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Posts tagged with: adam smith


Profile of Adam Smith, 18th century

In a new piece written for Public Discourse, Research Director for Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, revisited crucial points made by Adam Smith in his classic Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations which argued for an embrace of international trade. Unfortunately, many of Smith’s ideas have today been cast aside for a stronger cry of economic nationalism. Gregg combats some misconceptions of free, global trade by revealing the dangerous results which would occur if nations chose to only implement ‘neo-mercantilism’ in the name of national interest.

Gregg organizes Smith’s insights into three categories, first addressing how Smith proved that a country’s economy “flowed from the development and extension of the division of labor within and between nations…the wider and deeper the size of the market, the greater the division of labor and the subsequent gains in productivity and growth.” Smith’s understanding of the benefits of international trade has been undermined however by ideas encroaching on rights to property and on labor. In the wake of growing restrictions, “a retreat from free trade would not only worsen this situation. It would also raise the price of a good number of foreign-made products and services, thereby putting many such goods beyond the reach of lower-income Americans.” (more…)

School of Athens by Raphael

School of Athens by Raphael

In considering issues of political economy today, it is always prudent to refer to wisdom from the past.  The American Enterprise Institute’s recent publication “Economic Freedom and Human Flourishing: Perspectives from Political Philosophy” is a collection of essays that analyzes the thought of several prominent philosophers on the connection between the title’s two subjects. Many of the quotes below, pulled from six of the nine essays, challenge foundational aspects of classical liberalism and the value of the free market. As Yuval Levin comments at the end of his essay on Edmund Burke, markets can enable human flourishing, but they do not do so perfectly, “And it is precisely the friends of markets who should be most willing to acknowledge that, and to seek for ways to address it…for the sake of liberty and human flourishing.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, June 30, 2016

all-in-bastiat“It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me,
what do they teach them at these schools!”
– Digory Kirke in C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle

The way Professor Kirk feels about Plato is how I feel about Frederick Bastiat. Whenever I hear someone repeating an economic fallacy online I have a tendency to cry out, “It’s all in Bastiat, all in Bastiat: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!”

Unfortunately, Bastiat, whose 215th birthday is today, is not often taught in schools, whether in high school or college. That’s a shame for he was one of the greatest political and economic thinkers of the 19th century. Bastiat, a farmer turned politician and pamphleteer, had a inimitable gift for explaining economic and political concepts in way that make them not only understandable but seem downright commonsensical.

Bastiat, as Charles Kaupke notes, drew on his Catholic faith and the writings of Adam Smith and John Locke to articulate a vision of limited, efficient government that respects each citizen’s God-given dignity. And as Religion and Liberty adds,

He typified that rare breed of liberal who holds a deep and powerful belief in a personal and transcendent God, and who incorporates this belief in a wide ranging social philosophy centering on the proposition that when left alone society will most clearly display the wisdom and intent of the Creator.

A particular concept of Bastiat’s that has profoundly influenced my thinking is the idea that God arranged the social world. “I believe that He Who arranged the material world,” wrote Bastiat, “was not to remain foreign to the arrangements of the social world.” I wholeheartedly agree. That is why I never tire of arguing about how God created such economic phenomena as the price system and comparative advantage in order to coordinate human flourishing.

There are dozens of ideas in his writings like this one that are worthy of close attention, but here are four particularly important concepts of Bastiat’s that you should know:

A simple example of hamburgers being made at home versus at a restaurant can help illuminate the explosion of prosperity since the Industrial Revolution, says Don Boudreaux in this Marginal Revolution University video.

The story of the division of labor and development of specialized tools is an old story (Adam Smith introduced the concept in his Wealth of Nations), but it still has tremendous explanatory power about how prosperity is created.

Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg was a guest on Thursday’s edition of Kresta in the Afternoon on the Ave Maria Radio Network; his conversation with host Al Kresta touched on Europe’s current struggles with Islamic terrorism, with a focus on this week’s attacks in Brussels, Belgium, and then shifted to a preview of Sam’s upcoming Acton Lecture Series address on Pope Francis, Poverty, and the Economy. If you’d like to attend that lecture here at the Acton Building on March 30, click here to register.

You can listen to the full interview via the audio player below.

Working For Our Neighbor“If you are a manual laborer, you find that the Bible has been put into your workshop, into your hand, into your heart. It teaches and preaches how you should treat your neighbor.” –Martin Luther

Christian’s Library Press has now released Working for Our Neighbor, Gene Veith’s Lutheran primer on vocation, economics, and ordinary life. The book joins Acton’s growing series of tradition-specific, faith-work primers, which also includes Baptist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, and Reformed perspectives.

Veith, who describes Martin Luther as “the great theologian of vocation,” believes Luther’s approach is distinct in approaching vocation as a manifestation of “the spiritual and the physical, transcendence and incarnation, ascent and descent, faith and love, love of God and love of neighbor.” Luther’s theology “shows the interconnections of faith, work, and economics not just theoretically, but practically,” Veith writes, “and discloses how the ordinary, seemingly secular activities of everyday life are essential dimensions of Christian spirituality.”

Beginning with a hearty critique of Max Weber’s classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Veith argues that the Reformation’s influence on capitalism has long been mischaracterized and misunderstood. Although Weber properly identified a variety of psychological and cultural factors, his analysis of the theological and spiritual connections fell remarkably short. (more…)

The Poverty of NationsTheologian Wayne Grudem has teamed up with economist Barry Asmus to write a book on poverty entitled The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution. On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we explore the fundamentals of growth and human flourishing, and how Christians should understand economics and aid. You can listen via the audio player below.