Category: Acton Commentary

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Spiritual Competition and the Zero-Sum Game,” I examine a standard complaint against the market economy: that it engenders what Walter Rauschenbusch called “the law of tooth and nail,” a competitive ethos that ends only when the opponent is defeated. In the piece, I trace some of the vociferousness of such claims to the idea of economic reality as a fixed or static pie:

The moral cogency of the argument against competition is enhanced in a framework where the goods that are sought after are static. Whether conceived of in terms of market share or the size of a firm, business and political leaders often use language that makes it seem as if economic gain comes at the expense of others.

Gordon Rupp and Mo FarahWhere goods are static, or otherwise limited in some way, the competitive stakes are raised. Of course we see this not only in market activities but in other areas of life as well, and perhaps these competitive realities are no better illustrated than in competitive sports. We saw numerous examples of competition in the past fortnight of Olympic coverage that ran the gamut from the good, the bad, and the ugly. One of the most memorable moments for me was the conclusion of the men’s 10k track race, when Mohamed Farah of the UK bested his American friend and training partner Galen Rupp. Here are two fierce competitors who embrace, and Rupp celebrates not only his own silver medal but his friend’s great gold-medal performance.

As I conclude in the commentary, competition that drives us to do and be better, in both spiritual and material terms, “ought to be celebrated rather than scorned.”

The “fixed pie” fallacy in economic thinking, as expressed by writers such as Hilaire Belloc, has served the class warfare crowd well despite lacking any basis in reality. “The historical reality of entrepreneurs gives the lie to two of Belloc’s assumptions: that the wealthy can maintain luxurious living standards by sitting on their wealth, and that capitalism prevents the poor from working their way up the economic ladder,” writes Charles Kaupke in the latest Acton Commentary (published August 8). The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

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In today’s Acton Commentary (published August 1) Samuel Gregg writes that “one shouldn’t forget just how central the endless pursuit of ever-greater economic equality is to the modern Left’s very identity. In fact, without it, the modern Left would have little to its agenda other than the promotion of lifestyle libertarianism and other socially destructive ends.” The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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July 31st marks the 100th birthday of the economist Milton Friedman. Celebrations planned by proponents of free-markets will take place across the country to recognize and pay tribute to his legacy and the power of his ideas. I am speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event in town on the topic of school choice on his birthday.

My commentary this week is on school choice. Nobody has influenced and shaped the school choice movement more than Friedman. In my piece, I stressed the moral power of pivoting away from bureaucratic centralized schooling and encourage greater parental involvement in education. Simply put, school choice allows for parents to better shape the spiritual formation of their children. Nobody can make better decisions about the education of their children than the parents.

Finally, schools that have to compete for students and tax dollars will be forced to improve and be innovative for today’s complex and global marketplace.

President Obama’s speech last week in which he asserted to businesspeople, “You didn’t build that,” has been getting some pretty harsh and some pretty hilarious responses.
In this week’s Acton Commentary, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Business,” I caution against responses that play into a simple individualist/collectivist dichotomy that underlays the president’s message:

We all know at some level that we didn’t get where we are on our own, and that we have an ongoing responsibility and dependence on others for our continuing enjoyment of the goods of human existence. Christians realize too that our independence and freedom is ultimately limited and dependent not simply on other people but on the grace of God.

So to President Obama’s problematic construal of the structure of society (essentially consisting of the individual and the helping hand of government), critics shouldn’t respond simply with the vehement assertion of naked individualism. Instead, we need to articulate a more balanced and accurate perspective, one that properly relates “independence and mutuality, individuality and community.”

One such response from Hunter Baker is here, and is worth checking out.

Under the policies and leadership of the Obama administration, the economic lives of struggling blacks are now worse, not better, than they were three years ago. “If the president were to give an account of his administration’s advancement of African Americans he would be hard pressed to describe anything significant beyond funneling redistributed wealth into government bureaucracies, a traditional path to the middle class for blacks,” says Anthony B. Bradley in this week’s Acton Commentary (published July 11). The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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Perhaps no other adjective better captures the American political climate than fearful, says Andrew Knot in this week’s Acton Commentary (published May 25). “The past decade has witnessed a spike in fear-driven politics, at least accusations of such. The coming election appears no different,” he adds. The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
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