Blog author: sstanley
Thursday, September 17, 2015


Morning Panel at “Judaism, Christianity, & the West.”

On September 9, leading scholars of the world came together to discuss the ways in which Judaism and Christianity have contributed to building the foundations of liberty. “Judaism, Christianity, and the West: Building and preserving the institutions of freedom” was the fourth conference in the “One and indivisible? The relationship between religious and economic freedom” conference series. Sponsored by the Acton Institute and the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, this day-long event was a first for Acton, as the Institute has never held an event in the Middle East before.

Throughout the world today, freedom is often taken for granted. Yet freedom is the exception rather than the norm in human history. It is also the case that the institutions of freedom, and particular liberties such as political freedom, religious liberty, civil freedoms, and economic liberty in the West, were decisively shaped by Judaism and Christianity. Knowledge of these contribution, however, is dangerously absent from many public discussions of freedom, and its relationship to other important values, such as dignity and solidarity. How do we bring knowledge of these truths back into public discussion? What are the new threats to these forms of liberty in modern societies whose primary religious roots lie in Judaism and Christianity? (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Francis stresses solidarity, justice, participation in address to EU environment ministers
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

A “cultural, spiritual and educational challenge” awaits global negotiators set to act in coming months on issues of sustainability and the environment, Pope Francis said Wednesday, as he challenged them to act for the poor, ensure industrialized nations repay their “ecological debt,” and include all voices in the discussion. The brief comments came during a morning audience at the Vatican with environmental ministers of European Union member states. According to a translation from Vatican Radio, Francis thanked them for the opportunity to share his thoughts before what he described as “important international events in the coming months”:

The Pope to EU environment ministers: it is time to honour our ecological debt
Vatican Information Service

This morning, before the Wednesday general audience, the Pope received the environment ministers of the European Union who will soon face two important events: the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 in Paris. Francis remarked that their mission is increasingly important since the environment is a “collective good, a patrimony for all humanity, and the responsibility of each one of us – a responsibility that can only be transversal and which requires effective collaboration within the entire international community”.

5 Ways Pope Francis Has Recently Caused Conservative Christians’ Heads to Explode
Janet Allon, AlterNet

Sure enough, the encyclical was taken as sacrilege among prominent Republican Catholics here at home, including Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, who suggested the pope leave science to the scientists, which of course, is precisely what he did. Conservatives like Jeb Bush did not appreciate the swipe at his one true religion, capitalism. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope,” he told his supporters at the time.


Free-tickets-to-more-Pope-FrLast week, 80,000 residents of New York got a free gift: a ticket to see Pope Francis’s procession through Central Park on September 25.

Not surprisingly, soon after the tickets started showing up for sale on websites like eBay and Craigslist for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Also not a surprise is the disgusted reaction some people had to news about the ticket scalping:

“Tickets for events with Pope Francis are distributed free for a reason — to enable as many New Yorkers as possible, including those of modest means, to be able to participate in the Holy Father’s visit to New York,” Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in a statement. “To attempt to resell the tickets and profit from his time in New York goes against everything Pope Francis stands for.”

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Cardinal Dolan (at an event I attended for free). I think he’s a wonderful, charming, gregarious leader. But on this point, I think he’s wrong.

When governments have followed the sort of environmental and free-market admonitions Pope Francis gave us in Laudato Si, negative results often follow. This struck your writer this past week as he read a piece reporting the unforeseen consequences of one specific wrongheaded environmental effort.

In his encyclical, Pope Francis writes:

Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor [italics in original].

Yet, the Pope’s analysis mostly responds to earthly matters when he praises biodiversity and ecosystems as well as:

… marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population … affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species. Selective forms of fishing which discard much of what they collect continue unabated. Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook, like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.


Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 17, 2015

US CONSTITUTION iStock_000007427085XSmall-300x214Constitution Day is celebrated in America every year on September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. Here are five facts you should know about the U.S. Constitution.

1. The Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and has four sheets, 28-3/4 inches by 23-5/8 inches each. It contains 7,591 words including the 27 amendments. It is the oldest and shortest written Constitution of any major government in the world.

2. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. He was in France during the Convention, where he served as the U.S. minister. John Adams was serving as the U.S. minister to Great Britain during the Constitutional Convention and did not attend either. George Washington and James Madison were the only presidents who signed the Constitution.

3. There was a proposal at the Constitutional Convention to limit the standing army for the country to 5,000 men. George Washington sarcastically agreed with this proposal as long as a stipulation was added that no invading army could number more than 3,000 troops

4. The Constitution’s iconic opening line was not included in early drafts of the document. The preamble originally started with individual states listed from north to south: “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts…” et al. The five-person Committee of Style is considered to have been responsible for composing much of the final text, including the revised preamble.

5. More than 11,000 amendments have been introduced in Congress. From 1804 to 1865 there were no amendments added to the Constitution until the end of the Civil War when the Thirteenth amendment was added that abolished slavery. This was the longest period in American history in which there were no changes to our Constitution. The Constitution has only been changed seventeen times since 1791.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 17, 2015

What Is a Christian’s Responsibility to Government?
R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries

The New Testament gives us some broad principles on how we are supposed to respond to government. For example, Romans 13 elaborates on the origin and institution of government as something that God ordains.

Tax exemptions protect religious freedom. We should keep them.
Richard W. Garnett, Washington Post

Instead of asking whether churches and religious organizations deserve to be tax-exempt, we should ask why governments should be able to tax them at all. Taxation, after all, involves interference by the state, and in a free society such interference needs to be justified.

The Historical Argument Against the Minimum Wage
Ben R. Crenshaw

This week I shall advance the historical case against the minimum wage by showing the discriminatory origins of this popular public policy.

Here’s How Religion Shaped Margaret Thatcher’s Politics
Eliza Filby, The Daily Signal

Few people are aware that Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister 1979-1990 and one of the foremost politicians of the twentieth century, was a lay Methodist preacher before she entered politics.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

acton-commentary-blogimageWhy aren’t church leaders who are so quick to condemn capitalism, asks Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky in this week’s Acton Commentary, decrying Big Government bureaucracy?

The warnings of recent papal teachings on questions of social justice rarely – if ever – identify the dangers of a highly bureaucratized central government. Apparently most of the sinful and corrosive “love for money” comes from private sector capitalists, not government public sector agencies. Certainly corporate capitalistic greed can and does have serious economic consequences. But is it reasonable to ignore the negative economic consequences of Big Government, its centralized control and bureaucratic demands?

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

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Encyclical unites religious, nonreligious voices on climate change
Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Thousands of people inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment planned to rally on the Mall the morning that the pope addresses Congress hoping he will acknowledge their work on climate change. Rally organizers say it’s possible the pope may even stop by to check out the banners promoting the document, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” on his way to the Capitol.

In two interviews the Pope reaffirms that unfair economic systems cause migration and insists on care for creation
Vatican Information Service

Pope Francis has recently granted two interviews: one to the Portuguese broadcaster Radio Renascenca, on the occasion of the Portuguese bishops’ “ad Limina” visit, and the other to the Argentine Radio Milenium, focusing on care for creation and the value of friendship and dialogue.

The Elect and the Environment
D.G. Hart, Wall Street Journal

Does the environment go better with God, to borrow an old advertising line from the makers of Coke? Roughly 50 years ago, the historian of science Lynn White Jr. answered that question in the negative in a Science magazine article titled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” As Mark R. Stoll observes in “Inherit the Holy Mountain” (a title taken from the book of Isaiah), White was himself a Christian whose father taught ethics at a Presbyterian seminary. But White’s background did not prevent him from concluding that the Christian understanding of humanity—that we are not part of nature but have dominion over it—was responsible for the modern West’s ruthless attitude toward nature. In White’s own words, “Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.”


Israel M. Kirzner

While reading economist (and rabbi) Israel M. Kirzner’s Competition & Entrepreneurship (1973), it occurred to me that his description of what the “pure entrepreneur” does could also be applied to what a good interdisciplinary scholar, such as someone who studies faith and economics, does (or at least aspires to do).

In our world of imperfect knowledge, Kirzner writes,

there are likely to exist, at any given time, a multitude of opportunities that have not yet been taken advantage of. Sellers my have sold for prices lower than the prices which were in fact obtainable…. Buyers may have bought for prices higher than the lowest prices needed to secure what they are buying…. The existence of these opportunities opens up a scope for decision-making that does not depend, in principle, upon Robbinsian [means-end] economizing at all. What our decision maker without means needs to arrive at the best decision is simply to know where these unexploited opportunities exist. All he needs is to discover where buyers have been paying too much and where sellers have been receiving too little and to bridge the gap by offering to buy for a little more and to sell for a little less. To discover these unexploited opportunities requires alertness. Calculation will not help, and economizing and optimizing will not of themselves yield this knowledge.

To simplify, for Kirzner the entrepreneur is an equilibrating force in the market, a contrast of emphasis from the conception of Joseph Schumpeter, where the entrepreneur is a disequilibrating force through creative destruction. Rather, for Kirzner, the entrepreneur is the person who sees the opportunity to buy low and sell high. And I think that is what interdisciplinary scholars do at their best as well. (more…)

socialism-0916After getting home from work you get a statement in the mail from the local government saying you owe $20,000 for college tuition. You’re surprised to receive the bill since (a) you never went to college yourself and (b) your own children are still in preschool. Upon reading the fine print you discover the expected payment is not to cover any costs you’ve incurred but to pay for the tuition of college students in your neighborhood.

Outraged, you turn to your neighbors to complain about the injustice. They assure you, though, that this is nothing to be concerned about. Americans aren’t paying more for college tuition, one explains, “The only change is how we now pay for college.” Before, individuals were expected to cover their costs of attending college. Now, everyone is expected to pay. “So you see,” another says cheerfully, “there’s no real change.”

After hearing this you would probably want to move to a new neighborhood since you are surrounded by people who can’t distinguish between your money and a collective pool of cash that can be distributed at the whim of the government.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a completely hypothetical scenario. This is the actual rationale some people are making to justify presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders proposal for $18 trillion in spending. In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman says,