Worth Reading - 1/19

1. Putting people to work is a strong social good, but is it a proper aim for government? Anne Bradley at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics examines whether the goal should be to enable wealth creation or simply to put everyone to work.

Jobs are a means of creating value by serving others with excellence. This is one way we fulfill the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:28.

It is easy to get caught up in the hype when government programs tout how many jobs they are creating. It’s important to remember, though, that governments can’t create wealth.

The government is not a business that sells things. The goods and services the government “provides” are paid for through taxation and currency inflation. This imposes a tradeoff; the cost is opportunities that would have been available to the taxpayer if the government had not chosen to use that money for the good or service.

When a business does not provide goods or services that people demand at the price they are willing to pay, it incurs losses. These losses, while difficult to endure, are important feedback mechanisms. They help correct inefficient behavior, allowing the business to better steward scarce resources.

Governments do not operate under profits and losses, so it is difficult for them to know whether they are being effective stewards of our scarce resources.

2. An intriguing article from Smithsonian Magazine about huge underwater caverns discovered in Mexico:

Last week, explorers with the Great Maya Aquifer Project discovered a connection between two large underwater caverns on the Yucatan Peninsula. When combined, the two systems create a 215-mile-long underground labyrinth—the largest flooded cavern on Earth, reports National Geographic.

While the cave itself is an interesting geologic formation, the cave system is also full of pre-Hispanic archaeological sites from the ancient Maya as well as unknown plant and animal species. “This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world, as it has more than a hundred archaeological contexts,” says Guillermo de Anda, director of the project, according to a translated press release. “Along this system, we had documented evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, Maya culture.” In fact, in 2014, divers found the oldest human skeleton discovered in the New World while exploring one of the segments of this submerged cavern, Sac Actun.

As National Geographic reports, the discovery was made after the project’s divers began a new phase of exploring the Sac Actun system and another known as Dos Ojos last March, mapping new tunnels and underground lakes, known as cenotes. They were also looking for a connection between the two. After months of exploration, they finally found it: a subsurface connection near the city of Tulum, Reuters reports. According to cave-naming protocols, the larger system will absorb the smaller system and the whole complex will be known as Sac Actun.

3. In a bid to make the Statists' dreams a little closer to reality, New York is attempting to give the public education system the right to shut down private, religious institutions. Proponents will argue this is to ensure the students get a "proper" education. Opponents will recognize this is an attempt to enforce the idea that the State owns all the people, especially the children, and thus has the right to trump decisions made by parents.

In 1972, New York enacted a law to help pay for “secular educational services for pupils in nonpublic schools.” But the Supreme Court struck it down the following year, claiming it violated the First Amendment and would lead to excessive governmental involvement with religion. A kind of détente has reigned since; New Yorkers can choose where their children go to school, and the state can neither fund private and religious schools nor meddle in their affairs. The state Education Department requires nonpublic schools to provide instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to that of nearby public schools. The standard has worked well, inviting neither controversy nor legal challenges.

The new guidelines will upend the status quo by imposing additional instructional requirements and giving local school districts the power to shut down parochial and private schools deemed not to be “substantially equivalent.” Local officials will even gain the authority to initiate Family Court proceedings against parents whose children are enrolled in schools that don’t measure up.

Even worse, while current guidelines kick in only after “serious concerns” have been established about the instruction at a nonpublic school, the new regulations will mandate regular inspections of the offerings at private and parochial schools. State officers will review curriculum and instructional materials, sit in on classes, and interview teachers.

These new regulations signal the convergence of the nanny state and the secular state. The result will be a government with no inclination to defer to parental choice or acknowledge the religious values that lead families to parochial schools.

4. From Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition, how one Reformation Church studied the Old Testament:

Led by Zwingli, the church in Zurich studied the Old Testament at a level of care which will doubtless amaze us today but which was certainly an evidence of the power of the Spirit in their midst. A contemporary account paints the picture:

“This gathering began with intercessions. Uniting in common forms of prayers, they supplicated the almighty and merciful God, whose word is a lantern unto our feet and a light unto our paths, to open and enlighten our mind, that we might understand his oracles purely and holily, and be transformed into that which we had rightly understood, and that in this we might in no way displease his majesty, through Christ our Lord.

After prayers, a very young man, a scholar of the church, read over side by side with the Vulgate, which they call Jerome’s version, that passage at which they had, in the due progress of exegesis, arrived for discussion. It should be said that persons of good and promising intelligence are supported by a payment from the ecclesiastical chest and educated in arts, languages and sacred literature, that they may one day repay the church by whom they are supported and be of the greatest service in the sacred offices . . . .

When the young man who had read in Latin the passage which came up for discussion, a Hebrew reader rose and repeated the passage in Hebrew, occasionally pointing out the idioms and peculiarities of the language, sometimes giving a rendering of the sense, sometimes translating word for word, and moreover reading the comments of the Grammarians and Rabbis. . .

5. This interview on BBC4 of Jordan Peterson, the Canadian professor who has made international headlines for being confidently classically liberal, is an exemplary display of the appropriate use of rhetoric in response to a hostile and infantile interviewer. His care with words, more than the content, is what makes this worth watching as the interviewer repeatedly baits him by trying to twist his words and ignorantly misrepresenting what he has just said. This interview is worthy of play-by-play breakdown, even if you don't agree with him on all counts.