Category: Economic Freedom

millenials-phonesA recent national survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics finds that a majority of Millennials (18- to 29-year olds) do not support capitalism as a political theory. One-third of them, however, do support socialism.

As a rule, I try not to put too much stock in such surveys because opinion polls make us dumb. But it’s become obvious that a significant portion of younger American are truly so under-educated that they truly believe socialism is preferable to capitalism.

Perhaps the problem is merely one of language. The reality is that the most ardent “capitalists” don’t like “capitalism” either.

Capitalism is merely an economic system in which the modes and means of production are mostly or entirely privately owned. That’s a rather broad categorization that includes such systems as corporatism, crony capitalism, social democracy, state capitalism, and welfare capitalism. Even those of us who can be described as “capitalists” would reject most of the other forms of capitalism we don’t like. (Which is why we tend to dislike the  unhelpful word “capitalism.”)

What many of us (I’m tempted to say true capitalists) prefer is not an amorphous capitalism, but an economic system that is outgrowth of the natural order of liberty: a free economy. There’s no agreed upon term for the system of a free economy (which is why capitalism is often used as a substitute) but it includes free people engaging in free enterprise in free markets. A free economy is not a laissez-faire, each-to-his-own system of consumerism. It’s a system in which people are allowed to use their resources and abilities most effectively to serve others.

My naïve hope is that if more Millennials understood that capitalism is mostly used as a derogatory term free enterprise and economic liberty, they’d realize that they really do support it after all. But in case they aren’t convinced here are five reasons why you, young Millennial reader, should support capitalism:
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Rev. Robert A. Sirico takes time to chat with participants at the April 20 Rome conference "Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time"

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, second from left, takes time to chat with participants at the April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time”

French journalist Solène Tadié published an exclusive interview today with Rev. Robert A. Sirico: “Entretien avec le père Robert Sirico pour le 125e anniversaire de l’encyclique Rerum Novarum“. Rev. Sirico was in Rome as the final speaker at Acton’s April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New things of Our Time” when he made many original comments that spurred journalists to follow up with him afterward.

Toward the middle of her interview, Tadié asked what he thought about European socialists claiming that they had created the term “liberalism”.

Sirico responded with pastoral and intellectual depth about the social and individual dimensions of the human person. In the end, he says Christianity  provides the best “anthropological balance”, between classical liberal individualism and  liberal socialists over-emphasizing the social dimension of man. His answer, published for Institut Coppet, is transcribed below (listen in audio file from 7:52-10:58). It is well worth reading in full:

This is a very French question, and it’s a very good question…. because it goes [back] to the question of the Renaissance and the Iluminismo — the Enlightenment– and a number of these issues that cluster around…And even in the contrast between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Without going into a long historical discourse, here is what I what I would say: I think that Christianity, over the centuries, came to a higher and higher view of the dignity of the human person. Certainly, it was a very radical notion right at the beginning, because it is said that people were redeemed not by basis of their ethnicity, but by basis of their personal relationship with Christ. For example in the baptismal rite, I can’t baptize a number of people at once. I have to baptize them one at a time. And so this speaks to the dignity of the human person. (more…)

20th April 2016, Rome, Centro Congressi Roma Eventi - Fontana di Trevi International Conference "Freedom with justice: Rerum Novarum and the new things of our time."

A capacity crowd of professors, students, and opinion makers attends the April 20 2016 Acton Conference in Rome “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of our Time”.

In an article published Friday by Zenit’s Rome correspondent, Deborah Lubov, we find an excellent summary of Acton’s recently concluded Rome conference: “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time.”

Lubov writes in here roundup article:

Pope Leo’s encyclical on ‘revolutionary things,’ many [speakers] noted, also had much to say about the demands for freedom and social justice in the late-nineteenth century as increasing numbers of people became focused upon what was called “the social question.” During the conference, many bishops and intellectuals from Europe and America addressed topics such as Pope Leo’s attempt to revive the thought of Aquinas, the continuing importance of religious, economic, and political freedom, the State’s role in a global economy, and socialism’s resurgence today.

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The Acton Institute issued a video statement to the international press today from its Rome office, introducing the main topics that to be addressed at its April 20th Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time” at the Roma-Trevi Conference Center.

Among the “new things” to be discussed for the 125th anniversary of Leo’s landmark social encyclical will be the Church and poverty, Europe’s faltering welfare states, globalization’s winners and losers, youth unemployment, our malfunctioning financial systems, the rise of economic populism, new forms of socialism, and, of course, Pope Francis’s economic thinking.

Lively discussion will take place at the conference as well as on social media via the hash tag #125onFreedom. More information can be found at acton.org/Rome2016.

Online viewing will be available on livestream from which viewers may propose questions for the conference speakers.


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Well, it finally happened. The pope felt the Bern.

Against expectations, Pope Francis and  Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democrat candidate for U.S. president, met privately today in the Vatican hotel where the pontiff resides and where Sanders was staying as a guest.

Bernie Sanders was in Rome for the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences meeting to discuss his economic, environmental and moral concerns (as summed up in Sanders’own words during the press scrum that followed).

The Pontifical Academy’s meeting was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s Centisimus Annus, arguably the most pro-market  encyclical in the history of Catholic social teaching published in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum which also praised private property rights, the value of personal liberty, and likewise denounced Marxism on grounds of mistaken anthropology.

Sanders put his own socialist spin on Centesimus Annus while in Rome. (more…)

Leighblackall-76202405Andrew Biggs of AEI has a piece up today at Forbes addressing the gender pay gap and provides a neat solution: “forbid women from staying at home with their children.” As Biggs points out, such a policy would address perhaps the greatest root cause of gender pay inequality: varied work experience attributable to choices women make. “Most mothers who stay at home or work only part-time are doing what they wish to do and what they view as best for their kids,” writes Biggs. This results in gaps in pay when those women re-enter the work force or increase their labor participation.

Biggs’ proposal to “make staying at home with kids illegal, just like child labor is illegal” would have another benefit favored by many: it would be a boon to GDP. As I point out in a review essay in the latest issue of Christian Scholar’s Review, the work that stay-at-home parents do is not counted toward GDP. When those parents pay someone to take care of their children as part of a business transaction, however, as in the case of day care centers, then that exchange does count towards GDP.

My piece, “Affluence Agonistes–A Review Essay,” takes a look at the book The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, in addition to a couple of other recent publications. The CSR essay expands upon a review of the Grudem/Asmus book I wrote for Public Discourse, “Life to the Full: The Dangers of Material Wealth and Spiritual Poverty.” As Grudem and Asmus put it simply, to combat poverty “the goal must be to increase a nation’s GDP.”

So not only are stay-at-home moms a major source of wage inequality, they are also “a drag on GDP.” As one press report put it, “With female participation stagnating, potential growth isn’t rising as quickly.”

Biggs’ proposal to ban stay-at-home mothers should logically be embraced by both anti-gender inequality progressives as well as GDP growth fundamentalists. As I argue in the essay, “If a nation were to pursue GDP growth as its highest goal, it would probably institute policies and incentives to induce women to work outside the home and professionalize child care. GDP incentivizes specialization and the division of labor, since such transactions are the only things taken into account.”

But the Grove City College economist Shawn Ritenour rightly concludes, “We ought not give into the temptation that all of human welfare is encapsulated in GDP.” Another way of putting it is that men, women, and children do not “live on GDP per capita alone.”

Update: For those readers who might not bother to read Biggs’ piece, he does not (and neither do I, for that matter) actually advocate for this policy.

phillies-cubaThree years ago, Dalier Hinojosa was making the equivalent of $5 to $20 per month playing baseball in the state-run Cuban league. Having now defected from the country, escaping first to Haiti and now to America, Hinojosa will make $514,000 this season, playing for the Phillies.

In a profile at Philly.com, we learn more about the trials of his journey, which involved a high-risk, 12-hour escape at sea, joined by his wife and a smuggler in a small motorboat:

You never think about how you’re going to escape, [Hinojosa] said through an interpreter. You think about when. You cannot think about the risk of imprisonment or, worse, death. You think about the desperation that you never want to feel again.

The transition from communism to capitalism has already made Hinojosa rich, indeed. He originally signed with the Boston Red Sox for a $4 million bonus. (more…)