Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
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Minimum-wage offensive could speed arrival of robot-powered restaurants
Lydia DePillis, Washington Post

About 30 percent of the restaurant industry’s costs come from salaries, so burger-flipping robots — or at least super-fast ovens that expedite the process — become that much more cost-competitive if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.

The Economic Way of Asking Questions
Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek

Of all the physical, or non-social, sciences, biology is the science that is most like economics: central to both biology and to economics is the quest to understand the logic of undesigned order, and to interpret observed real-world phenomena in light of that understanding.

Authority, Citizenship, And Public Justice
David T. Koyzis, First Things

North Americans famously esteem freedom but are ambivalent about authority. Authority strikes many of us as too constricting and insufficiently supportive of our desires and aspirations. Yet I believe that authority is key to understanding our humanity and the meaning of our creation in God’s image.

Why erratic schedules are one of the worst parts of low-wage work
Timothy B. Lee, Vox

A recent management trend has made the lives of low-wage workers even more difficult. In an effort to save on labor costs, many employers have made employees’ schedules more erratic and less predictable.

We’ve had our busiest Acton Lecture Series in institute history over the course of the first six months of 2015 – we’ve had more public events at the Acton Building in that period of time than we had all of last year, I believe; I’d venture to say that 2015 is already the busiest year in that regard in the 25-year history of the Acton Institute. We’ve had a bit of a pause in the events schedule over the summer, which means that now is a great time to catch up and highlight some events from earlier in the year that you may have missed.

On April 14th, Acton joined with our friends at the Mackinac Center to host Timothy P. Carney – author, senior political columnist at the Washington Examiner, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute – who spoke on the topic “Is Big Business a Danger to Economic Liberty?” Carney’s talk and the Q and A session that followed are now available for your edification via the video player below.

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
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California measure fails to create green jobs
Julia Horowitz, MyWay

Three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved.

Papal Encyclical On Climate Change Puts Coal Country Catholics In Tough Spot
Aaron Schrank, National Public Radio

Kevin Roberts is president of Wyoming Catholic College. He says environmentalists are exploiting the Pope’s words to push an agenda that hurts Wyoming. That’s as state leaders fight President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would require the state to cut its carbon emissions by about 40 percent over the next 15 years.

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Basic CMYKEarlier this summer a Gallup survey asked respondents to answer the following question:

Between now and the 2016 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates—their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be _______________, would you vote for that person?

The survey provided some interesting findings, such as 25 percent of Americans would not vote for an evangelical Christian. In contrast, fewer people said they would not for a Mormon (18 percent), Jewish (7 percent), or Catholic (6 percent) candidate.

But while that particular finding is disconcerting (at least to Evangelicals like me), there was another result that was even more troubling. The survey found that 46 percent said they would vote for a socialist while 50 percent said they would not.

If you’re a “glass half full” type of person you may find that result reassuring. After all, half of Americans would not vote for a socialist. But keep in mind that nearly half of Americans would also refuse to vote for a Democrat or a Republican.
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
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Who Really Cares About the Poor?: A Socratic Dialogue
Bryan Caplan, EconLog

Glaucon: Can you believe all these rich jerks who refuse to help the poor? Socrates: I’m puzzled, Glaucon. You’re rich, but I’ve never seen you help the poor.

How to stop forced marriage in Africa, soon to have most of the world’s child brides
Lily Kuo, Quartz

According to UNICEF, sub-Saharan Africa will be home to the highest number of child brides in the world by 2050, surpassing South Asia. In Nigeria, for example, where the country’s rate of child marriage has been falling by 1% a year over the past 30 years, its dramatic population growth will mean that an estimated 50 million women (pdf, p.9) in the region’s largest economy will be married before the age of 18.

Don’t Fall for Back-to-School Tax Holidays
Helaine Olen, Slate

These sort of promotions play to everything from our desire for a bargain to our hatred of taxes, not to mention our unwillingness to let someone else get a deal while we pay more money for an item just a few days later.

Fast moving bad news builds prosperity
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, USA Today

Free markets automatically create and transmit negative information, while socialism hides it.

PowerBlog readers will have noticed a strong, and from my point of view justified, negative reaction here to Elise Hilton’s Aug. 11 post titled, “The Lost Girls of Romania: A Nation of Sex Trafficking.” Commenters referred to the post as offensive and poorly researched. As editor with overall responsibility for the PowerBlog, I want to address the many comments we’ve received that take issue with Hilton’s characterization of Romania and Romanian women.

Before we go any further, I want to note that anyone who writes regularly for publication will invariably make errors of fact and error of analysis. In a long career in journalism and other editorial work, I certainly have made my share. The responsibility of the writer and editor is to be accountable to readers and correct the record when needed.

This post missed the mark. It should not have relied on a single Al Jazeera article to make assertions that in Romania “women and girls have virtually no rights.” What’s more, the sweeping generalization that in Romania if women “are not hidden, they are trafficked” is patently untrue. I’ve been to Bucharest, a beautiful European capital, and this statement does not describe what I saw there. I’ve also been blessed to get to know many Romanian families who worship at my Greek Orthodox parish and have found them to be unfailingly kind, hospitable and productive. Romania is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian culture, but has significant populations of Roman Catholics and Protestants and small numbers of Muslims. As for the Church, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel has been unequivocal in his condemnation of human trafficking. The following is from a statement he made in 2009: (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Monday, August 17, 2015
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Is Poland’s new hyper-Catholic government on a collision course with the pope?
John L. Allen, Jr., Crux

In his recent encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Francis called for strong limits on the consumption of fossil fuels. Yet Law and Justice has vowed to toughen Poland’s stance on climate issues to protect its economy, which relies on coal for about 90 percent of its electricity. A party official in charge of energy policy recently said, “The strategy we’re planning rejects the dogma of de-carbonization.”

United Church of Canada Sells Fossil Fuel Holdings, Commits $6 Million to Alternative Energy to Save Creation
Vincent Funaro, The Christian Post

The Episcopal Church’s position echoes that of Francis who released an encyclical dealing with climate change back June. It dealt with how climate change is affecting God’s creation and was supported by over 300 Evangelical leaders.

Obama Clean Power Plan praised
Insight News

“Cities alone cannot meet the climate challenge. Action at the national scale is necessary,” said Ed Murray, mayor of Seattle. “As Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical on climate change, ‘the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.’ I am pleased that this administration, through this action, is taking these words to heart.”

Combating climate change can co-exist with oil, gas industry
Mella McEwan, Midland Reporter-Telegram

“The ‘shale renaissance’ has occurred in spite of actions of this administration,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. “This is evidenced by the fact that oil and gas production has risen dramatically on private lands during the last seven years. Meanwhile, production from federal lands has decreased during the same time period.”

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Whitney Ball

Whitney Ball

The freedom movement lost a champion today. Whitney Ball, president and CEO of DonorsTrust, died last night after a long and courageous fight with cancer. Whitney was a dear friend of more than two decades, and one with whom I shared both a passion for liberty and the Christian faith. She was indefatigable in the pursuit of both passions. DonorsTrust, which she has shepherded for most of its history, has been and will continue to be a bulwark of liberty long into the future. It will be a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman whose shortened life belies her outsized contribution to making the world a better place. Whitney will be greatly missed. Requiescat in pace.

amazon-workIn the movie Annie Hall, Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) tells an old joke about two elderly women having dinner at a Catskill mountain resort. One of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Alvy says that’s essentially how he feels about life: it’s full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. Many people seem to have a similar complaint after reading the recent New York Times exposé about Amazon.com: The company is a terrible place to work, and it’s almost impossible to get or keep a job there.

The article certainly makes Amazon sound like a brutal place to work. As one former employee says, “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” In the third paragraph the Times claims,

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others.

Many people will read that and be horrified while others will shrug and say, “Sounds a lot like the company I work for.” There are also those who question the accuracy and fairness of the article (Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, a primary competitor of the New York Times). One current employee even explains in detail what the story gets wrong.

I don’t want to bash or defend Amazon. But I do think it is worth asking why, if the company is so horrible, are people beating down Amazon’s door to work there?
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Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg made an appearance over the weekend on the Real Clear Radio Hour with Bill Frezza to discuss the relationship between economic and religious liberty, and the role that a Christian worldview plays in building the type of world that prefigures the Christian idea of the next life.

The interview runs for 25 minutes, and you can listen to it via the audio player below.