Archived Posts March 2013 - Page 5 of 16 | Acton PowerBlog

Tyler Cowen has an interesting column in last Sunday’s New York Times, arguing that despite run-of-the-mill objections to “cold” and “heartless” economic analysis, economics is, as a science, “egalitarian at its core”:

Economic analysis is itself value-free, but in practice it encourages a cosmopolitan interest in natural equality. Many economic models, of course, assume that all individuals are motivated by rational self-interest or some variant thereof; even the so-called behavioral theories tweak only the fringes of a basically common, rational understanding of people. The crucial implication is this: If you treat all individuals as fundamentally the same in your theoretical constructs, it would be odd to insist that the law should suddenly start treating them differently.

James Poulos offers an healthy response, reminding us that “no matter how solid the economic foundation for moral egalitarianism, there’s a thing or two of great moral significance that’s missing.”

Indeed, in attempting to avoid the cliché of cold-heartedness, Cowen risks perpetuating a different one: that economists ignore the mystery and spiritual significance of humanity and human behavior. The instilling of egalitarian sensibilities when it comes to seeing people as people is one thing, but part of this reorientation needs to include a recognition of the features that make each us different. Leveling things is helpful when the earth is rocky, but the bigger problem for the modern economist seems to be his propensity to create craters in the pretty green grass. (more…)

According to a new study by the Urban Institute, “when it comes to saving, owning a home, paring down debt, and growing a retirement nest egg, those under age 40 have stagnated as their parents’ generation accumulated.” Average household net worth, even after the ripples of “the Great Recession,” nearly doubled from 1983 to 2010, but not for those born after GenXers or Millennials (those born after 1970). In fact, the average inflation-adjusted wealth in 2010 for young adults was 7 percent below similarly aged individuals in 1983.

The report, titled “Lost Generations? Wealth Building among Young Americans,” tells this story:
(more…)

Over at the Hang Together blog, Greg Forster takes a long look at the images of the gospel as “pearl” and “leaven” and the implications for Christian engagement and creation of culture, particularly within the context of the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate:

The main difficulty we seem to have in discussing Christian cultural activity is the strain between two anxieties. These anxieties create unnecessary divisions between brothers, because those who are more worried about making sure the gospel is leaven view those who are more worried about making sure the gospel is pearl as people who are leading the church astray, and vice versa. We treat people as opponents when we could be treating them as allies, if we could just get over our fears.

The question of what it means to be a Christian line worker on a factory floor gets precisely at many of the thorny issues that have led to so many debates, disputes, and controversies over cultural engagement (or transformation), the “two kingdoms,” natural law, and faith and work.

Teachings of Jesus 11 of 40. parable of the pearl of great price. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer Bible (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, March 22, 2013
By

What Principles Are Important for Human Flourishing?
Jay W. Richards, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

Restoring the culture to the glory of God: it’s the reason we at IFWE are working to inspire Christians to live out a theology that integrates faith, work, and economics. If Christians do this, together we can bring about human flourishing.

The Material and Moral: What Marxism Misconstrues
Nicholas Freiling, Values & Capitalism

In short, Marx believed material deprivation is the source of social, political and intellectual conflict. Instead of viewing a strong moral consciousness as the source of economic prosperity, he blamed the lack of prosperity for moral decline.

Property from the Inside
Adam J. MacLeod, Public Disourse

While the state has a role to play in promoting the common good, left unchecked by constitutional strictures the regulatory state will crowd private property out of public life. Without private property, our nation would be impoverished not only materially but also morally.

Homeschooling and the Attack on Religious Freedom
Nathan Oppman, FRC Blog

This is not merely a question of the freedom to homeschool but a question of who determines what children are taught. In other words it is a question of religious freedom.

John Mackey, the well-known CEO of Whole Foods, sat down for an interview with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie this week and I found a few quotes from their exchange particularly interesting. You can watch the full interview here: John Mackey Video

When asked what the original “higher purposes” of his business were when Whole Foods began, Mackey responded:

“Sell healthy food to people. Make a living for ourselves. Have fun. But our purposes have evolved over time…I would say one of our higher purposes now is to heal America.”

Mr. Mackey writes all about such things in his recently-released Conscious Capitalism. Citing familiar statistics regarding the millions of Americans who are overweight and suffering from diseases that “correlate directly with diet and lifestyle choices,” he feels that his chain of high-end groceries are a very real contribution to the betterment of the nation.

I applaud much of what Mackey says publicly when it comes to free enterprise and the moral case for capitalism (more on that in a minute), but the idea that ultra-expensive, cage-free items – in a store that is primarily frequented by already-healthy (and wealthy) patrons – will “heal America” is a bit over-the-top. (more…)

In 1989, Erol Ricketts, a researcher with the Rockefeller Foundation, found that between 1890 and 1950, blacks had higher marriage rates than whites, according to the U.S. Census. The report, titled “The Origin of Black Female-Headed Families,” published in the Spring/Summer issue of Focus(32-37), provides an overview that highlights an important question.

Ricketts observes that between 1960 and 1985, female-headed families grew from 20.6 to 43.7 percent of all black families, compared to growth from 8.4 to 12 percent for white families. The rates of marriage for both black and white women were lowest at the end of the 1800s and peaked in 1950 for blacks and 1960 for whites. Furthermore, according to Ricketts, “it is dramatically clear that black females married at higher rates than white females of native parentage until 1950.” National data covering “decennial years from 1890 to 1920 show that blacks out-married whites despite a consistent shortage of black males due to their higher rates of mortality. And in three of the four decennial years there was a higher proportion of currently married black men than white men.”

According to Ricketts, this data helps us to see that the Moynihan Report was wrong to intimate that slavery made marriage worse among blacks. In fact, the “legacy of slavery,” according to the data, does not explain the obliteration of marriage that we’ve seen in the black community over the past 30 years. It is clear from the data, observes Ricketts, that 1950 is a watershed year for black families as black female-headed families grow rapidly in concert with blacks becoming more urbanized than whites. Between 1930 and 1950 the rates of black female-headed families, regardless of geographical environment, are parallel to the corresponding rates for whites.
(more…)

Rep. Paul Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan

Last week’s spike in gasoline prices hasn’t slowed Nuns on the Bus a whit. The nuns and Network, their parent organization, are squeezing every drop of mileage out of their new-found fame, which has more to do with supporting liberal causes than reflecting church principles of caring for the poor and limiting government’s role in the private sector.

Over the weekend, the CBS program 60 Minutes had a sympathetic overview of the supposed Vatican crackdown of the sisters’ activities – censorship! Inquisition! – that was presented fast on the heels of the group’s March 13 press release registering its displeasure with Rep. Paul Ryan’s FY14 budget proposal.

The CBS profile failed to cover the nuns’ weighing in on such topics as averting climate change and the Affordable Care Act via proxy shareholder resolutions while focusing on social topics regarding the ordination of female priests and same-sex marriages. While sensitive to the very real works of compassion performed by the nuns, the network depicted the Vatican as hard-hearted and unyielding in its enforcement of church doctrine. (more…)

The morticians wanted the monks shut down—or even thrown in jail—for the crime the Benedictines were committing.

Casket-making MonksUntil 2005, the monks of St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, Louisiana had relied on harvesting timber for income. But when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their pine forest they had to find new sources of revenue to fund the 124-year-old abbey. For over 100 years, the monks had been making simple, handcrafted, monastic caskets so they decided to try to sell them to the public.

According to the Wall Street Journal, after a local Catholic newspaper publicized the effort in 2007, local funeral directors got the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors—of which eight of the nine members are funeral industry professionals—to serve the abbey with a cease-and-desist order. Louisiana law makes it a crime for anyone but a licensed parlor to sell “funeral merchandise.” Violating the statute could land the monks in jail for up to 180 days.

Since the sole purpose of the “casket cartel” law is to protect the economic interest of the funeral industry, the Institute for Justice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the monastery claiming the legislation restricts “the right to earn an honest living just to enrich government-licensed funeral directors.”

Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous final decision in favor of the casket-making monk, setting up what could become a historic clash at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals rejected Louisiana’s argument that it was constitutional to enact a law forbidding anyone but a government-licensed funeral director from selling caskets, especially if the only purpose of the law is to make funeral directors wealthier by limiting competition. In other words, the Court didn’t buy the State’s argument that crony capitalism is constitutionally protected.

Unfortunately, this latest ruling doesn’t solve the issue. As the Institute for Justice explains,
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, March 21, 2013
By

Food Stamps Participation Hit Record Highs in 2012
Ashley Shelton, The Foundry

Citing the latest statistics released by the Department of Agriculture, the Weekly Standard reported food stamp participation was at an average of 46,609,072 people every month of 2012.

The Selfishness of Virtue
Jim Goad, Taki’s Magazine

So for all their grandstanding about fighting “the wealthy” and “the powerful,” the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the owners and writers of The Nation are inextricably entangled with power and wealth.

On Economists and Marriage
J. Daniel Hammond, Public Discourse

While there is something noble in economists’ assumption that social life is based on mutually beneficial exchange, rather than coercion and plunder, this fails to account for what philosophy, theology, and literature reveal to us about the true substance of marriage.

In Reality, Debt Matters. It Matters a Lot
David Harsanyi, Reason

No worries, America. Debt is a preoccupation of the fringe, a mere distraction for anyone interested in progress. And anyway, as President Barack Obama explained this week, “we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s going to be in a sustainable place.”

The Montreal Economic Institute produces a “Free Market Series” of videos interviewing experts such as Michael Fairbanks and Steve Forbes. This video highlights the Rev. Robert Sirico discussing the role of free markets in economics, and the false sense of utopia offered by other economic systems.

“People are beginning to understand that we can’t create a utopia just by wishing it into existence, that we can’t abolish the right to private property, that if we do we create economic disaster.”