hot_temperature_41During his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama talked about climate change and claimed, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.”

Obama was basing his statement on a press release by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). According to the NASA data collected from more than 3,000 weather stations around the globe, “The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880.” Climate change skeptics pushed back by questioning the accuracy of the report (more on that below) which invariably led to push back on the claims of the skeptics.

For instance, Marcelo Gleiser, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, wrote for NPR that “Clearly, the scientists in charge know what they are doing.”

Dr. Gleiser is a scientist, not a journalist, so such a silly appeal to expertise can be excused.* But many journalists, like everyone else, seem to have the same “experts must know” reaction to such claims. The problem is that there isn’t much evidence the experts even know what true global temperatures are—or that they can even acquire such data with any precision.

Before you dismiss me as a “skeptic” let me clarify what sort of skeptic I am so that you can dismiss my viewpoint for the right reasons.

I’m not an anthropomorphic climate change skeptic; I’m agnostic on the question of whether mankind is heating up the planet (though I’d be surprised if we didn’t have some effect). What I am a skeptical about—closer to an outright “denialist”—is the idea that global surface temperatures can be measures with any precision.

Let me explain the reasons why and then I’ll discuss why it matters.
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china wedding cakeChina’s brutal one-child policy means that men far outnumber women in China. Men can’t find brides, and that leaves the door open for human-trafficking.

Adam Minter reports that some men in China are willing (and able) to pay upwards of $64,000 to woo a woman into marriage. For those that can’t that, they can turn to marriage brokers. Unfortunately, many of these marriage brokers are human traffickers. (more…)

i_heart_government_handoutsIt’s no secret that government entitlement programs have increased dramatically over the past few decades. It’s no secret that some would like to continue to expand such programs. And it’s no secret that America cannot afford to keep doing this, either economically or morally.

Nicholas Eberstadt tackles the issue of entitlement in “American exceptionalism and the entitlement state.” It’s a worthy read; I’d like to offer a few salient points.

Eberstadt begins by likening America to a transplant patient. The transplanted organ is healthy, but the patient is still really sick. America – the patient – has attempted to graft a foreign organ – the European welfare state. That transplanted organ is doing what it was designed to do, but it’s killing the patient nonetheless. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 23, 2015
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The Fundamental Precept for Humane Economics
Wilhelm Röpke, Intercollegiate Review

Is the standpoint of liberalism the right one to deliver his attack? In a certain sense, yes, if liberalism is understood as faith in a particular “social technique,” that is, in a particular economic order.

Nature’s Way to Cut Government Waste
Stephen Masty, The Imaginative Conservative

Government clearly cannot clean up like Mother Nature can, for two reasons. First are malign incentives that work against reform. Bureaucrats have a lot to do and resent the interruption, as well as reform potentially ending programmes and paperwork that they think necessary.

The Importance of Prayer in the Workplace
Caroline Cross , Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Rituals and routines matter and yet Christians often disregard what should be the most important workplace habit: prayer.

Business school bishops
The Economist

The Church of England encourages its clergy to get some management education

upennIn its eighth annual survey, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania put the Acton Institute among the top organizations in social policy, advocacy, conferences and overall excellence. The 2014 Global Go-To Think Tank Index published by the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program, which has a database of more than 6,500 organizations, ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories and across a wide political spectrum. The rankings are compiled with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world.

Highlights from the 2014 report:

• Acton Institute 9th in the Top Social Policy Think Tanks (11th in 2013)
• Acton Institute 29th in Top Think Tanks in the United States (34th in 2013)
• 11th in Best Advocacy Campaign (10th in 2013) for PoveryCure.org
• 17th in Best Think Tank Conference (17th in 2013) for Acton University

In its new report, the Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program noted that although the raw number of think tanks around the world has declined slightly, think tanks “continue to expand their role and influence in countries around the world.” The need for think tanks as key players for a flourishing civil society remains strong:

Across both developed and developing countries, governments and individual policymakers face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear in government decision-making. Policymakers need reliable, accessible, and useful information about the societies they govern. They also need to know how current policies are working, as well as possible alternatives and their likely costs and consequences. Although this need has long been an inherent dynamic of the policymaking process, the forces of globalization have accelerated the growth of independent think tanks given their unique ability to strengthen the research-policy bridge and increase the quality and effectiveness of policymaking. This expanding need has fostered the growth of independent public policy research organizations in 182 countries around the world.

Even as the scope and impact of think tanks’ work have expanded, their potential to support and sustain democratic governments and civil societies is far from exhausted. The challenge for the new millennium is to harness the vast reservoir of knowledge, information, and associational energy that exist in public policy research organizations to support self-sustaining economic, social, and political progress.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 22, 2015
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As Luis de Molina (1535-1600) writes in A Treatise on Money (forthcoming):

It is clearly evident that petty exchange is useful to the republic, as it is often that men need coins of a lesser value in order to buy the things they need daily, or to give alms, or for other such things in which the coinage of a higher value is of no use.

Source: AP

Source: AP

Bakers, florists, and photographers who refuse to use their creative talents to serve same-sex weddings have been fined and have had their business threatened because they refuse to violate their conscience. Many Americans—including many Christians—even argued that private business owners should be forced to violate their conscience when such practices are considered discriminatory.

But how far are they willing to defend their views? Would they, for instance, punish a baker for refusing to make a cake with anti-gay statements? As the AP reports:

A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.

But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.

Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver’s Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.

According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.

Let me start by making my own view on the subject clear: Whether the request was serious or a stunt done to make a political point, I find the viewpoint expressed to be loathsome. Assuming the words were indeed “hateful” they should have no association with a symbolic representation of the Christian faith. I also believe Ms. Silva should not be forced to use her creative skills in a way that violates her conscience.

However, the logic used to argue why only certain bakers should be forced to violate their conscience reveals a despicable double standard.
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Rule of law isn’t an attention-grabber. There are no celebrities touting social media campaigns for rule of law, no telethons with your favorite pop star to answer the phone and take your money, no website where you can buy t-shirts and water bottles to show your support. Most people don’t even know what “rule of law” means.

The rule of law, I think, is best understood by considering its opposite, which is the rule of men. The rule of men is when you have the rule of force, the rule of power, the rule of arbitrary, subjective opinion. The rule of law means that there are stable, reasonable laws that apply to everyone, regardless of their station in life.

When rule of law does not exist, the poor suffer. They cannot afford justice, because it comes at a very high price. International Justice Mission (IJM) works around the world to change this; every person deserves justice, regardless of their income, their religious beliefs, their nationality or any other category in which they may fit. First and foremost, every person is imbued with the dignity of our Creator and dignity demands justice.

In Bolivia, justice is hard to come by. IJM fought hard for one little girl.

In the Wall Street Journal, Acton Institute President and co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico discusses the pope’s recent comments. “If the pope got up and read the phone book, it would grab headlines,” Sirico quipped.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 22, 2015
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Here’s why your state may be expanding religious freedom protections this year
Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News

The rush to enforce same-sex marriage across the country may trigger state legislative efforts to enact local versions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Supporters say cultural changes make this necessary; opponents fear boycotts.

Bible colleges sue for right to issue degrees
John O’Connor, Associated Press

Bible colleges in Illinois have filed a federal lawsuit against state education regulators, seeking the unencumbered right to award degrees to students who complete their programs.

Should We Leave Our Children Inheritances?
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives Ministries

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children” (Proverbs 13:22). As a result, many Christians defend and justify leaving vast sums of wealth to their children and grandchildren. I think in order to understand the principle behind this verse, we need to compare what an inheritance meant in biblical times, versus what an inheritance means in this culture today.

The Latest Debate Over Catholic Social Thought
Gerald J. Russello, Crisis Magazine

Pope Francis’ statements about economics (and related questions, such as environmentalism and “fracking”) have caused much consternation among conservative Catholics in the United States. The Holy Father’s comments on the “greed” of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity historically seem without nuance at best, and ignorant at worst.