Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been busy on the interview circuit over the past few days as news organizations look for intelligent analysis of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation that that was released last week. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal called upon Gregg to provide his thoughts on the economic content in the exhortation on Opinion Journal Live; we’ve embedded the video below.
Until 2012, no federal law or regulation required employers to cover contraception or abortifacients in their company health plans. But last month a New York Times Times editorial claimed that “the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers who do not share them.”
What changed over the course of a year that now makes it a “war on contraceptives” to oppose adding such coverage? As Ramesh Ponnuru explains, it’s not really about contraceptives but an attack on religion:
If 2011 was marked by a widespread crisis of employers’ imposing their views on contraception on employees, nobody talked about it.
What’s actually new here is the Obama administration’s 2012 regulation requiring almost all employers to cover contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause abortion. It issued that regulation under authority given in the Obamacare legislation.
The regulation runs afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law. That act says that the government may impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religious belief only if it’s the least restrictive way to advance a compelling governmental interest. The act further says that no later law should be read to trump this protection unless it explicitly says it’s doing that. The Affordable Care Act has no such language.
Is a marginal increase in access to contraception a compelling interest, and is levying steep fines on employers who refuse to provide it for religious reasons the least burdensome way to further it? It seems doubtful.
Understanding the Plight of the Poor: Why Strong Families are Essential to Liberty
Joy Pullmann, Values & Capitalism
“How well do you think Americans in the main understand and empathize with low-income Americans?”
Fighting Poverty With Actual Evidence
Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics
What are the best evidence-based ways to alleviate poverty?
Rights are Obligations, and That’s the Problem
Art Carden, EconLog
The problem with rights is that one person’s right is another person’s obligation.
Can Farmers be Capitalists?
Kristie Eshelman, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
Is economic freedom consistent with environmental stewardship?
Yet the obstacles have at least something to do with our present reality and the forces that set it in motion. Long before we millennials were pursuing silly degrees and dreaming up fantastical futures en masse, someone somewhere began by whispering, “yes.”
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, P.J. O’Rourke takes aim at one set of such predecessors, the Boomers. Speaking as a child of the late 1940s, a self-described “senior” of the set, O’Rourke wonders what the hands of his generation hath wrought.
Given the common criticism that it is millennials who are uniquely characterized by narcissism and self-importance, this particular bit struck me as an interesting hint at inheritance.
To address America’s baby boom is to face big, broad problems. We number more than 75 million, and we’re not only diverse but take a thorny pride in our every deviation from the norm (even though we’re in therapy for it). We are all alike in that each of us thinks we’re unusual.
Fortunately, we are all alike in our approach to big, broad problems too. We won’t face them. There’s a website for that, a support group to join, a class to take, alternative medicine, regular exercise, a book that explains it all, a celebrity on TV who’s been through the same thing, or we can eliminate gluten from our diet. History is full of generations that had too many problems. We are the first generation to have too many answers. (more…)
Helen Alvare, law professor at George Mason University and co-founder of Women Speak For Themselves, writes in USA Today that Obamacare hurts women. Alvare says that the White House, while posing as the protector of “women and families,” in fact degrades women:
The White House stance assumes that women care far more about free access to contraceptives, or their sex lives, than about religious freedom, or allowing businesses to have a conscience. This view of women is degrading. It treats women as one-dimensional victims needing the protection of government-as-big-brother.
As noted here and here, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility Executive Director Laura Berry was one representative of several groups asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt new corporate political disclosure rules in October. Ms. Berry was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and numerous other liberal/progressive advocates who wanted to put up regulatory roadblocks to corporate political speech guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The SEC, however, determined it would not proceed with stifling free speech despite what the Washington Post described as
A groundswell of support … with retail investors, union pension funds and elected officials at the state and federal levels writing to the agency in favor of such a requirement. The idea attracted more than 600,000 mostly favorable written comments from the public — a record response for the agency. And with Mary Jo White’s arrival as SEC chairman in April, the initiative’s supporters hoped for action.
‘But she obviously did not really recognize the significance of this,’ said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which has pioneered the push for political spending disclosures. ‘She is not looking at investor protection and corporate governance broadly. You do not see those as primary drivers of her agenda.’ (more…)
How can we fix all that has gone wrong in our nation’s capital? Mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. At least that’s the provocative solution Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank proposed this weekend:
There is no better explanation for what has gone wrong in Washington in recent years than the tabulation done every two years of how many members of Congress served in the military.
[. . .]
Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.
Some pundits have called Milbank’s column the “worst argument in favor of the draft ever.” While I agree it’s bad, I’ve heard worse (see: any draft-related argument made by Rep. Charlie Rangel). All arguments for the draft ultimately fail, though, because they are inconsistent with a free society. They also overlook the way that markets in a free society allow us to serve and protect our country.
Chad W. Seagren, who earned a PhD in economics from George Mason University and holds the rank of Major in the Marine Corps, explains why participation in the division of labor serves society:
Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has been garnering much attention, especially for some of the economic views he put forth in the document. With the reminder that an apostolic exhortation does not have the weight of infallibility, the exhortation has been a terrific way to discuss Catholic teaching on different matters.
Rev. Dwight Longenecker, in his blog Standing On My Head, tackles the issues raised regarding the wealthy and the poor. (more…)
Good Monday morning to you! Acton’s Director of Research (and author of Tea Party Catholic) Samuel Gregg was called upon to provide analysis of ‘Evangelii Gaudium‘ on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below:
I also want to draw attention to the interviews conducted over the weekend with Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico that we posted on Saturday, just in case anyone is checking in after the long weekend and missed them. And of course don’t forget to check out Rev. Sirico’s video comments on ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ from last Wednesday if you haven’t had an opportunity to do so already.
What’s Behind the Stunning Decrease in Global Poverty?
James R. Rogers, First Things
Most observers would likely concede that the decline in extreme poverty results from a combination of factors. But there remains disagreement over what is the main cause, or set of causes, of the decline.
Handsome Is as Handsome Gives
Arthur C. Brooks , Wall Street Journal
Donors to charity aren’t merely generous souls. They’re happier, healthier and better looking too.
What Does the Image of God Have to Do With Economics?
Shawn Ritenour, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics
One of the chief ways God communicates his glory to us is through his works. Theologians call this general revelation.
American Jurisprudence Has Made A Mess Of Religious Freedom
Eric Teetsel and Andrew Walker, The Federalist
Religious freedom as nothing more than exemption is concession; little more than the slow and incremental surrender of a basic human right.