Archived Posts 2013 » Page 69 of 167 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, August 8, 2013

Scrooge vs. Röpke: The Limits of Economic Virtue
Gracy Howard, The American Conservative

Dickens and Röpke both seem to suggest that the virtues of dignity and liberty must be tempered and complemented with one more virtue, once called the greatest of them all: love.

Lessons on Conscience Protection from the UK
Paul Diamond, Public Discourse

Unless Americans respond to the Supreme Court’s recent marriage decisions with greater protections for the rights of conscience, our first freedom is sure to lose force, just as it has in the UK.

Does a Free-Market Mindset Harm Marriage?
Joy Pullmann, Values & Capitalism

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing states to grant same-sex couples marriage certificates made me consider the impact of a market mindset on marriage.

Pornography, Self-Government, and the ‘Res Publica’
Aaron Taylor, Ethika Politika

In a properly constituted republic – precisely because government is something that we as a people do to ourselves – laws cannot be envisaged as an imposition by the state on the body politic, as if the government were merely an external force.

13317570-indoor-crime-sceneEmily Badger at The Atlantic Wire posts a common sense story regarding the debate about whether or not the dispersing of poor people out of inner-city housing projects into suburban neighborhoods, through government housing voucher programs, increases crime rates. The article reflects recent research by Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA.

A growing stack of research now supports [the] hypothesis that housing vouchers do not in fact lead to crime. Lens has just added another study to that literature, published in the journal Urban Studies. He looked at crime and housing data in 215 cities between 1997 and 2008 – controlling for national and regional crime trends, demographic and income variables, employment rates and more – and found “virtually no relationship” between the prevalence of Housing Choice Voucher Program households and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs. In previous research, Lens and colleagues had investigated the same question at the neighborhood level.

“Although communities with a higher prevalence of voucher households appear to be higher in crime,” Lens writes, “there is no evidence that this is due to voucher households increasing crime.”

Lens’ findings should not sound too surprising given the fact that poverty does not cause criminal behavior in the first place. In fact, immoral behavior has never been a function of class but a matter of moral fortitude. Granted, poverty most certainly introduces particular temptations (Prov 30:8) but so does wealth (Prov 22:16). Poor people do not have more moral limitations than those who are wealthy. To assume such is make human dignity a function of class and once we cross that road, the poor find themselves the victims of patronizing oppression.

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Accessible IconIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Disability, Service, and Stewardship,” I write, “Our service of others may or may not be recognized by the marketplace as something valuable or worth paying for. But each one of us has something to offer someone else. All of us have ministries of one kind or another. Our very existence itself must be seen as a blessing from God.”

During a sermon a couple weeks ago at my church, the preacher made an important point about common attitudes toward old people (to listen, click the “Launch Media Player” here and listen to Rev. David Kolls’s message, “Following God Through Transitions” from July 28, 2013). In the same way that we often view those with visible disabilities as passive objects of pity, we often think of those who have reached a certain age as having nothing to offer. This is simply wrong-headed.

We all are important to God. “God don’t make no junk,” as the saying on the T-shirt reads. This isn’t to deny the reality of brokenness and sin. But in the face of these evils, God still affirms and preserves his creation. Life itself is a blessing from God, and mere existence is proof enough that God values people and has purposes for us. Every one.
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America’s Founding Fathers considered religious liberty to be our “first freedom.” But as Ken Blackwell notes, that view is no longer shared by our media and foreign policy elites:

All such understandings of the religious freedom foundation of American civil liberty and foreign policy seem long forgotten by the elites of today. The media cares little about religious freedom. The famous Rothman-Lichter study of 1981 surveyed 240 journalists from the prestige press. Of course, 80 percent of them voted one way, but a whopping 91 percent said they never attended a religious service of any kind. No wonder CNN’s Bill Schneider could famously say that the media “doesn’t get religion.”

But if 91 percent of top journos never worship, they are a tent revival in comparison to our foreign policy clerisy. And there’s the rub: Not only is religion not important in their own lives, our top foreign policy thinkers also fail consistently to understand why religion is important in the lives of others—especially those restive peoples whom they are forever trying to explain to America’s rapidly dwindling readership on foreign affairs.

Read more . . .

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Last week, we took a look at what distributists get right in terms of economics, through the eyes of David Deavel at Intercollegiate Review. Now, Deavel discusses where distributism goes off the rails in that same series. It is a rather long list, rube goldbertbut here are the highlights.

First, Deavel says that simple economics escapes distributists. Despite the fact that economics teaches that actions in the real world have real world consequences, distributists tend to ignore this fact.

They scoff at the notion that there might be predictive laws of economic behavior, such as supply and demand.  But if there are such predictive laws, then it behooves us understand them.  Distributists want third parties, such as governments or guilds, to arbitrarily set wages and prices according to abstract notions of justice.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 7, 2013

At Christian Companies, Religious Principles Complement Business Practices
Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times,

“Are people able to live out their own agency by making a contribution in the workplace?” is, according to Mr. Hicks, a question Christians should ask. Do employees have meaningful work, or just repetitive, low-paid, mind-numbing work?

How the Gospel Affects Our Work
Matt Heerema, Stonebrook Church

Could it be that our work at writing code, processing insurance claims, changing diapers, building houses, growing crops, or studying differential equations matter to God?

Trade and Cheez-Its: How to Teach Economics to Your Toddler
Wesley Gant, Values & Capitalism

Economics can be a dry subject. Finding a way to illustrate its principles in a way that is informative and fun is like figuring out a difficult magic trick: Once we figure out the trick, we want to show everyone.

Does Religion Matter?
Donald Devine, American Conservative Union

We would argue that America’s historic religion transmitted from Europe has been critical to the West’s spectacular rise as reported in the second table above and to its maintenance over a long period of time as demonstrated in the first for the same reason.

actonLord Acton once said of the American revolution: “No people was so free as the insurgents, no government less oppressive than the government which they overthrew.” It was America’s high view of liberty and its ideas that cultivated this unprecedented freedom ripe for flourishing. Colonists railed over 1 and 2 percent tax rates and were willing to take up arms in a protracted and bloody conflict to secure independence and self-government.

In a chapter on Lord Acton in The Moral Imagination: From Adam Smith to Lionel Trilling, Gertrude Himmelfarb explains how Acton was a historian who saw moral absolutes, and these were the same absolutes Lord Acton found in America’s Framers.

In America, there is certainly a great dearth of moral clarity in today’s political culture and really most of society. I think a large segment of our population certainly feels aimless and fatigued over the trajectory of not just the political debate, but where our nation is headed. As a country that is losing its history, many thirst for a return to first principles and away from the kind of relativistic rot which has become the status quo. Below is an excerpt from Himmelfarb’s book which discusses Lord Acton’s view on the American Revolution:

Although the first tentative overtures toward freedom came in ancient and medieval times, only in modernity, Acton claimed, did it emerge in its true nature. English Protestant sects in the seventeenth-century discovered that “religious liberty is the generating principle of civil, and that civil liberty is the necessary condition of religious.” But not until the American Revolution had “men sought liberty knowing what they sought.” Unlike earlier experiments in liberty, which had been tainted by expediency, compromise, and interest, the Americans demanded liberty simply and purely as a right. The three-pence tax that provoked the revolution was three-pence worth of pure principle. “I will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound, Acton quoted Benjamin Franklin, “to defend my right of giving or refusing one other shilling.” Acton himself went further. The true liberal, like the American revolutionists, “stakes his life, his fortune, the existence of his family, not to resist the intolerable reality of oppression, but the remote possibility of wrong, of diminished freedom.” The American Constitution was unique in being both democratic and liberal. “It was democracy in its highest perfection, armed and vigilant, less against aristocracy and monarchy than against its own weakness and excess. . . . It resembled no other known democracy, for it respected freedom, authority, and law.”

Last week, Rachel Held Evans wrote an article discussing millennials leaving the church. This piece quickly went viral prompting responses from various commentators, debating “why those belonging to the millennial generation are leaving the church and what should be done about it.”  Research fellow at Acton, Anthony Bradley, discusses Evans’ piece in “United Methodists Wearing A Millennial Evangelical Face.”

Jeff Schapiro, at the Christian Post, discusses this debate and summarizes several commentators’ opinions, including Bradley’s:

Anthony Bradley, associate professor of Theology and Ethics at The King’s College, states in a blog post that Evans’ article focuses on “a narrow subculture of conservative American evangelicals” and not the universal church. It does not address, for example, why millennials are leaving other groups, such as Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, mainline Protestant and broad evangelical churches.

Bradley, who spent more than 20 years in the United Methodist Church (UMC) before joining the Presbyterian Church in America, says everything millennials are looking for in Evans’ opinion could be found in mainline denominations like the UMC, yet even the UMC is “hemorrhaging.”

“The bottom line is that most American Christian denominations are declining across the board, especially among their millennial attendees, and it would require a fair amount of hubris to attempt to explain the decline across America’s 350,000 congregations,” wrote Bradley.

Samuel Kampa recently reviewed Victor Claar’s monograph, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution. Kampa begins by commenting on how quickly the “fair trade” moment has gained popularity, especially among the college and post-college aged, but also in the church community. He says that young people “are doing one thing right: expressing sincere concern about world poverty.  If this concern can be channeled into effective action, great things can happen.  Of course, effective is the key word.”

First, he offers a short list of reasons, given by fair trade advocates, why the fair trade movement is necessary:

1) Many farmers and workers in the international community receive very low prices for foods and commodities and are forced to live on less than $2 a day.
2) Many of the foods that Western consumers eat have been harvested by grossly underpaid farmers and workers.
3) The fact that Western consumers benefit at the expense of impoverished farmers and workers is both unfair and morally undesirable.
4) Agencies like Fair Trade USA guarantee fairer prices for crops and commodities, vastly improving the quality of life of farmers and workers.
5) Fair trade products are more expensive than non-fair trade products, but fair trade farmers and workers are receiving fairer prices.
6) Fair trade materially benefits the lives of impoverished farmers and workers at little cost to the consumer.
7)  Therefore, consuming fair trade products is morally preferable to consuming non-fair trade products.

Kampa explains Claar’s conclusions about fair trade: “Far from improving the lot of the poor, fair trade actually hurts non-fair trade farmers, keeps fair trade farmers in relative poverty, and diverts money from more efficacious charitable endeavors.” Kampa offers the two main critiques against the movement from the monograph as: “(1) Fair trade economically damages non-fair trade farmers. (2) In the long term, fair trade does more harm than good to fair trade farmers.” He then points out that “if true, [these two critiques] damage premises 4-7 in the pro-fair trade argument outlined above.” (more…)

Our health care system is broken. So why can’t we agree on how to fix it? The main problem is that disagreements about health care reform tend to be caused by a difference in values. Conservatives value personal choice and efficiency while progressives value coverage and affordability, says AEI’s Henry Olsen. But what if we could reform the healthcare system so that it recognized all these values?

What if we could design a health care system from scratch, what would we build, and why? AEI has produced several materials to help Americans think about how to answer that question.