Category: Economics

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
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forgodandprofitIf we forget finance’s indispensable role in modern economies, says Samuel Gregg, research director for the Acton Institute, in an op-ed for The Detroit News, it’s guaranteed that everyone will be worse off.

Finance establishes links between the economic present and economic future of individuals and communities. It helps us manage risk and develops methods for continually enhancing the management of risk over the short, medium and long term. And it creates economic value by enabling money to assume the characteristics of capital.

Note that none of these functions are exercises in radical individualism. Finance can certainly help make us independent, but it also increases and is a sign of our interdependence.

Read more here. The op-ed is adapted from Gregg’s For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good.

creative-service-house-flow3“The fruit of our labor is fellowship. It’s community. It’s relationship.”

Global trade has suddenly emerged as a hot conversation in the current election cycle, with candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders leading the charge toward severe protectionism, while the others quietly shrug and nod along accordingly.

Voters of all ideological stripes are responding with fervor, calling for more trade barriers and increased manipulation of prices and wages, hoping to insulate the American economy from our global neighbors and “keep what’s ours.”

Such stances quickly fall apart when one looks to basic economic theory. But well before and beyond its threats to material wellbeing, protectionism inhibits and prohibits something far more important: widespread creative service and the transcendent beauty of free and open exchange. (more…)

LessiusCover-01In his famous work, History of Economic Analysis, economist Joseph A. Schumpeter gives a favorable nod to the works of Leonardus Lessius (1554–1623), sparking a fair amount of interest in the 16th-century Jesuit moral theologian.

CLP Academic has now published On Sale, Securities, and Insurance, a selection from Lessius’ most influential contribution to early modern economics, ethics, and law. The book offers the first full English translation of key sections of the second book (On Justice) of Lessius’ treatise On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure), specifically chapters 21 (On Sale-purchase) and 28 (On Suretyship, Insurance, Pledge, and Mortgage).

Based at the Jesuit College in Louvain, Lessius earned the reputation as “Oracle of the Netherlands” for the advice and analysis he offered to local merchants, jurists, and political rulers regarding matters of conscience, duty, and justice.

As translator Wim Decock writes in the introduction: “Though dwelling on the virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance too, the better part of the treatise includes a systematic treatment of the virtue of justice and, particularly, of property, torts, and contract law.” (more…)

“I never saw a supply and demand curve in seminary. I should have.”

This was written by Virginia Congressman David Brat in an academic paper back in 2011, when he was still an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. The paper offers a unique exploration of the intersections of economics, policy, and theology, promoting a holistic view of economic freedom and social justice united with Christian witness.

Brat, who holds both a Master of Divinity and a Ph.D in economics, has been in Congress for just over a year, and in a recent interview with Ben Domenech, it appears as though he’s retained much of that original perspective.

The discussion covers a range of subjects (economics, education, foreign policy), but one of the more striking bits comes when Domenech asks Brat about the decline of religion in American life and the corresponding erosion of local communities and civic institutions. Brat’s response is wide and varied, but he begins by noting that modern society as a whole is now in “uncharted territory.” (more…)

chobani-ceoAs politicians continue to decry the supposed “greed” of well-paid investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs — promoting a variety of reforms that seek to mandate minimums or cap executive pay — one company is demonstrating the value of economic freedom and market diversity.

Chobani, a privately owned greek yogurt manufacturer, recently announced it will be giving a 10% ownership stake to its roughly 2,000 full-time workers, a move that could result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for some employees.

According to the New York Times:

Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005, told workers at the company’s plant here in upstate New York that he would be giving them shares worth up to 10 percent of the company when it goes public or is sold.

The goal, he said, is to pass along the wealth they have helped build in the decade since the company started. Chobani is now widely considered to be worth several billion dollars.

(more…)

Recently we considered a simple tool and metric for measuring economic well-being: real GDP per capita.

Yet such metrics feel can seem materialistic. What about the things that money can’t buy, we wonder, like health and happiness?

As economist Alex Tabarrok explains, while real GDP is an imperfect measure, it tends to be correlated with many of the non-monetary improvements that contribute to human flourishing.

sandersgrinAt The Stream, Acton Institute Research Director Samuel Gregg does a crime scene investigation of Bernie Sanders’ take on Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus encyclical. You might never guess, by listening to the Democrat presidential candidate, that John Paul actually had some positive things to say about the market economy. Gregg says that Sanders’ recent appearance at a Vatican conference “will be seen for what it is: grandstanding by a left-wing populist candidate for the American presidency.” Aside from that, there are Sanders’ “contestable” economic assertions:

In the first place, Sanders didn’t acknowledge just how much the encyclical being discussed by the conference, Saint John Paul II’s 1991 Centesimus Annus, underscored the positive role of free markets as well as limits on what the government can and should do in the economy. To be sure, Centesimus Annus is not a Catholic version of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. But as I observed prior to the speech, Centesimus Annus contains some of the papacy’s strongest endorsements of the market economy and some of Catholicism’s most powerful critiques of not just socialism but also welfare states. None of these commendations or criticisms were referenced in Sanders’ address.

More generally, some of the claims made by Sanders about inequality are very contestable. His address referred, for instance, to “the widening gaps between the rich and poor.” This, however, doesn’t reflect the evidence of what’s happening to global economic inequality. In terms of global income, for instance, the most widely utilized assessment of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, went from 0.69 in 1988 to 0.63 in 2011. That matters, because a lower Gini coefficient indicates falling inequality.

Nor does Sanders seem aware of the sheer numbers of people who have escaped absolute poverty in Asia, especially India and China, over the past forty years. In 2010, for example, the Asian Development Bank stated that per capita GDP increased 6 percent each year in developing Asian nations between 1990 and 2009. According to the same report, about 850 million people escaped absolute poverty between 1990 and 2005.

Read “Bernie Visits the Vatican, and Misrepresents Pope John Paul II” by Samuel Gregg at The Stream.