Posts tagged with: economics

Radio Free ActonIn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with John Horvat, author of Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society, about what’s gone wrong with our economy and culture and how to fix it. John’s book was featured this year at Acton University (you can pick up a copy for yourself at the link above), and he writes about his AU experience in this post on his blog:

…the students really cared. It was hard not to be impressed by the unified “diversity” that characterized those in the course. Dispelling the myth that diversity is only on the left, some eighty countries were represented, including sizable delegations from Africa and Latin America. At the same time, people from all ages were enrolled providing that delicate balance between wisdom and enthusiasm. Acton proves year after year that young people are attracted to free markets and moral values.

We also look into the latest on Greece’s financial problems and how Europe is trying to save its common currency, with analysis of the situation by Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg. As he notes, Europe’s economic troubles run much deeper than just the Greek debt crisis.

You can listen to this week’s podcast via the audio player below:

Soviet-era Moscow apartments

Soviet-era Moscow apartments

When it comes to urban planning, nobody beats the Soviets. First, they wanted to plan: no mish-mosh, haphazard cities, towns and burgs sprouting up like in the decadent West. Of course, structures had to address equality. No fancy neighborhoods in one area, and low-rent housing in another. And then there was functionality. Workers needed to be close to work. This eliminated the need for unnecessary and costly transportation. Soviet academic Alexei Gutnov described the planning this way:

Ideal conditions for rest and privacy are offered by the individual house situated in the midst of nature. But this is an expensive kind of well-being. . . . The villa
is the traditional retreat of the leisured minority at the top of the bourgeois society. The attempt to make the villa available to the average consumer means
building a mass of little houses, each on a tiny piece of land …’

In their rejection of the American model of suburban sprawl, Gutnov’s team specifically notes its unfeasibility in a society premised on equality.

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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, July 9, 2015
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greece-bandaidGreece’s economic problems are so vast, comprehension is difficult. Over at NPR, Greg Myre breaks it down for us.

25: The unemployment rate, and that’s probably low-balling. For those under the age of 25, the unemployment rate hovers around 50 percent.

92: The average income earned by a typical citizen is under-reported by 92 percent, on average, to the government.

Tax evasion is endemic in Greece and a major contributor to the government’s budget shortfalls. Creditors are demanding this be addressed in return for a new rescue package.

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BuyLocal.inddOver the past few decades buying locally produced goods and services over those produced farther away has become increasingly fashionable. However, this “modern” trend is really a reversion to an earlier period when most all products were produced and bought from people in a localized area. For most of human history, “buying local” was the only option.

There may be many reasons we may want to buy local goods and services—but improving the local economy is not one of them. As economist Don Boudreaux explains in the video below, there are many reasons why it’s foolish to ‘buy local’ if your goal is to improve the economy of the locale in which you live.

Coal power plant Datteln 2 Crop1Today at The Federalist I explore “Why Big Oil Wants A Carbon Tax.” Perhaps such advocacy isn’t just made out of a sense of global citizenship and environmental stewardship.

On the surface such advocacy may seem counter-intuitive. Why on earth, other than out of selfless benevolence, would a firm (or group of firms) advocate for higher taxes on their products? But on reflection, it makes some sense, and the reasoning is similar to why an online retailer like Amazon might be in favor of the collection of sales tax at the state level.

As Adam Smith famously put it, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Companies are often happy to raise prices if it hurts their competition or provides them with a competitive advantage. And in the case of carbon taxes, it’s important to recognize that not all fossil fuels are equally carbon-intensive, just as not all renewable sources are equally sustainable and resilient.

This is one of the economic realities that I wish Pope Francis had recognized more clearly in Laudato Si’, although I may have more to say about this later. For now, David Brooks expresses a similar desire in his column, “Fracking and the Franciscans.”

george horrifiedIn today’s Public Discourse, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, discusses the enormous debt crisis the U.S. and many nations currently face. While debt crises are hardly new, Gregg states, America’s current debt situation is frightening.

America’s public debt amounts to approximately 105 percent of GDP. Since 20 January 2009, America’s total outstanding public debt has grown from $10.626 trillion to $18.152 trillion as of May 8 this year. Such an increase reflects a consistent disparity between government revenues and expenditures that has long plagued America’s public finances.

What’s driving this debt? Gregg’s response: the welfare state. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
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Economist Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains the recent financial crisis in this brief video. Did banks fail us? No, she says. The problem is that the U.S. government has become too closely tied to banks, enabling their bad financial practices.

woman-with-air-conditionerIf you are of a “certain age,” you grew up without air conditioning. As unthinkable as it is now, we made due with window screens and fans. And we survived.

Honestly, it was pretty miserable sometimes. Especially if your dad happened to have a vinyl recliner that you sat on during hot, humid August days watching Brady Bunch re-runs. Peeling  yourself off one of those is an experience that will scar you forever.

Air conditioning is more than just a way to make our lives more comfortable; it’s economically advantageous. (more…)

In this short video, Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society describes the importance and centrality of the family to a health society. Families that work together in some endeavor tend to be healthier, are able to care for themselves and thus become the foundation of a sound economy and society.

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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economicman (1)“As a social psychologist, I have long been amused by economists and their curiously delusional notion of the ‘rational man.’” writes Carol Tavris. “Rational? Where do these folks live?”

In a review of behavioral economist Richard Thaler’s new book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Tavris notes how economists are slowly beginning to see — or, one could argue, finally returning to the notion — that the discipline ought treat man as more than a mere robot or calculator.

“Researchers in this field are making up for lost time,” Tavris continues, “or perhaps realizing that they are social psychologists after all.”

As human beings who arrogantly and often wrongly consider ourselves “sapiens,” we simply don’t match the model of human behavior favored by economists, one that “replaces homo sapiens” (whom Mr. Thaler calls Humans) with “a fictional creature called homo economicus” (whom he calls Econ). “Econs do not have passions; they are cold-blooded optimizers,” he says. “Compared to this fictional world of Econs, Humans do a lot of misbehaving”—thus the book’s title.

The problem, Mr. Thaler argues, is that although economists “hold a virtual monopoly” on giving policy advice, the very premises on which that advice rests are deeply flawed. That is why “economic models make a lot of bad predictions”: some small and trivial, some monumental and devastating. “It is time to stop making excuses,” he admonishes his colleagues. Mr. Thaler calls for an “enriched approach to doing economic research, one that acknowledges the existence and relevance of Humans.” By injecting economics with “good psychology and other social sciences” and by including real people in economic theory, economists will improve predictions of human behavior, make better financial and marketing decisions, and create a field that is “more interesting and more fun than regular economics.” In that way, Mr. Thaler believes, economists will finally produce an “un-dismal science.”

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