baby1I love babies. And because I love babies, I love economic growth. I’ve explained that connection several times on this blog already, but there is another oft-overlooked way that economic growth helps babies.

In the early 1900s, there were more babies than parents could feed. Illegitimate infants suffered high rates of mortality from murder (usually by the mother) or neglect (as wards of the state). Today, a hundred years later, the situation is drastically different. As Megan McCardle notes, adoptable infants are so rare that parents wait years and pay tens of thousands of dollars to get one. What explains the change?

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[Part 1 of 12 here]

In the 1950s and ‘60s, blacks were winning the civil rights they should have had all along, but in the midst of this positive trend, increasingly aggressive minimum wage regulations and extensive welfare programs were beginning to displace a comparatively free market of labor and private charity. The communities flooded with this state-sponsored mode of redistributive justice now face far higher levels injustice in the form of unpunished crimes and community breakdown than before the redistributive justice arrived.

So, for instance, (more…)

This morning, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico took some time away from his preparations for Acton University to speak with Jim Engster, host of The Jim Engster Show on WRKF radio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discussing how to address the issue of poverty in society, and the approach taken by Pope Francis and the church in general to that and other issues. They also discussed the problems with the ObamaCare model of health-care reform, among other issues. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.

Rise-and-DeclineThere is an informative podcast on a new book titled The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom over at the Library of Law and Liberty. The author, Steven D. Smith, is the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego and Co-Executive Director of the USD Institute for Law and Religion. Smith challenges the popular notion that American religious freedom was merely an enlightenment revolt from European Christendom and was meant to uplift a secular interpretation of the First Amendment.

Smith will be a guest writer over at their blog for the month of July. Below is an excerpt from the description of the podcast:

Our conversation begins with the history of the ratification of the First Amendment. What do we make of the fact that the religion clauses were scarcely debated in the Congress that approved them? Smith argues that this should dissolve any notion that a grand constitutional moment occurred and that gave us the religion clauses as “articles of faith” in secularism. We discuss Smith’s view that the lack of debate owed to an existing consensus that wanted to prevent the national government establishing a national church while the states would continue their established churches, in some cases, and other lesser forms of religious influence in their laws. Contrary, Smith argues, to a national standard of religious freedom or secularism, the constitutional course was “contestation” or an ongoing conflict between religious and secular claims. Thus the Court’s separationist jurisprudence of mid twentieth century, Smith discusses, was a departure from original understanding of religious liberty and its practice for most of our history.

Smith also discusses and disputes the view that American religious freedom is an outcome of the Enlightenment. His controversial claim is that it is a recovery of a key concept of Western civilization, freedom of the church, and, its later Protestant development, freedom of the “inner church” or conscience. Recovery is here stressed because it was modern political development, Smith notes, that had subordinated the church to the state and to be stripped of institutional freedom.

Listen to the podcast:

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briberyThere’s an old saying that corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency. That combination makes state-level governments especially prone to the temptations of corruption.

A new study in Public Administration Review, “The Impact of Public Officials’ Corruption on the Size and Allocation of U.S. State Spending,” looks at the impact of government corruption on states’ expenditures. Defining corruption as the “misuse of public office for private gain,” the authors of the paper note that public and private corruption can have a range of negative effects, including lower-quality work, reduced economic productivity, and increased poverty.

According to Leighton Walter Kille, the researchers explored two possible theories: First, higher levels of corruption should cause states’ spending levels to be higher than they would be otherwise. Second, corruption would distort states’ spending priorities in ways that favor bribes from private firms and others. Some of the findings include:
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It’s no secret that family dysfunction leads to many societal problems. Whether it’s addiction, abuse, financial issues, lack of educational support or simply distrustful or demeaning conditions, unhealthy family issues take their toll. One of the roots of human trafficking is unhealthy family situations.

The Urban Institute, through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, has completed a comprehensive study of human trafficking in seven U.S. cities. A law enforcement official from Washington, D.C. (one of the cities in the study) discusses how broken families contribute to human trafficking:

When they [pimps] start recruiting, especially with young girls, pretty much what they do is go and give the girls an ear … and the girls end up telling them, “I am having this problem at home, my mama is doing this, and my dad is not doing that.” And they will just figure out what is going on with this girl and they will fill that void. At first they might not even approach her with the prostitution or anything like that. They just want to take her and shower her with what she is missing: gifts, attention or whatever. Once he gets her away from her family and it has been some time, he will eventually approach her and be like, “Take care of my man for me.” And he might ease her into it or he will tell her, “Baby, we cannot live here for free. There are bills that need to get paid and everything, you need to start contributing.” Well, of course she does not know how to contribute so he tells her she can do it for a short period of time, we can get this money and then we can go get this big house or whatever and they will go for it.

PBS Newshour recently interviewed Meredith Dank is the lead author of the report and a senior research associate at The Urban Institute.

Read the entire study from The Urban Institute here.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, June 16, 2014
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Understanding God’s Love: A Primer on Mercy and Justice
Eduardo Echeverria, Crisis Magazine

The question here is how we avoid both despair when confronted with the gravity of our sins, on the one hand, and a sentimental view of God and of his love, on the other.

Catholics & Capitalism
Roger Kimball, PJ Media

Here’s the bottom line: Capitalism is the greatest engine for the production of wealth the ingenuity of man has ever invented. Are you interested in helping the poor? Embrace capitalism.

Crony Capitalism Kicks Off the World Cup
Catherine Addington, The American Conservative

Crony capitalism looks a little different when the corruption in question is pervading a stateless conglomerate. But government cooperation, internal politics, and the casual passing of millions of dollars are looking all-too-familiar as one of the world’s largest bureaucracies takes center stage with the 2014 World Cup kicking off in São Paulo, Brazil today.

European Court Faults Russia For Dissolving Pentecostal Church
Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Biblical Centre of the Chuvash Republic v. Russia, (ECHR 1st Section, June 12, 2014), the European Court of Human Rights in a Chamber Judgment held that Russia violated Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) interpreted in light of Art. 11