Acton Institute Powerblog

PowerLinks – 10.22.12

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Morality and Markets: The Humane Balance
Ralph E. Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

To protect the market system against these destructive abuses, a commitment to permanent values is required by market participants, both consumers and producers, and to what German economist Wilhelm Roepke called a “terror regime of decency” as well as to a public policy rooted in that decency.

Minnesota Relaxes on Online Ed
Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

On Friday, we remarked on the outrageous story that online education startup Coursera was being banned in Minnesota on the grounds that it hadn’t registered with the state government.

The Clarity and Specificity of Thomistic Natural Law
Howard Kainz, The Catholic Thing

Natural law theory has had a long and honorable history – from ancient Greek philosophy to the Stoics, St. Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics, as well as Protestant “natural lawyers” such as Grotius, Cumberland, and Pufendorf.

The Virtue of Business
Kevin Lowry, Integrated Catholic Life

We can probably agree that business is a major driver of not only economic, but social change. Not that it’s all good, but that’s exactly why we need to consider the bigger picture: what is the purpose of business in our world? How can we harness its value for the good of mankind?

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • David Doty

    Re: The Virtue of Business – Business serves two purposes in creation which demonstrate the integration of temporal and spiritual reality. The obvious is it provides for us and can do so in abundance reflecting the generosity and glory of God. The second, exchange is implied in the addition of Eve to the Garden, before the Fall and therefore a profit motive. Therefore a higher motive must be inherent within exchanges and that is the practice of holiness, i.e., how we respect and engage with others. Holiness cannot be practiced in isolation. It is always a function of relationship, filling the space “between” two or more actors. Holy exchanges are central to the interdependent functioning of the Trinitarian godhead and an aspect of the imago Dei repeatedly addressed in economic terms in the Torah, the prophets, the words of Jesus, and the New Testament authors.

  • Roger McKinney

    Ralph Ancil successfully defeats the demons in his own mind again. He builds up a theory of liberty that no one has every subscribed to and successfully destroys it.No one in the history of the West has ever advocated for a system in when self-interest has no limits. And we certainly don’t live under such a system today where regulation is at historically high levels.
    “In a depression as each employer tries to survive in the face of a diminishing demand, consulting only his self-interest, he lays off employees.”
    That’s not self-interest. The employer is working in the interests of the remaining employees who would lose jobs when the company failed.
    “..but if all or many suddenly withdrew their deposits the results were disastrous for the bank…”
    People don’t withdraw money from banks on a whim. They do so when bankers act irresponsibly, extend too much credit, and endanger the security of deposits. Banks are their own worst enemies, not depositors.
    “This means passing the costs off onto the environment, the general public or the taxpay¬er.”
    Not if the state does its job and protects property rights.
    “The social market economy must be the servant of humanity and of trans-economic values.”
    Agreed, but who chooses the values and who enforces them? That’s the big question.
    “If change is too rapid and inappropriate, and in some cases, flatly immoral, it renders not only skills obsolete, which is itself demoralizing, but also entire ways of life,”
    He is channeling the spirit of Ned Ludd, which is always with the ignorant.
    Roepke: “Market and competi¬tion are far from generating their moral prerequisites autonomously…These prerequisites must be furnished from outside, and it is, on the contrary, the market and competition which constantly strain them, draw upon them, and consume them.”
    Ancil does not understand Roepke’s point. Roepke wanted people to return to traditional Christianity for satisfaction of ultimate ends and not look to the market to do that.
    “we must have an idea of the end-state, the good society”
    And that’s the problem. Whose vision of the “good society” should we follow, the communist, NAZI, Al Qaeda? The point of freedom is to allow individuals and groups to pursue their own vision of the good society within bounds.
    “At the root of this problem is the belief among the self-interest-is-enough school of economics that values and morals are purely subjective”
    No such school exists. On the other hand, libertarians say let the market take care of economics (with the state protecting life, liberty and property) and let the church take care of morality.
    “…pro¬cedural liberalism precludes the imposition on a people without their consent of any political end-state, includ¬ing, of course, a liberal one”
    That’s nonsense. No one has ever argued for such a thing in the history of Western civilization. Classical liberals always understood that freedom had to be protected and enforced by a limited government.
    “They believed with Walter Eucken that “what experience of laissez-faire goes to prove is that the economic system cannot be left to organise itself…”
    Does he mean the laissez-faire that lifted the West out of starvation poverty to wealth unheard of before in history? What nonsense!
    Ancil needs to learn that the economic system does not determine the character of the people; the character of the people determine the system. If people act immorally in the marketplace, the fault lies with the failure of the church to evangelize.