Posts tagged with: economy

Blog author: jballor
Monday, December 18, 2006
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In this week’s Acton Commentary, Anthony Bradley takes a look at the Spanish economy as it faces a “dilemma,” as he puts it, “simultaneously needing immigrants and seeking to curb them.” Bradley also notes that “institutions like marriage and family seem silly to many Spaniards.”

As APM’s Marketplace reports, shifting trends in Spain might claim another Spanish institution, the siesta. A variety of factors, including increasing competition with labor forces in other nations, are leading some to question the viability of the siesta system in Spain.

The siesta works like this: in the middle of the workday, beginning at around 2pm, offices and businesses close up shop for a few hours, giving workers an extended break. It used to be that employees could go home, spend some time with the family, have a meal, and take a brief catnap, returning fresh to work after the siesta concluded.

But nowadays, the lengthy commutes for urbanites makes a trip home impractical. And many workers don’t like having to stay at work until 9pm in order to get a full day’s work in after the siesta break. What once was a way to create family time is now being seen as contributing to an anti-family work environment. As Jerome Socolovsky reports, “Young parents who want to go home before 9 o’clock to be with their kids can meet with disapproval from the boss.”

One interesting thing about this story is the juxtaposition of the situation in Spain, which seems to be heading away from the siesta model, and the reality in some other industrialized nations, such as Japan, where “power napping” is becoming big business.

In his depiction of the Christian’s daily activities in Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that “the noonday hour, where it is possible, becomes for the Christian family fellowship a brief rest on the day’s march. Half of the day is past. The fellowship thanks God and prays for protection until eventide. It receives its daily bread and prays…”

It strikes me that in the rise of the Japanese power nap and the fall of the Spanish siesta, we’re seeing two extremes come together. Perhaps working 12-hour days, as is common in Japan, isn’t the human ideal. And neither is the extended break during the hottest hours of the day necessary in places where the work being done isn’t manual labor.

Appropriate rest is needed, that is beyond question. But exactly what constitutes the right amount of rest seems to be an open question, or at least culturally contextual to some extent. As Calvin observed, the moral requirements of the fourth commandment concerning Sabbath observance are universal, and include provision for “our servants and labourers relaxation from labour.” This includes the “carnal” labor of daily work, as but a pointer toward “the mystery of perpetual resting from our works.”

Update: Marketplace takes a look at the immigration boom in Spain here. According to one immigration lawyer, a major reason immigrants head to Spain is “the generous welfare system. Illegal aliens get free health care here.”

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
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How can developing countries best compete in a global economy? Humberto Belli, president of Ave Maria College of the Americas in Nicaragua, points to the power of education and human resources. In many cases, poorer countries have a long way to go. “This imbalance in the development of human resources, if not corrected, will negatively impact many countries, impeding them from enjoying the benefits of globalization,” Belli writes.

Read the commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
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Strong claims coming from Sam at the Philanthropy in Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship blog:

The Charity model does not work – Fact. Time to move on. Responsible, accountable, dignified, respectable investment will liberate the developing world. Inventing a new model for the philanthropic space is not necessary. There is one already in existence – the business model. Change comes about through those who are bold and fearless, constantly innovating on a daily basis, questioning, re-inventing out dated methodologies. Trends suggest partnerships between business and NGO, sharing expertise to deliver lasting, viable solutions – a potent combination.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “the charity model,” but this strikes me as a false dichotomy. Why not both vibrant charity and vigorous commercial investment? Or is that what Sam is arguing for?

Forbes passes along a ranking of the fifty states (plus the District) on the friendliness of fiscal policy toward small business (HT: The Entrepreneurial Mind), provided by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (PDF).

Michigan ranked 10th in the list, which examines 29 governmentally-influenced factors such as personal income tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, property tax, death tax, electricity costs, and number of bureaucrats. Michigan was in the top half of most categories (it did rank 47th in the state rankings of gasoline taxes, which underscores the question of who profits from gasoline sales).

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
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Despite signs of a cooling economy, the Fed is holding the line on interest rates. And reason is fairly simple: Worries about inflation. While there are many good reasons for fiscal restraint in the face of the inflation threat, there are also larger moral issues at work, says Sam Gregg. Inflation strikes at the economy’s ability to assist people to achieve their full human potential. “Tough monetary policy is not just good economics,” Gregg writes. “It’s also an exercise in tough love – for all of us.”

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
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Christianity Today has identified four political races to watch that “feature debates about issues of special concern to evangelicals.” One of these is Michigan’s race for governor between incumbent Jennifer Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos.

CT is featuring the economy as an issue of evangelical concern in this race:

The September news of massive layoffs by Ford has become far too common in Michigan. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent, well above the national average. What’s bad for the state could be good for the campaign of Dick DeVos, the Republican. The name may sound familiar to evangelicals. His father, Rich DeVos, helped found Amway Corporation and bankrolled many evangelical schools and ministries.

Acton’s Jerry Zandstra is quoted in the brief piece, as is Corwin Smidt, executive director of Calvin College’s Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics, whose “research indicates evangelicals have become more receptive to Republican economics.

Says Smidt, “Whereas evangelicals were fairly united on social issues in the 1980s and early 1990s and much less unified on economic issues, evangelical voters took a much more unified stand on economic issues by the end of the millennium.”

This contradicts, by the way, the message of Fr. Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout in their recent book The Truth About Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe. In a review of the book, E.J. Dionne writes of their conclusions, “All this suggests that a significant share of the white Christian community, including Evangelicals, is willing to hear alternative arguments to those offered by the Right. Greeley and Hout believe the best arguments for Democrats are about economics. ‘Get economic justice right,’ they argue, ‘and the conservative Christians held back by economic injustice will back you.'” (HT: Mirror of Justice)

Other races featured by CT include Pennsylvania’s Senate race between Bob Casey Jr. and Sen. Rick Santorum and South Dakota’s abortion ban.

Mark Whitehouse reported in the September 25th issue of the Wall Street Journal that the living standards of average Americans will have to be adjusted downward in coming years because a larger share of our national debt is going to debt-service. He writes,

That means Americans will have to work harder to maintain the same living standards—or cut back sharply to pay down the debt.” Catherine Mann, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics notes, “Our net international obligations are coming home to roost. It’s as if on our personal MasterCards we have run up large obligations and never had to make personal payments. You can’t believe that is going to last forever.

I am not a professional economist but such news makes me wonder how we will really handle these things as a nation when the spend-spend-spend spigot is finally turned off. The pay day is coming, maybe sooner than later. Our prosperity is always one really bad cycle from a serious implosion and then the country will either adjust corporately, and grow stronger morally and spiritually, or it will begin to break down in ways that could be alarming over the long term. Let us pray that we learn how to adjust sooner than later. Churches that spend so much on themselves, and their upwardly mobile lifestyles, should take note. The kingdom calls for sacrifice and frugality, not lavish expenditures on empire building.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Mortgage foreclosure rates soared 53 percent in August, compared with a year earlier, and many people who were eager to buy a house with low “teaser” interest rates and creative financing are in trouble. Acton Senior Fellow in Economics Jennifer Roback Morse expects new calls for goverment oversight of the mortgage industry, which is already highly regulated. A better idea, she suggests, would be for buyers to examine their motives for acquiring real estate with gimmicky loans and take some responsibility for their actions.

Read the full commentary here.

Nipsey Russell (1918-2005)

I was flipping stations tonight and passed the Game Show Network, which was showing reruns of Match Game ’74. Nipsey Russell, the so-called “Poet Laureate of Television,” began the show with this poem for prosperity:

To slow down this recession,

and make this economy thrive,

give us our social security now,

we’ll go to work when we’re sixty-five.