Archived Posts 2013 » Page 6 of 167 | Acton PowerBlog

In his treatise on the state of social conditions in early 20th century Great Britain (What’s Wrong With The World), G.K. Chesterton wrote the following:

“It is the whole definition and dignity of man that in social matters we must actually find the cure before we find the disease.”

For the Christian attempting to live “in, but not of” the world, our proverbial North Star should be what God’s standards are, not the mess we’ve made of things here on earth. There are positive fundamentals of a biblical worldview we can (and should) affirm: mankind made in God’s image, “work” is our divinely appointed task, working is a noble thing, our dominion over the earth, etc. etc.

If such things are not your culture’s presuppositions, you will inevitably lose your way. And sadly, even in the context of a church body, many Christians have.

Lost their way, that is.

Sin is another reality. It pervades every aspect of our lives. From the biblical account of man’s fall in Genesis 3 to the moment you are reading this blog-post (and every second this side of Heaven), one cannot escape the clutches of our hereditary spiritual disease. (more…)

cow-faceDuring the Spanish Civil War, an American farmer named Dan West served as an aid worker on the front lines. His mission was to provide relief to weary soldiers, but all he was allotted to give them was a a single cup of milk.

This meager ration led West to wonder if more could be done. “What if they had not a cup,” thought West, “but a cow?”

The “teach a man to fish” philosophy behind that question inspired West to found Heifer International, an organization that provides farm animals to needy families and communities in developing countries. It’s an appealing model (like many Americans, my family has made donating a farm animal a holiday tradition) but does it work? Is giving an animal an effective option for helping the poor?

Developmental economist Bruce Wydick agricultural economics professor Chris Barrett studied the impact of farm animal donations:
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Detroit Institute of Arts - IMG 8923

Christians often talk a big game about “redeeming” the culture.

I think the current dilemma facing the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) amid the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy provides a great opportunity to back up that talk with something concrete. And there’s perhaps no more concrete way of redeeming something, buying it back, than from the threat of bankruptcy.

That’s why I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to redeem the DIA. The federal judge overseeing the proceedings wants to raise $500 million to privatize the DIA and keep it in Detroit. He’s gathered together a number of charitable foundations. But individuals have a role to play, too. A former Wayne State University professor has donated $5 million. That leaves $495 million to go by my count. And that’s the goal for the “Redeem the DIA” campaign at Razoo.

For more on the need to privatize the DIA, read my Acton Commentary from last July.

sebelius comicAvik Roy of Forbes has never been what you’d call a fan of Obamacare.  Now, however, he’s calling the mandated insurance program “lawless” and “unconstitutional.” Why?

The White House—having canceled Americans’ old health plans, and having botched the system for enrolling people in new ones—knows that millions of Americans will enter the new year without health coverage. So instead of actually fixing the problem, the administration is retroactively attempting to force insurers to hand out free health care—at a loss—to those whom the White House has rendered uninsured. If Obamacare wasn’t a government takeover of the health insurance industry, then what is it now?

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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, December 16, 2013

Bhutan - Flickr - babasteve (2)At last week’s Acton on Tap, I discussed the economic teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism, beginning with the divine origin of material blessings as expressed in Lord’s Day 50, which explores the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The catechism emphasizes God as “the only source of everything good,” echoing the classical Christian understanding of God as the fons omnium bonorum, a Latin phrase meaning the font or source of all good things. This formula appears in many places, notably in the work of John Calvin.

The conclusion from such an understanding is, as the catechism puts it, that we are “to give up our trust in creatures and trust in you [God] alone.” So even though the bread we normally consume each day is brought to us by the work of others, including farmers, millers, and bakers, we are to look beyond these secondary means to the origin of all good things, giving thanks to him.

In his guide to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Rev. Cornelis Vonk provides us with a powerful image connecting the divine origins and the human means by which our material blessings normally are provided. Vonk writes,

Someone might nonetheless ask, “How can we ask the Lord for bread when it is already prepared and ready on our table?”

We see the same thing when a child takes an apple from a bowl on the table, after first asking, “Mother, may I take an apple?” The child does this even though those apples were purchased for him. But Mother is the owner. In the same way, before we enjoy a finely furnished meal, we acknowledge our heavenly Father as the owner by saying, “Please.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a way of gratefully acknowledging that God has provided for our material needs, most often through the work of our neighbors, and asking in faithfulness that such provision continue.
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teamstersRight to Work laws are state laws that guarantee a person cannot be compelled to join or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment. Hearing that definition, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Right to work laws sound a lot like slavery.”

What’s that? That’s not at all what you were thinking? Well, you must not work for Detroit-based Teamsters Local 214:

A Michigan union invoked the provision of the state constitution that bans slavery in their argument against right-to-work, court documents show.

Teamsters Local No. 214 stated Dec. 6 that right-to-work was “a violation of the prohibitions against involuntary servitude” because members of the union had to work against their will on behalf of non-union members. The union then referred to Article I, Section 9 of the state constitution, which states: “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crime, shall ever be tolerated in this state.”

The claim was made in response to a lawsuit filed by four city of Dearborn employees who were going to be charged $150 by the union for any grievance they filed after they left the union when they exercised their rights under state law.

What the Teamsters failed to mention is that the reason non-union workers get the same benefits as unions members is because they previously asked for, and received, permission from the federal government to exclusively represent all employees in a workplace where a union exists.
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, December 16, 2013

Pope: I’m not a Marxist
Daniel Burke, CNN

In a new interview, Pope Francis responded to critics who call his stance on capitalism “Marxist,” saying that the political and economic philosophy is flat “wrong.”

Charlie Brown, Pope Francis and Political Economy
Fr Gregory, Koinonia

Christian defenders of classical political and economic liberalism need to bear in mind I think that both the free market and democracy depend on a virtuous citizenry.

3 charts that show what’s really going on with economic mobility in the US
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

Conservatives would prefer to talk about economic mobility rather than income inequality, at least for now. As far as the former goes, Richard Reeves and Kerry Searle Grannis of Brookings put together a great blog post with some must-see charts on the topic.

Sex Trafficking in Your Backyard
Caitlin Bootsma, Crisis Magazine

News of mothers selling their pre-adolescent daughters into sex slavery cannot help but raise the ire of concerned people around the world. The stories out of Svay Pak, Cambodia are heartbreaking, with a large percentage of 8-12 year olds being farmed out to “sex tourists” and young virgins being rented out for the weekend to the highest rapist bidder.

Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico had intended to join host Neil Cavuto in his New York studio to discuss questions of economics and religion, but Friday’s events in Centennial, Colorado prompted a different discussion altogether.

waughWhile working on a recording together, Johnny Cash asked Bob Dylan if he knew “Ring of Fire.” Dylan said he did and began to play it on the piano, croaking it out in typical Dylanesque fashion. When he was done he turned to his friend and said, “It goes something like that, right?” “No,” said Cash shaking his head. “It doesn’t go like that at all.”

I can understand how Cash felt; I often get the same feeling when people talk about conservatism. For example, a friend of mine once wrote that, “Conservatism is what it is and it’s not subject to interpretation. It’s not a ‘living’ concept subject to the vagaries of public opinion. It’s small government, low taxes, and muscular foreign policy in its simplest form.” Although many conservatives in America would nod in agreement to that tune, all I can think is that while some of the words are right, “It doesn’t go like that at all.”

No one seems to be able to agree on what the term conservatism means anymore, so we’re forced to keep adding modifiers—neo-, paleo-, pomo-, crunchy—to clarify what we intend. That being the (unfortunate) case, let me add one more for consideration: Waughian conservatism.

William F. Buckley, Jr. considered Evelyn Waugh to be “the greatest English novelist of the century.” His novels are certainly are worth reading (A Handful of Dust is a personal favorite) but it was a travel memoir that provides some of his most intriguing and overlooked thought. In his book, Mexico: An Object Lesson, Waugh presents what could be considered a succinct manifesto of his British, Catholic-influenced conservatism. (I’ve taken the liberty of breaking up the text into paragraphs to make it easier to read):
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1984-Big-BrotherYesterday, there was a panel discussion on religious liberty sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington. Joel Gehrke has an excellent summation of the event in the Washington Examiner that highlighted some remarks by C. Welton Gaddy.

Later in the talk, Gaddy agreed with an interlocutor who asked if liberals “need to start educating, and calling out, Christians for trying to exercise ‘Christian privilege.’”

“As a Christian” — a big part of Gaddy’s rhetorical power seemed to derive from the fact that, as a Christian and a former Southern Baptist, he could ratify all of the CAP audience’s views of the people with whom they disagreed — “I think Christians ought to start calling each other out, because I think you’re exactly right,” he said.

This kind of nonsensical language echoes a kind of NewSpeak highlighted by George Orwell in his novel 1984. It is a controlled language created by the state and their apparatchiks as a tool to silence freedom of thought and conscience. We’ve seen it too by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others in the Obama administration, who have subtly shifted away from the term religious freedom, preferring to call it “freedom of worship” instead. The shift highlights the goal by many of the secular left to confine or ghettoize religious freedom to the four walls of churches. You can believe what you want and practice whatever you want as long as it is contained to the four walls of the church.
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