Posts tagged with: economics

816bkjgz2xLThe church has recently awakened with renewed interest in the intersection of faith and work, leading to a widespread movement in congregations and seminaries and a constant flow of books, sermons, and other resources (including a hearty bunch from the Acton Institute).

In a new NIV Faith and Work Bible from Zondervan, we gain another valuable tool for expanding our economic imaginations, weaving a rich theology of work more closely with the Biblical text.

Edited by David H. Kim, Executive Director for the Center for Faith and Work, and including a foreword by Tim Keller, the Bible offers a range of pathways and commentaries to assist Christians in connecting the dots between their daily work and the Biblical story.

Kim describes the Bible as a “unique and exciting combination of doctrine, application, and community experience,” with the goal of developing a theology of work that “will hopefully rewire the way you understand the gospel and how it has everything to do with your work.”

To accomplish this, the Bible includes, among other things, (1) specific introductions to each book that highlight key lessons and applications to work and economics; (2) a “storylines” feature that serves as an introductory study for those new to the Bible); (3) essays on doctrine as it relates to stewardship (e.g. dominion in Genesis); (4) historical writings written after the Bible; and (5) real stories of application in daily/modern life. (more…)

Pope Francis' trip to the US

“Supporting markets as the economic arrangements most likely to help promote human flourishing doesn’t necessarily mean you accept libertarian philosophical premises” says Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg in an essay published today at Public Discourse.  This comes in response to “Koch Brothers Latest Target: Pope Francis,” an Oct. 14  article written by John Gehring at the American Prospect that claims the Acton Institute is part of a larger network of organizations behind “a decidedly different message than Pope Francis does when it comes to the economy and climate change.”  Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, labels various free-market organizations as “libertarian” and asserts that “libertarian thought … is the exact opposite of Catholic teaching.”

Gregg begins his response by noting some of the contributions that great libertarian thinkers such as Hayek and Mises have made to economics:

Libertarianism’s great strength lies in economics. Prominent twentieth-century libertarian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, made major contributions to the critique of socialist economics. While ridiculed by some at the time, their criticisms turned out to be spot-on.

In Socialism (1922), for example, Mises illustrated that socialist economies can’t replicate the market price system’s ability to signal the supply and demand status for countless goods and services to consumers and producers at any one point in time. However intelligent and statistically equipped the top-down planners might be (whether they take the form of a Communist politburo, a Fascist dictator, or a 1970s British government), they simply cannot know the optimal price for any good or service at any point in time. Any attempt to dictate prices from the top-down will lead, paradoxically, to economic disorder and dysfunction.

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Note: This is the seventh post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

In previous videos in this series from Marginal Revolution University we learned how prices reach equilibrium and how the market works like an invisible hand coordinating economic activity. In the next couple of videos you’ll see why the equilibrium price (he market price where the quantity of goods supplied is equal to the quantity of goods demanded) is the only stable price and whether this model works in the real world.


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Pope Francis meets students from Jesuit schools at an audience in the Paul VI Hall.

We all (probably) want to reduce poverty, but how do we actually go about doing that? Pope Francis has been extremely vocal about this problem, but many have taken issue with his suggested solutions.When describing modern capitalism, he’s used phrases like “globalización de la indiferencia” and “cultura del descarte” or a globalization of indifference and a throwaway culture. Beyond soundbites and one-liners, many are trying to get at the exact meaning of the Pope’s statements on economics and poverty.

During a recent trip to Buenos Aires, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, spoke to La Nacion’s Ramiro Pellet Lastra about these issues. Gregg states that the Pope’s very populist language when discussing economics and poverty suggests that he does not appear to have a clear understanding of how markets actually function. Like Pope Francis, Gregg sees the common good as very important but argues that this is compatible with free markets. In fact when you dispense with free markets and economic freedom in the name of the common good, as did Communist systems, it leads to even greater poverty. (more…)

Note: This is the fourth post in a weekly video series on basic microeconomics.

Now that we know what the supply and demand curves are we can put them together to understand how they affect prices.

In this video from Marginal Revolution University, we learn how prices reach equilibrium and how the market works like an invisible hand coordinating economic activity. We also discover why at equilibrium the price is stable and gains from trade are maximized, and why when the price is not at equilibrium, a shortage or a surplus occurs.

(If you find the pace of the videos too slow, I’d recommend watching them at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. You can adjust the speed at which the video plays by clicking on “Settings” (the gear symbol) and changing “Speed” from normal to 1.25, 1.5 or 2.)

Previous in series: How to understand the supply curve

Today at Public Orthodoxy, the blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, I have an essay on the need for Orthodox theology to more seriously engage modern economic science. The argument would likely apply in some degree to other theological traditions as well.

I write,

Personal relationships and the monastic life have different norms than impersonal markets. This does not mean that markets have no norms, nor that the norms of markets should overrule any other concerns. But it does mean that if we wish for our economies to be more moral, whether we hail from the political right or left (or somewhere outside of that simplistic binary), we must first understand what they are and how they function.

In the article, I quote Peter Hill and John Lunn on this distinction, but it can be found in the work of Paul Heyne as well. For example, in his essay “Are Economists Basically Immoral?” citing a newspaper article about Mother Theresa (now officially recognized as a Roman Catholic saint as of this past Sunday), he wrote,

I shall conclude with two recent newspaper items. One is a short news item reporting that Mother Teresa was about to appeal to prevent the execution of a convicted California murderer. I don’t know whether she did appeal or not, but the newspaper said that she was going to call the Governor and say that this man should be forgiven because that is what Jesus would have done. Now I don’t want to get into the issue of capital punishment; I just want to point out that if Mother Teresa made that argument she was mixing different moralities. I choose Mother Teresa because I can’t think of a person for whom I have more respect; she is a far better person than I am. But forgiveness is appropriate only in face-to-face relations or for God. The criminal-justice system of the State of California is not God nor is it running a face-to-face society. A judge who forgives a convicted criminal is not a candidate for sainthood but for impeachment. The morality of large social spheres is simply different from the morality of face-to-face systems. Arguments against capital punishment must take those differences into account, and so must our arguments for revised economic policies.

This is a crucial distinction that I have come back to again and again, and one that I explore in more detail at Public Orthodoxy today. Read my full essay here.

Acton Research Fellow and Director of Poverty, Inc. Michael Matheson Miller joins host Bill Meyer on The Bill Meyer Show on KMED Radio in Medford, Oregon, to discuss how to genuinely help those around the world who remain mired in poverty. He notes that often, foreign aid tends to support the “big three” items: education, infrastructure, and health care. But the question remains: are these things the cause of wealth, or are they the result of wealth? The answer to that question will shed light on the effectiveness of our foreign aid efforts.

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