Category: Economics

workingpoorAfter reading a comment thread in which her online friends were complaining about poor people’s self-defeating behavior, Linda Walther Tirado wrote an articled titled “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts,” which chronicled her struggles with near abject poverty.

I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.

Tirado’s article went viral. A literary agent contacted her, and after a few readers emailed offers to contribute to a book project, Tirado started a GoFundMe page. Her initial goal was $10,500; she raised more than $60,000.

But there was a problem with her story: it wasn’t true.

As Angelica Leicht of the Houston Press discovered, Tirado doesn’t fit the mold of the working poor: She went to a fancy boarding school, speaks both German and Dutch, works as a political consultant, and is married to a Marine. Tirado eventually clarified that her piece was “taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not.”

While the article seemed to confirm what many people already believed, for those who are actually poor – or at least once were — the article likely didn’t resonate. It doesn’t even live up to the title’s claim of an explanation for why those in poverty “make terrible decisions.”

The fact is that the working poor do tend to make terrible financial decisions — and not just because they lack resources. The working poor think about money differently than other economic classes. I’d like to take a crack at explaining why that’s the case.
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Vatican PopePope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium continues to stimulate conversation, especially in the arena of economics. According to Francis X. Rocca at the Catholic News Service, many are heralding the pope’s call for doing away with “an ‘economy of exclusion and inequality’ based on the ‘idolatry of money.’”

Sam Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, weighed in on the pope’s economic viewpoint. (more…)

Last night on CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, PovertyCure director and Acton Research Fellow Michael Matheson Miller joined host Lawrence Kudlow and Rusty Reno, Editor of First Things magazine, to discuss the position of the Roman Catholic Church on global capitalism in light of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’ The video is embedded below.

Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been busy on the interview circuit over the past few days as news organizations look for intelligent analysis of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation that that was released last week. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal called upon Gregg to provide his thoughts on the economic content in the exhortation on Opinion Journal Live; we’ve embedded the video below.

baby-boomWhen it comes to pondering the plight of millennials, the need for critique runs as deep as the challenges.

Yet the obstacles have at least something to do with our present reality and the forces that set it in motion. Long before we millennials were pursuing silly degrees and dreaming up fantastical futures en masse, someone somewhere began by whispering, “yes.”

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, P.J. O’Rourke takes aim at one set of such predecessors, the Boomers. Speaking as a child of the late 1940s, a self-described “senior” of the set, O’Rourke wonders what the hands of his generation hath wrought.

Given the common criticism that it is millennials who are uniquely characterized by narcissism and self-importance, this particular bit struck me as an interesting hint at inheritance.

To address America’s baby boom is to face big, broad problems. We number more than 75 million, and we’re not only diverse but take a thorny pride in our every deviation from the norm (even though we’re in therapy for it). We are all alike in that each of us thinks we’re unusual.

Fortunately, we are all alike in our approach to big, broad problems too. We won’t face them. There’s a website for that, a support group to join, a class to take, alternative medicine, regular exercise, a book that explains it all, a celebrity on TV who’s been through the same thing, or we can eliminate gluten from our diet. History is full of generations that had too many problems. We are the first generation to have too many answers. (more…)

On Wednesday, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton’s President and co-founder, offered his initial comments on “Evangelii Gaudium,” the Apostolic Exhortation released on November 26 by Pope Francis. This morning, Rev. Sirico spent some time extending his thoughts during the course of a couple of radio interviews.

In his first interview of the day, Rev. Sirico appeared on The Chris Salcedo Show on The Blaze Radio Network:

Later on, Rev. Sirico joined host Larry Kudlow on 77 WABC in New York City for a nearly 40 minute discussion of the document, which is well worth your time to listen to in full:

In this short talk, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers some general observations about the new “Apostolic Exhortation” published Nov. 26 by Pope Francis. Specifically, Rev. Sirico addresses the economic content of the work, titled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) and poses some questions for further reflection. And please take a moment to watch this PovertyCure trailer also posted here.

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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…)

pilgrim, property rightsEach Thanksgiving brings with it another opportunity to pause, meditate, and express our gratitude for the great blessings in life. As one who recently welcomed a new baby boy to my family, it seems particularly evident this season that the greatest blessings are not, after all, material.

Yet material need is a persistent obstacle, the dynamics of which wield significant influence over the entirety of our lives, from the formative effects of our daily work to the time, energy, and resources we pour out out in the service of others. Thus, it should be no surprise that Thanksgiving is often accompanied with reflections on the material: how we’ve been blessed with food in our bellies, shelter from the cold, a means to provide, and so on.

In the spirit of such reflections, Reason.tv released a nice, albeit excessively cheeky, video aimed at prodding our gratitude beyond the bread on the table and toward one of the systemic features that helps bring it from the field to the baker to the boca: property rights. (more…)

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who is’t that can inform me?

–Marcellus, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Human beings, with our diversity of gifts, talents, and dispositions, were created to, as Adam Smith put it, “truck, barter, and exchange.” In other words, we were made to trade.

But we were not created to be constantly trucking, bartering, and exchanging. That’s the central truth about humanity that the commandment concerning Sabbath rest communicates:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Over at The Gospel Coalition today, I expand on the news of Amazon’s new delivery service on Sundays to discuss “Sabbath Rest and the Moral Limits of Consumption.”

Just as we sleep each night to give our bodies rest from daily labors, our souls (as well as our bodies) need rest from mundane and worldly activities. This is the kind of rest that the Sabbath is designed to provide. The Sabbath principle calls us to rest from the gratification of our earthly desires, whether they be morally permissible or not, and whether we consider them to be work or leisure.
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