Category: Economic Freedom

black-friday1For many, Black Friday epitomizes everything nasty American hyper-consumerism. Stores everywhere are plagued with overly aggressive shoppers, each stuffed to the brim with carb-laden Thanksgiving chow and yet ever-more hungry for the next delicious deal.

It’s all rather disgusting, no?

Quite the contrary, argues Chris Horst over at OnFaith. “Black Friday may have its warts, but let’s not forget the reason for the Black Friday season,” he writes. “The DNA of Black Friday is generosity.”

Wielding a fine mix of basic economics, Christian history, and some good old nostalgia, Horst encourages us to not get caught up in anti-consumerist dismay and instead kick off the holiday season with charity and cheer:

Black Friday commences the Christmas season. This year, Sunday commemorates the official start of the Advent season, but for most Americans, Black Friday initiates the nostalgia and cheer we love most about December. It orients our imaginations toward others and away from ourselves…It’s when Americans turn their attention away from turkey and football and toward buying gifts for one another. We move from Thanksgiving to generosity, shifting from gratefulness for what we have to open-handedness toward those around us…

…Even more, this event is good news for more than just festive shoppers. Black Friday is a big deal for our economy and, consequently, a big deal for all of us…The $600 billion we spend on FitBits, Patagonia ski jackets, and hand-thrown pottery doesn’t just evaporate when we spend it. Those purchases create and sustain livelihoods in garage workshops in our neighborhoods and in warehouses across the globe. They help hobbyists turn their handiwork into employment and give many around the world a shot at a decent job.

This Black Friday, suppress your inner Grinch when you’re tempted to share the story of yet another crazy person fighting over a scarce number of flat screen TVs. Embrace the redemptive side of Black Friday, one that celebrates this season of family and generosity and one that propels our economy forward.

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power of youthThe United Nations has just published its State of the World Population Report 2014, “1.8 Billion Strong: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future.” I always enjoy a good read from the United Nations, and this does not fail to provide much fodder for discussion.

The U.N. is very pro-young people. Youth are capable of great things. Our world needs their intelligence, their spirit, their intelligence, their innovation. The report is full of photos of beautiful and vibrant young people from around the world.

But let’s not get carried away. The U.N. doesn’t love them that much. (more…)

Today at Public Discourse, I examine recent data that strongly suggests that “freedom from government restrictions on religion often paves the way for economic liberty.”

I write,

Thus, we can say that if someone wishes to promote economic liberty worldwide, one should not neglect to encourage religious liberty at the same time. This requires facing the challenges of any given country’s religious context and history, while underscoring the importance of interreligious studies for international economic development efforts.

These findings also ought to affirm a tempered realism among international development organizations and advocates who hope to encourage free economies in countries with high government restrictions on religion. Such liberalization is not impossible, as Singapore, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain demonstrate. However, the strong correlation clearly favors those countries with moderate to low government restrictions on religion and preferably with moderate to low social hostility toward religion as well. A country that values and protects religious liberty offers fertile soil for economic liberty to flourish.

Exploring the connection between religious and economic liberty is one of the central focuses of the Acton Institute. For more on this subject, check out Michael Novak’s recent Acton Commentary, “Economic Tyranny Trumps Religious Liberty,” and be sure to look into our Religious and Economic Freedom Conference Series (here).

You can read the rest of my article, “Connecting Religious and Economic Liberty” at Public Discourse here.

LBJ’s so-called “war on poverty” kicked off a trajectory of public policy that has shown a remarkable tendency to create more of the same — affirming cycles of dependency, disintegrating relational capital, and over-elevating material tinkering to the detriment of the permanent things.

Yet somehow the prevailing narrative still holds that those same sickly policies are the best we can hope for, and anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the poor. If money shall be transferred from Person X to Person Y and the label on the packaging reads “anti-poverty!”, what else is there to discuss?

In a recent interview with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts assumes the common prejudice (4:11):

Roberts begins by pointing to a series of progressive measures that Scott has opposed in the past, proceeding to ask, quite presumptuously, “How do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower income families and kids?” One can only be concerned for the poor if they subscribe to the very policies that have failed them, apparently. (more…)

Throughout Western developed nations, there is dawning recognition that robust protections for religious liberty can no longer be taken for granted. Less understood are the ways in which infringements of other political, civil and commercial forms of freedom can subtly undermine religious liberty. Businesses and other institutions of civil society now need to consider how the restrictions of religious freedom by governments throughout the Western world is likely to affect them.

Today the Acton Institute, in conjunction with the School of Business and Economics at the Catholic University of America, will hold a conference from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Washington titled, “The Relationship between Religious & Economic Liberty in an Age of Expanding Government.” The event brings together leading clergy and scholars—theologians, philosophers, economists—to discuss this increasingly important issue, and the manner in which is affecting institutions ranging from business to church organizations.

If you’re in Grand Rapids, you can watch the event live in the Acton auditorium at 98 E. Fulton St. Details here. Or watch the live web stream beginning at noon on the video player after the page break. (more…)

“What would happen if instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we consider what God has already given us — our talents, our dreams, our motivations — and offer them back to Him as an act of worship?”

In a new video from HOPE International, we’re challenged to counter our tendencies to approach God through an attitude of lack and self-doubt (“if only I had x I would do y”), trusting instead that God has already given us exactly what we need to obey, serve, and flourish.

After reviewing a series of Biblical examples, we’re reminded that God routinely sparks the most miraculous transformations by beginning with the basic resources at hand, from a boy’s loaves and fishes to David’s sling to a widow’s jar of oil. (more…)

We’ve developed a bit of a backlog of audio to release over the course of the summer and fall, so today we begin the process of shortening that list by sharing some recent lectures from the 2014 Acton Lecture Series with you.

On August 26, Acton was pleased to welcome Ron Blue to Grand Rapids for an address entitled “Persistent Generosity.” Ron has spent almost 50 years in the financial services world and the last 35 working almost exclusively with Christian couples. What he has observed is that those who are long term consistent in their generosity exhibit three characteristics that have nothing to do with money: they are content, confident, and able to communicate with each other, their children, and advisors if they use them. In this address, Ron shares his personal experience and impressions drawn from 50 years in the financial sector, gives unique financial advice from a faith-based perspective, and shares the two questions that must be answered and one decision that must be made in order to exhibit the characteristics of persistently generous people.

On October 2, we welcomed Gerard Lameiro to the Mark Murray Auditorium to address an audience on the topic of “Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help.” In his address, Lameiro commented on what freedom is and what it is not, and then walked through a substantial, solid, and moral case for freedom, acknowledging that God is the author of all liberty and that truth, human dignity, and morality are inextricably linked to freedom. You can find more information on Lameiro and pick up a copy of his latest book (which shares the title of his lecture) at his website, and you can listen to him on the Radio Free Acton podcast right here.

unequal_soup_business_deskThe topic of economic inequality continues to be at the forefront of our current political discussions, thanks in no small part by a president who calls it “the defining challenge of our time.”

But although such concerns are more typically lobbed about rather carelessly and thoughtlessly — cause folks to fret over the “power” of small business owners and entrepreneurs in a mythological zero-sum market ecosystem — there are indeed scenarios in which the rise of such inequality ought to give us pause.

In his book Integrated Justice and Equality: Biblical Wisdom for Those Who Do Good Works, John Teevan challenges those former assumptions, noting the dangers of observing inequality at the surface (“the rich get richer!”) and the destruction of knee-jerk redistributionist policies. Yet he also duly recognizes that what lies beneath that surface can sometimes be rather nasty indeed.

We may not live in the landed aristocratic context of the French Revolution, but distortions to market forces are increasingly promoted, leading to lots of tiny barriers over the long run. When passed and implemented, these are bound to trap the downtrodden and further insulate the rich and powerful. Where the “rich get richer” in this type of setting, problems surely abound. (more…)

Liggio

Liggio

Almost 20 years ago I was invited to speak at the celebratory banquet for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (now Atlas Network) and the Institute for Humane Studies, then celebrating their 15th and 35th anniversaries respectively. I was an alumnus of both and six years into the launch of the Acton Institute (founded in 1990). Both organizations considered me “successful enough” to reflect at the banquet on how each had influenced my life.

It was an undeserved honor, of course, but such was my gratitude to these institutions, that I accepted. The room was full of luminaries of the free market movement, and I was very conscious that Acton’s work was launched from the shoulders of intellectual giants.

One such giant there in the room that night, was Leonard Liggio, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 81. In reflecting on my sadness at his passing this week, I thought I would share my public comments I made about Leonard that evening 19 years ago:

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that it was none other than the great connector himself, Leonard Liggio, who really brought me into the free market fold. He wasn’t the first to introduce me to classical liberalism—that was Robert Sirico, who at the time was not yet ordained and was only an expectant father. But it was Sirico who introduced me to Leonard and the rest is history. If I’m not mistaken, we first met the night of January 16, 1986. That date wasn’t coincidental, Leonard and I were introduced at a private showing of an uncut, unedited 3.5 hour Italian version of Ayn Rand’s We the Living which had just surfaced more than forty years after Mussolini had ordered it destroyed. (more…)

Liggio

Liggio

The Acton Institute, and the free market movement, lost a great friend yesterday with the death of Leonard Liggio, the “Johnny Appleseed of Classical Liberalism.” Writing for Forbes, Acton board member Alejandro Chafuen described Liggio’s “deep and encyclopedic historical knowledge” and how he fruitfully brought that to bear on many projects and institutions. “His understanding of the evolution of legal institutions helped me and many others put our economic and policy arguments into a better perspective,” Chafuen wrote. He remembered how Liggio’s expertise and encouragement also played a crucial role in the formation of the Acton Institute.

In 1990, Manuel Ayau (1925-2010), the founder and late president of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, asked Leonard and I to help him build the program of a regional [Mont Pelerin Society] meeting. Although the topic always led to major disagreements among classical liberals, we organized a panel on religion and liberty. We invited Father Robert Sirico to speak. That meeting led to conversations among us and eventually to the founding of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. The co-founders, Sirico and Kris Mauren asked us to become founding trustees.

Chafuen pointed to Liggio’s deep faith: (more…)