Archived Posts May 2013 - Page 11 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

As commencement ceremonies once again are being celebrated around the country, I was reminded again of the moral crisis of US education.

Elise Hilton recently surveyed the dismal employment rate among young adults in the US, writing that we have moved in twelve years from having the best rate in the developed world to being among the worst, following the path of Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

She highlights two possible solutions. The better one is from Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg:

Gregg says we must rely on free markets rather than redistribution of wealth, economic liberty, rule of law, entrepreneurship and the ability to take risks economically – all things that have made America great in the past.

The second comes from David Leonhardt, who, among other ideas, suggests, “Long term, nothing is likely to matter more than improving educational attainment, from preschool through college.”

Notice the language he uses? Not educational quality, nor even job-training, but “educational attainment.” With no intended disrespect to Mr. Leonhardt, it is precisely this well-meaning, widespread, but ill-informed mentality that has led, in large part, to our current educational crisis. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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In this week’s Acton Commentary, I explore the dynamics between gift, gratitude, and stewardship. The proper response to a gift that has been given is gratitude, and the proper expression of gratitude comes in faithful stewardship.

I’ve heard it repeated in many times and in many places that for a gift to truly be a gift, there must be no responsibility of response on the part of the recipient. As I write in “Gift, Gratitude, and the Grace of Stewardship,” that view is precisely what Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned against in his excoriation of “cheap” grace.

One of the most striking illustrations to me of this dynamic came as I watched the TV series Friday Night Lights. One of the main characters is Tim Riggins, a fan favorite who begins the series as a student and ends it as a man. Over the last two seasons Tim’s maturation really comes through, as he has graduated from high school and is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.

Tim’s got a troubled background that doesn’t need to be explained here, but suffice it to say that the only family he’s got is his older brother Billy. Despite his better judgment and discomfort with the idea, Billy convinces Tim to help him with his new garage, which by night becomes a chop shop operation. The brothers are eventually busted, but Tim generously and lovingly takes the rap for his brother, who has a new wife and child that he’s trying to support.

After some time, Tim is paroled and comes back to Dillon, Texas. As you might imagine, Tim isn’t the happiest guy around after his stint in jail. But what really angers him is his sense that his brother Billy hasn’t done enough with the gift of freedom he’s been given by his brother’s sacrifice. After the brothers fight, Billy asks, “How long are you going to hold it over my head, man?” Tim responds, “The rest of my life if I feel it needs to be.”

Tim has given Billy a great gift, and it’s clear that Billy feels a sense of responsibility. Tim recognizes it, too, which is why they both know that there is something, some obligation, to be “held over” Billy. That doesn’t make what Tim did any less of a gift. But it does illustrate that there is a deep connection between gift and gratitude, or what Bonhoeffer called “costly grace.”

Tim’s sacrifice, in this way, is an echo of the great sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, who showed the greatest love there is in laying down his life for us (John 15:13). The reality of this gift of costly grace ought to inspire in us a sense of gratitude and responsibility, to do something good with the freedom we’ve been given in Christ.

The Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, Little Golden Book“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we are routinely asked as youngsters, with the more cliché responses ranging from “fireman” to “astronaut” to “explorer.”

Yet, as I’ve argued previously, we needn’t limit such contemplations to work outside of the home. As Karen Swallow Prior recently noted, using terminology from a Knot Yet study, family needn’t be viewed as a “capstone” to personal achievement, but should instead be seen as a “cornerstone” — an anchor and foundation from which those who are called to marry and have children will find increased fulfillment and vocational clarity, not less.

The other night, I was reading Richard Scarry’s The Bunny Book to my two toddlers, and I was struck by how clearly and effectively this same message was conveyed. The takeaway: When we think about work and vocation, we must also think about family.

The story begins with a daddy bunny tossing his baby in the air, asking that infamous question: “What will our baby be when he grows up?” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
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Religious freedom lures many to U.S. from Asia
Joel Kotkin, Orange County Register

Immigrants, particularly from Asia, increasingly are coming to the U.S. less out of economic distress and more as a result of what may be called ‘lifestyle’ migration.

Louisiana Supreme Court rules school voucher funding unconstitutional
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

The Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled 6 to 1 on Tuesday that the way the state funds its school voucher program is unconstitutional and that public money now being used to pay private and religious school tuition should instead be going to public schools.

The mass exodus of Christians from the Muslim world
Raymond Ibrahim, Fox News

A mass exodus of Christians is currently underway. Millions of Christians are being displaced from one end of the Islamic world to the other.

Foreign aid more about helping friends at home
Jared Pincin and Brian Brenberg, USA Today

The goal of foreign aid should be to assist the needy, not to protect special interests or serve the re-election goals of politicians

At the beginning of the month, Rev. Robert Sirico traveled to El Salvador to speak at ENADE XIII (Encuentro Nacional de la Empresa Privada,). This event is put on every year by the National Association for Private Enterprise of El Salvador and its theme this year was “bettering business, transforming lives.” Rev. Sirico gave the closing presentation at the event and spoke about the effectiveness of businesses in the fight to end poverty.

He said that neither piety nor charity can ultimately end poverty.  The best thing that businesses and entrepreneurs can do to break the circle of poverty is to be successful. It is a moral obligation, not a bad thing to be successful in business. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) illustrates this point.  What’s more, entrepreneurs are given the same calling that Adam and Eve were given in the Garden of Eden: “be fruitful and multiply.” Labor is something sacred and not simply a means to wealth and riches.

The state has a role in helping the poor, but it is limited. Governments should work to create environments where businesses can thrive and provide opportunities for employment. Profitable private businesses are closely linked to poverty reduction and the overall progress of communities. He asked which is better: a powerful state with a powerful bureaucracy or a competitive and productive private sector that creates employment? (more…)

Author Peter Schweizer in Tallahassee, Florida on September 19, 2012.

After being sentenced to federal prison in 2001 for racketeering, Louisiana’s former governor Edwin Edwards, long famous for his corruption and political antics, humorously quipped, “I will be a model prisoner as I have been a model citizen.” In his 1983 campaign for governor against incumbent David Treen, Edwards bellowed, “If we don’t get Dave Treen out of office, there won’t be anything left to steal.” The kind of illegal corruption once flaunted by Edwards is on the decline. There is less of a need. Legal corruption in government is more prevalent and easy enough to secure. (more…)

tyndaleAfter apparently recognizing the absurdity of arguing that a Bible publisher is not a “religious employer,” the Obama administration has dropped its appeal in the case of Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius. “For the government to say that a Bible publisher isn’t religious is outrageous, and now the Obama administration has had to retreat in court,” said Matt Bowman senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Tyndale in the case.

Following the government’s request, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday dismissed the administration’s appeal. This means the preliminary injunction temporarily halting the mandate — as it applies to Tyndale — will stand as the case moves forward.

The Obama administration required most businesses to comply with the Health and Human Services mandate by August 2012. Some faith-based organizations — including hospitals and universities — have a so-called safe harbor until August of this year. Tyndale does not qualify for the extension.

While this is a victory for Tyndale, there are still fifty-nine other lawsuits currently challenging the mandate. Maybe if the administration loses a few more of these cases they’ll decide that it’s not worth continuing to fight to allow the HHS to violate the religious liberties of Americans.

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to SuccessWhen discussing economics, we frequently encounter the zero-sum fallacy: the notion that the economic pie is fixed, that there is always a winner and a loser, and that, for someone to grow rich, another must become poor.

Yet in a market wherein rule of law, contracts, and property rights are properly established, the pie will surely grow. We are not static balls of flesh nestled comfortably in a static universe. We are spiritual beings made in the image of a creative God, and mutual trade and exchange help accelerate our efforts to create and collaborate alongside our neighbors. As Jay Richards notes, the uniqueness of the human person feeds into how economic value is actually determined.

But although we typically discuss the errors of such thinking in matters of basic material exchange, we should note that such a fallacy can just as easily filter into our broader social and spiritual activities in the workplace. Such limited thinking can trap us in a sort of self-centered tunnel vision, whether with our clients, co-workers, or competitors, leading us to assume that success cannot come if we allow any wiggle room for generosity, whether in basic service, various collaborations, or even end-game negotiations.

In an article for The Atlantic, Emily Esfahani Smith touches on these themes by highlighting a new book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, wherein organizational psychological Adam Grant seeks to challenge such zero-sum thinking, arguing that by having a fuller, more healthy perspective of mutual gain, we can move forward together toward a more productive, more fulfilling economic and social environment. (more…)

If  you’re a young American adult (the 25-to-34 age range), and you have a good job, count yourself blessed. Most of your peers aren’t so lucky. The New York Times reports that “[o]ver the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.”

Of course, young Europeans have been dealing with this for years. Greece, Spain and Portugal have unemployment rates between 17-27% (Greece being the highest), and the outlook is grim for most of the European Union (EU). Even taking into account that many young people may be studying or raising families and therefore not looking for full-time work, the deterioration of the EU’s economies is obvious. But it’s not just lack of jobs. As Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, points out in his book Becoming Europe, “Europe’s social systems are under consider­able internal strain from the remorseless deterioration associated with unaffordable welfare states, population decline, low produc­tivity levels, and the preferential treatment of politically connected insiders.” (more…)

François Hollande

François Hollande

At The American Spectator, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at France’s embattled Socialist president, François Hollande, as the first anniversary of his term in office approaches. As Hollande’s approval ratings hit new lows, “Mr. Normal,” Gregg writes, is starting to look like “Mr. Irrelevant.” What’s more, he adds, “two of the biggest problems that have corroded Hollande’s credibility: his apparent inability to address France’s economic difficulties; and a growing awareness throughout France that la grande nation is slipping into the minor league when it comes to countries that wield influence in the EU.” More from Gregg:

So why such a rapid fall from grace? Some of it is of Hollande’s own making, such as his effort to impose a 75 percent tax on personal incomes over €1 million. Though the measure was eventually ruled unconstitutional, it managed to alienate a business community already suspicious of someone who once publicly proclaimed, “I dislike the rich.” The fact that Hollande is now trying to levy the same tax-rate on businesses that pay salaries over €1 million isn’t helping matters.

Nor did it help that the minister charged by Hollande with cracking down on tax-fraud, Jerome Cahuzac, was forced to resign after admitting he had maintained a Swiss bank account for over 20 years. Cahuzac is now under investigation for tax-fraud. The situation worsened when Hollande ordered his ministers to fully disclose all their personal holdings. Everyone in France has thus been reminded that most of the Socialist ministers who regularly rail against les riches are themselves quite wealthy. Caviar-Limousine-Champagne Socialism, anyone?

Read Samuel Gregg’s “The Incredible Shrinking Monsieur Hollande” at The American Spectator.