Category: Economic Freedom

Blog author: kjayabalan
posted by on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2716popefrancis_00000001928With the November 26 publication of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, we have the first teaching document that is truly his own. And it very much shows, both in style and content, compared to the encyclical Lumen Fidei, which was mostly written by Pope Benedict XVI. Evangelii Gaudium is full of the home-spun expressions of faith that have made Francis the most popular public figure on the planet, and the exhortation is certain to succeed in challenging all of us to live in more sincere, compassionate, and self-giving ways. It has also provided some much-needed clarification of the Pope’s previous statements on abortion and marriage that had a few wondering, with only slight exaggeration, whether the Pope was actually Catholic.

By now it is obvious that, in his words and deeds, Pope Francis has a remarkable ability to speak to the heart of the common man, someone who may not know much about or regularly practice his faith but wants to be on good terms with God and other people. It is equally obvious that Francis has made the “new evangelization,” i.e. bringing back fallen-away or secularized Catholics, central to his pontificate. By making the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus his number one priority, the Holy Father is fulfilling his God-given mandate to feed Christ’s sheep. Like nearly everyone else who has been closely watching him in action, I have been moved and inspired to live my faith more intensely, all the while recognizing the inadequacy of my efforts if it weren’t for God’s grace and untiring mercy.

How can we account for Francis’s popularity? Some in the media sense possible changes in Church teaching on all kinds of (mostly sexual) matters, but I think there’s more to it. Pope Benedict’s intellectual approach to explaining Christianity has been followed by Pope Francis’s commonsensical one. Each undoubtedly has its strengths and weaknesses and will carry greater appeal to different sorts of people. It may not be certain how the Holy Spirit selects and inspires any particular pontiff, but one can hazard a guess and say Francis’s style and tone may be exactly what the Church needs at this moment in history.

There are instances, however, when a more considered understanding of technical matters would be preferable; the exhortation’s tirades against the market economy are one. (more…)

Blog author: rjmoeller
posted by on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Picking up where we left off last time (in verse 9 of I Samuel 8), the prophet Samuel’s sons have given God’s system of judges a black eye with their corrupt behavior. Not wishing to be upstaged in the “Let’s Disappoint God” department, the people of Israel decide they want to up-the-sin-ante by rejecting God’s order and demanding a monarchy.

It’s now time for Samuel to share with the people what is in store for them should they refuse to course-correct.

In verse 9, at the behest of God himself, Samuel offers a “solemn” warning to his people. I note this at the start because I am of the opinion that it is always a worthwhile endeavor to give someone headed off of a cliff a fair warning. Even if you know they won’t listen, it’s always worth a shot. God knew the people had turned their hearts from Him, and He knew they would reject the council of His appointed mediator, but He told that mediator to warn them anyway.

Samuel’s task was to walk rightly with his God and obediently speak truth to his countrymen. The rest was in Yahweh’s hands. (more…)

Blog author: rjmoeller
posted by on Friday, November 22, 2013

I recently posted some thoughts at The Power Blog on “God’s Problem With Centralized Power”, which took a macro view of what I believe to be God’s clear disdain for mankind pursuing their own ends instead of His articulated purposes when it comes to how we organize ourselves communally. This time I want to highlight a specific, micro-level example of that same general idea.

The story of Israel’s demand for a king in I Samuel 8 contains so many relevant, interesting nuggets of insight that I’ve broken it into two parts. This first post will cover verses 1-9; the second one (on Monday) will explore verses 10-22.

When the elders of Israel come to Samuel on behalf of their people to ask for a king to lead them, the decentralized governing system of “judges” had largely been in place since the Hebrew people’s return from exile in Egypt (some 400 years). What the people were asking for was a massive break with a God-ordained system and time-tested tradition. It marks a major shift in the history of God’s chosen people and, truly, the history of God’s plan for salvation. (more…)

Blog author: kjayabalan
posted by on Thursday, November 21, 2013

2721jonesjpg_00000001935Even though the author of this essay in Catholic World Report is careful to make distinctions, this would seem to be the choice: Thomas Aquinas or Ron Paul. It is, in fact, how the indispensable Real Clear Religion website framed the debate this morning.

To compare a religion with an intellectual and moral tradition that goes back thousands of years with a quasi-political movement that is more known for what it is against than what is for is worse than comparing apples and oranges. Yet the Catholic view of the world does seem to be in tension with one that values freedom most of all and pleads agnostic on other important issues. Brian Jones focuses on three areas of disagreement: 1) the necessity of government, 2) law as moral pedagogy and 3) the proper order of politics.

Having studied both economics and political philosophy as well as worked in the field of Catholic social teaching for the Holy See, I’m more than a bit interested in the matter. I readily admit to having libertarian instincts and preferences in economics, while also believing in the primacy of the political in a social order that has a supernatural end. Jones puts it well when he writes, “In Catholicism, there is always the realization that in order for politics to be itself, and accomplish what it is meant to in accord with man’s nature as a social and political animal, it must point to that which is ultimately not political.”

So does that make me suspect on Catholic AND libertarian grounds? Or can I coherently believe in free markets and the truth about God and man as taught by the Church? Catholic teaching thankfully does not require its adherents to share the same opinions on prudential matters. I know this may seem like a cop-out to the more strictly (harshly?) principled, but it also happens to better reflect the realities of the messy world we live in. Or am I alone in this view?

Class struggle. Racially-charged rhetoric. Anti-capitalist diatribes. Sounds like the lineup to a “Fantasy Diversity” team from a sociology professor at Wellesley College, right?

Alas, I’m merely referring to the controversy surrounding ex-Miami Dolphins players Jonathan Martin (black) and Richie Incognito (white).  For those who haven’t been paying attention – and thank your lucky stars that you haven’t – Martin left the team for personal reasons and his fellow offensive lineman Incognito was released by the Dolphins for allegedly being the bully who broke the spirit of the younger Martin.

I’m not here interested in solving the intra-team dynamics of a professional football team (comprised of giant men who willingly smash into each other for a living), but instead wanted to share with you a very telling quote from the media’s coverage of this story.

It comes from a sports “journalist” (term used loosely) named Jason Whitlock who works for ESPN. Mr. Whitlock is no stranger to controversy or inflammatory remarks, having made many of his own through the years via his columns and various radio shows. On Tuesday’s episode of The Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN 980 (out of Washington D.C.), Whitlock was asked by Kornheiser to explain why the Dolphins players would want to harass and “cannibalize” a promising young player like Martin when they need all the help they can get on the actual football field.

Jason’s response?

“Because that’s what we do in America. That’s what capitalism does. It’s preys upon the weak.”

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RTRFNXLThe HHS contraceptive-abortifacient mandate lost another round last week.

“This is a significant victory for protecting the religious beliefs of individuals and corporations,” said Edward White, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ who is representing a family-run business in Illinois. In a 2-1 decision issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the court reversed the federal district court’s denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction and remanded the case for the district court to enter the preliminary injunction.

What is most encouraging about the decision is the reasoning expressed in the majority opinion. The judges think the HHS mandate is ultimately going to be trumped by the right of religious freedom:

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Blog author: abradley
posted by on Friday, November 8, 2013

franceSince the French Revolution, Americans have glanced over to our friends across the Atlantic Ocean as a model of what a country should not do. That tradition continues. France’s centralized planning of the economy, health care, education, the family, religion, and so on is not working. The New York Times reports:

The pervasive presence of government in French life, from workplace rules to health and education benefits, is now the subject of a great debate as the nation grapples with whether it can sustain the post-World War II model of social democracy.

Well, those who champion economic, moral, and political liberty predicted this ages ago. As expected, government control of French society has crippled France’s “capability to innovate and compete globally.”

What is more, “investors are shying away from the layers of government regulation and high taxes.” Again, not surprising.

The French government continues to raise taxes and create reasons to redistribute workers’ earnings. According to the article, in France “most child care and higher education are paid for by the government, and are universally available, as is health care.” The cost of health care is “embedded in the taxes imposed on workers and employers; workers make mandatory contributions worth about 10 percent of their paycheck to cover health insurance and a total of about 22 percent to pay for all their benefits.” This is unsustainable.
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Blog author: rjmoeller
posted by on Friday, November 8, 2013

King Solomon. Georgian MSSWhen given the choice to possess whatever he asked for, the young King Solomon asked God for wisdom. Not “the ability to ask for more things,” or “x-ray vision,” but wisdom. An overview of the wisdom Solomon accrued in his memorable life was, for our sake, recorded in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs has some definitive things to say about matters related to how we might, as Christians, organize our lives (and communities) economically. The concept of wealth is a tough one for Christians to wrestle with. We cannot serve both God and money, but the discussion about economics is more complex than the “money = wealth and therefore wealth = bad” mantra reiterated by progressives. Wealth cannot be reduced to purely monetary terms.

In their 2009 book, Calvin and Commerce, David W. Hall and Matthew D. Burton identify a number of general teachings about wealth found in Proverbs (among other books of the Old Testament) that supply modern Christians with principles that can be directly applied to our worldview regarding economics, business, and personal finances. Below are two of the general teachings the authors flesh out.
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For my money, Dr. Charles Krauthammer is the most consistently thought-provoking and insightful columnist around. Whether or not you agree with the weekly assessments he offers in his syndicated column, or the nightly prognostications he delivers on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier, Chuck is an intellectual force to be reckoned with.

As I’ve followed the media blitz surrounding the release of his new book Things That Matter, I’m reminded of the power of big ideas and that people can, in fact, change their mind about once-held views on politics and economics. Dr. Krauthammer started out a big-government liberal who believed in the ideals (and policies) of The Great Society. But, being the intellectually honest man that he is, when mountains of data began to emerge in the 1980′s that showed just how detrimental the “good intentions” of progressive Democrats had become to the very people they claimed to be helping, he sought out new and better ways to address the needs of a complex, diverse and freedom-loving nation. (more…)

Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300Fr. John Flynn, LC, has reviewed Tea Party Catholic: The Case for Limited Government, A Free Economy And Human Flourishing at Zenit. Flynn notes that the book is not about the current Tea Party political movement, but is tied to American history:

In his introduction Gregg explained that the book is not about the Tea Party movement or any particular group, but refers to the many millions of Americans who favor limited government.

Flynn also takes a look at what Gregg means by “limited government:”

The Catholic case for limited government does not mean being against all government, and it also does not mean that it is an endorsement of libertarianism or an Ayn Rand type philosophy, he stressed. (more…)