Category: Acton Occasional Series

Benjamin-FranklinToday is the 311th birthday of the Founding Father and polymath, Ben Franklin. As a leading statesman and scientist of his day, Franklin made innumerable contributions—many of which made him a wealthy man. At his death, Franklin is estimated to have been worth about $67 million.

Here are six quotes by Franklin on money, wealth, and virtue:

On increasing wealth: The way to wealth is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words—industry and frugality.

On the prejudices of politicians: We assemble parliaments and councils to have the benefit of their collected wisdom; but we necessarily have, at the same time, the inconveniences of their collected passions, prejudices, and private interests. By the help of these, artful men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors; and if we may judge by the acts, arrêts, and edicts, all the world over, for regulating commerce, an assembly of great men are the greatest fools upon earth.

On credit and debt: Creditors have better memories than debtors; and creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times.
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
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Note: This is post #17 in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

How does the price of oil affect the price of candy bars? When the price of oil increases, it is of course more expensive to transport goods, like candy bars. But there are other, more subtle ways these two markets are connected says economist Alex Tabarrok.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: How markets link the world

mlkToday Americans observe a U.S. federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King’s birthday, January 15.

Here are five facts you should know about MLK:

1. King’s literary and rhetorical masterpiece was his 1963 open letter “The Negro Is Your Brother,” better known as the “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” The letter, written while King was being held for a protest in the city, was a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen titled “A Call for Unity.” An editor at the New York Times Magazine, Harvey Shapiro, asked King to write his letter for publication in the Magazine, though the Times chose not to publish it.

2. In 1964, King became the second African American — and the third black man — to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
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Note: This is post #16 in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

Ten years ago this week, Apple unveiled the iPhone. It’s a product that was designed in California and produced by thousands of people all over the world. How exactly is that process coordinated? How do those people now how much of each part to make?

In this video by Marginal Revolution University, economist Alex Tabarrok explains how voluntary coordination and markets make possible such modern-day miracles as the iPhone.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: A price is a signal wrapped up in an incentive

unemployment-decemberSeries 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
Thursday, January 5, 2017
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sayToday is the 250th anniversary of Jean-Baptiste Say, one of the most important economic thinkers of the nineteenth century. Here are five facts you should know about this French economist:

1. Say’s conviction that the study of economics should start not with abstract mathematical and statistical analyses but with the real experience of the human person was likely based on his own vocational experiences. He had worked at a broad range of occupations including journalist, soldier, politician, cotton manufacturer, writer, apprenticeship in a commercial office, and secretary in a life insurance company. As David M. Hart explains, “The major reason for his constantly changing career were the political and economic upheavals his generation had to endure: the French Revolution, the Revolutionary Wars, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, economic warfare with Britain, and eventually the fall of the Empire and the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Only after this quarter century of turmoil could Say take up his first position teaching political economy in Paris in 1815, an activity he was to continue until his death in 1832.”

2. Say is credited with coining the term “entrepreneur” in his influential book, A Treatise on Political Economy, or the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth. When the book was translated into English in 1880, it included this note on the term: “The term entrepreneur is difficult to render in English; the corresponding word, undertaker, being already appropriated to a limited sense. . . For want of a better word, it will be rendered into English by the term adventurer.”
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Note: This is post #15 in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

The price system allows for people with dispersed knowledge and information to coordinate global economic activity. The global production of roses, for example, reveals how the price system is emergent, and not the product of human design.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: What you should know about wage subsidies