iraqThe National Catholic Register asked prominent Catholic intellectuals Michael Novak and George Weigel to address the current U.S. involvement in Syria and its involvement with Iraq 10 years ago. While both supported the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, they have a different take on the current situation with Syria.

First, George Weigel;

There were obviously a lot of things that could have been done better in securing the peace after the regime fell,” he acknowledged, in a reference to the Bush administration’s inadequate planning for both an on-going jihadist threat and the costs of rebuilding a battered nation.

“But anyone who thinks that the world or the Middle East would be better in 2013 with Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad, having re-ramped-up his WMD [weapons of mass destruction], is living in a fantasy world.”

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Blog author: jballor
Thursday, September 19, 2013
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BRITAIN BOXING

Floyd “Money” Mayweather

Over at Think Christian today, I explore the connection between higher education as a means to greater earning power in “The myth of lucrative college majors.” I argue that “the size of a paycheck is not the only factor worth considering,” and go on to detail what a paycheck does and does not represent.

By looking at the earnings of various majors, it becomes apparent that we have a need for more engineers of various kinds. But apart from specific market signals, I echo, in large part, the conclusion of Paul Heyne, who wrote that the success of the market in increasing affluence and getting us the things we want ought to impel us “to think more carefully about what we want.”

The reality of today is that we have a developed economy to the extent that we have unprecedented levels of specialization. You can make a living, even if it isn’t a particularly lucrative one, doing almost anything imaginable. This is in marked contrast to previous eras, where the realities of class, technological innovation, and knowledge were such that only a few careers options were possible. Consider, for instance, the case of the early modern executioner.

One way of showing the incredible levels of specialization made possible today would be to simply observe the many, many things you can major in at a college these days. My working hypothesis is that if you have to add the word “studies” after something, then it probably isn’t a real major. But more seriously, the level of specialized education available today is simply breathtaking. And that doesn’t even begin to address the question of whether higher education is necessary at all.

In the TC piece I point to the example of undefeated boxer and high school dropout Floyd Mayweather Jr., who enjoyed a record breaking payout this past weekend. Mayweather is exceptional, certainly, as he would be the first to tell you. But there are plenty of more mundane examples of crafts and trades, as well as innovators and entrepreneurs, who found success without going to college.

Like all things, there are better and worse reasons to go to college and to choose a particular major. To simply increase your future earnings isn’t a particularly good motivation. And if all you care about is making money, then college may not be the best choice anyway, although as Michael Lewis puts it, “If you’re a certain kind of kid who doesn’t actually know anything about anything, Wall Street is still a great place to go.”

That said, all this comes from someone who majored in English at Michigan State University and then spent more than a decade pursuing theology at the graduate level. So I may be precisely the wrong sort of person to ask about lucrative career choices. As I often remind my wife, she married the wrong kind of doctor.

Autocam, a West Michigan business owned by John Kennedy and his family, filed suit against the federal government in October, 2012. The suit is one of over 200 plaintiffs battling the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover costs for abortions and abortifacients in employee health insurance. Now, the Thomas More Society is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Autocam’s case after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the case brought by the Kennedy family and Autocam Corporation. A press release from the Thomas More Society stated:

We mean to take this case directly up to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the U.S. Courts of Appeal are now sharply divided on these critical issues,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, the national public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with CatholicVote Legal Defense Fund. “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted in order to protect people of faith against government mandates that impose a substantial burden on believers’ efforts to freely exercise their religious convictions, unless the government has really compelling reasons for doing so, and even then only if the means used are the least restrictive and burdensome among possible alternatives. We hope the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case so that the Kennedys and other business owners who practice as well as profess their religious faith can keep on doing so without having to ‘bet the company’ and thereby risk their employees’ jobs as well as their own livelihood.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 19, 2013
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Russia’s Orthodox Awakening
Nadieszda Kizenko, Foreign Affairs

The fraying of Russia’s church-state alliance.

The Coptic Church in peril: The Islamization of Egypt and the end of Egyptian Christianity
Samuel Tadros, ABC Religion and Ethics

While the Egyptian regime maintained its verbal commitment to Nasser’s socialist policies, the reality was a state bureaucracy and services network that had lost all ability to deliver due to population growth.

Work and Dignity: A Conversation between Mike Rose and Matthew Crawford
Hedgehog Review

If we’re talking about taking care of the elderly, and maybe also taking care of kids, let’s think about who it is who actually does that kind of work. In a lot of the country, we’re talking about people who are pretty marginal in terms of their security within the society. They tend to be poor.

Economic Malady, Church Opportunity
Michael Jahr, The Gospel Coalition

A majority of Americans can’t find full-time work. And more than two-thirds of those who are employed full time hate their jobs or consider themselves disengaged from their duties. These are startling numbers, but they represent an opportunity—and an obligation—for the church.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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When business corporations are created, the community does not give something away, says Robert G. Kennedy in this week’s Acton Commentary. Instead, in order to pursue the economic benefits offered by the corporate structure, the community offers something in exchange.

The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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In the most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality (16.1), I review The Mystical as Political by Aristotle Papanikolaou. I write,

In The Mystical as Political, Aristotle Papanikolaou seeks to construct a political theology rooted in the Orthodox Christian conviction that all of creation, and humanity in particular, was created for communion with God. He begins by offering a helpful survey of political theory in the Orthodox tradition, focusing especially on Eusebius of Caesarea, Saint John Chrysostom, the Emperor Justinian, Vladimir Soloviev, and Sergius Bulgakov, inter alia (chapter 1). In the following chapters, he addresses the relationship between church and state (chapter 2); personhood and human rights (chapter 3); divine-human communion and the common good (chapter 4); and honesty, forgiveness, and free speech (chapter 5). In the process, and refreshingly for an Orthodox writer, he also engages Western theologians and philosophers — including William Cavanaugh, Jacques Maritain, Stanley Hauerwas, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, to highlight only some of the more prominently featured — acknowledging their genuine insights while, nevertheless, criticizing what he sees to be various shortcomings. The Mystical as Political represents a careful and irenic, though not uncritical, Orthodox Christian approach to political theology, ultimately offering a positive appraisal of liberal democracy and human rights. Although essential reading on the subject with much to commend it, it has several shortcomings of its own.

In particular, I hone in on “an overemphasis on the particular over against the general, the dynamic and the uniqueness of persons over against the static and the common nature of humanity.” As this is a continuing interest of mine and a subject I have explored in the past here on the PowerBlog, as well as elsewhere, my review is offered as open access to anyone who may be interested in the subject here.

I previously explored the subject of Orthodoxy and natural law here.

And Fr. Michael Butler lectured on the subject of “Orthodoxy and Natural Law” and “Orthodoxy, Church, and State” at Acton University this summer, my summaries of which can be found here and here.

american-tax-policyYesterday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) gave a speech on tax reform at the American Enterprise Institute that has been praised by many conservatives. Here’s what you should know about Lee’s proposal.

What exactly did Sen. Lee propose?

The “Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act” is a proposal by Sen. Lee to deal with the individual income side of the tax code (not the corporate side) by making it more “family-friendly” and eliminating what Sen. Hill calls the “parent tax penalty.”

What is the parent tax penalty?

While Social Security and Medicare are often referred to as “insurance” programs, they are really generational transfer payments. Younger workers pay for the elderly and retired. The FICA and Medicare taxes taken out of a worker paychecks today are used today to directly pay for these benefits to seniors.

Sen. Lee notes that this structure requires that parents contribute twice — by paying FICA and Medicare taxes and by bearing the economic costs of raising children. According to Lee, this is essentially a “capital gains” tax on children (who will later provide the human capital for the generational transfer payment system).

Can you give an overview of Lee’s plan?
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