Category: News and Events

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Gregg and Smith at Acton University

On New Years Day, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith turned 90. To mark the occasion, Samuel Gregg wrote an essay for the Stream about Smith and the significance of his work.

Gregg explains Smith’s most famous contribution to economics:

Smith is best known for pioneering “experimental economics.” This involves behavioral experiments in which people are placed in a particular micro-economy in which they can engage in trade, but without knowing the conditions driving supply and demand. Those running the experiments can thus test the validity of particular economic theories, thereby gaining greater knowledge of how economic exchanges actually work.

Over time, experimental economics has established the importance of what Smith and others call “economic institutions,” the formal and informal rules which shape economic life in a given society. Economic institutions, it turns out, really do shape economic outcomes. From laws and regulations to customs and property arrangements, any set of rules will affect (1) the information people have and (2) the incentives that drive them.

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Liberty

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

In a new article for the Catholic Herald, Philip Booth outlines the next battle in the fight for religious freedom. The professor of finance, public policy, and ethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, writes that “liberal elites are paying the prices for sidelining” this important freedom.

He argues that while there are definitely threats to religious liberty in the United States, the rights to religious liberty and freedom of association are in far more danger in Europe. He makes this point with three examples.

A couple in Northern Ireland refused to bake a cake with “Support Gay Marriage” written on it and were charged with discrimination:

The judges stated quite clearly that the couple’s action was direct discrimination against gay people. This was so even though they did not know the purchaser was gay and despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. In other words, the law is such that people are required to bake cakes with public policy messages on them.

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Joe Bartley

Joe Bartley

An 89-year-old Englishman has taken out an ad seeking a part-time job, so that he can experience the dignity and independence of work – and get off of public assistance.

Joe Bartley, a World War II veteran, caught the UK’s attention after he placed the following advertisement in his hometown newspaper, the Herald Express:

Senior citizen 89 seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!

Bartley served in the armed forces before going into the private sector. He briefly retired at the age of 70, but within months he took another job, which he relinquished at the age of 83.

Two years ago his wife, Cassie, died, and without family he found himself alienated and bored watching the “guff” on television. He’d rather have a job, “meeting people, making friends” while being productive. “I want a purpose to go out and the pride of having a job to go to five or six days a week,” he said.

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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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Statua chrystus królCourtesy Adrian Vermeule at Mirror of Justice, I ran across a word new to me: Kyriarchy. Given the context and my admittedly limited Greek-language skills, I was able to work out the gist of the idea. As Vermeule puts it, “On November 20, the Feast of Christ the King, a coronation ceremony took place at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow. The President of Poland and the Catholic Bishops officially crowned Jesus Christ the King of Poland.”

Vermeule goes on to wonder what impact, if any, this might have for Poland’s constitutional order: “Is Poland now to be classified as an authoritarian regime? What is Poland’s small-c constitution, if it still has one?”

Off the top of my head, I would point to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a precedent, which is perhaps best understood as a constitutional monarchy, first with Yahweh as the heavenly monarch with judges as the main earthly authorities, and later with a human monarchy subsumed and accountable to that divine rule. Torah was the national constitution, and there was a whole apparatus in place holding various institutions and authorities responsible for various duties.

I don’t think it would be right to call such divine lordship merely “symbolic.” And I don’t see why mutatis mutandis something like that couldn’t also be coherently put in place today.

The Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper had a lot to say about something that might be understood as Kyriarchy in a broader sense, at least. For that, I recommend his three-volume treatment of the lordship of Christ Pro Rege, the first of which is now available in English translation.

It is, of course, one thing to affirm the lordship of Christ over everything, including particular nation-states, and quite another to work out the particular ways that ought to be reflected in a particular political order. As Vermeule rightly notes, this isn’t merely a technical issue of polity, but a more substantive question of political, and even public, theology.

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
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nosaluteLife, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental rights “asserted in the face of oppression and paid for in blood,” argues Declan Ganley. They “have been the cornerstone not only of American democracy but of western civilization.” In a new article for Prospect Magazine, the chairman & CEO of Rivada Networks says that the West “needs to defend [these] shared values.”

He argues that these fundamental rights are now under attack:

We live in an age where universal values are maligned. During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of a “dictatorship of relativism” and “an attack on truth” that defined the modern era. This is on display when a candidate with close financial ties to despotic middle eastern regimes can be the flag bearer of liberal feminists, while cultural and religious conservatives line up behind a candidate who brags about dodging sexually transmitted diseases being “his personal Vietnam” and who was recorded boasting about committing sexual assault.

It is now possible to choose media sources so as to never read or watch a news story that challenges one’s point of view. This is a problem that affects both sides of the political divide. Its consequence is first and foremost a devastating loss of empathy in our society—an increased intolerance for dissenting views and voices that is seen in the comments sections of conservative websites and the safe spaces on our college campuses. Fewer and fewer values are viewed as common, shared or universal and this is an urgent danger.

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Screenshot of Google Earth Satellite image of Chaeha Market in Sinuiju. Screenshot taken 11/23/2016.

“If North Korea shuts downs markets, it will collapse too,” defector Cha Ri-hyuk explains. Satellite images and testimonies from those who have fled the oppressive regime of Kim Jong-un are demonstrating the power of markets. A new report from Hyung-Jin Kim looks at this phenomenon in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

These markets, jangamadangs, are primarily supplied with goods smuggled from China or South Korea. There are hundreds of markets where people can purchase anything from skinny jeans to locally made food. Although South Korean products are illegal, the demand for clothes and entertainment from South Korea is especially high. One defector, Lee O.P., says that despite charging high prices, she would still sell out of South Korean products. She sold clothes in the market until she was able to defect to South Korea. (more…)

President-elect Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, wants to change the rules of one of the biggest crony capitalist organizations in Washington.  He wants to make it easier for the Export Import Bank to dish out large amounts of corporate welfare to companies such as Boeing, which already brings in revenues upward of $95 billion per year.

USA Today reported in a recent article that “Graham, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds foreign operations, has added a provision to the 2017 spending bill that would allow the Export-Import Bank to consider projects of more than $10 million.”

Many supporters of free trade have long opposed the cronyism and corporate welfare of the Export-Import Bank, all while only celebrating minor victories.  In the summer of 2015, the Export-Import Bank’s charter expired forcing it to close its doors until five months later when Congress reauthorized the bank for another five years.

Another minor victory for those who oppose the Export-Import Bank might be the election of Donald Trump.  Although evidence from Trump’s past portrays him as a mercantilist, the president-elect is on record of making critical remarks toward the Export-Import Bank:

I don’t like it because I don’t think it’s necessary. It’s a one-way street also. It’s sort of a featherbedding for politicians and others, and a few companies. And these are companies that can do very well without it. So I don’t like it. I think it’s a lot of excess baggage. I think it’s unnecessary. And when you think about free enterprise it’s really not free enterprise. I’d be against it.

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