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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, May 19, 2016

Researchers Just Solved One of the Biggest Problems for World Hunger
Ria Misra, io9

Biologists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have come up with a new agricultural technique which they say increases their crop yields by an incredible 50 percent.

Going to church could help you live longer, study says
Carina Storrs, CNN

Many Americans say they attend church because it helps them stay grounded and gives them spiritual guidance. A new study suggests that regular attendance may also help increase their lifespan.

What’s the Church say on unemployment? A lot, actually
Father Leonardo Salutati, Crux

Beginning with the encyclical Rerum Novarum, whose 125th anniversary falls on May 15, the Church has offered society countless teachings and suggestions about work, expressly recalling the rights and duties of people, and many times taking up the defense of workers who are unjustly exploited or not adequately put at the heart of the economy.

Why We’re Falling Behind in World Trade
Tori Whiting, The Daily Signal

Despite the success claimed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States actually lags behind the world in the use of trade.

littlesister-scotusWhat just happened?

The Supreme Court avoided issuing a major ruling today in a combined religious liberty case, Zubik v. Burwell. In a unanimous decision, the justices wrote that the Court “expresses no view on the merits of the cases” but were instead sending the case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise.

What is this case, and what’s it about?

The case, Zubik v. Burwell, combines seven challenges to the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.

To fulfill the requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) the federal government passed a regulation (often called the “HHS Mandate”) that attempts to force groups into providing insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients. Some religious groups, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, objected on the ground that the requirement violates their religious liberty as protected by the First Amendment and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). HHS offered an accommodation that the Little Sisters found to be insufficient.

The Supreme Court was asked to decide, as SCOTUS Blog explains, whether the government has offered nonprofit religious employers a means to comply and whether the whether HHS satisfies RFRA’s test for overriding sincerely held religious objections in circumstances where HHS itself insists that overriding the religious objection will not fulfill HHS’s regulatory objective—namely, the provision of no-cost contraceptives to the objector’s employees.

Who are Zubik and Burwell?

redistribution[Note: This is the second in an occasional series evaluating the remaining presidential candidates and their views on economics and liberty. You can find the first article here.]

In the previous article in this series I explained that the key to understanding Donald Trump’s economic policies is the recognition that, for him, policy and principle are secondary to process. The overriding concern for Trump is not money or wealth but deal-making.

“I don’t do it for the money . . . I do it to do it,” wrote Trump in The Art of the Deal. “I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”

This flippant disregard for money is the type of thing that is only said by saints and trust fund kids. And Trump is no saint.

Trump started out in business with a loan from his father worth almost $7 million in 2016 dollars. He also inherited between $40 and $200 million when his father died in 1999. As a rich kid, he’d be fabulously wealthy even if he never worked a day in his life.

Because he has never had to be concerned about earning money, he has always treated it as a measuring stick. For Trump, dollars are the main way that “deals” are measured. The more dollars you can extract from someone else, the more you “win.”

This may sound like the normal process of capitalism, but it’s not. In a free enterprise system (at least in an ideal one) “deals” are mutually beneficial to both parties. The deal may not be equally beneficial to both parties or even beneficial in the same way, but each side must believe they are better off for having entered into an economic exchange. If they did not, they would not have agreed to the deal.

There is a way, however, to “win” at a deal without everyone involved agreeing that it was mutually beneficial: get the government to redistribute someone else’s property to you.

Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg is in Rome this week for Acton’s conference on the 125th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s ground-breaking encyclical Rerum NovarumThe conference – titled Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time – takes place on April 20th from 2-7:30 pm at the Roma-Trevi-Conference Center in Rome, Italy.

Sam sat down for an in-depth interview with Vatican Radio about the encyclical and the conference, noting that “there are many things about Rerum novarum that are timeless, partly because the encyclical draws very specifically on natural law [and] Thomistic thought, when it discusses things like, for example, its defense – its very rigorous defense – of private property, but also its very strong critique of socialism.”

For more information on the conference, visit; you can follow the conference as it happens on twitter using #125onFreedom.


trade-globalization-exchange-collaborationIt’s become rather predictable to hear progressives promote protectionist rhetoric on trade and globalization. What’s surprising is when it spills from the lips of the leading Republican candidate.

Donald Trump has made opposition to free trade a hallmark of his campaign, a hole that his competitors have been slow to exploit. In the most recent CNN debate, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich each echoed their own agreement in varying degrees, voicing slight critiques on tariffs but mostly affirming Trump’s ambiguous platitudes about trade that is “free but fair.”

Why so much silence?

Unfortunately, as Tim Carney details at length, voters are biting and swallowing what Trump is peddling, and conservatives are struggling to find solutions that sell. “Conservatives may scoff at this Made in America mindset as economically illiterate,” he writes. “But politically, it seems to be a winner.” (more…)

Lastmilitary-draft December Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced he would lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a move that allows hundreds of thousands of women to serve in front-line positions during wartime. “This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Secretary Carter said at a news conference.

Today, the top officers in the Army and Marine Corps followed that policy to its logical conclusion and told Congress that it is time for women to register for future military drafts.

The would be a radical change since, as the New York Times notes,

Selective Service laws have never required women to subject themselves to the draft and face the prospect of being forced into military service. The current version of the Military Selective Service Act requires that virtually all men in the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 register, most within 30 days of turning 18. That includes non-U.S. citizens living in the United States, such as refugees.

If we are going to have a military draft and women are eligible for combat (an idea I oppose), then it’s only fair that women be forced to serve alongside men. But perhaps it’s time we abolish the idea of military conscription altogether.

cow-faceDuring the Spanish Civil War, an American farmer named Dan West served as an aid worker on the front lines. His mission was to provide relief to weary soldiers, but all he was allotted to give them was a single cup of milk.

This meager ration led West to wonder if more could be done. “What if they had not a cup,” thought West, “but a cow?”

The “teach a man to fish” philosophy behind that question inspired West to found Heifer International, an organization that provides farm animals to needy families and communities in developing countries. It’s an appealing model (like many Americans, my family has made donating a farm animal a holiday tradition) but does it work? Is giving an animal an effective option for helping the poor?

Developmental economist Bruce Wydick agricultural economics professor Chris Barrett studied the impact of farm animal donations: