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.”

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ADAMS231011_2__2034469cWriting for Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg has some rather negative predictions about the European Union in a new piece titled, “The end of Europe.” Gregg begins by quoting France’s leader during World War II, General Charles de Gaulle. In his Mémoires d’Espoir, de Gaulle saw Europe as having “a spiritual and cultural heritage.” He wrote that “the same Christian origins and the same way of life, linked to one another since time immemorial by countless ties of thought, art, science, politics and trade.” The current crisis in Europe reflects de Gaulle’s insights. European governments have abandoned their Judaeo-Christian origins and have placed their faith in bureaucracies whose authority stretches beyond country borders, but who are guaranteed to further European decline.

Gregg states that there are essentially three concepts to consider regarding Europe’s current issues: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pope: Religious justification for Paris attacks ‘blasphemy,’ love of neighbor needed
Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis on Sunday again strongly condemned the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, saying he wanted to express closeness to the families of the victims and calling any religious justification for such attacks “blasphemy.”

How a 200-Year-Old Anti-Catholic Law Is Ruining Kids’ Chance at a Quality Education
Mary Clare Reim, The Daily Signal

“Dismal.” “A train wreck.” That’s how people have characterized the results of this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress.

C.S. Lewis and the Surprising Reason We Desire Fulfillment at Work
Andrew Spencer, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

In The Weight of Glory, a sermon preached in the Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in 1941, C. S. Lewis describes some of that deep longing and offers hope for its fulfillment.

‘Ban Smoking’ Means ‘Evict Defiant Smokers’
Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View

As law-and-order hawks frequently forget, the problem with imposing draconian punishment is that their deterrent effect ends up considerably blunted by the natural reluctance of authorities to impose very harsh punishments on violators who are mostly harming themselves. Housing authorities already show reluctance to evict people who consistently fail to pay their rent. How many are going to be willing to regularly toss families out on the street because Mom smokes in the bathroom?

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani postponed his much-anticipated four-day European visit after the attacks in Paris over the weekend. According to a Voice of America report, the Iranian leader described the Islamist terror attacks, which have pushed the death toll to 132 and wounded more than 300 in Paris, as “crimes against humanity.”

Rouhani had planned to visit Italy, the Vatican and France “in a trip aimed at boosting business and diplomatic ties after years of crippling international sanctions because of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.” At Catholic World Report, John Paul Shimak looked at the “unique challenges” facing Pope Francis in advance of his meeting with Rouhani (no announcement on when the trip will be rescheduled). One of those challenges is anti-Semitism. He interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, Acton’s Rome office director:

In an e-mail dated October 30, Kishore Jayabalan of the Istituto Acton told me that the Pope “should tell Rouhani what he recently told a meeting of Jewish leaders, that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic and therefore unacceptable.” However, Jayabalan says he doubts “it would have much effect.” (more…)

Do Google Earth satellite images point to more grim news from inside North Korea? According to an article from United Press International (UPI), Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University noticed a substantial difference in satellite images of a North Korean prison camp from 2013 to some taken last month:

[A]erial snapshots from Oct. 15 indicated considerable changes have been made to Camp No. 16.

Melvin said the new changes included dams, hydroelectric power plants, apartments for the camp’s guards, an athletic field, a mine and fish farms. These facilities were not visible in satellite imagery taken in 2013.

The latest construction appears to indicate that North Korea is planning for an increase in the population of inmates detained at Camp No. 16 … In 2014, Amnesty International said in a statement the camp imprisons about 20,000 people and the prisoners are forced to work in very treacherous conditions. [emphasis added]

Camp No. 16, also known as Hwasong or Myonggan concentration camp or Kwan-li-so (Penal-labor colony) No. 16. Camp No. 16 is a prison-labor colony where detainees are expected to work for life with no hope of being released and it is the largest of all the penal-labor camps in North Korea. The UPI piece points out that it was one of five political prisons where up to an estimated 120,000 people are punished for various “crimes against the state.” Despite testimonies of defectors who survived these camps and later escaped North Korea, Pyongyang denies the existence of camps and has officially accused all the witnesses of lying. (more…)

crowd_2At the beginning of human history, God gave mankind a mandate to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Sometime later—around the 19th-century—people started wondering, “Is the earth close to being filled with humans?”

In 1798, Thomas Malthus predicted that if current birth rates persisted, many in Great Britain would starve to death. Instead, the birth rate was matched by increased agricultural yields, allowing more people to be fed with fewer land resources.

Despite Malthus’s failed predictions, others worried that population would eventually outgrow our resources. In 1838, the Belgian mathematician Pierre Verhulst calculated that his country could never support more than 9.4 million people. Verhulst was wrong; Belgian’s current population is more than 11 million.

In 1925, Raymond Pearl, head statistician for the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, calculated the maximum population limit of the U.S. to be 200 million. We reached that in 1968 and are currently at around 319 million. Pearl also predicted the world population limit would be 2 billion, a number that was surpassed in 1930.

Other similar calculations and predictions followed—and they turned out to be just as faulty. Why do smart people get population limit predictions so wrong? As Adam Kucharski explains,

industrial-revolution-1024x665Economist Deirdre McCloskey is set to release the long-anticipated conclusion of the Bourgeois Era trilogy sometime next spring.

The book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, will build on her thesis that our newfound prosperity is not primarily due to systems, tools, or materials, but the ideas and rhetoric behind them.

“The Great Enrichment, in short, came out of a novel, pro-bourgeois, and anti-statist rhetoric that enriched the world,” she writes, in a lengthy teaser for National Review. “It is, as Adam Smith said, ‘allowing every man [and woman, dear] to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.’”

In an age where the Left continues to make age-old Marxian arguments about the destructive ju-ju of accumulated wealth, and where the Right is increasingly prone to react on those same grounds, McCloskey reminds us that the premises are entirely different. (more…)