The 3 laws of social programs
Charles Murry, AEI Ideas
[An opportunity to recall the three laws of social programs in Losing Ground, because the backfires are not idiosyncratic. They occur everywhere and always for inherent reasons.
What’s the Most Important Economic Lesson Americans Need to Learn?
R.C. Sproul Jr., Ligonier Ministries
There are any number of appropriate ways to answer this question. I have for years now affirmed that the most foundational economic truth is that God owns everything.
Moynihan’s Family Arc
Hunter Baker, Touchstone
The missing element in a government jobs strategy.
Has America Lost the Protestant Work Ethic?
Timothy Dalrymple, Philosophical Fragments
Is the Protestant Work Ethic gone from the United States? . . . Or if you want to take up the second question: What accounts for the Asian American explosion in college fellowships?
Anthony Esolen, in an on-going series in Crisis Magazine, ponders Catholic Social Teaching, as presented by Pope Leo XIII. Esolen says that Pope Leo’s rich view of humanity arms us today in not only promoting the free market, but in combating the meager thoughts proposed by socialism and liberalism.
How does Leo XIII do this? By truly understanding the human person.
Human beings are embodied rational souls, and everything they touch they mark with the fire of their spirit, the gift of God. That is the ground of their right to property. But they are not solitary atoms either, rebounding against one another in a chaotic war of all against all. For the human soul is made for love, and can only attain its end by communion with other souls. Therefore, long before we meet the State, we find human beings fashioning not artificial but real bodies in turn: families and clans and villages. It is absolutely crucial to understand this.
Catholic Social Teaching affirms the reality of the bodies that human beings form; they are not notional, but real and living, and they imply real rights and duties among the members, who are themselves not mere parts, but whole persons. [emphasis original]
As we reap the benefits of market exchange and observe the many achievements of free trade and globalization, it’s easy to give credit to the market itself, either ignoring or forgetting the supporting individuals, communities, and institutions who actively leveraged it for the common good.
Capitalism is, after all, a mere framework for human engagement. Although the constraints it imposes (“thou shalt not steal”) and the features it elevates (ownership, stewardship, risk, and sacrifice) may fit well within a broader Christian context, it says more about what we can and can’t do than what we might or might not imagine or accomplish.
As Michael Bull recently explained, through capitalism’s continuous process of value creation, it is in many ways similar to a “biblical covenant structure”:
Good businessmen understand how it works. It invariably necessitates the risk and sacrifice of what we now possess for a greater reward. Steve Jobs told us that, and demonstrated it again and again. It takes money to make money. This requires faith in the one who made the promise, even though business people do not recognize the source of the abundance is the hand of God.
Yet, of course, it is different:
God calls Man to work, which involves risk (faith), a sacrifice and some obedience to laws (which include natural and business laws), which will bring fulfillment of the promise — a greater abundance than what you sacrificed. That is where capitalism ends, but it is not where Covenant ends, and here is the problem for which socialism is tendered as a solution. (more…)
Poverty, development, and stewardship tend to be topics both of discussion and personal reflection as we are reminded to count our blessings around this time of year. If similar ideas have been on your mind, you may be interested in Globalization, Poverty, and Development, an AU Online lecture series that explores the theme of human flourishing and its relation to poverty, globalization, and the Church in the developed world. Join Mr. Brett Elder, a director at Acton Institute and creator of the NIV Stewardship Study Bible and Dr. Victor Claar, a professor of economics at Henderson State University, for online sessions scheduled for Tuesday, December 11 and Thursday, December 13 at 6:30 pm EST.
Everyone who registers for the Globalization, Poverty, and Development series (or subscribes for an All Access Membership) has access to the recordings and resources shared on the course page. This means you can still register for the course even if you won’t be able to join us for the live sessions. Visit auonline.acton.org for more information and to register.
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to wealth creation in the developing world is corruption. Bribery, rigging of the political process, theft, lack of accountability: all of these lead to instability, bureaucracy, and a lack of incentive to invest. The United Nations has declared today International Anti-Corruption Day in an effort to bring light to this topic and work to prevent it.
George Ayittey, Ghanaian economist, explains how massive a problem corruption is for Africa:
Imagine, Africa has a begging bowl and that into this begging bowl comes… foreign aid. But this bowl has holes in it, so it leaks. There’s a massive hole here through which corruption alone cost Africa $148 billion dollars. That’s a massive leak. What should be done first – plugging the leaks or putting more aid money in? Now this is something which even an elementary school student should be able to answer. I mean, you pouring more and more and more into the bowl and then it leaks. Defining insanity: as doing the same thing over and over and over and again and expecting different results—makes no sense.
Osvaldo Schenone and Samuel Gregg share their thoughts on corruption and its scourge in the Acton Institute monograph A Theory of Corruption. The monograph explores the political and international ramifications of corruption, but also its moral implications. (more…)
Frank Capra and Ayn Rand are two names not often mentioned together. Yet the cheery director of Capra-corn and the dour novelist who created Objectivism have more in common than you might imagine. Both were immigrants who made their names in Hollywood. Both were screenwriters and employees of the film studio RKO Pictures. And during the last half of the 1940s, both created works of enduring cult appeal, Capra with his film It’s a Wonderful Life and Rand with her novel The Fountainhead.
The pair also created two of the most memorable characters in modern pop culture: Howard Roark and George Bailey. To anyone familiar with both works, it would seem the two characters could not be more different. Unexpected similarities emerge, however, when one considers that Roark and Bailey are variations on a common archetype that has captured the American imagination for decades.
Howard Roark, the protagonist of Rand’s book, is an idealistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision by conforming to the needs and demands of the community. In contrast, George Bailey, the hero of Capra’s film, is an idealistic young would-be architect who struggles in obscurity because he has chosen to conform to the needs and demands of the community rather than fulfill his artistic and personal vision. Howard Roark is essentially what George Bailey might have become had he left for college rather than stayed in his hometown of Bedford Falls.
Navigating the Christmas Consumer Conundrum
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics
Gallup Economy reported in a recent article that the average U.S. consumer will spend at least $770 on Christmas gifts this year. Even kids seem to be affected by consumerist impulses.
The Republican Party, Copyright Law and Free Markets
Chris Hartline, Values & Capitalism
Copyright and patents are very important to a free-market system; they protect new ideas and give greater incentive to innovators. But in our new technological age, excessive copyright and patent protection simultaneously stifles the very innovation it was meant to protect.
Justice, Politics and the Cross
Peter Wehner, Patheos
The International Justice Mission reminds us that the priorities of the Kingdom are broad and not encompassed by any political party.
Orthodoxy… with a Rebel yell!
Josephus Flavius, Byzantine, Texas
The Orthodox in Dixie.
At some point everyone has heard an idea being discussed in Washington, D.C. and thought or said, “That’s insane.” Americans generally recognize there is, more often than not, something not quite right about inside-the-Beltway thinking. But to those who have never lived or worked in the D.C. area, let me tell you: You don’t know the half of it.
Think of your craziest uncle, the one who when you visit for Thanksgiving has some pet theory about how to fix the economy. Now imagine that intelligent, highly educated people heard your crazy uncle’s idea and took it seriously. Now also try to imagine that the idea was taken seriously enough that it was being discussed in the business section of a major newspaper’s website. That is the culture that is D.C.