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

tkc1Christians colleges aren’t usually known for being on the cutting-edge of technology. But The King’s College, an evangelical college located in New York City, is leading the way by becoming the first accredited college in the United States to accept Bitcoin for tuition and other expenses:

“The King’s College seeks to transform society by preparing students for careers in which they help to shape and eventually to lead strategic public and private institutions. Allowing Bitcoin to be used to pay for a King’s education decreases our costs while simultaneously allowing our students to be a part of this exciting new technology,” said Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury, President of The King’s College.

Coin.co CEO Brendan Diaz added, “Over the past year, the Coin.co team has led the effort to enable U.S. colleges, universities and other major institutions to accept Bitcoin without incurring any currency risk. Coin.co is proud to be working with The King’s College, and to be a part of pioneering the use of Bitcoin for education.”

Before commenting on their adoption of cryptocurrency for tuition, let me express my admiration for TKC. I’m a fan of the school’s president, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury, and our friend and Acton contributor Dr. Anthony Bradley, who is a professor of theology and ethics at the school. I applaud the college for being savvy enough to accept Bitcoins—and would advise students to be savvy enough not to pay their tuition with them.

The reason, as I’ve pointed out before, is that Bitcoins are no longer completely fungible.

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The West has made some remarkable steps forward culturally in the past several generations, as, for instance, in the areas of civil rights (the unborn being a notable exception), race relations, and cooperation among Christians of different traditions. We shouldn’t indulge a false nostalgia that overlooks this progress. That being said, you can visit almost any major city in the free world today and find evidence of cultural decay on a host of fronts: malls dripping with images of sensuality and hedonism; girls from respectable, law abiding families dropped off at school dressed like prostitutes; boys sitting beside them in class able to pull up a world of pornography on their smartphones and often doing so; chronically high divorce rates; a plummeting number of homes with the biological father present; commercials telling you, implicitly or explicitly, to Obey Your Thirst; recreational drug abuse—on and on we could go.

The challenge extends even to what many of us would characterize as “good homes.” (more…)

Rev. Robert Sirico was recently on WSJ Live, talking to  Simon Constable about Pope Francis and his shakeup of Vatican finances:

dusk“We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance.” -Hans Urs von Balthasar

Last night, I took a brief bike ride through a nearby woods, an activity that’s become somewhat of a routine after the kids are in bed and my wife is at ease. After a long day at work and the rough-and-tumble that occurs upon arriving home, it serves as a brief respite before assuming the remaining tasks of the day.

But though it’s intended as a time of rest and prayer and wonder, I often give way to my more modernistic impulses, listening to a podcast or an audiobook through my iPhone to make every last second of my day “count” toward something “productive.”

Last night, I did just that. But as I came whizzing down the gravel path through one of the darker, more shaded areas of the woods, I suddenly spotted two deer — a mother and a fawn — standing right in the middle of the path. I slowed down, moving closer and closer before stopping just a yard or two away. I had expected the deer to run away, but to my surprise, neither did. I turned off my headlight and pulled my noisy headphones out of my ears, standing eerily close and looking them straight in the eyes for 30 or so long and stirring seconds. (more…)