Archived Posts 2013 - Page 26 of 167 | Acton PowerBlog

Royal Coat of Arms of the NetherlandsDrawing on some themes I explore about the role of the church in providing material assistance in Get Your Hands Dirty, today at Political Theology Today I look at the first parliamentary speech of the new Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

In “The Dutch King’s Speech,” I argue that the largely ceremonial and even constitutionally-limited monarchy has something to offer modern democratic polities, in that it provides a forum for public leadership that is not directly dependent on popular electoral support. In the Dutch case, the king broached the largely unpopular subject of fundamentally reforming the social democratic welfare state.

This is in rather sharp contrast to the social witness of the mainline of Dutch church leaders, at least over the last few decades. But the churches, too, have a role in acting as makeweights against democratic majoritarian tyranny.
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dictionary-series-philosophy-truthTwo writers over at Aleteia have commented on the current state of affairs with the help of Samuel Gregg’s latest, Tea Party Catholic. Brantly Millegan, Assistant Editor for the English edition of Aleteia, write a post titled, ‘Obama’s Ordinary, No-Big-Deal “Whopper.”‘ He discusses the now infamous words President Obama spoke in 2010, “[I]f Americans like their doctor, they will keep their doctor. And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.” Millegan points out that millions of Americans have been told their plans will be canceled and goes on toshow an NBC report pointing out that Obama knew that Americans would lose their coverage, but lied and said they would not. Millegan offers several more analysts and studies that demonstrate that the administration knew Americans would lose coverage but continued to publicly deny it. He quotes Anthony Esolen, professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College:

Did Barack Obama lie? Of course he did. The American people can hardly be told the truth about anything…Politicians lie to us, because we want to hear their lies; we lie to ourselves just as well. When you fairly admit the Machiavellian premise that there is no good beyond the political, then what can possibly restrain you from lying, especially when you can get away with it?

He then quotes from Samuel Gregg’s Tea Party Catholic. Gregg points out that this issue is merely a symptom of something much deeper: “The willingness to tell the truth, but also the ability to listen to the truth, is in increasingly short supply today.”  (more…)

“We hear a lot about ‘too big to fail’ banks and other financial institutions,” says Jordan Ballor in this week’s Acton Commentary. “But what about a federal government whose size and scope have become so vast as to crowd out civil institutions?”

The existence of banks that are too big to fail is in significant ways the result of the actions of a government that is too big to flourish. Even a cursory glance at the federal spending figures over recent decades, and particularly over the last few years, is sobering. For the first time since 2008, the 2013 federal budget deficit is projected to be below $1 trillion, a surge of debt that has ballooned the federal debt to nearly $17 trillion. Even this most recent dip below a deficit of $1 trillion to $680 billion represents a historically high level of additional debt. Federal spending labeled “mandatory,” including outlays like Social Security and interest payments, has increased from roughly 6 percent in 1963 to nearly 15 percent of GDP fifty years later. These increases in unsustainable patterns of spending are driven largely by increases in entitlements: from 2002 to 2012 spending on Social Security increased by more than 35 percent, while Medicare spending grew by more than 63 percent.

Read the full text of his essay here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Sid Meir's CivilizationMy wife despises Sid Meier. She’s never met him, nor would she even recognize his name. But she knows someone is responsible for creating the source of my addiction.

For over twenty years I’ve spent (or wasted, as my wife would say) countless hours playing Civilization, Meier’s award-winning strategy game. Every time I play the game I enter an almost trance-like state of complete immersion. According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what I’m experiencing in that moment is known as “flow.” Csíkszentmihályi describes the mental state of flow as,

being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow:
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Bansky No StoppingOver at the University Bookman today, I review John Lanchester’s novel Capital. I recommend the book.

I don’t explore it in the review, “Capital Vices and Commercial Virtues,” but for those who have been following the antics of Banksy, there is a similar performance artist character in the novel that has significance for the development of the narrative.

As I write in the review, the vice of envy, captured in the foreboding phrase, “We Want What You Have,” animates the book. Capital “provides a richly textured and challenging narrative of the challenges of affluence, the temptations of materialism and envy, and the need for true human community expressed in a variety of social institutions.”

I note the insights of my friend and colleague Victor Claar in the review, and for a more thorough academic engagement of the ethics and economics of envy, check out our co-authored paper recently accepted for publication in Faith & Economics, “Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order,” as well as my piece slated to appear in Philosophia Reformata, “The Moral Challenges of Economic Equality and Diversity.”

priest militaryMark Scibilia-Carver, in a National Catholic Reporter “Viewpoint” piece, decries the nationwide call this coming weekend for Catholics to financially support the Archdiocese for the Military Services, which serves the entire U.S. military. That includes “more than 220 installations in 29 countries, patients in 153 V.A. Medical Centers, and federal employees serving outside the boundaries of the USA in 134 countries. Numerically, the AMS is responsible for more than 1.8 million men, women, and children.”

Why is Scibilia-Carver upset? He believes support of the Archdiocese for the Military Services is tantamount to evil and support of any war (and apparently the men and women who keep our country safe) is always unjust. (more…)

help poor honor godDoes promoting limited government require abandoning a commitment to the poor? Ryan Messmore, whose answer is a firm “no”, argues that non-government institutions can provide personalized assistance to help individuals fix relational problems, overcome poverty and lead healthy lives:

Calls for limited government are often mistakenly equated with a disregard for people in need. This flawed line of reasoning assumes that poverty is primarily a material problem and that government bears the primary responsibility for solving it by increasing welfare and entitlement spending.

Yet at its root, poverty is usually more complex than a simple lack of material resources. In America, poverty is often the result of a relational problem, such as fatherlessness or community breakdown. Such relational breakdowns are addressed most effectively through various civil society institutions.

People have many needs that extend beyond simple material possessions—needs that cannot be met by any single institution. Families, churches, businesses, and other forms of association play crucial roles in sustaining liberty and meeting people’s needs. Public policy in general and welfare policy in particular should respect and protect these institutions of civil society.

Thus, limited government is an important piece of a framework that benefits people in need. When government is limited to the tasks it is best-equipped and authorized to perform, it allows more effective poverty-fighting institutions to thrive. Far from being incompatible with a concern for poverty, an appropriately limited government is crucial to maintaining a social order that enables people to escape poverty.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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Why Classical Schools Just Might Save America
Owen Strachan, The American Spectator

It’s time for a partnership between religion and freedom.

TOMS Shoes Joins Bono on the Role of Enterprise
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Last year, Bono came to a “humbling” realization and publicly announced his conviction that commerce is the key in economic development, not aid. Now, Mycoskie is joining his side.

Who is My Neighbor?: Charity in an Age of Consumerism
Anonanimal

The American sentiment to help seems, at best, an answer to Christ’s call to disciple all the nations—and, at worst, good intentions with a consumerist veneer.

Nature and God in Ethics
Robert T. Miller, Public Discourse

Just as an engineer can work out the purpose of a machine by examining its structure, reason can discover the proper end of human action by examining human nature. Yet there is also a supernatural morality that subsumes and exceeds natural moral standards.

I and Jordan Ballor have already commented on Ender’s Game this week (here and here), but the story is literally packed with insightful themes, many of which touch upon issues relevant to Acton’s core principles. Another such issue is that of the problems with Neo-Malthusianism, the belief that overpopulation poses such a serious threat to civilization and the environment that population control measures become ethical imperatives.

Such a perspective tends to rely on one or both of the following fallacies: a zero-sum conception of economics ignorant of the last 200 years of sustained economic growth, which have allowed humankind to escape the Mathusian trap; or a belief that people are the problem when it comes to poverty.

In Ender’s Game, the story begins (more obviously in the book) with the fact that Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield) is a “Third,” a third-born child in a time when the international government of Earth had adopted a two-child policy. His parents had received special permission to have a Third because their first two children, Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and Valentine (Abigail Breslin), had shown so much promise. Unfortunately, Peter had proven too aggressive and Valentine too compassionate. The government hoped that Ender would be a happy middle. (more…)

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk addresses the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan – 1.10.94

On Saturday, November 9, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is hosting a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. The conference, which will examine the impact of Kirk’s monumental book—which both named and shaped the nascent conservative movement in the United States—is to be held at the Eberhard Center on the downtown Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University, which Acton supporters will recognize as the home of Acton University from 2006-2010, and that conference’s precursor, the Acton Symposium in 2005. The ISI conference promises to be a stimulating experience, featuring Gleaves Whitney of Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center, Professor Bruce Frohnen of Ohio Northern University, and Gerald Russello, editor of the University Bookman, the scholarly quarterly founded in 1960 by Kirk.

That being said, Acton has a connection to Russell Kirk that goes beyond the coincidental sharing of conference space. For one thing, the Acton Institute was blessed to have Kirk serve in an advisory capacity from the founding of the institute up until the time of his death. And it was our honor to host the great man for what would turn out to be his final public lecture.

The lecture took place on Jaunary 10, 1994 at the University Club in Grand Rapids, not far from his home in Mecosta, Michigan. Kirk spoke on the topic of Lord Acton on Revolution, laying out his case that Acton, over the course of his life, developed a tendency to too easily approve of revolution, even sometimes showing an “enthusiastic approbation” of it. Ultimately, Kirk believed that Acton was too enthusiastic about revolution, and he faults Acton for too earnestly supporting the abstract common good that revolution would supposedly advance, while failing to foresee the dangers that revolution could pose to the liberty that Acton so cherished.

For a man who had recently been “under house arrest for the past six weeks under my doctor’s orders, having overexerted myself on the lecture platform,” he speaks with great enthusiasm and energy, and with great clarity of mind. Just over three months later, he passed away at his home in Mecosta, Piety Hill.

It was our privilege to draw from Kirk’s wisdom in our early days as an institution, and it is now our privilege to share this, his final lecture, with you.

More: Acton’s remembrance of Russell Kirk, from Religion and Liberty, Volume 4, Number 3.

Even More: Russell Kirk on “Enlivening the Conservative Mind.”