Posts tagged with: poverty

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.

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What is the purpose of money? Is it for our survival? For our status, significance, or success? Is it for the service of ourselves or for the service of others?

In a talk for the Oikonomia Network, theologian Darrell Bock sets out to answer the question, drawing from the numerous treatments of money in the book of Luke — from the rich fool and Lazarus’ wealthy neighbor to Zacchaeus and the widow’s mite.

“Money is to be surrendered into stewardship,” he says, “because that is the way God has designed not just the resources that he gives us; that’s the way he’s designed our very lives.”

Money is ultimately about a stewardship of managing the creation in which God has placed us. It’s for others, and it’s for Him…It’s a stewardship that serves and leads to flourishing, and we are all stewards, every one of us. It’s a surrender to Christ. It’s a surrender to others. And it’s a surrender to the divine design. It’s a commitment not to serve the self, and it’s a commitment not to use other people as currency…

Yes, money does make the world go around, but we drive that bus. And it’s not the money that’s the agent of change; we are the agents of change. So how do we make money that matters? We don’t make money the old fashioned way, by earning it for ourselves. We make money useful the divine way, by stewarding it so that others can flourish and be developed, and by generating value for those who are around us.

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kivaDo you recognize the name Jessica Jackley? What about Kiva? Jackley is the young woman who started Kiva in 2005. Kiva, a crowdfunding site, asks not simply for donations, but for micro-loans. To date, Kiva has facilitated $730 million in loans in 83 countries, funding entrepreneurs in agriculture, clothing manufacturing, and transportation, just to name a few areas of endeavor.

In an interview with Christianity Today, Jackley discusses her new book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, her faith and her work.

When asked about “the poor you will always have with you” (Matt. 26:11) and how she interprets that, Jackley replies:

I know now that the story behind it is more than what I imagined as a child. I used to imagine a long line of poor people following me around everywhere, which terrified me. But the idea that there will always be need—in every one of us—makes more sense to me today. There are different kinds of poverty, including spiritual poverty, relational poverty, and emotional poverty. There are needs we all encounter as human beings; we all experience poverty at some point in our lives. Need is universal.

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A Romanian girl, now in a shelter, bears the "brand" of her trafficker

A Romanian girl, now in a shelter, bears the “brand” of her trafficker

UPDATE: More on Romania and Human Trafficking

Where are the young women, the girls of Romania? If they are not hidden, they are trafficked. That is a harsh reality in a country of harsh living.

Stefania is 18 and a rarity. She still lives in a rural home with her father, in a ramshackle house with no electricity. She dreams of going away “somewhere” for an education and is resolute that she will never take money from a man.

Then there is Christina. Nightly, her mother would prepare her daughter for her night of work: feeding her, setting out her clothes and condoms. Christina – who has since disappeared – has been supporting her family since age 14 by prostitution.

According to the U.S. State Department’s 2014 “Trafficking in Persons” report, one-third of Romania’s trafficking victims are underage girls. (more…)

If you want to see what happens when a government fails its basic responsibilities of maintaining law and order, read this fine and saddening piece by Detroit Free Press columnist John Carlisle, “The last days of Detroit’s Chaldean Town.” In it you’ll encounter the fraying of the town’s social architecture built around faith, family, work, and government.

At a conference a few weeks ago I was involved in a discussion about the ‘worst’ jobs we had ever had. Mine was cleaning the meat room at a grocery store run by four Chaldean brothers in an area just a bit further east of Chaldean Town. I worked at a “training wage” for the better part of a year, I think, while in high school. I didn’t mind transferring out to make a bit less bagging groceries.

Joseph Sunde has written a fair bit on how “hard work cultivates character.” Earlier today I was reading through a classic speech by the famed American pastor Russell Conwell, which includes this bit of wisdom: “There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation.” Conwell’s point was that the rich most often attained wealth by working smarter and harder. But “as a rule the rich men will not let their sons do the very thing that made them great,” thereby depriving them of the very same experiences that enabled the creation of wealth in the first place. This is actually as true for the moderately rich as it is for the extremely wealthy. As Michael Novak has put it, “Parents brought up under poverty do not know how to bring up children under affluence.”

So even though I hated that job cleaning the meat room at the Chaldean market, which closed some years later, I was sad to see it go and I’ll always carry those experiences with me and try to pass their lessons along to my own children. The rise and fall of Chaldean Town also has some things to teach us about flourishing at the community level.

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like to travel. It’s exciting and fun to see new things, whether it’s a natural phenomenon or a man-made wonder. Some like to travel for the food: local specialties and exotic fare. Travel is good: it broadens our horizons, gives us new ways of seeing our world and often leads us to new friendships.

But can travel be more than that? Can it do more good than simply what we gain from it? Yes, it can.

Medium recently published Travel As a Force For Good: Social Enterprise and Community Impact, part of a series on travel and social enterprise. Two of Medium’s writers, Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, explored various parts of the globe, seeking new horizons, but also see how travel can positively impact local communities.

Many homes in the developing world use oil to heat and light their homes. It’s easy to get and inexpensive, but it creates thick black smoke, which in turn creates breathing issues. Medium’s travelers were in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania, to visit a local family. Unfortunately, it was a short visit:

We followed Kisioki into the hut’s central room and I was accosted by acrid smoke. Within seconds, I could barely see. I labored to breathe. I blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the smoke and sting from my eyes.

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We’ve seen lots of commentary on the lopsided outrage over the inhumane death of Cecil the Lion — how the incident has inspired far higher levels of fervor and indignation than the brutal systemic barbarism of the #PPSellsBabyParts controversy or the tragically unjust murder of Samuel Dubose.

At first, I was inclined to shrug off this claim, thinking, “You can feel pointed grief about one while still feeling empathy about the other.” Or, “the facts of the Cecil case are perhaps clearer to more people.” Or, “How can we be sure this imbalance actually exists?”

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But alas, the social media rants and media (non-)developments of the past few days have only continued to confirm that the reaction we are witnessing is, indeed, stemming from some kind of distorted social, moral, and spiritual imagination. This isn’t just about what is or isn’t bubbling up in the news cycle. It’s about what’s brewing, and in some cases, festering deep inside our hearts. (more…)

9780544373174_custom-65b05d09242abdf9624b6c53d7e29e6309aae9d9-s400-c85North Korea has been cut off from the rest of the world for nearly 70 years and few people outside of its borders – especially in the West – have a realistic picture of how life really goes on. Yes, we know it’s a horrible place, essentially a giant concentration camp, but how do North Koreans live their lives? Joseph Kim’s memoir, with contributions from Stephan Talty, Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015) helps to paint a picture of the closed off nation and remind us what we should know – that North Koreans are all too human with real hopes, dreams, and struggles. Most importantly, the book paints a vivid picture of life inside North Korea that, despite the accounts of suffering, by turns surprises and enlightens.

Under the Same Sky could easily be broken into three parts: Joseph Kim’s life before the famine that ravaged North Korea in the 1990s; how Kim survived during the famine; and his life after escaping from North Korea. The book is episodic, with each chapter telling one particular story from Kim’s life. Within this format, at just short of 300 pages, and given the compelling themes in many chapters, it’s a quick read and is often hard to put down. The narrative spans little more than a decade, starting when Kim is four or so, and ending when he’s an older teenager. He does talk about his new life in America, but it’s not the focus. The majority of the action takes place during the North Korean famine, but an early section in the book paints the idyllic picture that life wasn’t always so bad in this nation, at least not when seen through the eyes of a young child. (more…)

Today at the Library of Law & Liberty, I examine Pope Francis’s recent speech in Bolivia, in which he calls for “an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

I have no objection to that, but what he seems to miss is that the very policies he criticizes all characterize those countries in the world that most closely resemble his goal. I write,

So what stands in the way, according to the pontiff?—“corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.” Really?

Business, credit, trade, and fiscal responsibility are marks of healthy economies, not the problem, popular as it may be to denounce them. Indeed, these are also marks of economies that effectively care for “Mother Earth,” whose plight the Pope claims “the most important [task] facing us today.” That’s right, more important than the plight of the poor, to His Holiness, is the plight of trees, water, and lower animals.

That moral confusion aside, is there any way we could study what policies correlate with the Pope’s laudable goals? As it turns out, there is. The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries based upon an aggregate rating of economic growth, care for the environment, and health and living conditions—precisely the measures the Pope seems to care most about. Yet of the top 20 countries on the most recent HDI ranking, 18 also rank as “free” or “mostly free” on the most recent Heritage Index of Economic Freedom.

Read my full article, “Show Me the Way to Poverty,” here.

470380_368492526508146_880858769_oMichael Matheson Miller, research fellow at the Acton Institute, presented a course at Acton University a few weeks ago titled, “Poverty in the Developing World.”

The purpose of the lecture was to demonstrate the root cause of global poverty and to analyze the impact of attempts to alleviate poverty through economic aid. Miller was able to draw from the insights he gained during his extensive travels across the globe, and his conclusion was that aid often harms local economies because it crowed out small businesses by under-cutting their prices. He also found that aid often encourages dependency on foreign assistance which prevents long term economic development. However, he went on to clarify that “this lecture is not a critique of aid but a critique of a flawed system and its underlying assumptions of which aid is the main symptom.” (more…)