Archived Posts June 2012 - Page 5 of 14 | Acton PowerBlog

The new issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality

The Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality (15.1) has been posted at and should be arriving in print to our subscribers sometime soon in the coming weeks.

In this issue, Jordan Ballor addresses Christian attitudes toward business across confessional lines and throughout history in his editorial. Sam Gregg and Philip Booth respond to Daniel K. Finn’s Controversy contribution from last issue. In further exploration of the convergence (or lack thereof) between libertarian philosophy and Roman Catholic social teaching, Bridget Kratz and Walter Block argue for common ground on the topic of immigration. Charles McDaniel and Marek Tracz-Tryniecki engage the all-too-relevant subject of financial crisis, the former pointing to insights from the Austrian, post-Keynesian, and Distributist schools of thought and the latter in the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville. Edward O’Boyle and Walter Schweidler (translated by Philip Harold) each offer contributions on the subject of human development. Johan van der Vyver examines federal and family barriers to children’s rights. Hunter Baker reflects on social justice, government, and society. Michael D’Emic demonstrates the logical identity of the sixteenth-century, Spanish scholastic Saravia de la Calle’s understanding of just price and modern equilibrium theory. Matthew McCaffrey engages three recent works on the morality of the marketplace in his review essay. We have another installment of our Symposium, offering papers from the Evangelical Theological Society’s Theology of Work and Economics consultation. This issue also has yet another stellar Reviews section (if I do say so myself). And lastly, this issue’s Scholia offers an update and translation (respectively) of two works of the English bishop John Jewel on the moral issue of usury, a selection from his commentary on 1 Thessalonians and some private notes that were written in Latin and never before translated into English.

Needless to say, it’s a full issue.

The release of issue 15.1 means that now content from 14.1 is open access to non-subscribers. Given the current financial climate, I would highly recommend James Alvey’s article “James M. Buchanan on the Ethics of Public Debt and Default.” I would gladly detail the whole contents of this issue as well, but I think I’m out of breath.

The ongoing debate about food trucks here in Grand Rapids took a step forward this week, as this past Tuesday the city commission “voted unanimously to amend its zoning ordinance so that food trucks can operate on private property for extended periods of time.”

As I argued late last year, “There’s perhaps no more basic way to serve another person than to provide them with food,” and food trucks are something that ought to be welcomed rather than disdained in the context of a vibrant and variegated urban social space.

Rick DeVos, the founder of Grand Rapids-based ArtPrize, framed the issue quite well:

It’s called free enterprise and we should be embracing it no matter who is on the receiving end of its disruption…. The more we build the experience of downtown Grand Rapids as a great place to spend time, the more everyone doing business in downtown Grand Rapids will benefit.

Let’s get out of the way…and celebrate greater food choice in Grand Rapids.

While things have taken a step forward in Grand Rapids, the fight for food trucks and free enterprise continues throughout the country, and bears watching. The interaction between regulations and the non-profit sector is of particular interest, as both charitable ministry efforts as well as the formation of non-profit advocacy groups have been impacted by governmental policies.

One of the most worrisome economic troubles coming down-the-pipe is the “student debt bubble” which many argue is caused by too many students seeking degrees in higher education as the costs of tuition increase. Because we understand that poverty and economic misfortune are serious barriers to human flourishing, it is very important to try and understand the economics involved in the education market. Dylan Pahman gave a good explanation earlier today about how administrative costs are rising to promote a myriad of diversity-advocacy programs, a process which is clearly affecting  the supply-side of the issue. What about the demand side where students are making the decision to go to college?

How is it that so many students are making a seemingly irrational choice? In a post at strategyprofs, Steve Postrel explains here that while it may be true that college degrees may be becoming more common and watered down in the quality of education they represent, that it is also true that high school quality is dropping. This means that college degrees represent a greater increase in knowledge than they used to, signaling a greater value relative to non-college educated persons.

Typical graduate business school education has indeed become less rigorous over time, as has typical college education. But typical high school education has declined in quality just as much. As a result, the human capital difference between a college and high-school graduate has increased, because the first increments of education are more valuable on the job market than the later ones. It used to be that everybody could read and understand something like Orwell’s Animal Farm, but the typical college graduates could also understand Milton or Spencer. Now, nobody grasps Milton but only the college grads can process Animal Farm, and for employers the See Spot Run–>Animal Farm jump is more valuable than the Animal Farm–>Milton jump.

So the value of a college education has increased even as its rigor has declined, because willingness to pay for quality is really willingness to pay for incremental quality. This principle holds true in many markets.

Interestingly, one of the best ways to help lower the cost of college education might to be to improve the quality of education that a high school diploma represents. Understanding why high school education is declining requires us to think beyond a knee jerk “just spend more” reaction and understand that our current public education system is insulated against the processes that wipe out nearly all other inefficient and inferior services: the market.

To effectively help others become productive agents in the market and realize their vocations, we need to advocate for steps that will cause education at all levels to reflect a true added value. School choice seems to be an obvious candidate for improving educational outcomes.

H/T Marginal Revolution

Mark Summers, a historian in Virginia, wrote two articles for Religion & Liberty on faith issues in the American Civil War. Summers wrote about the evangelical revival that swept through the Southern armies and then in a subsequent 2011 issue focused on the Catholic Church in the Civil War.

The articles were meant to draw attention to the 150th anniversary of the conflict. I wrote more about the R&L project in my own PowerBlog post back in December. Read the articles by Summers. They are well researched and very good. Below is a June 11 audio clip of Summers discussing Catholics in the Civil War on the Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick:

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Just a note: Summers is referred to as a “Catholic historian” during the interview, but he is in fact Presbyterian.

In a follow up interview to “Is Capitalism Immoral?,” Joseph E. Gorra on the Patheos Evangelical channel talks with Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton Institute president and co-founder, about the publication of his new book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Gorra begins the interview by observing that “within Western societies today there appears to be a kind of fact/value dichotomy that operates as an assumption in much of our discourse, where questions of ‘economics’ (and the sciences in general) are in the category of knowledge and facts and therefore tend to trump questions of theology.”

Patheos: The dichotomous fact/value assumption also stunts our comprehension of what is true.

Sirico: It’s also true that some economists become hegemonic in thinking that the whole of truth is seen through their particular lens of expertise, rather than appreciating the immense complexity of humanity and situating their part of the truth within the broader truth of who the human person is. But that’s not just a problem for some economists—scientism infects almost every discipline that has a strong empirical element.

It would be humorous, if it were not tragic, when one becomes so blinded by the subjectivism of such relativism that they accuse others of what they themselves are infected with. What I am trying to do is broaden our comprehension of the truth that permeates everything—in the case of my book, how the economic can be seen to emerge from a reflection of human nature and empower us to do the good intentionally.

Read “Does Capitalism Promote Greed?: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico, Part 2” on the Patheos Evangelical channel.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, June 21, 2012

If you missed the recent Acton University, here is a roundup of reactions and reflections by bloggers to give you an idea of why you need to attend next year:

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, June 21, 2012

ABC’s Chancellors for Equity and Inclusion, 1985-1988

I have recently written on the moral implications of growing tuition costs and the resulting student loan debt (here). One factor I did not explore in depth was the reason for rising tuition costs, which, adjusted for inflation, have more than doubled since the 1980s. No doubt, there are many factors that have contributed to this, but George F. Will of the Boston Herald points to one possible cause: bureaucratic sprawl under the auspices of promoting diversity. Despite rising costs for students, Will writes,

UCSD found money to create a Vice Chancellorship for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. UC Davis has a Diversity Trainers Institute under an Administrator of Diversity Education, who presumably coordinates with the Cross-Cultural Center. It also has: a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; a Sexual Harassment Education Program; a Diversity Program Coordinator; an Early Resolution Discrimination Coordinator; and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.” California’s budget crisis has not prevented UC San Francisco from creating a new Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach to supplement UCSF’s Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and the Diversity Learning Center (which teaches how to become “a Diversity Change Agent”), and the Center for LGBT Health and Equity, and the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention & Resolution, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committees on Diversity, and on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, and on the Status of Women.

Personally, I think that fair treatment of all and appreciation of cultural heritage is a good thing, but do we really need more and more administrators to ensure it? Indeed, Will notes, “In 2009 the base salary of UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion was $194,000, almost four times that of starting assistant professors. And by 2006, academic administrators outnumbered faculty.” Surely there must be a more efficient (not to mention ethical) way. (more…)