acton-commentary-blogimage“Whenever government assumes a greater role in a societal or cultural debate, expect both intended and unintended consequences,” says Zack Pruitt in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriage a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment will generate huge conflicts – in some cases unforeseen – with the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.”

Until this constitutional showdown is ultimately decided, the campaign on the part of some same-sex marriage advocates to vigorously go after religious people and institutions that do not actively support same-sex marriage will intensify. In their orthodox versions, none of the teachings of the three major faiths in the United States (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) condone same-sex marriage, so there will be a myriad of legal challenges in lower courts against those institutions once same-sex couples are inevitably denied marriage vows by them.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

As American prepare to celebrate the 239th anniversary of the founding of our nation, enjoy this rendition of “American the Beautiful.” Performed by the choir of Hillsdale College, under the direction of James A. Holleman and Debra Wyse, it is both a visual and musical reminder of why so many of us dearly love our nation.

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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Debate: Has the world improved in the last 60 years?
Max Roser

At the Oxford Martin School I debated with Anders Sandberg from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and Robert Walker from the University’s Social Policy department whether we achieved to build a better world.

Programme of the Pope’s trip to Cuba and the U.S.A. and his visit to the United Nations
Vatican Information Service

The Pope will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 10 a.m. on Saturday 19 September and is expected to arrive at 4.05 p.m. in Havana, Cuba, where the welcome ceremony will take place. On Sunday 20 September he will celebrate Holy Mass in Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana and will pay a courtesy visit to the president of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers of the Republic in the Palace of the Revolution. Later he will celebrate Vespers in the Cathedral with priests, men and women religious, and seminarians, and will subsequently greet the young in the Fr. Felix Varela Cultural Centre.

The Theological Mind of Laudato Si’
Eduardo Echeverra, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

In this article, I consciously refrain from considering the parts of Pope Francis’s new Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’ (hereafter LS) that have been the most contentiously received, namely: his views of a free market system, the nature and extent of the ecological crisis, the science of climate change, Francis’s alleged anti-modernism, and apocalyptic view of history, and so forth. I am concerned that the reception of this encyclical threatens to miss the forest for the trees, as it were. Hence, my approach to the encyclical is to consider the theological mind that informs its framework.

Vatican hosts conference on ‘the imperative to change course’ on the environment
Catholic World News

“The COP21 conference for climate change (Paris, 30 November to 11 December 2015) will be crucial in identifying strong solutions for climate change,” stated Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, whose remarks were read out at the conference. “The political dimension needs to re-establish democratic control over the economy and finance, that is, over the basic choices made by human societies.”

Cardinal Turkson addresses UN meeting on climate change
Vatican Radio

The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, conveyed the greetings and encouragement of Pope Francis, and drew attention to the new Papal encyclical on ecology, Laudato si’. Listen to the full address by Cardinal Turkson:

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Bridge-building-w-cranesThe state of Michigan is in the midst of something of an infrastructure crisis. We’re consistently ranked as among the states with the worst roads in the nation, something of an embarrassment for what used to be the automotive capital of the US. This infrastructure challenge is also no doubt part of a legacy of a state with one of the more troubled economies in the nation over the previous decade. (In spite of all this, Michigan remains a beautiful state with wonderful people, something Thrillist noted in recently ranking the Mitten state as the best state in America!)

To President Obama’s quip about infrastructure to business leaders, “You didn’t build that,” one might be tempted to retort that, in Michigan at least, that’s also increasingly true for the government. The roads aren’t being maintained in anything like a responsible fashion.

The voters of Michigan recently defeated Proposal 1, which was put forth by the state’s politicians as the only feasible solution. The voters actually saw it for what it was: a game of brinkmanship and blame-shifting. The defeat of Prop 1 put the onus back on the elected politicians to actually do their job and undertake the tough work of governing.

There have been a number of other ideas floated after the end of Prop 1, and part of that overhaul of our state’s approach to infrastructure investment and maintenance includes debate over so-called “prevailing” wage laws that require “union-scale wages and benefits on public construction contracts.”
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kindness-heart-image-orgspringSurely, there is not one social conservative or conservative Christian that has not been shaken by the events in our nation over the last week or two. It seems as if everything we know and believe to be true has been cast aside and trampled upon. Should we take the Benedict option? The Buckley option? Should we just put our heads down and go quietly about our lives, hoping no one notices us?

The New York Times’ David Brooks has an idea worth pondering. First, he says (as have many others), we must realize we live in a post-Christian culture. (I think most of us have gotten this point, loud and clear.) Perhaps though, Brooks opines, we are now in a post-cultural war culture as well. It’s over – at least to a point.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

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“We view autism as one of our key competitive advantages,” says Tom D’Eri of Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Florida, which employs 43 employees, 35 of which are on the autism spectrum. “Our employees follow processes, they’re really excited to be here, [and] they have a great eye for detail.”

Hear more of their story here:

Among adults with autism, the unemployment rate is around 90%, and yet, if you were to ask D’Eri, whose brother has autism, the market is simply not recognizing the enormous potential and unique gifts these people possess. “Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes, and attention to detail,” he says. “So we saw that there are really important skills that people with autism have that make them, in some cases, the best employees you could have.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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9 Bastiat Quotes for his 214th Birthday
Amelia Hamilton, The Stream

Exactly 214 years ago this Tuesday, Claude Frederic Bastiat was born. Before his death just 49 years later, his work on political theory and economics would make him a leader in both fields. We now remember him as a father of the Austrian and libertarian schools of thought.

Obama Plans to Expand Overtime Eligibility for Millions
Mike Dorning, Bloomberg Business

The Obama administration plans to raise the wages of millions of Americans who work more than 40 hours a week by requiring their employers to pay them overtime.

The Poverty of the Prosperity Gospel
Vaneetha Rendall, Desiring God

When we assert that pain-free lives are God’s reward for the righteous, we insinuate to the wounded that their problems are of their own making.

Improving mobility for our kids: Starting early is key
Aparna Mathur, AEI

While there is no one statistical database that would capture all of these effects, it is clear that what matters for children’s mobility is parent’s income, family structure and geography. Here are the numbers.

frederic-bastiat-john-lToday is the 214th birthday of Frederick Bastiat, one of the greatest political and economic thinkers of the 19th century. Bastiat, a farmer turned politician and pamphleteer, had a inimitable gift for explaining economic and political concepts in way that make them not only understandable but seem downright commonsensical.

Bastiat, as Charles Kaupke notes, drew on his Catholic faith and the writings of Adam Smith and John Locke to articulate a vision of limited, efficient government that respects each citizen’s God-given dignity. And as Religion and Liberty adds,

He typified that rare breed of liberal who holds a deep and powerful belief in a personal and transcendent God, and who incorporates this belief in a wide ranging social philosophy centering on the proposition that when left alone society will most clearly display the wisdom and intent of the Creator.

A particular concept of Bastiat’s that has profoundly influenced my thinking is the idea that God arranged the social world. “I believe that He Who arranged the material world,” wrote Bastiat, “was not to remain foreign to the arrangements of the social world.” I wholeheartedly agree. That is why I never tire of arguing about how God created such economic phenomena as the price system and comparative advantage in order to coordinate human flourishing.

There are dozens of ideas in his writings like this one that are worthy of close attention, but here are four particularly important concepts of Bastiat’s that you should know:
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greekbanks_3357117bWhat’s going on in Greece?

Greece is defaulting on a key debt owed to the international community—and the Greek government is putting the question of whether the country will default on even more government debt up for a popular vote this week.

How did Greece get into such a financial mess?

Too much debt. For the past twenty years the government of Greece has spent more than it has collected in taxes.

Wait, that can’t be all there is to it. The U.S. does the same thing, doesn’t it?

Yes, but the U.S. is a rich country with a good credit rating while Greece is not.

A good way to measure a country’s debt is to compare it to its GDP. The United States deficit averaged -3.03 percent of GDP from 1948 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 4.60 percent of GDP in 1948 and a record low of -12.10 percent in 2009 (low is bad). Greece averaged -7.19 percent of GDP from 1995 until 2014, reaching an all time high of -3.20 percent of GDP in 1999 and a record low of -15.70 percent of GDP in 2009. In other words, Greece spends about twice as much (as a percentage of its GDP) as does the U.S.

Let’s imagine two countries—Greece and the U.S.—as if they were persons: GDP would be the person’s “income”; the deficit would be “additional credit card debt”; and interest on the deficit would be like “interest on a credit card.”

The U.S. has a high income (16.7 trillion a year) and every year adds about 3 percent to the total it owes the credit card companies (the national debt). No one is too worried that the U.S. will default on its loans so the credit card companies give them a low interest rate (2.43 percent).

Greece, on the other hand, has a relatively modest income (242 billion, or 1/70 the size of U.S GDP) and adds a lot more to its debt every year (7 percent). Greece has a low credit score (i.e., the credit card companies aren’t sure Greece will pay off its debt) and so is charged a high interest rate (about 15 percent).

Now Greece is refusing to pay its creditors, causing financial turmoil throughout Europe.

If Greece is such a small economy why does it really matter if they default?
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Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
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Matt Ridley on Climate Change
Russ Roberts, Library of Economics and Liberty

Science writer and author Matt Ridley discusses climate change with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Based on his reading of the scientific evidence, Ridley describes himself as a “lukewarmer.” While Ridley agrees that humans have made the climate warmer, he argues that the impact is small or positive over some temperature ranges and regions. He rejects the catastrophic scenarios that some say are sufficiently likely to justify dramatic policy responses, and he reflects on the challenges of staking out an unpopular position on a contentious policy issue.

Pope in US to meet with homeless, prisoners and immigrants
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Pope Francis will meet with homeless people, immigrants and prisoners during his upcoming trip to Cuba and the United States. He’ll also preside over a meeting about religious liberty – a major issue for the U.S. Catholic Church in the wake of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision.

Dalai Lama Endorses Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change
Cole Mellino, EcoWatch

The Tibetan spiritual leader also spoke about the need to end war, calling the concept of war “outdated.” The Dalai Lama said we need to shift our focus to launch a global effort to tackle climate change. “Countries think about their own national interest rather than global interests and that needs to change because the environment is a global issue.”

Thousands Take to Rome’s Streets to Echo Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action Thousands Take to Rome’s Streets to Echo Pope Francis’ Call for Climate Action
Hoda Baraka, 350.org

The celebratory march was animated by a musical band, a climate choir and colourful public artwork designed by artists from Italy and other countries, whose work played a major role in the People’s Climate March in New York City last September. Among the artwork was a 75-meter sign in the shape of a green leaf, with verses from Scripture which speak to God’s care for creation and for the poor.

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