Category: General

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…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 2, 2012
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Five Myths About Free Enterprise
Values & Capitalism

Given the economic hardships the United States has endured in recent years, it is tempting to conclude that free markets are no longer best for us — but that would misread our history, and buy into myths about the impact of free enterprise.

Isn’t the Accumulation of Wealth Wrong?
Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

One question we hear a lot is “isn’t the accumulation of wealth wrong?” In a word, no.

Catholics and Religious Liberty
R.R. Reno, First Things

The ever useful Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new survey. The focus falls on attitudes toward the recent push by the Catholic Bishops to highlight the threats posed to religious liberty.

The Growing Dangers of Cronyism
David Henderson, RealClearPolicy

Here’s the problem: with an increase in government comes an increase in privileges for special interests. And in the end, taxpayers and consumers get the short end of the stick while politicians and their cronies reap the rewards of having friends in high places.

From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine comes this charming mix of comedy, suspense, drama, and—possibly—science fiction. Safety Not Guaranteed is the story of melancholy Darius (Aubrey Plaza), an intern at a Seattle magazine, who goes on assignment with reporter Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) to investigate the author of a peculiar classified ad that reads:

*WANTED*
Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before. (more…)

One of the most basic forms of entertainment that friends and families share together is playing board games, such as Monopoly or Risk. While we may not realize is how much these games are teach us about economic ideas such as trade or scarcity.

I must confess I’m a bit of a board game snob. I don’t really care for common games like Monopoly as I prefer so-called “designer” games such as the Settlers of Catan or Power Grid. In an article for the Washington Post, Blake Eskin calls Settlers the “board game of our time.”

Eskin explains that Monopoly had an appeal in the depression-era because it allowed poor kids the opportunity to feel rich and successful for a day. He also mentions several of the reasons I do not care for Monopoly: It takes several hours to play; the outcome is too dependent on luck; it can often become clear who is going to win far before the game actually ends, etc. It is also an elimination game, meaning that an early loser can be stuck with nothing to do for hours while their friends finish the game.

(more…)