abc apToday, Pope Francis met with Orthodox, Anglican, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu representatives to sign a Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery. Pope Francis thanked those in attendance for making the public commitment to end modern slavery in all its forms. He spoke of the spirit of fraternity among believers, along with the knowledge that humans, created in God’s image and likeness, deserve dignity, regardless of their circumstances. (more…)

o-man-taller-facebookFor most of my life I was, at 5-foot-10, of exactly average height. But in the span of one day in 1989 I became freakishly tall.

While I hadn’t grown an inch upward, I had moved 6,000 miles eastward to Okinawa, Japan. Since the average height of native Okinawans was only 5-foot-2, I towered over most every native islander by 8 inches. It was the equivalent of being 6-foot-6 in the United States.

Unfortunately, when I would leave the towns of Okinawa and step back onto the military base I instantly shrunk back to average height. My height advantage only lasted as long as I got to choose my point of reference.

Where did the truth lie? Was I truly tall or only of average height? The answer was completely dependent on my point of reference. Height, after all, is just a statistical artifact.

While this example may seem silly and rather obvious, it highlights how we our choice of what is a relevant standard of comparison can shape our thinking on important matters of economic policy. Take, for instance, the issue of poverty and income inequality. As Robert Higgs explains,
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speculationThe practice of speculation draws mixed reactions among Christians, as some believe it is intrinsically evil and others see great good coming from it. Over at Legatus Magazine, Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, hopes to shed some light on whether or not Christians should engage in speculation. The Roman Catholic Catechism condemns specific types of speculation, but Gregg argues that the practice could be justified in other situations not addressed by the Catechism. However, before Christians accept or reject it, it’s important that we understand this financial tool in all its complexity. Gregg quotes the Catholic Catechism:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies “speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others” as “morally illicit” (CCC #2409).. This wording indicates that there are legitimate forms of speculation, though these are left unspecified.

He continues:

The justice of different choices denoted as “speculative” depends upon the specifics of a given choice. Speculation that relies, for instance, upon telling falsehoods is wrong because choosing to lie is, in Christian terms, always wrong. It would be equally unjust for a financial firm to try and manipulate the futures market by expressing to others excessive optimism or negativity about the prospects for a given commodity.

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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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"Tree Grace" - Mako Fujimura

“Tree Grace” – Mako Fujimura

Are you creative? No, that’s not one of those silly Facebook quizzes; it’s a serious question. Would you describe yourself as “creative?”

Turns out, that’s a pretty important question. Folks who study such things say that “creativity” is one of the things employers are looking for in today’s workforce, and not just in places like Silicon Valley. While we value creativity in our culture, it seems as if we’re quashing it in our kids: Common Core doesn’t exactly call for “outside the box” thinking.

Are you creative? If you say “no,” then can you be taught to be creative? It seems that you can. Gerard Puccio at Buffalo State College in New York teaches creativity. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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Pope seeks meeting with Russian Orthodox leader, but says theological agreement impossible
Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

“I said I’ll go wherever you want — you call me and I’ll go. And he also has the same desire,” Francis said. “But with the problems of the war, the poor guy [Patriarch Kirill] has so many problems, so a meeting with the pope will have to wait. But we do want to meet. We want to go forward.”

Patriarch Kirill: ‘The Lack of Morals Is Incompatible with Happiness’
Pravmir

“Thus a question arises: are God’s Commandments, being so old-fashioned, guiding stars as well?,” Kirill asked. “The answer is simple: they are the only guiding stars.”

Our giant welfare state
Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post

Call it a massive case of national self-deception. Indeed, judged by how much of their national income countries devote to social spending, we have the world’s second-largest welfare state — just behind France.

Redeeming Gratitude, Wonder & Work
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Before the Fall, we were designed for and called to work. But after Adam sinned, our souls were severed from relationship with their Creator. The Fall affected creation, too. The ground does not respond the way it was intended to, and work now involves toil.

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, December 1, 2014
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European-Parliament-StrasbourgPope Francis spoke to members of the European Parliament on November 25. The focus of his speech was “dignity:” specifically the transcendent dignity of the human person.

He reminded his audience that the protection of dignity was key to rebuilding Europe following World War II, but now, the pope says, ” there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”

Pope Francis then declared that dignity is intimately intertwined with faith, and the governments of Europe must protect the right to practice one’s faith. (more…)

Abolition-of-Slavery-dayTomorrow is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, a commemoration of the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317(IV) of 2 December 1949). As part of the effort to help eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020, Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Orthodox leaders will gather at the Vatican tomorrow to sign a Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery.

Here are some things you should know about the modern slave trade:

What is modern-day slavery?

Modern-day slavery, also referred to as “trafficking in persons,” or “human trafficking,” describes the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

How many people today are enslaved?
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Blog author: jballor
Monday, December 1, 2014
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I would like to clarify that inequity and inequality are overlapping (and related) but not identical sets. Here’s a diagram that might be helpful.
Inequity Inequality
The way these terms often get used makes it seem like this distinction could provide some clarity. See also “the generally accepted formal equality principle that Aristotle formulated in reference to Plato: ‘treat like cases as like.'”

Tuesday, December 2 marks the final Acton Lecture Series for 2014. Acton welcomes William Allen, Emeritus Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science and Emeritus Dean, James Madison College, at Michigan State University. Allen will be speaking on “American National Character and the Future of Liberty,” beginning at 11:30 at 98 E. Fulton, Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can register here.

Allen spoke (along with Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research) in 2008 on “What Is Freedom?” as part of Acton’s Birth of Freedom project.

Symbol_Justice“If we want to be coherent when addressing poverty,” writes Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg at Public Discourse, “our concerns can’t be rooted in emotivist or relativistic accounts of who human beings are. They must be founded on recognition of each person’s freedom, rationality, and dignity.”

In social sciences such as economics, positivism’s ongoing influence encourages the tendency to see values as irrelevant, hopelessly subjective, and hard to measure (which, for some people, means they don’t exist). Thus, making the argument that values matter economically still involves challenging more mainstream positions. But if establishing strong rule of law protocols is essential for long-term poverty alleviation, this connection may illustrate how widespread commitment to particular moral goods helps promote and sustain one institution that helps lessen poverty.

Read more . . .