Posts tagged with: free markets

kickstarter1Several years ago, as a music student in college, I remember hearing constant complaints about “lack of funding for the arts.” Hardly a day would go by without a classmate or professor bemoaning the thin and fickle pockets of the bourgeoisie or Uncle Sam’s lack of artistic initiative.

Little did we know, a shake-up was already taking place, driven by a mysterious mix of newfound prosperity, entrepreneurial innovation, and the market forces behind it. The digital revolution was beginning to level the playing field and drain power from tanks and banks of all kinds, from the Hollywood execs with dollar signs in their eyes to the aesthetically enlightened cronies at the National Endowment for the Arts. Despite the many prophecies of a creative apocalypse, a bottom-up revolution was taking place.

Amid the sea of new technologies and tools that were soon to emerge — streaming music, streaming movies, ebook publishing — crowdfunding rose as a powerful path to creative independence: artistic, economic, and otherwise. Leading the pack is Kickstarter, with success stories abounding, from inventors to thespians to foodies to photographers, and with routine funding results that actually surpass the NEA. (more…)

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

In today’s American Spectator, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg discusses the ousting of former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and what that means for the Australian economy and beyond.

Gregg points out that the Australian economy “is on the brink of substantial economic regression.”

What’s especially worrying is the across-the-board decline in Australia’s economic productivity: something long masked by the resources boom but now more visible than ever.

The basic problem, however, that lies at the root of what the best commentator on Australian politics, Paul Kelly, describes as ‘the Australian crisis’ is ‘the intersection of a corrosive political culture and the need for hard and unpopular economic repair. (more…)

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

creativity-capitalism-money-crashCapitalism is routinely castigated as an enemy of the arts, with much of the finger-pointing bent toward monsters of profit and efficiency. Other critiques take aim at more systemic features, fearing that the type of industrialization that markets sometimes tend toward will inevitably detach artists from healthy social contexts, sucking dry any potential for flourishing as a result.

But what if the opposite is true? I offer the argument over at The Federalist.

Free economies introduce their own unique challenges for artists and consumers alike. We are justified in cringing at the array of bottom-dollar record-company execs and merchandising-obsessed Hollywood crackpots (though I will always prefer their ilk to your run-of-the-mill Commissar of the Arts). But the increases in economic empowerment that have led to these many marketing machines have also led to plenty of artistic empowerment in turn.

In an article for New York Times Magazine, Steven Johnson reinforces this very point, observing that the many apocalyptic prophecies about arts in the digital age have not quite manifested. “In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art,” he writes. “Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.” (more…)

So far, 2015 has given us our busiest Acton Lecture Series ever, and we’re pleased to share more of it with you today on the PowerBlog. Back on April 16, Acton had the privilege of hosting Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, who spoke on the topic of the book they jointly authored, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution.

First, the bios: Wayne Grudem is Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary; he is the author or co-author of twenty books, including his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical DoctrinePolitics According To The Bible, and Business for the Glory of God, which we just happen to have in the Acton Book Shop; he also served as a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, and also as General Editor of the ESV Study Bible. Barry Asmus is a Senior Economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, which promotes private sector, market-based solutions to problems. He has been speaking, writing and consulting on any number of political and business issues for over 25 years.

Grudem and Asmus jointly authored a book with a title that nods to Adam Smith’s classic The Wealth of Nations, which inquired into what factors led certain nations to prosper; The Poverty Of Nations looks at the flip side of that question: what causes some nations to remain mired in poverty, and what might they do to change their circumstance?

We’re pleased to share with you the video of their joint presentation today; after the jump, I’ve included the episode of Radio Free Acton that features an interview with the two gentlemen.


dollarbillcryingActon’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, is looking ahead to a post-Obama economy. He notes that every presidency has problems it leaves behind upon exiting the White House, but we have some major economic and moral obstacles to overcome.

Gregg outlines the challenges: mounting debt, entitlement programs that keep growing, crony capitalism, unemployment. What to do?

Doing nothing isn’t an option for American conservatives. I’d suggest, however, that the incremental approach generally followed by conservatives—which often amounts to trying to adjust, rather than override or completely dispense with, policies enacted by progressives—isn’t going to be enough either. Conservatives are instinctively wary of major upheavals. Yet if they really believe that progressive economic policies are seriously damaging the common good, they should perhaps do what progressives do: implement fundamental changes.


Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

Lake Karachay, Russia, often referred to as the most polluted lake on Earth

At The Federalist, a round-table discussion brought up several issues regarding the encyclical, Laudato Si’. A quick reading of the discussion sees several themes emerge: the pope shouldn’t be writing about science, this encyclical comes down too heavily against free markets, and that modernity has much to offer in the way of solving humanity’s many problems.

Now, if free markets and capitalism are really to blame for pollution, it would stand to reason that those would be the countries with the worst ecological problems. That is not the case.

On the contrary, the management of the environment in communist countries has been and continues to be much worse than in capitalist ones. For example, Richard Fuller, president of the environmental non-profit Blacksmith Institute once identified the former Soviet Union as having “by far and away the worst problems…” when it comes to environmental protection and land use.


Acton Institute Co-Founder and President Rev. Robert A. Sirico made an appearance on America’s News Headquarters on Fox News Channel this afternoon to discuss the impact of Pope Francis’ new encyclical, and to share his thoughts as part of the discussion the Pope has called upon us all to participate in on the state of the environment. You can view his Father’s Day appearance using the video player below.

laudato_siSamuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, writes in The American Spectator today about Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical which addresses environmental issues. Gregg says that part of the encyclical’s intent is to add to the global discussion regarding the environment and to the climate change debate. However, Gregg believes that the encyclical, rather than enlightening, is muddying the waters.

To be sure, there is much about today’s global economy that merits criticism. The encyclical rightly underscores the problem of bailing out banks at everyone else’s expense (189). Does anyone doubt that, if the world faces another series of major bank failures, governments will behave in exactly the same way, thereby reinforcing the moral hazard problem that’s at the root of so much of the financial sector’s on-going dysfunctionality? The encyclical also suggests, correctly, that despite the events of 2008, there has been a major failure to reform the world’s financial systems (189). Likewise the pope’s tough words for those who regard population growth as somehow damaging the environment and impeding economic development are spot-on (50).

Nonetheless, many conceptual problems and questionable empirical claims characterize the encyclical’s vision of contemporary economic life. In terms of environmental degradation, Laudato Si’ appears oblivious to the fact that the twentieth century’s worst economically driven pollution occurred as a result of centrally-planned state-industrialization schemes in former Communist nations. Anyone who’s visited Eastern Europe or the former USSR and witnessed the often-devastated landscape will quickly attest to the validity of that insight.


Acton University 2015 is about to get underway at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and our friend Al Kresta has already taken up residence on the gallery overlook level for his week of Kresta in the Afternoon remote broadcasts. His first guest from Acton University was our own Kishore Jayabalan, director of Istituto Acton in Rome, who sat down for a twenty minute discussion of Pope Francis, Laudeto Si, and the compatibility of capitalism with Christianity. The full interview is available via the audio player below.

80s fashionI grew up in a very small town. Our fashion purchases were limited to the dry goods store (yes, it still went by that name) which carried things like Buster Brown shoes and sensible sweaters, or the grain elevator, where you could buy durable overalls for farm work.

As someone who eagerly awaited Seventeen magazine every month and witnessed the birth of MTV, you can imagine my fashion dilemma. The closest mall was 70 miles away. I needed Calvin Klein jeans, Candies heels and Esprit tops like, now.

Steven Quartz, a philosopher and neuroscientist at Caltech, along with Anette Asp, a political scientist and neuromarketer, feel for me. In The Atlantic, Bourree Lam talked with the two about the connection between “cool” and capitalism. Quartz and Asp, believe, in as sense, that capitalism created “cool.” First, though, Quartz says there are four myths linked to capitalism (or what some would call “consumerism”) that their research shows to be false:

First, that it doesn’t make us happy. Second, that it relies on instilling false needs in us because it’s contrary to our real nature. Third, that it erodes public life.  Fourth, that it’s primarily about “stuff.”