Worth Reading - 5/13

1. Aaron Earls is one of my favorite "small name" bloggers. He consistently produces good, thoughtful content off of the main aggregate channels of the blogosphere. This piece he wrote yesterday is a gem, where he discusses the options that the culture gives to Christians and how the growing anti-Christian consensus is a return to historical norms.

I cannot decide which of those beliefs I will embrace based on the popular opinion of the day. For me and many others, they are intertwined and inseparable. To do otherwise would make me a hypocrite. I would be acting in a way contrary to my beliefs.
And that is the lose-lose situation for the Christian. We can become a hypocrite, albeit one praised by culture instead of criticized, or we will be deemed a bigot and/or a weirdo.

2. Basic economics are under attack. The foundational principles of economics, which have been observed by economists for years, are now being discredited by other economists not simply because they need to be adjusted, but because they believe they are outright wrong.

The attacks on 101 seem to be motivated in large part by public debate over whether demand curves slope down — e.g., by whether increasing the minimum wage will reduce employment, or whether increasing the supply of immigrant workers will reduce wages for native-born workers. The standard 101 supply-and-demand models of the labor market predict that both will occur.

Critics suggest that introductory textbooks should emphasize empirical studies over these models. There are many problems with this suggestion, not the least of which that economists’ empirical studies don’t agree on many important policy issues. For example, it is ridiculous to suggest that economists have reached consensus that raising the minimum wage won’t reduce employment. Some studies find non-trivial employment losses; others don’t. The debates often hinge on one’s preferred statistical methods. And deciding which methods you prefer is way beyond the scope of an introductory course.

3. Lecrae is a Christian rapper who is being recognized as one of the best hip hop artists. He has taken criticism for not being explicitly Christian enough in his lyrics and for sharing the stage with artists who are distinctly unChristian. In this post at Facts and Trends, Lecrae reflects on what he wishes Christians would have told him before he converted.

When I decided to follow Jesus one night at a Christian conference in Atlanta, I assumed becoming a Christian would make life easier. I thought the rest of my life would be smiling and smooth sailing.

I assumed I wouldn’t be tempted by women and partying and acceptance and all the things that I’d been a slave to for so many years. I thought I would walk around with a continual inner peace and serenity like Gandhi or something.

This turns out to be a lie that too many people believe. You’ll actually experience more temptation, not less, after you become a Christian. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll start living perfectly overnight. It certainly doesn’t mean your problems will disappear.

Rather than ridding you of problems or temptations, following Jesus means you have a place—no, a person—to run to when they come. And the power to overcome them.

4. Bob Smietana interviews a sociologist from Johns Hopkins on the problem of living on less than two dollars a day. This awful level of poverty exists even in the US, and the problem (and solutions) are not as clear cut as it might seem.

I wrote my first book on how single mothers make ends meet. I toured the country for six years, interviewing hundreds of single mothers about their budgets. This was right before the Clinton-era welfare reform, and people on welfare generally had about 500 bucks a month.

That wasn’t enough to survive, of course. So you basically had to work under the table to make up the difference. But the importance of that story is in spending so many years asking poor people about their budgets, you get this mental calculator going in the back of your head.

I came to Baltimore in 2010 to lead a research team working with young people who had been born in high-rise public housing, but had moved on to better neighborhoods through a variety of interventions—demolition, voucher programs, and so on. That summer, I came into contact with a lot of really disadvantaged people, more disadvantaged even than the working poor I had been hanging out with.

5. An argument in the Washington Post that many of Bernie Sanders' proposals would not significantly benefit the most impoverished, despite the crippling costs and good intentions.

Sanders’s overall philosophy is to tax the rich more heavily to provide more benefits for all. The costliest benefits would come from establishing a government-run universal health-insurance program and eliminating tuition at public colleges and universities.

Yet these initiatives would not radically change the lives of the country’s poorest people. Many poor Americans already qualify for Medicaid. Higher education is a distant dream for many of them. Likewise, doubling the minimum wage would only help those who already have a job.

Economists who support Sanders’s proposals generally argue that a major increase in federal borrowing would stimulate an economy that seems persistently weak, putting more people to work and increasing national income.