Neo-, paleo-, theo-, crunchy, compassionate, fiscal, social. . . in modern America there are almost as many brands of conservatism as there are conservatives. To truly understand what a conservative believes, though, it is often more instructive to simply ask what it is they want to conserve.
“The Power of the Moral Law” is the title of an address delivered by Calvin Coolidge at the Community-Chest Dinner in Springfield, Massachusetts on October 11, 1921. Published in The Price of Freedom, the text is only available online through Google Books.
Coolidge’s main point in his remarks was to reinforce the truth that it is prosperity not grounded in a deeper meaning that threatens our American Republic. Displaying his conservative thought, he challenges materialism of government interventionists and reminds proponents of business and the market that material success alone is insufficient. True progress must have a deeper foundation.
There are many lines that stand out in his address, but perhaps few stand out more than this simple sentence: “Ideals and beliefs determine the whole course of society.” Currently, we see this playing out powerfully in our culture today. The ideals that have held our Western and American civilization intact for centuries have largely eroded. Ideals and commonly held standards, especially in the academy, are attacked as backwards and oppressive.
America could have saved more jobs if, prior to the Industrial Revolution, politicians had banned the use of tractors. But that would have made everyone (especially those of us living in 2014) much worse off. Many Americans understand this point and yet still believe that when workers lose their jobs, we automatically become worse off.
Economist Bryan Caplan explains the problem with this ‘make-work’ bias, and why we are better off because of 19th century workers who lost their farm jobs.
With its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ended systemic racial segregation in public education. Now, sixty years later, courts have released hundreds of school districts from enforced integration—with the result being an increase in “resegregation” of public schools.
Numerous media outlets have recently picked up on a story by the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica about schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to the report:
In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended intensely segregated schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.
Why has this resegregation occurred? A forty-year-old experiment on racial diversity might just hold the answer.
The United States is often perceived as a land of religious freedom and pluralism. Has such a space allowed for the growth of a new generation of young Muslim leaders, activists, and artists? According to a recent article in TIME magazine, the rising prosperity and integration of Muslims in America is allowing for new Muslim leaders to emerge in the American public sphere.
Because the United States is faring far better with Muslim cultural and societal integration than Europe, a new platform is opening up for redefining Islam in the West. While the American Muslim community is also navigating their place in a shifting American demographic and religious landscape, intra-Islamic conversations continue over the identity and practice of American Islam. With the advent and growth of Islamic religious scholarship in the United States, the country is also becoming home to continuing creative conversations about Islamic identity and practice.
There is no doubt that an element of economic freedom has allowed the Muslim community in the United States to expand, flourish, and succeed. The link between religious and economic freedom will be considered more fully at an upcoming Acton conference in Rome, “Faith, State, and the Economy: Perspectives From East and West.”
The conference will take place on April 29 in Rome and is the first in a series called “One and Indivisible? The Relationship between Religious and Economic Freedom.” For more information visit the conference series webpage.
Additionally, please consider registering for Acton University 2014 for lectures on Islam by Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the Turkish Daily News.
America has been underwhelmed by Obamacare. Beyond the website glitches and stories of waiting for hours to sign up, we can start assessing the actual program.
An April 8 Rasmussen poll finds only 23 percent of Americans call Obamacare a “success,” and 64 percent believe it will be repealed. the White House is in a tough spot; the program was built with the understanding that young people would flock to it, eager to snap up inexpensive health care plans. These purchases would help pay for the less-healthy and older enrollees. Young people would be paying their premiums, but since they don’t get sick as often, that money would be used for those who are typically less healthy. Those signing up, though, are tending to be older and sicker than expected:
People who signed up early for insurance through the new marketplaces were more likely to be prescribed drugs to treat pain, depression and H.I.V. and were less likely to need contraceptives, according to a new study that provides a much-anticipated look at the population that signed up for coverage under the new health care law.
The health of those who enrolled in new coverage is being closely watched because many observers have questioned whether the new marketplaces would attract a large share of sick people, which could lead to higher premiums and ultimately doom the new law.
In a fascinating essay in Mosaic, Charles Murray examines the spirit of innovation in America. He asks,
As against pivotal moments in the story of human accomplishment, does today’s America, for instance, look more like Britain blooming at the end of the 18th century or like France fading at the end of the 19th century? If the latter, are there idiosyncratic features of the American situation that can override what seem to be longer-run tendencies?
The author of Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, Murray amassed data from virtually all of human history, across cultures and in vast categories of human endeavor. He believes that there are patterns to innovation, creativity and advancement, and that certain cultural standards support and encourage this, while others degrade it. Murray makes the case that America is floundering, if not fading, when it comes to innovation and invention. (more…)
Many who reject capitalism in favor of some “third way” do so because they often mistake it for government-corporate cronyism, says Jonathan Witt in this week’s Acton Commentary. But in countries that have begun extending true economic freedom to the masses, capitalist activity has already lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.
Happily, a new piece in The Economist magazine offers some helpful medicine for the confusion, insisting on the distinction between cronyism and capitalism while also pointing to some hopeful signs that a rising middle class around the globe is gaining the clout to fight the power structures that still wall millions out of the wealth creation game. My reservation about the article is that it misreads America’s Progressive era, and in the process, leaves cronyism’s favorite trick unexposed.
According to the piece, crony capitalism in America “reached its apogee in the late 19th century, and a long and partially successful struggle against robber barons ensued. Antitrust rules broke monopolies such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. The flow of bribes to senators shrank.” Later, it tells readers that while developing countries are making progress against cronyism, “governments need to be more assiduous in regulating monopolies.”
On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, both of which will have a profound impact on the future of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in America.
Thus, Hobby Lobby supporters across the country have been invited to offer their prayers in support of the company, and I encourage you to participate. You can help spread the word by changing the avatar on your social media accounts and posting with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Although the Court will be hearing arguments tomorrow, I would encourage us to begin our intercession today.
The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren’t relevant because they run a corporation. They’re telling these Anabaptist woodworkers and the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor and ministries of all sorts all over the country that what’s at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money.
Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad; there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress … (more…)
Today at Ethika Politika, I review Fr. Philip LeMasters’ recent book The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights from Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity.
With regards to the book’s last chapter, “Constantine and the Culture Wars,” I write,
… LeMasters does a good job in acknowledging the line between principles of faith and morality on the one hand, and prudential judgments that may not be as clear-cut on the other. He does not give the impression of advocating any specific political program; indeed, he explicitly disavows such a project:
Religious groups that are strongly identified with politics risk becoming so entangled in debates shaped by interest groups that their distinctive witness is obscured. To give the impression of being merely a political party at prayer is a good way to make people think that the church has little to say to the world that the world does not already know on its own terms.
He does not use this as an excuse, however, to disengage from political life. He only highlights that in applying the teachings of the Church to our present, political context, we ought not to expect any concrete embodiment of our ideals, and we should be wary of any person or group that makes such a claim.
This is a point, I believe, worth dwelling on. (more…)