Archived Posts July 2013 - Page 12 of 20 | Acton PowerBlog

Anyone who’s driven across the American landscape knows that there will be a familiar string of fast-food chains, gas stations and box stores along the expressways. You could virtually eat the same meal as you drive from one coastline of fast-food-exit-signAmerica to the other. Michael Matheson Miller, Research Fellow and Director of PovertyCure at the Acton Institute, takes up this issue, asking, “Does capitalism destroy culture?”

[S]ince the cultural critique comes from political observers at almost every point on the political spectrum, and since the bureaucratic-capitalist economies of the world really are cultures in crisis, the criticism is worth attending to seriously.

If we are going to analyze the cultural effects of market economies then I think the one of the first things we need to do is distinguish between those things Peter Berger called “intrinsic” to capitalism and those “extrinsic” to it. We need to distinguish among at least three things:

  • the cultural effects caused by capitalism,
  • effects aided and abetted by capitalism,
  • and those things that exist alongside capitalism and are often conflated with capitalism, but that are distinct from it.

I will say from the outset that I support open, competitive economies that allow for free exchange, but I would not call myself a “capitalist.” Capitalism is generally a Marxist term that implies a mechanistic view of the economy and a false dichotomy between “capital” and “labor.” Capitalism also comes in a variety of forms and can mean many things. There is corporate capitalism, oligarchic capitalism, crony capitalism, and managerial-bureaucratic capitalism, such as we have in the United States. However, cultural critics of capitalism usually don’t make those distinctions and, even if they did, many would still be critical of an authentically free market. So without trying to tease apart all of these strands at the outset and so risk never getting anywhere let me use the term “capitalism” and ask and answer the question with the broadest of brushstrokes. Does capitalism corrode culture?  I think the answer is yes and no.


Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 15, 2013

What ‘Conscience’ Really Means
Interview with Robert George, National Review

‘Respect for the dignity of the human being requires more than formally sound institutions; it also requires a cultural ethos in which people act from conviction to treat one another as human beings should be treated: with respect, civility, justice, compassion,” Robert P. George writes in his new book, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.

The New York Times, Church-State Law, and Equality
Andrew Lewis, Public Discourse

Prohibiting religious schools from using public facilities would not protect religious freedom; it would encourage further discrimination against religion and religious people.

Religious Liberty: A Tale of Two Countries
Alexander Griswold, Juicy Ecumenism

The vast gulf between our two nations’ ideas of religious liberty was beautifully demonstrated in two recent incidents.

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

If economics is a tool which allows us to better steward our scarce resources, we can think about economic freedom as an objective measurement of how we are doing as stewards working towards flourishing.

AApretzelsWhen walking through an airport or shopping mall the aroma hits me before I even see the store. If happiness had a scent I suspect it would smell like Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels. From the first whiff my knees go weak and my brain tells me that I will never know joy again if I pass up this salted, buttery, baked goodness. They are so good that I fully expect St. Peter hands them out at the Pearly Gates.

While I’ve long loved Auntie Anne’s, I never knew the inspiring story of it’s founder. Anne Beiler, a former “black-car Amish” tells Fortune Magazine how virtue and trust helped her become a successful entrepreneur. (She expanded her baked good empire with a loan from a Mennonite chicken farmer who “loved what we wanted to do, and he gave us $1.5 million on a handshake.”)

Beiler says Auntie Anne’s is a modern-day business miracle that never should have happened.

I had no formal education, capital, or business plan. But we practiced what I call the three small P’s. We started with a purpose — counseling and helping people. We had a product that supported our purpose. Then we got the people to do it. The three small P’s, in that order, result in the big P — profit. If you stay true to your values and purpose, you will get to profit.

Here’s her advice for running a business:


141250_4e5d1263-4c1b-4683-a777-4662a2ac9cee_prodIf you’re a Cardinal working at the Vatican, you may want to leave your Porsche at home – the boss is checking the parking lot and isn’t keen on seeing luxury cars.

Inspection – The Pope declared war on the Vatican’s luxury cars.  First, he attacked wastefulness, underscoring that “it bothers me when I see a priest or a sister with a brand new car”.  Then, a few days later, he put into practice what he had stated during a meeting with seminarians: on Wednesday he made an inspection of the Vatican parking lot.  It isn’t the first time – already in the past days Pope Francis, on his way to lunch with a cardinal friend, visited the place where some cardinals usually park their cars.

I agree with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that having a “luxury” car isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s a matter of prudence and stewardship:

Look.  We need to make distinctions about a “good” car and a “luxury” car.  We need to consider the prudent use of money as well.   Is it a better use of money to buy a car that is old and used, newer and used, new?  It depends on the car and how it is used, its safety features and record, its fuel efficiency and repair record.  It depends on the price of the car and the price of the money (financing).  If the same money will buy a new good car or a used car, are you obliged to buy the used car?  Does fuel efficiency figure in?  Is this only about cars that look “sporty”?  Is this about leather seats?  Is this about what other people in the area drive? Priests often put a lot of miles on a car.  It seems to me that priests are better off in a good car.  Therefore, the flock is better off if the priest has a good car.

If it bothers him to see a priest with a fancy car, wait till Pope Francis notices the Mercedes-Benz with the vehicle registration plate that reads “SCV 1” (short for short for “Status Civitatis Vaticanae”). It’s armor-plated, bullet-proof, capable of speeds up to 160 mph, and comes with a price tag of $530,000. And the Vatican garage has six of them stationed around the world!


President Barack Obama, during a recent trip to Northern Ireland, decried the segregation of denominational churches and schools:chalkboard

Issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it.

If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear and resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.


According to Breitbart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday was caught making claims about “Bible Folks” that weren’t exactly accurate:

Pelosi told the assembled media:

‘The fact is that many Republicans in our country support comprehensive immigration reform.The badges, law enforcement community; the business community; the Bible folks — many of them are Republican, they have been very enthusiastic over time and [are] getting impatient about Congress taking action.”

Mark Tooley, an evangelical Christian and President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, quickly contested Pelosi’s claim that “the Bible folks” support the Senate’s version of immigration reform.

“Since the Bible doesn’t specifically address the details of U.S. immigration policy,” he told Breitbart News, “‘Bible people’ have diverse views on this political issue. Liberals who are anxious to claim the Bible backs their political views even when the Bible is vague typically are not interested in what the Bible actually says on specific issues it does address strongly.”

Kelly Monroe Kuhlberg, co-author and editor of Finding God at Harvard and organizer of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, which describes itself as “an ad-hoc movement of citizens,” responded directly to the Minority Leader and her comments. “Representative Pelosi,” she said, ” while we continue to reach out to the poor in many countries, the majority of evangelicals surveyed oppose the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill, for biblical reasons. The whole counsel of Scripture calls for both justice to citizens as well as kindness to guests. We don’t see balanced wisdom and justice to Americans in this bill.”

You can read “Evangelical Groups Contradict Pelosi on Bible, Immigration” here.

Is the morality of an act solely based on the intentions of the person acting?  Moviegoers may get some insight into this question when Ender’s Game is released in theaters Nov. 1.

Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game book series began in 1985 with its most well known first installment, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best science fiction novel.  The book tells the story of an alien invasion, where the world’s population prepares for an imminent second attack by training as many specialized soldiers as possible.  Most of these special soldiers are children, honing their skills on an orbiting space station in zero gravity simulations called “Battle School.”  Ender is a potentially gifted future commander, selectively bred by the International Fleet, the organization combating the alien force.  The book follows Ender’s journey through the beginning of Battle School.

In an interesting essay on Ender as a killer from the International Review of Science Fiction, John Kessel concludes that Ender is far too innocent for someone who commits murder and violent acts in the book (warning: this essay contains many spoilers if you have not read the book).  John makes some good points, illustrating the expertise of Card in encouraging the reader to root for the “innocent killer.”  The book’s story is even more potent when you add the fact that Ender is abused during most of his life, partly because he is a third child when couples are only allowed to have two.  Does the reader root for the “murdering savior,” or is Card content in saying that committing immoral deeds in ignorance is acceptable?  These questions and more are addressed in the rest of the Ender series.

…when you write without deliberately expressing moral teachings, the morals that show up are the ones you actually live by. The beliefs that you don’t even think to question, that you don’t even notice– those will show up. And that tells much more truth about what you believe than your deliberate moral machinations.

–Orson Scott Card