Category: Christian Social Thought

Today at the FEE (Foundation for Economic Education), Zachary Slayback has an excellent overview of the decline in entrepreneurship among those under 30 since the late 1980s. He writes,

Between local, state, and federal regulations placed on everything from who is allowed to braid hair to who can tell you what color to paint a wall and where to place a door and a schooling culture and system that encourages young people to waste away the first 22-30 years of their lives away from the market, the systems placed upon young people today create a climate extremely hostile to entrepreneurship and economic growth.

Regarding barriers to entry (like our egregious state occupational licensing laws), I presented a paper in April at the APEE (Association of Private Enterprise Education) annual conference in Las Vegas on the subject, offering a theological and moral analysis. Particularly relevant to Slayback’s detailed post, I wrote, (more…)

The fight for religious liberty is only beginning to intensify in America, whether for retail giants, restaurant chains, bakers and florists, sacrificial nuns, or the imminent obstructions on the path paved by Obergefell vs. Hodges.

Yet even when facing these pressures for themselves, many American Christians still seek to withhold such freedoms from those of differing religious beliefs. Forgetting our position of exile, such a stance trades the first of our God-given freedoms for narrow self-interest and self-preservation.

Such profound disconnect was recently on vivid display at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016 Annual Meeting, where a pastor asked Dr. Russell Moore how a Christian can possibly support religious liberty for Muslims. “Do you actually believe that Jesus Christ would support this,” the pastor asked, “and that he would stand up and say, ‘Well, let us protect the rights of those Baal worshipers to erect temples to Baal’”?

Moore’s answer couldn’t be clearer:


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Margaret Thatcher“Economics are the method,” wrote Margaret Thatcher in 1981, “the object is to change the heart and soul.”

Guided by her Christian faith, the prime minister believed that the welfare state was not only harming her fellow citizens but damaging the moral fabric of the United Kingdom. As Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite explains, Thatcher’s fears about the welfare state were twofold:

First, she and her advisers thought that generous collective provision for unemployment and sickness was sapping some working-class people’s drive to work. Second, they feared the corrupting influence of what Thatcher’s close ally Keith Joseph called ‘the Father Christmas state’ on the middle class, who were thought to be in danger of relying increasingly not on their own hard work and thrift, but on collective action through trade unions and state hand-outs. Thatcher wanted to re-establish an economic and legal framework and a cultural ethos which rewarded what she saw as the ‘Victorian’ or ‘bourgeois’ values of thrift, self-reliance and charity among all classes.

“The aim was not to abolish the welfare state entirely,” adds Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, “but to chip away at it, leaving social security as a last resort for the very poorest minority, and making it irrelevant to those on middle and high incomes, who would choose private provision instead. In this, Thatcher was successful.”

But not everyone believed that Thatcher’s efforts were rooted in a moral concern. In 1985 the Church of England released a document authored by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas. The controversial report blamed the spiritual and economic malaise largely on Thatcher’s economic policies.

Now, thirty years later, the Church of England is admitting that perhaps Thatcher was right after all:
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Following the recent Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time”, held in celebration of 125th anniversary of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on private property, the Industrial Revolution and the spread of Marxist ideology, Acton’s Samuel Gregg was interviewed by Shalom World TV.

Vatican journalist Ashley Noronha, who hosts the India-based religious news magazine Voice of the Vatican, asked Gregg what was the the connection between religious and economic freedom and how traditional Catholic social teaching is responding to contemporary threats such liberties.  This is what he had to say: (more…)

There’s been a lot of discussion leading up to the planned Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete this month. As is typical of councils in the history of the Church, so far it’s a mess, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

In what has been described as an act of self-marginalization by Bulgarian Orthodox scholar Smilen Markov, it looks like the Bulgarian Patriarchate has already backed out.

Antioch has a laundry list of grievances.

The OCA, which might not even technically be invited in the first place, has issued a statement.

And further statements from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Georgian Patriarchate, and others can be found.

No need to review the contents as the point is simply to note that, once again, the council is already a mess.

Officially, I should be calling it the “Great and Holy” council, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. That’s not out of cynicism (well, not entirely) but due to the record of history and the science of economics. (more…)

lifehacksbibleNote: Please forgive the self-promotion, but since my new book — the NIV Lifehacks Bible — is being released today, I thought I’d provide an excerpt from Genesis.

Sold into slavery, Joseph is put in charge of Potiphar’s household. Potiphar “entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:4-5).

The word stewardship comes from the Greek word oikonomia, which refers to someone who manages a household and is the root of the English word “economy.” Joseph began by controlling a household and would eventually control the entire economy of Egypt. In all of history, there have been few stewards who gained the status and power of Joseph.

Stewardship is an important concept in the Bible, since we are stewards in God’s household, his economy of all things. Here are three things we should know about stewardship:
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Do no harmAll Christian ethics can be summed up in one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). And within that command is the provision, as the Apostle Paul said, “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10). This is why the Christian approach to public policy should begin with a simple standard: Because we love our neighbors, we should not support policies that we suspect will cause them harm.

Unfortunately, while the rule is simple to state it can be difficult to apply. We don’t always know or agree on what policies will cause harm. Still, any type of policy that is presumed or known to cause harm should be carefully scrutinized. A prime example is government regulations.

As economist Scott Sumner says, “One of the most basic ideas in economics is that the vast majority of regulations are harmful.”* He gives the example of a regulation on banks than forbids them from charging fees for the use of ATMs. This regulation appears to be “pro-consumer,” but as Sumner explains, the actual effect is likely to harm bank customers:
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