Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a “war on poverty” – Jan. 8, 1964

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released its report, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. The agency announced that “in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income.”

Sure to spark reactions from both sides of the political aisle, the report, along with this year’s 50th anniversary of the U.S. government’s launch of a “war on poverty,” present an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of the United States’ domestic poverty alleviation strategy to date.

But amid the necessary analysis and debate about government’s role in helping the least among us, it is essential to keep at the forefront of our thinking the primary figure poverty alleviation efforts are intended to help: the human person. Through taking the time to recognize each individual’s unique gifts and creative capacity, we can more fully appreciate his/her contribution to society and form relationships that enable this flourishing to take root.

Ismael Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Freedom and Virtue Institute, echoes the importance of recognizing people’s true nature. He says, “The person needs to be called by name, the ‘poor’ need for us to dump that label and look at them as unique and unrepeatable human beings, not simply another token belonging to an expansive and yet shallow sea of sameness.”

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LittleSistersofthePoorIt seems such a subtle distinction: “freedom to worship” as opposed to “religious freedom.” The phrase, “freedom to worship,” started appearing in 2010, and in 2013, President Obama made the following remarks in his address for the annual Proclamation for Religious Freedom Day:

Foremost among the rights Americans hold sacred is the freedom to worship as we choose.” He then refers to the history of this right. “Because of this protection by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose.”

It seems as if the president is equating the two, doesn’t it? But Sarah Torre says there are not the same, and equating the two is dangerous. In fact, it’s a lie. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 22, 2014
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o-WOMEN-AT-WORK-facebook-1050x700.jpg.pagespeed.ce.PapYl9sXixChristians not only have a duty to work for virtue in their souls and the production of material goods in the world, writes Acton’ Dylan Pahman at Humane Pursuits, but also to encourage and enable others to fulfill this divine commandment.

One might object that locating our self-worth in our work, even if only in part, is misguided. Our American, capitalist culture is overworked and work-obsessed, or so the story goes. We work so much and overvalue it to the point that people who are not currently able to work feel ashamed.

Certainly, one can place too much value in a job. There is a grain of truth to that caution. But abuse does not negate use; overvaluing work does not justify undervaluing it. And the latter fails to acknowledge the dignity of work and those who could be workers.

It is a dignity, I would add, that is grounded in duty. The nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox philosopher Vladimir Solovyov argues that such a duty is part of the natural and God-given order to the world.

Read more . . .

The Cato Institute, as part of this year’s recognition of Constitution Day, offers a series of videos featuring prominent scholars, educators and entrepreneurs answering the question, “Why Liberty?” Each has a different and personal perspective on the meaning and importance of liberty, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Below, the Rev. Robert Sirico offers his answer to the question, “Why Liberty?”

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 22, 2014
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Are We Catholics First or Americans First?
Heather King, Aleteia

The law of the land and the Higher Law.

Indentured Insomnia: Why the Poor Can’t Sleep at Night
Orion D. Jones, Big Think

How much sleep you get is strongly correlated with how much money you make, according to a Gallup poll that compared annual income with people’s average nightly rest.

Surviving childhood in Africa
BBC

Significant progress has been made in cutting child mortality, which is falling faster globally than at any point in the past two decades, according to Unicef. But despite that, more than six million children die every year before the age of five, mostly from preventable causes.

How Obamacare Forces You to Subsidize Plans That Cover Elective Abortion
Sarah Torre, The Daily Signal

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms that’s just another broken promise. Here are three things you need to know about abortion and Obamacare.

Cover-ScrutonDuring student protests in Paris in 1968, Roger Scruton watched students overturn cars to erect barricades and tear up cobblestones to throw at police. It was at that moment he realized he was a conservative:

I suddenly realized I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.

Scrunton, an philosopher who specializes in aesthetics, is one of the most intriguing conservatives in England. In a recent interview for Prospect, Scruton talks about his new book, How To Be a Conservative.

Here are six quotes from that interview:
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householdairpollutionWhat is the world’s deadliest environmental problem?

Household air pollution. According to the World Health Organization’s latest report air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, and the main cause is entirely preventable:

Around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves. Most are poor, and live in low- and middle-income countries.

Such inefficient cooking fuels and technologies produce high levels of household air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

Household air pollution (HAP) caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels results in 4.3 million premature deaths each year – almost three times as many as died from from AIDS. HAP is also an important contributor to ambient air pollution, which caused a further 3.7 million deaths in 2012. Additionally, more than 50 percent of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

What is household air pollution?
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Blog author: sstanley
Friday, September 19, 2014
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DegenerationSamuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, recently reviewed Niall Ferguson’s latest, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. In the book, Ferguson discusses the symptoms of a decaying society and explains what causes rich economies to decline.

Though the book is a short one and written for a nonspecialist audience, Ferguson develops a very strong case to illustrate how the hollowing out of the rule of law, the deterioration of representative government into soft despotism, the increasingly crony-capitalist features of today’s market economies, and the ongoing implosion of civil society are now costing us dearly. Part of the problem, Ferguson makes clear, is that there is no easy fix to these particular problems. One cannot vote something like rule of law back into existence. A flourishing civil society does not simply spring forth ex nihilio. Unfettering the market from literally tens of thousands of regulations is no easy exercise and cannot be accomplished by the stroke of a pen.

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One of the most profound ironies in our current debates over religious liberty is the Left’s persistent decrying of business as short-sighted and materialistic even as it attempts to prevent the Hobby Lobbys of the world from heeding their consciences and convictions.

Business is about far more than some materialistic bottom line, but this is precisely why we need the protection for religious liberty. If we fail to promote religious liberty for businesses, how can we ever expect the marketplace to contribute to widespread human flourishing — economic, social, spiritual, and otherwise?

In a marvelous talk at AEI’s recent Evangelical Leadership Summit, hosted by Values and Capitalism, Dr. Russell Moore points to precisely this, arguing that we need to cultivate churches, businesses, institutions, and governments whose consciences “are not so malleable that they can be directed simply by the whims of the marketplace or…by government edict.”

Watch the full thing here, which is followed by other insightful speakers, including Brian Grim, whose research on business and religious liberty aptly complements Moore’s thoughts.

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A painting from the "Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child" exhibit

A painting from the “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child” exhibit

This November marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This momentous occasion symbolizing the decline of Soviet Communism is sure to be met with joyous celebration, not only in Germany, but around the world.

While November signifies Soviet Communism’s decline it also commemorates one of its darkest, most horrendous hours. Annually on the fourth Saturday of November, Ukrainians remember the brutal, man-made famine imposed on their country by Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime in the 1930s. The tragedy, which became known as the “Holodomor” (“death by hunger”) resulted from Stalin’s efforts to eliminate Ukraine’s independent farmers in order to collectivize the agricultural process.

Estimated to have claimed, through murder and forced starvation, the lives of almost 7 million Ukrainians, the Holodomor is recognized as a genocide by more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

In an effort to expose this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and the corrupt ideology which caused it, the Acton Institute will host an evening combined lecture and art event on November 6th titled, “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.” The presentation will feature Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art’s education committee chair, Luba Markewycz. Markewycz will share her exhibit, “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child,” composed of artwork created by contemporary children throughout Ukraine. Gregg will discuss the historical context and the ways in which the Holodomor amounted to an assault on human dignity, individual liberty, private property, and religious freedom.

We invite you to come learn about this important part of history and see it depicted through art. For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.