Abbott

Newly Elected Australian Prime Minister: Tony Abbott

On Saturday, Tony Abbott, a member of the Liberal-National Coalition,  was elected prime minister of Australia despite being considered “too religious, too conservative and too blunt” to win a national election. Turns out, he’s an admirer of the work of Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg (Australian born). In 2001, Abbott addressed the role of government in alleviating poverty and reducing unemployment in an issue of Policy Magazine, in a special feature titled, “Against the Prodigal State.” He begins:

The story of the rich young man who was told that perfection meant selling all he had and giving the proceeds to the poor has echoed through Western culture for 2000 years and still haunts debate over welfare policy. Anything that can be sold as ‘generosity’ always seems to hold the moral high ground—even when it turns out to be the kindness which kills. Well-meaning people tend to assume that virtue in individuals is also best practice for governments. Going further, others seem to think that government programmes can substitute for personal responsibilities in a kind of ‘outsourcing’ of moral action from the individual to a prodigal state. Under this ‘social gospel’, political activism becomes more important than visiting the sick or helping a neighbour in need.

He explains the distinction between “ordinary and heroic virtue and the difference between what can be required of people under the law and what might be urged of people in a higher cause.” He goes on:

As commentators such as Samuel Gregg and Michael Novak have pointed out, there is a sharp distinction between private virtue and public duty. The key problem with governments giving ‘their all’ to the poor is that what they have is not their own. The resources of government are collected from citizens, most of whom are far from rich. Governments need to be careful about being compassionate with other people’s money lest they demonstrate not civic virtue but moral vanity. Government giving has none of the ‘going without’ quality of personal charity because the politicians and officials who give are not giving what’s theirs.
Addressing the issues of unemployment, Abbott says,
the most significant compassion anyone can show for the unemployed is to provide work, boost encouragement to work and improve the employability of job seekers. Government programmes that don’t involve an element of self-help patronise the unemployed and can easily end up reinforcing a sense of failure and victimhood… Government agencies are much better at delivering an identical service to whole populations than meeting the specific needs of individual people.
Samuel Gregg address these themes in his latest book, Tea Party Catholic which is now available for pre-order.
Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Cradle

Photo Credit: akatrya via Compfight cc

I share Fr. Robert Barron’s concern about many of the attitudes on display in this Time magazine cover story on “the childfree life.” As Barron writes, much of the problem stems from the basic American attitude toward a life of “having it all.”

Thus, Barron observes, “Whereas in one phase of the feminist movement, ‘having it all’ meant that a woman should be able to both pursue a career and raise a family, now it apparently means a relationship and a career without the crushing encumbrance of annoying, expensive, and demanding children.”
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quebec charterParti Québécois and Bernard Drainville, minister of the newly proposed charter, announced yesterday that a new plan would ban overt religious symbols to be worn by “judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.” These symbols would include large crosses or crucifixes, turbans, hijab, and kippas. Smaller jewelry (such as Star of David earrings) would be allowed.

This proposal has caused uproar, both in the Quebec government and in the public. Here are a few reactions: (more…)

The other night, I sat down with my kids to read one of my favorite Rudyard Kipling poems, “The Camel’s Hump,” a remarkable 19th-century takedown of 21st-century couch-potato culture.

With typical color and wit, Kipling takes aim at idleness, decrying “the hump we get from having too little to do” — “the hump that is black and blue.” Kipling proceeds to elevate labor, noting that hard work refreshes the soul and reinvigorates the spirit: “The cure for this ill is not to sit still / Or frowst with a book by the fire / But to take a large hoe and a shovel also / And dig till you gently perspire.”

The illustrations in my 1949 version of the poem offer additional flair to Kipling’s contrast, aptly showing what can happen, physically and spiritually, if we do or don’t get our hands dirty. But don’t let the boy’s youthfulness fool you: “We all get the hump / Cameelious hump / Kiddies and grown-ups, too!”

camel

Page-2-Camel

 [The above pages are taken from Volume 2 of the 1949 Childcraft collection, Storytelling and Other Poems.]

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Assault on Christian Town in Syria Adds to Fears Over Rebels
Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, New York Times

For Syrian rebels fighting in recent days around the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, any gains made in battle could be wiped out in the war of perceptions.

Conscience Freedoms Denied by Liberal Courts
Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine

Two recent court cases illustrate the incoherence and remarkable intolerance of “liberal” views regarding conscience.

The Necessity of Distinguishing Relief and Development
Matt Perman, What’s Best Next

In both cases, the goal is to help the person back to self-sufficiency. But the strategies in each case are different — often profoundly so.

Five Insights About Private Property from Aquinas
Andrew Spencer, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Reading church history often provides answers to what appear to be novel questions in our own day (Ecclesiastes 1:9), to support and explain what Scripture teaches. Thomas Aquinas provides a solid argument for private property in his Summa Theologica.

choiceopportunityfront1Last week, as the country was remember MLK’s dream of children being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, Attorney General Eric Holder was suing the state of Louisiana because he’s more worried, as the Wall Street Journal says, about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate.

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.
For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

Read more . . .

Peter Greer has spent his life doing good, from serving refugees in the Congo to leading HOPE International, a Christian-based network of microfinance institutions operating in 16 countries around the world. Yet as Greer argues in his latest book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, “service and charity have a dark side.”

The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, Peter Greer

Pointing to a study by Fuller Seminary’s Dr. J. Robert Clinton, Greer notes that “only one out of three biblical leaders maintained a dynamic faith that enabled them to avoid abusing their power or doing something harmful to themselves and others.” From King David’s power trip with Bathsheba and Uriah to Jonah’s end-of-life anger and selfishness, the Bible is filled with examples of self-destruction amid service.

“When I looked to Scripture for guidance, what I found troubled me,” Greer writes. “Men and women who had heard from God—who even performed amazing miracles—were just as likely to blow it as everyone else.”

And alas, in all of our discussions about how to best serve our neighbors, how often do we focus on surface-level externalities to the neglect of the human heart? How often do we narrow down our “metrics for success” to exclude any discussion or contemplation about the motivations driving our actions or the potential for pitfalls along the way? (more…)