Posts tagged with: acton institute

Few questions loom as large for parents and students these days as the question of how to afford a college education. College costs have been rising for decades, and all too often, students rely heavily on student loans and graduate with significant debt loads that they spend years paying off.

Alex Chediak, professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University, has tackled this question and provided parents and students with an invaluable guide in his book Beating the College Debt Trap, and on November 21st he joined us at the Acton Institute’s Mark Murray Auditorium to share his insights.

We’re pleased to share the video of his presentation below.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
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Makers FrontIn this week’s Acton Commentary I examine the foundations of what is today identified as the “preferential option for the poor” in writings that appeared 125 years ago, Pope Leo’s Rerum Novarum and Abraham Kuyper’s “The Social Question and the Christian Religion.” These two texts have appeared in an anniversary volume, Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought: Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper on the Social Question, now available from the Acton Book Shop.

In the introduction to that volume, I touch on important themes that arise from these foundational texts, such as subsidiarity, solidarity, sphere sovereignty, stewardship, and property. In today’s essay, “The Christian Preference for the Poor,” I examine another theme that runs throughout both texts: the overt concern for the marginalized that is required within the context of any social order.

As Leo and Kuyper both observe, the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful can fare well under any regime. They can help to shape or reform laws and policies in their favor. But the poor and the marginalized have little influence and are least able to draw on their own reserves, whether capital or otherwise, in times of need.
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In a new article at The Christian Science Monitor titled “Can ‘economic nationalism’ keep more jobs in US?” Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg is interviewed about President-elect Donald Trump’s stated goal of keeping jobs and businesses from leaving for foreign countries. In the analysis piece by reporter Patrik Jonsson, he cites Gregg as a critic of protectionism:

In short, the United States cannot step back from the world without losing out, critics say.

Trump’s plans are in the short-term “likely to have some benefits for some local communities, but in the long term no amount of protectionism is going to stop you from losing your competitive edge,” says Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. “At the moment, the pendulum has shifted toward fixing an immediate problem … but those programs will all have to be wound back precisely because they’ll cause inefficiencies.”

Acton Institute Director of Research - Samuel Gregg

Acton Institute Director of Research – Samuel Gregg

This is not a surprising position for Gregg.  He has been a consistent advocate for free trade and whenever possible has opposed the ideas of protectionism and crony capitalism.

The author closes out his article by quoting Trump’s adviser Stephen Moore, who says this: “Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country – but it will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites.”  While this is an appealing statement, it comes across in a way that portrays Trump’s economic populist ideas as willing to accept the harmful long-term effects for the short-term benefits.

You can read the full article at The Christian Science Monitor here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
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Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who is president of the Ruth Institute as well as a senior fellow in economics here at the Acton Institute, debated Peter Jaworski, a co-author of the recent book, Markets without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests, at an event hosted by the Austin Institute.

Check out this engaging discussion about not only questions of the morality and legality of things like prostitution and kidney transplants, but the picture of the human person on offer from differing philosophical and economic programs.

I also reviewed Markets without Limits for Books & Culture, “Markets & Moral Myopia.”

Today at Mere Orthodoxy, I argue that

the duty of the Christian statesman (or stateswoman) to the poor requires defending human rights, supplying urgent needs, reducing barriers to market entry, and guaranteeing access to the institutions of justice, seeking realistic, gradual reform as possible and prudent.

Of particular interest to readers of the PowerBlog, I dedicate substantial space to explaining and advocating for free markets:

Jobs are what the poor need, and jobs are created by businesses. People settle for bad jobs only when good ones aren’t available. Thus, eliminating barriers to market entry ought to be of primary concern to the Christian statesman, combatting the unjust inequality created by closed markets. Barriers to entry include onerous occupational licensing and patent laws, high corporate taxes, zoning laws, overregulation, and subsidies. These things close markets to new competitors because, even though it might seem against their interest (except for subsidies), large, established firms are more likely to benefit from them and lobby for them (which is called rent seeking)….

In free markets, properly understood, these barriers are kept to a minimum, increasing competition and wealth creation. The more businesses there are looking for workers, the more demand there is for labor. Thus, not only will there be more jobs, but wages will be higher as well. It should be no surprise that the decline in American entrepreneurship has coincided with wage stagnation. Beyond wages, an additional benefit of increased competition is that it also drives down the price of consumer goods, thus lowering the cost of living for everyone as well. Free markets help the poor—and everyone else—in terms of production (labor), distribution (wages), and consumption (lower cost of living).

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On October 27, 2016, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico addressed the audience at the Acton Institute’s 26th Anniversary Dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his remarks, he reflected on the state of American politics and culture, the societal crisis we find ourselves in, and proposed a way forward based on a vision of a free and virtuous society.

You can view his entire address below.

Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought Cover Front DraftThe contrast between the treatments by David Bentley Hart and Dylan Pahman of the question of the intrinsic evil of “great personal wealth” this week pretty well established, I think, that in itself wealth is among the things neither forbidden nor absolutely required. In fact, as Pahman puts it at one point, perhaps “Christians should strive to have wealth from which to provide for others.”

But all this is to merely show that wealth isn’t absolutely forbidden. From this it does not follow that we can merely do whatever we want or simply seek to gain as much as we can. Riches do remain a temptation, however, and a powerful one at that.

In this week’s Acton Commentary, the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper expounds in some detail the power of money to corrupt us and turn us away from God. The temptation is unavoidable because of the way in which money can mimic God. As Kuyper puts it, “In money, there rules a power that closely approaches God’s omnipotence, at least insofar as the satisfaction of the needs and wants of one’s outer life is concerned.”

These warnings from Kuyper about the abuse of money and its power to enthrall us come from one of his later works, the first volume of Pro Rege, part of a three-volume series that focuses on restoring the Christian understanding of the lordship of Christ and its implications for all of life (these volumes are also part of the larger Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology).

One of Kuyper’s other works dealing with wealth, poverty, and economics is his earlier speech at the opening of the 1891 Christian Social Congress in Amsterdam. And earlier that same year Pope Leo XIII had promulgated the encyclical letter Rerum Novarum. Together these two texts usher in an era of modern Christian social thought and they sound very similar notes on the challenge represented by “the social question,” or the relationship between labor and capital.
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