Archived Posts July 2013 | Acton PowerBlog

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In today’s Acton Commentary, “It’s Time to Privatize the Detroit Institute of Arts,” I look at the case of the DIA in the context of Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings.

One of my basic points is that it is not necessary for art to be owned by the government in order for art to serve the public. Art needn’t be publicly-funded in order to contribute to the common good.

In the piece I criticize Hrag Vartanian for this conflation, but this view is in fact pretty common and well established. In the Journal of Markets & Morality, David Michael Phelps reviews Art in Public: Politics, Economics, and a Democratic Culture by Lambert Zuidervaart (Cambridge, 2011), which as Phelps puts it, concludes that “direct subsidies are warranted both in terms of the government’s responsibilities and society’s needs.” Phelps ably dissects the numerous problems and complications with such a view.

The case of the DIA and the various responsibilities of public and private entities certainly is complex. As Graham W. J. Beal, the DIA’s director, put it in the NYT yesterday, the DIA’s situation is “singular and highly complicated.”

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HOPE_logo_vert_color-251x300In an interview with Forbes‘ Jerry Bower, Peter Greer, president and CEO of the the Hope International, explains why church foreign aid programs often hurts those its meant to help:

Greer: There’s an entrepreneur named Jeff Rutt, and after the fall of the Soviet Union he had a desire to go over with his church and help. So, initially they did what people so often do, which is see that people don’t have food and then send over food, and see that people don’t have adequate clothes for the harsh Ukrainian winter and then go in their closets and send things over. And all of that is good, all of that is appropriate, all of that is needed in response to a crisis. But as Jeff did that, after a couple of years it was the team in Ukraine that eventually said—“

Bower: “Your help is hurting.”

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It’s true: the middle-class is growing, globally. Here in the U.S., we keep hearing dire warnings about a shrinking middle class, but not across the globe. Alan Murray, president of The Pew Research Center, says the world is MiddleClass_10_0

witnessing its third great surge of middle-class growth. The first was brought about in the 19th century by the Industrial Revolution; the second surge came in the years following World War II. Both unfolded primarily in the United States and Europe.

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contraceptive pillsTwo different federal appeals courts have issued opposite rulings on whether Obamacare can force company owners to violate their religious beliefs by providing contraception and abortifacients to their employees.

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family must comply with the contraceptive mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act.

The majority said it “respectfully disagrees” with judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver, who recently narrowly found just the opposite. A split in interpreting federal statutes is usually an invitation for the Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

The court noted that there are numerous rulings that held corporations have free speech rights, but said there was a “total absence of caselaw” to support the argument that corporations are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. Apparently, the court thinks that only part of the First Amendment applies to corporations.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do Christians Need to Be Better Economic Stewards?
Joy Pullmann, Values & Capitalism

“How can we help our neighbors?” If we are to take the parable of the talents seriously (and I don’t think it applies just to wealth), responsible Christians will look to multiply what we have, because careful stewardship pleases God and so we can give to others.

Why You & Your Kids Need to Understand Economics: Government Spending
Thomas Purifoy, Compass Classroom

Here’s an obvious question: why do all those state governments want an additional 50 billion dollars from you and me? We both know the answer: so they can spend it.

What is Social Justice? From John Paul II to Benedict XVI
J.J. Ziegler, Catholic World Report

“Two crucial and intimately related areas of pastoral life [are] the family and the promotion of social justice,” he said. “Indeed, the defense and promotion of the family, the heart of every society, is a preeminent task facing all those committed to the pursuit of social well-being and justice.”

The Best Way to Help the Poor
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Scripture is clear that not only are we called to care for the poor, but we will be judged on whether we did. How do we best carry out this call?

The official White House website says that all Americans will now have access to affordable medical care, and that small business owners need not worry about rising costs:Unemployment-line-640x245

The proposal will also provide tens of billions in tax credits for small business owners to make insurance coverage more affordable. Small businesses will also have a new option of purchasing insurance through the exchanges. By pooling their resources in the new insurance marketplace, small business owners will lower their costs and have the same choices that big corporations and unions enjoy.

That’s all well and good, but as the National Bureau of Economic Research sees it, we may end up with less people working. In a paper published this month, three of the think tank’s researchers concluded, “Our results appear to indicate that the soon-to-be-enacted health-care reform may cause substantial declines in aggregate employment.” What does that mean? Small businesses aren’t going to go for the “pooling” option; they’ll just hire less people, and provide less people with health insurance. (more…)

popeThe day Pope Francis was elected, I went directly to the bar. It was about noon when I first got word that white smoke had been spotted outside of the Sistine Chapel.  Soon after, my phone began to flood with texts declaring “Habemus Papam!” I called up a few of my Catholic friends and we decided that the best place to watch the announcement at St. Peter’s was none other than our favorite college pub.

The bar was empty so we asked the bartender to change the TV channel and ordered our first round. Our celebration had begun.

I remember the intensity in the room leading up to the reveal of our new Holy Father. When the announcement finally came, it was followed by a dramatic “Who?” None of us had heard of this beloved Cardinal from Argentina nor considered him in our discussions about possible Papal contenders. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
posted by on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

holiday_beach_356527Over at Think Christian, Aron Reppmann asks whether there is a distinctly Christian way to vacation: “We have learned to approach our work as vocation, a calling from God, but what about our leisure?”

Reppmann notes that one major temptation in modern society is to view vacation as a form of escape. Put in your 40, week after week, and hopefully, in Week X of Month Y, you’ll be able to leave your day-to-day activities behind. Close your eyes, sip your fruity drink, and let it all just slip away.

But escape from what? What does such a view indicate about how we’re approaching our daily work?

The word “vacation” itself doesn’t offer much help for this kind of reflection; with its echoes of “vacant” and “vacate,” it mostly conjures up a sense of absence. Vacationers commonly express a desire to “get away from it all,” but it’s hard to derive a positive sense of vacational vocation from that atmosphere of emptiness. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, stepping away – in a word, sabbath – there is also a trap in holding a merely negative definition of vacation…. Vacation understood simply as “getting away from it all” is a sign of a negative concept of freedom.

Reppmann goes on to argue that modern society over-elevates negative freedom — freedom from something — which has led many Christians to forget or ignore the positive freedom — freedom for something — that Christianity is all about.

This, he concludes, leads to an unfortunate imbalance in our thinking on work and leisure: (more…)

bud daySenator John McCain called Colonel George “Bud” Day, “The bravest man I ever knew.” Day (1925 -2013) was a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. A Medal of Honor recipient, Day was shot down in his F-100 Super Sabre over North Vietnam in August of 1967. Ejected from his jet and severely injured, he continued to be a thorn in the side of the North Vietnamese for the remainder of the war. Tortured ruthlessly for information, he was a leader of the organized American resistance in the Hanoi Hilton Prison.

His heroic exploits are chronicled in American Patriot: The Life and Wars of Colonel Bud Day. For an in-depth look at the kind of dangerous missions Day flew for the Air Force in Vietnam, check out Bury Us Upside Down: The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Rick Newman and Don Shepperd. (more…)

Charitable giving, for the most part, involves money. But not always. The auto manufacturer, Toyota, donates efficiency. The car company’s model of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”) was one their employees believed could be beneficial beyond the manufacturing business.

Toyota offered to help The Food Bank of New York, which reluctantly accepted their plan. The charity was used to receiving corporate financial donations to feed their patrons, not time from engineers. But the non-profit quickly saw results.

Toyota’s engineers helped reduce the wait time for dinner from 90 minutes to 18.

Instead of having clients stream into the cafeteria 10 people at a time, the company recommended that diners take a seat just as soon as one becomes available. Toyota also set up a waiting room where diners could pick up trays and designated one employee whose job is to scour the dining room for an available space.

Toyota has ‘revolutionized the way we serve our community,’ Margarette Purvis, the chief executive and president of the Food Bank…

Toyota also worked with the Food Bank in their outreach distribution services following Hurricane Sandy, as the video below shows.

Gerard Berghoef & Lester DeKoster, in their book Faithful in All’s God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, say this about work:

It is of the nature of work to serve the community. Whether work is done in the home, on the land, or in the countless forms of enterprise developed across the centuries, work is doubly blessed: (1) it provides for the family of man, and (2) it matures the worker.
Both of these points are well-illustrated in the video.