The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have again brought to the forefront discussions about problems of culture faced by both Europe and the United States. The attacks have complicated western responses to the Syrian refugee crisis, with concerns about the stated intentions of groups like ISIS to smuggle operatives into western nations among the legitimate refugees in order to carry out terror operations. And of course, the questions of the compatibility of Islam with western political and economic values, as well as questions about the will of western nations to defend and uphold those values have returned as well. Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Al Kresta last Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss these important issues; you can listen to the full interview via the audio player below, and be sure to check out Sam’s article “The End of Europe” at Public Discourse.
The BBC reported today that China is ending its one-child policy, providing the following overview:
- Introduced in 1979, the policy meant that many Chinese citizens – around a third, China claimed in 2007 – could not have a second child without incurring a fine
- In rural areas, families were allowed to have two children if the first was a girl
- Other exceptions included ethnic minorities and – since 2013 – couples where at least one was a single child
- Campaigners say the policy led to forced abortions, female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births
- It was also implicated as a cause of China’s gender imbalance
Before everyone celebrates, China did not, however, eliminate all limits but changed the limit to two children. Certainly this is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction, but it is not without its own economic, ethical, and political problems. (more…)
In last Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders stayed true to his famed aversion to capitalism, proclaiming the fanciful virtues of “democratic socialism.” Yet when prodded by Anderson Cooper — who asked, “you don’t consider yourself a capitalist?” — Sanders responded not by attacking free markets, but by targeting a more popular target of discontent: Wall Street and the banks.
“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” Sanders asked. “No, I don’t.”
One could be forgiven for not understanding what Sanders means by “casino capitalism.” Is it crony capitalism, in which legislative favors are secured by the rich and powerful (which conservatives also disdain)? Is it bailouts for the big banks (which, again, conservatives also disdain)? Is it basic trade and exchange on a large, complex scale, and if so, at what size does it become problematic? Does he despise the stock exchange itself? Too loud with all its blinky lights and bells? (more…)
“Defending capitalism on practical grounds is easy,” writes economist Donald Boudreaux at the Mercatus Center. “It is history’s greatest force for raising the living standards of the masses.”
What’s more difficult, it seems, is understanding its moral logic, spiritual implications, and which of each is or isn’t inherent to private ownership and economic exchange.
At what level, for instance, is freely buying a gallon of milk at a freely agreed-to price from a freely employed worker at an independent grocery store an act of sin, idolatry, and exploitation? Such basic transactions are, after all, the bread and butter of a system built on free enterprise and open exchange (i.e. capitalism). From here, it gets more complicated, of course, and even that basic starting point can surely involve corrupt actors and action.
Yet even Pope Francis, discernor of the discerning, seems to struggle in locating Point A of that basic logic, even when railing against its banner. I tend to presume that basic milk purchases are not, in fact, his actual target. But then he continues and without qualification, railing against markets at large and ripping at plenty of positives that dangle well outside the deserving injustices of cronyist corporatism.
The Pope prefers to argue not that capitalism “has its faults” or “demands a virtuous society,” but rather that it is a “new tyranny,” one that followed the ills of communism, but filled the void with something just as tragic. (more…)
What is social justice? Is it a vision of a perfectly just society? Is it an ideal set of government policies? Is it a particular theory or practice? Is it a virtue? A religious concept? A social arrangement?
In a lecture at Acton University on his forthcoming book, Social Justice: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Michael Novak sought to answer some these questions with a particular framework around intermediary institutions.
Offering a broad survey of the term’s origins, history, and modern use and application, Novak countered modern misconceptions of social justice (e.g. as another word for equality), and sought to outline a definition that’s (1) connected to the original understanding, (2) ideologically neutral, and (3) applicable to current circumstances.
Leaning first on Pope Leo XIII for an original understanding, he proceeded to channel Alexis de Tocqueville, describing social justice in terms of our activity in basic, day-to-day associations. This begins with religion, of course, which “dominates our hearts,” he said, without the support of the state, and in turn, transforms our orientations and imaginations toward citizens, institutions, and law. With this as the basic order of things, social justice begins when the individual rightly understands his relation to God, and proceeds to engage with civilization accordingly. (more…)
If one decides to destroy the American Dream, there are a few steps that would be necessary.
- Put Big Government in charge. The average American can’t figure out his or her own dreams, let alone what it would take to make them a reality.
- Tell Americans that without the government, the American Dream is hopeless.
- Produce a lengthy document about the American Dream. Leave out the word “freedom,” let alone the idea of freedom.
- Let people know that “freedom” (without actually using the word) is quite harmful. Don’t worry, thought, Big Government will protect you.
I recently gave a hearty cheer for bringing back childhood chores, which are shockingly absent in a majority of today’s homes. The same appears to be the case with summer work for teenagers, which is increasingly avoided due to sports activities, cushy internships, video games, clubs and camps, and, in many cases, a lack of employment prospects altogether.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Dave Shiflett explores the implications of this development, recalling the “grit and glory of traditional summer work, which taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe.”
Whether it was newspaper delivery, construction, factory work, fast food, or manual labor on the farm or the railroad, such jobs have introduced countless kids to responsibility, creativity, and service, helping connect the dots between God-given gifts and the broader social order. (more…)