Category: Economic Freedom

At the Catholic Workd Report, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg observes that, as populist regimes implode across Latin America, it’s unclear that the Catholic Church in the age of Francis is well-equipped to cope with whatever comes next.

Since Pope Francis often states that realities are more important than ideas, let’s recall some basic realities about presidents Correa and Morales. Both are professed admirers of Chávez and committed to what Correa calls “socialism of the 21st century” or what Morales describes as “communitarian socialism.”

Both men have also followed the classic populist playbook. This involves (1) dismantling constitutional restraints on power; (2) blaming their nations’ problems on foreigners and foreign interests; (3) following a political logic of internal confrontation with those designated as “enemies of the people”; (4) fostering a cult of personality around a charismatic leader; and (5) creating large constituencies of supporters through disbursement of state largesse. The result has not only been political oppression. The economies of Bolivia and Ecuador are now formally classified as “repressed” in the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. That means they are among the least free, most corrupt, and statist in the world.

The fact, however, that Correa and Morales were invited to speak at a conference at the Holy See reflects the Church’s ambiguous relationship with left-populist movements and governments in recent years. The Venezuelan bishops’ willingness, for instance, to name and shame a populist regime so directly for its destructive policies is the exception rather than the rule.

Read “Pope Francis, Populism, and the Agony of Latin America” by Samuel Gregg at the Catholic World Report.

Today at The Stream, I examine the dissonance between the goals of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and his recommended means:

[W]hile Sanders’ goals may seem comparable to Scandinavia, there’s little Nordic about his means. It all reminds me of a quip from the Russian Orthodox philosopher S. L. Frank, a refugee from the brutality of actual, Soviet socialism. “The leaders of the French Revolution desired to attain liberty, equality, fraternity, and the kingdom of truth and reason, but they actually created a bourgeois order. And this is the way it usually is in history,” Frank wrote. Sanders wants Scandinavia, but his policies would put us on a track more in line with Argentina or Greece. Good intentions are not enough.

Sure, Sanders is nicer than Trump, for example, and there are real differences between them. Sanders rails against the evils of America’s “millionaires and billionaires.” Trump is one.

But Sanders’ brand of politics still amounts to populist demagoguery, still ultimately appealing to the worst in us. It is to our great shame that we now have no major candidate who consistently appeals to the best. In the meantime, we’d do well to resist such polarizing demagoguery in whatever form it takes.

Read my full article, “Sorry Bernie: Scandinavia Isn’t Socialist,” at The Stream here and see the rundown on why Sanders’ policies wouldn’t get us what Nordic countries have.

venezuela-food-shortagesThe Venezuelan economy is buckling under the weight of its severe socialist policies, and even as its president admits to a nationwide economic emergency, the government continues to affirm the drivers behind the collapse, blaming low oil prices and global capitalism instead.

This was supposed to be the dawn of “21st-century socialism,” as the late President Hugo Chavez proclaimed over 10 years ago, complete with the right tweaks and upgrades to its materialistic, mechanistic approach to the human person. “We have assumed the commitment to direct the Bolivarian Revolution towards socialism,” he said, “and to contribute to the socialist path, with a new socialism…which is based in solidarity, in fraternity, in love, in justice, in liberty, and in equality.”

Alas, with a shrinking economy, booming inflation, violent outbreaks, and empty food shelves, “21st-century socialism” is feeling mighty nostalgic in all the wrong ways.

In the years before Chavez, the country was in better shape than much of the continent. Now, thanks to the temptations of centralized power, the arrogance of centralized planners, and a series of faux upgrades to age-old bad ideas, the nation is crumbling. The oil prices simply served as the messenger. (more…)

I want to be very clear from the outset that moral concerns surrounding transgender identity are not unimportant. But in the likely event that we don’t come to any national consensus on that question any time soon, it is important not to overlook other moral and social concerns that are far more pressing. In particular, there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and privacy, no matter which side one favors, but resorting to the force of law will leave some real victims vulnerable.

On the one hand, the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence found that compared to violence among the general population, “Transgender women [i.e. biologically male] survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence and 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, when compared with other survivors.” I have seen headlines connecting this violence with restroom use in the past, but now that the issue has become politicized those stories are harder to locate. In any case, privacy and safety are real and major concerns for many. We should not be indifferent to this.

On the other hand, according to the CDC,

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 women and men (5.6% and 5.3%, respectively) experienced sexual violence other than rape….

Again, privacy and safety are real and major concerns here. We should not be indifferent. (more…)

artofthedeal[Note: This is the first in an occasional series evaluating the remaining presidential candidates and their views on economics and liberty.]

In the history of American politics, there has never been a candidate quite like Donald Trump. He is an Ivy League-educated New York billionaire appealing to populists across the country. He is a crony capitalist who loves bureaucracy and yet has convinced voters that he is the anti-Establishment candidate. He is profoundly ignorant about economics and openly hostile to freedom, and yet on the verge of securing the nomination of what was once the America’s “conservative” party.

He is, as he claims, a sort of artist.

Yet for all his contradictions, understanding Trump is rather simple. The first step is to understand that he cares less about principles or policy than he does about process.
(more…)

creative-service-house-flow3“The fruit of our labor is fellowship. It’s community. It’s relationship.”

Global trade has suddenly emerged as a hot conversation in the current election cycle, with candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders leading the charge toward severe protectionism, while the others quietly shrug and nod along accordingly.

Voters of all ideological stripes are responding with fervor, calling for more trade barriers and increased manipulation of prices and wages, hoping to insulate the American economy from our global neighbors and “keep what’s ours.”

Such stances quickly fall apart when one looks to basic economic theory. But well before and beyond its threats to material wellbeing, protectionism inhibits and prohibits something far more important: widespread creative service and the transcendent beauty of free and open exchange. (more…)

chobani-ceoAs politicians continue to decry the supposed “greed” of well-paid investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs — promoting a variety of reforms that seek to mandate minimums or cap executive pay — one company is demonstrating the value of economic freedom and market diversity.

Chobani, a privately owned greek yogurt manufacturer, recently announced it will be giving a 10% ownership stake to its roughly 2,000 full-time workers, a move that could result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for some employees.

According to the New York Times:

Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005, told workers at the company’s plant here in upstate New York that he would be giving them shares worth up to 10 percent of the company when it goes public or is sold.

The goal, he said, is to pass along the wealth they have helped build in the decade since the company started. Chobani is now widely considered to be worth several billion dollars.

(more…)