Tom Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots in the unimpressive 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft out of the University of Michigan. No one predicted that the slow-footed, lumbering QB in this footage from pre-draft workouts that year would become one of the greatest players in the sport’s history.

But he did. Boy, did he!

I’m no fan of the Patriots and care little for Tom Brady himself, but the guy is a winner and fierce competitor. His statistics speak for themselves. The teams he’s captained for more than a decade have amassed a staggering amount of wins. His three Super Bowl rings put him in rarefied air when the conversation about where he ranks among Hall of Famers starts up. He’s got multi-million-dollar endorsement deals and a super model wife. According to the largely superficial standards of our modern world – dude’s getting it done!

And so as Brady entered this off-season’s contract negotiations, conventional wisdom said that the 35 year-old QB would be in line for yet another big pay-day. After all, these 1%-er, out-of-touch athletes are all money-obsessed jerks, no? Given the “spread the wealth” mentality that increasingly typifies America in 2013, we’ll probably need to get some congressional oversight to limit the salaries of the wealthy jocks parading around the field playing a kid’s game, right? (more…)

Family, church, and school are the three basic people-forming institutions, notes Patrick Fagan, and they produce the best results—including economic and political ones—when they cooperate.

Even if all the market reforms of the Washington think tanks, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Magazine were enacted, we’d still need to kiss the Great American Economy goodbye. Below the level of economic policy lies a society that is producing fewer people capable of hard work, especially married men with children. As the retreat from marriage continues apace, there are fewer and fewer of these men, resulting in a slowly, permanently decelerating economy.

When men get married, their sense of responsibility and drive to provide gives them the incentive to work much harder. This translates into an average 27-percent increase in their productivity and income. With the retreat from marriage, instead of this “marriage premium,” we get more single men (who work the least), more cohabiting men (who work less than married men), and more divorced men (who fall between the singles and cohabiters).

All this is visible in the changing work patterns of our country, resulting in real macro-economic consequences. Fifty years ago family life and the economy were quite different.

Read more . . .

The historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI continues to hold the world’s attention. The pope used yesterday’s Angelus address to say good-bye to throngs of well-wishers, while the Vatican announced today that the conclave to choose Benedict’s successor can begin as soon as March 15.

Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, says the work left behind for Benedict’s successor (and indeed for the whole Church) is “sobering”:

A bishop friend of mine said recently that what we need now more than anything as a church, both locally and globally, is a “re-formation” – the kind of fundamental, root-and-branch conversion that goes vastly deeper than the pet issues of American media and political culture to a transformation of hearts, and thereby behavior.

In that regard, sometimes the best lessons for the future can be learned from the experience of the past.

Five centuries ago, just a few years before Luther’s “95 theses,” the Catholic reformer the Rev. John Colet delivered a blisteringly frank homily to a cathedral full of English bishops and senior clergy. To an unamused audience, he argued that “never was there more necessity and never did the state of the church more need” a profound effort at purification – not away from Catholic belief, but back toward living it more zealously, more honestly, more faithfully, as though this world and the next depended on it, because they do.

Read “The Church After Pope Benedict” in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Since Benedict’s resignation we’ve been treated to almost two weeks of conspiracy mongering about the “real” reasons behind Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down. It’s been everything from Piers Morgan’s ceaseless yammering about his “doubts” to theories about the pope hiding out in the Vatican in fear of an arrest warrant issued by “unknown European” entities concerning clergy sexual misconduct, and still lingering hope among some that this time it really was the butler who did it.

Yet, if scandal were the reason, Benedict could have resigned well before this. He was asked about the matter point blank in 2010 by Peter Seewald in Light of the World. Here was his response:

When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation. That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from the danger and say that someone else should do it.

Perhaps I am naïve but I think the reasons he resigned are actually the reasons he gave us. We live in a world where leaders, Christian or otherwise, are resistant to giving up the reins, where people tend to hold on to power much too long, and where everyone is jockeying for influence. Pope Benedict’s willingness to let go is a refreshing contrast to all this.

And as for the claim that Benedict may try to influence the conclave and the next pope, there is no more influential person in the Catholic Church than Benedict XVI. If maximizing his influence were his goal he wouldn’t have resigned.

I think his resignation can be boiled down to three things: magnanimity, humility, and prudence. I’d like to take a moment to consider each of these qualities in turn. (more…)

PovertyCure was featured in Forbes Magazine last week. Alex Chafuen, one of Acton’s founding board members, featured PovertyCure in his article on champions of innovation. He writes:

A new multifaceted initiative, called PovertyCure, provides abundant materials and resources for those who want to create lasting solutions to poverty. The program is founded on the conviction that each human person can be a source of great creativity. It highlights the incentives needed to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that fills the developing world.

Chafuen also calls attention to PovertyCure’s focus on the big picture:

Many intellectual entrepreneurs and some of their donors and “angel investors” tend to be single-product champions. They focus on only one element in the road to reduce poverty, e.g., women rights, property titles, vaccines. This could lead to neglect of the fundamental problems that impede successful outcomes in their area of work… A fruitful dialogue among participants in PovertyCure can increase the chances that poverty or “human flourishing” programs will be structured with the proper incentives.

Instead of focusing on what we can do to solve poverty, the real question is how do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and communities.

Learn more about PovertyCure, their network of over 180 organizations, and order the new PovertyCure DVD-Series, a 152-minute documentary-style series that challenges conventional thinking and explores the economic and theological foundations of human flourishing.

Empty marketplaceIn his latest column, Ross Douthat contemplates what a world without work might look like:

Imagine, as 19th-century utopians often did, a society rich enough that fewer and fewer people need to work — a society where leisure becomes universally accessible, where part-time jobs replace the regimented workweek, and where living standards keep rising even though more people have left the work force altogether.

If such a utopia were possible, one might expect that it would be achieved first among the upper classes, and then gradually spread down the social ladder. First the wealthy would work shorter hours, then the middle class, and finally even high school dropouts would be able to sleep late and take four-day weekends and choose their own adventures.” — “to hunt in the morning,” as Karl Marx once prophesied, “fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner …”

Yet a widespread decline in work is not just an imaginative possibility. As Douthat goes on to argue, such decline has become “a basic reality of 21st-century American life,“ but without following the typical Marxist trajectory. “Instead of spreading from the top down,” Douthat notes, “leisure time – wanted or unwanted – is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.” Despite our persistent longing for rest and relaxation, however, this trend is not viewed as a positive development for society, even for the folks at Mother Jones.

Further, as Charles Murray explains in his latest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, our attitudes about work have also begun shifting, again, disproportionally among the lower classes. Pointing to a General Social Survey study that asked participants what they prefer in a job, Murray points out that the leading preference across all income groups during the 1970s was a job that “gives a feeling of accomplishment.” Soon thereafter, beginning in the 1990s, this preference began to shift significantly among the lower classes, who began to put higher preference on jobs with “no danger of being fired” or where “working hours are short.” (more…)

Samuel Gregg’s book Becoming Europe details the faltering economies of many European nations, and offers a prescription of how and why America can avoid the same fate. Encounter Books has produced the following whiteboard to illustrate the book’s main points.