Category: General

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 9, 2012
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Libby A. Nelson at Inside Higher Education reports on the latest trend in clergy training:

Dual degrees for seminary students aren’t entirely new. For decades, some seminaries and their nearby or affiliated colleges have graduated students with masters’ degrees in both divinity and social work. The combination of a master’s degree in divinity with a master’s in business administration is newer, but growing, says Dan Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting body.

In the past five years, programs that combine master’s degrees in divinity with business credentials have sprung up, Aleshire says. He sees two reasons: leadership studies have become more common as an academic field, and Christian ministry has expanded beyond the church into nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship — start-up businesses that try to serve a larger good.

Read more . . .

French President François Hollande has promised a 75% tax rate on those in his country who earn an annual salary above one million euros ($1.24 million). Not surprisingly, this number has struck fear into the hearts and wallets of quite a few of France’s top earners, including some who are contemplating leaving and taking their jobs with them. The New York Times has the story:

Many companies are studying contingency plans to move high-paid executives outside of France, according to consultants, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents — who are highly protective of their clients and decline to identify them by name. They say some executives and wealthy people have already packed up for destinations like Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and the United States, taking their taxable income with them.

They also know of companies — start-ups and multinationals alike — that are delaying plans to invest in France or to move employees or new hires here.

The potential tax increase threatens to handcuff “les Riches” and, ironically enough, undercut France’s prized notion of egalité, taking with it liberté and fraternité, the remainder of the country’s tripartite maxim. In Hollande’s France, these principles may not apply to the wealthy.

Of course, Hollande’s tax initiative is sure to have some beneficiaries. No, not the poor or the middle class. The real winners? Well, they live on the other side of the border. Also from the Times:

“It is a ridiculous proposal, but it’s great for us,” said Jean Dekerchove, the manager of Immobilièr Le Lion, a high-end real estate agency based in Brussels. Calls to his office have picked up in recent months, he said, as wealthy French citizens look to invest or simply move across the border amid worries about the latest tax.

“It’s a huge loss for France because people and businesses come to Belgium and bring their wealth with them,” Mr. Dekerchove said. “But we’re thrilled because they create jobs, they buy houses and spend money — and it’s our economy that profits.”

The entire story reminds me of a passage from Rev. Robert Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In a chapter titled “The Idol of Equality,” Sirico addresses the unsustainable nature of simple redistribution. Instead, business development and job creation are essential–and lasting–tenets of economic growth. From the book:

When most people picture the 1 percent and their wealth, what comes to mind is designer clothing and jewelry, yachts and limousines, mansions and penthouses—all sorts of alluring and attention-grabbing luxuries. Luxuries so distracting, in fact, that we tend to lose sight of the fact that most of the wealth of the wealthiest is invested. It is put to work in the businesses they own and manage, and in stocks and other financial vehicles that provide the capital for countless other businesses. These are the businesses that provide the 99 percent with the goods, services, and employment that they regularly enjoy and often take for granted.

Whether it’s a big automotive plant or a small bakery on the corner, a microchip manufacturer or a family farm, all businesses that produce goods and employ people are owned by someone. It’s businesses that make up most of the wealth of the 1 percent. Confiscating that wealth and giving it to the other 99 percent would mean shifting much of that wealth from investment and production to consumption, since the poor and middle class consume a far higher percentage of their income than the wealthy do. This sudden shift from investment and production to consumption would demolish the infrastructure that makes jobs, goods, and services possible.

Hollande would be wise to read Defending the Free Market. Doing so might save his nation and preserve liberty, equality and brotherhood in the process.

Brett M. Decker, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, recently interviewed Rev. Robert Sirico, president and co-founder of The Acton Institute, in response to Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In his answers, Rev. Sirico addresses the market’s moral potential as well as the present state of the nation. Excerpt:

Decker: Your new book is about the moral case for a free economy. What is the morality of the marketplace and how does it work? How does the market take care of the masses better than a government safety net?

Sirico: The morality of a market is rooted in the morality of the human person who is the center of that market. In precise terms, the market itself is neither moral nor immoral, but it becomes a vehicle for the moral and economic expression of the acting human person, who has the free will to choose good or bad.

When we speak of taking care of the masses, we usually mean taking care of their material needs (though there is much, much more to people than their material needs). The material needs of people are best met in societies that are prosperous, both in terms of the abundance of economic opportunities available to them and the amount of superfluous wealth that can be used generously to support the needs of those unable to provide for themselves. The one thing we know about markets from a wide array of economic studies is that the less taxed and regulated a society is, the more prosperous it is.

Entire interview here.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
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The Moral Case for a Free Economy: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico
Joseph Sunde, Remnant Culture

Studying these economic realities forces you to go back to those basic questions: Who is man? How much may a government justly take from its citizens? What are the limits of government? What are its responsibilities? Much more than numbers are at stake here: intrinsic human dignity, flourishing and rights hang in the balance.

The Sebelius Nanny State
George Neumayr, RealClearReligion

Sebelius is too oblivious to see the irony in her Orwellian spin on the HHS mandate as evidence of a paternalistic federal government protecting women from big bad employers. How empowered could these women be if they need the federal government’s nannying and dictates?

Welfare Work Requirements Respect Human Dignity
Ryan T. Anderson, The Foundry

The Obama Administration has effectively gutted the work requirements of the bipartisan welfare reforms of 1996. In doing so, it is trampling on the central policy that made welfare reform work. The lesson for policymakers from those reforms was that good principles, good policy, and good results go hand in hand.

Reform Is Not Enough: The Federal Government Needs a Complete Makeover
Philip K. Howard, The Atlantic

A deviant subculture is defined by sociologist Anthony Giddens as one “whose members have values which differ substantially from those of the majority in a society.” American government is a deviant subculture. Its leaders stand on soapboxes and polarize the public by pointing fingers while secretly doing the bidding of special interests.

Ismael Hernandez responds to President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech with a piece titled “Obama’s Assault on Entrepreneurship: An Economic Roadmap to Nowhere,” on Crisis Magazine’s website. Hernandez, founder of the Freedom & Virtue Institute and regular Acton lecturer, employs Catholic moral teaching to determine just how much credit the government deserves for an entrepreneur’s successes. The President’s statements, Hernandez reasons, fail to account for the freedom of the individual to make sound economic and moral decisions. For the sake of example, Hernandez looks to public schools:

If a public school graduate goes on to accomplish great things, the number of antecedent and influential intervening factors is so great, so difficult to quantify, that the high school experience itself also becomes an increasingly indeterminate factor in his later achievements in life. In effect, the same teacher who encouraged a student may have another student who goes on to become a hardened criminal. Other teachers might have failed in preventing bad behaviors of students who later on wreck their lives. The incommensurability of such remote influences is simply too vast. It is like me taking credit for your literary masterpiece because I sold you the paper it was written on. When we survey the scene of entrepreneurial success, we see that the state’s cooperation is so remote that it is not worth mentioning at all.[4] Since the state offers only a remote material cooperation with the work of entrepreneurs, we ought to focus our praise on the entrepreneurs themselves and the proximate causes of their success.

Moreover, when the human person, made in God’s image, creates and acquires property, there is a metaphysical reality at play. Human creativity springs from our divine nature. Each creative act does not depend on any analysis of social usefulness. Property and creation are identified with the person. Those who insist only in social usefulness identify right with the purposes of the state and may think that the common good is the only value (with the state the primary instrument). They might be tempted to say that private property really belongs to everyone. Entrepreneurship, regardless of the myriad antecedent influences, is a holy sanctuary against pagan statism precisely because it flows from the person. There is, in short, a self-justifying right to it.[5]

The entire article is linked here.

For more Acton perspectives on the President’s comments, click here and here.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
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The Man Who Saved Capitalism
Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal

Milton Friedman, who would have turned 100 on Tuesday, helped to make free markets popular again in the 20th century. His ideas are even more important today.

Top Ten Economics Books for Beginners
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work and Economics

[Today we’re offering some resources we think are helpful to the Christian just beginning to wade into the waters of economic thought. These books by no means represent the entire pantheon of what one could, or should, read regarding the subject. Rather, this list is a primer as you begin your exploration.

Rabbis aim to inject more morality into business
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

In an age when the phrase “business ethics” can seem like an oxymoron, a group of rabbis has designed a course to use age-old Jewish teachings to help infuse some morality into economics — from the household budget to the stock market.

Getting Rich in America
David Henderson, Library of Economics and Liberty

Sometimes the person will ask, “How do I get rich?” I used to answer, “I don’t know.” But now that I’ve seen a lot and seen the basic mistakes so many people make, I realize that, compared to a large majority of Americans, I do know. I know how to get rich–slowly.

In response to my post last Thursday on the Fed’s signaling the possibility of more quantitative easing (QE), a commentator using the pseudonym “Milton Friedman” wrote,

have you checked inflation rates lately? they are at historic lows. if the parade of horribles doesn’t happen, shouldn’t that cause you to reconsider your understanding of the economy? economists have learned quite a few things since 1609…

As I responded on that post, I’m not sure what “parade of horribles” he is referring to; my point was simply that the short term gain of inflationary policy now is not worth risking the likely long term disadvantages and need not be taken as apocalyptic.

Furthermore, as a matter of fact, inflation rates do not appear to be at “historic lows” in 2012, especially given the short bout of deflation we experienced from March to October 2009. I’ll let readers make up their own minds on that point, however, since it really doesn’t affect my argument.

What is far more important to me is pseudo-Friedman’s comment that “economists have learned quite a few things since 1609.” The reference to 1609 is due to the fact that I was highlighting the work of Spanish scholastic Juan de Mariana’s analysis of the effects of inflationary policies in medieval Spain. Is pseudo-Friedman right? Is Mariana’s analysis invalid due to its antiquity? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 6, 2012
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Greed wasn’t good in the Middle Ages – historian looks at medieval business ethics
Camille Brown, Medievalists.net

In describing the contradiction between present-day business attitudes and a medieval mindset, Stokes said, “A medieval businessman would surely be impressed by the successes of his modern descendants, but he would also despise them as men without honor or virtue.”

More Than Money – Economics As Stewardship
Anne Bradley, nstitute for Faith, Work & Economics

Why is it important to focus on faith, work, AND economics? Because understanding economics – beyond the financial sense of the word – helps you apply your creativity, purpose, and freedom to the best of your abilities. It will help you better steward the gifts and resources God has given you.

Does Free Enterprise Encourage Excess and Exploitation?
Wesley Gant, Values & Capitalism

Aside from the purely economic benefits of capitalism and the broad acknowledgement that freedom itself is a good thing, is it possible that the negative effects of capitalism outweigh the positives?

Let’s shatter the myth on Glass-Steagall
Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post

Repeal of Glass-Steagall has become for the Democratic left what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are for the Republican right — a simple and facially plausible conspiracy theory about the crisis that reinforces what they already believed about financial markets and economic policy.

Articles: “Invited Articles: Business as Mission”
Journal of Biblical Integration in Business 15, no. 1 (Spring 2012)

The most recent issue of JBIB focuses on the subject of hybrid business and features a controversy on the subject of Business as Mission. Margret Edgell, the issue’s guest editor, describes it as follows: “Three invited authors respond to each other from their different disciplinary and theological perspectives. They raise and debate the question: Is Business as Mission a new field with great potential for Christian scholarship?” (10)

Article: “A Model for Business Outreach Across the Business Curriculum”
Evan D. Wood and Heather Y. Z. St. Peters, Christian Business Academy Review 7, no. 1 (Spring 2012)

This paper overviews classical traditional theories of consumer behavior and demonstrates their application in an introspective exercise to help students formulate a philosophy of life, with encouragement to adopt a God-centered worldview centering not on shallow personal values (e.g., material goods, pleasure, sta­tus, etc.) but rather on Christ’s values: loving and serving others, thereby loving and serving God. Students visu­alize what living life according to each of these theories and values entails. This demonstrates the theories’ personal relevance despite their flawed worldviews, and it assists students in becoming more enlightened human beings who live a purpose-driven life, pursuing God rather than shallow values that become idols.

Call for Papers: “Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture, Annual Conference”

While welcoming proposals across the social science of religion, we expect that most will be in the areas of: Religious markets, competition, monopoly, and regulation; Economic growth, development, poverty, and inequality; Social networks, and social/spiritual/religious capital; Extremism, conflict, sectarianism, and religious persecution; Application of experimental, simulation, and computational methods; Beliefs, attitudes, doctrines, norms, and values, especially in the context of evolutionary theory; Labour markets, management of volunteering and governance in not-for-profit organizations; Institutions, organizations, congregations, and denominations; Trends in participation, attendance and commitment to religious organizations; Conversion, switching, proselytizing, and the marketing of religion; Religious giving, philanthropy, and church finances; Demography, fertility, family, marriage, and gender; Education, human capital, health, and happiness; Race, ethnicity, and discrimination; Politics, public choice/finance, church-state issues, and the law.

Call for Papers: “The Rise of The Asian Century: Trends in Asian and Christian Philosophy for Building a Just and Sustainable World”

Development theorists, economists, and geo-political scientists have indicated that this century will mark the rise of Asia as the center of economic, political, and cultural activity. Once again, Asian cultures will have a great influence in the shaping of human civilization. This is an opportune time, as we come to the dawn of the Asian century, to reflect upon the trends of philosophical thought that Asian and Christian practitioners of philosophy, or practitioners of Asian or Christian philosophy, are accomplishing. If we are taking a central role in the furthering of human civilization, we must understand what concerns us, how we use our traditions to understand the world that is unfolding, and how we can participate in the articulation of a just and sustainable future.

Call for Papers: “Second Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference”
Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), June 25-29, 2013

Of particular interest to our readers: Colloquium 6: The Church, NGOs and CBOs in Development.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Jon Hilsenrath and Kristina Peterson report, “The Federal Reserve is heading toward launching a new round of stimulus to buck up the weak economy, but stopped short of doing so right away.” The predicted means of stimulating the economy is another round of the unconventional policy of quantitative easing (QE), i.e. when a central bank purchases financial assets from the private sector with newly created money in effort to spark economic growth. Thus, the quantity of US dollars would be increased, debasing their value and causing inflation.

The authors note that this strategy has received significant criticism:

Critics say there is little more the Fed can do to help, having already pushed short-term interest rates to near zero. They contend its unconventional actions could do more damage by sparking inflation, and that in the meantime the Fed is punishing savers who are getting little return on their bond investments. (more…)