Category: Economic Freedom

That’s one of the questions that comes to mind when reading Bill McGurn’s op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. Many free-market advocates, including yours truly, have already expressed concern over what may appear in the papal encyclical due this summer. McGurn concurs but, like a good entrepreneur, also sees an opportunity:

The fears are not without cause. There are many signs that do not augur well, from the muddled section on economics in the pope’s first encyclical [Actually, it was an apostolic exhortation. — K.J.] to his posing for a photo while holding up an anti-fracking T-shirt, to press coverage anticipating he will be to the fight against greenhouse gases what Pope John Paul II was to the fight against Soviet communism.

Even so, the topic is ripe for precisely the kind of corrective a pope has to offer: a reminder that God’s creation is meant to serve man—not man the environment. And its corollary: It is the have-nots who pay the highest price for the statist interventions so beloved of the Church of St. Green.

The term “human ecology” was used by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI (see my lecture on the topic), not only to speak about trendy environmental issues such as climate change but ones less popular among Western celebrities, especially the importance of marriage and family and the evils of population control. In doing so, the popes showed themselves to be pro-social-justice and pro-life/pro-family at the same time.

It’s possible, however, that the opponents of capitalism will use the occasion to attack economic freedom once again, even if it ultimately hurts the poor. Nothing very human about that kind of ecology.

venezuela queueAccording to Daniel Pardo, citizens of Venezuela have figured out the fine art of queuing (that’s “waiting in line” for Americans.) It’s a good thing, too, since things like milk, sugar, soap, toilet paper and other essentials are always in short supply in this socialist country.

The government regulates the price of these goods. It doesn’t subsidise them – it tells the producer what they can charge. That might just about make sense in a buoyant economy but with inflation running at over sixty percent and the value of the currency plummeting, it appears producers are not only failing to make a profit but are operating at a loss. Similarly companies who export food to Venezuela have given up waiting to be paid by a government that’s down on its luck and are now selling their goods elsewhere.

(more…)

Millennial-Entrepreneurs-Infographic-1024x793Millennials are obsessed with entrepreneurship, says Elise Amyx. Some are attracted to entrepreneurship out of necessity, while others want the freedom that comes with building their own business. And some Christian Millennials want to redeem free enterprise:

In part, redeeming capitalism means doing more than just making a profit. Consider Chick-fil-A’s decision to bring chicken sandwiches and waffle fries to people stranded in their cars during a snow storm. Or Whole Foods’ decision to donate 5 percent of its profits to a philanthropy. Or Warby Parker: when someone buys a pair of the company’s eyeglass frames, it donates a pair to someone in need.

Millennials admire socially conscious business models. And many are starting their own. One place you might find the Christian-hipster-entrepreneur type is the annual Q conference, where attendees pitch their startup ideas with Praxis. Founded in 2010, Praxis is focused “on equipping and resourcing a growing portfolio of faith-motivated entrepreneurs who have committed their lives to cultural and social impact, renewing the spirit of our age one organization at a time.” It’s a Christian entrepreneur-training hotbed for nonprofit and business startups alike. Kammock, which creates high-quality outdoor products, Man Crates, which packs and delivers gifts for men, and Jonas Paul Eyewear, which provides functional eyewear for children, all participated in the program during their infancy.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 9, 2015
By

Does free enterprise hurt the poor? Is it unfair and driven by greed? Did it cause the Great Recession? In this brief video, AEI president Arthur Brooks answers these questions and more about free enterprise.

RefuseServiceSignIn today’s Acton Commentary, “The Logic of Economic Discrimination,” I take up a small slice of the larger controversy and discussion surrounding religious liberty laws like the one passed recently in Indiana. My point, drawing out some of the implications of observations made by others, including Ryan Anderson and Shikha Dalmia, is that anti-discrimination boycotts depend on discrimination. Or as Dalmia puts it, “what is deeply ironic is that corporate America was able to wield its right not to do business (and boycott Indiana) by circumscribing the same right of Indiana businesses.”

Now there are lots of other angles and significant points to explore surrounding this enormously complex and important debate. Many have criticized the hypocrisy of corporations like Apple for doing business in places like China and Saudi Arabia even while they grandstand against Indiana. Others are now pointing to the actions of many in Silicon Valley, which despite the proclamations of support for social justice, have actually created huge inequalities. Tech centers like Silicon Valley are great, it seems, unless you are a woman, have a family, or are a blue-collar worker.

Indiana politicians, under massive scrutiny, have since moved to “clarify” the RFRA law that was passed, a move that has mollified some but not others. From the beginning, these conversations about religious liberty and economic rights have, in my view, insufficiently included sensitivity to considerations like freedom of association. Hopefully the larger context and interactions of contracts and rights, not merely “religious liberty” narrowly defined, can help broaden and mature the conversation.
(more…)

When struggling with “work that wounds”— work that’s “cross-bearing, self-denying, and life-sacrificing,” as Lester DeKoster describes it — we can content ourselves by remembering that God is with us in the workplace and our work has meaning.

But although these truths are powerful, God has not left us with only head knowledge and philosophical upgrades. When we give our lives to Christ and choose a path of transformation and obedience, the fruits of the Spirit will manifest in real and tangible ways, despite our circumstances. We will find meaning, but we will also experience peace, patience, and joy, even when it doesn’t make sense.

In Music Box, a classic Christian film from the early 1980s, we see an apt demonstration of this. The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength, not just as some abstract idea, but in real and noticeable ways through the application of mind to hands and hands to creative service. The Gospel breathes new life, even into the most dark and plodding situations.

Watch it here:

In the film, we see a tired and moping man, who lives a life of drudgery at a factory, followed by misery and disconnect at home. The solution? On his way home from work, he finds a magical music box that triggers a chorus of angels. God reminds him of the gift of Jesus — a lesson that sets the man about gift-giving of his own joy and purpose to other people, a newfound capacity that God continues to stretch throughout the film. In short, he’s awakened to the reality that all is gift. (more…)

While in Argentina for Acton Institute’s March 18 “Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society” seminar, President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico conducted a wide ranging interview with La Nación, the country’s leading conservative newspaper. For more on the event, jointly sponsored with Instituto Acton Argentina, go here. What follows is an English translation of the interview. The original version, titled “Una sociedad con bajos impuestos es más próspera” in Spanish, may be found here.

La Nación: Why did you decide to devote yourself to economics in relation to ethics and religion?

Sirico: In the 1970s, while living in California, I was away from the faith and was involved in a number of leftist social change movements. Someone gave me some books to read on economics, which I did. This set off a chain reaction which resulted not only in rethinking my more socialist activism, but also in my return to the Catholic Church and eventually continuing on to seminary and the priesthood. Once ordained, I continued to write and speak about these matters and eventually formed an Institute which engages many scholars and writers of all religious persuasions to discuss these kinds of ideas. (more…)

Envy-1A new report from the liberal Brookings Institute finds that “despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970″, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution. This holds true even for the two groups who have historically been most reliant on redistribution: the elderly and black Americans.

The report expresses surprise by the results, as does the Washington Post. As the Post‘s Max Ehrenfreund says,

The polling data challenges the common-sense idea that voters support policies that are in their material interest, the authors write. Yet there don’t seem to be any good explanations for the trends, which are shown in the chart above.

It’s not that blacks or the elderly on the whole are becoming wealthier and thus less dependent on government assistance. Black and elderly people were just as likely to change their views on the question whether they were rich or poor. Nor are members of these groups becoming more conservative on other questions.

Notice the pattern of thought embedded in those two paragraphs:
(more…)

robot 2When arguing about the merits of a free economy, its defenders often give way to a peculiar line of reasoning that goes something like this:

“Socialism would be wonderful if it actually worked, and it could actually work if only men were angels.”

Such claims are meant to frame socialists as foolish idealists obsessed with their silly utopias. But for those of us who believe there’s a certain idealism to the free society, it’s a rather appalling concession. Indeed, the fundamental problem with socialism isn’t so much that its aims are unrealistic — though they most certainly are — but rather that its basic assumptions rely on a view of humanity that is, in so many ways, unreal.

If we let the lofty levelers have their way, we shall inherit a world where humanity is robbed of its dignity and originality, discouraged from creativity and innovation, and restrained from the collaboration and relationship found in free exchange. Even if such a system were to be filled with morally superior know-it-alls and somehow achieve material prosperity, it would still be a society of serfs, submissive to their overlords’ enlightened plans for social “equity,” and thus, servile in all the areas where God intended ownership.

Is a land wherein humans are guided by mere robotic efficiency really something that’s all that wonderful, even if it actually “works”? In whose mind and through what sort of contorted imagination is this considered an “ideal” or “utopia”? (more…)

romero

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Rev. Robert Sirico ponders the economic and theological links between Pope Francis and Oscar Romero today at RealClear Religion. Sirico says that these “two prominent churchmen of our era … expose the difference between a ‘preferential option for the poor’ and a preferential option for the state.”

Both men have been linked heavily to Liberation Theology, but Sirico points out that this is a misguided understanding of the thoughts and works of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero.

For whatever form of Liberation Theology (and there are several) either Romero or Francis represent, it is certainly not the variety most popularly espoused in the Latin America of the 1980s and condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The ascendant form of Liberation Theology of that era emerged from a Christian encounter with Marxism as seen largely in the work of Gustavo Gutierrez (Peruvian), Leonardo Boff (Brazilian), Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguayan), Jon Sobrino (Spanish) and Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaraguan). (more…)