On Monday afternoon, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico was a guest on “Faith, Culture, Politics: In That Order” on the Guadalupe Radio Network, which broadcasts primarily in Texas. Rev. Sirico engaged in an extended discussion of Catholic Social Teaching, with a great deal of time dedicated to Pope Francis’ particular style and emphasis in dealing with some of the more controversial matters of our time. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
Update: The embedded audio appears to be having problems; you can go to the Soundcloud page for the interview by clicking this link.
In Austin, Texas, the organization Mobile Loaves & Fishes has started a new program for the homeless: Community First! a village of tiny houses and other small domiciles. Lee Morgan of the New York Daily News reported recently,
A life of relative luxury awaits homeless people in Texas with the construction of a new gated neighborhood featuring a garden, drive-in theater and air stream motel.
Hundreds of down-and-outs in east Austin will have the chance to get back on their feet by moving into the pioneering Community First Village.
Residents will have to work and pay a minimal rent to be able to stay at the compound, which will be nestled in 27 acres of land east of U.S. Highway 183.
Mobile Loaves & Fishes is explicitly motivated by Christian principles and has been working with the homeless in Austin since the mid-1990s. The webpage for Community First! even quotes Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and take care of it.” Their work in the past has involved not only feeding the homeless with their food trucks but helping them find employment, obtain upward mobility, and shelter. (more…)
Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, continues to promote his latest book, Tea Party Catholic, via radio interviews across the nation. This morning, he made an appearance on San Antonio’s KTSA radio, speaking with host Jack Riccardi about the Catholic (and broader Christian) case for limited government, a free economy, and a system of ordered liberty. You can hear the exchange via the audio player below.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.
Brian Burrough has a mostly enjoyable New York Times review of a book that’s mostly positive about my native state’s mostly small-government formula for economic growth. Some excerpts:
Ms. Grieder, a onetime correspondent for The Economist who now works at Texas Monthly, and a Texan herself, has written a smart little book that … explains why the Texas economy is thriving. It’s called “Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas”….
What might be copied, Ms. Grieder indicates, is the so-called Texas model — that is, a weak state government with few taxes and fewer regulations and services. It would be far harder to replicate the state’s civic DNA, which features traits that can be traced to its decade, beginning in 1836, as a stand-alone nation (independent, suspicious of Washington), the late-1800s cowboy era (self-reliant, fraternal) and the 20th-century introduction of oil and entrepreneurialism (pro-business, skeptical of government)….
Outside writers have been regularly caricaturing the state since the novelist Edna Ferber introduced America to postwar Texas with “Giant” in 1952. The canon ranges from “The Super-Americans,” by John Bainbridge (1961), to “As Texas Goes … : How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda,” by Gail Collins, a New York Times columnist (2012). Ms. Grieder’s is the rare book that takes stock of the Texas model without ridiculing many of its traditions and politicians.
My one concern is that the book’s author seems enamored of Gov. Rick Perry’s crony capitalist strategy of using subsidies to attract companies to the Lone Star State, a habit that is anything but small government and likely to come back to bite. On the whole, though, the book and the book review appear to give far more props to low taxes and limited government than I thought possible for a work endorsed in the pages of The New York Times. Maybe there’s hope for those city slickers after all.
Over 100,000 students in Texas are on the charter school wait list—and with the number of charter schools capped at 215, they have a long wait ahead of them.
But state senator Dan Patrick—a self-described “education evangelist”—is attempting to implement a radical educational reform. Patrick is sponsoring two consequential school choice proposals. One would remove the limit on the number of licenses Texas issues to operate charter schools and created a special board to oversee the new charter applications he expects will follow. The other is a voucher plan that would allow businesses to earn tax credits for donations that help poor and at-risk children leave public schools for private or religious ones.
Acton Research Fellow Jordan Ballor – who also serves as Executive Editor of the Journal of Markets and Morality – took to the airwaves in the Houston, Texas area last night to discuss the ecumenical movement, his book, Ecumenical Babel, and Christian social thought with the hosts of A Show of Faith on News Talk 1070 AM.
To listen to the interview, use the audio player below:
News broke yesterday of an audacious violation of Apple Computer’s intellectual property rights (IPR) in China. This expat blogger posted photos of three sham Apple Stores she discovered in the city of Kunming—the stores have been set up by some entrepreneurial chap hoping to capitalize on the company’s Chinese popularity.
The story was slightly amusing, especially in light of Apple’s recent earnings announcement. (“They totally did it again,” said one analyst. It was also revealed that Apple now sits on enough cash in hand to buy 100% of Goldman Sachs at its current market value.) It seems that the Apple brand is now so valuable that the Chinese are counterfeiting the company’s retail outlets to sell Apple’s own products at full price. As one employee of the fake store said when reached by the Wall Street Journal,
It doesn’t make much of a difference for us whether we’re authorized or not. I just care that what I sell every day are authentic Apple products, and that our customers don’t come back to me to complain about the quality of the products.
But that’s precisely why Apple’s IPR must be protected. The company is one of the most innovative ever—their graphical user interface, popularization of the computer mouse, iPod music player, and touch-screen devices have dragged the technology sector forward, to say nothing of their design contributions—and that innovation would not have been supported without protections for the company’s intellectual property.
The U.S. Constitution justifies the establishment of IPR in giving Congress the power
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
As David H. Carey explains in his Acton monograph The Social Mortgage of Intellectual Property,
If allowing some techonology to be patented benefits society in the long run more than it costs society temporarily to forego unrestricted use of that technology, then such patents are morally defensible.
The Apple Store “experience” is tightly bound up with the company’s products (remember how miserably Dell stores failed?), and part of allowing Apple temporary exclusive use of its inventions is allowing it to sell them as it sees fit.
There is also the question of trademark, which exists primarily for the protection of consumers, so that when I buy a tube of Crest toothpaste from a CVS I know that I’m not getting a Chinese imitation accidentally laced with cyanide, stocked by a shyster posing as a reputable franchisee.
Whatever employees of these fake Apple Stores may say—and according to the blogger who broke the story, none of the stores’ sales force realized at the time that they weren’t working for Apple—it’s China! Would you buy an iPhone from one of the fake stores? The Chinese government has a responsibility to its citizens to enforce Apple’s trademarks and protect its citizens from fraud.
By pure coincidence, I can illustrate the importance of protecting IPR in China: Yesterday, about the time this story was hitting the internet, my father went to the Apple Store in Dallas (an authentic one) and purchased an iPad. While he is away for a week on a theology course, Apple’s device will give him access to email and other business tools, so that he can grow in virtue and keep his business running at the same time (and once they debut the iSpankings app, he’ll be able to keep his kids in line, too). He chose an iPad over any number of other devices because his IT guy—who doesn’t like Macs, as IT guys never do—told him it would do the job best.
Except for the U.S.’s protection of IPR, that market solution wouldn’t have been possible.
This story makes me think of an old joke. Stafford, TX has a population of 19,227 people and 51 churches. The city council is making noise about preventing any more churches from opening up because, as tax-exempt organizations, they are threatening the viability of the local government.
My initial reaction: In one sense this is nothing new. Ever since the days of the Holy Roman Empire, church estates have been free from the taxes of civil government, and as monastic and ecclesiastical property holdings grew larger, the civil magistrate grew more and more covetous…after all, there is no tax exemption from the tithe.
I do, by the way, support the idea that the church should be free from paying taxes to the civil government, and not simply because the government deems churches to be of positive social value. The Church and the State are different institutions with different orders of authority. You might say that the State has no authority or right to tax the Church.
And this might even true even if churches want to make political statements (although I have my own view about the prudence of doing so). In this sense, churches perhaps aren’t like other nonprofits, and so perhaps these IRS warnings are based on a misplaced view of the authority civil government.
But I digress. Living in West Michigan, which I believe has to have one of the largest proportions of church space per capita in the country, this hits home. You’ve probably all heard it in some form or another:
A man was shipwrecked and he was able to find his way to an island. He lived there alone for 10 years.
Finally a ship came to his rescue. His rescuers saw three huts that he had constructed and they were puzzled by that. They asked him if he were alone on the island and he answered that he was.
Then, “What was this hut used for?” they asked.
“I live there.” he replied.
“What was the second hut used for?” they asked.
“Oh, that’s where I go to church.” was his answer.
“And the third?” they queried.
“Hmmph! That’s where I used to go to church.”