Archived Posts August 2012 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, August 31, 2012

Is Caring for the Poor Too Big for the Church?
Kristin Hansen, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

How are Christians to think through this question from a sound Biblical and economic perspective? We know the Bible teaches we are to care for the poor, but how can we do that most effectively?

What Silent Cal Could Tell Romney
Charles C. Johnson, City Journal

Lessons from the last Republican Massachusetts governor turned presidential nominee.

Religious Liberty and the Pursuit of the Common Good
Tim Høiland, Comment

At a time of increased secularization, heightened tensions between adherents of different faiths, and the inevitable tensions that result, how should governments go about protecting religious liberty for all?

Is Capitalism “Pro-Business?”
Steve Horwitz, LearnLiberty.org

Pro-business legislation restricts progress and therefore caters to the interests of industry rather than to consumers, whereas “supporters of free markets are ultimately pro-human and pro-people because it is through markets that we get the most innovation and we get the most goods and the cheapest prices.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, August 31, 2012

Conference: “Global Commodities: The Material Culture of Early Modern Connections, 1400-1800″

Global History and Culture Centre – University of Warwick – 12-14 December 2012. This International conference held at the Global History and Culture Centre of the University of Warwick seeks to explore how our understanding of early modern global connections changes if we consider the role material culture played in shaping such connections. In what ways did material objects participate in the development of the multiple processes often referred to as ‘globalisation’? How did objects contribute to the construction of such notions as hybridism and cosmopolitanism? What was their role in trade and migration, gifts and diplomacy, encounters and conflict? What kind of geographies did they create in the early modern world? What was their cultural value vis-à-vis their economic value? In short, this conference seeks to explore the ways in which commodities and connections intersected in the early modern world.

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The idea that being a monastic is godly while being a businessperson is worldly reflects a widely held belief among Christians, says James R. Rodgers. But the pursuit of a vocation in business doesn’t necessarily means the embrace of a lesser form of the Christian life:

While I would be loath to argue that the pursuit of business is superior to the pursuit of monasticism, I nonetheless would insist that business vocations do not necessarily entail a lesser form of Christian life. Indeed, Christian discipleship can be quite meaningfully pursued through vocations in business.

Providing a needy person with a job not only eliminates want for that person, it also creates the opportunity to multiply charity through the hands of others. Paul encouraged Christians to do “honest work” with their own hands, so that they “may have something to share with those in need.” This is of course not unique to business firms, many monastic orders do work to pursue charity as well. My point is not that business is superior to monasticism (whether of the new or the old sort), but only that it need not represent an inferior form of spiritual life, especially for those particularly concerned with helping the needy.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, August 30, 2012

Check out this video, which is interesting on a number of levels (HT: James R. Otteson):

Hazony points to some really important ideas in this short video. In many ways the culture war, so to speak, really comes down to a clash of worldviews about what work is and ought to be. For a narrative that sets the problem up the same way, but favors the “Leavers” over the “Takers,” see the work of Daniel Quinn, particularly his novel Ishmael.

I’m looking forward to checking out Hazony’s book, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, August 30, 2012

Judaism’s Central Sacrifice
David P. Goldman, Tablet

Yoram Hazony’s new book bases Judaism on a naturalistic reading of the Bible, but it’s a stretch.

HHS revises mandate third time; foes say it misses the point
Michelle Bauman, Catholic News Agency

A slight revision of the federal contraception mandate offers some additional protection for certain religious employers but is not sufficient to ease religious freedom concerns, said a lawyer who is working to challenge the mandate in court.

Deadly Fuel Economy Standards
Timothy Terrell, Economics for Everybody

One of the most important ideas in economics is the concept of trade-offs. If something is scarce, that means that acquiring more of it requires giving up something else. To obtain a car that gets better gas mileage, something else has to be sacrificed.

Mississippi Most Conservative State, D.C. Most Liberal
Frank Newport, Gallup

Mississippi remains the most conservative state in the union, and, along with Utah, Wyoming, and Alabama, is one of four states with 50% or more of its population identifying as conservative. At the other end of the ideological spectrum, 40% District of Columbia residents and 30% of Massachusetts residents identify as liberal; all other states have a liberal population of 26% or less.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Work: The Meaning of Your LifeThe subtitle of Lester DeKoster’s little classic, Work: The Meaning of Your Life–A Christian Perspective, can be a bit off-putting. Is work really the meaning of your life?

On the one hand, when we understand DeKoster’s definition of work, we might be a bit more amenable to the suggestion. DeKoster says that work is essentially our “service of others.” This means that “work” as such is not strictly defined as waged labor outside the home, for instance.

But there is another sense in which even this more restricted and perhaps common sense of work has under-appreciated significance. As DeKoster opens the book, he puts it plainly: “Work gets the largest single block of our lives.” Doubt this assertion? Take a look at this infographic from Planet Money that breaks down a typical day for someone with a full-time job:

Time spent on something is only one measure of importance, to be sure, but it is an important one. And the fact that, as DeKoster puts it, “work gets the single largest block of our lives,” makes it even more critical that we understand what makes work meaningful. For that understanding and as we approach this Labor Day weekend, DeKoster’s book is a great place to start.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In his debut column at Forbes, Fr. Robert Sirico discusses how the collapse of European economies has exposed the false hope of the welfare state:

[T]he great lie at the heart of the all-encompassing welfare state, with its empty promises of eternal security and freedom from want. The welfare state and its advocates would have us believe that they have a political solution for a world where scarcity and human brokenness still hold sway.

This false hope is what Pope John Paul II was getting at in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. He took the “social assistance state” to task for contributing to “a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” He had it exactly right 20 years before the inevitable fiscal crisis swept through Paris, Rome, Athens, Madrid and Bonn and paralyzed the once smug architects of the EU as “lifestyle superpower.” They never missed a chance to deride the heartless values of “Anglo-Saxon capitalism” (a phrase always wielded as a pejorative). But their “lifestyle” turned out to be a trap.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Three things the American people don’t understand about trade
Logan Albright, AFF Doublethink Online

The problem with the way trade is discussed in politics and the media can be boiled down to three common misconceptions that crop up again and again.

Cronyism: Crushing the Free Market and Promoting Rent-Seeking

A system of political favoritism is increasingly encroaching on America’s free-market system. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Luigi Zingales, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, argues that crony capitalism is at the root of the West’s economic situation and that the U.S. is not far behind Italy and Greece when it comes to fiscal woes.

Economists Debate: Keynes v. Say
Paul Solman, PBS

Say thought that gluts could not exist, or at least not for long, because businesses respond quickly to what consumers really want. But suppose lots of people begin to produce things that, in the long run, nobody wants at all

The Primacy Of Catholic Social Doctrine
Dan Flaherty, CatholicVote.org

When it comes to formulating a broad understanding of what’s right and wrong in the economic sphere, do you believe that revenue and price considerations are all that matter?

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What economic issues do America’s two main political parties agree on? The short answer: not much. But the New York Time‘s Annie Lowrey identifies eight areas of overlap:

1. Tax simplification
2. Regulatory simplification
3. Fannie and Freddie
4. Avoiding the fiscal cliff
5. Son of Debt Ceiling
6. Drill, baby, drill
7. Start-ups
8. Iran sanctions

What is interesting about the list is that except for the items that are overly obvious (e.g., #4 could be restated as “Avoid the Apocalypse), the areas of agreement are concerns that would be common to corporate lobbyists—and ignored by the general public. This is probably to be expected since the political parties are heavily influenced by lobbyists. But another reason may be that if politicians followed the bipartisan advice of economists, they’d never get elected.

For instance, NPR’s Planet Money asked a panel of economists (mostly left-leaning, though with a couple of libertarians thrown into the mix) to come up a economic platform for a presidential candidate. They mostly agree on the following items:

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A recent national Pew Research Center survey has found conflicting opinions regarding many Americans’ view of the rich:

As Republicans gather for their national convention in Tampa to nominate a presidential candidate known, in part, as a wealthy businessman, a new nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans believe the rich are different than other people. They are viewed as more intelligent and more hardworking but also greedier and less honest.

Nearly six-in-ten survey respondents (58%) also say the rich pay too little in taxes, while 26% say they pay their fair share, and just 8% say they pay too much. Even among those who describe themselves as upper or upper-middle class … 52% say upper-income Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.

In spite of these views, overwhelming majorities of self-described middle- and lower-class Americans say they admire people who get rich by working hard (92% and 84%, respectively). (more…)