The recent decline in oil prices is a boon for consumers but a bust for oil companies. Collectively, profits of the four supermajors – Royal Dutch Shell PLC; Exxon Mobil Corp.; Chevron Corp.; and BP PLC – have plummeted 70 percent in the first nine months of 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite a “precipitous drop in profits this year,” the supermajors increased stock dividends 10 percent over 2014, disbursing approximately $28 billion to shareholders.

For the time being, that’s good news for investors unless the shareholders happen to be among the universities and religious members of the fossil-fuel divestment crowd. This group includes the always headline-grabbing college and university activists (10.9 percent), philanthropic foundations (31 percent) and faith-based organizations (25 percent). These figures are culled from the National Association of Scholars’ “Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels,” which was released this week. NAS is a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to “the promotion and preservation of high academic standards in teaching and scholarship.” From the NAS Executive Summary:

The idea of fossil fuel divestment grew out of a college student campaign at Swarthmore College., the main organization supporting divestment, emerged at Middlebury College. At least one student-run organization, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, supports divestment campaigns. But much of the organizational and intellectual framework comes from professional environmental activists and environmentalist organizations that train college students and put them forward as the face of the movement.


acton-commentary-blogimage“It was the genius of the English political system to adhere to the facts of English history,” says Gertrude Himmelfarb in this week’s Acton Commentary.

What Lord Acton particularly admired in the later Edmund Burke was his empirical philosophy of politics, his refusal to give way to the metaphysical abstractions, the a priori speculations, that had been insinuated into public life by the rationalists of the French Revolution. Facts, Burke had admonished, are a severe taskmaster. They prohibit the idle vanities of philosophy and the bureaucratic pretensions of a logical, all-embracing political science, a summum bonum of mankind available to the benevolent legislator or administrator. Against the revolutionist who would reform all of society in accord with a preconceived logical plan, they urge the Conservative wisdom of history and tradition, which have evolved institutions that stand the test of time if not of logic. It was the genius of the English political system to adhere to the facts of English history.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

SexTraffickingReality has no shortage of enemies. In America alone there are millions of people who will throw away common sense, empiricism, and established economic principles when it conflicts with their pet political ideology. Oftentimes the best we can hope for is that the reality-denying does not tip over into outright advocacy of evil.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened at a one of my favorite online publications. Since its inception, The Federalist has been churning out a steady supply of fresh, often funny, and indispensable content from a conservative perspective. The work being done by the editorial staff, several of whom are my friends, is nothing short of amazing.

But even the best editors can make a mistake, and The Federalist has made a huge unforced error in publishing Lucy Steigerwald’s article, “Prostitution is Just Another Vice—So Legalize It.”

The article not only promotes the evil of prostitution, but it display an almost total lack of understanding about the topic of prostitution. I don’t mean that as an insult, but as an accurate description of the almost complete lack of research that was done on the subject. For example, the article not only denies that prostitution hurts women, but implies that there is little to no connection between prostitution and sex trafficking.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Want Less Corruption? Free the Markets
Nicole Gelinas, New York Post

If you’re powerful enough to take someone’s home, it stands to reason that you’re powerful enough to reap some benefits on the side. But if you’re desperate for a retail job at a new government-subsidized mall, so what?

Free Trade Has Shipped Some Jobs Overseas. But Here’s What Else It Does.
Bryan Riley and Anthony B. Kim, The Daily Signal

Last week, the Obama administration released the text of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Advocates of such deals traditionally focus on the benefits of opening new markets to U.S. exports. But good trade agreements also reduce self-destructive U.S. trade barriers.

Vatican II and Religious Freedom: Rupture or Authentic Development?
Carl E. Olson, Catholic World Report

The authors of a new book on “Dignitatis Humanae” argue that the Declaration grounds the right to religious freedom in the obligation to seek the truth, especially the truth about God.

Church involvement varies widely among U.S. Christians
Aleksandra Sandstrom and Becka A. Alper, Pew Research Center

While most Americans still identify as Christian, there are big differences when it comes to how involved they are with a congregation – or whether they’re involved at all. Indeed, some of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. have relatively low levels of involvement among their members.

On November 5th, 2015, the Acton Institute was pleased to host Dr. Bradley J. Birzer for a lunch lecture and book launch celebration for the release of his latest book, Russell Kirk: American Conservative.

Russell Kirk has long been known as perhaps the most important founding father of the American Conservative movement in the second half of the 20th century. In the early 1950s, America was emerging from two decades of the Great Depression and the New Deal and facing the rise of radical ideologies abroad; the American Right seemed beaten, broken, and adrift. Then in 1953, Russell Kirk released his masterpiece, The Conservative Mind. More than any other published work of the time, this book became the intellectual touchstone for a reinvigorated movement and began a sea change in Americans’ attitudes toward traditionalism.

Brad Birzer’s new biography recounts the story of Kirk’s life and work, with attention paid not only to his writings on politics and economics, but also on literature and culture, both subjects dear to Kirk’s heart and central to his thinking.

Dr. Bradley J. Birzer holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College, and also serves as an Associate Professor of History. We’re pleased to present Dr. Birzer’s presentation for your edification here on the PowerBlog.

(After the jump, I’ve included the latest edition of Radio Free Acton featuring Brad Birzer, as well as some audio and video highlights of Russell Kirk’s appearances at Acton’s first Annual Dinner, and as part of the 1994 Lord Acton Lecture Series.)


Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

driving-carOne of the most important socio-economic factors in America is social mobility, the ability of an individual or family to improve (or lower) their economic status. And one of the major factors in increasing social mobility is to simply increase mobility. For example, if you have to walk to work, you are limited to jobs within a few miles of your home. But if you can drive to work, the number of job opportunities available to you may increase considerably.

Most of us who have access to individual means of transportation take that connection for granted. But for the working poor, a car may not only help them get to a place of employment, it can help them drive away from poverty. For instance, a recent study finds that for low-income residents of high-poverty neighborhoods, having access to an automobile can lead to greater economic opportunities:

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

first-thanksgiving-kidsThis week school children across the country will be hearing the tale of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. You probably heard a similar story when you were in a kid that went something like this:

The Pilgrims sailed over to America from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower. During their first winter in the new country many of them starved because they were unable to produce enough food. In the spring, though, a Native America tribe taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops that would flourish, such as maize (corn). That fall, after an abundant harvest, the Pilgrims gave thanks by celebrating the first Thanksgiving feast with the Indians.

What is often left out of the story is what happened next: The Pilgrims continued to face food shortages for three more years.

Kids don’t often hear this not-so-happy ending. They are also rarely told the reason why the Pilgrims went hungry. “Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages,” says Benjamin W. Powell. “Bad economic incentives did.”