Acton Institute President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico was in Argentina last week for Acton’s conference in Buenos Aires on Christianity and the Foundations of a Free Society, which is part of a series of Acton conferences being held around the world on the relationship between religious and economic freedom. While he was there, he was interviewed on Infobae.tv and spoke about the problems of poverty that Argentina is struggling with, and also addressed the relationship between Pope Francis and the media and politicians, and the security arrangements that are in place to keep the pope safe.
Jane Marcet is remembered most often for her scientific work in chemistry. Born in London in 1769, she was well-educated, and shared a passion for learning with her father. When she married Alexander Marcet, a physician, she would proof-read his work and eventually decided to publish her own thoughts.
In a series of pamphlets entitled, “Conversations,” Marcet wrote on chemistry, botany, religion, and economics. She was a member of the London Political Economy Club, founded by James Mill.
In the early 19th century there were no academic societies or professional associations for economists. The Political Economy Club was a way to establish a scientific community, test ideas, and provide peer review for their work.
Series Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).
Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).
On Friday afternoon, Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico joined Neil Cavuto on Fox News Channel to discuss the notable lack of outrage on the part of the media in response to the slaughter of Christians by terrorist organization ISIS.
Yesterday, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg made an appearance on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show to discuss Pope Francis’ recent comments calling money “the dung of the devil,” setting them in their proper context and discussing the Pope’s comments on cooperative organizations as well. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
Near the top of the list of things I despise is companies that take advantage of the plight of the poor and desperate. But just above that on my list is something I hate even more: being poor and desperate. That’s why I loathe payday lending companies that charge usurious interest rates—and why I’m not yet ready to see them abolished.
Here’s how payday lending works. If you have a job (and pay stub to prove it), a payday lending company will allow you to write and cash a post-dated check. For this service the company will charge an absurd interest rate. A typical two-week payday loan with a $15 per $100 fee equates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of almost 400 percent. So if you need $100, you write the check for $115 and they’ll give you $100 in cash. Two weeks later they cash your check or you can renew or “rollover” the amount—for an exorbitant fee.
Why would anyone agree to such terms? Because they have no other choice. About 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.
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.
That is why I believe every serious critique of payday lending needs to be accompanied by a serious proposal to help those who are trapped by such “poverty problems.” An excellent example of an alternative approach is the one offered by Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia. One of their church members, Nina McCarthy, was initially trapped in the vicious payday lending circle:
I do not believe Marie Harf is an eloquent speaker, but I did think her “jobs for ISIS” remarks made some sense. We know that in American cities, for instance, if young men do not have education and jobs, they get into mischief. The kind of mischief that includes gangs and drugs and violence. Why would we expect that young men in Libya, Iraq, and elsewhere would be any different?
Apparently, I’m not the only one. While others have sneered at Harf’s comments as being simplistic, a few are tentatively suggesting she is not as far off-base as first thought. The National Review‘s Tom Rogan says this: (more…)
I recently pointed to a helpful talk by Greg Forster to highlight how understanding economics is essential for developing a holistic theology of work, vocation, and stewardship. Economics connects the personal to the public, and prods our attentions and imaginations to the broader social order. In doing so, it alerts us to a unique and powerful mode of Christian mission.
In his latest book, Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer On Work, Economics, And Civic Stewardship, Chad Brand expands on this point, listing five reasons why pastors and seminaries (and thus, lay people) would do well to dig deeper into the realm of economics. (The following titles are paraphrased summaries, with the corresponding text pulled directly from Brand.)
1. The Bible Deals with Economic Issues
First, the Bible deals with economic issues…It addresses matters of stewardship of our world (Gen. 1–3; Gen. 9:1–7), of God’s ownership of creation (Matt. 6:25–30; Col. 1:16–20), and of economic shalom (Lev. 25:1–55; Acts 2:42–47; 2 Thess. 3:6–10), and other important issues given more detailed discussion in [this book].
2. Economics Helps Us Understand the Public Square
Second, an understanding of economics and especially of political economy can help us understand what is going on in the world around us. The general election…is impossible to follow without some understanding of the implications of Obamacare and its impact on Medicare, the federal deficit, and the long-term effects of continued deficit spending. The posturing on the part of Republicans and Democrats sometimes seems like little more than rhetoric, but the one who understands what is really at stake can help lead people to a better understanding of their responsibility in the public square.