John C. Kennedy III

John C. Kennedy III

In late September, the Wall Street Journal asked Catholic business leaders for their reaction to Pope Francis’ economic views in an article titled, “For Business, a Papal Pushback.” It ran with the teaser line: “Corporate leaders see merit in pope’s message, if not his broad-brush attack on capitalism.” Journal writer Scott Calvert interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg for his story. Gregg observed that Pope Francis had characterized market economies as generally exploitative. “He doesn’t seem to want to concede the sheer number of people who have escaped from poverty as a consequence of the opening up of global markets and the activities of business,” he said. “I know a lot of Catholic businessmen who are quite demoralized when they hear the pope talk about the daily reality in which they live.”

I recently had a chance to talk to John C. Kennedy III, a Roman Catholic Grand Rapids, Michigan, businessman and a board member of the Acton Institute, for his read of the Francis visit. Kennedy is president and CEO of Autocam Medical. Before that, he was president and CEO of Autocam Corporation, which he founded in 1988 and sold in 2014 (for PowerBlog coverage of Autocam’s legal pushback against the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients go here). Beyond his business commitments, Kennedy devotes time to a number of organizations. He is a member of the Boards of NN, Inc., the parent company of Autocam Corporation, Grand Valley State University, Lacks Enterprises, Shape Corporation, the Van Andel Institute, and Advisory Board Member of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Kennedy received his BA from the University of Detroit Mercy and his MBA from the University of Michigan.

Our exchange follows:

What was your reaction to the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States?

Pope Francis’s visit was absolutely phenomenal. It really spoke to his leadership qualities. As a Catholic, I was proud of the leader of our church. The stamina of a 78-year-old man who went from morning to night every day, with beginning to end mass coverage, four or five times, was incredible. It’s just absolutely amazing to me. He did a great job. (more…)

What gives a dollar bill its value? Mostly that determination is based on how much—or how little—currency is in circulation. But who makes that decision, and how does their choice affect the economy at large? Doug Levinson provides a brief explanation of how the United States Federal Reserve attempts to balance the value of the dollar to prevent inflation or deflation.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 9, 2015

What you need to know about the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
Matthew Hawkins, ERLC

Authorization for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is about to expire. Below are five basic things you need to know about USCIRF and why it matters

International Religious Freedom Commission Lives to Fight Another Day
Faith McDonnell, Juicy Ecumenism

The United States government’s watchdog for those around the world who are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs will continue its work.

Wilberforce and the Road to Abolition: A Model for Christian Cultural Engagement
Andrew Spencer, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Wilberforce’s greatest achievement was ending slavery in the British Empire. However, his impact spread to other social issues.

Gig Economy Is Piecework. But This Isn’t Dickens.
Megan McArdle, BloombergView

Manual labor in the Victorian era was not primarily awful because it involved short-term contracts; it was awful because the jobs were grim, the pay was low, and injured workers frequently ended up destitute. Getting paid $25 an hour for doing something much more pleasant than scrubbing floors with caustic chemicals does not tug at my heartstrings in the same way.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 8, 2015

child-in-trashThis weekend many churches will observe Global Hunger Sunday, and next week (October 16) is World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year‐around action to alleviate hunger. Here are five facts you should know about one of the world’s most persistent, but solvable, global problems.

1. Around the world, 842 million people do not have enough of the food they need to live an active, healthy life. 98 percent of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. The highest number of malnourished people, 553 million, live in Asia and the Pacific. The second highest number, 227 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. Another 47 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean.

2. Malnutrition affects nearly every country. Only two countries have levels of under-five stunting, anemia in women of reproductive age, and adult overweight all below public health thresholds.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 8, 2015

School choice’s supply problem
Max Eden, AEI Ideas

School choice programs will hit a low ceiling without the creation of new and better schools.

Students Make a Surprising Discovery about Small-Town Poverty Alleviation
Russ McCullough, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

12,500 people live in Ottawa, including the 670 students attending Ottawa University, where I teach economics. Poverty is still present in our pleasant little town.

A Princess’s Plan to Bring Light to the 620 Million Africans Without Power
Bryan Lufkin, Gizmodo

Many people living in Africa need electricity, but don’t have it. Luckily, something of a solar power revolution is afoot in Africa, triggering a wave of innovation from solar energy entrepreneurs. One of them is a princess descended from an ancient Mossi warrior, who stresses that the best way to combat this problem is by empowering the people to educate and help themselves.

The Reign of Recycling
John Tierney, New York Times

While it’s true that the recycling message has reached more people than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all. has a fascinating chart that compares the number of people living in extreme poverty (the orange line) with the number of people not living in extreme poverty (the blue line).


If the lines extended further to the left, we’d see them grow closer together. For almost all of human history, most everyone lived in a condition of extreme poverty. The Industrial Revolution helped to lift many people above a subsistence-level standard of living. But the gains appear to have been limited. As we see, from 1820 to about 1950 the two lines remain almost parallel.

Then around 1970, a seismic shift occurred. Just as the neo-Malthusians began to predict the world would run out of food and we’d all starve to death, economic growth began to carry more and more people out of poverty.

We often take for granted how quickly the situation changed, but this chart helps to highlight the amazing (and hopefully irreversible) shift in human flourishing.

For more information about this chart, visit

tpp-mappWhat is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Five years in the making, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, and New Zealand. The twelve countries in this agreement comprise roughly 40 percent of global G.D.P. and one-third of world trade.

The purpose of the agreement, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, is to “enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.” The agreement could create a new single market for goods and services between these countries, similar to what exists between European countries.

What exactly is a trade agreement?

A trade agreement is a treaty between two or more countries that reduces or eliminates barriers to free trade, such as taxes, tariffs, quotas, or trade restrictions. Three of the most common types of trade agreements the U.S. is involved with are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFAs), and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs).

The United States has FTAs in effect with 20 countries. These tend to be expansions or additions to other agreements, such as World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. TIFAs provide frameworks for governments to discuss and resolve trade and investment issues at an early stage while BITs help protect private investment, develop market-oriented policies in partner countries, and promote U.S. exports.

Which goods and services are affected?

“Globalization must do more than connect elites and big businesses that have the legal means to expand their markets, create capital, and increase their wealth.” –Hernando de Soto

6898950_7a0fd3b3d9_bWhen assessing the causes of the recent boom in global prosperity, economists and analysts will point much of their praise to the power of free trade and globalization, and rightly so.

But while these are important drivers, we mustn’t forget that many people remain disconnected from networks of productivity and “circles of exchange.” Despite wonderful expansions in international free trade, much of this has occurred between “outsiders,” with many partners still languishing due to a lack of internal free trade within their countries.

Much of this is due to an absence of basic property rights, as economist Hernando de Soto argues throughout his popular book, The Mystery of Capital. If the global poor don’t have the legal means or incentives to trade beyond families and small communities, so-called “globalization” will still leave plenty behind. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Crisis In International Religious Freedom
David D. Corey, First Things

The vital question is why the number of countries committing and supporting religious persecution is growing so rapidly. The number of CPSs has nearly doubled in a year. What lies behind this startling trend?

Supreme Court Justices Get More Liberal As They Get Older
Oliver Roeder, FiveThirtyEight

A typical justice nominated by a Republican president starts out at age 50 as an Antonin Scalia and retires at age 80 as an Anthony Kennedy. A justice nominated by a Democrat, however, is a lifelong Stephen Breyer.

African governments show improvements but progress ‘stalls’

Thirty-three out of Africa’s 54 countries have shown improvements in the way they are governed over the last four years, research has found.

Uber, Millennials And The Struggle For The Free Market
Tom Rogan, Opportunity Lives

Unfortunately, from Frankfurt to Paris, Madrid to Rome, Sao Paulo to San Francisco, London to New York and beyond, ride-sharing firms are under attack from increasingly aggressive enemies.

“How are we to be in the world but not of it?”

It’s the question at the center of Acton’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, and our response has a profound impact on the shape of our cultural witness.

In a lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bruce Ashford frames the same question around our perspectives on nature and grace, asking: “What should be the relationship between God’s saving works and word and all of the rest of life?”

To answer this, Ashford explores five competing visions, and though he approaches each with a specific focus on education (given his audience), the basic theology applies to all other spheres of culture: (more…)