bernie-sandersWhile many politicians tend to avoid the labels “liberal” or “progressive,” Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proudly self-identifies as a “socialist.”

While at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, Sanders joined the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America, and has remained a outspoken advocate for socialism ever since.

But exactly what kind of socialist is Sanders?

Faced with the prospect, albeit unlikely, that an avowed socialist may actually become the Democrat’s nominee for president, I thought it would be helpful for Americans to understand the particular brand of socialism advocated by Sanders.

My intention is to summarize his views in a way that is not only fair, but that Sanders himself would agree with. In order to do that I’ve attempted to use his own words as much as possible and to avoid directly stating what I find objectionable about his views (I’ll save that for another day).

Here’s what you should know about the socialism of Bernie Sanders:
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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Light Side CodeSome people will try to tell you that the Star Wars saga is about the conflict between the light and the dark sides of the force, between the Jedi and the Sith. Some will defend the Jedi as virtuous warrior monks. Others will try to tell you that the whole story is about bad parenting.

Star Wars is really about family, but it is too easy to blame the parents and the Skywalkers in particular. The films in fact illustrate how the main factions of Force-users, both light and dark, break apart the natural family. I make the extended case in an essay for the Public Discourse, “The Family and the Force.”

Here’s a teaser:

When we identify the mutual disdain for the family that is characteristic of users of both the light and the dark sides of the Force, we can begin to understand the revolutionary depth the Skywalker family represents in the Star Wars universe. Contrary to both the Sith and the Jedi, the Skywalkers are deeply committed to their familial bonds.

Only the bonds of love forged in the natural family can bring true balance to the Force. There are big spoilers in the piece itself for those of you who haven’t yet seen “The Force Awakens.” And below the break (and below this line), I’ll discuss a few more spoiler-ish items that I didn’t have space to treat in the larger essay.
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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The_Odds
In this week’s Acton Commentary, I take a look at “The Moral and Economic Poverty of the Lottery.” I take a look at the main parties involved: the winners, the players, and the government, and conclude, “Far from a force for good, lotteries are a danger to society.”

The problems with lotteries and gambling more generally are various and sundry. But Gerda Reith captures a fundamental aspect when she writes that “the state-sponsored fantasy of the big win turns the ethos of production and accumulation on its head.” This is essentially what Edmund Burke’s problem with a gaming society involves, which I explore in more depth in this week’s piece.

And later today I’ll be on Chris Brooks’ program on Moody Radio, “Equipped,” to discuss lottery winners and losers. Tune in at 1pm Eastern.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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The Family and the Force
Jordan J. Ballor, Public Discourse

The destruction of the Jedi order was due, in large part, to their persistent blindness to the deep, essential, and ineradicable power of familial love. The Skywalkers can bring balance to the Force because they unite it with love learned through family.

Key aide insists Pope Francis isn’t anti-business
Inés San Martín, Crux

In some quarters, there’s a perception that under history’s first pope from the global south, the Catholic Church has become increasingly hostile to capitalism in favor of more socialist-style economic arrangements.

It’s official. The US debt situation is now as good as it’s going to get
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

This may be as good as it gets regarding the US debt situation.

Women On The Front Lines Explain How We Can Better Fight Human Trafficking
Cherylyn LeBon, Opportunity Lives

January marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Some estimate that human trafficking is the fastest growing and third largest organized criminal activity in the world, just behind the drug and arms trades.

humanneedsindexMajority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

That was the headline of a Washington Post article published almost exactly a year ago. The main point of the article was that, “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.”

The claim is overblown and misleading (for reasons I explain here) but it’s in keeping with the most popular metric for measuring poverty in America: income. The problem with using income, as The Salvation Army explains, is that, “At best, income statistics provide only a hazy picture of the actual conditions facing the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, and the underemployed.”

In collaboration with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the The Salvation Army developed the Human Needs Index (HNI) a “new, multidimensional way to measure poverty and its effects.” As they note in their new report,
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The progressive shareholder activists over at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have made it one of their core missions to move companies in which they invest away from fossil fuels – and bankrupting them if necessary. To achieve this goal, according to their website,

ICCR members seek to move companies along a “hierarchy of impact” that will gradually reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and advance their progress towards greater sustainability. Understanding its importance in driving the energy transition, ICCR members actively support climate legislation and regulation from the global to local level and seek greater disclosure around companies’ lobbying and political activites [sic] to ensure that they are consistent with stated policies on environmental issues. In addition, ICCR members are working to help educate the investment community as well as the corporations we work with about opportunities in climate financing that will help to build the coming green economy.

Readers will note that ICCR members seek legal and political enforcement to curtail or eliminate completely the use of fossil fuels, including circumventing First Amendment rights reinforced by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Additionally, they have a powerful ally in the White House who warned us all in 2008 his proposed energy policy would bankrupt the coal industry when he stated as a candidate for his first term: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

That warning has come to pass. According to an editorial titled “The Carnage in Coal Country” from the Wall Street Journal early last week: (more…)

 Pope Francis receives Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in Vatican City on Monday, in a handout photo provided by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Photo: Vatican press office/European Pressphoto Agency

Pope Francis receives Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, in Vatican City on Monday. Photo: Vatican press office/European Pressphoto Agency

Corporate leaders are working to find common ground with the Roman Catholic Church when it comes to ethics and global business. A recent conference in Rome brought together the Pope, Vatican leaders, and global business executives. The purpose was to improve the relations between the two groups after some of Pope Francis’ negative comments on finance and capitalism.

Francis X. Rocca recently wrote about the meeting for the Wall Street Journal:

At the two-day meeting organized by the Global Foundation, an Australian nonprofit that promotes dialogue among the business community, government and other civil society institutions, participants discussed issues such as how to foster broader job opportunities for young people and women and how to eradicate modern slavery.

The conference was headlined by Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s finance chief. Cardinal Pell is one of the few Vatican officials espousing pro-business sympathies that stand in contrast to those of Pope Francis, who has derided money as the “dung of the devil” and frequently excoriated the free-market system.

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