Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.
When it comes to free trade, critics insist that it hurts the American worker — kicking them while they’re down and slowly eroding the communal fabric of mom-and-pops, longstanding trades, and factory towns. Whether it comes from a politician, labor union, or corporate crony, the messaging is always the same: Ignore the long-term positive effects, and focus on the Capitalist’s conquest of the Other.
Trouble is, the basic logic of such thought leads straight back to the Self.
I recently made this point as it pertains to immigration, arguing that such notions of narrow self-preservation give way to our basest instincts and are bad for society as a whole. But it’s worth considering a bit more broadly, as well. For if the point is to defend the Small and the Local for the sake of The Great and Enduring Bubble of American Industry, at what point is this community of workers too big, too specialized, and too diversified for its own countrymen?
At what point are the Texans getting “unfair” growth compared to the Californians, or the Californians compared to the Oklahomians? If this is all as dim and zero-sum as we’re led to believe, what must we do to prevent our fellow productive citizens from harming their fellow countrymen via innovation and hard work? What bleak, self-centered reality dwells at the end of such logic? (more…)
What comes to mind when you think of poverty policies prior to FDR’s New Deal? For many people, the idea of pre-1940s welfare is likely to resemble something out of a Charles Dickens’ novel: destitute adults in the poorhouse and hungry children (usually orphans) eating a bowl of gruel.
That impression is likely what we have about welfare in America during the era of the Founding Fathers. But is it accurate?
“The left often claims the Founders were indifferent to the poor—suggesting that New Deal America ended callousness and indifference,” says Thomas West. “Indeed, high school and college textbooks frequently espouse this narrative. Many on the right think the Founders advocated only for charitable donations as the means of poverty relief.”
Neither impression is correct, adds West. America always has had laws providing for the poor: The real difference between the Founders’ welfare policies and today’s is over how, not whether, government should help those in need.
Today there are 216 million fewer undernourished people than there was in 1990-92. To put that number in perspective, consider that across the globe there are currently 247 countries and dependent territories. If you ranked them by the number of people in each, the last 144 countries—Serbia to Pitcairn Islands—would have a combined population of 216 million.
According to the United Nations’ annual hunger report, since 1990-92 the number of undernourished people has decreased from nearly a billion to about 795 million. (Undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year.)
The decline is more pronounced in developing regions, the report notes, despite significant population growth. In recent years, progress has been hindered by slower and less inclusive economic growth as well as political instability in some developing regions, such as Central Africa and western Asia.
The federal government spent more than $100 billion providing food assistance to Americans last year, according to recent testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Eighteen federal programs provided food to 46 million people—approximately 1 out of every 7 Americans. Here are the programs and the dollar amount spent:
The GAO found significant overlap between these programs which “can create unnecessary work and waste administrative resources, resulting in inefficiency.” The GAO identified several food assistance programs that provide the same or comparable benefits to the same or similar population groups—and yet each program is managed separately:
Several years ago economist Bryan Caplan provided the most succinct and helpful statement about how we should think about free trade: “We’d be better off if other countries gave us stuff for free. Isn’t ‘really cheap’ the next-best thing?”
As with any simplification, critics could find many reasons to grumble about what that leaves unstated (e.g., trade leads to offshoring of jobs). But it highlights an important point about why free trade matters. Free trade is about as close to a “free stuff” economy as you can get in the real world.
A primary effect of free trade, as Tim Fernholz says, is that when companies hire or set up factories abroad to take advantage of cheap labor elsewhere, Americans’ real income goes up because a lot of the stuff they’re buying is cheaper.
The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. — P.J. O’Rourke
Sometimes, a ray of light breaks through the dense gloom overhanging our political culture.Michigan voters, in a mass outbreak of common sense, on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a $2 billion tax increase proposal pitched as a fix for the state’s roads and, among many other things, a help for the working poor. That was one of the more outrageous claims, but the topper was Gov. Rick Snyder’s gun-to-the-head threat in March that if voters did not approve the tax increase, “there is no Plan B for the roads.” Insulting voters with such tactics undoubtedly played a role in the thrashing that Snyder and the Lansing political establishment received at the polls. As the Detroit News put it:
Proposal 1 suffered the worst defeat Tuesday of any Michigan constitutional amendment ballot measure since the current constitution was adopted more than a half-century ago, as 80.1 percent of voters rejected the sales tax increase and road funding plan. (more…)