Posts tagged with: ethics

As the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world, Christmas produces many things—joy, happiness, gratitude, reverence. And numbers. Lots of peculiar, often large, numbers. Here are a few to contemplate this season:

Christmas Numbers$50.82 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on real Christmas trees in 2015.

$69.38 – Average amount U.S. consumers spent on fake Christmas trees in 2015.

33,000,000 – Number of real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year.

9,500,000 – Number of fake Christmas trees sold each year.

7 – Average growing time in years for a Christmas tree.

350 million – Number of Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms.

325.1 million – Current population of the United State.

$27.21 — The energy costs of lighting a six-foot Christmas tree, lit 12 hours a day for 40 days, decorated with various light types.

$1,100,000,000 – Estimated value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2016.

$23,800,000,000 – Estimated retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2014. This represents an A decrease of $0.4 billion in retail sales from December of the previous year.

750,000 – Number of new employees hired to compensate for the holiday rush in 2015.

37.5 percent — Estimated percentage of charitable giving that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

$752 – Average amount people in the U.S. estimated they’ll spent in on Christmas presents in 2016.

108,000,000 — Average number of homes Santa Claus has to visit on December 25 (assuming there is at least one “nice” child in each).

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
By

human-rights-weekLast week President Obama proclaimed December 10, 2016, as Human Rights Day and the week beginning December 10, 2016, as Human Rights Week, an annual observance to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here are five facts you should know about international human rights:

1. Prior to the 1940s there were a number of documents, such as the the British Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights, that advanced the recognition of human rights. But few documents were recognized internationally as applying to all people at all times in all nations. During World War II the push for universal recognition of inalienable human rights was aided by the Atlantic Charter and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech before the United States Congress in 1941. These ideals were also transmitted in a pamphlet called, “The United Nations fight for the Four Freedoms: The Rights of All Men — Everywhere.”

2. The atrocities of the Nazis caused the international community to recognize a need for human rights to be established as an international legal status. More than 1,300 American non-governmental organizations joined together in placing newspaper ads calling for human rights to be an integral part of any future international organization, and called for the United Nations Charter to include a clear and substantive commitment to human rights. On April 25, 1945, representatives from forty-six nations gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations. They responded to the demand by mentioning human rights five times in the UN Charter. The charter also established a commission “for the promotion of human rights.” This newly created “Commission on Human Rights” spent three years drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
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For God and Profit“Gregg lays out a careful and detailed argument for the proposition that, done well, financial endeavors can serve the common good,” says Adam J. MacLeod in a review of Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg’s most recent book For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good. MacLeod’s review at The Public Discourse, gives praise to Gregg’s book saying that anyone who feels called to the finance industry “can get quite a lot straight by reading this fine book.”

The review starts out by noting how well Gregg is able to explain the ins and outs of the finance industry so anyone can understand it. MacLeod says:

A major barrier to seeing this possibility is widespread ignorance of how finance works. Clearing away misconceptions is a delicate task, especially in a book for a general audience. One wants not to assume too much knowledge but also not to insult readers’ intelligence or good will. Gregg strikes the right balance as he walks through the fundamentals of economics and finance.

He examines the historical foundations of zero-sum economic thinking (which was founded in ancient experiences with zero-sum and exploitative economies), and how the rise of capital during the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages enabled widespread participation in economic growth. He explains financial practices such as short trading, the role that a government’s monetary policy has on inflation and unemployment, and much else. Throughout, he probes financial practices for their underlying logic and purposes. Readers will benefit from his insights, no matter how much economic knowledge they possess at the outset.

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Brooks-2x1500We continue to see the expansion of freedom and the economic prosperity around the world. And yet, despite having enjoyed such freedom and its fruits for centuries, the West is stuck in a crisis of moral imagination.

For all of its blessings, modernity has led many of us to pair our comfort and prosperity with a secular, naturalistic ethos, relishing in our own strength and designs and trusting in the power of reason to drive our ethics.

The result is a uniquely moralistic moral vacuum, a “liberal paradox,” as Gaylen Byker calls it — “a hunger for meaning and values in an age of freedom and plenty.”

In the past, American prosperity has been buoyed by the strength of its institutions: religious, civil, political, economic, and otherwise. But as writers such as Yuval Levin and Charles Murray have aptly outlined, the religious and institutional vibrancy that Alexis de Tocqueville once hailed appears to be dwindling, making the space between individual and state increasingly thin.

The revival and restoration of religious and civic life is essential if we hope to cultivate a free and virtuous society, occurring across spheres and sectors, from the family to business, from the church to political institutions.

Given the increasing attacks on religious liberty, Christian colleges and universities are standing particularly tall, even as they endure some of the highest heat. In a recent talk for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, David Brooks demonstrates the cultural importance of retaining that liberty, explaining how his recent experiences with Christian educational institutions have affirmed their role in weaving (or re-weaving) the fabric of American life. (Read his full remarks here.) (more…)

JMM_19 1Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 19, no. 1, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains a new entry in our Scholia special feature section: “Advice to a Desolate France” by Sebastian Castellio. Writing in 1562, Castellio was one of the first early modern defenders of freedom of religion on the basis of freedom of conscience, in the midst of a turbulent time of conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in sixteenth-century France. His insights should still be valuable today, both to scholars and others who value that same freedom.

As is our usual custom, this issue’s editorial, “Self-Interest and Moral Contexts,” is open access. In it, I examine the necessity of context for determining the morality of the choices of market actors:

The economic idea of self-interest as the driving motivator of economic (and other) behavior is as widely accepted by economists as it is criticized by others. The critics, generally, object to the assumption that “widespread and/or persistent human behavior can be explained by a generalized calculus of utility-maximizing behavior,” to quote George Stigler and Gary Becker. Is not that selfishness? And is not selfishness immoral? And do not people, at least sometimes, act morally? Furthermore, should not they be encouraged to act altruistically instead of only thinking of their own interests?

In reality, context complicates such moralisms.

The full editorial can be read and downloaded here.

Read the entire issue here.

Subscription instructions to access all of our content can be found here.

LessiusCover-01In his famous work, History of Economic Analysis, economist Joseph A. Schumpeter gives a favorable nod to the works of Leonardus Lessius (1554–1623), sparking a fair amount of interest in the 16th-century Jesuit moral theologian.

CLP Academic has now published On Sale, Securities, and Insurance, a selection from Lessius’ most influential contribution to early modern economics, ethics, and law. The book offers the first full English translation of key sections of the second book (On Justice) of Lessius’ treatise On Justice and Right (De iustitia et iure), specifically chapters 21 (On Sale-purchase) and 28 (On Suretyship, Insurance, Pledge, and Mortgage).

Based at the Jesuit College in Louvain, Lessius earned the reputation as “Oracle of the Netherlands” for the advice and analysis he offered to local merchants, jurists, and political rulers regarding matters of conscience, duty, and justice.

As translator Wim Decock writes in the introduction: “Though dwelling on the virtues of prudence, fortitude, and temperance too, the better part of the treatise includes a systematic treatment of the virtue of justice and, particularly, of property, torts, and contract law.” (more…)

walter_williams2On this day in 1936, Walter E. Williams was born in the city of Philadelphia. The George Mason University economist is famous for his classical liberal views, often arguing that free market capitalism is not only the most moral economic system known to mankind, but it allows for the creation of the most wealth and prosperity. He has discussed many diverse themes, including: race in the United States, politics, liberty, education, and more. A prolific writer, Williams has written ten books, dozens of essays for scholarly journals, and hundreds of newspaper articles.

In honor of turning eighty, here are ten excellent quotes from Williams:

At the beginning of each semester, I tell students that my economic theory course will deal with positive, non-normative economic theory. I also tell them that if they hear me making a normative statement without first saying, “In my opinion,” they are to raise their hands and say, “Professor Williams, we didn’t take this class to be indoctrinated with your personal opinions passed off as economic theory; that’s academic dishonesty.” I also tell them that as soon as they hear me say, “In my opinion,” they can stop taking notes because my opinion is irrelevant to the subject of the class — economic theory. Another part of this particular lecture to my students is that by no means do I suggest that they purge their vocabulary of normative or subjective statements. Such statements are useful tools for tricking people into doing what you want them to do. You tell your father that you need a cell phone and he should buy you one. There’s no evidence whatsoever that you need a cell phone. After all, George Washington managed to lead our nation to defeat Great Britain, the mightiest nation on Earth at the time, without owning a cell phone.

Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.

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