Category: Economics

bernie-sandersWhile many politicians tend to avoid the labels “liberal” or “progressive,” Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders proudly self-identifies as a “socialist.”

While at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, Sanders joined the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth affiliate of the Socialist Party of America, and has remained a outspoken advocate for socialism ever since.

But exactly what kind of socialist is Sanders?

Faced with the prospect, albeit unlikely, that an avowed socialist may actually become the Democrat’s nominee for president, I thought it would be helpful for Americans to understand the particular brand of socialism advocated by Sanders.

My intention is to summarize his views in a way that is not only fair, but that Sanders himself would agree with. In order to do that I’ve attempted to use his own words as much as possible and to avoid directly stating what I find objectionable about his views (I’ll save that for another day).

Here’s what you should know about the socialism of Bernie Sanders:
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unbalanced“The 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world’s population.”

You’ve probably seen this statistic—or one like it—before in articles about economic inequality and assumed they must be somewhat revealing.

But they aren’t. In reality, such statistics are completely meaningless.

The development organization Oxfam trots out this statistic almost every year, and every year gullible journalists fall for it. What many people—including journalists and your friends on social media—don’t realize is that by Oxfam’s metric they are in the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people on the globe. All it takes is cash and/or assets worth $68,800 to get into the top 10 percent and $760,000 to be in the 1 percent.

The problems with using this type of metric is that the comparisons are based on net worth (assets minus liabilities). Everyone who owns even a modest home and car and is not in debt would be in the top 10 percent. But it doesn’t really even take that much money to be in the top 50 percent.
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Why do some countries grow richer faster than others? How can we explain wealth disparities between countries? The answer: Growth rates.

Economist Alex Tabarrok explains how even small changes to growth rates can have a big effect on the economy of a country—and on the flourishing of its citizens.

hannington1 - CopyBishop Hannington longed to see an awakening to generosity in his town of Bundibugyo, Uganda, where many viewed giving more as a matter of duty than heartfelt joy.

Yet what at first seemed like a significant challenge soon grew even steeper. After fleeing their town for two years due to the chaos of civil war, the community returned to Bundibugyo to find their homes completely destroyed.

“The houses had been torn down, the farms had nothing in them, churches had been demolished, schools had been devastated,” Hannington explains. “So we started from scratch.” With no money, shelter, aid, or resources, the people didn’t know what to do, and surely the temptation to look inward and “protect my own” pulled stronger than ever.

But then Hannington remembered: They did indeed have resources.

Rather than turn to the West or others outside their community for aid and assistance, Hannington encouraged his neighbors to look in their own hearts and hands. God had already given them what they need, and that, too, was designed to be poured out yet again.

Hear their remarkable story:

As Hannington explains, he encouraged them to connect and apply their God-given gifts to the God-given spheres of culture and creation that surrounded them:

I asked, “How soon can my people raise to the challenge of funding, not only their immediate needs, but their futures as well. I told the people at that time that God has given us everything we need to rebuild our community. And what he needed was for others to make themselves available to him and he was going to use us. And those of us who are mechanics, and those of us who are business people, they can use their gifts and trade they have to build their community.

Slowly and steadily, transformation happened. Churches and schools were rebuilt, generosity continued to spread, skills and resources were shared and invested, wealth was created, and the community began to revive.
It’s a powerful example of how transformational our stewardship can be when it’s rooted not in self-interest or self-preservation – the wisdom and pleasures of which shall surely wither and fade – but in the divine generosity of a heavenly father who so loved the world that he gave.

If war and destruction could not stop the servanthood and generosity of Bundibugyo, what’s stopping us?

Recovered

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“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” said President Obama in last night’s State of the Union address. Technically, the president is correct: The American economy, as a whole, is not in decline. But for most Americans, the state of the American economy is less important than the economy of their state, county, and city.

“Americans don’t live in a single economic place,” says Emilia Istrate, the director of research and outreach for the National Association of Counties (NACo). “It tells you why many Americans don’t feel the good economic numbers they see on TV.”

Eric Morath reports on a recent study Istrate produced for NACo that finds that six years into the latest economic expansion, 93 percent of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover. Only 214 counties—7 percent of 3,069—have recovered to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy, and home values. In 27 states, not a single county had fully recovered by 2014.

What makes this especially troubling is that since 1960 there have been an average of two recessions a decade. Many counties are unlikely to recover before the next economic downturn.

With preparation, though, local churches can find creative ways to help alleviate the economic burdens in our counties. Here are three suggestions for what churches and Christians can do to help our neighbors:
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JMM_18.2Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 18, no. 2, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains the text of the Theology of Work Consultation symposium at the 2014 conference of the Evangelical Theological Society. The subject was “The Economics of the Theological Vocation.” The entire symposium, as well as executive editor Jordan J. Ballor’s editorial on the subject, is open access.

In addition, associate editor Hunter Baker’s review essay on Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God and Timothy E. W. Gloege’s Guaranteed Pure is also open access. In it, Baker seeks to answer the question, “Is Christian America Invented? And Why Does It Matter?”

One last highlight: We are pleased to include a republication of a rare 1941 essay by German economist Wilhelm Röpke, “A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.” Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute and a scholar of Röpke’s work, authored the introduction, “A Value Judgment on ‘A Value Judgment on Value Judgments.'”

Read the entire issue here.

Subscription instructions to access all of our content can be found here.

2014-03-19-piggyThe good news is that the pinging sound your car’s engine was making for the last month has finally stopped. The bad news is that the sound stopped because the engine stopped working. You take the car to a local mechanic who tells you it will cost $1,000 to repair.

How would you handle this type of unexpected emergency? Would you be prepared?

Only about 4 in 10 Americans (37 percent) say they would pay for an unexpected expense with savings, a Bankrate survey found. Almost a quarter more (23 percent) say they’d pay for an emergency by reducing spending on other things.

Credit cards would be an option for 15 percent and another 15 percent would borrow from family or friends. That leaves nearly 10 percent who have no idea what they’d do.
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