Category: Property Rights

Blog author: abradley
Thursday, December 29, 2016
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On December 27, 2016, at the age of 86, Thomas Sowell published his last column. After publishing dozens of books and hundreds of columns, Dr. Sowell’s retirement may mark the beginning of the end of an era of black intellectuals who were champions of political and economic liberty. Other black scholars like Walter Williams, W.B. Allen, and Shelby Steele are all in the 70s or 80s and there does not seem to be a cadre of like-minded black scholars in their wake.
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Today at Mere Orthodoxy, I argue that

the duty of the Christian statesman (or stateswoman) to the poor requires defending human rights, supplying urgent needs, reducing barriers to market entry, and guaranteeing access to the institutions of justice, seeking realistic, gradual reform as possible and prudent.

Of particular interest to readers of the PowerBlog, I dedicate substantial space to explaining and advocating for free markets:

Jobs are what the poor need, and jobs are created by businesses. People settle for bad jobs only when good ones aren’t available. Thus, eliminating barriers to market entry ought to be of primary concern to the Christian statesman, combatting the unjust inequality created by closed markets. Barriers to entry include onerous occupational licensing and patent laws, high corporate taxes, zoning laws, overregulation, and subsidies. These things close markets to new competitors because, even though it might seem against their interest (except for subsidies), large, established firms are more likely to benefit from them and lobby for them (which is called rent seeking)….

In free markets, properly understood, these barriers are kept to a minimum, increasing competition and wealth creation. The more businesses there are looking for workers, the more demand there is for labor. Thus, not only will there be more jobs, but wages will be higher as well. It should be no surprise that the decline in American entrepreneurship has coincided with wage stagnation. Beyond wages, an additional benefit of increased competition is that it also drives down the price of consumer goods, thus lowering the cost of living for everyone as well. Free markets help the poor—and everyone else—in terms of production (labor), distribution (wages), and consumption (lower cost of living).

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Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

It’s a common misconception in public discourse that the global poor are trapped in poverty because of globalization.  We frequently hear things from our public leaders about how markets are crushing the poor.  “The reality is that the poor aren’t dominated by markets. They are excluded from them.” says Michael Matheson Miller in an article for The Stream.

Miller hits on four different problems and misconceptions of how international economic development is currently addressed.  He starts out by explaining how the current system benefits the wealthy and well-connected.

Many of the powerful and wealthy don’t have an economic incentive to build institutions of justice like clear title to land or broad access to the formal economy. They are doing well under the status quo and many of them are actually benefiting from the current situation through connections, access to special privileges, bribes and sweetheart deals on things like mineral rights.

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The spring session of the 2016 Acton Lecture Series closed on May 17th with an address by Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico entitled “Freedom Indivisible: Private Property as the Solid Ground for Religious Liberty,” which examined how private property provides an essential foundation for religious liberty in a free and virtuous society. We’re pleased to share the lecture with you via the video player below.

 

I want to be very clear from the outset that moral concerns surrounding transgender identity are not unimportant. But in the likely event that we don’t come to any national consensus on that question any time soon, it is important not to overlook other moral and social concerns that are far more pressing. In particular, there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and privacy, no matter which side one favors, but resorting to the force of law will leave some real victims vulnerable.

On the one hand, the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence found that compared to violence among the general population, “Transgender women [i.e. biologically male] survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence and 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, when compared with other survivors.” I have seen headlines connecting this violence with restroom use in the past, but now that the issue has become politicized those stories are harder to locate. In any case, privacy and safety are real and major concerns for many. We should not be indifferent to this.

On the other hand, according to the CDC,

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 women and men (5.6% and 5.3%, respectively) experienced sexual violence other than rape….

Again, privacy and safety are real and major concerns here. We should not be indifferent. (more…)

LessiusCover-01In his famous work, History of Economic Analysis, economist Joseph A. Schumpeter gives a favorable nod to the works of Leonardus Lessius (1554–1623), sparking a fair amount of interest in the 16th-century Jesuit moral theologian.

CLP Academic has now published On Sale, Securities, and Insurance, a selection from Lessius’ most influential contribution to early modern economics, ethics, and law. The book offers the first full English translation of key sections of the second book (On Justice) of Lessius’ treatise On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure), specifically chapters 21 (On Sale-purchase) and 28 (On Suretyship, Insurance, Pledge, and Mortgage).

Based at the Jesuit College in Louvain, Lessius earned the reputation as “Oracle of the Netherlands” for the advice and analysis he offered to local merchants, jurists, and political rulers regarding matters of conscience, duty, and justice.

As translator Wim Decock writes in the introduction: “Though dwelling on the virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance too, the better part of the treatise includes a systematic treatment of the virtue of justice and, particularly, of property, torts, and contract law.” (more…)

On Jan. 27, Acton’s Rome office sponsored a presentation of The International Property Rights Index at the Dominican-run Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. The private seminar was a premier event in Rome for the index’s publisher, introducing data and case studies sampled from 129 industrialized and developing nations. It was attended by some 40 leveraged opinion makers from the ranks of legal, political, academic and religious sectors.

coverSpeakers included the university’s dean of social sciences, Fr. Alejandro Crosthwaite, who gave an excellent exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’s treatise on property, including the medieval philosopher’s explanation of incentives for personal responsibility by way of individual as opposed to collective ownership. He also took time to explain what the Catholic Church teaches on the universal destination of goods, which is often misinterpreted as a contradiction to individual ownership. In referencing the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (quoted in part from No. 177), leaders in attendance were reminded:

“Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute…The principle of the universal destination of goods is an affirmation both of God’s full and perennial lordship over every reality and of the requirement that the goods of creation remain ever destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property… is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.” (more…)