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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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, August 28, 2015
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The 14th Amendment, Immigration, and Citizenship
The Claremont Institute

A heated national conversation about birthright citizenship and the 14th Amendment is currently underway, with many politicians, pundits, and scholars on both the Right and Left getting it wrong.

A Key to Increasing Economic Mobility
Ron Haskins, RealClearMarkets

The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) recently released an important and timely report on occupational licensing. The recommendations of “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers,” fit nicely with two growing realizations about jobs in the middle of the skill and wage distribution.

Slaying the Hydra: Can Virtue Heal the American Right?
Rachel Lu, Public Discourse

The modern administrative state and our militant secular culture are like two heads of a single hydra. To destroy the beast, we must deal with the monster in its totality.

Why this #BlackLivesMatter supporter opposes a minimum wage hike in St. Louis
Lydia DePillis, Washington Post

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French thinks the city needs to hang on to the jobs it already has.

Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, August 27, 2015
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Religious adopt Earth pledge
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

The national association for U.S. male religious has vowed more actions than words in taking up Pope Francis’ global call for protecting the planetary home, hoping their recently passed resolution will lead not only to eco-conscious changes in their own congregations, but will serve as a model for other Catholic institutions.

Pope’s encyclical cited as totem pole blessed on way to coal mines
Ed Langlois, National Catholic Reporter

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales got a roar of approval Monday when he told a packed Catholic church that he opposes new fossil fuel projects that would affect his city. The crowd of more than 400 at St. Philip Neri Church had convened for the blessing of a totem pole that residents of Washington state’s coastal Lummi Nation carved as a symbol of opposition to coal export facilities along the Columbia River.

Challenging the Climate Change Skeptics: Part 1
Martin J. Hodson and Margot R. Hodson, Ethics Daily

But there are also a growing number of activists who believe anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is real and human-induced. They take a variety of actions, including changes in personal lifestyle and campaigning.Skeptical politicians, industrialists, lobbyists, scientists and journalists are often influential and oppose the consensus on AGW in the face of overwhelming evidence.

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family_discipleship-hands-cutouts1The spate of Planned Parenthood videos raises many issues, one of which is the importance of nurturing the lives that we have had a hand in conceiving, adopting, and welcoming into our homes.

As we participate in the Economy of Love, nurturing discipleship will include biblically and theologically informed insights for parents as they express faith, hope, and love in welcoming children into God’s world. Thus, the following insights come from 35 years of parenting and pastoring in churches large and small, including plenty of financial and geographic upheaval and more divine grace than my wife and I deserve.

Our aim with our own children has been partnering with the Holy Trinity to make disciples that are neither anarchists nor automatons, but passionate and principled volitional followers of Christ. We are parents of adult children (ages 31, 28 and 25) and enjoy good relationships with each of them. They are each in different time zones and unique places in their journey, and they bring us no end of delight and concern. Recognizing the diversity of family circumstances and structures, these reflections are not culled from a one-size-fits-all-prescription-laden text.

Here are some thoughts for discipling parents in our communities. (more…)

john-oliver-churchIn 2004, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, famously appeared on CNN’s Crossfire and accused the hosts of “hurting America.” He excoriated the show’s hosts for being “partisan hacks” who suck up to politicians and spin the news for partisan ends. Stewart then spent the next ten years hurting America by being a partisan hack that sucked up to politicians and spun the news for partisan ends.

That so many Americans get their news from opinion shows on cable news like Crossfire has always been depressing. But even more disturbing is the fact that for years a relatively small number (about 12 percent) cited Stewart’s The Daily Show as a place they learned about what was going on in the world.

When Stewart and his show retired earlier this month, many of us sighed with relief. Finally, we thought, thirtysomething, college-educated liberals will be forced to turn somewhere else besides a third-rate comedy show to get their information about current events. Alas, that was not to be. Stewart passed the baton to his former correspondent John Oliver who has his own current events show on HBO called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

If you’ve been on social media in the past year you’ve likely seen one of your liberal friends post a clip from Oliver’s show. There’s nothing particularly insightful about Oliver, but he has a British accent which leads Americans to assume he’s intelligent and profound.

Earlier this month, Oliver did a segment on televangelists. He can be forgiven for being late to the topic since he was still a teenager in England when America got bored of talking about predatory preachers on television. The “prosperity gospel” frauds are still a problem, of course, and should be called out for it. But Oliver (or whoever writes for his teleprompter) isn’t really concerned about televangelists. The real goal of the segment is to promote the idea that the IRS should determine what is and is not a legitimate church.

To show how easy it is to form a “false” church, Oliver created his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, and asked for donations. As a comedy bit it’s pretty lame; as a critique of government oversight of religion it’s downright idiotic.
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What is the purpose of money? Is it for our survival? For our status, significance, or success? Is it for the service of ourselves or for the service of others?

In a talk for the Oikonomia Network, theologian Darrell Bock sets out to answer the question, drawing from the numerous treatments of money in the book of Luke — from the rich fool and Lazarus’ wealthy neighbor to Zacchaeus and the widow’s mite.

“Money is to be surrendered into stewardship,” he says, “because that is the way God has designed not just the resources that he gives us; that’s the way he’s designed our very lives.”

Money is ultimately about a stewardship of managing the creation in which God has placed us. It’s for others, and it’s for Him…It’s a stewardship that serves and leads to flourishing, and we are all stewards, every one of us. It’s a surrender to Christ. It’s a surrender to others. And it’s a surrender to the divine design. It’s a commitment not to serve the self, and it’s a commitment not to use other people as currency…

Yes, money does make the world go around, but we drive that bus. And it’s not the money that’s the agent of change; we are the agents of change. So how do we make money that matters? We don’t make money the old fashioned way, by earning it for ourselves. We make money useful the divine way, by stewarding it so that others can flourish and be developed, and by generating value for those who are around us.

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