10 commandmentsRabbi Benjamin Blech, Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, reminds us that the 10 Commandments are not only relevant in our world, but needed more than ever. Writing at aish.com, Rabbi Blech says the Commandments are both universal and timeless.

The first Commandment is “I am the Lord your God.” (Yes, I know that there is a bit of a difference in the numbering of the Commandments between Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Since this is a Jewish author, we’ll go with his numbering.) Rabbi Blech tells us that in a world of “selfies,” this Commandment is more relevant than ever.

The aggrandizement of self, the preoccupation with ego, the narcissism of our generation needs above all to be reminded that “it’s not all about you.”

No moral system can be based solely on concern with the self. If man is the sole arbiter of goodness then evil will always be rationalized as necessary for personal pleasure and privilege.

As Dostoyevsky so perceptively put it, “Without God, all is permissible.”

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enterprisezoneBarack Obama calls them Promise Zones while Rand Paul calls them Freedom Zones. But when they were first proposed they were called Enterprise Zones.

In the 1980s, then-congressman and self-described “bleeding-heart conservative” Jack Kemp became the first lawmaker to popularize enterprise zones, which he supported to foster entrepreneurship and job creation. Enterprise Zone policies attempt to incentivize businesses to locate within their borders—usually in blighted urban areas—by offering targeted benefits to particular industries and companies. These benefits come in many forms, including business tax credits for investments, property tax abatements, and reductions in the sales tax.

There’s a couple of problems with enterprise zones, though. There’s no evidence they work. And worse, they encourage and perpetuate cronyism.

As a new paper by Christopher J. Coyne and Lotta Moberg of the Mercatus Center explains, “Despite good intentions, policymakers often overlook the unseen and unintended negative consequences of targeted-benefit policies.” One of these unintended negative consequences is increased cronyism, the practice of exchanging favors between powerful people in politics and business:

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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, June 2, 2014
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Atheists lose latest legal fight over ‘In God We Trust’
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Atheists lost their case against the “In God We Trust” motto on the nation’s currency Wednesday (May 28). It’s a battle they have lost several times before, as court after court has affirmed that printing and engraving the country’s motto on its money does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

In New Orleans, major school district closes traditional public schools for good
Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post

An all-charter district signals the dismantling of the central school bureaucracy and a shift of power to dozens of independent school operators, who will assume all the corresponding functions: the authority to hire and fire teachers and administrators, maintain buildings, run buses and provide services to special-needs students.

Only 1 in 10 workers had to be licensed in 1970. Today it’s closer to 1 in 3
Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox

Be honest: the last time you got your nails done or toilet repaired, did you ask your manicurist or plumber what kind of license they had?

Church-State Clash in China Coalesces Around a Toppled Spire
Ian Johnson, New York Times

“People are stunned,” said one member of the congregation, who asked that she be identified only by her English name, Mabel, out of fear of government reprisals. “They have completely lost faith in the local religious authorities.”

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Like many people, I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Maya Angelou this week. Her voice – both her speaking voice and her literary one – were unique, rich and resonant. I’ve always wondered if God did not grant her such a special voice in order to make up for all the years she didn’t speak, the story she recounts in her classic, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

I had the great fortune of hearing Ms. Angelou speak in person a number of years ago. I still have the notes from that evening. One thing she said was that each of us was a teacher: we were all teaching those around us by the way we lived our lives. She challenged us to make sure that we were good teachers, to show others what it meant to live a good life. It is safe to say that she herself was a good teacher.

Michael Hyatt does a nice job of summarizing some of the most important lessons Maya Angelou taught us. First, she taught us that faith in God was the source of courage:

When I found that … I was a child of God,” Angelou told an interviewer about her faith, “when I understood that, when I comprehended that … when I internalized that, I became courageous. I dared to do anything that was a good thing.”

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Because jobs can serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and communities, they are the most important part of a morally functioning economy. Workers dropping out of the labor force because they’ve grown discouraged is therefore one of the most pressing moral and economic issues in America today. Sadly, it is also one of the most overlooked.

Today, the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released some stats showing the shocking decline in the male participation in the labor force, particularly men between the ages of 25-54:

Record 1 In 8 American Men In Their Prime Working Years Are Not In The Labor Force_0.preview

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According to the committee members:

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The Acton Institute is proud to sponsor the latest symposium in Econ Journal Watch: “Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?”

EJWEJW editor Daniel B. Klein introduces the theme in a fine Prologue, in which he writes, “our focus is the enrichment of economics: Is economics suffering from an undue flatness? If so, why is that happening? If economics needs an infusion of richer concepts, what are some of the richer concepts? Also, if economics needs an infusion, for what purposes is it that such infusion is needed? What purposes is economics trying, but failing, to serve, because it lacks richer concepts?”

Robin Klay of Hope College and an executive board member of our own Journal of Markets & Morality opens the symposium with a survey of the landscape on these questions with her contribution, “Where Do Economists of Faith Hang Out? Their Journals and Associations, plus Luminaries Among Them.”

EJW has put together another 17 response essays, in which luminaries in their own right weigh in on the theme from a variety of religious and methodological perspectives. Browse this issue of EJW and download the entire issue for your own perusal as well.

And for more reflection on the intersection of theology and economics, be sure to check out the Journal of Markets & Morality. The archived issues are open access, and to get the latest two issues in either digital or hardcopy format, you can get a subscription for yourself or recommend it to a colleague or institutional library. Last month I also lectured at the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on “A Match Made in Heaven: Why Theology and Economics Need Each Other,” with a substantive and engaging response and discussion afterwards with Stephen Long of Marquette University.

vergara-californiaNine California kids are suing their state over substandard teaching at their public schools. Campbell Brown explains why this case—which few people have ever heard of—may have a huge impact on education:

Win or lose, these students are reminding us of the activism that is born out of the inaction of our leaders and the frustration driven by inequity in education. Children and parents have resorted to acting on their own, finding inspiration in desperation.

Their fight stems from a basic belief that access to highly qualified teachers should be fair and widespread, that classroom safety is paramount, and that equity remains essential.

Vergara v. California takes aim at laws that go directly to the heart of a good education: the ability to have, keep, and respect good teachers and dismiss utterly failing ones. Specifically, the suit challenges California laws that create three sets of problems, all of them undermining a school’s ability to act in the best interest of students.

Read more . . .