Category: Economic Freedom

EdmundBurkeAdvocates of economic freedom have a peculiar habit of only promoting the merits of the free markets as they relate to innovation, poverty alleviation, and economic transformation. In response, critics are quick to lament a range of “disruptive” side effects, whether on local communities or human well-being.

Alas, in over-elevating the fruits of material welfare, we forget that such freedom is just as important as a restraint against the social dangers of an intrusive state as it is an accelerant to economic progress. If our concern is not just for economic prosperity, but for the wider flourishing of individuals and communities – social, spiritual, and otherwise – economic freedom has a role to play there, too.

As I’ve noted before, Edmund Burke builds the best bridge on this topic, offering a robust vision of liberty that connects these dots accordingly. In a new essay on Burke’s “economics of flourishing,” Yuval Levin highlights those very views, noting that, although his economic solutions were similar to those of his friend and contemporary, Adam Smith, Burke’s conclusions were more closely tied to a deeper commitment to human flourishing.

This begins with Burke’s view of liberty, which rejected any notion of radical individualism or choice as a good unto itself. As Levin explains, Burke “was moved to articulate his vision of human liberty precisely in opposition to a highly individualist, choice-centered understanding of what freedom entails and enables.” Or, as Burke himself puts it, true liberty “is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will” but “social freedom” – “another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions.” (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
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Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who is president of the Ruth Institute as well as a senior fellow in economics here at the Acton Institute, debated Peter Jaworski, a co-author of the recent book, Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests, at an event hosted by the Austin Institute.

Check out this engaging discussion about not only questions of the morality and legality of things like prostitution and kidney transplants, but the picture of the human person on offer from differing philosophical and economic programs.

I also reviewed Markets without Limits for Books & Culture, “Markets & Moral Myopia.”

illusionsConfusion about economics is rampant both among elected officials and the electorate. Fortunately, as Jay Richards says, it doesn’t take an advance degree to understand how innovation and free markets lead to flourishing. All it takes is dispelling a few economic illusions:

1. Can’t we build a just society?

In seeking a more just society, we must avoid the “Nirvana Myth,” that is, comparing the market economy with an unrealizable ideal.

hough the kingdom of God is already present in some sense, we can’t fully bring it about ourselves. That’s God’s job.
So when we ask whether we can build a just society, we need to ask: Just compared to what? It doesn’t do anyone any good to tear down a society that is “unjust” compared to the kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.

2. And then what will happen?

We all want to do the right things for the right reasons. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason.

That’s why, when it comes to economic policy, we have to avoid the “Piety Myth” — focusing on our good intentions, rather than on the real and often-unintended consequences of an act or policy.

Well-meaning people have supported all manner of bad policy — price and rent controls that create shortages, high minimum wage laws that harm the poorest of the poor, foreign aid that funds dictators — for noble motives. The motives didn’t change the result.

Read more . . .

Last night, more than 800 men and women attended the Acton Institute 26th Annual Dinner at the J.W. Marriot in downtown Grand Rapids.  The evening was highlighted by the presentation of the 2016 Faith and Freedom Award to the late Justice Antonin G. Scalia, but one person in attendance took note of Father Sirico’s special remarks on the crisis of liberty and the despair it has created.  David Bahnsen, a faculty member of Acton University and longtime friend of Acton, wrote about his perspective of the Annual Dinner in a blog post at On the Corner of National Review. Bahnsen described the experience as a “pivotal refresher for the hundreds upon hundreds of attendees.”

Father Robert Sirico photo from Alejandro Chafuen via Twitter

Rev. Robert Sirico. Photo courtesy of Alejandro Chafuen via Twitter

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Many of America’s immigrants fled nations that were ruined by corrupt politicians and failed government policies. So why, asks Gloria Alvarez, “do you support the same policies in the U.S. that caused you to flee your home country?”

Alvarez, Project Director at the National Civic Movement of Guatemala, says that what makes the United States different from her home country of Guatemala is the “unique American belief in limited government” that leads to greater individual freedom and personal responsibility.

This video is also available in Spanish.

(Via: Opportunity Lives)

Blog author: KHanby
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
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This is a guest post by Philip Booth, Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham; Academic and Research Director, Institute of Economic Affairs. Booth will be speaking in London on Dec. 1 at Acton Institute’s The Crisis of Liberty in the West conference (register here). This post is based on remarks prepared for delivery at the United Kingdom Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office conference on Preventing Violent Extremism by Building Inclusive and Plural Societies, Oct. 19-20.

Economic freedom and economic harmony

 By Phillip Booth

In a free society, persons participate in economic exchange and civil society freely, without interference as long as they do not harm others. Of course, actions such as inciting violence and so on need to be dealt with and possibly prosecuted. But, individuals and families, often working as communities and through civil society organisations are able to go about their life without undue impediment. In such a situation, the government does not have positive powers as such – or at least not many of them – it exists to promote justice, provide for the needy who cannot be provided for in other ways, ensure that there is peace and civil order, and so on. Such a society should be one in which parents can send their children to religious schools of the parents’ choice and where people can worship freely – again, assuming that such schools or religious groupings are not inciting violence and threatening peace.

Phillip Booth

Phillip Booth

When thinking about economic freedom, perhaps we focus too much on the economic efficiency benefits of a free society and do not talk enough about how such a society also promotes peace and harmony.

Business is especially important here. This cannot be stressed enough. There are relatively thick ties within families and within churches and mosques, for example. However, there are often very thin ties between churches, mosques other religious groupings. Business makes those thin ties thicker. It requires people of different faiths to co-operate. People encounter a much greater variety of persons who are different from them in the business world – as customers, employers or suppliers – than they do in any other area of their life. Indeed, in the business world, discrimination is expensive. If I don’t want to be served by a Pole, a Muslim, an Italian or a Chinese person in a restaurant in London, I would probably end up at a very bad restaurant! If I did not want to be driven by a Muslim taxi driver, in some cities I would literally never get a taxi. Business is a mutually enriching activity and so encountering others different from ourselves through business co-operation is very important.

This is a not a relativist position. It is not an attempt to suggest that all religions are equally true. However, co-operation through business is an essential part of a free and tolerant society. (more…)

faith-at-work-ifwe1In a special report and symposium for the Washington Times, the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics has organized an array of diverse perspectives on economic freedom, human flourishing, and the church.

Authors include familiar Acton voices and partners such as Michael Novak, John Stonestreet, Christopher Brooks, Jay Richards and Ismael Hernandez, as well as leading figures such as Senator Tim Scott, Arthur Brooks, and Dr. Albert Mohler. The report also includes Acton’s very own Rev. Robert Sirico and Trey Dimsdale, each sharing their own vision of economic flourishing in the free and virtuous society.

Sirico explains the importance of preserving economic liberty and the “institutions of liberty” in our efforts to maintain a just and peaceful society: (more…)