I spent last week in London attending a couple of stimulating conferences at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Transformational Business Network (TBN), and catching up with some friends and acquaintances. All of the discussions were either officially off-the-record or of a personal nature, so I can’t be too specific about who said what but my general impression, obvious to anyone who’s visited, is that London remains an extremely vibrant, forward-looking, prosperous global capital in stark contrast to much of Europe and even other parts of Britain. But the reasons why are varied and may upset some seemingly-settled orthodoxies about religion and wealth.

London’s wealth is certainly tied to the City and international finance, even if giants such as the Royal Bank of Scotland are posting record losses (£9 billion in 2013). There’s much distress about such losses, especially subsequent to the massive bailouts RBS and other banks received in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. We often forget that making bad investments and taking losses is part of the normal, necessary functioning of the market economy; Milton Friedman went so far to say that losses are even more important the profits. Wealth can’t be created if we don’t allow losses to get rid of badly-managed or mistaken enterprises.

No one wants to fail, of course, but without failure, we can’t have success, even at the individual level. I’m reminded of a Teddy Roosevelt image we used to have at the office of my college newspaper emblazoned with the words, “The only man who never makes mistakes is the one who never does anything.” Certainly true, even if the vice of sloth and complacency often tells us otherwise; what’s more important is to learn from one’s mistakes and try again.

Critics of capitalism have often cited the constant striving and relentless competition as negative aspects; what’s the point of hard work, after all, if we can never enjoy its fruits? The austerity and disciple required by the market are sometime called “Protestant” because they supposedly imply a pessimistic, individualistic view of human nature, as opposed to Catholicism’s more positive, “relaxed,” social view. Made famous by the German sociologist Max Weber, this thesis has always seemed to contain some elements of truth but never completely accurate to me, and my time in London confirmed my doubts. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, March 7, 2014
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Francis Has Changed American Catholics’ Attitudes, but Not Their Behavior, a Poll Finds
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times

Nearly six in 10 American Catholics in the poll said they expected the church would definitely or probably lift its prohibition on birth control by the year 2050, while half said the church would allow priests to marry.

John Wesley and Religious Freedom
Mark Tooley, First Things

Once universal assumptions about religious liberty in America are fraying. As Evangelical author Eric Metaxas recently told the National Religious Broadcasters, “Americans are so spoiled, we’ve had so much religious freedom, we don’t know what it is to miss it,” adding, “We take holy gifts for granted.”

Bill to Make the Fine $0 for Violating the Individual Mandate Passes by 90 Votes
Jeffrey H. Anderson, The Weekly Standard

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday afternoon to make the fine/“tax” for violating Obamacare’s individual mandate $0 for this year, and it did so by the wide margin of 90 votes (250 to 160).

Home College: an Idea Whose Time Has Come (Again)
Hollis Robbins, The Chronicle of Higher Education

If MOOCs offer a high-tech alternative approach to brick-and-mortar higher education, home-colleging represents a radically different, more human approach.

Comedian Andrew Heaton uses the move “Dallas Buyer’s Club” to explain economic issues, brought to life on the silver screen. Enjoy!

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 6, 2014
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bible-readingSurveys have found that nearly eight  in ten Americans regard the Bible as either the literal word of God or as inspired by God. At the same time, other surveys have revealed—and recent books have analyzed—surprising gaps in Americans’ biblical literacy. These discrepancies reveal American Christians’ complex relationship to their scripture, a subject that is widely acknowledged but rarely investigated. To understand that paradox, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture conducted the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

 The Bible in American Life” is a study whose purpose is to understand better how Americans use the Bible in their personal daily lives and how other influences, including religious communities and the Internet, shape individuals’ use of scripture. The project, according to its researchers, was driven by the recognition that, though the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship, including how people have read the Bible for themselves outside of worship, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture.

Some of the interesting findings from the report include:
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A brothel corridor in Pascha, Cologne

A brothel corridor in Pascha, Cologne

It’s the oldest profession, right? It’s worldwide, and attempts to criminalize it don’t seem to work. Does legalizing prostitution solve any problems?

That’s the question Nisha Lilia Diu of The Telegraph set out to answer. In a lengthy piece that focuses on Germany, Diu visited brothels, talked to their owners, visited with prostitutes – all in order to see if the legalization of prostitution “works.”

Germany legalized prostitution in 2002. The law was meant to to do a number of things, but primarily it was meant to give prostitutes legal standing, making their job like any other. Was it effective?

The idea of the law, passed by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrat-Green coalition, was to recognise prostitution as a job like any other. Sex workers could now enter into employment contracts, sue for payment and register for health insurance, pension plans and other benefits. Exploiting prostitutes was still criminal but everything else was now above board. Two female politicians and a Berlin madam were pictured clinking their champagne glasses in celebration.

It didn’t work. “Nobody employs prostitutes in Germany,” says Beretin. None of the authorities I spoke to had ever heard of a prostitute suing for payment, either. And only 44 prostitutes have registered for benefits.

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Nun-aids-Civil-War-soldier-620x320Acton Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, recently discussed Catholicism and healthcare over at Crisis Magazine. In his article, he asks “Must Catholics favor socialized medicine?” Gregg begins by addressing whether or not “access to healthcare may be described as a ‘right.'” He asserts that Catholics should agree it is a right based on a 2012 address Pope Benedict XVI made to healthcare workers, in which he unambiguously spoke of the “right to healthcare.” Gregg continues:

But the real debate for Catholics starts when we consider how to realize this right. Rights are a matter of justice, and justice is a primary concern of the state. Indeed Benedict XVI noted in his 2012 message that healthcare is subject to the demands of justice—specifically distributive justice—and the common good.

Some Catholics may believe this implies we’re obliged to support a more-or-less socialized healthcare system such as Britain’s National Health Service. Yet nothing in Benedict’s message or Catholic social teaching more generally implies this is the only possible path forward. (more…)

Mosher bookSteven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, has written a book that is brutally truthful and brutally hard to read. It should be: it’s about the most brutal of government policies, China’s one-child policy.

Written in the first person, Mosher writes as “Chi An,” a young woman he first met in 1980. While he has changed certain facts and names in order to protect the woman he gives voice to, the story of her life in China is intimately true.

Chi An’s life begins in 1949 or so – because she was a girl, there was no celebration of her birth, and her mother did not bother to note the exact date. She grew up with two brothers, enjoying a loving childhood with a father who doted on her. Her professor-father shielded his family from the most difficult issues of the time: the gradual disintegration of liberty under the rising Communist regime. With her father’s untimely death, the family struggles to survive, nearly starving to death in the early 1960s, due to harsh government control of food distribution.

Chi An decided to go into nursing, and at the age of 16, performed her first abortion. It would be the first of countless abortions she would perform.

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