Posts tagged with: Business/Finance

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Jeffrey Tucker lectures at Acton University.

The industrial revolution did not begin in the eighteenth century, but was a gradual process of development comprised of the individual actions of thousands of innovators across time. The dramatic changes in the world have come about partially due to the technological growth, some of which developed out of this revolution of industry. It is not the result of a few “great, singular men”, but of many interconnected individual innovations. Jeffrey Tucker, Director of Content at FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) painted a vivid picture of the role of technology and ideas in shaping the world we live in today in an Acton University lecture titled “Technology and Markets: Medieval Times to Modernity.” He emphasized the importance of the medieval era for technological growth and formation, particularly the gradual emergence of the social norm of respecting the property rights of others.

Despite the importance of property rights, Tucker argues that ideas should not be thought of as property. (more…)

During her evening plenary presentation, Magatte Wade asked the audience to raise their hand if they cared about poverty alleviation; hands went up all over the room. She followed up by asking how many in the room had checked the doing business index recently; far fewer hands went up.

It’s easy to forget that the most powerful poverty alleviation tool is a job, and that jobs are more plentiful in those parts of the world where it is easier to do business. Wade, entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Tiossan, used her time on the stage of Acton University to show the power of entrepreneurship to change perceptions and lift up the poor. You can view her presentation below.

19893712-mmmainAbout twenty years ago I made some terrible choices and found myself in a serious financial bind. The amount I needed wasn’t much — about $200 — but without it I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent. I took out a payday loan that cost me $30 every two weeks. It took about eight weeks to get clear of the loan, resulting in a cost of $120 to borrow $200 for two months.

Was I fooling myself thinking the loan could be paid in two week? Not at all. In fact, I knew quite well that there was likely no way possible for me to pay it off in that timeframe. I knew precisely how much money I was going to be able to earn and how much my expenses would be during that two-week period. I had, roughly speaking, about $40 a week that I could apply toward the loan.

But $40 was not sufficient to cover the balloon payment of $200 that was due at the end of two weeks. So I had to roll over the loan, applying $15 a week to the new fees and saving $25 a week to be paid toward the principal. That is why it took me eight weeks to pay off the original loan: $25 a week for principal + $15 a week for fees = $40 x 8 weeks = $320 ($200 for principal + $120 for fees.

If you’re middle class and think of it in terms of interest rate, that repayment cost sounds appalling usurious. And it is. But as the poor will tell you, man does not live on APR alone. Having to pay an extra $120 was cheaper than having to find a new place to live. Yes, it was a bad deal. But it was better than all my other choices. I didn’t agree to the loan because I was bad at a math; I did it because I was desperate. And the payday lending company was more than willing to take advantage of my desperation.

How then do we solve the problem of rollover fee that take advantage of the poor when they are in dire straits? As I’ve argued before, I believe a helpful first step is to get churches and other faith-based organizations involved in providing alternatives to commercial lending agencies. The Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, Alabama seems to be providing a wonderful example of how Christians can help.

This past Sunday the church announced it will pay off the payday loans of 48 people — a combined total of more than $41,000 on high interest rates of 36 percent or higher.

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cellphones-povertyFrom mass shootings to terrorist attacks, political incompetence to racial unrest, there has been no shortage of bad news stories in 2015. Death, destruction, and divisiveness tend to dominate the news cycle, leading us to despair over the direction our world is headed.

But our incessant focus on the negative can lead us to overlook or downplay the positive changes that are happening across the globe. That is especially true of the most important good news story of 2015, one few people have heard and fewer have grasped the significance.

The good news: For the first time in world history, less than 10 percent of the global population will be living in extreme poverty.
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Yes, there really is a headstone cartel, at least in New Jersey. The Monument Builders Association of New Jersey are the only ones who can sell, carve, deliver and install headstones.

One might think this is all right (after all, headstones aren’t that creative] but there is at least one church cemetery that would like the right to sell their own headstones to the patrons of their cemeteries. So the Archbishop of Newark took the headstone cartel to court. Liberty & Law explains the issue:

bail bondsYou may think that if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the concept of “bail” may be irrelevant. Well, maybe you forgot to pay your car insurance. Or maybe your license lapsed. You get pulled over because your tail light is out. It’s not a violent crime – a lapse in judgement, or a lack of money, perhaps.

And suddenly you need bail. $1000, the judge tells you, or you have to go to Rikers Island, New York’s main prison complex. You and 140,000 criminals. And someone like Robert Durst, accused of murder in Texas, is able to cough up a quarter million and walk away free.

America’s for-profit bail system is a $14 million a year industry, and the U.S. is one of only two countries that allows a for-profit system. According to a 2012 Justice Policy Institute report:

For-profit bail bonding costs taxpayers through increased jail and other justice expenses. In addition, it impacts people from low income communities – generally the loved ones of the accused person – who must pay nonrefundable fees for the bond regardless of case outcome and who, through contracts with the bondsmen, bear the real monetary risk of paying the full bail amount in the event of a court no-show.

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The religious shareholders of As You Sow and Calvert Investments are heralding last month’s shareholder vote on greenhouse gas reduction targets as an out-and-out victory.

Ummmm … not so fast. Although the press release on the AYS website trumpets: “Shareholders Vote for Greenhouse Gas Reductions at Midwest Utilities,” the facts tell a much different story. Yes, some shareholders did indeed vote in favor of the AYS/CI resolution, but not nearly enough to pass it:

Citing climate change impacts and financial risks of carbon-intense coal assets, shareholders representing billions of dollars of assets voted for carbon reduction targets at FirstEnergy and Great Plains Energy, showing strong support for a pair of shareholder proposals put forth by non-profit As You Sow and investment group Calvert Investments.

All this from shareholder activists apparently unaware of a little government entity called the Environmental Protection Agency, which, for better or worse, won’t announce its final rules for existing and new, modified and reconstructed power plants until this summer. According to the EPA, the agency will release this summer a Clean Power Plan for existing power plants in states, Native American country and U.S. territories; Carbon Pollution Standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants; and issue a federal plan for meeting Clean Power Plan goals for public review and comment. (more…)