Archived Posts June 2013 - Page 3 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

From Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009):

Kolakowski

Kolakowski

Marx took over the romantic ideal of social unity, and Communism realized it in the only way feasible in an industrial society, namely, by a despotic system of government. The origin of this dream is to be found in the idealized image of the Greek city-state popularized by Winckelmann and others in the eighteenth century and subsequently taken up by German philosophers. Marx seems to have imagined that once capitalists were done away with the whole world could become a kind of Athenian agora: one had only to forbid private ownership of machines or land and, as if by magic, human beings would cease to be selfish and their interests would coincide in perfect harmony. Marxism affords no explanation of how this prophecy is founded, or what reason there is to think that human interests will cease to conflict as soon as the means of production are nationalized. (more…)

AFR_250x125_aThe audio of four lectures from Acton University last week focusing on topics related to the Orthodox Christian Tradition — two by Fr. Michael Butler, one by Fr. Gregory Jensen, and one by Fr. Hans Jacobse — is now available to stream free of charge on Ancient Faith Radio (here).

The lectures are as follows (click to listen):

If you were unable to attend these lectures or simply want to listen again, be sure to visit Ancient Faith Radio and take the time to listen (here).

If you would like to purchase the audio of the four lectures above, you can do so at our audio store (here).

In addition, we would like to thank Ancient Faith Radio again for sharing their audio with us of the Acton-St. Vladimir’s conference on Orthodoxy and Poverty last month (here).

Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg took to the podium on the final night of Acton University 2013 to deliver the closing plenary address for the conference. Below, Gregg closes the conference with a reflection on modern threats to religious liberty, and how the faithful can respond.

At Acton University last week, Anthony Bradley gave a lecture titled, “Beyond the Sustainability Complex.” In his lecture, he explored Christian stewardship and addressed some very common fallacies about sustainability.

Bradley began with this statement: “Being less bad is not good stewardship.” As Christians, we are not called to damage the environment less than our neighbor, but we are called to do good. The main way that we attempt to be “less bad” is through recycling. Bradley spoke at length about the misconceptions surrounding recycling.  It is “downcycling.”  Over time, this process reduces the quality of the reused material and the end product. Bradley gave the example of aluminum cans: a brand new can has a certain ratio of aluminum to other metals and chemicals, but after the can is recycled the ratios change and the new can is of a much lower quality than the first. Eventually the metals can no longer be reused and they are thrown away. Although the material’s life-cycle is lengthened, recyclable products eventually find their way to a landfill. Another issue with recycling is the waste that, ironically, the procedure of recycling produces. According to Bradley, “the process of recycling damages the environment.” Whether cardboard or metal, this course of action creates much new waste. Bradley suggested that it might be better for the environment to throw recyclable products in the landfill.

Recycle Reduce Reuse Bradley explained that “sustainability” is the intersection of ethics, economics, and ecology and went on to say that much of the discussion on “sustainability” focuses on waste; the focus should be on design. Bradley cited a book, Cradle to Cradle, and explained that we should create products that are modeled after nature as there is no waste in nature. There is a movement to create products that mimic nature, called “biomimcry.” Bradley gave the example of creating ceramic dishware whose biological and chemical composition is similar to that of shells; once a plate or a tea cup has served its purposes it can be thrown in the sea in a cradle to cradle cycle.

What does Bradley suggest we do about the problem of waste and sustainability? Innovate! Whenever there is a problem, there is an innovator who finds a solution. Bradley encourages anyone worried about sustainability to discuss and research this idea of cradle to cradle products.

If you’re interested in hearing Bradley’s lecture, you can purchase “Beyond the Sustainability Complex” here.

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a lecturer at Stanford University, on what makes a philanthropist:

WSJ: How do you define a philanthropist?

Ms. Arrillaga-Andreessen: A philanthropist is anyone who gives time, money, experience, skills, networks [or] passion. The only thing that you need is generosity.

For example, [recently] after class I counseled a young computer science student who wanted to talk about how he could play a role in changing how engineering is taught globally. So we started developing a strategy for how he could start blogging, email professors, networking with other Stanford engineering alumni, and create some momentum through his own actions that have nothing to do with money, but rather have to do with his time, his intellect and his social capital.

Technology is disrupting the way we communicate, connect, create and consume, and philanthropy is no exception. Take [nonprofit lending platform] Kiva, which was actually co-founded by one of my former business school students, Jessica Jackley. We’re talking about the rise of the $10 philanthropist, the $25 philanthropist.

Philanthropy is now accessible to anyone of any age, of any financial resources, in any geographic location.

As reported here last week, the US State Department has released its 2013 “Trafficking In Persons” or Tip Report. In it, China has been reduced to a Tier 3 ranking, the lowest ranking a nation can receive. That means the nation is doing little or nothing to comply with international laws regarding the trafficking of persons.chinese girl

According to the Population Research Institute, the State Department acknowledges that China’s one-child policy (which is directly linked to gendercide) has heavily influenced that nation’s sex trafficking:

The State Department acknowledged the one-child policy as the ‘key source of demand’ for sex-trafficking and forced prostitution within the country, but remained silent regarding the abolition of the harmful policy in its list of policy recommendations for China.

The one-child policy came into effect in 1979 in an attempt to stabilize the country’s population. Now, a generation later, the policy has caused sex-selective abortion and infanticide within the country on a gargantuan scale. Due to the policy, there are currently 37,000,000 more males than females in China– that’s about the entire population of California.

The one-child policy created the shortage of females which currently fuels the demand for prostitution and sex-trafficking within China.

The State Department has chosen not to pressure China regarding its one-child policy; instead, the Obama administration is considering sanctions against China, but no recommendations have yet been made.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
By

Americans Are Giving More Money to Almost All Charities—Except Churches
Melissa Steffan, Christianity Today

Giving USA finds ‘significant shift’ in charitable giving post-recession.

How America Lost Its Way
Niall Ferguson, Wall Street Journal

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try—if only once—to start a business. After all, it is small and medium enterprises that are the key to job creation.

The Connection Between Flourishing and Economic Freedom
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Here are some diverse characteristics that can indicate flourishing, and that can be measured among individuals and nations . . .

Kenya’s Vice President speaks to African churches on the challenge of poverty
Andrew Ssenyonga and Cynthia Aber, NewVision

Vice President Kiwanuka Ssekandi has told African churches to work with governments to ensure socio-economic transformation of Africa by placing emphasis on integration and unity of African people.

We’re still working on finishing production on the audio and video captured last week at Acton University 2013. Here’s William McGurn, Editorial Page Editor at the New York Post and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, addressing Acton U participants last Thursday night:

oil-field-workerIf the PowerBlog has a favorite atheist libertarian economist, it’s probably George Mason professor Don Boudreaux. Although he isn’t a believer, he sometimes stumbles upon what I would consider to be Christian insights. Consider, for instance, his take on the term “natural resources”:

In nearly all contexts, words and phrases inevitably convey not only information (such as, as Deirdre would say, “telephone numbers”), but also ideas – notions – interpretations – perspectives – biases – prejudices – spins -approval or disapproval – informal theories – attitudes and judgments – unconscious conclusions. And much of all this that is conveyed by our words and phrases goes unnoticed. This fact is neither good nor bad; it’s simply part of the human condition.

Take the term “natural resources” … This phrase suggests that some things of value to human beings occur naturally – without any human effort or creativity. But that suggestion is wrong. Nothing is naturally a resource; nature alone invests nothing with resourcefulness; ultimately, resources – all resources – are created by human beings. Nature creates raw materials, but never creates resources. Raw materials and human artifacts are made into resources only if, and only when, and only insofar as, human creativity figures out a way (or ways) to employ those materials and artifacts in ways that satisfy genuine human desires.

The point, here, is that the term “natural resources” can be misleading about the role of nature in creating human bounty. Nature exists, to be sure; but human bounty is created by human creativity; nature in matters economic is not the prime mover. Nature’s role in determining who is and who isn’t materially wealthy is much smaller than we are sometimes led to believe when focusing on “natural resources.”

Here’s why I think this is a biblical insight.
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Last Friday at Acton University, Fr. Gregory Jensen gave an engaging lecture on the dual subject of asceticism and consumerism. The “East Meets West” part might not be what many would expect. Rather than contrast a consumerist West with an ascetic East, Fr. Gregory insists that both consumerism and asceticism transcend cultures and traditions. Inasmuch as all people take part in consumption, an ascetic answer to the challenge of consumerism is (or ought to be) where East meets West. The audio of Fr. Gregory’s lecture will be available on Ancient Faith Radio in the near future, but as a teaser I would like to explore some of the themes briefly here. (more…)