Category: Economics

Creation Heart ManBeginning today, Acton is offering its first monograph on Eastern Orthodox Christian social thought at no cost through Amazon Kindle. Through Tues., Nov. 12, you can get your free digital copy of Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism (Acton Institute, 2013). The print edition, which runs 91 pages, will be available later this month through the Acton Book Shop for $6. When the free eBook offer expires, Creation and the Heart of Man will be priced at $2.99 for the Kindle reader and free reading apps.

A summary of Creation and the Heart of Man:

Rooted in the Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its teaching on the relationship between God, humanity, and all creation, Fr. Michael Butler and Prof. Andrew Morriss offer a new contribution to Orthodox environmental theology. Too often policy recommendations from theologians and Church authorities have taken the form of pontifications, obscuring many important economic and public policy realities. The authors establish a framework for responsible engagement with environmental issues undergirded not only by Church teaching but also by sound economic analysis. Creation and the Heart of Man uniquely takes the discussion of Orthodox environmental ethics from abstract principles to thoughtful interaction with the concrete, sensitive to the inviolability of human dignity, the plight of the poor, and our common destiny of communion with God.

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Sid Meir's CivilizationMy wife despises Sid Meier. She’s never met him, nor would she even recognize his name. But she knows someone is responsible for creating the source of my addiction.

For over twenty years I’ve spent (or wasted, as my wife would say) countless hours playing Civilization, Meier’s award-winning strategy game. Every time I play the game I enter an almost trance-like state of complete immersion. According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what I’m experiencing in that moment is known as “flow.” Csíkszentmihályi describes the mental state of flow as,

being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow:
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Bansky No StoppingOver at the University Bookman today, I review John Lanchester’s novel Capital. I recommend the book.

I don’t explore it in the review, “Capital Vices and Commercial Virtues,” but for those who have been following the antics of Banksy, there is a similar performance artist character in the novel that has significance for the development of the narrative.

As I write in the review, the vice of envy, captured in the foreboding phrase, “We Want What You Have,” animates the book. Capital “provides a richly textured and challenging narrative of the challenges of affluence, the temptations of materialism and envy, and the need for true human community expressed in a variety of social institutions.”

I note the insights of my friend and colleague Victor Claar in the review, and for a more thorough academic engagement of the ethics and economics of envy, check out our co-authored paper recently accepted for publication in Faith & Economics, “Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order,” as well as my piece slated to appear in Philosophia Reformata, “The Moral Challenges of Economic Equality and Diversity.”

Rate-map-3-27-40-67Forbes has just released its 49-state analysis of Obamacare and the cost of insurance premiums. The findings?

In the average state, Obamacare will increase underlying premiums by 41 percent. As we have long expected, the steepest hikes will be imposed on the healthy, the young, and the male. And Obamacare’s taxpayer-funded subsidies will primarily benefit those nearing retirement—people who, unlike the young, have had their whole lives to save for their health-care needs.

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eurozone_2518920bAbysmal.” That’s the word one reporter is using to describe the newly released numbers for Eurozone unemployment and inflation. The Eurozone (which includes 17 nations) is seeing miserable numbers:

The ranks of the jobless swelled by 60,000 to a record 19.45 million, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. Though the unemployment rate remained steady at 12.2 percent, the previous month was revised up from 12 percent.

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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…)

tower_of_babel.170113154The Bible does not have a detailed plan for how the government of a modern nation of 300 million people should operate. If you’re looking for specifics on what the United States’ tariff policy with Finland ought to be, you’re plum out of luck.  If you want canonical guidance as to the precise degree of control the filibuster should have over legislative proceedings in the U.S. Senate, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

With plenty of issues in the socio-political and economic realms left unaddressed, the earnest Believer is building upon the certain, clear-cut revelations in Scripture as he or she constructs a cohesive worldview. We must work to avoid the temptation to let emotional responses dictate what policies and practices we will adopt as individuals, families, and as a nation. (more…)

Third_wayThe problem with advocating for third way economic system between capitalism and socialism is, as Matt Perman notes, there is no realistic third way. Fortunately, a third way isn’t needed since capitalism can do everything that so-called “third alternative” (e.g., distributism) want their system to do. For instance, one aspect of how capitalism can create a more “people-centered economy” is to increase the amount of capital that is dedicated to non-profits.

When society reaches a point that we have a proliferation of trinkets and other such things, it’s not a sign that capitalism has gone bad. Rather, it’s a sign that we need to use the freedom that capitalism affords us to point our efforts more fully in another direction — namely, the social sectors. We need more non-profit organizations, more churches, and more people going in to ministry and non-profit work in general. We can afford it. It will mean less singing fish, and perhaps less pet rocks. More seriously, maybe we won’t be producing exactly the 1 billion articles of clothing per year (which I am fine with as long as Banana Republic doesn’t go out of business). The point of our prosperity is not simply or mainly to enable us to keep buying more stuff, though the desire to accumulate is not evil in itself. The point of our prosperity is, rather, to divert some of our ability to accumulate more to efforts that focus more directly on using our abundance to meet pressing global needs.

I know there is one important consideration and possible objection here, which is actually a point I’ve made for years and that I make in my book (if I don’t cut the chapter due to length). And the objection is that I may seem to be pitting business against social good, when in reality it is business, not charity, which is the long-term solution to global poverty.

So I want to say clearly that I am not doing that. I do believe that business is the only long-term solution to large global problems like global poverty. And I’m not saying that when a person opens a business and makes money that he is not contributing greatly to the welfare of society. They are. But business cannot do this alone, because not all needs can be met at a profit, and there is injustice blocking the way in many instances. We need to be a society of both excellent businesses and great non-profits.

Read more . . .

moving_to_franceFor those of us on this side of the pond, France conjures up images of baguettes, beautiful women and lush countryside. For the French, the image conjured up might be taxes, taxes and more taxes.

More than 70 per cent of the French feel taxes are “excessive”, and 80 per cent believe the president’s economic policy is “misguided” and “inefficient”. This goes far beyond the tax exiles such as Gérard Depardieu, members of the Peugeot family or Chanel’s owners. Worse, after decades of living in one of the most redistributive systems in western Europe, 54 per cent of the French believe that taxes – of which there have been 84 new ones in the past two years, rising from 42 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 46.3 per cent this year – now widen social inequalities instead of reducing them.

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In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, billionaire Stan Druckenmiller discusses his recent university tour sounding the alarm on intergenerational theft. The article paraphrases his case:

[W]hile today’s 65-year-olds will receive on average net lifetime benefits of $327,400, children born now will suffer net lifetime losses of $420,600 as they struggle to pay the bills of aging Americans.

It goes on:

When the former money manager visited Stanford University, the audience included older folks as well as students. Some of the oldsters questioned why many of his dire forecasts assume that federal tax collections will stay at their traditional 18.5% of GDP. They asked why taxes should not rise to fulfill the promises already made.

Mr. Druckenmiller’s response: “Oh, so you’ve paid 18.5% for your 40 years and now you want the next generation of workers to pay 30% to finance your largess?” He added that if 18.5% was “so immoral, why don’t you give back some of your ill-gotten gains of the last 40 years?”

He has a similar argument for those on the left who say entitlements can be fixed with an eventual increase in payroll taxes. “Oh, I see,” he says. “So I get to pay a 12% payroll tax now until I’m 65 and then I don’t pay. But the next generation—instead of me paying 15% or having my benefits slightly reduced—they’re going to pay 17% in 2033. That’s why we’re waiting—so we can shift even more to the future than to now?”

In my recent commentary, I examined the recent projections of the Congressional Budget Office: (more…)