Archived Posts May 2013 - Page 14 of 19 | Acton PowerBlog

If Baby Boomers are said to have fled to the suburbs in the pursuit of the “American Dream,” using zoning laws as a tool, today’s young adults could be charged with the exact same mission in light of the promises of New Urbanism.

The American Dream has been defined as, “the notion that the American social, economic, and political system makes success possible for every individual.” Baby Boomers moved out to the suburbs in pursuit of the conditions that were believed to lead to social success for themselves and their children–which included, many argue, race and/or class homogenization. Why? Because this is what makes the American Dream a dream. It is not where you pursue social success but the Dream lies in the fact that one expects planned success to be tangibly achieved. In this regard, elites who planned the suburbs for social success, through public/private arrangements, and elites in the cities are both driven by the same cause: a lust for planned social success. It is the same dream in a different zip code.

Like the suburban planning of a few decades ago, New Urbanism promises to set up the conditions for everyone’s social success. For example, the Congress of New Urbanism on the 2012-2017 strategic plan commit to the following:

In The Examiner, Tim Carney asks, “When do 21 Republicans senators vote for higher taxes? Answer: When the biggest businesses and local politicians hire top K Street lobbyists to push for the tax-hike legislation.”

A few weeks ago I wrote about how government and big corporate collusion decreases market fairness. NPR had a great write up explaining why Amazon is one of the main culprits pushing for expansion of online sales taxes.

Carney explains how former Mississippi Senator and Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott has his hands all over the Market Fairness Act. “Governors all over the country, have been active in saying this is a states’ rights issue for them,” said Lott. The states’ rights argument is that the federal legislation would fully empower governors and state legislatures to collect sales taxes for online purchases.

Carney adds:

Republicans’ aversions to taxes and regulations are often rooted in a desire to be “pro-business.” Once Wal-Mart and Amazon join hands, pro-business Republicans were happy to support legislation leading to higher taxes…

So there’s the formula for winning Republicans over to a tax-hike bill: combine a states’ rights argument with a K Street all-star team representing the biggest businesses in the industry.

In the next issue of Religion & Liberty, author Peter Schweizer talks about cronyism and sheds additional light on Washington’s moral failing to tackle the problem. You can find a preview of that interview on the PowerBlog.

Does the free market encourage moral behavior? Virgil Henry Storr, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at George Mason University, recently wrote a report called “The Impartial Spectator and The Moral Teachings of Markets.” He addresses critics’ concerns that the free market brings out and nurtures human vices.

Countless commentators have stated that “engaging in market activity can be corrupting.” Storr highlights two notable quotes. Aristotle “believed that there was something unnatural about the kind of wealth getting that occurred in the market.” Karl Marx “believed that the market could transform man into a ‘spiritual and physical monster.’”

Storr, who is also Director of Graduate Student Programs in the Mercatus Center, addresses these famous claims with quotes from those who have “made the point that markets are moral training grounds where virtues are rewarded and cultivated.” Michael Novak stated that engaging in trade “teaches care, discipline, frugality, clear accounting, providential forethought … fidelity to contracts, honesty in fair dealings, and concern for one’s moral reputation.” Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says:

Capitalism has not corrupted the spirit. On the contrary, had capitalism not enriched the world by a cent nonetheless its bourgeois, antifuedal virtues would have made us better people than in the world we have lost. As a system it has been good for us.”


Conservatives need to stop shying away from principled, as opposed to merely utilitarian, defenses of economic freedom and its associated institutions, says Acton research director Samuel Gregg in an article for Public Discourse:

Some fiscal conservatives are certainly too sanguine about creative destruction’s unintended negative effects on our lives. But these side effects are not sufficient reasons to try to slow or even stop the process, let alone assume that higher taxes and the welfare state (which itself breeds plenty of dysfunction) are the appropriate response.

Still, it doesn’t seem wise to play down these negative impacts. Given the conservative commitment to limited government, it would seem that the authentically conservative response would be to investigate and apply Tocquevillian “civil society” solutions to such problems before looking to the state for remedies.

Read more . . .

"Help me help you."

“Help me help you.”

Yesterday in conjunction with this week’s Acton Commentary I looked at Tim Riggins’ gift of freedom to his brother and the corresponding sense of responsibility that resulted. When Tim takes the rap for Billy, Billy has a responsibility to make something of his life. As Tim puts it, that’s the “deal.”

When Tim feels that Billy hasn’t lived up to his end, it causes conflict. Tim’s gift has created an obligation for the recipient. This reality is on clearest display in this exchange between the two brothers:

Billy: “How long are you going to hold it over my head, man?”

Tim: “The rest of my life if I feel it needs to be.”

This hints at the shadow-side of much of our gift-giving as human beings, as this good thing can be turned into a way of manipulating, controlling, or holding “it over” someone.

Consider these words about Augustine and their implications for the kinds of gift-giving that we ought to pursue:

A person who sorrows for someone who is miserable earns approval for the charity he shows, but if he is genuinely merciful he would far rather there were nothing to sorrow about. If such a thing as spiteful benevolence existed (which is impossible, of course, but supposing it did), a genuinely and sincerely merciful person would wish others to be miserable so that he could show them mercy!

The “spiteful benevolence” that drives much gift giving is actually intended to keep the recipient in a state of dependence, in a relationship that gives power to the giver which can be lorded over others. This, I think, is actually one of the key dynamics of much of the modern international aid movement. Aid can become a tool of a kind of neo-colonial policy.

It is this debased and corrupted form of gift-giving that has led so many to the extreme position which argues that true gifts require no response and inspire no responsibility. But as I argue this week, this abuse of the reality of gift is no argument against its proper use: “The connection between gift and gratitude invigorates a life of stewardship and responsibility.”

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 9, 2013

Moral markets
Marvin Olasky, World

Americans are about to relearn the lesson, says Steve Forbes, that it is big government and not capitalism that causes economic instability

Three Girls in Cleveland… and Millions Worldwide
Ed Stetzer, Lifeway Research Blog

I cannot help thinking about the fact that this is, well, a horrible reality for several other families across the world. Yes, it is unusual that a man kidnapped and help hostage in this manner in a major American city, but kidnapping and sexual slavery is not unheard of– it is shockingly common around the world.

The Tech Poverty Fighter
Eileen O’Gorman, Christianity Today

How Andrew Sears at TechMission harnesses the Web to fuel urban ministry.

Is Your Work Useless?
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Our work is meant to develop the creation around us for the glory of God’s kingdom.

bitcoinLast month, in my series on Bitcoin, I wrote that for the crypto-currency to succeed it will one day have to become trusted by more mainstream consumers, which requires adding such features as regulatory oversight and a centralized monetary authority—the very features of other currencies that Bitcoin was created to avoid.

That day may be coming sooner than later: