Category: Christian Social Thought

and112812blogSince its inception in the 1990s, the payday lending industry has grown at an astonishing pace. Currently, there are about 22,000 payday lending locations—more than two for every Starbucks—that originate an estimated $27 billion in annual loan volume.

Christians and others worried about the poor tend to be very uncomfortable with this industry. While there may be forms of payday lending that are ethical, the concern is that most such lending is predatory, and that the industry takes advantage of the poor and others in financial distress.

So what makes a payday loan a predatory loan? The obvious answer would seem to be “high interest rates.” But interest rates are often tied to credit risk, and so charging high interest rates is not always wrong. Another answer may be that the loans appear to be targeted toward minorities. But research shows that the industry appeals to those with financial problems regardless of race or ethnicity.

What then tips a loan into the predatory column? At a blog hosted by the New York Federal Reserve, Robert DeYoung, Ronald J. Mann, Donald P. Morgan, and Michael R. Strain attempt to answer that question:
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creation of adam smallWhile the 2015 papal visit to the United States has wrapped up, the Acton Institute continues to add fresh content to our webpage dedicated to the pope, the environment, the global economy and other issues of note.

Currently, the page features a Fox News video with Acton co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico, discussing the pope’s first U.S. trip, and his speeches and remarks during that visit. In addition, the page highlights Acton expert news analysis, including recent remarks by Samuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, in the National Catholic Register, and Rev. Sirico’s commentary during the papal visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Further, the webpage includes an “Environmental Stewardship In-depth” section. This section currently contains more than three dozen scholarly resources, including material from Jewish, Catholic and Orthodox scholars and a section-by-section guide to the papal encyclical, Laudato Si’.

As we continue to cover these issues, this webpage will be updated; we hope it will be a rich resource of reasoned thought and informative material.

 

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 28, 2015
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Spicy-Chicken-Sandwich-Vibrant-1024x768In 1958, Leonard Read published his brilliant essay, “I, Pencil.” Read’s original essay was written from the point of view of the pencil and the humble writing implement explains why it is as much a creation of God as a tree.

Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

For Christians the idea that God creates trees is uncontroversial since that claim is made directly in Genesis 1:12. But where do we get the idea that God creates pencils? I believe it comes from a few verses later, in Genesis 1:28, when God blesses mankind . . . and then puts us to work.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)

In the Reformed tradition, this command is often referred to as the “cultural mandate.” As Nancy Pearcey explains in her book Total Truth:
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Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, September 24, 2015
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Today at the Library of Law and Liberty, I take a cue from probablist Nassim Nicholas Taleb and call for the commemoration of a National Entrepreneurs Day:

One has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and probabilist Nassim Taleb has given us a fully developed argument as to why we should have one. I second the motion. In Antifragile, his 2012 book, Taleb confesses that he is “an ingrate toward the man whose overconfidence caused him to open a restaurant and fail, enjoying my nice meal while he is probably eating canned tuna.”

This lack of gratitude is a moral failing of all of us in modern society, says Taleb. Hence his idea:

In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using the exact same logic. . . . For there is no such thing as a failed soldier, dead or alive (unless he acted in a cowardly manner)—likewise, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur or failed scientific researcher.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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sky-psalm192The mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles. We seek to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing.

That phrase—“human flourishing”—has become such a buzzword, though, that it’s in danger of losing any real meaning. As Scott Swain says, “Due to its widespread usage across our culture, its susceptibility to multiple meanings, and its role in theological revision, some Christians have begun to disparage the language of human flourishing. I think this is the wrong tactic to take.”

The church has a stake in human flourishing, says Swain. Rather than discard the term, we should rescue and restore the concept:

The challenge for the church is therefore to define and promote human flourishing (which we might otherwise describe as human well-being, human happiness) in accordance with biblical teaching, to present and commend its alternative approach to human flourishing in the face of competing cultural visions, and to embody human flourishing in the presence of God amid a culture of death and destruction. Christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge.

Christian theology has a lot to say about human flourishing. Following the instruction of Holy Scripture, Christian theology instructs us about human flourishing by instructing us about human nature and about human nature’s relationship to law and gospel.

Swain argues that “we may appreciate the true character of human flourishing by looking at Psalm 19.”
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katrina-superdomeThis week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Gulf Coast. As always happens when remembering such ignominious events, we look back in hindsight to attempt to learn what could have been done differently. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we conservatives will admit that we share some of the blame for the disaster—just not in the way many of us realize.

The colossal failures in leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina proved once again that, as historian Richard Weaver famously claimed, “ideas have consequences.” In the aftermath of a natural disaster, abstract theories about public policy and governance were tested in the laboratory of reality. Bad ideas, naturally, can have catastrophic consequences. But as we saw, even good ideas, when poorly implemented, can be calamitous.

A primary example is the principle of subsidiarity, an idea found in both Catholic and Reformed social thought, and which is often embraced by conservatives. Almost twenty years ago in an issue of Religion and Liberty, David A. Bosnich explained,

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom.

While limited government, personal freedom, and other such goods are worthy reasons to support such an ideal, there is an even more primary justification: it saves lives. The evacuation of New Orleans provided a useful example of how this works out in a real-world context.
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missionary1Over the past 500 years, some countries have proven to be more receptive to democracy than others. What accounts for the disparity? What causes some countries to be more likely to embrace democratic forms of governance?

As empirical evidence shows, one strong predictor is the presence of Protestant missionaries.

“Protestant missionaries played an integral role in spreading democracy throughout the world,” says Greg Scandlen. “We could preserve our own if we learn from their ways.”
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