Enlightenment-920x383In a recent article for The Stream, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg asks the question, “Is Catholicism Compatible with the American Experiment?” Gregg cites an article by political philosopher Patrick Deneen who suggested that “the main argument among American Catholics will concern the relationship of modern liberal democracies–and, at a deeper level, the American Founding–with Catholicism.” Gregg doesn’t necessarily disagree with this assertion, but argues that it “reaches further back to the early modern period often called the Enlightenment.”

The Enlightenment was hugely influential on the American founding:

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, for instance, sharply disagreed on many subjects, but all their serious biographers concur that both were profoundly shaped by Enlightenment writers.

The intellectual developments associated with the Enlightenment shared an emphasis on (1) asking every belief and institution to justify itself rationally, and (2) applying the tools associated with the scientific method to as many spheres of life as possible. This focus on natural philosophy and the natural sciences was especially influenced by Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) and Newton’s successful integration of the mechanics of physical observation with the mathematics of axiomatic proof, and his development of a system of scientifically verifiable predictions. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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Katrina 10 Years Later: Disaster Recovery and the Political Economy of Everyday Life
Peter Boetkke, Mercatus Center

It is important to explain this history because it was in this intellectual context that the events around Hurricane Katrina have to be understood in order to appreciate our rationale behind undertaking the Gulf Coast Recovery Project in 2005 and continuing it to this day.

The Moral Argument Against the Minimum Wage
Ben R. Crenshaw

The minimum wage is immoral. To understand why, we must first explore its social and economic dimensions.

What Malcolm Gladwell Gets Wrong About Poverty
Robert Doar, The Federalist

In discussing the Hurricane Katrina victims who left New Orleans, Malcolm Gladwell ignores a major factor contributing to modern U.S. poverty.

The Economic Cost of Truancy
Emily Deruy, The Atlantic

It doesn’t matter how good a school is if students don’t show up to class.

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, August 31, 2015
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SOS to Pope Francis: It’s souls that need saving not the environment
Judi McLeod, Canada Free Press

Protocol and pomp and ceremony aside, why would Christ’s Vicar on Earth come to pay homage to a president who is unabashedly the world’s top champion of abortions, including partial birth abortions; whose party refuses to defund Planned Parenthood whose organization sells body parts of aborted babies on the black market; and whose presidency is driven by a soul-corroding hatred of the country he was elected to serve?

Spiritual roundup: ‘Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality’ by Pope Francis, more
Barbara Mahany, Chicago Tribune

This breathtaking amalgam of urgency and poetry mines the spirit and appeals to the moral core. Billed as the pope’s pontifications on the environment, it is in fact a sweeping letter addressing a spectrum of global sins, not the least of which is summed up in Francis’ declaration that “(t)he earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Pope’s climate stance is still sinking in
Jeff Montgomery, The News Journal

Enthusiasm is building across the Wilmington Diocese over Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to Philadelphia late next month, with some local Catholics planning to join a million-or-more-person crowd in Philadelphia and many more saying they’ll watch every moment from afar.

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katrina-superdomeThis week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Gulf Coast. As always happens when remembering such ignominious events, we look back in hindsight to attempt to learn what could have been done differently. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we conservatives will admit that we share some of the blame for the disaster—just not in the way many of us realize.

The colossal failures in leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina proved once again that, as historian Richard Weaver famously claimed, “ideas have consequences.” In the aftermath of a natural disaster, abstract theories about public policy and governance were tested in the laboratory of reality. Bad ideas, naturally, can have catastrophic consequences. But as we saw, even good ideas, when poorly implemented, can be calamitous.

A primary example is the principle of subsidiarity, an idea found in both Catholic and Reformed social thought, and which is often embraced by conservatives. Almost twenty years ago in an issue of Religion and Liberty, David A. Bosnich explained,

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom.

While limited government, personal freedom, and other such goods are worthy reasons to support such an ideal, there is an even more primary justification: it saves lives. The evacuation of New Orleans provided a useful example of how this works out in a real-world context.
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So far, 2015 has given us our busiest Acton Lecture Series ever, and we’re pleased to share more of it with you today on the PowerBlog. Back on April 16, Acton had the privilege of hosting Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, who spoke on the topic of the book they jointly authored, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution.

First, the bios: Wayne Grudem is Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary; he is the author or co-author of twenty books, including his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical DoctrinePolitics According To The Bible, and Business for the Glory of God, which we just happen to have in the Acton Book Shop; he also served as a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, and also as General Editor of the ESV Study Bible. Barry Asmus is a Senior Economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, which promotes private sector, market-based solutions to problems. He has been speaking, writing and consulting on any number of political and business issues for over 25 years.

Grudem and Asmus jointly authored a book with a title that nods to Adam Smith’s classic The Wealth of Nations, which inquired into what factors led certain nations to prosper; The Poverty Of Nations looks at the flip side of that question: what causes some nations to remain mired in poverty, and what might they do to change their circumstance?

We’re pleased to share with you the video of their joint presentation today; after the jump, I’ve included the episode of Radio Free Acton that features an interview with the two gentlemen.

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flag-21096_640Despite ongoing conflict and regional unrest, Israel’s economy is doing exceptionally well. Unemployment is under six percent, incomes are up, and the Index of Economic Freedom shows Israel’s rank improving over the last few years while America and many Western European nations are declining. Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, discusses this situation in a new article for the Jerusalem Post. He says:

[I]t’s no exaggeration to say that many developed economies – mired in debt, out-of-control welfare spending and high unemployment – would envy the Israeli economy’s current overall trajectory.

It’s the economist’s job to try and understand why some economies, like Israel’s, are doing comparatively better than others. Less well-known, however, is that more economists are looking beyond strictly economic explanations to explain economic successes and failures. As it turns out, they are discovering that culture matters.

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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 31, 2015
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Want To Save The Arts? Support Capitalism
Joseph Sunde, The Federalist

Capitalism has brought about the shift from record companies as investment banks to individual artists as rogue entrepreneurs.

What happened when Brad Pitt and his architects came to rebuild New Orleans
Peter Whoriskey , Washington Post

After Hurricane Katrina, movie star Brad Pitt descended on New Orleans to help rebuild the Lower Ninth, one of the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods. … Now, ten years after the storm, one might ask: What has all that talent achieved?

The Next Front in the War on Religious Freedom
David Harsanyi, Reason.com

Stop bellyaching about Washington. All the country’s best fascists are on your local city council.

True Calling
Alan Wheatley, International Monetary Fund

There are many development economists, but Sabina Alkire is one of the few who is also an ordained priest.

Blog author: bwalker
Friday, August 28, 2015
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Patriarchal Message for the New Ecclesiastical Year and the Day for the Protection of the Natural Environment
Patriarch Bartholomew

Human beings have destroyed creation through greed by focusing exclusively on this earth and its earthly benefits, which we endeavor to increase constantly, like the “rich fool” in the Gospel parable. (Luke 12. 13-21)

New survey on Americans’ views on papal encyclical on climate change
EurekAlert!

A new national survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and researchers at Yale University found that fewer than 1 in 3 Americans, and 40 percent of Catholics, are aware of Pope Francis’s efforts to publicize global warming as a priority issue for the Catholic Church. While there is relatively low awareness of the papal encyclical, a majority of Americans say it is appropriate for the pope to take a public position on the issue of global warming. This is true even though very few Americans consider global warming as an issue of religion, social justice, or poverty. The nationwide poll was collected July 17 to 19, 2015, using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,030 adults.

Obama to seek unity with Pope Francis on climate, Cuba, other issues in White House visit
Josh Lederman, US News & World Report

Sweeping into office in 2009, President Barack Obama captured near rock-star status around the world among millions who saw him as the embodiment of a new sense of social purpose. Now, that baton has largely been passed to Pope Francis, whose visit to the White House next month will put his common cause with Obama on vivid display.

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The-Cdecker-Theft-modOver the last couple of years there has been a lot of criticism over the crypto-currency Bitcoin—some of which I’ve made myself (I think it is doomed as a currency but would be a great “alternative to Western Union”). But Neil Stevens at RedState recently made one of the most intriguing criticism’s I’ve heard so far: Bitcoin, if adopted widely, would be a grave threat to property rights.

There may be another cryptocurrency that isn’t hostile to our liberties, but Bitcoin is incompatible with freedom under the rule of law.

If our nation’s founders are to be believed, our government exists to protect life, liberty, and property. The reason it exists, and the way it has legitimacy, is that it serves the people to protect our fundamental rights. That’s how the rule of law is better than anarchy, because we can have laws against murder, slavery, and theft.

Recently in Virginia, a man was caught after stealing $2 million worth of gold. One of the jobs of police in this matter is to recover the stolen property, including through a pawn shop where the thief ran $340,000 worth of the precious metals.
If the man had stolen Bitcoin instead of gold, that would be out of the question. Money in the form of cash or a bank account, or tangible goods like gold or silver, can always have unlawful transactions reversed. Money can be sent back to the person it was stolen from. Property can be taken and returned to its rightful owner. But Bitcoin? Bitcoin advocates brag about how Bitcoin payments are irreversible. Anything the thief spent is gone forever, and anything the thief didn’t yet spend is meant to be gone forever.

Perhaps I’m missing something but I think there is a key flaw in Stevens’ argument: being foolish with one’s property is not a violation of property rights.
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pope in crowdIn today’s Roll Call, Acton Institute president Rev. Robert Sirico comments on Pope Francis’ September visit to the U.S. and what may be part of the dialogue when the pope is here. While the media tabulates the pontiff’s popularity on certain topics, Sirico says there are more important things to note.

Popularity ratings may be important for politicians but not for a pope believed to be the successor to St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth.

His job is to preserve the truths of the Faith, not put them up for a vote.

The Church is not a democracy, whereby some polling data could alter the content of the Church’s doctrine the way McDonald’s might alter the ingredients in a Big Mac.

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