Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
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Is Africa paving a road out of poverty?
Robert Mattes, Boniface Dulani and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Washington Post

Based on face-to-face interviews with more than 52,700 citizens in 33 countries in 2014-2015, Afrobarometer reports that in two-thirds of those countries, “lived poverty” has decreased compared to the previous survey round in 2011-2013.

Inside America’s lottery addiction
The Week

The nation was recently in a frenzy over a $1 billion Powerball jackpot. But are lotteries just a tax in disguise? Here’s everything you need to know.

Social Justice: According to whom? Which kind?
Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed

One of the most notable features of American evangelicalism in the last generation has been a powerful surge toward “social justice.” At times it is no different than the old-fashioned social gospel, at times it simply catches up to mainline Protestantism — and most of the time evangelicals have completely ignored the rigorous and comprehensive thinking on “social justice” on the part of Roman Catholics.

An Abandoned White Middle Class
R.R. Reno, First Things

Historically, our nearly all-white leadership class has carefully cultivated white middle class voters. Why the shift toward a more critical, even antagonistic attitude?

fy2017-budgetWhat is the President’s budget?

Technically, it’s only a budget request—a proposal telling Congress how much money the President believes should be spent on the various Cabinet-level federal functions, like agriculture, defense, education, etc. (A PDF of the 182 page document can be found here.)

Why does the President submit a budget to Congress?

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires that the President of the United States submit to Congress, on or before the first Monday in February of each year, a detailed budget request for the coming federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

What is the function of the President’s budget request?

The President’s annual budget request serves three functions:
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Conservatives are known for arguing about the ill effects of over-regulation, reminding us how it stifles innovation, cramps entrepreneurship, and harms small businesses. Where we’re less effective is connecting this reality to the more fundamental abuses it wields on human dignity in general and the poor and vulnerable in particular.

In a 45-minute talk given at Heritage Action, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska offers a detailed critique of over-regulation in America.

Pointing first to the proper scope of regulatory policies, Sasse proceeds to note the increasing overreach of the federal government and the range of reasons to oppose it. Watch an excerpt here:

Although arguments about over-regulation and taxation are bound to involve in depth discussions about numbers and econometrics, Sasse reminds us that our focus must remain on the preservation of freedom and human dignity. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
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Evidence Mounts: Minimum Wage Hikes Cost Jobs
The American Interest

The evidence continues to mount that minimum wage hikes have economic costs: A Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review paper recently found that minimum wages had “directly reduced the number of jobs nationally by about 100,000 to 200,000.”

For poverty, work is more important than wages, but only half of American adults work full-time
Angela Rachidi, AEI Ideas

Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) remains the go-to source for employment-related data (such as that released today), each month Gallup reports the “Gallup Good Job” metric. It reflects the percentage of adults aged 18 or older who work full-time (more than 30 hours per week) for an employer.

Republicans Prefer Blunt Talk About Islamic Extremism, Democrats Favor Caution
Pew Research

Most Americans say religion doesn’t cause violence, but rather that violent people use religion to justify their actions.

How Should Christians Approach Social Entrepreneurship?
Baylee Malloy, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

According to some, “social entrepreneurship” is a redundant term because all businesses are “social.” Businesses create jobs, goods, and services, and thus contribute to overall social prosperity.

Original caption: Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), Czech-born economist and professor at Harvard University. His theories on the development of capitalism made him famous Undated photograph. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Today is the 133 birthday of the late Austrian-born economist, Joseph A. Schumpeter. A Finance Minister of Austria and later Harvard professor, Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction” in explaining how capitalism delivers progress:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation—if I may use that biological term—that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.

Although a messy process, creative destruction was, according to Schumpeter, often necessary for innovation. As Joseph Klesney noted in an Acton Commentary in 2001:
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Mini grantAmerican and Canadian college faculty: Acton is accepting proposals for mini-grants on free market economics. If you’re a professor or you know of a professor teaching in the United States or Canada, be sure to visit the Mini-Grants page. The deadline to turn in proposals is March 31, 2016 and grants can range from $1,000 to $10,000. Acton is accepting applications for proposals in course development and faculty scholarship.

Interested in applying, but not sure how to get started? Here are some characteristics of a successful grant proposal:

  • Have a clearly defined topic that the project intends to address, and why this is of value to the teaching, scholarship and practice of free-market economics.
  • Have clearly defined objectives.
  • Have a well-defined project budget.
  • Demonstrate that the individual and/or team members have related experience, technical knowledge, scholarly and/or business community networks, and other appropriate resources (intellectual, social, financial) that will contribute to the success of the proposed project.
  • Demonstrate the potential to improve understanding of free market principles.
  • Illustrate how the results will be disseminated throughout the larger academy.

To apply, email your application materials to scholarships@acton.org. For more information and to see a list of previous grant winners, visit Acton’s Mini-Grants on Free Market Economics Page.

Download a fact sheet.

crony-capitalismNote: This is the latest entry in the Acton blog series, “What Christians Should Know About Economics.” For other entries in the series see this post.

The Term: Crony capitalism (sometimes referred to as cronyism or corporatism)

What it means: Crony capitalism is a general term for the range of activities in which particular individuals or businesses in a market economy receive government-granted privileges over their customers and/or competitors.

Why it Matters:  For as long as there have been government officials, there have been economic cronies—friends, family, and associates who use their connections for their own financial gain.

In ancient Israel, for example, when the prophet Samuel appointed his own sons as leaders, they began to engage in cronyism: “[Samuel’s] sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.” (1 Samuel 8:3).

Unsatisfied with these corrupt leaders, the elders of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king over them. God told Samuel to warn the people of the consequences, which included even worse forms of economic cronyism: “[The king] will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants” (1 Samuel 8:14-15).

We read passages like that and instantly recognize this as unfair and unjust, a corrupting influence on both the people and the government. Yet we tend note to even notice the cronyism that occurs in our own economic system. Because the “dishonest gain” is often more subtle than the examples found in the Bible, we often do not recognize cronyism because we don’t know what to look for.
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