Category: Economics

witherspoonIn the spring of 1776, John Witherspoon preached his first sermon on political matters, about a month before he was elected to the Continental Congress. The sermon, “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” is a fascinating exploration of how God can work through human crises, and how even the “wrath of man” can lead us to glorify God in unexpected ways.

Surrounded by the conflict of the Revolution, Witherspoon calls on his countrymen to “return to duty,” neither letting blind rage get the best of them, nor retreating out of fear or for idols of security and “peace.” Yet while all this is directed specifically to the crisis of his time, I’m struck by how far his wisdom actually applies.

In today’s context, our conflicts vary, from economic woes to fights about religious liberty to racial tensions to terrorist threats to brazen abuses of power and authority within the halls of our own government. In each area, we can benefit from Witherspoon’s advice, learning to “hearken the rod” when times get tough, not only in terms of our own salvation, but for the sake and the cause of a free and virtuous society. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
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00979473.JPGI recently gave a hearty cheer for bringing back childhood chores, which are shockingly absent in a majority of today’s homes. The same appears to be the case with summer work for teenagers, which is increasingly avoided due to sports activities, cushy internships, video games, clubs and camps, and, in many cases, a lack of employment prospects altogether.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Dave Shiflett explores the implications of this development, recalling the “grit and glory of traditional summer work, which taught generations of teenagers important lessons about life, labor and even their place in the universe.”

Whether it was newspaper delivery, construction, factory work, fast food, or manual labor on the farm or the railroad, such jobs have introduced countless kids to responsibility, creativity, and service, helping connect the dots between God-given gifts and the broader social order. (more…)

factory-workers1When faced with work that feels more like drudgery and toil than collaborative creative service, we are often encouraged to inject our situation with meaning, rather than recognize the inherent value and purpose in the work itself.

In Economic Shalom, Acton’s Reformed primer on faith, work, and economics, John Bolt reminds us that, when enduring through these seasons, we mustn’t get too concerned about temporal circumstances or humanistic notions of meaning and destiny. “As we contemplate our calling, we will not simply consider the current job market,” he writes, “but ask ourselves first-order questions about who we are, why we are here, how God has gifted us, and how we can best serve his purposes.”

This involves reexamining what our work actually is and who it ultimately serves. But it also involves fully understanding God’s design for humanity in the broader created order. As we harness the gifts and resources that God has given us, it is crucial that we understand the source and aims of our toil, and the obligation and responsibility that comes with our authority. (more…)

greece for saleGreece has had to deal with a very uncertain economic outlook over the past decade or so, but now it’s getting downright ugly. Greece owes over $1 billion this month in debt repayments, along with pensions, government salaries and other obligations. They likely don’t have the money.

The rapidly deteriorating Greek economy makes its already daunting debt pile even harder to manage, a key point of contention between Athens and its lenders. The [European Commission’s] latest forecast reckons that Greece’s debt will reach a whopping 180% of GDP this year, much higher than expected in recent months. Greece’s most recent bailout agreement called for its debt-to-GDP ratio to fall to 110% by 2022, which looks nearly impossible without some sort of restructuring, write-down, or default.

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comix-experienceWhat would you do if you hated independent bookstores? Maybe you work for Amazon.com or a bookseller shot your dad or you just want people to read less. For whatever reason, you want to see small businesses that sell books go out of business. What should you do to help destroy your local bookstore?

As San Francisco is finding out, the best strategy for destroying small booksellers is to simply raise the minimum wage.

In November, 77 percent of voters approved San Francisco’s Proposition J, which will raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2018. But the ramifications of that vote are already being felt. A few months ago San Francisco’s best-known science-fiction bookstore, Borderlands Books, published the following on its website:
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closedSeattle has now mandated an increase in minimum wage. The economic ramifications are being felt, especially throughout the restaurant industry.

Several Seattle restaurants have done away with tipping, but are adding a mandatory service charge on a customer’s bill.

Restaurants often operate on thin margins, so higher wages quickly impact profitability. As opposed to tips, a service charge becomes part of the restaurant’s overall revenue. The restaurateurs say the service charge component will be used exclusively for employee wages, benefits and payroll expenses.

While this may solve the economic issue for some restaurants, the mandatory minimum wage increase is causing others to simply close their doors. (more…)

Human-Male-White-Newborn-Baby-CryingBirthrates across the globe are going down even as life expectancy increases. The former trend is marked particularly in developed nations.

There are lots of reasons for people to have kids or not have kids. Some of these reasons are economic. As I’ve argued previously, “One of the common concerns that drives prospective parents to put off having children is economic, specifically that they won’t have the financial resources to support a growing family. This is a worry that’s been around as long as there have been families.”

Perhaps it really is more difficult in America today to make the economic sacrifice (or perhaps better understood as investment) required for having kids.

But often these kinds of economic reasons end up being used as rationalizations. More honest, at least, is this characterization of a ‘rational’ approach to procreation:

Not having children isn’t selfish. Not having children is a perfectly rational and reasonable response given that humans are essentially parasites on the face of a perfectly lovely and well-balanced planet, ploughing through its natural resources, eradicating its endangered species, and ruining its most wonderful landscapes. This might sound misanthropic, and it is, but it is also true.

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fireOf all the disheartening scenes of unrest coming out of Baltimore this week, few have been as dispiriting as the image of a church project that was set ablaze.

For the past eight years the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore has been working on a project that would provide a community center and low-income housing in the form of 60 senior-citizen apartments. The construction was expected to be completed in December. And last night it all burned to the ground.

Those associated with the project have remained optimistic. Kevin Bell, senior vice president of The Woda Group, vowed to rebuild and said, “This does not make us go away.” And Rev. Donte Hickman, the pastor of the church, says, “This fire is going to spark a revival.”

We should pray the project will soon be back on track and that the community as a whole will heal quickly. But we should also be aware of the long term impact that riots have on a city.

In 2004, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) published two papers that examined the effect of the riots in the 1960s and early 1970s. From 1964 to 1971, as many as 700 riots erupted in cities across America. The large numbers of injuries, deaths, property damage that occurred in predominantly black neighborhoods caused considerable short-term damage on the communities. But the impact over the long run (from 1960 to 1980) was even more severe. According to the NBER,
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woman-waitressDo you remember trying to find that first job? You’d be told you needed experience by an would-be employer, but no one would hire you so you could get the experience. Finally, a burger joint or a summer ice cream shop or a retailer would give you a chance, usually beginning at minimum wage.

At AEI, Mark J. Perry looks at the world of the minimum wage worker. Here are a few facts:

  • While teens are the ones who typically earn minimum wage, they don’t stay there for long. In 2014, 85 percent of working teens earned above minimum wage.
  • If a worker does not have a high school diploma, the chances that he/she will earn minimum wage are higher. The more educated a person is, the more he/she will earn.
  • Being married typically means a person will earn more.
  • Part-time workers are much more likely to earn minimum wage than full-time employees.

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In an enthusiastic reaction to his first job offer, Ben Sunderman, a 19-year-old with Down syndrome, has spread lots of smiles across the internet. In doing so, he reminds us of the power of work to bring joy to human lives, and of the gift-giving capacity God has given to each of us, including those we often dismiss as “disabled.”

Caught on video by his mother, Sunderman literally jumps for joy after reading about his acceptance to an internship at Embassy Suites. “I did it!” he yells. “I got a job!”

Watch the full video:

For the broader story, see the following interview with his family: (more…)