Posts tagged with: politics

Radio Free ActonOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, Jordan Ballor – Acton Research Fellow, Director of Publishing, and Executive Editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality – talks with Benjamin Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, about the current populist moment in American politics, the roots of American populism, and what the possible outcomes of the current populist uprising may be for the United States.

For more from Ben Domenech, be sure to check out The Federalist Radio Hour, and subscribe to The Transom. After the jump, I’ve included video from Domenech’s excellent Acton Lecture Series address, which is well worth your time if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check it out.

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clinton-trumpImagine if Donald Trump made a campaign promise that he would lower the pay of every American, but would ensure that the poorest 10 percent have their pay lowered the most. Would you vote for him then? Or imagine if Hillary Clinton said she would increase inflation substantially to make the economy more “fair” for everyone. Would she win your support?

Neither candidate has made such a claim—at least not directly. The American people would immediate reject such harmful economic policies, and politicians know they’d be rejected for making such inane promises.

In reality, though, both Clinton and Trump (as well as the candidates for the Green Party, Constitution Party, and the American Solidarity Part) have promised to implement policies that would have the same effect as increasing inflation or reducing pay, for all have proposed a means of lowering purchasing power.
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strong-weak-chart-andy-crouch12In our discussions about politics, society, and culture, the vocabulary of “human flourishing” has become increasingly popular, moving dangerously close to the status of blurry buzzword.

Yet at its best, the term captures the connective tissue between the material and the transcendent, the immediate and the eternal, pointing toward a holistic prosperity that accounts for the full complexity of the human person.

In his latest book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing, Andy Crouch examines the broader ideal. ‘“Flourishing’ is a way of answering the first great question,” he writes. “What are we meant to be? We are meant to flourish—not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to exist, but to explore and expand.”

In order to actually embody that answer, Crouch believes we have to grasp the underlying “paradox of flourishing.” “Flourishing comes from being both strong and weak,” he writes, requiring us to “embrace both authority and vulnerability, both capacity and frailty – even, at least in this broken world, both life and death.”

In truth, most of us tend to elevate one to the detriment of the other, relishing in abuse of power or pursuit of poverty. Yet as humans created in the image of God, and as citizens of an upside-down Kingdom, we are called to embrace and combine each together. Such is the path to real life and abundance, both in the now and not yet. (more…)

On October 13, the fall 2016 Acton Lecture Series continued with a timely address from Benjamin Domenech, publisher of The Federalist and host of The Federalist Radio Hour, who spoke on the rise of American populism.

Domenech looks at the history of populism in America, from Andrew Jackson to William Jennings Bryan, and traces that strain in American politics straight through to the rise of Donald Trump. According to Domenech, the roots of the current populist uprising in America can be traced to the failure of elite institutions to address or even acknowledge the problems and needs of average citizens:

Today, big government and its partner big banks, business, labor, ag, and their armies of lobbyists represent a common enemy to both communities and individuals. Organic communitarianism depends on individual agency and autonomy in the market and in civil society. The breakdown of the ability of our neighborhoods to self govern is collateral damage brought about by the left’s war on individual liberty and the rise of an illiberal technocratic left, those who seek to absorb, marginalize, or extinguish institutions of civil society which compete with them and the state.

Domenech’s address can be viewed in full below.

“Our problem [with education] today is not to enforce conformity; it is rather that we are threatened with an excess of conformity. Our problem is to foster diversity.” –Milton Friedman, Capitalism & Freedom

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._SchoolThe education reform movement has set forth a range of strategies to combat the leviathan of public education. Yet more often than not, those solutions are couched only with boilerplate about the glories of markets and competition.

There is plenty of truth behind such rhetoric, but as Greg Forster outlines in an extensive series of articles at EdChoice, a revival in education policy and educational institutions is going to require much more than free-market talking points and surface-level solutions.

“It’s not that the things we’re saying are wrong,” he writes. “We just aren’t getting to the heart of the matter because we are not challenging our nation to re-ask itself the big questions about education: What is the purpose of education? Who has final responsibility for it and why?”

Indeed, while our aversion to technocratic solutions has prodded us to focus on things like improving accountability, expanding competition, and removing barriers to information, many of the subsequent reforms have fallen prey to the same technocratic temptations. As Forster reminds us, in education, “technocracy fails more importantly because it is based on a wrong understanding of what education is for.” (more…)

enemy-posterThis month mark the fiftieth anniversary of the China’s Cultural Revolution. Here are five facts you should know about one of the darkest times in modern human history:

1. The Cultural Revolution — officially known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — was a social and political movement within China that attempted to eradicate all traces of traditional cultural elements and replace them with Mao Zedong Thought (or Maoism), a form of Marxist political theory based on the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong, the Chinese communist revolutionary and founding father of the People’s Republic of China. Mao governed as Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976.

2. The beginning of the Cultural Revolution is traced to May 16, 1966, when Mao issued a document that included ‘indictments’ against his political foes. In what has become known as the “May 16 notification”, Mao claimed that, “Those representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army, and various cultural circles are a bunch of counter-revolutionary revisionists.” Although Mao unveiled his intention in May, it was not until August that the Communist Party issued the “Decision Concerning The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” which outlined the Chairman’s goals. The two primary institutions that Mao wanted to eliminate were education and religion, the main threats to Mao Zedong Thought.
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venezuela-food-shortagesThe Venezuelan economy is buckling under the weight of its severe socialist policies, and even as its president admits to a nationwide economic emergency, the government continues to affirm the drivers behind the collapse, blaming low oil prices and global capitalism instead.

This was supposed to be the dawn of “21st-century socialism,” as the late President Hugo Chavez proclaimed over 10 years ago, complete with the right tweaks and upgrades to its materialistic, mechanistic approach to the human person. “We have assumed the commitment to direct the Bolivarian Revolution towards socialism,” he said, “and to contribute to the socialist path, with a new socialism…which is based in solidarity, in fraternity, in love, in justice, in liberty, and in equality.”

Alas, with a shrinking economy, booming inflation, violent outbreaks, and empty food shelves, “21st-century socialism” is feeling mighty nostalgic in all the wrong ways.

In the years before Chavez, the country was in better shape than much of the continent. Now, thanks to the temptations of centralized power, the arrogance of centralized planners, and a series of faux upgrades to age-old bad ideas, the nation is crumbling. The oil prices simply served as the messenger. (more…)