Category: General

Last week’s Wall Street Journal features a column from Michael Meyerson detailing the religious perspective of the Declaration of Independence. With questions of religious liberty occupying a sizable space in the public square, the article is especially timely. According to Meyerson, the Declaration’s brilliance lies in the “theologically bilingual” language of the Framers. Phrases like “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” employ what he calls a nondenominational inclusivism, a show of rhetoric that neither endorses nor rejects any particular religious ideology. The underlying implication of this statement, which captures the broader thrust of Meyerson’s article, is that the Framers recognized religion’s intrinsic value in a democratic state. He goes on to argue that the Framers’ understood religious expression as not only permissible, but desirable, for a budding nation. This is especially evident in two oft-forgotten but explicitly religious passages of the Declaration. First, the Framers’ acknowledged their own  “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.” They also professed a “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” Such phraseology, Meyerson argues, testifies to the value that the Framers’–among them some staunch supporters of church-state separation–placed on religious freedom:

Even Jefferson and Madison, often described as believing in a total separation of religion and government, continued the practice of using inclusive religious language. Jefferson urged in his first inaugural, “May that infinite power, which rules the destinies of the universe, lead our councils to what is best,” while Madison stated that, “my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed . . . in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations.”

The Framers didn’t see such nondenominational language as divisive. They believed it was possible—in fact desirable—to have a public expression of religion that is devout, as long as it recognizes and affirms the variety of belief systems that exist in our pluralistic nation.

Similar sentiments are found in the writings of Michael Novak, an American Catholic philosopher and lecturer at 2012’s Acton University. Novak’x 2001 book, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding, even addresses many of the same themes as Meyerson’s article. To listen to Novak’s Acton University Lecture’s click here. For a copy of On Two Wings, click here.

National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez talks to Rev. Sirico about his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, the link between economic liberty and public morality, and the differences between socialism and capitalism:

LOPEZ: How can you get more greed with socialism than capitalism?

FR. SIRICO: To the extent that socialism holds back creativity and thus productivity, it increases poverty. When people become desperate, even good people can become self-centered. Few of us are at our best in crowds where everyone is trying to get out the same exit, or when trying to grab for the last remaining sale item. Socialism begins with the material world (the redistribution of pre-existing things); capitalism begins with ideas and dreams (the creation of things). Socialism increases the hoarding instinct and often places power in the hands of petty dictators (wait in line in a governmental office to see what I mean). We all know where that leads.

Of course, I am not saying that a system of free exchange will abolish greed. But even here, free markets and competition tend to temper greed, subordinating it to the service of others, which is the only way you are going to be successful in the market.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, July 9, 2012

During the Revolutionary Era, Americans had the highest per capita income in the civilized world and paid the lowest taxes, says Thomas Fleming, and they were determined to keep it that way.

By 1776, the 13 American colonies had been in existence for over 150 years—more than enough time for the talented and ambitious to acquire money and land. At the top of the South’s earners were large planters such as George Washington. In the North their incomes were more than matched by merchants such as John Hancock and Robert Morris. Next came lawyers such as John Adams, followed by tavern keepers, who often cleared 1,000 pounds a year, or about $100,000 in modern money. Doctors were paid comparatively little. Ditto for dentists, who were almost nonexistent.

In the northern colonies, according to historical research, the top 10% of the population owned about 45% of the wealth. In some parts of the South, 10% owned 75% of the wealth. But unlike most other countries, America in 1776 had a thriving middle class. Well-to-do farmers shipped tons of corn and wheat and rice to the West Indies and Europe, using the profits to send their children to private schools and buy their wives expensive gowns and carriages. Artisans—tailors, carpenters and other skilled workmen—also prospered, as did shop owners who dealt in a variety of goods. Benjamin Franklin credited his shrewd wife, Deborah, with laying the foundation of their wealth with her tradeswoman’s skills.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ideal Economy of Wilhelm Roepke
Ralph E. Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

We are often told that among the great benefits of our modern capitalist economy are our expanded choice, free­dom, and power to get what we want. And yet at the same time it is evident that there is still a deep and pervasive sense of dissat­is­fac­tion among us, as though the more we get what we want, the less happy we are.

More on the President’s Uninsured Tax
Veronique de Rugy, National Review Online

There has been, understandably, a lot of attention paid to the tax that uninsured Americans will have to pay if they decide not to buy insurance. I find this data useful to understand how it may work . . .


If you, or someone you know, are searching for last-minute scholarship opportunities, I invite you to please take the time to learn more about the scholarship programs offered through the Acton Institute.

Through the Calihan Academic Fellowship program, Acton’s Research department offers scholarships and research grants from $500 to $3000 to graduate students and seminarians studying theology, philosophy, economics, or related fields. Applicants must demonstrate the potential to advance understanding in the relationship between theology and the principles of the free and virtuous society. Such principles include recognition of human dignity, the importance of the rule of law, limited government, religious liberty, and freedom in economic life. Please visit the Calihan Academic Fellowship page on our website to download applications and obtain additional information about eligibility, conditions, the selection process, application requirements, and deadlines. In order to qualify for the upcoming deadline for the 2012 Fall Term, all application materials must be postmarked by July 15.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why free enterprise is about morals, not materialism
Arthur C. Brooks,

It’s not an easy time to be a free enterprise advocate in America. For years, we thought we had won. After all, almost no self-respecting public figures call themselves socialists anymore.

How to Put a Waitress Out of Work
Michael Saltsman, Wall Street Journal

When the government forces restaurants to pay servers more, jobs and tip income go down.


Because there’s nothing sweet about it.

As the 2012 Farm Bill moves through Capitol Hill, the policy debates are ramping up. The bill, projected to seriously cut the deficit, has garnered bipartisan support thus far, but will likely meet more resistance in the House. Whether or not the 2012 Farm Bill will cut its projected $23 billion dollars is subjective. Fluctuating crop prices and the extent to which the weather cooperates (pray for rain) will determine that. What is certain, however, is that under the the proposed legislation, Americans will continue to pay too much for sugar. As it stands now, the bill keeps the existing sugar program entirely intact. This benefits the 61,000 Americans employed in the sugar industry and works to the detriment of taxpayers, sugar farmers in the developing world, and the 988,000 U.S. employees in industries that rely on sugar.

U.S. sugar policy, touched on in PowerBlogger John MacDhubain’s Tuesday post and Tad DeHaven’s Cato post from June, is essentially mercantilism and a prime example of regulation getting in the way of economic progress. On average, taxpayers spend $2.4 billion annually on sugar to raise $1.4 billion for American sugar producers.

What’s more, these government-mandated favors naturally come at the expense of others. Think of the sugar farmer in the developing world, whose access to economic liberty is severely limited by the U.S. government’s policy of price supports, trade restrictions, and domestic quotas. Then consider the American jobs lost when, about a decade ago, Life Savers moved a plant from Holland, Michigan across the border into Canada. The move cost Americans hundreds of jobs while saving the candy company $90 million. The Coalition for Sugar Reform estimates that for every American sugar growing job saved by the policy, three more are lost.

Fiscal policies cannot avoid moral consequences. Job loss and the stifling of economic development are moral issues just as much as they are fiscal or political. The way forward demands new policies rooted and sound economic and moral thinking. Presently, American sugar policy is not only fiscally inefficient, it’s morally bankrupt. And there’s the bad jokes.