Category: Economic Freedom

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…)

Blog author: jsunde
Monday, October 13, 2014
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capterrorismThe Middle East is enduring yet another wave of terror and political change, spurring countless Western analysts and elites to offer their preferred strategies and solutions, most of which involve military force, foreign aid, or some mixture of the two.

In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto sets forth a less predictable path, arguing for “an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment,” similar to that which was promoted in Peru during the 1990s.

I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics.

The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however. Reforms in Peru gave indigenous entrepreneurs and farmers control over their assets and a new, more accessible legal framework in which to run businesses, make contracts and borrow—spurring an unprecedented rise in living standards… Over the next two decades, Peru’s gross national product per capita grew twice as fast as the average in the rest of Latin America, with its middle class growing four times faster.

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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, October 2, 2014
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Hamlet_skullSam Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, bemoans the state of Europe in The American Spectator today. In a piece entitled, “Something is Rotten in the State of Europe,” Gregg begins by noting that Germany seems to have lost all common sense.

William Shakespeare knew a thing or two about human psychology. But he also understood a great deal about the body-politic and how small signs can be indicative of deeper traumas. So when Marcellus tells Horatio at the beginning of Hamlet that you can almost smell the weakness permeating Denmark, it’s Shakespeare’s way of telling us to pay attention to what sticks out as abnormal and to ask what else it may portend.

It was difficult not to be reminded of this advice when reading that a majority of Germany’s Ethics Council recently called for the abolition of legal constraints upon incest. Referring to a case in which a man had entered into a relationship with his biological sister, the Council declared: “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.”

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success-2Earlier this month Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder of Brigham Young University released the results of an extensive study, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?,” which concludes that “religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes.”

A few months ago Grim provided 7 reasons why religious freedom is a positive good for businesses:
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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 18, 2014
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bible-studyMost Christians recognize that the Bible has lot to say about economic topics, such as money and poverty. Yet there is a paradoxical assumption, whether stated or unspoken, that these passages don’t speak to larger economic issues. Occasionally this is true, but more often than not, we can find principles from Scripture that can help us discern how we should think about matters related to economics.

Consider, for example, the issue of economic systems. The Bible doesn’t claim to favor any particular nation-based economic system, such as American-style capitalism or the old Soviet-style communism. But Scripture does seem to have a clear preference for the economic activities that underpin the free market. As David Kotter explains,
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Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 15, 2014
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slaveryThere is a near universal agreement that America’s experience with chattel slavery, where people are treated as the chattel or personal property of an owner and are bought and sold as if they were commodities, was one of our country’s gravest moral horrors. But some people seem to believe that the despicable institution aided the nation’s prosperity.

That’s not the case, explains economist Scott Sumner, who points out that countries with free labor tend to be more prosperous:

Between 1850 and 1880 the market value of slaves falls by just over 100% of GDP. And that decrease is almost precisely offset by a slightly more than 100% increase in capital (industrial and housing.) The total capital stock declines slightly in the Piketty graph, but that’s only because of a fall in the value of agricultural land, not capital.

Now here’s where mislabeling slaves as capital comes into the equation. At first glance it looks like America’s capital stock was unaffected by the abolition of slavery. But the actual capital stock rose by over 100% of GDP—an industrial revolution. If you insist on treating slaves as “capital” it doesn’t change the basic story. Because in that case a separate ledger of “labor resources” would have soared after 1865. Former slaves would now be classified as “labor,” and hence the labor stock would rise dramatically, even on a per capita basis. Either way, abolishing slavery made America a much more productive, and hence richer country.

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In the United States, we’ve only begun to see how impediments to religious liberty can harm and hinder certain businesses and entrepreneurial efforts. Elsewhere, however, particularly in the developing world, religious restrictions and hostilities have long been a barrier to economic growth.

To identify these realities, Brian Grim of Georgetown University and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder of Brigham Young University conducted an extensive study, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?,” which concludes that “religious freedom contributes to better economic and business outcomes.”

Katrina Lantos Swett and Daniel Mark summarize the key findings at Investor’s Business Daily:

Reviewing the GDP growth of 173 countries while controlling for 23 financial, social and regulatory factors, [Clark and Snyder] found that religious freedom not only is associated with global economic growth, but also is one of only three factors carrying that association.

As the study found, 20% of countries with low levels of religious hostilities and 20% nations with low levels of government restrictions on religion were economic innovators, while the figures for nations with high levels of hostilities and restrictions were only 8% and 7%, respectively.

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Those of you in West Michigan with a taste for libertarian cinema may want to to join local restaurateur Tommy Brann for a special screening of “Atlas Shrugged 3: Who is John Galt?” Brann is hosting the showing at Celebration Cinema North at Knapp’s Corner tomorrow (Sept. 12) at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7.75 and email tombrann@branns.com to reserve your seat.

Before you go, read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s essay “Who Really Was John Galt, Anyway?” published at Patheos.com in 2011. Also see the PowerBlog post and video from 2012 in which Rev. Sirico talks about Rand’s “false gospel.”