Category: News and Events

chartFueled, in part, by the Pope’s passionate appeals, the campaign to reduce income inequality is growing rapidly around the globe.

The income equality movement argues that there is a growing gap between the incomes of top earners and everyone else. This claim is supported by a recent study conducted by the International Monetary Fund. In the United States, the income growth rate for the highest income earners has significantly surpassed the national average over the past 30 years.

Many politicians, including President Obama, have called for policy changes in order to slow the growing divide. However, this concern results from a distorted understanding of the word “income” and disregards the importance of aggregate income growth.

The term “income inequality” is deceptive. It is used to imply that income equality is the norm and anything else is abnormal and harmful to society. Income is payment for services provided. If all income was equal that would mean that all services were equal. Proponents of income equality ignore the definition of income and instead emphasize the word equality. They make the erroneous assumption that equality is always good for society. Inequality has come to imply injustice, but while justice is always good for society, the benefits from equality depend on the circumstances. (more…)

gmo-labeling-balint-radu-jpgYesterday the the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, known as the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” The bill prevents states from requiring mandatory labeling for any products containing genetically modified food. Currently, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont all have such laws. Whether or not this might be a blow to states’ rights, it’s certainly a win for common sense. Fewer people are being fooled by the propaganda and downright bad science surrounding genetically modified food.

The House Committee on Agriculture released the following statement from Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX):

Advances in technology have allowed the U.S. to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant, diverse and affordable supply of food and fiber mankind has ever known. With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, biotechnology is an essential tool for our farmers to meet this demand in an environmentally sound, sustainable, and affordable way. Unfortunately, proposed Federal and State laws threaten this innovation by generating a patchwork of differing labeling requirements, which will result in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers and interfere with interstate commerce. H.R. 1599 establishes a voluntary nation-wide marketing program that gives consumers access to consistent, reliable information while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation.


Various forms of government intervention negatively affects economic vitality in many ways, however few policies impact the market as directly as wage laws. The $15 minimum wage law in Seattle dramatically influences determinants of business owners’ hiring practices. In many cases, wages are the highest economic cost in the production process, making hiring new employees a risky endeavor. Regardless of size, businesses of all scales must turn profits to stay operational and risk potential losses each time they hire new associates. Extra government mandates and regulations only make this natural market process more onerous.

While wage laws intend to immediately increase pay for the working poor, they severely hinder not only full time employment, but employment itself. Government mandated wage policies erect an artificial economic barrier that increases the supply of, but reduces the demand for, labor. Minimum wage mandates, contrary to their original intent, directly harm the groups they are designed to help. Government intervention in business typically aims to cure certain social ills, but the Utopian desire to cure humanity of all suffering leads to various economic distortions, sending false signals to consumers and producers. This is especially evident in wage policies.

Minimum wage laws primarily target the working poor, about 2% of the working population. Typical of intrusive government intervention, rather than having little to no effect, the laws have an active negative effect. As a labor demographic, the poor are least likely to possess marketable skills necessary to higher level employment and often rely on low-wage, unskilled jobs before developing their talents. When government forces business to pay above the market rate for unskilled work, this results in unemployment of the poor. Minimum wage laws price the poor right out of the labor market and rob them of work that may potentially lead to greater opportunity. African American communities particularly suffer from wage controls. Noble Prize economist, Milton Friedman, dispelled the incorrect perceptions of minimum wage laws in the 1960s and 1970s saying, “the most anti-negro law on the books of this land is the minimum wage rule.” The workers who retain their employment undoubtedly benefit from such wage increases, but at the expense of others. (more…)

JMM_18.1 front cropOur most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

Volume 18, no. 1 is a special issue. Guest editor Shirley Roels details the origins of the contributions in her (open access) editorial:

To highlight the 2013–2014 English publication of the first volume of [Abraham] Kuyper’s theological commentary on common grace, the Calvin College Business Department organized an October 2014 symposium, which was co-sponsored by the Acton Institute. Faculty, business practitioners, and students gathered to think about the meaning of Kuyper’s common grace theology for twenty-first-century business. Over an exceptional day of discourse, presentations and panels were woven into a robust discussion about the light of faith for business when that life is shared together by Christians and those who follow other paths. Leaders from banking, manufacturing, natural resources, film, food, and floral industries, among others, joined with business educators to shape the current intertwining of common grace and business.

The symposium was framed around three themes that emerge from Kuyper’s writings about common grace. Its planners described these as the protective, constructive, and imaginative functions of common grace. Through such grace, God protects remnants and echoes of his good created order as gifts for all people despite continuing human perversity. God designs the expectation and possibility that together humans will construct institutions to respond to needs and support social order. God provides continuity between the values and virtues of all people so that Christians as well as those in other faith traditions can work together imaginatively.

The article contributions to this journal issue originated in that October 2014 symposium. Peter Heslam’s opening article provides some of Kuyper’s less-known commentary about business life. Then eight articles, all authored by Christian business educators, articulate the implications of Kuyper’s common grace theology for business ethics, strategic planning, global debt markets, entrepreneurship, market pricing, the accounting profession, operations management, and human resource frameworks. Richard Mouw’s closing article enjoins us to bring robust Christian faith to the business spaces where God’s light can readily flood. (A separate review essay unrelated to the symposium also appears as part of the journal’s regular publication schedule.) Finally, integrated into the journal’s book review section are four reviews of recent books about faith and business that highlight resources to deepen this intersection of faith and business.

In addition to Dr. Roels’ editorial, I have made my review of The Common Good: An Introduction to Personalism by Jonas Norgaard Mortensen open access as well. You can read it free here.

If you are interested in a subscription to the Journal of Markets & Morality, subscription directions and prices can be found here.

Once you’ve purchased a subscription, you can read our most recent issue, volume 18, no. 1, here.

ffd3_356x140A new stage is set for an old conversation. This week marks the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bringing in representatives of almost 200 countries, it has drawn attention from the anti-poverty crowd across the globe. Whether they are members of NGOs, churches, celebrities, or politicians, many concerned about the developing world have their ears turned to Ethiopia.

FFD3 isn’t the first conference of its kind. The original summit took place in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002. It led to what was called “The Monterrey Consensus,” a companion to the frequently referenced “Millennium Development Goals.” The second summit was held in Doha, Qatar, in 2008, where some of the vague agreements of the first conference were made more explicit.

The Millennium Development Goals, commissioned in 2002, were the start of a massive surge of foreign aid to the developing world. The success of this top-down approach has been mixed at best, and, as Anielka Münkel of PovertyCure explains, is based on a fundamentally faulty view of the human person. While clarifying old objectives once again, FFD3 is also trying to refine its focus. If global leaders are willing to commit, there will be an opportunity to set in motion the revised “Sustainable Development Goals.” (more…)


Bill McKibben

I recently enjoyed a brief back-and-forth with co-founder Bill McKibben in which he claimed that I accused him of lacking religious faith. That most assuredly was not the case. I told him so, but also stood by my initial assertion that he and other environmental activists are cherry-picking Pope Francis’ Laudato Si for religious and moral firepower on climate-change while ignoring those elements that are core Roman Catholic teachings with which they disagree.

Let’s look at Mr. McKibben’s religious background, shall we? In his essay, “Doing the Math: The Scale of Global Warming and the Urgency of Self-Restraint” (in Sacred Commerce, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2014) he expresses his religion thusly:

 The highest I ever rose in the ecclesial hierarchy was a Sunday school teacher at our backwoods Methodist church. It’s such a small church that the only qualification for being a Sunday school teacher is if on Christmas Eve you can take a dish towel and turn a third grader into a Palestinian shepherd for the pageant. So that’s the degree of my theological qualification. On the other hand, these are questions that I have thought about and written about a good deal.


Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In the weeks since the June 18 release of Laudato Si, the discussion has bifurcated into the realms of prosaic, progressive pantheistic pronouncements that Earth requires tender ministrations post haste on one hand. On the other hand, there are those who assert the encyclical gets it right on the value of protecting human life but miserably wrong when Pope Francis identifies free-market economics as greed’s handmaiden intent on destroying the planet for a quick buck. (more…)

Katie Steinle

Katie Steinle

The moral obligation of society regarding illegal immigrants remains at the center of the political debate on immigration. Numerous questions surround the proper “status” for illegal immigrants, how the state should respond, and the responsibility of American citizens over various humanitarian concerns. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution combined with numerous Supreme Court rulings, has established that the federal government has “plenary power” over immigration and is solely entitled to make laws in accordance with this authority. These laws establish the framework for ordered and legal immigration which most would agree is highly beneficial to society as well as being a foundational part of American history. However, when cities and municipalities disregard the rule of law on immigration, humanitarian issues become clouded and morality is challenged.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), there are over 200 “sanctuary cities” in the United States. These are cities or municipalities that have laws or policies that forbid compliance with federal immigration authorities. Local authorities are required by federal law to inform Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they apprehend someone and find that they are an illegal immigrant. Places that have given themselves a sanctuary designation do not inform ICE or turn over an immigrant upon discovering illegal status. (more…)

Mideast Islamic State

Islamic State fighters march through Raqqa, Syria, in January. Photo: AP

With each passing day, the news is inundated with images of murder from the Islamic State. Anyone they target suffers not only death, but often a horrifically slow and tortuous one. What President Obama considered to be a “JV” team proves to consist of professionally trained, competent warriors bent on annihilating their foes. These terrorists attack any opponent who stands in their way, but reserve particular hatred and brutality for Christians. The war they wage is as much of a military conflict as it is an ideological conflict, their end goal being global subjugation to hardline Islamic Law.

What does this mean for Christians? As the secularization of Western culture further isolates Christianity, an open extermination assaults in the Middle East. In the modern era, the entire world seems to wage a relentless war against Christians. However, compared to what our Christian brothers and sisters living under the Islamic State endure, the trials of Western Christians seem trivial. Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, said in mid 2014 that there “were about 1 million Christians in Iraq and more than half of them have been displaced. Only 400,000 are left while displacement is still rising.” (more…)

Today at the Library of Law & Liberty, I examine Pope Francis’s recent speech in Bolivia, in which he calls for “an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

I have no objection to that, but what he seems to miss is that the very policies he criticizes all characterize those countries in the world that most closely resemble his goal. I write,

So what stands in the way, according to the pontiff?—“corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.” Really?

Business, credit, trade, and fiscal responsibility are marks of healthy economies, not the problem, popular as it may be to denounce them. Indeed, these are also marks of economies that effectively care for “Mother Earth,” whose plight the Pope claims “the most important [task] facing us today.” That’s right, more important than the plight of the poor, to His Holiness, is the plight of trees, water, and lower animals.

That moral confusion aside, is there any way we could study what policies correlate with the Pope’s laudable goals? As it turns out, there is. The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries based upon an aggregate rating of economic growth, care for the environment, and health and living conditions—precisely the measures the Pope seems to care most about. Yet of the top 20 countries on the most recent HDI ranking, 18 also rank as “free” or “mostly free” on the most recent Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.

Read my full article, “Show Me the Way to Poverty,” here.