Category: General

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
posted by on Thursday, August 2, 2012

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…)

RealClearReligion’s Nicholas G. Hahn III recently talked to Acton President Fr. Robert Sirico about Obama, Marx, and Jane Fonda:

RCR: Why didn’t Jane Fonda and others in your generation follow you to the Right?

Robert Sirico: There are a lot of them that are not Leftist anymore. I know a lot of people in my generation who were at those things and are much more conservative today — not quite philosophically, but certainly wouldn’t identify with the Left. Now, why are some of them still stuck? When you’re in that ethos and the whole culture moves and if you didn’t have a fixed point, you move with it. When you’re formed in your ideas, it’s a whole hermeneutic. It’s a whole way that you approach the world. And when, for instance, you approach the world with a zero-sum presumption, I think it’s very explanatory. Marx gives you a view of the world that is plausible. It’s not completely absurd to think that the person who owns the means of production is wealthy because of another’s poverty. It’s plausible. It sounds right. It’s only when you understand the broader context, then it becomes more complex. Traditional, classical, free market ideas are far more complex — and counterintuitive.

Read more . . .

Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg is featured on the July 29 episode of Liberty Law Talk. The conversation, which focuses on the too-often forgotten free-market economics of Wilhelm Röpke, can be downloaded online at the Library of Law and Liberty website. Gregg has written extensively on Röpke in the past and the conversation meets expectations as enlightening and thought-provoking. Be sure to check it out.

In yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press (and appearing at mlive.com on Monday), Monica Scott reports on the tenure reform bill signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last year and set to take effect in the 2013-2014 school year:

Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a tenure reform bill that completely overhauled teacher performance evaluations, tying teachers’ grades to student achievement. But teachers and union leaders locally and across the state have said they think it’s unfair to be held accountable for the performance of students who don’t show up to class.

In response, the Grand Rapids school board policy committee discussed enacting an attendance policy comparable to other districts in the county. Scott notes that, according to Ron Gorman, executive director of high schools for Grand Rapids schools, “school districts around Kent County include a set number of absences students cannot exceed, but Grand Rapids does not include a specific number, rather the district has procedures for addressing absences.” Instead, the “committee discussed a policy that states students can only have a total of 12 absences per semester and if students are 15 or more minutes tardy for class, it would be viewed as an absence.”

As a graduate of a Kent county district that had a comparable attendance policy, I was a little surprised to learn that GR Public did not. This is certainly an improvement. Indeed, with their new policy, it sounds like it will be a large step in a good direction: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Milton Friedman: An Economics of Love
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review Online

The libertarianism of Rand (and she hated the word “libertarian”) was based on an economics of resentment of the “moochers” and “loafers,” the sort of thing that leads one to call a book The Virtue of Selfishness. Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges.

Burke’s Wise Counsel on Religious Liberty and Freedom
William F. Byrne, The Imaginative Conservative

One thing which made religion a key to virtue was the humility which Christianity promoted. Most of our political and social problems, Burke believed, stemmed ultimately from vanity, the chief of the vices.

Wilhelm Roepke and the Limits of Markets
Scott Galupo, The American Conservative

For Roepke, the market economy depended for its proper function on moral goods outside of itself: the bourgeois virtues, for example, inculcated by families, churches, and communities; and public-spirited elites capable of adjudicating disputes with an eye toward the long run.

How Welfare’s Work Requirements Make a Difference in Lives
Collette Caprara, The Foundry

On July 12, the Obama Administration issued a directive to gut welfare reform of its work requirements. But those who work closely with individuals in need understand the critical principles of personal responsibility and self-reliance.

In addition to my post yesterday and other education related posts on the Powerblog (here, here, here, here, and here), I highly recommend this analysis of the higher ed bubble from educationviews.org if anyone is interested in learning more.

I would emphasize that this is not simply an economic problem but a moral one. We cannot in good conscience continue to promote higher education to our youth while its quality continues to diminish and its price continues to rise. To do so is to fail to fulfill our moral duty to leave an inheritance to the next generation from the good that previous generations have passed on to us. The bar needs to be raised as a matter of human dignity. On the whole, people will rise (or fall) to the level of the expectations that we have for them. The level of expectations placed upon a person sends a message about their perceived ability and value. In addition, needless spending needs to be cut, and our government and banks need to stop handing out loans like candy to pursue degrees that will not realistically secure the income needed to pay them back. This is a present moral failing that is leading us to a future economic collapse.

From the article:

As George Will describes it, the bubble is what happens “when parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality.” The point at which parents cease to be willing to pay those rising prices is when the bubble bursts. When that happens, the financial assumptions on which American higher education has been based for many decades will come crashing down.

There are, however, two highly unpredictable elements in the current situation. One is the willingness of the Obama administration to sustain the bubble by encouraging more and more students to attend college and by using student loans to support this expansion. The other is the bubble-deflating power of online education.

Read more . . .

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is beginning to take his self-appointed role as Nanny-in-Chief of New York a bit too literally:

Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

[...]

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications. With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

How many mothers decide to breastfeed their children because someone hid the baby formula? I suspect it’s around the same number as husbands who stop eating sweets because their wife hides the Oreos. Someone should tell Mayor Bloomberg (and my wife) that those sorts of change-the-behavior tactics aren’t all that effective.