suspensionIn Dothan, Alabama, school officials are meeting to make changes to the Dothan City Schools suspension policies because of disparities between the rates of suspensions between black and white students. Across the American South, these suspension disparities are among the greatest. The terms for how students are punished are largely subjective, and this punishment increasingly falls harder on minority students compared to their white counterparts. An August 2015 report published by the University of Pennsylvania highlighted some of the disparities in punishment and brought to light some of the disproportionate impact these harsh discipline policies have on black students in the Southern states in particular.

The report found that across the country in one academic year there were 1.2 million black students suspended from K-12 schools. More than half of these suspensions occurred in Southern states (55 percent). Southern school districts also accounted for half of the expulsions of black students in the nation. Overall black students were punished at disproportionately high levels across Southern school districts. In 84 school districts black students accounted for 100 percent of all suspensions, and in 181 districts black students accounted for 100 percent of expulsions. Those numbers only represent the districts where all of the harsh discipline was entirely directed at black students — in hundreds of other districts punishment was directed towards black students 50 or 75 percent of the time.
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cover_oneFrom today until Sunday (July 14 – 17), the Acton Institute’s book One and Indivisible: The Relationship between Religious and Economic Freedom will be available to download for free. The book is a collection of essays, which is, according to editor Kevin Schmiesing, organized around the central theme: “What is the relationship between economic freedom and religious freedom?” As Schmiesing writes:

In light of the urgent need both to understand the relationship between religious and economic liberty and to bolster it, it is imperative that the essays here both explore the theoretical basis of the relationship and offer practical guidance for how to nurture it. They must show us how to engage in the building of societies that are at once hospitable to the worship of God and also conducive to the material abundance that permits human flourishing in all its dimensions. They do not disappoint on this score.

In the twenty-first century, increasing persecution of religious believers across the world has brought renewed attention to the importance and foundations of genuine religious liberty. Too often, however, advocates of religious freedom fail to recognize the ways in which other aspects of freedom—including the rights to property and economic initiative—are intertwined with the freedom to act in accord with religious belief. In this wide-ranging volume, an interfaith, international group of prominent scholars and religious leaders explore the relationship between economic and religious liberty. A sound understanding of this relationship, rooted in the natural law and the truth about the human person, is indispensable if our future is to be characterized not by civil and religious strife but instead by peaceful religious practice and prosperous commerce among the diverse peoples of the world.

You can download the eBook from Amazon.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, July 14, 2016
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Is Homelessness Only a Housing Problem?
Stephen Eide, Family Studies

Is homelessness purely a housing problem, or do norms and family structure play a role?

The Double Standard on Low-Wage Work
A. Barton Hinkle, Reason.com

Democrats love unpaid interns. Republicans more likely to pay them.

The Capitalist’s Imagination
Brooke Harrington, The Atlantic

The German sociologist Jens Beckert argues that literary theory can help explain what economics fails to.

What to Know About the History of the Fed’s Beige Book
Merrill Fabry, Time

On Wednesday, as it does every six weeks, the U.S. Federal Reserve will release what’s called the Beige Book, so-called for the color of its cover.

John Calhoun (1782 - 1850)

John Calhoun (1782 – 1850)

Proponents of protectionism often ground their support in a quasi-nationalism; trade should be restricted for the benefit of the nation. Economically, the argument holds little weight. The benefits of more trade, like more and cheaper goods, outweigh the costs, like some temporary unemployment that results from the closing of a factory that couldn’t compete with foreign companies.

Some protectionists may accept this, and still urge tariffs, quotas, and other restrictions. They argue that a nation can still benefit, even with economic disadvantages. Sure, consumers might pay in higher prices if there’s a tariff on steel, but think of all the jobs! The consequences of protectionism, however, are not simply economic. Rather than developing national and political unity, tariffs often lead to national discord.

Take the United States in the early nineteenth century. Its still developing economy was primarily agricultural, with a growing commercial and manufacturing sector. Many early American politicians advocated a tariff in order to protect, foster, and develop American manufacturing.

Ignoring the economic flaws of such a plan, the policy sowed the seeds for national disunion, culminating in the United States Civil War. How?

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joseph-interpreting-dreamsNote: This is the latest entry in the Acton blog series, “What Christians Should Know About Economics.” For other entries in the series see this post.

The Term: Consumption Smoothing

What it means: Consumption is the use of goods and services by households. Consumption smoothing is the balancing out of spending and saving over a period of time to maintain the highest possible standard of living (measured in consumption) over the course of one’s life.

Consumption is one of the first economic concepts mentioned in the Bible. Similarly, consumption smoothing is one of the first economic concepts to play a significant role in redemptive history.

In Genesis 41 we find that the Pharaoh of Egypt has two dreams that he is unable to interpret. Joseph is brought in to explain the meaning:
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Blog author: CRoberts
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Working comprises the bulk of most people’s adult lives. Unfortunately, many people find their work unfulfilling and dread Monday mornings. How can we find meaning and a sense of vocation in even the most mundane work environments?

In a recent article published in The Atlantic, Uri Friedman presents seven helpful pieces of advice given by David Brooks (New York Times columnist) and Arthur Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute) in order to shed light on how people can better view their job and find purpose. The difference between attitudes of boredom and laziness versus those of enthusiasm and productivity boils down to one’s motivation to work. Do you work for the paycheck alone? Or do you view your work as contributing to the service of others?

Construction WorkerI found one point especially helpful. Friedman narrates a story:

Arthur Brooks set out on a career as a French horn player. But then he came across Johann Sebastian Bach’s answer to why he’d become a composer: “The aim and final end of all music is nothing less than the glorification of God and the enjoyment of man.” Brooks gradually decided that he could better serve such aims as an economist, with a focus on improving the lives of the poor, than as a musician.

“The happiest people feel like they’re needed,” Brooks said. “The greatest engine of misery in our society is a sense of social and economic superfluousness”—a sense, he added, that is contributing to the anger on display in U.S. politics today.

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gmo-food1“A group of more than 100 Nobel Laureates have publicly declared Greenpeace’s anti-GMO campaign a crime against humanity,” says Allison Gilbert in this week’s Acton Commentary.  “These men and women say the science is clear — the world needs GMOs, and objecting to the production of genetically modified foods both denies scientific evidence and exacerbates the suffering of the world’s poor.”

“We call upon Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general,” the laureates write.

Richard Roberts, the molecular biologist who spearheaded the campaign, said that mankind has been modifying food for centuries, and modern GMOs are only a continuation of this process. The letter urged Greenpeace to “re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide” to recognize that biotechnology is safely improving seeds, crops and farming’s environmental impact.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.