Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 27, 2013
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I’m not an aficionado of the show Extreme Couponing, but I have seen it a couple times, and have been amazed at the industriousness of the people on the show. It shouldn’t be surprising, perhaps, that in the midst of economic downturn more generally the practice of clipping coupons has become more widespread as well as more extreme.

It makes sense that when times are tight and you are looking to scrimp and save every penny in your budget that increased use of coupons can be a way to make each dollar stretch a bit farther. Companies originally offered coupons as incentives to try new products, and so it is appropriate to see coupons as a form of advertising. The first company to offer coupons was Coca-Cola, and here we can see the similarities between coupons and the free samples, which is part of what makes Costco so popular, as product promotion.

coca

But it never really occurred to me until I read this short profile of an extreme couponer that coupons should also really be seen as a kind of private welfare, reaching a high of roughly $4 billion in total savings in the US in 2011.
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In what presumably was a misguided attempt to have Aaron Sorkin pen their newest round of armor-piercing media talking points, the White House sent adviser Dan Pfeiffer to the set of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper armed to the teeth with explosive political metaphors meant to describe the GOP’s position on debt-ceiling negotiations.

TAPPER: You saw — and this is the final question. You saw today a new Bloomberg News poll indicating that the American people support by a 2-1 margin its right to require spending cuts when negotiating the debt ceiling.

I understand that Keystone and other provisions that the Republicans are talking about attaching to the debt ceiling are not related, but why not cut some spending?

PFEIFFER: The Republicans — we are for cutting spending. We’re for reforming our tax code. We’re for reforming our entitlements.

What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest. We’re not going to do that. So, if they want to have a discussion about how we reduce our deficits, how we help the middle class, how we give them a better bargain, lift the debt ceiling, take the full faith and credit of the United States off the table and let’s have a discussion. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 27, 2013
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The Duties of a Free Citizen
Kevin Gutzman, Intercollegiate Review

I here make a radical proposal:  conservatives must speak of religion more often.  When it comes to art broadly considered—encompassing music, architecture, painting, and sculpture—the only way back is upward.

Interpreting Scripture & the U.S. Constitution
Frank W. Hermann, Crisis Magazine

During the twentieth century, it became vogue to interpret the Constitution the way that some readers interpret a poem: in virtual isolation of its broader historical context.

Nairobi Westgate mall terrorist attack is part of Kenya’s sharp rise in religious hostilities
Brian J. Grim, Pew Research Center

The Somalia-based Islamic group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the Nairobi shopping mall attack that began Saturday and has left at least 62 dead, saying that the assault is in retaliation for Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

Limited Government and Human Nature
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

How can a biblical understanding of human nature influence how we think about the size and scope of government?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 26, 2013
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download (1)Christianity can and should be a leading influence in human culture, says Greg Forster. We do this not by seizing control of the institutions of culture but acting as cultural entrepreneurs — like the biblical figure Job:

Before he was stricken, Job was a cultural leader. People looked to him for wisdom. And the word “because” in verse 12 indicates that he’s about to tell us why people looked to him for wisdom. Was it because he was smarter? Was it because he was wealthy and successful? No doubt those factors were important, but Job does not identify them as the main source of his cultural leadership. Instead, he points to something else:

12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.

Job was a cultural leader because he served human needs. The connection is reinforced in the following verses, where Job seamlessly transitions back from his deeds of service to his position of cultural leadership. “Men listened to me and waited and kept silence for my counsel…” etc.

Read more . . .

According to a new study by Dick Slikker, “changes in the percentage of Christians within a society exert a measurable correlated influence of the economic well-being of that society” — particularly when those Christians are evangelicals.

Correlations Between Christian Population Changes and Changes in Sovereign Ratings in Countries for the Period Between 2000 to 2012

Kate Tracy summarizes the findings at Christianity Today:

Dutch researcher Dick Slikker wanted to assess the Marxist theory that increases in prosperity lead to decreases in religious practice. So he examined the past decade’s worth of data from countries including the United States, Belgium, China, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. His research used Operation World and the World Religion Database for its data on changes in the percentage of Christians in each country, while studies fromMoody’s Analytics and Fitch Ratings provided data on changes in the economic status of each country, particularly its sovereign credit rating…

…”When using total Christian populations per country, statistically significant positive linear correlations were obtained in seven out of eight combinations of data source, rating agency and either five- or ten-year interval.” Slikker notes in his abstract.

Furthermore, within the three subsets of Christianity studied—Protestants, Catholics, and evangelicals—it was evangelicals that proved to have the highest rate of correlation with economic wellbeing. (more…)

We’re continuing to round up appearances by Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg as he does radio interviews nationwide to promote his latest book, Tea Party Catholic. This past Monday, Sam made an appearance on the Relevant Radio network show A Closer Look with Sheila LiaugminasAs usual, it was a wide-ranging and intelligent discussion, and you can listen to it via the audio player below.

contraception-253x300John Seager, president of Population Connection, has written an article at the Huffington Post regarding World Contraception Day. Entitled (and I don’t think he meant for this to be a non sequitur), “A World Without Contraception Is No Place For People,” Seager mournfully asks the reader to envision a world where there is no birth control because “right-wing anti-contraception crusaders” have gotten their way. Now, he says, sex is only for procreation. (I’m not sure where he got this assumption; even the Catholic Church, which tends to have the strictest teachings about such things notes that sex is both unitive and procreative, and that it’s meant for a husband and wife to enjoy. “Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #2362) Seager dolefully notes: (more…)