Category: Economics

Hey McFly! Put on your self-drying jacket and your self-tying shoes, because I’ve got a job offer you can’t refuse!

Hi, I’m Griff Tannen and my business, Griff Tannen’s Hoverboard Emporium is looking for part-time sales clerks. You probably know me from that time I smashed into the courthouse and was instantly sentenced to jail:

That’s me. I wasn’t really framed.

You might think of that as my lowest moment. It was certainly humbling. But now I look back at that day with gratitude, because it gave me the insight for this fine sales establishment.

But don’t just take my word for it, my business partner (and rabbi) Dr. Kirzner can help explain my business model: (more…)

arion_press_printing_san_franciscoThroughout its history, the American economy has transitioned from agrarian to industrial to information-driven.

Given our newfound status, manual labor is increasingly cast down in the popular imagination, replaced by white-collar jobs, bachelor’s degrees, and ladder-climbing. Whether due to new avenues and opportunities or a more general distaste for the slow and mundane, work with the hands is either ignored or discouraged, both as vocational prospect and consumeristic priority.

Amid this sea of new efficiencies, the art of craftsmanship is at a particular disadvantage. Whereas things used to be made with a certain individual artistry (out of necessity, no doubt), so much has become industrialized and systematized. That shift has led to unprecedented blessings, to be sure, whether in time, money, energy, and convenience, and for those fruits we should be grateful and rejoice.

But even in an economy such as this, there remains a need, a market, a knack for the slow and steady. There remains room not just for the magnificence of a well engineered microchip, but for a masterfully carved table and an artfully tailored suit. Creative service comes in all kinds, and God has a plan to both meet our immediate needs and fill our bodies, souls, and spirits with beauty and wonder. (more…)

bernie-sanders-photo1In last Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Senator Bernie Sanders stayed true to his famed aversion to capitalism, proclaiming the fanciful virtues of “democratic socialism.” Yet when prodded by Anderson Cooper — who asked, “you don’t consider yourself a capitalist?” — Sanders responded not by attacking free markets, but by targeting a more popular target of discontent: Wall Street and the banks.

“Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little, by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” Sanders asked. “No, I don’t.”

One could be forgiven for not understanding what Sanders means by “casino capitalism.” Is it crony capitalism, in which legislative favors are secured by the rich and powerful (which conservatives also disdain)? Is it bailouts for the big banks (which, again, conservatives also disdain)? Is it basic trade and exchange on a large, complex scale, and if so, at what size does it become problematic? Does he despise the stock exchange itself? Too loud with all its blinky lights and bells? (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

While it has been pointed out repeatedly by your writer and others in this space that Pope Francis’ Laudato Si contains much to recommend it for the beauty, compassion and depth of spirituality contained within, there remains much that is problematic. For example, there’s this:

At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

All this is consistent with Pope Francis’ warning that fossil fuels are contributing to climate change, but what he should be advocating for is energy abundance rather than this:

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gasses can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

Yet, how does the Pope reconcile his call for reduction of fossil-fuel use with his call for cleaner water and increased green space in the following quotes?

Here’s Pope Francis on water:

John C. Kennedy III

John C. Kennedy III

In late September, the Wall Street Journal asked Catholic business leaders for their reaction to Pope Francis’ economic views in an article titled, “For Business, a Papal Pushback.” It ran with the teaser line: “Corporate leaders see merit in pope’s message, if not his broad-brush attack on capitalism.” Journal writer Scott Calvert interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg for his story. Gregg observed that Pope Francis had characterized market economies as generally exploitative. “He doesn’t seem to want to concede the sheer number of people who have escaped from poverty as a consequence of the opening up of global markets and the activities of business,” he said. “I know a lot of Catholic businessmen who are quite demoralized when they hear the pope talk about the daily reality in which they live.”

I recently had a chance to talk to John C. Kennedy III, a Roman Catholic Grand Rapids, Michigan, businessman and a board member of the Acton Institute, for his read of the Francis visit. Kennedy is president and CEO of Autocam Medical. Before that, he was president and CEO of Autocam Corporation, which he founded in 1988 and sold in 2014 (for PowerBlog coverage of Autocam’s legal pushback against the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients go here). Beyond his business commitments, Kennedy devotes time to a number of organizations. He is a member of the Boards of NN, Inc., the parent company of Autocam Corporation, Grand Valley State University, Lacks Enterprises, Shape Corporation, the Van Andel Institute, and Advisory Board Member of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Kennedy received his BA from the University of Detroit Mercy and his MBA from the University of Michigan.

Our exchange follows:

What was your reaction to the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States?

Pope Francis’s visit was absolutely phenomenal. It really spoke to his leadership qualities. As a Catholic, I was proud of the leader of our church. The stamina of a 78-year-old man who went from morning to night every day, with beginning to end mass coverage, four or five times, was incredible. It’s just absolutely amazing to me. He did a great job. (more…)

“Globalization must do more than connect elites and big businesses that have the legal means to expand their markets, create capital, and increase their wealth.” –Hernando de Soto

6898950_7a0fd3b3d9_bWhen assessing the causes of the recent boom in global prosperity, economists and analysts will point much of their praise to the power of free trade and globalization, and rightly so.

But while these are important drivers, we mustn’t forget that many people remain disconnected from networks of productivity and “circles of exchange.” Despite wonderful expansions in international free trade, much of this has occurred between “outsiders,” with many partners still languishing due to a lack of internal free trade within their countries.

Much of this is due to an absence of basic property rights, as economist Hernando de Soto argues throughout his popular book, The Mystery of Capital. If the global poor don’t have the legal means or incentives to trade beyond families and small communities, so-called “globalization” will still leave plenty behind. (more…)

Whether derided as a devil of modern industry or hailed as a saint of modern philanthropy, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller remains a controversial figure.

Although the reality of the man is surely complex, those who attack his legacy tend to indulge in more than a few historical errors and economic myths, painting him as a supreme symbol of all that is wrong with industrialization and capitalism. And yet, despite some troubling tactics and cronyist maneuvering, the man himself is a symbol of much that is good.

As historian Burt Folsom explains, the real picture has a bit more color and brightness. Contrary to his critics, Rockefeller’s empire prioritized ingenuity above indulgence, gift-giving above greed, and economic transformation above static consumerism.

Rockefeller’s special gift to the world? “Cheap kerosene,” says Folsom, and “cheap enough that anyone could buy it.” (more…)