Symbol_Justice“If we want to be coherent when addressing poverty,” writes Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg at Public Discourse, “our concerns can’t be rooted in emotivist or relativistic accounts of who human beings are. They must be founded on recognition of each person’s freedom, rationality, and dignity.”

In social sciences such as economics, positivism’s ongoing influence encourages the tendency to see values as irrelevant, hopelessly subjective, and hard to measure (which, for some people, means they don’t exist). Thus, making the argument that values matter economically still involves challenging more mainstream positions. But if establishing strong rule of law protocols is essential for long-term poverty alleviation, this connection may illustrate how widespread commitment to particular moral goods helps promote and sustain one institution that helps lessen poverty.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, December 1, 2014
By

Francis rolls out ‘social gospel’ case for Catholic/Orthodox unity
John L. Allen Jr., Crux

Sometimes what a pope doesn’t say can be just as important as what he does, and such was the case in Turkey on Sunday as Pope Francis laid out his vision for unity between Catholics and Orthodox Christianity.

How Travis Crockett Leaned on God and Helping Hands to Lift Himself From Poverty and Mean Streets
Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal

Violence, gangs and drugs were unavoidable. Travis’s father was largely absent from his life. His mother lacked the means to support him and his brother.

We Should Be Grateful for Our Problems
Ed Feulner, The Daily Signal

Frankly, we should be grateful for our problems as well. We rise in life to the degree to which we can solve problems. Time and again, from Valley Forge to Sept. 11, Americans have faced our problems squarely — and solved them.

Supreme Court considers extent of free speech over Internet
Sam Hananel, Associated Press

In a far-reaching case that probes the limits of free speech over the Internet, the Supreme Court on Monday was to consider whether Elonis’ Facebook posts, and others like it, deserve protection under the First Amendment.

On The Daily Caller, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg looks at the connection between economic liberty and religious freedom which, he observes, “has not been so obvious; or at least it wasn’t until cases such as Hobby Lobby’s started making their way through the American court system.” Also not so obvious is how the ever expanding welfare state in many countries — and the growing dependence of some religious charities on state funding — have had a negative impact on the institutional liberty of religious organization. Gregg:

As funding from government contracts begin to make up large portions of a given religious charity’s financial resources, economic reliance on such assistance can easily incentivize such organizations into avoiding any significant conflicts with government officials: including those occasions when such conflict is inevitable if the religious organization is to remain faithful to its core beliefs. It is not unknown for religious organizations receiving or seeking state contracts to downplay their religious identity precisely so they can maximize their chances of receiving such a contract. As George Weigel points it, such organizations can begin to transform themselves into “mere vehicles for the delivery of state-defined and state-approved ‘benefit’.”

It is also true that acceptance of government funding can encourage many people working in religious organizations to view government as their main authority. This should not be surprising. If 80 percent of a religious charity’s income is coming from state financial assistance and government contracts for which religious organizations compete, it would seem that the government effectively controls that religious charity’s purse-strings. And that means the state is well and truly in charge.

Read all of “Economic Freedom And Religious Freedom Are Mutually Reinforcing” by Samuel Gregg on The Daily Caller.

black-friday1For many, Black Friday epitomizes everything nasty American hyper-consumerism. Stores everywhere are plagued with overly aggressive shoppers, each stuffed to the brim with carb-laden Thanksgiving chow and yet ever-more hungry for the next delicious deal.

It’s all rather disgusting, no?

Quite the contrary, argues Chris Horst over at OnFaith. “Black Friday may have its warts, but let’s not forget the reason for the Black Friday season,” he writes. “The DNA of Black Friday is generosity.”

Wielding a fine mix of basic economics, Christian history, and some good old nostalgia, Horst encourages us to not get caught up in anti-consumerist dismay and instead kick off the holiday season with charity and cheer:

Black Friday commences the Christmas season. This year, Sunday commemorates the official start of the Advent season, but for most Americans, Black Friday initiates the nostalgia and cheer we love most about December. It orients our imaginations toward others and away from ourselves…It’s when Americans turn their attention away from turkey and football and toward buying gifts for one another. We move from Thanksgiving to generosity, shifting from gratefulness for what we have to open-handedness toward those around us…

…Even more, this event is good news for more than just festive shoppers. Black Friday is a big deal for our economy and, consequently, a big deal for all of us…The $600 billion we spend on FitBits, Patagonia ski jackets, and hand-thrown pottery doesn’t just evaporate when we spend it. Those purchases create and sustain livelihoods in garage workshops in our neighborhoods and in warehouses across the globe. They help hobbyists turn their handiwork into employment and give many around the world a shot at a decent job.

This Black Friday, suppress your inner Grinch when you’re tempted to share the story of yet another crazy person fighting over a scarce number of flat screen TVs. Embrace the redemptive side of Black Friday, one that celebrates this season of family and generosity and one that propels our economy forward.

(more…)

Tesla-Badge“The Tesla Model S is a drop-dead gorgeous electric automobile that can go from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and carries a sticker price of $80,000 at the high end,” says Sarah Stanley in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Tesla is also at the center of a debate on cronyism, consumer choice, and innovation”

On October 21, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed Enrolled House Bill 5606 into law. Some have rightly nicknamed this the “anti-Tesla bill.” While direct sales from manufacturers to consumers were already illegal under Michigan law (there are six states where Tesla showrooms are illegal), this bill simply loosened the language—making it clear that manufacturers who do not have their own dealers may sell cars through another manufacturer’s dealer networks. Literally, the bill deleted one word from the law. Immediately after signing this bill and siding with auto dealers, Snyder said “the discussion should consider, first and foremost, what is best for Michigan consumers, for expanding economic activity, and for innovation in our state.”

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

washington-thanksgivingIn October 3, 1789 in New York City, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Here is the full text of his Thanksgiving proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Larry Schweikart

This edition of Radio Free Acton features an interview with Larry Schweikart – drummer, history professor, and producer of the documentary “Rockin’ The Wall” – on the power of music and the influence of rock and roll in undermining communism in the Soviet empire. When we think about the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s only natural that names like Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II come to mind, but there were other elements involved in the battle against communism that also played important roles in its downfall, including cultural influences. How did western rock and pop music help to undermine Soviet Communism? Schweikart, former drummer for Rampage, explains how it happened.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
By

Is Russia Banning Islam?
Raymond Ibrahim, FrontPageMag

Russia appears to be taking serious moves to combat the “radicalization” of Muslims within its border.

What George Washington Teaches Us about Thanksgiving and God’s Providence
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Washington’s proclamation represents the first to be so designated by the new government of the United States of America. This “general thanksgiving” was a day appointed, “to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

What’s Stopping Young Adults From Forming Stable Families?
David Lapp, Family Studies

If working-class young adults are so eager to get married and have stable families, what’s stopping them?

Marriage and the Black Family
Jacqueline C. Rivers, Public Discourse

Black children have suffered the most as a result of the decline of marriage in the black community. And today marriage faces new threats. Adapted from an address delivered at the Vatican during the Humanum Colloquium.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
By

o-UNEMPLOYMENT-HEALTH-facebookFor many people the holiday season is their favorite time of the year. But for the 9 million Americans who are currently unemployed, this can be an especially difficult time. The feeling of hopelessness and despair that can come with looking for work often increase with the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Lauren L. Moy was recently unemployed during Thanksgiving and recalls the feelings of awkwardness when meeting with friends and relatives over the holidays. Moy offers recommendations for how to deal with unemployment at this time of year and why Christians have reason for hope:
(more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
By

yamsLet’s face it – if not for genetically modified organisms, many of us wouldn’t be celebrating Thanksgiving in the traditional sense. Instead of turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes, we’d be reduced to something far less appealing such as, say, Beans-and-Franksgiving.

Unfortunately, some shareholder activists – including those affiliated with As You Sow – work long hours to ensure GMOs are eliminated as a dinner option. According to the AYS website:

The genetic modification or engineering of plants and animals has become a significant economic and environmental issue. As investor advocates, we are concerned that many companies are exposed to material financial risk from the environmental, food security, and public health issues associated with GMOs.

Currently, 85% of corn, 93% of soybeans, and 82% of cotton in the U.S. is genetically engineered. It is estimated that 75% of processed foods in supermarkets contain GMOs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency do not conduct or require long-term safety studies on the environmental or health impacts of GMOs. Independent researchers, however, have documented the increasing environmental impacts and negligible benefits of genetically modified crops, and the significant and growing consumer preference to avoid them.

(more…)