Archived Posts July 2012 - Page 3 of 16 | Acton PowerBlog

Economists have always been moralists, but since the mid-20th century many have also become wannabe technocrats—unelected experts who make public policy decisions based on specialized information rather than public opinion. A prime example is the new “libertarian paternalists” (a group that is definitely paternalistic but not very libertarian) who believe that government should attempt to influence the economic choices of affected parties in a way that will make choosers better off.

In a review of Robert and Edward Skidelsky’s new book How Much is Enough?, Karen Horn explains why this approach often leads to disaster:

The Skidelskys produce a whole list of basic goods that constitute the good life as they see it: health, security, respect, personality (which in their view leads both to the right to a private sphere and to redistribution of property), friendship, leisure and harmony with nature. Not only are these items taken to be universal needs, but ends in themselves as well.

The argument is by no means religious. It is Aristotelian, based on a notion of natural law — and thus axiomatic. It is not a very large step from there to imposing a lifestyle on other people. Such intrusiveness cannot be avoided by paying lip-service to the idea of liberty. Calling one’s version of paternalism “non-coercive”, as the Skidelskys self-consciously rush to do, is not enough. These days, the “road to serfdom” that Friedrich Hayek famously feared to see Western civilisation embark on in the 1940s is paved with the good intentions of a fast-growing group of libertarian paternalists. And the self-appointed messiahs who show us the way along this road are clothed in nannies’ uniforms.

The policy recommendations that flow from the Skidelskys are as old as they are proven recipes for disaster: ever more government influence, massive income redistribution, a basic wage, progressive consumer taxes, a slower economic integration of the world. Some ghosts continue to haunt us.

Read more . . .

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Last night, I went to see the newest “Batman” movie with my fellow Acton interns. I thought it was a great movie, and I recommend seeing it and reading Jordan Ballor’s review of it. I also want to echo some of the themes that Jordan discussed in his piece.

After the movie was done, it turned out that the people who had parked behind me were in need of a jump for their car. I didn’t know these people, but I did see that they needed help. And so I did something that people obsessed with government or with markets should think is impossible: I gave them a jump. No one forced me to do it. No one paid me to do it. I just did it, because it was the right thing to do.

The episode sort of represented many of the things that have been annoying me recently about my fellow libertarians (there may also be some guilty conservatives). I think they put far too much emphasis on having a market based solution to nearly every social problem. Yet giving someone a jump seems to defy traditional money-chasing impulses. There simply are things which we do not rely on a market to provide. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Capitalism Or What?
Isaac Morehouse, Values & Capitalism

When analyzing any social or economic system, the three most important words are: “Compared to what?” Capitalism has its shortcomings. It has shortcomings because life has shortcomings in our own subjective evaluations.

Churches, Pacifism, and Gun Control
Mark Tooley, Mark Tooley

There may or may not be good arguments for more gun control in America. But can a pacifist make them?

Income Equality Is the Road to Middle-Class Taxation
Brian Domitrovic, The Imaginative Conservative

The funny thing about “income inequality” is that it uses taxable income as its measuring point. The problem with this, obviously, is that if high taxes reduce the rich’s taxable income, the rich in turn will not be able to carry the burden of paying taxes—their income will be too low. High taxes on the rich will necessitate further taxation of the middle class.

Tchaikovsky on Work Ethic vs. Inspiration
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.

Close attention to particular decisions by European institutions and governments, says Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg, suggests that many have significantly infringed the rule of law:

Among the many non-economic factors shaping Europe’s current crisis, there is one which, despite its seriousness, has not yet received extensive attention: an emerging rule of law problem throughout the EU.

Many will be taken aback by this claim. Isn’t Europe the continent where the very idea of the rule of law was first developed in its most sophisticated form? And haven’t postwar European governments been so focused upon dispute resolution through shared legal protocols that they have been willing to dilute national sovereignty in order to enhance the authority of pan-European courts such as the European Court of Justice? Close attention, however, to particular decisions by European institutions and governments before and during the present economic crisis suggests that many have significantly infringed the rule of law.

Read more . . .

July 31st marks the 100th birthday of the economist Milton Friedman. Celebrations planned by proponents of free-markets will take place across the country to recognize and pay tribute to his legacy and the power of his ideas. I am speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event in town on the topic of school choice on his birthday.

My commentary this week is on school choice. Nobody has influenced and shaped the school choice movement more than Friedman. In my piece, I stressed the moral power of pivoting away from bureaucratic centralized schooling and encourage greater parental involvement in education. Simply put, school choice allows for parents to better shape the spiritual formation of their children. Nobody can make better decisions about the education of their children than the parents.

Finally, schools that have to compete for students and tax dollars will be forced to improve and be innovative for today’s complex and global marketplace.

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Holland, Mich., teenager is being stopped from opening a hotdog cart due to city zoning laws. It’s really disheartening when you consider the fact that this young person was trying to be responsible and work to help his family and build up savings for his future.

In Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster writes that work is a way in which we provide service to others—a service this teenager has been denied the chance to provide.

The Mackinac Center has a video up about this story.


Hugh Whelchel and Anne Rathbone Bradley explain why removing the work requirements to welfare undermines both human dignity and the nature of work:

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, we see that people are designed to work. In the Book of Genesis we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Wheaton College professor Leland Ryken comments on this verse: “Here human work is shown to have worth and dignity as a service to God and as something that gives purpose to human life.”

And because the Bible teaches that men and women are made in God’s image, we are endowed with creativity and uniqueness. We all have special gifts and talents that differ in degree, kind, and combination. Being a good steward of these talents, we are to package them and offer them to the world through our work, whether we as a CEO or janitor.

Read more . . .