The “fixed pie” fallacy in economic thinking, as expressed by writers such as Hilaire Belloc, has served the class warfare crowd well despite lacking any basis in reality. “The historical reality of entrepreneurs gives the lie to two of Belloc’s assumptions: that the wealthy can maintain luxurious living standards by sitting on their wealth, and that capitalism prevents the poor from working their way up the economic ladder,” writes Charles Kaupke in the latest Acton Commentary (published August 8). The full text of his essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.
Brett M. Decker, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, recently interviewed Rev. Robert Sirico, president and co-founder of The Acton Institute, in response to Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In his answers, Rev. Sirico addresses the market’s moral potential as well as the present state of the nation. Excerpt:
Decker: Your new book is about the moral case for a free economy. What is the morality of the marketplace and how does it work? How does the market take care of the masses better than a government safety net?
Sirico: The morality of a market is rooted in the morality of the human person who is the center of that market. In precise terms, the market itself is neither moral nor immoral, but it becomes a vehicle for the moral and economic expression of the acting human person, who has the free will to choose good or bad.
When we speak of taking care of the masses, we usually mean taking care of their material needs (though there is much, much more to people than their material needs). The material needs of people are best met in societies that are prosperous, both in terms of the abundance of economic opportunities available to them and the amount of superfluous wealth that can be used generously to support the needs of those unable to provide for themselves. The one thing we know about markets from a wide array of economic studies is that the less taxed and regulated a society is, the more prosperous it is.
Entire interview here.
The Moral Case for a Free Economy: An Interview with Father Robert Sirico
Joseph Sunde, Remnant Culture
Studying these economic realities forces you to go back to those basic questions: Who is man? How much may a government justly take from its citizens? What are the limits of government? What are its responsibilities? Much more than numbers are at stake here: intrinsic human dignity, flourishing and rights hang in the balance.
The Sebelius Nanny State
George Neumayr, RealClearReligion
Sebelius is too oblivious to see the irony in her Orwellian spin on the HHS mandate as evidence of a paternalistic federal government protecting women from big bad employers. How empowered could these women be if they need the federal government’s nannying and dictates?
Welfare Work Requirements Respect Human Dignity
Ryan T. Anderson, The Foundry
The Obama Administration has effectively gutted the work requirements of the bipartisan welfare reforms of 1996. In doing so, it is trampling on the central policy that made welfare reform work. The lesson for policymakers from those reforms was that good principles, good policy, and good results go hand in hand.
Reform Is Not Enough: The Federal Government Needs a Complete Makeover
Philip K. Howard, The Atlantic
A deviant subculture is defined by sociologist Anthony Giddens as one “whose members have values which differ substantially from those of the majority in a society.” American government is a deviant subculture. Its leaders stand on soapboxes and polarize the public by pointing fingers while secretly doing the bidding of special interests.
Ismael Hernandez responds to President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech with a piece titled “Obama’s Assault on Entrepreneurship: An Economic Roadmap to Nowhere,” on Crisis Magazine’s website. Hernandez, founder of the Freedom & Virtue Institute and regular Acton lecturer, employs Catholic moral teaching to determine just how much credit the government deserves for an entrepreneur’s successes. The President’s statements, Hernandez reasons, fail to account for the freedom of the individual to make sound economic and moral decisions. For the sake of example, Hernandez looks to public schools:
If a public school graduate goes on to accomplish great things, the number of antecedent and influential intervening factors is so great, so difficult to quantify, that the high school experience itself also becomes an increasingly indeterminate factor in his later achievements in life. In effect, the same teacher who encouraged a student may have another student who goes on to become a hardened criminal. Other teachers might have failed in preventing bad behaviors of students who later on wreck their lives. The incommensurability of such remote influences is simply too vast. It is like me taking credit for your literary masterpiece because I sold you the paper it was written on. When we survey the scene of entrepreneurial success, we see that the state’s cooperation is so remote that it is not worth mentioning at all. Since the state offers only a remote material cooperation with the work of entrepreneurs, we ought to focus our praise on the entrepreneurs themselves and the proximate causes of their success.
Moreover, when the human person, made in God’s image, creates and acquires property, there is a metaphysical reality at play. Human creativity springs from our divine nature. Each creative act does not depend on any analysis of social usefulness. Property and creation are identified with the person. Those who insist only in social usefulness identify right with the purposes of the state and may think that the common good is the only value (with the state the primary instrument). They might be tempted to say that private property really belongs to everyone. Entrepreneurship, regardless of the myriad antecedent influences, is a holy sanctuary against pagan statism precisely because it flows from the person. There is, in short, a self-justifying right to it.
The entire article is linked here.
For decades teachers’s unions have been giving teachers—and unions—a bad name. A prime example is the intimidation tactics used by Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE):
A Louisiana teachers union is threatening private schools with legal action if they accept money from a new voucher program – and the threat has already forced at least one school to put its participation in the program on hold.
The demand was sent a few weeks ago by law firm representing the Louisiana Association of Educators and several other interests, and it argues the state-approved program is illegal because participating schools would be receiving an unconstitutional payment of public funds.
The two-page letter further states if schools don’t agree, then the law firm has “no alternative” than to take legal action.
“Our clients have directed us to take whatever means necessary to prevent the unconstitutional transfer of public money,” wrote Brian Blackwell, of the firm Blackwell & Associates.
After the LAE was called out on their thuggish behavior, they claimed the threatening letter was not meant as intimidation but rather a helpful gesture. “We hope to prevent schools from having to pay back the money when the courts rule that Act 2 and SCR 99 are unconstitutional,” said LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell.
Perhaps these educators need some remedial reading comprehension because the actual letter says, “The purpose of this letter is to try to avoid litigation with [Name of school].”
If we do not receive a signed copy of the attached letter from you by 4:00 P.M. on Fnday, July 27, 2012, we will have no alternative other than to institute litigation against [Name of school] and will request that a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunction be issued restraining, or joining and prohibiting – its officers, agents, employees, and counsel, and those persons in active concert or participation with – from accepting any funds from the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and/or the Louisiana Department of Education pursuant to the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program during the pendency of our client’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Act 2 and 5CR 99.
In other words, the LAE wants to “help” by suing any private schools that take the voucher money. The LAE cares so much about children that they are willing to helpfully sue any private schools that might try to give them a decent education. That’s how much they care about our kids.
Last week we talked about how our memory is important to God using us where we are. Now we talk about another skill that is important to cultivate while being On Call in Culture: Storytelling. Only when we can express what God is doing through us can we truly understand our own experiences.
The first step in storytelling is observation and reflection. After observing our spheres and reflecting on what happens we can begin to share with others what we are learning through our journeys. But reflection and observation are difficult in our culture. There just doesn’t seem to be room in our lives for anything more! But without them, life is simply survival, not growth.
The Man Who Saved Capitalism
Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal
Milton Friedman, who would have turned 100 on Tuesday, helped to make free markets popular again in the 20th century. His ideas are even more important today.
Top Ten Economics Books for Beginners
Greg Ayers, Institute for Faith, Work and Economics
[Today we’re offering some resources we think are helpful to the Christian just beginning to wade into the waters of economic thought. These books by no means represent the entire pantheon of what one could, or should, read regarding the subject. Rather, this list is a primer as you begin your exploration.
Rabbis aim to inject more morality into business
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
In an age when the phrase “business ethics” can seem like an oxymoron, a group of rabbis has designed a course to use age-old Jewish teachings to help infuse some morality into economics — from the household budget to the stock market.
Getting Rich in America
David Henderson, Library of Economics and Liberty
Sometimes the person will ask, “How do I get rich?” I used to answer, “I don’t know.” But now that I’ve seen a lot and seen the basic mistakes so many people make, I realize that, compared to a large majority of Americans, I do know. I know how to get rich–slowly.
In continuing with the work of highlighting Calvin Coolidge at Acton, Marc Vander Maas and I recently spoke with Amity Shlaes. Shlaes’s biography of the 30th president will be out in early 2013. She is a big fan of the Acton Institute and praised our work saying, “Acton has been all over the Coolidge case.”
Shlaes is also interviewed in the Fall 2009 issue of Religion & Liberty. Listen to the podcast below:
Marc and I also recorded an earlier podcast on Coolidge in June for Radio Free Acton.
As the federal government becomes ever more willing to use taxpayer dollars to fund activites that violate the conscience of its citizens, we’re increasingly faced with the question of whether we should refuse to pay those taxes. Theologian R.C. Sproul Jr. says the Christian answer is clear:
. . . I can say with confidence that Christians should in fact pay whatever taxes they owe even when that money ends up financing abortions. The Christian who pays such taxes has no need to feel guilty, while the Christian that refuses to pay, however well intentioned, ought to feel guilty.
Theologians have long understood the principle that must be applied here- we are responsible for our own actions, not the actions of others. In this instance, the Bible is quite clear about our obligation to pay our taxes (Mark 12:17). It is also clear that the proper function of the state is not to finance evil, but to punish it (Romans 13). Their failure to do what God calls them to do, however, does not mean I am free to not do what I am commanded to do. That they have so horribly misused the taxes that I have paid doesn’t mean I am guilty of what they have done. I have been taxed, and when those taxes are paid, they are no longer mine. What the state does with them may be something I should speak against. It may be something I should condemn. But I am not guilty.
In response to my post last Thursday on the Fed’s signaling the possibility of more quantitative easing (QE), a commentator using the pseudonym “Milton Friedman” wrote,
have you checked inflation rates lately? they are at historic lows. if the parade of horribles doesn’t happen, shouldn’t that cause you to reconsider your understanding of the economy? economists have learned quite a few things since 1609…
As I responded on that post, I’m not sure what “parade of horribles” he is referring to; my point was simply that the short term gain of inflationary policy now is not worth risking the likely long term disadvantages and need not be taken as apocalyptic.
Furthermore, as a matter of fact, inflation rates do not appear to be at “historic lows” in 2012, especially given the short bout of deflation we experienced from March to October 2009. I’ll let readers make up their own minds on that point, however, since it really doesn’t affect my argument.
What is far more important to me is pseudo-Friedman’s comment that “economists have learned quite a few things since 1609.” The reference to 1609 is due to the fact that I was highlighting the work of Spanish scholastic Juan de Mariana’s analysis of the effects of inflationary policies in medieval Spain. Is pseudo-Friedman right? Is Mariana’s analysis invalid due to its antiquity? (more…)