Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fracking_Graphic_t670Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing, a procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted. Fracking has resulted in many oil and gas wells attaining a state of economic viability, due to the level of extraction that can be reached.

Fracking has been around since the end of World War II, but it was only in the last decade or so that the economic incentives helped to make it more common practice. The result has been an increase in oil production — and an increase in controversy.

Gasland, a 2010 documentary, and Promised Land, a 2012 feature film starring Matt Damon, helped to turn public opinion against the process. The information in those films has been effectively rebutted, but the damage has already been done. According to a 2013 University of Texas poll, 41 percent of Americans oppose fracking.

Billboard_Anti_Trafficking_I_45Let’s stick with the hunting metaphor for a moment. In terms of our justice system, “johns” have pretty much been “catch and release.” You catch the (usually) guy, slap him with a misdemeanor, and let him go. Don’t want to embarrass him, his family, put his job in jeopardy.

Thankfully, with rising awareness of human trafficking, this is changing. In today’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof sheds some light on what’s happening in Chicago. (more…)

Dr. Seuss is renowned for his insights into human nature and development, along with an ability to communicate these insights in a way that is so straightforwardly simple that children can grasp the lesson immediately and intuitively.

Consider, for instance, the case of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose. Thidwick is a moose who cares about others, and so when the occasion arises, Thidwick is happy to share space on his antlers with a bug who needs somewhere to stay. But Thidwick’s generosity sets a precedent that can be abused, as increasingly pushy and impolite guests take advantage of Thidwick’s sentiment to impose themselves into his life. Thidwick has a heart for the poor, but as we often hear around the Acton Institute offices, that’s not enough. We need to have a mind for the poor as well.

Benjamin Franklin once quipped that democracy is “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” In Thidwick’s case, when he needs to migrate across the lake, the squatters on his antlers vote “democratically” against migrating.

The prospects for Thidwick look bad, indeed, as he has only one vote and therefore is facing starvation. But happily for Thidwick, his biology provide him with an escape, so to speak, from this unjust social arrangement.

Thidwick sheds his antlers naturally. But the larger lesson from Thidwick’s travails is that our political order has no such natural escape route. An exception may be the ability of the wealthy to vote with their feet, as in the case of France’s recent proposed 75% tax on the rich. This is perhaps part of the reason why Antonio Rosmini placed such importance of the “natural right” to “travel anywhere in the world.” As he put it, “Emigration cannot be denied to anyone who demands it.”

Consider, then, Thidwick as a cautionary tale of the temptations of social democracy and the dangers of democratic tyranny.

BrandIn a review of Flourishing Faith, Chad Brand’s Baptist primer on faith, work, and economics, pastor David Daniels summarizes the why behind the what:

But why should Baptists care about political economic theories anyway – especially over-burdened, time-starved pastors? Aren’t Baptists concerned with spiritual matters: evangelism, discipleship and church-planting? Anticipating the question, Brand provides five excellent reasons why Christians should understand economic theory.

  • The Bible speaks to economic issues: acquiring and disposing of money and property, fair wages, and stewardship of the earth.
  • Understanding political economics helps us understand the world in which we live.
  • It leads to a more comprehensive model of Christian discipleship.
  • We need a solid theology of work and economics.
  • All political theories hold theological implications. (more…)
Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, February 27, 2014

In San Jose, generous pensions for city workers come at expense of nearly all else
Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post

In San Jose and across the nation, state and local officials are increasingly confronting a vision of startling injustice: Poor and middle-class taxpayers — who often have no retirement savings — are paying higher taxes so public employees can retire in relative comfort.

How to Fix Our Appalling Tax Code
Dave Camp, Wall Street Journal

There have been so many changes to the tax code over the past decade that it is now 10 times the size of the Bible, but with none of the Good News.

Subsidiarity Calls Us to Live Like Catholics
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

Subsidiarity is integral to a social doctrine based on natural law rather than technology. That ought to be a feature rather than a bug, but in today’s world it means no one can make sense of it or apply it coherently.

Why Income Inequality Has Little to Do with Poverty
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Income inequality can reflect theft and abuse of power, and in those situations, we must stand up and stop it. However, income inequality is a natural part of the human condition, and when a result of well-functioning, voluntary trade protected by a rule of law, it can be the sign of a vibrant society full of opportunities for the rich and the poor.


North Korea has lately been featured in dozens of news articles about a recent United Nations report on human rights abuses and now thanks to a new photo from NASA. The photo above was just released — taken from the International Space Station. While the surrounding countries are twinkling with light, North Korea is completely blacked out save for a small dot that is Pyongyang.  U.S. News & World Report lists some of the unpleasant facts of life in North Korea, including frequent power outages:

– One-third of children are stunted, due to malnutrition, according to the World Food Program.

– The average life expectancy, 69, has fallen by five years since the early 1980s, according to the blog North Korea Economy Watch. The blog notes that those figures are based on official statistics, so the real numbers could be even lower.

– Inflation may be as high as 100 percent, due to mismanagement of the currency.

– Most workers earn $2 to $3 per month in pay from the government. Some work on the side or sell goods in local markets, earning an extra $10 per month or so.

– Most homes and apartments are heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes. Many lack flush toilets.

– Electric power is sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving power just a few hours per day. (more…)

“In this part of the country, land is life,” says a young Ugandan woman. “Good dreams are about your land.” But widows and orphans are often denied access to their own land because of “property grabbing.”

As Jesse Rudy, the International Justice Mission Director in Uganda explains, property grabbing occurs when a man dies in Uganda and his relatives force the widow and her children off of their land, claiming it as ancestral “family land” disowning the widow from the man’s family.

International Justice Mission (IJM) is working to ensure that private property laws in Uganda are upheld and enforced. With the assistance of IJM, more than 650 widows and orphans have been able to recover their land.

As Kristie Eshelman says, “The work of IJM in Uganda is more example of how important well-enforced private property rights are to human prosperity – and how much we take them for granted in our own society.”

(Via: Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics)