Category: News and Events

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Earlier this month, the eminent historian Owen Chadwick passed away. Chadwick’s immense scholarly accomplishments included Acton and History, his study of our namesake here at the Acton Institute. John Morrill wrote a wonderful reflection for The Guardian on Chadwick’s life, character, and accomplishments at the time. From the article:

His last two books were A History of the Popes 1830-1914 (1998) and The Early Reformation on the Continent (2002). Throughout his career, he also published brilliant short essays, normally developed from public lectures. He wrote memorably about Lancelot Andrewes, bishop and principal translator of the King James Bible; Izaak Walton (The Fisherman and his God, 1984); the Oxford movement, the forerunner of Anglo-Catholicism; the historian Lord Acton, a real hero to him; the young Gladstone and Italy; and Newman and the idea of the university.

Morrill continues,

His writing was marked by short sentences: no modern writer employed so few subordinate clauses. He had a penchant for one-sentence paragraphs. His writing was always crisp and vivid, as notably in the single-word chapter titles of his final book. The brusqueness of his judgments often startles – as when he comments how the motor accident in which Ramsey’s father’s actions led to the death of his mother was to traumatise the future archbishop of Canterbury: “The resulting turmoil, mental and emotional, ruined (the word is not too strong) his preparation to be a priest and blotted out his memory of Cuddesdon [College, Oxford].”

What is memorable about Chadwick’s writing is its pleasing economy and uncluttered clarity of articulation. He wrote as he spoke: to read him is to hear him.

Resquiescat in pace. May he rest in peace. And may he continue to be heard well beyond our time.

Read the full article at The Guardian here.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

The minute it was announced – months in advance of its official release –Laudato Si was instantly “highly anticipated” by nearly every opinion and news source. Finally a Christian document the masses could support because … why, exactly? Oh, yeah, global warming and a call for global government control of energy and, therefore, the world’s economies.

So, it comes as no surprise climate-change activist would weigh-in on Laudato Si, a document released in mid-June and one he identifies, naturally, as “eagerly awaited.” In his New York Review of Books essay (behind a pay wall) on the encyclical, McKibben comes up short on theology and economics but long on repeating dire predictions our planet will succumb to any number of catastrophes wrought by human activity.

The Pope is a rock star, in today’s parlance, and McKibben shouts from the mosh pit in breathless fanboy hyperbole:

The pope’s contribution to the climate debate builds on the words of his predecessors—in the first few pages he quotes from John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI—but clearly for those prelates ecological questions were secondary. (more…)

Your writer has taken quite a bit of heat from some readers of a local newspaper column he writes for not “getting in-line” with the Pope on his identification of imminent climate catastrophe wrought by human activity. Even so, I cling to my Rosary on all matters actually Catholic. Aside from the brilliant minds at Acton and its scholars and supporters comprised of highly educated, amazingly spiritual individuals, I was beginning to feel as if I was an orphan in a universe of ideological zealots of the Gaia variety.

However, my days of orphandom were short-lived. Immediately prior to the release of Laudato Si there was delivered much succor from within the Church.

To wit: James V. Schall, SJ, wrote a brilliant piece this past April as the Gaia zealots were beginning to attain fever pitch. Titled “On Sustainability,” the essay questions the current wisdom of saving and preserving certain resources for future generations. To this, Schall responds:

 This thinking assumes that the present limited intellectual and technical base is thrust on future generations. Contemporary men evidently think that they know enough to decide what future generations will want, need, or be able to do. They must be content with what we have now. What if the only way that we can guarantee the well-being of future generations is for us not to impose our limited ideas of sustainability on them?


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.