For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles is a 7-part series from the Acton Institute that seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Today you can watch episode 3, The Economy of Creative Service for free all day today at premiere.flannel.org.

Below is the trailer for episode 3.

Earlier this month, I wrote a two part article for the Library of Law & Liberty, critiquing the uncritical condemnation of income inequality by world religious leaders.

In part 1, I pointed out that “while the Pope, the Patriarch, the Dalai Lama, and others are right about the increase in [global income] inequality, they are wrong to conclude that this causes global poverty—the latter is demonstrably on the decline. And that, I would add, is a good thing.”

F. A. Hayek

In part 2, drawing on the work of F. A. Hayek, I noted, “As societies learn to use their resources ‘more effectively and for new purposes,’ the cost of manufacturing luxury goods decreases, making them affordable to new markets of the middle class and, eventually, even for the poor.” I continue, “Such inequality not only accompanies the very economic progress that lifts the poor out of poverty, it is one essential factor that makes that progress possible.”

We may add to this two more ways in which focusing solely on income inequality can be misleading from article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Nicholas Eberstadt: increased equality in lifespan and education. He writes,

Given the close correspondence between life expectancy and the Gini index for age at death, we can be confident that the world-wide explosion in life expectancy over the past century has been accompanied by a monumental narrowing of world-wide differences in length of life. When a population’s life expectancy rises from 30 to 70, the Gini index drops by almost two-thirds—from well over 0.5 to well under 0.2.

This survival revolution—and the narrowing of inequalities in humanity’s life chances—is an epochal advance in the human condition. Since healthy life expectancy seems to track closely with overall life expectancy, a revolutionary reduction in health inequality may also have occurred over the past century. Improvements in global mortality for the poor have contributed to the very “economic inequality” so many now decry. This is another reason such measures can be deceiving.

The spread and distribution of education has had a similar impact. In 1950 roughly half of the world’s adults—and the overwhelming majority of the men and women from low-income regions—had never been exposed to schooling. By 2010 unschooled men and women 15 and older account for a mere one-seventh of the world’s adults, and about one-in-six from developing areas. (more…)

Broken_Toys_by_FaryndreynMaybe you’ve heard of the “Dark Web,” but aren’t sure exactly what it is. Maybe you don’t know anything about the Dark Web. Let’s begin by saying it’s aptly named. And as dark as it is, we need to know about it.

The term “Dark Web” (or Dark Internet) refers to areas of the Internet that are no longer accessible, or that have “gone dark” – i.e. dead ends. This happens when Internet routers stop referencing parts of the Internet, either because old addresses have become compromised by malware, or simply because the routers have forgotten where to access these areas…The Dark Web is therefore fundamentally different than the Deep Web in that the Dark Web cannot be accessed, period. The term “Deep Web,” refers to the “deeper” parts of the web that are accessible, but are considered hard to find because they are not indexed by regular search engines. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Patriarch: While Politicians Argue, Iraqi Christians Continue to Die
John Burger, Aleteia

In latest appeal, Chaldean leader describes conditions in refugee camps.

Thomas More: Virtuous Statesman
John M. Vella, The Imaginative Conservative

In Thomas More on Statesmanship, Wegemer, who teaches English literature at the University of Dallas, portrays a man who successfully synthesized the Christian humanism of his time with a deep appreciation of the broader legal and political traditions of England.

Distributionism vs Plutoyperetonism
John C. Wright

For better or worse, my take on Distributism is uniformly and unabashedly negative. You see, I had studied economics for many a year before I stumbled across the writings of Mr Chesterton, and I found him wise and witty and much to be admired in all other areas but this one.

Back to School: The Transformational Impact of School Vouchers
Virginia Walden Ford, The Daily Signal

Another summer has come to an end. As I’ve been looking toward the new school year, I have had a chance to reflect on all the children who have touched my life over the past few years.

Oikonomia, Acton, PatheosThe Acton Institute has just launched Oikonomia, a new blog at Patheos’ Faith and Work Channel, which will provide resources specific to the intersection of faith, work, and economics. Other partners at the channel include The High Calling, Steve Garber’s Visions of Vocation, and Theology of Work Project, among others.

The blog will include a variety of content from across the Acton ecosystem, including articles, commentaries, video clips, and book excerpts, providing a centralized source of information on whole-life discipleship, stewardship, and human flourishing.

We encourage you to check out the blog, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We also recommend following the Faith and Work Channel on Facebook and Twitter as well, which will be sharing updates on the blog, along with resources from a variety of other great sources.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
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1000x598xlife-of-st-benedict-benedict-discovers-totila-s-deceit-1502.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1ArTXFMkGL“The Church fathers, East and West, have a long tradition that affirms the value of human labor,” writes Acton’s Dylan Pahman at Humane Pursuits. “And their reflections on the subject contain depths of insight still relevant for those of us who live in “the world” today, such as how to find meaning in whatever work one may do.”

On the one hand, plenty of people may not see even a little lasting good in their job. The average factory worker, for example, is replaceable. And while many factories make fine products, it likely would not encourage many to exhort them to find meaning in the product of their work—trinkets, furniture, automobiles, and so on do not have the same lasting good as working for the Peace Corps, right?

On the other hand, some people may not be physically or mentally able to work in the same way as others. Many persons with disabilities are not even able to be a “cog in the machine”—do their disabilities disqualify them from the “little and lasting” work the old man recommends?

Read more . . .

Aunt louisaOver at the Federalist, Gracy Olmstead wonders “what happens when people bring the country to the city?” She goes on to argue that “urban farming could have conservative implications and outworkings—and we should encourage these endeavors as much as possible, in our efforts to bring traditional principles back to urban environments.”

Is there a way to bring the city mouse and the country mouse together?

I’ve argued for the need for urban farming initiatives in the context of renewal movements in places like Detroit, and Michael Miller has cogently pointed out the entrepreneurial reality at the core of farmers’ markets.

But as Olmstead points to the diverse benefits of urban farming, I’m reminded of a story that pushes us beyond merely material and utilitarian calculus. The economist Wilhelm Röpke was a devotee of allotments for gardening and farming (Schrebergärten) commonly found in Europe, particularly after World War II.
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
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Global religious hot spots get their own U.S. envoy
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

As the Islamic State tears across Iraq and Syria this summer, sending religious minorities fleeing for their lives, Congress created a new job at the State Department — one the president needs to fill immediately, say those who pushed for the position.

Heroic Sisters
Tom Hoopes, Aleteia

Some very gutsy religious who are, by the way, faithful to Church teaching.

12 Things You Need To Know About Government Unions
Stan Greer, The Federalist

The recent Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn has shifted forced unionism across the country.

Twenty-One Words That Describe Christian Leadership
Glenn Brooke, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

There may be no better summary of the characteristics of leaders than this, from the final instructions Paul gives at the end of 1 Corinthians.

union-jack-flag-great-britain-x-nature-with-uk-for-2685143At the height of power, circa 1922, the British Empire was the largest empire in history, covering one-fifth of the world’s population and almost a quarter of the earth’s total land area. Yet almost one hundred years later, Great Britain is not so great, having lost much of its previous economic and political dominance. In fact, if Great Britain were to join the United States, it’d be poorer than any of the other 50 states — including our poorest state, Mississippi.

Fraser Nelson discovered that fact by using a “fairly straightforward calculation” (see the end of this article for an explanation, and what Nelson missed). The result, as Nelson explains, is that all but one income group in America is better off than the same group in Britain:
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confused_customerA new report by the Pew Research Center finds that about one-in-ten Americans describe themselves as libertarian — and yet hold views that do not differ much from those of the overall public. As Pew’s Jocelyn Kiley says, “Self-described libertarians tend to be modestly more supportive of some libertarian positions, but few of them hold consistent libertarian opinions on the role of government, foreign policy and social issues.”

Overall, 11 percent of Americans describe themselves as libertarian and have a general idea about what the term means. Another 3 percent who described themselves as libertarians were unable to choose the correct term that applied to “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government” (choices were: libertarian, progressive, authoritarian, Unitarian, or communist). Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones confused: only 57 percent of those polled were able to choose the correct term; 1 in 5 thought the term applied to “progressive” and 6 percent thought the answer was “communist”(!).

Almost twice as many men as women self-identify as libertarian (15 percent of men and 7 percent of women). The percentage of Whites and Hispanics who self-describe as libertarian is almost identical (12 and 11 percent, respectively), while only 3 percent black Americans refer to themselves using that term. Libertarians are also more likely to consider themselves political Independents (14 percent) than either Republican (12 percent) or Democrat (6 percent).

The beliefs held by these self-described libertarians were somewhat surprising.
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