soil-stewardship-sundayDuring the drought that struck the United States from 1934 to 1937, the soil became so badly eroded that static electricity built up on the farmlands of the Great Plains, pulling dust into the sky like a magnet. Massive clouds of dust rose up to 10,000 feet and, powered by high-altitude winds, was pushed as far east as New York City.

When the “black blizzard” hit Washington, D.C. in May 1934, Hugh Hammond Bennett — the “father of soil conservation” — was testifying before a congressional committee about the effects of soil erosion. Bennett’s testimony lead Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority.

But fixing soil erosion was not something the government could do on its own. As the National Association of Conservation Districts explains, “Because nearly three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts.”
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pollution-cleanedAlthough Earth Day 2016 has officially ended, the call for Christians to care for the Earth continues. For us, every day is Earth day.

Too often, though, we Christians don’t have a robust enough understanding of how to care for the environment or how that duty is connected to economics.

A decade ago, Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor wrote the best, brief explanation you’ll ever find on the connection between economics and environmental stewardship. As Ballor says, economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics.
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, April 25, 2016
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What if the one percent actually help poor people live longer?
Angela Rachidi, AEI Ideas

Bernie Sanders has done well in the Democratic primary race with his populist message against Wall Street and the 1%. But what if poor people actually benefit from living in a city with a lot of rich people?

Licensing Laws Are Shutting Young People Out Of The Job Market
Ben Casselman, FiveThirtyEight

Young people entering the job market have always faced challenges: a lack of skills and experience, limited professional networks, unfamiliarity with workplace culture and expectations. But increasingly, they are also facing another obstacle: legal requirements that can shut off avenues to jobs before they even get the chance to apply.

Free trade critics love to cite this economist. But he actually thinks trade is essential.
Zach Beuchamp, Vox

Gordon Hanson is an economist at the University of California San Diego, and you’d expect him to be a fierce critic of free trade. He’s a co-author of perhaps the most famous study showing the downside of trade for American workers, which concluded that exports from China in the 1990s and 2000s cost the US a huge number of manufacturing jobs. Yet Hanson is anything but anti-trade.

How highly religious Americans’ lives are different from others
Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center

Plenty of attention has been paid to the political disagreements between highly religious and less religious Americans, including on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. But there has been less talk about how these groups differ – when they do – in how they live their everyday lives.

20th April 2016, Rome, Centro Congressi Roma Eventi - Fontana di Trevi International Conference "Freedom with justice: Rerum Novarum and the new things of our time."

A capacity crowd of professors, students, and opinion makers attends the April 20 2016 Acton Conference in Rome “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of our Time”.

In an article published Friday by Zenit’s Rome correspondent, Deborah Lubov, we find an excellent summary of Acton’s recently concluded Rome conference: “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time.”

Lubov writes in here roundup article:

Pope Leo’s encyclical on ‘revolutionary things,’ many [speakers] noted, also had much to say about the demands for freedom and social justice in the late-nineteenth century as increasing numbers of people became focused upon what was called “the social question.” During the conference, many bishops and intellectuals from Europe and America addressed topics such as Pope Leo’s attempt to revive the thought of Aquinas, the continuing importance of religious, economic, and political freedom, the State’s role in a global economy, and socialism’s resurgence today.

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We all need help thinking more clearly — you, me, U.S. Senators like Barbara Boxer, says John Stonestreet. And denying it sometimes proves the opposite.

A hearing that was held last week of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works consisted of Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Alex Epstein, the President for the Center for Industrial Progress, and Father Robert Sirico, a priest and president of the Acton Institute, among others.

The topic was how the president’s climate policies had impacted economic opportunity, national security, and related issues. As Mr. Epstein finished his testimony by telling a story from his book A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Senator Boxer demanded: “Mr. Epstein, Are you a scientist?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m a philosopher.” When Boxer sarcastically implied that he didn’t belong in the hearing because he wasn’t a scientist, Epstein pointed out that philosophy helps folks think more clearly. Boxer snapped back, “I don’t need help thinking more clearly.”

Well, with all due respect to the good senator from California, the entire exchange demonstrated she does need help thinking more clearly, since hers was a classic example of a self-defeating set of statements. First, if philosophers do not belong in such a hearing because they are not scientists, do politicians belong who are not scientists?

Here’s the video of Rev. Sirico tangling with Sen. Barbara Boxer on the Pope, energy, and the environment.

shavethatyakSince today is Earth Day you’ll be hearing even more discussions than usual about the problem of anthropocentric climate change. What you aren’t likely to hear is sufficient consideration of the question, “What kind of problem is it?”

Many people claim that it is an environmental problem. Some claim that it is a technological, scientific, or even moral problem. Others vigorously contend that is it not a “problem” at all. I believe that, first and foremost, anthropocentric climate change is a political problem. And political problems require that we choose a solution from a range of political options.

Although it may not exhaust the range of possibilities, I believe the basic listing of positions and options on climate change can be derived from a combination of these three categories:
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Americans are growing in their distrust of the U.S. government and its leaders, with polls typically showing approval of Congress somewhere around 11%. As Senator Ben Sasse put it in his first remarks to the U.S. Senate, “The people despise us all.”

“No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation,” he said, “No one. Some of us lament this; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it.”

In a recent interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge, Sasse expounds on this further, noting that the problems in Congress have less to do with nefariousness (though that surely exists) than with efficacy. “There is a gigantic deficit of vision,” he says. “We have generational challenges, just at the level of federal policy.”

Sasse traces the decline of American government from Teddy Roosevelt onward, highlighting the 1960s as the eventual tipping point away from constrained constitutional governance. The federal government has now expanded into far too many areas, he argues, and the culture has responded in turn. (more…)