Photo courtesy of Harvard Business Review

Photo courtesy of Harvard Business Review

Tim Sullivan, editorial director of Harvard Business Review Press, took a look at how difficult it actually is for philanthropists to give their money away and focused on the case of Paul English, founder of kayak.com. In a Harvard Business Review article titled “The Philanthropist’s Burden” in the December issue, Sullivan talks about how, despite many causes to support, the real trick is to find the most effective organizations. He uses the Acton Institute Poverty, Inc. documentary to show how nonprofits, governments, and socially conscience businesses in the global foreign aid industry have often done more harm than good.  He says this:

English did have other options. He could have decided to donate a significant sum to some well-established charity organization, one that appears to be doing God’s work in eradicating global poverty. But even in that direction lie hidden dangers, exposed by a 2014 documentary, Poverty, Inc., that explores the equilibrium that the international aid community and social entrepreneurship have created in the developing world. Director Michael Matheson Miller reviews the situation in Haiti in particular and in some sub-Saharan African countries, and finds that the perfectly legitimate desire to help, which often manifests itself in the form of cash and in-kind donations, keeps the developing world in its developing state. Gifts from individual philanthropists, nonprofits, governments, and socially conscious businesses have created a state of dependence. When a country is awash in free money, free clothes, and free food from the developed world, it’s nearly impossible for local farmers and entrepreneurs, even formerly successful ones, to compete. Industry dries up, but the residents can’t always rely on specific kinds of aid, since it’s inconsistently delivered.

That’s not to condemn any person or organization with good intentions—the filmmakers are very careful on this point. No one is ungracious about the aid offered. But the single most important message to come out of Poverty, Inc. is from aid recipients themselves: Stop. Stop giving us free stuff and help us figure out how to build sustainable businesses that will have positive and long-lasting impact on our communities. The free shoes sure were nice for a while, but we’d really like to build our own shoe factories instead.

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In a new article at The Christian Science Monitor titled “Can ‘economic nationalism’ keep more jobs in US?” Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg is interviewed about President-elect Donald Trump’s stated goal of keeping jobs and businesses from leaving for foreign countries. In the analysis piece by reporter Patrik Jonsson, he cites Gregg as a critic of protectionism:

In short, the United States cannot step back from the world without losing out, critics say.

Trump’s plans are in the short-term “likely to have some benefits for some local communities, but in the long term no amount of protectionism is going to stop you from losing your competitive edge,” says Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. “At the moment, the pendulum has shifted toward fixing an immediate problem … but those programs will all have to be wound back precisely because they’ll cause inefficiencies.”

Acton Institute Director of Research - Samuel Gregg

Acton Institute Director of Research – Samuel Gregg

This is not a surprising position for Gregg.  He has been a consistent advocate for free trade and whenever possible has opposed the ideas of protectionism and crony capitalism.

The author closes out his article by quoting Trump’s adviser Stephen Moore, who says this: “Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country – but it will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites.”  While this is an appealing statement, it comes across in a way that portrays Trump’s economic populist ideas as willing to accept the harmful long-term effects for the short-term benefits.

You can read the full article at The Christian Science Monitor here.

o-UNEMPLOYMENT-HEALTH-facebookSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

Overview: While most of the metrics were positive, few jobs were added and a large number of Americans dropped out of the labor for, making this one of the worst jobs report in years.
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, December 2, 2016
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Study finds churches with conservative theology still growing
Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

Since the 1960s, overall membership in mainline Protestant Christian churches has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada. But some congregations have continued to grow, and a team of researchers believes it now knows why. It’s the conservative theological beliefs of their members and clergy, according to researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University and Redeemer University College in Ontario.

Why Welfare and Work Go Hand-in-Hand
Tom Rogan, Opportunity Lives

To understand why welfare programs are politically popular, consider the word. Well. Fair. ‘Welfare’ seems to embody something that makes our society healthier, happier and more just. Something inherently moral and deserving of unquestioning support. For decades, supporters of welfare have used this understanding to protect welfare programs from reform.

What Persecuted Syrians Can Teach Us About American Politics
Mindy Belz, TGC

My persecuted brethren have given me important inspiration during a strange and disorienting American election. They have long been aliens in their own culture, though their roots run deeper than those who now torment them. Here in America, it’s not unusual for Christians to feel disconnected in a sometimes-toxic American culture, but it’s disorienting to feel the divisions within the church, over an election, and to see name-calling, insults, and recrimination continue after the votes have been counted.

What Is the Biblical Basis for Human Dignity?
R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries

As a Christian, I do not believe that human beings have intrinsic dignity. I am totally committed to the idea that human beings have dignity, but the question is, is it intrinsic or extrinsic?

Paul Bonicelli, Director of Programs at the Acton Institute, appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell on Thursday afternoon to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s deal with Carrier to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana, and to offer analysis of the potential economic priorities of the incoming Trump Administration. You can view the interview below.

student-loan-debt-1To reduce the number of people defaulting on student loans, President Obama has been promoting  income-driven repayment plans. The most widely available income-driven repayment plan for federal student loans—the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan—provides payment caps based on a borrower’s family size and income (150 percent of the poverty level). After making 25 years of these reduced payments, the remaining debt is “forgiven.” (If you work for the government or a non-profit the remainder may be forgiven after 10 years.)

This may sound like a way to help those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder from having to pay student loan debt as retirees. But the reality is that the program is aimed more for white collar professionals than the working class. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Growing evidence suggests many of the most hard-pressed borrowers—college dropouts who owe less than $10,000—aren’t taking advantage of the programs, while workers with graduate degrees, such as doctors and lawyers who don’t necessarily need help, are.”

In a report released this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that $108 billion will be “forgiven” by the federal government. And that’s just through the current school year. As new students enroll and take on debt they can’t (or simply won’t) repay, the number will increase significantly.

Of course the debt isn’t really “forgiven” since it was already paid to colleges and universities (who have no intention of giving it back. What debt forgiveness means, as economist Don Boudreaux explains in this video is that the debt is merely being transferred to the American taxpayer.
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kuyper-2-pro-rege“A human kingship imperceptibly came to power, leaving no place for the kingship of Christ.” –Abraham Kuyper

The West prides itself on valuing freedom – political, economic, religious, and otherwise. For some, this leads to the promotion of a certain brand of libertinism: the freedom to do what we want. For others, such as Lord Acton, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

For the Christian in particular, true freedom is more than a little paradoxical, involving plenty of constraints and restraints. We know that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” and yet, in keeping with the upside-down economics of the Gospel – “the first shall be last,” “those who lose their life will find it” – it comes with prepackaged with calls to servanthood and obedience. These are good hints that true freedom may have less to do with nitpicking over “choice” and “constraint” and more to do with accurately recognizing the image of God we bear and the responsibility it entails.

In seasons of pain and frustration, the notion tends to feel more clear and less paradoxical, of course. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,” the Psalmist sings. “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

This is the sound of freedom through dependence, and it’s one that Christians are well familiar with. But it’s a song we also tend to forget and neglect. (more…)