeated Germany during the Weimar Republic. The desperate situation in which a bankrupt Germany found itself eventually offered an opening for the hate-filled demagoguery of Adolph Hitler, the Third Reich and the Second World War. (more…)

Acton University is just two months away and we’ve just confirmed our featured lecturers for the big event. Check out their bios below.

The four featured speakers are:

Rev. Robert Sirico

He is presidsiricoent and co-founder of the Acton Institute.  Fr. Sirico serves on the staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalForbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, and more.

If your next date night costs you more, you can thank Obamacare. Regal Entertainment Group, the country’s largest movie theater chain, has announced that it is cutting employee hours due to Obamacare related tickets

One Regal theater manager told the move has sparked a wave of resignations from full-time managers who have seen their hours cut by 25 percent or more.

“In the last couple weeks, managers have been quitting on a daily basis from various locations to try and find full-time work,” said the manager, who asked not to be named. “Regal up until now has never restricted anyone to anything below 40 hours.”


Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, discusses Blessed John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) in a new article in Crisis Magazine. Entitled, ‘Veritatis Splendor: The Encyclical That Mattered’, Gregg makes the claim that this encyclical may become one of the greatest in history. Why?

For one thing, Veritatis Splendor was the first encyclical to spell out the Catholic Church’s fundamental moral teaching. Catholicism had of course always articulated the moral dimension of Christ’s message. Never before, however, had a pope provided a formal systematic outline of Catholic moral doctrine. That alone makes the encyclical a perennial reference-point for Catholic reflection.

Second, Veritatis Splendor provided what’s now widely recognized as a powerful response to the crisis into which Catholic moral theology fell after Vatican II. In many respects this crisis was precipitated by the debates surrounding Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. But more deeply, Veritatis Splendor was a rejoinder to many Catholic theologians’ attempt to do three things.

Gregg goes on to state that this encyclical reminds the world of the truth that will set us free:

Herein lies Veritatis Splendor’s importance for anyone who wants to preserve and promote civilization. Not only does it insist that particular acts are eternally unworthy of man. It also affirms that human reason can identify what the encyclical calls certain “fundamental goods” that transcend the particularities of the here-and-now.

In that sense the encyclical reminds us that avoiding evil isn’t enough. As Veritatis Splendor’s unfolding of Christ’s encounter with the rich young man illustrates, the prohibitions contained in God’s moral law are supposed to be a spring-board toward human flourishing. 

Read Veritatis Splendor – The Encyclical That Mattered’ at Crisis Magazine.

dad-baby-bjorn1With the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting material prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal reflection and vocation-seeking. This is a welcome development, to be sure, but as I’ve written recently, it also has its risks. Unless we continue to seek God first and neighbor second, such reflection can quickly descend into self-absorbed and unproductive naval-gazing.

Thus far, I’ve limited my discussion to the ways in which privilege and prosperity can impact our views about work outside of the home, but we needn’t forget the side effects that modernity might foster in an area that often consumes the rest of our daily lives: the family.

Just as most of our ancestors had few choices about where they glorified God in business (toiling for the feudal landowner), they also had few choices when it came to raising families (who they married, how many children they had, etc.). Whether due to lack of contraception, more practical material/financial concerns, or any number of other factors, for most families, children were simply a given.

Today, much like in our approaches to job-seeking, child-bearing has come to involve a significant degree of choice, and the overriding choice of the day seems definitive. As Jonathan Last points out in his book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, birthrates in the Western world are in a free fall, with more and more adults opting for fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Last offers plenty of nuances as to why this is happening, pointing to a “complex constellation of factors, operating independently, with both foreseeable and unintended consequences.” But on the whole, he concludes that “there is something about modernity itself that tends toward fewer children.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Work Is the Best Way Out of Poverty, Most Americans Agree
Ashley Shelton, The Foundry

Most Americans believe “work is the best solution for poverty,” according to a recent Rasmussen Report. A full 80 percent of Americans agree with this statement (9 percent disagree and 11 percent are undecided).

Transform This
John Rottman, Comment

Could revival possibly come through the prison system?

The Unthinkable Reality of Human Trafficking and What You Can Do About It
Erin Straza, Christ and Pop Culture

“We may not see this sort of slavery in the open, but it is there, lurking in shadows and on the fringes of society, quietly engulfing its victims for an estimated $32 billion in profits worldwide annually.”

How Margaret Thatcher Brought Economic Freedom to Britain
Ira Stoll, Reason

Of all the possible ways to remember Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — victorious cold warrior, pioneering woman politician, resolute American ally — the one that’s probably most relevant today is the way she transformed Britain’s domestic policy and economy.