Category: Poverty

Samuel Gregg, director of research at Acton Institute, was recently interviewed by Carl E. Olson of Catholic World Report about his new book For God and Profit.  Gregg is a frequent contributor to CWR on the topics of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory.

The first question asked of Gregg was “Is it fair to say that Church teaching about money and economics is widely misunderstood and often misrepresented? If so, what are some of the reasons?” His response:

Catholic social teaching outlines clear principles for people who want to addresses issues surrounding finance and economic life in a way that takes human flourishing seriously. These include the principles of the dignity of the person, solidarity, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, the principle of common use, the principal of private property, to name just a few. These principles are drawn from Revelation and the natural law. But they are not well understood by some Catholics. One reason for this is that they tend to be buried—including, I must say, in the social encyclicals—amidst a range of historically-contingent reflections and the offering of prudential judgements on present-day affairs.

The English language version of Rerum Novarum (1891) is about 14,000 words. Laudato Si’ (2015) is approximately 40,000 words. More than one person has suggested that this partly reflects the magisterium entering into the details of far too many economic subjects, the vast majority of which Catholics are free to disagree about among themselves. If we’re interested in equipping lay Catholics to think through economic issues, more time should be invested in explaining principles of Catholic social teaching and how they relate to each other. Less time, I’d argue, should be spent addressing questions upon which Catholics may legitimately hold a variety, even sometimes quite different views.


Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 24, 2016

“Billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty,” says Arthur Brooks, “thanks to five incredible innovations: globalization, free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.”

By the way, these five things were all made possible by the historically anomalous peace after World War II that resulted from America’s global diplomatic and military presence.

When I was a kid, when we Americans saw the world’s poor, they saw us, too. We saw their poverty; they saw our freedom and our prosperity. They threw off the chains of poverty and tyranny by copying our American ways. It was the free-enterprise system that not only attracted millions of the world’s poor to our shores and gave them lives of dignity, but also empowered billions more to pull themselves out of poverty worldwide.

The ideals of free enterprise and global leadership, central to American conservatism, are responsible for the greatest reduction in human misery since mankind began its long climb from the swamp to the stars.

Read more . . .

20140313__0314wealth1“No one in America should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level,” said Joe Biden last year, “No one. No one.”

That’s a sentiment I share with the vice president. And the good news is that almost no one who works 40 hours a week lives below the poverty level.

That’s the finding of the latest report on income and poverty from the Census Bureau. For those aged 18 to 64 who work full time, year round the poverty rate is a mere 2.4 percent. Those who did not work full-time had a poverty rate that was more than ten times higher—31.8 percent.

But as Preston Cooper points out, the number of full-time workers in poverty may be even less since the definition of poverty used by the Census Bureau does not take into account taxes and transfers such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which tops up the wages of low-income workers.

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone, but it has left one country, Haiti, in ruins.  Just like in the aftermath of many disasters, we will see a flood of emergency aid and disaster relief pour into this country; Many have good intentions and a strong desire to help.  This is a good thing.  It’s important that people rally around each other in times of need. The problem arises when this becomes the permanent model.

This is the core theme of a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, written shortly after the storm was over.  Mary Anastasia O’Grady, a writer at WSJ, says this:

If people are living in tin-roof shacks when a hurricane hits, ruin is predictable. But why are so many Haitians still living in such dire poverty in the 21st century? (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

These Russian Orthodox cosmonauts get it. Click photo for source.

… Or does religion need Mars? So argues social commentator James Poulos at Foreign Affairs:

What’s clear is that Earth no longer invites us to contemplate, much less renew, our deepest spiritual needs. It has filled up so much with people, discoveries, information, and sheer stuff that it’s maddening to find what F. Scott Fitzgerald called a fresh green breast of a new world — the experience of truly open horizons and an open but specific future. That’s a problem that does suggest a terrible calamity, if not exactly an imminent apocalypse. But by making a fresh pilgrimage to a literally new world — say, red-breasted Mars — we could mark our pilgrims’ progress from the shadows of ignorance and apartness from God.

I’m sympathetic to Poulos’s general point that Mars — and those, like Elon Musk, who want to colonize it — needs religion. (Perhaps even Calvinism in particular!) However, I’m not so sure that Earth has lost its ability to evoke spiritual renewal. (more…)

global-poverty-2-15The number of people living in extreme poverty continues to decline, notes a report released yesterday by the World Bank.

In 2013, the year of the latest comprehensive data on global poverty, an estimated 767 million people were living below the international poverty line of $1.90 per person per day. This is a decrease of about 100 million compared with 2012. The decline is primarily attributed to the reductions in the number of the extreme poor in South Asia (37 million fewer poor) and East Asia and the Pacific (71 million fewer poor). Those areas show a change in the extreme poverty headcount ratio of 2.4 and 3.6 points, respectively

The one region where poverty remains doggedly persistent is Sub-Saharan Africa. This area has the world’s largest headcount ratio (41.0 percent) and is home to the largest number of the poor (389 million)—more than all other regions of the globe combined. The report points out that this is a “notable shift with respect to 1990, when half of the poor were living in East Asia and Pacific, which, today, is home to only 9.3 percent of the global poor.”

The key difference between East Asia and the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa? Economic growth. Unfortunately, while noting this fact, the researchers who wrote the World Bank’s report claim the real problem is inequality. While inequality may be symptomatic of extreme poverty, it is not the primary cause—as the World Bank’s own report reveals.

For example, the report tut-tuts the increase in income of the top 1 percent (which is a key driver of income inequality):

On September 12-14 the Acton Institute’s Rome office hosted its third annual “Economics, Development and Human Flourishing” conference in Assisi for seminarians and formation staff of the Vatican’s Pontifical Urban College.

Intense discussion and open debate was stimulated by challenging lectures on economics, political philosophy, anthropology, and Catholic social doctrine. The lectures were reinforced by showings of the Institute’s  video curriculum “PovertyCure”, a six-episode DVD rich in graphic content, intellectual analysis and dramatic stories about poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America.


An African seminarian asks a tough question about economic injustice.

The second-year theology students — from different developing-world nations spanning 3 continents– listened attentively and asked provocative questions related to economic growth and poverty alleviation. Many questions regarded political corruption, crony capitalism, the causes of wealth, the meaning of vocation, material scarcity, as well as some very specific economic concerns in their home countries.

Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Poverty, Inc. producer Michael Matheson Miller traveled from Grand Rapids, while academic contributions from Rome scholars included Istituto Acton’s director, Kishore Jayabalan, and Salvatore Rebecchini, president of SIMEST, a company that promotes Italian investment in foreign markets. (more…)