Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

acton-commentary-blogimageWhy aren’t church leaders who are so quick to condemn capitalism, asks Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky in this week’s Acton Commentary, decrying Big Government bureaucracy?

The warnings of recent papal teachings on questions of social justice rarely – if ever – identify the dangers of a highly bureaucratized central government. Apparently most of the sinful and corrosive “love for money” comes from private sector capitalists, not government public sector agencies. Certainly corporate capitalistic greed can and does have serious economic consequences. But is it reasonable to ignore the negative economic consequences of Big Government, its centralized control and bureaucratic demands?

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

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Encyclical unites religious, nonreligious voices on climate change
Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Thousands of people inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment planned to rally on the Mall the morning that the pope addresses Congress hoping he will acknowledge their work on climate change. Rally organizers say it’s possible the pope may even stop by to check out the banners promoting the document, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” on his way to the Capitol.

In two interviews the Pope reaffirms that unfair economic systems cause migration and insists on care for creation
Vatican Information Service

Pope Francis has recently granted two interviews: one to the Portuguese broadcaster Radio Renascenca, on the occasion of the Portuguese bishops’ “ad Limina” visit, and the other to the Argentine Radio Milenium, focusing on care for creation and the value of friendship and dialogue.

The Elect and the Environment
D.G. Hart, Wall Street Journal

Does the environment go better with God, to borrow an old advertising line from the makers of Coke? Roughly 50 years ago, the historian of science Lynn White Jr. answered that question in the negative in a Science magazine article titled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” As Mark R. Stoll observes in “Inherit the Holy Mountain” (a title taken from the book of Isaiah), White was himself a Christian whose father taught ethics at a Presbyterian seminary. But White’s background did not prevent him from concluding that the Christian understanding of humanity—that we are not part of nature but have dominion over it—was responsible for the modern West’s ruthless attitude toward nature. In White’s own words, “Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.”


Israel M. Kirzner

While reading economist (and rabbi) Israel M. Kirzner’s Competition & Entrepreneurship (1973), it occurred to me that his description of what the “pure entrepreneur” does could also be applied to what a good interdisciplinary scholar, such as someone who studies faith and economics, does (or at least aspires to do).

In our world of imperfect knowledge, Kirzner writes,

there are likely to exist, at any given time, a multitude of opportunities that have not yet been taken advantage of. Sellers my have sold for prices lower than the prices which were in fact obtainable…. Buyers may have bought for prices higher than the lowest prices needed to secure what they are buying…. The existence of these opportunities opens up a scope for decision-making that does not depend, in principle, upon Robbinsian [means-end] economizing at all. What our decision maker without means needs to arrive at the best decision is simply to know where these unexploited opportunities exist. All he needs is to discover where buyers have been paying too much and where sellers have been receiving too little and to bridge the gap by offering to buy for a little more and to sell for a little less. To discover these unexploited opportunities requires alertness. Calculation will not help, and economizing and optimizing will not of themselves yield this knowledge.

To simplify, for Kirzner the entrepreneur is an equilibrating force in the market, a contrast of emphasis from the conception of Joseph Schumpeter, where the entrepreneur is a disequilibrating force through creative destruction. Rather, for Kirzner, the entrepreneur is the person who sees the opportunity to buy low and sell high. And I think that is what interdisciplinary scholars do at their best as well. (more…)

socialism-0916After getting home from work you get a statement in the mail from the local government saying you owe $20,000 for college tuition. You’re surprised to receive the bill since (a) you never went to college yourself and (b) your own children are still in preschool. Upon reading the fine print you discover the expected payment is not to cover any costs you’ve incurred but to pay for the tuition of college students in your neighborhood.

Outraged, you turn to your neighbors to complain about the injustice. They assure you, though, that this is nothing to be concerned about. Americans aren’t paying more for college tuition, one explains, “The only change is how we now pay for college.” Before, individuals were expected to cover their costs of attending college. Now, everyone is expected to pay. “So you see,” another says cheerfully, “there’s no real change.”

After hearing this you would probably want to move to a new neighborhood since you are surrounded by people who can’t distinguish between your money and a collective pool of cash that can be distributed at the whim of the government.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a completely hypothetical scenario. This is the actual rationale some people are making to justify presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders proposal for $18 trillion in spending. In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman says,

Anyone not touched by Pope Francis’ appearance on ABC television earlier this month may want to have their pulse checked for signs of a heart. Quite frankly, he knocked it out of the park in this writer’s humble opinion. Whether speaking to the plight of immigrant children, obviously enjoying a young girl’s vocal rendition of a hymn, or offering encouragement to a single mother of two, Francis was in his element.

As I marveled at the Pope on primetime, national network television, I also considered his declining U.S. popularity ratings. According (subscription required) to National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru:

In 2014, 76 percent of Americans viewed him favorably. American conservatives have led the downward trend, with only 45 percent now positive about him. By comparison, 68 percent of liberals like him.

Much of this drop in popularity may or may not be attributed to the too-easy politicization of the Pope’s Laudato Si encyclical as well as very public pronouncements, much of which has been repeated devoid of context. (more…)

As we prepare to kick off the fall portion of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series tomorrow (featuring Don Devine speaking about how America can find its way back to a harmony between freedom and tradition), we take a look back at the final lecture of the spring series, which was delivered on May 21 by Jonathan Witt, who aside from being a former English professor, a Research and Media Fellow at the Acton Institute, and Managing Editor of The Stream, is also the co-author of The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot. In the book, Witt and co-author Jay Richards explain how Tolkien’s passion for liberty and limited government shaped his work, and how this passion grew directly from his theological vision of man and creation.

You can view Witt’s lecture below, and be sure to check out Acton’s events page to register for upcoming lectures in the fall Acton Lecture Series.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is TANF Helping The Poor?
Aparna Mathur, AEI Ideas

The effects of programs that aim to help the non-working poor, such as TANF, are less well-understood. From the stories profiled in $2.00 a Day, we get a disappointing picture of the role of cash assistance in helping families in extreme poverty.

Obamacare punishes hospitals that see poor patients, study finds
Sarah Kliff, Vox

An Obamacare program that aims to improve American health care may have an unintended side effect: penalizing hospitals that serve the sickest and poorest patients.

This Case Could Open Up School Choice Options for 37 States
Brittany Corona, The Daily Signal

On Sept. 2, the Douglas County School District Board of Education filed a request for extension to the Supreme Court of the United States asking for review of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling on its scholarship program earlier this summer.

Meet 30 innovators finding African solutions for African problems
Lily Kuo, Quartz

Here are 30 of the people who are helping the continent take major strides forward.

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pope Francis shows rare openness on poverty, climate change and more
Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times

Though Francis has pushed for a more welcoming and merciful church, he has not softened or changed church doctrine on many issues, such as gay marriage or the ordination of women. He will visit the United States from Sept. 22-27, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

How is Pope Francis viewed by Alabama Catholics ahead of pontiff’s first U.S. visit
John Sharp,

Pope Francis has taken controversial stances on climate change and same-sex marriage that has drawn criticism from conservatives in the U.S.

Pope Francis, most influential political leader of our time
Saritha Prabhtu, The Tennessean

Perhaps the most influential political leader of our time is an unlikely figure — Pope Francis. He has, of course, been a very political pope — from his having a hand in the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement to his very vocal positions on global poverty, global capitalism and climate change….


Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is free market capitalism moral or immoral? If it’s based on greed and selfishness, should it be rejected for an alternative economic system? And if capitalism is moral, what makes it so?

Walter Williams, a economist at George Mason University, answers these questions and explains why the free market is morally superior to any other approaches to organizing economic behavior.

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

In today’s American Spectator, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg discusses the ousting of former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and what that means for the Australian economy and beyond.

Gregg points out that the Australian economy “is on the brink of substantial economic regression.”

What’s especially worrying is the across-the-board decline in Australia’s economic productivity: something long masked by the resources boom but now more visible than ever.

The basic problem, however, that lies at the root of what the best commentator on Australian politics, Paul Kelly, describes as ‘the Australian crisis’ is ‘the intersection of a corrosive political culture and the need for hard and unpopular economic repair. (more…)