Writing for a special New York Times section on giving, Alina Tugend looks at the knotty problem of how best to help those in need. She digs into things like the economics behind food pantries and how relief donations to those devastated by natural disasters often wind up making things worse.

For her story, Tugend interviewed Michael Matheson Miller, Acton research fellow and producer of the new documentary Poverty Inc.

“Look seriously into yourself,” said Michael Matheson Miller, director and producer of the documentary “Poverty Inc.,” which will be released on iTunes in December. “People ask, ‘What can I do to help poverty?’ and that’s often the wrong question. The right one is, ‘What do people need to create prosperity in their families and community and what can I do to help?’ ”

Read “When Making Donations, Know an Agency’s Needs” by Alina Tugend in the New York Times.

While you’re at it, listen to Russ Roberts and Miller talk about the new Poverty Inc. documentary on the always interesting EconTalk podcast. Here’s Roberts on the film: (more…)



The recent “Vatileaks” scandal is almost entirely an Italian problem, according to Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton. In a recent article for The Stream, Jayabalan describes his own experience moving to Italy and dealing with some of the corruption and problems he immediately faced, and how this culture ultimately caused the Vatileaks controversy:

When I first moved [to Italy] to work for the Vatican, my boss told me the hardest part of the transfer would be finding a place to live. “How could that possibly be in a European capital?” I thought. Well, it turns out that Vatican salaries, while tax-free and much sought after in Italy, are not very high and not enough to pay for an apartment on one’s own. The Vatican does own many apartments and rents them at affordable prices, but I was told they are nearly impossible to get. Not only must you be “raccamandato” but have a very influential Italian “protettore,” which mine was not. (He was merely a saintly man who survived 13 years in a communist prison.)

So I was left to fend for myself and, thanks be to God, I was able to find something affordable and centrally-located. But the fact that the Vatican apartments are not available to its foreign employees ought to be a scandal on its own. The Italians look after their own, even in the Vatican. (more…)

Green AmericaEnvironmental activists representing some 50 seemingly disparate groups are calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to conduct a criminal investigation of ExxonMobil for allegedly misleading the public on climate change. Boy howdy, when a representative from The Foundation of Women in Hip Hop aligns her agenda with Green America, the Natural Resources Defense Council and a whole bunch of clergy and religious you can bet the farm there’s an open-and-shut federal case against any company foolish enough to stand in their way.

Here’s the text of the letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch,

As leaders of some of the nation’s environmental, indigenous peoples and civil rights groups, we’re writing to ask that you initiate a federal probe into the conduct of ExxonMobil. New revelations in the Los Angeles Times and the Pulitzer-prize-winning InsideClimate News strongly suggest that the corporation knew about the dangers of climate change even as it funded efforts at climate denial and systematically misled the public.

Given the damage that has already occurred from climate change—particularly in the poorest communities of our nation and our planet—and that will certainly occur going forward, these revelations should be viewed with the utmost apprehension. They are reminiscent—though potentially much greater in scale—than similar revelations about the tobacco industry. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, November 12, 2015

Christian Belief Cost Kelvin Cochran His Job
Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal

Atlanta says it terminated its fire chief because he published a book without permission. The real reason is because of what’s in it.

Freedom to Care for the Poor
John Ashmen, RealClearReligion

While news reports regarding the pontiff over the past few weeks have focused on doctrinal disputes among some Catholic bishops, Americans should not forget the vital — and unifying — themes regarding civil society and service to our neighbors that Pope Francis stressed during his U.S. visit just one month ago.

Cuomo to Create $15 Minimum Wage for New York State Workers
Jesse McKinley, New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to unilaterally create a $15 minimum wage for all state workers, making New York the first state to set such a high wage for a large group of public employees.

Obamacare: Big Brother vs. the Little Sisters
John Zmirak, The Stream

Our new battle is not with overt Marxist tyranny, but with something more subtle — an irreligious government that wants to agglomerate ever more power over our lives in the name of making things fairer and keeping people happier, of smoothing over our differences and soothing our fragile egos.

himmel_actonBiographers suffer from a myriad of temptations. Gertrude Himmelfarb, in her bibliography to the newly republished Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics, recalls how Acton’s first biographer, Ulrich Noack struggled mightily to reconcile contradictions and tensions in Acton’s thought and in doing so lost much of the man himself. Later, Monsignor David Mathew succumbed to the opposite temptation of frequently digressing into trivialities and going off on tangents and as a result losing Acton in the great sea of nineteenth century Catholicism. Himmelfarb’s Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics is one of those rare biographies which manage to thread the needle. It is an intellectual biography which limits itself to the main threads of Acton’s thought as a historian, a Catholic, and a Classical Liberal.

As a historian Acton is brilliant but his work is often inaccessible to the general public. It is buried in collections of lectures, obscure periodicals, personal correspondence, and unpublished notes. By the time he was 40 years old …

He had mastered a variety of disciplines related to the history of politics, culture, ideas and religion. His style combined the sharp, colourful writing, the sense of immediacy and timeliness, of the informal essay, with the precision (degenerating occasionally into pedantry) and the susceptibility for the ancient and the universal of academic history. In addition to some 400 reviews and short articles, he had already published or delivered in the form of lectures the equivalent of almost 1,000 pages of serious essays ranging in subject from the early Christian Church to the American Civil War and the Italian Revolution.


The Roman Curia faces more scrutiny after the release of two new books in Italy based on leaked documents from the Vatican that appear to reveal inappropriate use of church funds. France 24 turned to Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, for his analysis of the situation. Below, we’ve posted a portion of his appearance on France 24; the full panel discussion took up most of a broadcast hour. The full exchange is available on France 24’s website in two parts: Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2.

BrendleA most unlikely debate has erupted over Marco Rubio’s comment in last night’s debate that welders earn more money that philosophers.

It’s a strange controversy since, as Steven Wedgeworth said on Twitter, “There can’t really be this many philosophy majors.” He’s right, of course. But the debate isn’t really about which profession makes more money (at least I don’t think it is). It seems to be more a defense of the liberal arts in general. What is peculiar is that philosophy defenders are basing their argument on monetary grounds rather than pointing out the irrelevance of wages to the life of the mind.

As Anthony Bradley asked a few years ago, “When Did College Education Reduce To Making Money?

Our country’s narcissistic materialism has created a neurotic obsession with disparities between the incomes of individuals resulting in an overall devaluing of the learning goals and outcomes of what colleges exist to accomplish. There is a major disconnect here. I wonder if this explains why many parents do not want their children studying the humanities in college.

While I completely agree with Anthony about what the purpose of college should be (“a place where men and women are educated and formed into more virtuous citizens”), I think he’s overlooking how we got into this situation: College is priced like a luxury good but treated as a prerequisite for most forms of employment.

Unfortunately, the types of degrees that best fulfill the primary function of a college (e.g., liberal arts) are also the most likely to lead to underemployment.

A couple of years ago, Andy Whitman wrote an article for Image, “Starbucks and the Liberal Arts Major”, that highlighted the problem: