Posts tagged with: economics

Thanks to Fr. John A. Peck at the Preacher’s Institute for sharing this article with the PowerBlog.

On Consecrating the Entire Economic Order

By Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

St. Luke’s account of Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree (19:1-10) is a story rich in spiritual reflection; preachers and Bible-readers, coming from a variety of backgrounds, have explored the narrative unto great profit for the education of the soul.

A certain liturgical use of the text is particularly instructive; namely, the story of Zacchaeus has long been read in the dedicatory service of a new church building. This liturgical custom—warranted by Jesus’ assertion,

Today, I must stay at your house

indicates a symbolism: The home of Zacchaeus represents the consecrated places where Christians gather to meet, worship, and commune with Jesus.

Harvesting apples for Calvados in France

There is an irony here: Even as we insist that Jesus preached the Gospel to the poor, he sometimes did so in the homes of wealthy. The reason was very simple: the wealthy had larger homes; a greater number of people could actually assemble there. (Some folks, doubtless, will be offended by this consideration, but let me mention that the first complaint on the point was made at the time-Luke 19:7).

This consideration of wealth is pertinent to the custom of reading the story of Zacchaeus when a church building is consecrated. It is a tacit admission that the construction of a church building absolutely requires a significant accumulation of wealth. (more…)

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg offers an analysis of last night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. Gregg begins with the assertion by Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post that the candidates are ignoring poor and working-class Americans. Gregg responds:

… what’s generally missing from the discussion of poverty in the context of this presidential election — though Romney did obliquely reference it in the second debate — is acknowledgment that: (1) the economic causes of impoverishment are more subtle and less amenable to wealth redistribution than the Left is willing to concede; and (2), with a few exceptions, liberals are generally reluctant to acknowledge some of poverty’s non-economic causes, not least because it throws into relief some of the more destructive effects of their cultural agenda.

If poverty was simply a question of wealth redistribution, the sheer amount of dollars spent since the not-so-Great Society programs of the 1960s should have resolved the problem. In 2011, Peter Ferrara calculated that “total welfare spending [in 2008] . . . amounted to $16,800 per person in poverty, 4 times as much as the Census Bureau estimated was necessary to bring all of the poor up to the poverty level, eliminating all poverty in America. That would be $50,400 per poor family of three.”

The effects in terms of reducing poverty have, however, been underwhelming. As Ferrara observes: “Poverty fell sharply after the Depression, before the War on Poverty, declining from 32% in 1950 to 22.4% in 1959 to 12.1% in 1969, soon after the War on Poverty programs became effective. Progress against poverty as measured by the poverty rate then abruptly stopped.” In short, America’s welfare state, which now easily accounts for the biggest outlays in the federal government’s annual budget, has proved inadequate at realizing one of its central goals.

Read “Who’s Really Forgotten the Poor” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

I think somebody needs to admit that the level of pandering to women in this election is over the top. Whether it is Ann Romney awkwardly yelling, “I love you women” at the Republican National Convention, or the ridiculous “War on Women” meme from the left. The examples are just too many to cite and evaluate for one post. So much of it is focus driven and poll tested and here with us to stay, but the issue still needs to be addressed.

A young woman in the audience at the second Obama – Romney debate named Katherine Fenton asked the candidates, “What are they going to do about equal pay for women?” I’m not saying this is not a legitimate question. But there is something deeper that I think we need to recognize on this issue.

As evidence shows now, young women currently are compensated at a higher rate than young men. There are a host of reasons for this being the case. Women are better educated for this economy, which is growing in service sectors and the health fields. Manufacturing continues to collapse, which disproportionately affects men. The coal industry, which is heavily male, is being strangled by regulation. Young women are more apt to go to college now than young men and they dominate college and university settings. Many men who have been on a college campus in the last few decades are well aware of the male-bashing, which is ridiculously excessive. Women are more apt to graduate and more likely to go on and get a graduate degree. Studies consistently show that the biggest benefactors of affirmative action are not racial minorities but women.

Now it’s true, at the highest level of industry there is still pay disparity between men and women, but much of this has to do with some women voluntarily leaving the work force for family reasons and raising children, and not because of evil sexist pay charts cooked up in corporate cigar lounges.

Even many of the economic statistics thrown out by Romney last night had to do with the level of female poverty on the rise in this economy, but poverty is on the rise regardless of gender. I’ve attended religious conferences and events where men have gotten up and apologized for being a white male. I don’t see that as helpful to anything. I know in a high stakes political setting it’s too much to ask for the constant pandering to cease, but I feel that we would be better served by leaders who are committed to promoting the equality under the law above all else.

This morning at Ethika Politika, I argue that “acting primarily for the sake of national interest in international affairs runs contrary to a nation’s highest ideals.” In particular, I draw on the thought of Vladimir Solovyov, who argued that, morally speaking, national interest alone cannot be the supreme standard of international action since the highest aspirations of each nation (e.g. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”) are claimed to be universal goods. I would here like to explore his critique with reference to the subject of international trade. (more…)

Don’t miss out on your chance to apply for a scholarship for the spring 2013 semester!

If you or someone you know would like to be considered for a Calihan Academic Fellowship, the deadline to submit application materials is Monday, October 15. Eligible candidates include graduate students or seminarians pursuing fields such as theology, philosophy, economics, or related themes promoted by the Acton Institute. Visit the Calihan Academic Fellowship page on Acton’s website for more detailed information on eligibility and the application process. Contact Michelle at mhornak@acton.org with any scholarship-related questions.

Call for Papers: “Economics, Christianity & The Crisis: Towards a New Architectonic Critique”

The 2008 credit crisis is not only a crisis in economics, but also a crisis in the basic concepts and assumptions that underlie our thinking about economics, economics as a science. Critical analyses are called for of both economic practices and economic theory. New concepts and paradigms are needed. The first Kuyper Seminar Amsterdam aims at exploring what resources the Christian tradition has to offer for developing a sustainable and just economy of the future.

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Blog author: jballor
Friday, September 28, 2012
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Article: “Big Questions and Poor Economics”
James Tooley. “Big Questions and Poor Economics: Banerjee and Duflo on Schooling in Developing Countries.” Econ Journal Watch 9, no. 3 (September 2012): 170-185.

In Poor Economics, MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo set out their solutions for global poverty. Their key premise is that development experts have been sidetracked by the “big questions” of development, such as the role of government and the role of aid. This approach, they say, should be eschewed in favour of adopting carefully tested “small steps” to improvement. The book ranges widely, covering topics such as food, health, family planning and microfinance. Here I treat only their arguments on education in developing countries. Poor Economics points to evidence that shows that governments have not been successful in bringing quality education to the poor. Nevertheless, the authors bring their own big-think judgments to suggest why, despite the evidence, governmentally owned and operated schooling should remain central. Part of their own evidence concerns how private schooling, including for the poor, is burgeoning and outperforming government schooling. But private education cannot be the solution, they argue, because private schooling is not as efficient as it could be. The problems identified by Banerjee and Duflo are, however, clearly caused by bad public policy. I suggest that development economists are quite justified in forming and exercising judgment on the big questions, and that when they do exercise such judgment they should be aware that they are doing so.

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As noted already at the PowerBlog today, Sam Gregg has a fine piece on the complex relationship between law and morality, or constitutions and culture, over at Public Discourse.

As a follow-up (read the piece first), I’d like to point to an interesting aspect of James Buchanan’s advocacy of a balanced-budget amendment. As Gregg notes, Buchanan is an example of someone who thought that “America’s constitution required amending to bestow genuine independence upon a monetary authority,” or advocated for the “constitutionalization” of money. A related effort would be Buchanan’s efforts in support of a balanced-budget amendment to the American Constitution, as explored by James Alvey in his piece, “James M. Buchanan on the Ethics of Public Debt and Default.”
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
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Tyler Cowen fielded an interesting topic on his blog last week, focusing on economists who are (or were) clergy.

There’s an interesting list, including notables like the Salamancans, Paul Heyne, and Heinrich Pesch. I didn’t realize that Kirzner is a rabbi. Malthus is named first, but as the initial comment on Cowen’s post notes, anytime you mention Malthus you should mention Anders Chydenius in the following breath.

How about Edmund Opitz of the Foundation for Economic Education, or even Rodger Charles, S.J., or James Schall? It depends largely on how narrowly you define being an “economist,” of course, as the inclusion of the Salamancan theologians indicates. Being a moral theologian who focuses on ethics and economics might not be enough to qualify. Does being a political philosopher/political economist count? But certainly A. M. C. Waterman should be noted.

And of course it also depends on how narrowly you define “clergy.” As Asher Meir notes in the post, how about non-ordained academic theologians, or economists with theological training (or theologians with economic training)? Then the list would start to get very long, indeed.

Any other names come to mind?

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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On his personal blog, author and publishing industry executive Joel J. Miller asks, “What if we dumped Rand for Röpke?” Good question. Miller says that it’s simply unnecessary for Christians to invoke Rand in their defense of the free market. Why not base that defense on the work of a Christian economist instead?

“Unlike Rand,” he writes, “Röpke grounded his critique of socialism and his defense of free markets in a thoroughly Christian understanding of man and his world.” He goes on to say that not only is this critique “of an entirely differing quality than Rand’s, it’s far deeper as well. Röpke saw the materialist answers of socialism as papering over the spiritual crisis that beset Western civilization in the middle twentieth century, and still does to this day.”

Miller also includes a link (bottom of post) to a free, downloadable copy of Röpke’s The Humane Economy.

The PowerBlog has archived a number of articles on Röpke by Samuel Gregg, Acton Research director and author of Wilhelm Ropke’s Political Economy (Edward Elgar, 2010).

In the archives you’ll find links to the July 2 American Spectator piece titled “The Prophet of Europe’s Crisis” and have access to “The Profoundly anti-Keynesian Political Economy of Wilhelm Röpke,” a new podcast on the Library of Law and Liberty.