Archived Posts July 2012 » Page 11 of 12 | Acton PowerBlog

This morning I found that a commenter on my post about government failure in feeding the poor in India had complained that we should not trust “corporations who own the government.” I think this is a point worth further consideration. After all, I would argue that in the United States we have lousy agricultural policy. We essentially still have policies from the Great-Depression era aimed at manipulating prices, and business interests predictably engaging in a form of regulatory capture.

Jordan Ballor and Ray Nothstine wrote a good piece in Acton Commentary on the issue of agricultural policy here. I particularly like their discussion on Abraham Kuyper:

What the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper said of the manual laborers of the nineteenth century is equally true of agricultural workers in the twenty-first. “Unless you wish to undermine the position of the laboring class and destroy its natural resilience,” he warned, “the material assistance of the state should be confined to an absolute minimum. The continuing welfare of people and nation, including labor, lies only in powerful individual initiative.”

When you look at the numbers, the simple fact is that most of the farm subsidies are given to large farms, not the small farmer whose image is used by those lobbying for welfare.  I highly recommend Veronique de Rugy’s Washington Examiner op-ed on this issue. She points out that the median farming household earns a wage 25 percent higher than the median American household. Are these the people who need welfare? (more…)

Online today on the American Spectator is an article by Acton’s president, the Rev. Robert Sirico. In it, Rev. Sirico discusses the phenomenon of “creative destruction,” peculiar to free market systems, wherein newer and better industries and technology gradually replace older, less efficient ones. Rev. Sirico explains that while on the surface creative destruction appears to be harmful, in the long run it is crucial to a healthy, flourishing economy:

“Sometimes what appears to be beaten back and damaged is really healthy and preparing for new growth. This is the case with what economists call creative destruction — the phenomenon whereby old skills, companies, and sometimes entire industries are eclipsed as new methods and businesses take their place. Creative destruction is seen in layoffs, downsizing, the obsolescence of firms, and, sometimes, serious injury to the communities that depend on them. It looks horrible, and, especially when seen through the lives of the people who experience such economic upheaval, it can be heartrending.

But think of the alternative. What if the American Founders had constructed a society where no industry was ever allowed to go under because it would mean a lot of innocent people losing their jobs? I mean, have you ever met a livery yard owner or a stable boy? How about a blacksmith or a farrier? Do you have among your acquaintances any makers of bridles, saddles, chaises, coaches, or buggy whips?

Read the entire article here.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Was Hungry and You … Called Your Congressman
Kristin Rudolph, Juicy Ecumenism

Since the federal budget debate began to heat up in the spring and summer of 2011, a group of religious activists formed a “Circle of Protection” with the purpose of lobbying President Obama and Congress to avoid cutting funding for welfare programs.

Chamber of Commerce: “America’s Byzantine tax code”
Erika Johnsen, HotAir.com

A competitive business environment is just as essential to innovation as well-functioning markets. In the enterprise states study, we have fresh evidence of how states are fostering economic growth and jobs through their innovation.

(more…)

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently declared that his state would not comply with President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In blatant defiance of the federal government, Florida will not expand its Medicare program or implement any of the other changes that “Obamacare” requires. While a flat-out refusal to comply with federal law on the part of a lower authority is relatively uncommon, it is by no means unprecedented. The history of the United States is filled with individuals and groups who have decided to obey their consciences in the face of laws that they believed to be illegal or immoral, or both. In fact, our country’s very founding began with an act of civil disobedience against the unjust and illegal actions of England’s King George III.

Even before our nation was formally established, adherence to true justice and the natural law, rather than to the whims of tyrants, was a hallmark of the American spirit. Witness the turmoil that took place in the American colonies in the 1760s and 1770s over the actions of England, including the famous Boston Tea Party of 1773. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” (more…)

Ismael Hernandez, founder and executive director of the Freedom & Virtue Institute and Acton University lecturer, has written a piece in Crisis Magazine detailing why the Church should cut purse strings with the federal government. Noting that we cannot be both religious ministers to the poor and government-paid social workers, Hernandez bolsters his view by looking to the very foundation of America:

James Madison, known as the father of our Constitution, supported religious liberty.[16] He is most surely quoted because he inspired much of what is authentic liberty in our Founding. Heeding his words is a great idea. When in 1794 Congress used Federal funds for relief of French refugees escaping from war in Santo Domingo, Madison opposed the appropriation stating, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents” (James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179 [1794]).

Madison understood that right order precedes right doing and that, in the American experiment of freedom, the Constitution offers the Federal government no space for relief interventions or nationalized solutions to social problems. Unfortunately, and contrary to both Madison and subsidiarity, religious and political leaders apparently assume that if one says the Federal government should not do X, then X should not, or cannot, be done. A renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2) is needed to dispel these pernicious assumptions. As the Federal government emboldens and grows, all under the cover of helping the needy, our memory has forgotten the need for an order that facilitates right doing.

You can download Mr. Hernandez’s Acton University lecture, “Subsidiarity and Serving the Poor” here, under “Day 3″.

Read the entire Crisis article here…

“Modern Americans read the Declaration of Independence too individualistically,” says James R. Rogers. “We think of it as a revolt against high taxes and big government.”

Take the Declaration’s best-known complaint against the King, “for imposing taxes on us without our consent.” This is not about high taxes. Any tax, no matter how mild, that is imposed without a people’s “consent” would violate this principle. On the other hand, a very high tax, imposed with the consent of the people, would be unobjectionable.

As much as they objected to violations of individual liberty, the colonists objected to the King’s preventing them from exercising a collective liberty–to be governed by laws established by their own consent through their representatives. This aspect of the Declaration’s argument has been largely lost in the emphasis we place on individual rights.

Read more . . .

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Is it possible to sow, toil and work only to lose heart and not reap any reward? Can all of our effort be lost simply by getting tired and giving up? If this is true, then it is imperative that we figure out how to not grow weary or lose heart while we are On Call in Culture.
(more…)

From India comes this tragic headline:

As India’s kids starve, $1.5 billion worth of grain rots

How does a country have starving people while it is producing so much food that it is literally rotting from being left outside in the open? The depressing answer is that it’s the result of government intervention in the agricultural market. The article from MSNBC goes on to detail how government policies produce too much grain relative to other agricultural products such as fresh fruits or vegetables. Worst of all, the price supports that the country puts in place are a major contributor as well.  The natural outcome of a market subverted by the government to serve some groups interest, in this case the farmers, is too often a catastrophe. Sadly, India’s poor are often the target of someone’s “good” intentions, as Joe Carter pointed out a couple months ago.

When people consider our mandate to help the poor, let’s keep in mind what happens when we let the government subvert markets. It’s hard to think of a more morally outrageous proposition than having tons of grain rot while people are starving in the same country.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, July 2, 2012

Jerry Ford, Faith, Free Markets and Michael Novak in Grand Rapids
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

The rebirth of American confidence and prosperity was fueled by new intellectual ammunition for democracy and free markets. Chief among them was Catholic philsopher Michael Novak’s 1982 Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. Novak provided theological and moral arguments for limited government and free enterprise.

Adam Smith: The Morality of the Invisible Hand
Gertrude Himmelfarb, Standpoint

“Das Adam Smith Problem” — that problem was put to us a century-and-a-half ago by a German economist (August Oncken, little known today except for that memorable phrase), and we are still wrestling with it. At issue is the apparent contradiction between The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments — between the political economist and the moral philosopher.

(more…)

Online today at The American Spectator is an article from Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg. The article highlights the forethought of German economist Wilhelm Röpke, who predicted Europe’s present economic downturn in the middle of the twentieth century. Röpke, Gregg says, was a “euroskeptic” before the term existed. Excerpt here:

Where Röpke proved correct was in envisaging that efforts to impose European political integration from the top-down would go hand-in-hand with attempts to replicate large welfare systems and extensive regulation across Europe. What’s now called “Social Europe,” Röpke maintained, was integral to the same dirigiste and rationalist mindset that viewed extensive planning by political-bureaucratic elites as infinitely superior to the workings of Adam Smith’s invisible hand within a legal framework of clear rules and limited government.

Röpke died in February 1966, decades before the present crisis that’s created a bleak economic future for an entire generation of young Europeans and turned the phrase “Greece” into a byword for dysfunctionality. Like many prophets, Röpke’s predictions about the long-term effects of choices made by European leaders in the 1950s and 1960s were mocked in his own time. But in the unlikely event of Europe’s political masters escaping the echo chamber that tells them that salvation can only be found in ever-greater centralization, those whose knowledge of history extends beyond the last 24 hour news cycle might be honest enough to admit that Röpke was right.

And the PIIGS might fly.

Entire article here.