Category: Economics

My older son’s college psychology class was recently assigned the film A Beautiful Mind, about the Nobel Prize winning economist and schizophrenia sufferer John Nash. The assignment was to watch the film, dig into Nash’s biography, and report on how the film altered Nash’s story of mental breakdown and recovery.

78A_Beautiful_Mind

We watched the film together as a family (my second viewing), checked out the biography by Sylvia Nasar from a local library, and generally geeked out on Nash and game theory at the family dinner table over the next few days.

An additional motivation for the interest was that my mom’s engineer brother, my Uncle Milton, was a classmate of Nash’s at Carnegie Tech in the 1940s, with the two reconnecting at their 50th college reunion. In our digging into the Nash’s biography, we learned something of particular relevance to Acton Institute friends and followers, something I probably should have known already but didn’t: Nash’s decisive contribution to game theory likely has Austrian economics in its blood line. (more…)

bankruptcyThe Bible has a lot to say about the principles behind bankruptcy law, says T. Kyle Bryant. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses various laws concerning the poor, lenders, borrowers, and debt forgiveness.

From these passages, we get a glimpse of how God makes provision for people who cannot pay their debt after a certain number of years. Beside discouraging lenders from making “bad” loans (ones that could not be repaid in seven years), the law prevented overwhelming debt from ruining a person’s life forever. In this way, God’s law provided for a type of bankruptcy protection every seven years (and every 50 years for land).

The United States bankruptcy scheme is complex, but the similarities between it and the biblical system are striking. Both systems served to protect the relatively powerless consumers and give predictability and stability to the creditors. For example, in the Israelite law, debtors could be released from their debts every seven years—no matter the amount of the debt, it was gone. This prevented common debtors from having to sell themselves into slavery in perpetuity to pay for their debts. On the other hand, it gave a stable and predictable risk profile to creditors seeking repayment of those debts. Lenders could temper their desire to make risky loans with the knowledge that any chance of repayment after the seventh year was uncertain.

In a similar way, the Bankruptcy Code allows a person freedom from their debt every eight years. Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code governs (in large part) individual debtors and the discharge of a person’s debt. If someone has received a discharge of their debt under Chapter 7, they must wait eight years before they can file for bankruptcy again. This echoes the biblical pattern of debt being wiped away every seven years. (But whether this tempers creditors’ risky lending practices is another question).

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, June 4, 2014

econwatchjournalThe latest edition of Econ Journal Watch has a symposium, co-sponsored by the Acton Institute, on the question, “Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?

In his essay “On the Usefulness of a Flat
Economics to the World of Faith
“, Andrew P. Morriss considers the role of faith in correcting how economics flattens the perception of human nature and human existence:
(more…)

Jamie Bérubé

Jamie Bérubé

In a powerful profile of his son Jamie, a young man with Down syndrome, Michael Bérubé explores some of the key challenges that those with disabilities face when trying to enter the workforce:

The first time I talked to Jamie about getting a job, he was only 13. But I thought it was a good idea to prepare him, gradually, for the world that would await him after he left school. My wife, Janet, and I had long been warned about that world: By professionals it was usually called “transitioning from high school.” By parents it was usually called “falling off the cliff.” After 21 years of early intervention programs for children with disabilities…there would be nothing. Or so we were told.

At 13, Jamie reported that he wanted to be a marine biologist. A very tall order, I thought; but he knew the differences between seals and sea lions, he knew that dolphins are pinnipeds, and he knew far more about sharks than most sixth graders. And despite his speech delays, he could say “cartilaginous fish” pretty clearly. Perhaps he could work at an aquarium?

Bérubé goes on to tell the story of Jamie’s education and upbringing, which includes the unfortunate descent from that lofty childhood dream to his current unemployment at age 22. “By the end of the year [at age 13]…Jamie had lowered his sights from ‘marine biologist’ to ‘marine biologist helper,’ Bérubé writes. “And by the end of eighth grade…when he was asked what he might do for a living when he graduated, he said dejectedly, ‘Groceries, I guess.’”

Despite testing at rather high levels for his disability, and despite having years of experience working in various low-wage and volunteer jobs, Jamie continues to struggle in his search for a career, even in areas like factory work, food service, or hospitality. (more…)

econwatchjournalThe latest edition of Econ Journal Watch has a symposium, co-sponsored by the Acton Institute, on the question, “Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?

In his essay “Joyful Economics“, Victor V. Claar reflects upon his life as a Christian and how it has connected to his work as an academic economist. Claar offers a few suggestions about the distinct contributions Christian economists can make in this field of study:
(more…)

The Acton Institute is proud to sponsor the latest symposium in Econ Journal Watch: “Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?”

EJWEJW editor Daniel B. Klein introduces the theme in a fine Prologue, in which he writes, “our focus is the enrichment of economics: Is economics suffering from an undue flatness? If so, why is that happening? If economics needs an infusion of richer concepts, what are some of the richer concepts? Also, if economics needs an infusion, for what purposes is it that such infusion is needed? What purposes is economics trying, but failing, to serve, because it lacks richer concepts?”

Robin Klay of Hope College and an executive board member of our own Journal of Markets & Morality opens the symposium with a survey of the landscape on these questions with her contribution, “Where Do Economists of Faith Hang Out? Their Journals and Associations, plus Luminaries Among Them.”

EJW has put together another 17 response essays, in which luminaries in their own right weigh in on the theme from a variety of religious and methodological perspectives. Browse this issue of EJW and download the entire issue for your own perusal as well.

And for more reflection on the intersection of theology and economics, be sure to check out the Journal of Markets & Morality. The archived issues are open access, and to get the latest two issues in either digital or hardcopy format, you can get a subscription for yourself or recommend it to a colleague or institutional library. Last month I also lectured at the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on “A Match Made in Heaven: Why Theology and Economics Need Each Other,” with a substantive and engaging response and discussion afterwards with Stephen Long of Marquette University.

Kevin Allen, host of a weekly call-in show on Ancient Faith Radio, interviewed Fr. Michael Butler over the weekend “about how we might address the environmental issues that confront us today by appealing to the authentic Orthodox Tradition.” Fr. Michael is the author, with Prof. Andrew Morriss, of the 2013 Acton monograph Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism.

In their April 23 commentary “Christian Environmentalism and the Temptation of Faux Asceticism” the authors note:

The ascetical tradition of the Orthodox Church includes many practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, keeping vigil, inter alia. They are the active part of the spiritual life, our voluntary cooperation with the grace of God. As such, it is important that we not be tempted to use the ascetical practices of the Church for ends they were not designed to serve. Thus, we need to be careful of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice. Moreover, we must keep in mind that it is the believer’s practice of asceticism, not asceticism qua asceticism, that is important. (more…)

A couple of interviews to bring you up to speed on from that last couple of days:

First of all, here’s Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg on the GRN Alive morning show on the Guadalupe Radio Network this morning to discuss current efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, giving his analysis on the likely impact of such a move on the economy and the job market.

And from yesterday, here’s Acton co-founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico with host Mike Rosen on The Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA in Denver, Colorado, to discuss Pope Francis’ recent comments to United Nations officials, which included remarks on “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.” Rosen and Sirico speak extensively about Catholic teaching on economics, and about the misleading nature of the term “trickle-down economics.”

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

President Lyndon Johnson, Kentucky, 1964

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, has published a monograph entitled, The Great Society: The Triumph and The Tragedy at Fifty. Eberstadt calls Johnson’s vision for the war on poverty “the most ambitious call to date” in American political history. At the time of Johnson’s speech unveiling this “Great Society,” the United States had only one nation-wide social program, Social Security. Johnson wanted more:

The Great Society proposed to reach even further: to bring about wholesale renewal of our cities, beautification of our natural surroundings, vitalization of our educational system. All this, and much more—and the solutions to the many questions encountered in this great endeavor, we were told, would assuredly be found, since this undertaking would “assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.

(more…)

Henry Parsons Crowell

Henry Parsons Crowell

Over at the Kern Pastors Network, Owen Strachan uses the example of Quaker Oats founder Henry Parsons Crowell to demonstrate the level of stewardship Christians are called to.

Bringing his ingenuity and a variety of innovations to his company and the market at large, Crowell delivered value to his shareholders, employees, and customers. “But he didn’t stop there,” as Strachan notes, using the wealth he created not just to re-invest in material prosperity, but continuing to tithe around 70 percent of his earnings and invest in Christian education and missions.

Crowell “defied the way of the world,” Strachan argues, and in doing so, he illustrated how Christians ought not be bound either by poverty theologies or prosperity gospels, convenient though either may be:

Henry Parsons Crowell made a lot of money, but he didn’t make it for himself. He genuinely believed that he could serve God by using his entrepreneurial gifts to advance the gospel of Christ’s kingdom. There was a marvelous synergy in his life, in other words. His brilliant marketing wasn’t separate from his simple piety.

I want to be frank: some Christians might have a problem with all this talk about huge amounts of money. They might fundamentally distrust all money-making and embrace what’s sometimes called “poverty theology.” It’s certainly good to be on the alert about the temptation of riches. The love of money really does stimulate all kinds of evil desires and actions (1 Timothy 6:10). And the Bible condemns lusting after poverty or riches (Proverbs 30:8). It’s notable to us that Judas sold out Jesus not for fame and glory, but for a bag of money. What could be more evocative of the temptation of riches than that? (more…)