coins_ladderOne holdover from 2014 into the new year is the cry for an increase in the minimum wage. President Obama pledged (in a December 2014 speech) to bump the minimum wage up to $9/hour nationally. Many believe that this move will help stimulate the still-sluggish economy.

Michael R. Strain, at  the American Enterprise Institute, isn’t wholly against raising the minimum wage, but he’s not wholeheartedly for it, either. He thinks we are asking the wrong question. Do we need to raise the minimum wage, or do we need to increase employment?

The labor market for young and low-skill workers is in terrible shape. More than 14 percent of workers aged 16–24 are unemployed. The situation is even worse if you look only at teenagers, over 1 in 5 of whom are unemployed. The unemployment rate for high-school dropouts over the age of 24 is 10.8 percent — a two-decade high — and only 4 people out of every 10 in that group have jobs. And there are still a staggering 4.1 million unemployed workers who have been looking for a job for six months or longer, many of whom are young or low-skill. (more…)

china-christiansFor the past three decades China has been the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with growth rates averaging 10 percent a year for 30 years. As Brian J. Grim, founder and president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, notes, there are many reasons for the growth, such as market mechanisms, modern technology and Western management practices. But one factor that is often overlooked is the role of Christianity:
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 5, 2015
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Catholics Fight for Freedom in Washington, D.C.
Robert E. Laird , Crisis Magazine

The Catholic University of America and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., are the latest targets of legislative and judicial moral relativists who severely threaten the religious freedom of Catholic educational institutions from pre-schools to universities, as well as other Catholic services.

Want to watch economists fight? Bring up the minimum wage
Anya Van Wagtendonk, PBS Newshour

In the course of just the past two days, the minimum wage jumped up in 21 states — and odds are, you’ve got an opinion about that. So does the academic world, which has studied — and argued over — the minimum wage’s impact within the labor market for more than 70 years.

Alice Cooper, Christian: ‘The World Belongs to Satan’
Michael W. Chapman, CNS News

Alice Cooper, the shock-rock megastar who makes Marilyn Manson look like a choir boy, stopped his hard-partying ways and returned to his Bible Christian roots in the late 1980s and today, still hugely popular and touring, says he isn’t shy about discussing his faith, says his early songs always warned against choosing evil, and contends that the world we live in “doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to Satan.

Human Traffickers Are Abandoning Boats Full of Migrants
Adam Chandler, The Atlantic

On Thursday evening, the Italian Coast Guard received this unusual distress call: “We’re without crew, we’re heading toward the Italian coast and we have no one to steer.”

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 2, 2015
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42474223_abbfd18c5cWhat should Westerners make of Vladimir Putin?

Some view the Russian president as a type of Western democratic politician while others think he is shaped by Chekism, the idea that the secret political police control (or should control) everything in society. But John R. Schindler, an Orthodox Christian, thinks the West may be underestimating the influence of militant Russian Orthodoxy on Putin’s worldview:
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solitudeLord Acton famously said that, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Joseph Pearce finds that comfort can play a similar role in our lives and that “absolute comfort corrupts absolutely.” That is why we tend to numb ourselves with distractions, from mood-altering drugs to social media:

Shortly after Odysseus and his men leave Troy, heading home after the interminable siege and ultimate destruction of that City, they land on the island of the Lotus-Eaters. After the horrors of war, with its blood-letting and blood lust, these peaceable folk seem very attractive, at least at first glance. They remind us perhaps of proto-hippies, choosing “peace” and “love” over war and hatred. They certainly seem attractive to Odysseus’ war-weary men who, like disillusioned veterans returning from Vietnam, embrace a lifestyle based on the use of soporific drugs. They desire to be “comfortably numb.” The problem with such a lifestyle choice, as the perennially wise Homer reminds us, is that those who choose it “forget the way home.” The problem is not primarily the drug itself, nor is it the apathy that it induces; the problem is that it distracts us from our ultimate purpose, which is to get home. To reiterate, the problem is not principally the drug, nor the drug-induced torpor; it is the distraction.

This point is made clear when we realize that we can substitute all manner of other things for the Lotus-plant. Other natural and synthetic drugs will spring to mind but so will drug-free addictive pursuits, such as pornography or the obsessive-compulsive way in which many of us engage in social media. The things with which we choose to distract ourselves are variable and therefore in the philosophical sense accidental; the thing which is common to all these multifarious means of distraction is the distraction itself, which is therefore, literally and philosophically, of the essence.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 2, 2015
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Happiness on the rise globally, survey finds
BBC

The market research and polling organisation WIN/Gallup found that 70% of respondents were content with their life – a 10% increase from last year.

Understanding Conscience Claims as Claims of an Absolute Duty
Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism

Imperative in the struggle for liberty of conscience is the claim that the right of conscience is protection for an absolute duty. Without this there is no point in the struggle, nor can the general public or the civil courts understand the true nature of the claims being made, or why they should be accommodated.

What Kinds of Goals Should You Set This Year?
Andrew Spencer , Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The New Year’s resolution is an old tradition that has become a greater source of satire than an actual practice for most people.

In Soweto Gold beer, a taste of economic freedom
PBS Newshour

Soweto, an enduring symbol of apartheid discrimination and impoverishment, is now home to the first microbrewery built in a black township. Special correspondent Martin Seemungal offers a look at South Africa’s rising black middle class and what it means for that country’s transformation.

In an interview on Christian distance education, Dylan Pahman, the assistant editor for Acton’s Journal of Markets & Morality, talks about the education bubble, rising costs of higher education, and whether Christian worldview integration in a distance education program is worth a premium:

Luke Morgan: As a blogger for the Acton Institute, you have written about the education bubble, the textbook bubble, and other items regarding what education costs, and how those things should work in a free market. Could you describe to me what you mean when you say: “the education bubble?”

Dylan Pahman: The idea of a bubble came up in relation to the housing bubble which took place in 2007 in the recent recession. Part [of what] happened is, the government started subsidizing home loans, because they decided “everybody aught to be able to own a home.” So there were good intentions, but what they were doing, was cutting away the calculation of risk… The bank is no longer turning people away, that they normally would have… you have easy access flooded into this market for something people really desire… a nice place to live. In doing so, [the market] ended up ballooning. Demand keeps going up, and as demand goes up the price goes up. So people are getting into more and more debt, for the same exact product until it gets to a certain point where it’s too much, too many people couldn’t handle it, and so a lot of people ended up foreclosing on their homes… it was pretty severe, and it went past the housing market, it effected our whole economy, it effected worldwide economies.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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“Black lives matter.’ ‘All lives matter. These slogans may forever summarize the deep tensions in American life in 2014,’ says Anthony Bradley in this week’s Acton Commentary. “We can loudly protest that “Black lives matter” but it will mean nothing in the long run if we cannot explain why black lives matter.”

Black lives matter because black people are persons. One of the greatest tragedies in American history was the myth that America could flourish without blacks flourishing as persons. From the founding of this country, throughout slavery, Reconstruction, the Eugenics movement, and the Civil-Rights Movement, black Americans fought to establish themselves, first and foremost, as persons. At minimum we can define persons as centers of creativity, self-transcendence, communication, morality, self-direction, responsibility, choice, freedom, and spirituality, who come to know themselves in union and communion with the Triune God and other personal selves. Persons are simultaneously unrepeatable splendors with great capacity for good and also vulnerable to disordered loves that can lead to profound evil. Not only do they need moral formation; moral norms ought to shape how we structure the elements of justice in politics, jurisprudence, and the marketplace.

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

In this edition of Radio Free Acton, Paul Edwards speaks with Luba Markewycz of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, Illinois about the Holodomor – the Great Famine of the 1930s inflicted on Ukraine by Josef Stalin’s Soviet Government that killed millions of Ukrainians through starvation. They discuss the Holodomor itself, and the process undertaken by Markewycz to create an exhibition of art by young Ukrainians to commemorate the event. You can listen to the podcast using the audio player below.

More: Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined Luba Markewycz in November at the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium for an evening of discussion of the Holodomor and the Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child exhibit.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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Every Wednesday we publish the Acton Commentary, a weekly article that covers topics related to Acton’s mission. As 2014 comes to a close I thought it would be worth highlighting the superb commentaries that have been produced by Acton Institute staffers over the past year.
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