In the wake of last week’s Republican National Convention, and in the midst of the Democratic National Convention, it is more important than ever for voters to be thoroughly educated on each party’s platform going into the general election season. In two recent posts on the Republican Party platform, (part one, part two) Joe Carter provides a comprehensive summary of the Republican Party’s main stances (we’ll look at some of the Democratic Party’s platform issues in a later post). Some of the highlights of the platform include: (more…)
Today at the FEE (Foundation for Economic Education), Zachary Slayback has an excellent overview of the decline in entrepreneurship among those under 30 since the late 1980s. He writes,
Between local, state, and federal regulations placed on everything from who is allowed to braid hair to who can tell you what color to paint a wall and where to place a door and a schooling culture and system that encourages young people to waste away the first 22-30 years of their lives away from the market, the systems placed upon young people today create a climate extremely hostile to entrepreneurship and economic growth.
Regarding barriers to entry (like our egregious state occupational licensing laws), I presented a paper in April at the APEE (Association of Private Enterprise Education) annual conference in Las Vegas on the subject, offering a theological and moral analysis. Particularly relevant to Slayback’s detailed post, I wrote, (more…)
In our discussions about reviving a healthy and holistic theology of work and vocation, it can be easy to get stuck in the realm of the theoretical. But what does it actually look like in practice, whether as an individual or enterprise?
In an event co-sponsored by the Acton Institute and hosted at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, several North Carolina businessmen share their insights and advice on a range of topics, including company culture, employee discipleship, and the church’s role in ministering to businesspeople. Moderated by Preston Parrish of Corporate Chaplains of America, the panel includes Cliff Benson, Bill Boddie, Don Dancer and Sidney Hinton.
“The twin tracks of work and wage do not meet, and cannot be scientifically related. They are bridged by morality, not by mathematics.” -Lester DeKoster
Low-wage workers continue to picket and protest around the country, demanding an increased minimum wage, improved access to benefits, and better working conditions. The political rhetoric has followed accordingly, with Bernie Sanders calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and Hillary Clinton arguing for $12 (due to differing magic potions, no doubt). Simultaneously, widespread angst over “excessive” executive compensation continues to fester.
But alas, prices are not play things, and we do society no favors by trying to distort market signals according to our own arbitrary whims (whether $12, $15, $100, or otherwise). Given the history and trajectory of the American economy, we ought not be stuck in the mire of such minimum-mindedness, seeking to control and micro-manage our way to peace and prosperity through top-down mechanistic means. The path to prosperity is one of creation and contribution, planted with seeds of service and opportunity, where new wealth is a natural byproduct of access to the pond.
Yet throughout all this, “market signals” are simply signals, the discernment of which requires human conscience before and after and throughout. When we think about the intersection of work and wages, “listening to the market” is not where it stops, as critics of the free market wrongly assume. The baseline of actual prices in a complex economy is where things begin, and the Christian wage-setter must be careful and attentive to how things ought to proceed.
In Work: The Meaning of Your Life, Lester DeKoster explores these “twin tracks” of work and wage, noting that the proper bridge will not be built by arbitrary government edict, but by the art of “executive stewardship,” driven by God-given responsibility and God-directed conscience. “Work and wage draw together at the point where conscience functions,” he writes, “that is to say, work and wage tracks coalesce in persons making executive decisions.” When we inhibit the freedom of the human conscience, an inhibition of the economic order is sure to follow.
DeKoster devotes an entire chapter to this topic, an excerpt of which is available at the Oikonomia blog. Those who set wages have an “awesome obligation,” DeKoster writes, and their conscience must balance a host of factors, all pushing toward a variety of goals, including (1) the best product, (2) the best working conditions, (3) the best wage for everyone involved, and (4) “reflecting the best efforts at every job, to be sold at the lowest price compatible with the requirements.” In balancing all of this, the executive also heeds transcendent signals, whether through ethics or spiritual discernment. (more…)
One of the popular targets of foreign aid is education, and understandably so. Yet as with most solutions sprouting from Western planners and do-gooders, the reality on the ground is a bit different than we typically imagine. Likewise, the solutions are often closer than we’re led to believe.
In his book, The Beautiful Tree, James Tooley chronicles his own investigative journey throughout the developing world, seeking to uncover the local realities of educational opportunity. Originally commissioned by the World Bank to investigate private schools in a dozen developing countries, Tooley began with the assumption that such schools were designed for and confined to the middle classes and elite.
What he found, however, was a situation far more rich and varied.
Beginning in the city of Hyderabad, India, Tooley’s targets initially appeared as expected: private schools designed for the prosperous and privileged. One day, however, on a holiday off from his usual research, he ventured into the city’s slums, spontaneously stumbling on a private school created by and for the local community. He soon met the school’s headmaster, who explained the widespread dissatisfaction with public schooling, from over-crowded classrooms to chronically absent teachers to the severe lack of accountability or parental control. (more…)
In “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” the famous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, a cobbler and his wife struggle to survive, barely making enough to eat (never mind investing in the future of their business).
One morning, however, they wake to find that their last scraps of leather have been turned into a remarkable pair of shoes. Not knowing the source of such craftsmanship — and apparently incurious — the cobbler sells them off at a higher price, gaining new capital to grow his business. Each night thereafter, the miracle continues, and the enterprise grows in turn.
Months later, they finally take an interest in the source of such help, staying awake through the night to spot two naked elves, each happily laboring to make more shoes. The wife sews clothes for the elves, who, after finishing their work, express their thanks and graciously depart, never to be seen again.
One can find several morals or lessons in the tale, but Jeffrey Tucker does a marvelous job of highlighting its themes on the meaning of work, the gift of exchange, and the glories of capitalism. (more…)
Today marks the 152nd anniversary of the Gettsyburg Address, the speech given by Abraham Lincoln after the battle which left 7,000 American soldiers dead and 40,000 wounded.
Given its power and permanence, it may seem strange to memorialize it by pointing to an obscure comedy film from the 1930s. But it’s one that stirs all the right sentiments.
In Ruggles of Red Gap, the great Charles Laughton plays Marmaduke Ruggles, an English manservant who has been gambled away by his master (a duke) to a pair of unsophisticated “self-made” millionaires from America (Egbert and Effie). Ruggles sails to the New World, settles in with his rambunctious new employers, and hilarity ensues. (more…)