“We talk about what caused the financial crisis, whether ‘greed is good,’ and if ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ It’s John J. Miller describing his podcast interview with Jay Richards here at NRO. They discuss Jay’s excellent new book, Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem.
It’s the time of year when the experts among us proffer gift lists, a subset of which is book lists. I’ll spare you my own book list, per se, but it has been a while since I used this space to note some new titles of interest at the intersection of faith and economics. Here then, some noteworthy books (whether they are appropriate for those with whom you exchange Christmas presents, I leave to you):
Are Economists Basically Immoral? A collection of essays by Paul Heyne, published posthumously.
Rethinking Rights, edited by Bruce Frohnen and Kenneth Grasso. Another important entry in the ongoing critique of a liberalism that grounds rights too insecurely in the benevolence of the contemporary state.
Handbook of Economics and Ethics. The latest in Elgar’s series of reference works on key issues in economics.
The Wisdom of Generosity: A Reader in American Philanthropy. The vigor of charitable work in the United States has been often remarked. Here William Jackson gathers excerpts from a wide variety of sources to furnish a sense of the character and motivation of American giving.
Rethinking Business Management, edited by Acton’s Sam Gregg, with James R. Stoner, Jr. The proceedings from a Witherspoon Institute Conference on the subject, bringing together philosophers, economists, and theologians in a timely examination of the need for business education reform.
In the July 24 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano , a couple of articles related how Italians are reading less than their European counterparts, with 62 percent of the population failing to read even a single book during the year. “Above all, reading increases innovative capabilities, the ability to understand phenomena and in the ultimate analysis, worker productivity,” said Federico Motta, president of the Italian association of publishers.
According to Motta’s article, only 31 percent of Italian 20-29 year-olds have a university degree, compared to 34 percent in Spain and 56 percent in the United Kingdom. This pattern mirrors the levels of unemployment among the young: 20.3 percent in Italy, 18 percent in Spain and 14 percent in the UK. By affecting educational levels and worker productivity, this lack of reading also results in less social mobility and opportunities for growth.
In human capital terms alone, the cost is evident, but there are even greater cultural ones. With the growth of television, cell phones, video games, the Internet, and iPods, it is no surprise that young Italians are not developing a taste for books, i.e., the ability to read, understand, and learn from greats such as Dante, Leopardi, and Manzoni.
And we can’t forget about the Book of Books. Can there be any hope for regaining the Christian roots of Europe without understanding the Bible? Here, at least, there is some reason for hope. The Italian Bishops Conference and in particular its National Catechism Office have promoted various initiatives that have successfully brought the Word of God to young people. Many Bible-study groups are also promoted by lay movements and parishes. This coming October, Pope Benedict XVI will launch a six-day reading of the entire Bible on Italian television, as the Vatican journalist John Allen has reported.
It will be interesting to see how the country reacts to such a public reminder of this lost treasure. Taking books seriously again will benefit Italy not only in terms of its economic productivity, but may also help rekindle its faith.
Today’s post will look at the Hendrickson Publishers Academic Catalog 2008 and the Brill Biblical Studies & Religious Studies 2007 catalog (series index):
Titles from Hendrickson:
- Marty E. Stevens, Temples, Tithes, and Taxes: The Temple and the Economic Life of Ancient Israel (2006).
- Ritva H. Williams, Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church (2006).
Titles from Brill:
- Javaid Rehman and Susan C. Breau, eds., Religion, Human Rights and International Law: A Critical Examination of Islamic State Practices (June 2007).
- Roland Boer, Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology (June 2007).
- Gerrie ter Haar and Yoshio Tsuruoka, eds., Religion and Society: An Agenda for the 21st Century (September 2007).
- Giuseppe Giordan, ed., Vocation and Social Context (July 2007).
Today’s post will look at the Georgetown University Press Religion & Ethics catalog and the Westminster John Knox Academic Update (series index):
Titles from Georgetown University Press:
- Matthew S. Holland, Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America–Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln (November 2007).
- Sheila Suess Kennedy and Wolfgang Beilefeld, Charitable Choice at Work: Evaluating Faith-Based Job Programs in the States (2006).
- Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper, Faith, Hope, and Jobs: Welfare-to-Work in Los Angeles (2006).
Titles from Westminster John Knox:
- David H. Jensen, Responsive Labor: A Theology of Work (2006).
- Edward Dommen and James D. Bratt, eds., John Calvin Rediscovered: The Impact of His Social and Economic Thought (November 2007).
- Scott H. Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (2004).
Today’s post will look at the Boydell & Brewer Early Modern & Modern History catalog and the de Gruyter Religious Studies/Jewish Studies/Theology catalog (series index):
Titles from Boydell & Brewer:
- Thomas S. Freeman & Thomas F. Mayer, eds., Martyrs and Martyrdom in England, c. 1400-1700 (April 2007)
- David M. D’Andrea, Civic Christianity in Renaissance Italy: The Hospital of Treviso, 1400-1530 (March 2007).
- Elizabeth T. Hurren, Protesting about Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, 1870-1900 (September 2007).
Titles from de Grutyer:
- Christoph A. Stumpf, The Grotian Theology of International Law: Hugo Grotius and the Moral Foundations of International Relations (2006).
- Stephen Lake, The Church and the Sick in the Latin West (4th-8th Centuries) (Fall 2007).
- Florian Mühlegger, Hugo Grotius: Ein christlicher Humanist in politischer Verantwortung [Hugo Grotius: A Christian Humanist and His Political Responsibility] (Summer 2007).
- Gene W. Heck, Charlemagne, Muhammad, and the Arab Roots of Capitalism (2006).
I’ve had a number of new book catalogs cross my desk over the last few months. Given the gift-giving season that is upon us, I thought I’d highlight some of the more interesting items from the various publishers. If you share my varied and rather eclectic interests, ranging from scholarly to popular works on a number of subjects, you might find something here you could add to your own Christmas list (although some items are forthcoming for 2008).
Today’s post will look at the Ashgate Reformation Studies catalog and the Crossway Academic & Pastoral Resources catalog:
Titles from Ashgate:
- Mack Holt, ed., Adaptations of Calvinism in Reformation Europe: Essays in Honour of Brian G. Armstrong (December 2007).
- Irena Backus, Life Writing in Reformation Europe: Lives of Reformers by Friends, Disciples and Foes (November 2008).
- John Schofield, Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation (June 2006).
- Paul F. Grendler, Renaissance Education Between Religion and Politics (April 2006).
Titles from Crossway:
- Steve Monsma, Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy (February 2008).
- Samuel T. Logan Jr., ed., Confronting Global Challenges: A Call to Global Christians to Carry the Burden Together (August 2007).
Acton University is now well underway, and on Wednesday a group of seven African attendees joined Kris Mauren on a visit to Gordon Food Service’s Grand Rapids headquarters for an up-close look at ethical capitalism. Mauren called it a great opportunity for people from countries with barren and corrupt markets to see an efficient, principled business for themselves. “The management of GFS also has a strong concern for philanthropy and international missions,” he said. “So it’s a great model of the capitalist ideal to hold up for these folks, who are used to a much more hostile economic climate.”
The group met with Gordon Food Service management for a luncheon, then toured the company’s office and factory area. Harry Ayile, formerly from Ghana and now residing in Norway, was completely blown away by what he observed. “It was like … wow,” Ayile commented with a smile. He was struck by the dedication shown by the company’s workers. “At every level, the workers are extremely well-organized, focused, and committed to doing their jobs excellently,” he said.
Ayile was astonished at how the “energetic” GFS employees took pains to avoid mistakes in the orders they were filling. “The business has a good system of checks and balances, and most of the employees have been there for fifteen years or more,” he said. “They take true satisfaction in their work.”
Comparing Gordon Food Service’s methods to the way business is done in Africa and even in Europe, Ayile said his visit couldn’t have been more of an eye-opener. “Before I came to Acton, I thought all people who did business were evil,” he said.
Ayile recalled one food-production company in Ghana that deliberately had been selling expired grain infested with maggots. “They would just sift out the maggots, package the grain, and sell it at full price,” he said. “Finally one employee caught on to what was happening and was able to produce evidence and pictures, but it went on for awhile.” Ayile called the incident typical of business practices in much of Africa, which lacks the institutional support necessary for free enterprise to flourish. When the rule of law is unreliable, incentives for greedy and corrupt behavior often outweigh the benefits of integrity. He added that many businesses “show very little respect for the consumer, as opposed to the way American businesses like Gordon Food Service care about their customers.”
Ayile and others from the group — which included visitors from the Congo, Kenya, and other African countries — all said they were very impressed with the way GFS invested in its employees and how these employees, in turn, were invested in the success of the company. Although Africa has a long way to go, Ayile said his visit was inspiring and gave him hope for the future of Ghana and other developing countries in Africa.
A few books that have recently crossed my Journal of Markets & Morality reviews editor desk, and that may be of interest to PowerBlog readers:
Anarchy and the Law: The Political Economy of Choice, edited by Edward P. Stringham. A reader of classic and other essays from a libertarian perspective—authors include Murray Rothbard, David Friedman, Hans Hoppe, Lysander Spooner, and Robert Nozick.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Utility: Happiness in Philosophical and Economic Thought, by Anthony Kenny and Charles Kenny. Another installment in the expanding (and welcome) effort to examine more closely the concepts of utility and happiness and how they are used in economics.
Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution, by Michael D. Tanner. The title is self-explanatory.
The Inner Vision: Liberty and Literature, edited by Edward B. McLean. A collection of essays analyzing the concepts of freedom present in great Western literature. Authors such as Marion Montgomery and Catherine Zuckert treat authors such as Dostoevsky and Mark Twain.
I’ve noted the recent rash of books roughly on the theme of the danger of theocracy. As though in (indirect) response, several books celebrating Christianity’s impact on Western civilization (and democracy) have appeared. There was Thomas Woods’ How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Then there was Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason, about which others have commented in this venue. Now there is Robert Royal’s The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West.