innovation educationIt is not often that Sojourners president Jim Wallis puts forth ideas that align with those of the Acton Institute. However, in a recent interview, Wallis (touting his new book, Uncommon Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided) said that he recognizes that there are three keys to ending poverty: work and economic activity, innovation, education. He also says his hometown of Detroit has a big lesson to teach us:

Detroit shows that the government isn’t enough,” said Wallis. “The book talks about how we’ve got to talk about the common good as societal ethic which means our congregations, our neighborhood organizations, our non-profits, the private sector … and government.”

What Wallis is talking about, of course, is subsidiarity: the tenet of Catholic social teaching that says the smallest and closest entity to a problem should be the one to take care of the situation. A family raises a child, not the state. A school board decides curriculum, not the national government. Wallis wants to split issues and ideas into “conservative” and “liberal” camps, but really there are only good ideas and bad ones. For instance, he says personal responsibility is a “conservative” fix for poverty, and “social responsibility: taking care of not just ourselves but taking care of each other” is a “liberal” idea. Yet both of these are part of subsidiarity: we take care of ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities. (more…)

long-term-unemploymentThe longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being. A recent Gallup survey found that about one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression.

Gallup finds that unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely to say they currently have or are being treated for depression than both those with full-time jobs and those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are currently 3.4 million people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. These individuals accounted for 34.6 percent of all the unemployed.

A 2011 study of the long-term unemployed published by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University also found that half of participants experienced shame and embarrassment that led them to isolate themselves from friends and associates. Among the long-term unemployed, 31.1 percent reported spending two hours or less with family or friends the previous day, versus 21.5 percent among short-term unemployed adults.

Long-term unemployment is not just a mental health crisis; it’s also a spiritual crisis. And the church is the only institution in American that can adequately respond. “Fortunately, the church is in a unique place to explain Christ’s restoration of work,” says Michael Jahr, “the meaning of suffering, and the hope and peace that result from putting our trust in him.”
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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Minimum Wage Hikes Make Labor a Luxury Good
Andrew Woodman, The Federalist

Don’t force companies to choose between hiring more employees at inflated wages and developing new products or instituting new safety measures.

9 Things You Should Know About Surrogacy
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Last week, the issue of surrogacy returned to the news when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation allowing for legal surrogacy births. Here are nine things you should know about surrogacy.

Contraception, Rights, and Total State Control
James V. Schall, S.J., Catholic World Report

Charles E. Rice’s new book argues that once absolute relativism is established as the state “religion” there is no limit to what the state can and will do.

What’s the Point of the Church Fighting Poverty?
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

If God became man and came to earth to meet us in our physical nature, if he healed the sick and the blind, then it must mean his redemptive work is for all of creation, not just our individual souls.

baby girl ultrasoundThat’s the question raised by Slate writer Emily Bazelon. The premise Ms. Bazelon puts forth is that the growing movement to make sex-selective abortions illegal in the U.S. is based on racial biases towards Asians, who come from cultures where sex-selective abortions are most common. Bazelon states,

The International Human Rights Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum are publishing a new study that exposes banning abortion based on sex-selection for what it is: a way to restrict abortion, not to combat gender discrimination. The study looks at a large and recent data set (called the American Community Survey) and concludes that foreign-born Asian-Americans and Indians don’t have birth rates that skew toward boys. Actually, “Asian Americans have more girls than white Americans.” So much for a “widespread” suspect ethnic practice.

More truth-busting bits from the study: India and China aren’t the worst places in the world for skewed sex ratios at birth. That distinction goes to Liechtenstein and Armenia, followed by Hong Kong and Azerbaijan. Also, after Illinois and Pennsylvania banned abortion for sex-selection in 1984 and 1989, the ratios of boy to girl babies didn’t change—in other words, the law had none of the effect for which it was supposedly intended.

(more…)

Did ‘Social Business’ Sink the Cardboard Bike?

Did ‘Social Business’ Sink the Cardboard Bike?

Jonathan Witt, research fellow at Acton, recently wrote a piece at The Federalist about “social business.” He argues that it might do more good to own and operate an ethical business that follows through on its contracts and “respects the dignity of employees and customers,” rather than trying to have a “social business.” Witt begins by talking about a cardboard bike. In 2012, Izhar Gafni became relatively famous by creating a sturdy cardboard bike that could be sold to the poorest around the world for $20. After two years and unsuccessful Indiegogo campaign, this potentially revolutionary project has failed to go anywhere. Witt argues that “social business” is to blame:

After talking up the virtues of a “social business model,” the start-up behind the bike, Cardboard Technologies, expended considerable energy trying to raising capital from Indiegogo donors uninterested in profit. The lack of a profit motive may have played a role. It also didn’t help that the price of the bike kept shifting—from $20 to $290 to $95 plus $40 shipping. Would-be investors had to wonder: Was the bike going to have a revolutionary everyman price, or wasn’t it?

CEO Nimrod Elmish tried to explain, saying the bicycle’s price will fluctuate depending on where you live, costing more for buyers in wealthy countries and nothing for those in developing countries. “We want to bring a social business model that will make [it] available to all,” Fortune quoted him as saying. “We don’t have a price tag, we have a value tag.”

(more…)

Bible-and-NewspaperDo you know the name of the author and publisher of the Book of Ephesians? Do all Mormons practice polygamy? What about the two major branches of Islam?

Apparently, many journalists don’t know the answers to these questions either. (That first one was a real question asked by a journalist to Michael Cromartie, of the D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center.) Given how much religion informs the lives of most people on the planet, and our news, it is a bit astounding to realize that most journalists are only vaguely familiar with religions and religious topics, unless that is their “beat.” The Ethics and Public Policy Center is trying to help close the gap in knowledge for reporters by hosting a series of conferences (entitled the Faith Angle Forum) on faith and media.

Largely the brain-child of Cromartie, the conferences aim to bring together journalists and religious experts, creating what he calls “robust dialogue.” (more…)

AnthazShopIndiaFreedom to practice one’s faith and be a person of faith can be instrumental in enabling the poor to achieve some modicum of social and economic freedom, says Rebecca Shah:

Religion is no panacea, but aspects of religion can activate certain practices and partnerships among its adherents that can motivate and encourage economic development. If modern economics continues to yield an understanding of human development that ignores the role of religion, governments and development institutions will persist in acting as “one-eyed giants” who “analyze, prescribe, and act as if man could live by bread alone, as if human destiny could be stripped to its material dimensions alone” (“Development Experts: The One-Eyed Giants” in World Development). According to human development theorist Denis Goulet, development is more human and fuller when people are called to “be more” rather than simply to “have more.” There can be “authentic development” only when there is a “societal openness to the deepest levels of mystery and transcendence,” and when this yearning for mystery and transcendence is recognized and satisfied.

Read more . . .