What does the Acton University experience have to offer a newly-graduated college student? Thomas Wheeler, from Minnesota, attended AU 2013 on recommendation from his dad. In this podcast, Wheeler talks about how the message of human dignity that he heard at Acton University has informed his life choices. Enjoy the discussion.
UN Attacks Catholic Teaching Under the Pretext of Protecting Children
Anne Hendershott, Crisis Magazine
In their continuing quest to marginalize the influence of the Catholic Church on the culture war issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is attempting to resurrect yet again the moral panic surrounding exaggerated claims of clerical sexual abuse.
In Defense of the Christian Private School Bubble
Andrea Palpant Dilley, Christianity Today
Giving parents grace in a complex educational landscape.
How Obamacare Hurts The Poor
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist
Encouraging dependence and discouraging work.
Why Extreme Poverty Will Not Always Be with Us
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
There are many reasons to be hopeful that we will stamp out extreme poverty in our lifetimes – and this is the first time in human history that we have been able to make this claim. Once we stamp out extreme poverty, then we can focus on how to bring about ever-increasing levels of flourishing for the least advantaged across the world.
In the book A Conflict Of Visions, Thomas Sowell explains that progressives look for the cause of crime because they believe human beings to be essentially good and not prone to self-interest or moral failings. For progressives, “It is hard to understand how anyone would commit a terrible crime without some special cause at work, if only blindness,” observes Sowell.
Progressives “see human nature as itself adverse to crime, and society as undermining this natural aversion through its own injustices, insensitivities, and brutality.” In other words, criminals are not responsible for their actions. We have to find some external cause to make sense of why anyone would commit a deviant act. For the millennial generation, raised in a therapeutic culture, when they commit crimes the ultimate culprit is usually one class of people: their parents.
It’s not that “the devil made me do it.” No, that would be too simplistic and supernatural. Today, it’s “my parents made me do it.” This progressive vision of human nature is so injurious that it is perverting our justice system. For example, in a recent Texas court case a 17-year-old student who caused the death of several people while driving drunk was given probation because he was too “coddled.” Leigh Jones at World Magazine summarizes the case:
During a meeting in a restaurant with two officials from the Ford Administration — Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — a young economist sketched a curve on a napkin to illustrate an argument he was making. Arthur Laffer was explaining to the policymakers the concept of taxable income elasticity—i.e., taxable income will change in response to changes in the rate of taxation.
By 1974, the idea was already ancient. Ibn Khaldun, a 14th century Muslim philosopher, wrote in his work The Muqaddimah: “It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments.” John Maynard Keynes had made the same point in 1933. But for American politicians the idea that people change their behavior based on rates of taxation seemed revolutionary, so the concept became popularized as “The Laffer Curve.”
A few weeks ago I asked why natural law arguments more persuasive. Natural law advocates intend for such argument to persuade both believers and non-believers, so how do they account for the relative ineffectualness of such arguments? Why don’t more people find them to be persuasive?
In response to my question (as well as questions and criticisms from others), Sherif Girgis proffered a defense and explanation:
Yes. Over the last few years, my coauthors and I have heard from many saying we had convinced them to join the marriage debate by showing them its value (and giving them the moral vocabulary and syntax to discuss it); from others who decided to retire this or that contrary argument; and from still others who switched to our side of the issue. These have included non-Catholics, non-Christians, agnostics, even a prominent former Marxist thinker. We have often remarked, channeling Chesterton, that the argument for marriage has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found (we’d say feared) difficult and left untried.
Then where are the mass conversions? We freely admit that moral philosophy can’t produce them. It doesn’t convert en masse, because evaluating its arguments takes sustained attention. It requires holding several pieces together; discerning subtle patterns; and generating and testing alternatives by turns, in an always-unfinished process. Philosophy is famously better at knocking down than building up; even the strongest of its affirmative conclusions do not overpower but invite, suggest, recommend. And by itself, philosophy tugs so softly at the imagination and senses that it can pull the head before the heart, leaving readers not so much moved as divided.
Girgis adds that while natural law arguments may not sway the masses, it may change the thinking of the influential elites:
The National Prayer Breakfast, a D.C.-event going back to 1953, was held this morning. The keynote was USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and President Obama added remarks. Obama chose to focus on religious freedom, calling it a matter of “national security,” and commenting that he was looking forward to his trip to the Vatican next month to meet with Pope Francis.
Obama also said,
Yet even as our faith sustains us, it’s also clear that around the world freedom of religion is under threat. And that is what I want to reflect on this morning. We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love. Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God. Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.
Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently wrote a special report, Finally, a Conservative Leader over at The American Spectator. Last year, a reporter asked Gregg who the current “outstanding center-right head of government” is. He responded that Margaret Thatcher was his first thought, though Australian Prime Minister “Tony Abbott is the real thing like no one since Margaret Thatcher.” He goes on, “thus far Abbott has matched his open adherence to distinctly conservative convictions by implementing policies that reflect those principles.”
Gregg discusses Abbott further:
Elected prime minister in September last year, Abbott is in many respects the left’s nightmare come true. For one thing, he’s a practicing Catholic, who, though he doesn’t draw attention to his faith, is generally associated in people’s minds with the Church’s conservative wing. Among other brickbats, that’s earned him (rather sectarian) epithets such as the “mad monk.”