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mandatory-votingWhile speaking in Cleveland yesterday President Obama came out in favor of making voting in elections compulsory:

In Australia and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting. It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country. Because the people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups… So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term.

While there may be some benefits of mandatory voting, counteracting the amount of money in politics is not one of them. In fact, it would likely increase the amount of money spent on campaigning.

Currently, political campaigns spend a lot of money targeting likely voters and getting them to the polls. Mandatory voting would eliminate the need for spending on get-out-the-vote efforts, but it would make targeting voters even more essential. Political parties would have a need and an incentive to spend millions—perhaps even billions—more on campaigns since they would need to reach millions of additional, low-information voters.

But there are two other reasons why mandatory voting would be a terrible policy:
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On Friday afternoon, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico joined Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel to discuss the notable lack of outrage on the part of the media in response to the slaughter of Christians by terrorist organization ISIS.

Yesterday, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg made an appearance on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show to discuss Pope Francis’ recent comments calling money “the dung of the devil,” setting them in their proper context and discussing the Pope’s comments on cooperative organizations as well. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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Islamic State ‘abducts dozens of Christians in Syria’
BBC

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Getting a gun legally in Europe may be hard, but terrorists have little trouble
Griff Witte and Karla Adam, Washington Post

Europe, a continent long known for the rarity of gun violence, is confronting twin challenges that give the issue sudden urgency: a growing population of radicalized young men determined to strike targets close to home, and a black market awash in high-powered weapons.

How unemployment warps your personality over time
Danielle Paquette, Washington Post

Long periods of unemployment drain our bank accounts and weaken the economy. New research suggests extended joblessness could also dampen our personalities. And that can make it harder to find more work.

Supreme Court to hear religious freedom case
Ariane de Vogue, CNN

Samantha Elauf was apprehensive to interview for a sales job at retailer Abercrombie & Fitch in 2008 because the 17 year old wore a headscarf in accordance with her Muslim faith. But a friend of hers, who worked at the store, said he didn’t think it would be a problem as long as the headscarf wasn’t black because the store doesn’t sell black clothes.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, February 23, 2015
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Families Armed With Books Repel The Effects Of Poverty
Allison Kieselowsky, The Federalist

Families that read together build strong bonds and ward off poverty. Here’s what you can do to encourage love for books in your community.

The Business of Spiritual Man
Hunter Baker, Touchstone

The role of Christianity in Peter Drucker’s early work.

A florist loses religious freedom, and much more
Denny Burk, CNN

Stutzman is the Washington florist who has been sued for living out her Christian beliefs. In 2013, a long-time friend and customer came to her flower shop and asked her to provide flowers for his gay wedding. Stutzman had known this man and had done business with him for about nine years. Nevertheless, she told him that she could not participate in his wedding “because of my relationship with Jesus.”

Nit-Picking “Saint” Adam Smith
Stephen Masty, The Imaginative Conservative

How often can writers pretend to discover some well-known thing for “the first time ever?” With poor Adam Smith it has happened again, but commercial promotion inadvertently raises an important matter that only begins with the great First Economist’s religion or lack thereof.

The scene in Copenhagen following a deadly shooting at a synagogue

The scene in Copenhagen following a deadly shooting at a synagogue

Last week was a nightmarish week. Each day brought forth new violence, visited upon men and women of faith.

Attacks against Christians were carried out by both Boko Haram and the Islamic State. Stephen Hicks, a non-believer, shot and killed three young Muslims in North Carolina. Al Qaeda continues to terrorize people in Yemen, and in Copenhagen, a synagogue was the target of a gunman during a bat mitzvah.

In November 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI spoke to members of INTERPOL regarding crime and terrorism. He said,

Terrorism, one of the most brutal forms of  violence, sows hate, death and a desire for revenge. This phenomenon, with subversive strategies typical of some   extremist organizations aimed at the destruction of property and at murder, has transformed itself  into an obscure web of political complicity, with sophisticated technology, enormous financial resources and planning projects on a vast scale…

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chinese traffickingUnderground delivery rooms. Babies smuggled in designer handbags. Criminal gangs kidnapping pregnant women. It’s all part of a growing concern in China: child trafficking.

According to CNN, Chinese authorities rescued 37 newborns and one toddler this week, arresting over 100 people in the process. The operation included the raid of an “underground delivery room” in an abandoned warehouse, where one baby was found near death under a large pile of blankets. (more…)

nigeria-boko-haramWhat’s going on in Nigeria?

During an attack that started January 3 and continued through this past weekend, the African Islamic militant group Boko Haram opened fire on 16 northern Nigerian villages. The death toll estimates range from 200 to as many 2,000 people.

Another 10,000 people who managed to escape have fled to neighboring Chad. Many Nigerians drowned in an attempt to cross Lake Chad to escape what is now described as  the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.

Over the past six months, Boko Haram has taken control of more than two dozen towns in northeast Nigeria, most of them in Borno State, and launched attacks into Chad and Cameroon. As Alexis Okeowo notes, their territory now nearly equals the Islamic State’s in Iraq and Syria.

What happened this weekend?

A girl believed to have been no more than 10 years old detonated a bomb concealed under her veil at a crowded northern Nigeria market on Saturday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding many more.

The explosion is believed to be a new tactic in the Islamists’ campaign with Boko Haram’s decision to use perhaps their youngest-ever suicide bomber.

What was the recent criticism by the Catholic archbishop?
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Maslow_plus_wifiWhen you think about basic human rights, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The right to life? The right to liberty? The right to WiFi?

If that last one wasn’t on your list it may be a sign that you’re old. As Maryland governor Martin O’Malley recently told CNN, young people today believe that “WiFi is a human right.” O’Malley apparently agrees, adding that, “There is an opportunity there for us as a nation to embrace that new perspective.”

While I’ll concede that WiFi may be a basic human need (it’s certainly on the list of my own hierarchy of needs), it’s hard to see why it would be a human right. A human right is generally considered a right that is inalienable and fundamental and to which a person is inherently entitled simply because they are a human being. Are we really entitled to WiFi simply because we’re human?

While it’s easy to mock O’Malley’s claim, it does raise the question of just what exactly does qualify as a human right.

In a world where few people can agree on anything, it’s not surprising that there is no clear consensus on what constitutes a human right. About the closest the world has ever come to unanimity on the issue is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Below I’ve individually broken out each of the rights listed by the UN as fundamental to all humanity. Before looking at the list, though, take a guess at how many of rights you expect to see on the list.

According to the UDHR, all humans have the right,
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gb_pamphlet2An estimated 10 million American households — about 8 percent of all households — are “unbanked” and one in five households — 24 million households with 51 million adults — are “underbanked.” These are households which don’t have accounts at banks and other mainstream financial institutions and use cash for most of their transactions. As a result, notes the FDIC, these “cash consumers pay excessive fees for basic financial services, are susceptible to high-cost predatory lenders, or have difficulties buying a home or otherwise acquiring assets.”

The highest unbanked and underbanked rates are found among non-Asian minorities, lower-income households, younger households, and unemployed households. Close to half of all households in these groups are unbanked or underbanked compared to slightly more than one-quarter of all households.

One of the most common reasons people have for avoiding checking accounts is overdraft fees. If you write a $10 check and it “bounces” (fails to clear because of lack of funds) most banks will charge you a $35 per transaction fee. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average overdraft fees paid per bank customer was $225. If you make less than $20,000 a year, you can easily find yourself paying one percent of your annual salary on overdraft fees alone.
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The Redlight app to fight human trafficking

The Redlight app to fight human trafficking

The Polaris Project is one of the most highly-respected human trafficking organizations in the nation. Based in Washington, D.C., the Polaris Project (named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the 1800s) is home to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline is able to receive calls or texts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Does it work? Apparently so.

Jennifer Kimball was monitoring calls and texts at the hotline a few months ago. In a story from The Washington Post, Kimball received a text from an 18-year-old woman in distress.

The woman, a sex-trade worker, was trapped in a motel room with her pimp and she secretly used his cellphone to send a text seeking help. The Washington-based group moved quickly to alert authorities, who ultimately arrested the pimp.

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