Posts tagged with: poverty

“A lot of doom and gloom types say we’re living in dark times. But they’re wrong,” says economist Donald J. Boudreaux. “While there are real problems, the world has never been healthier, wealthier, and happier than it is today. Over a billion people have been lifted from dire poverty in just the past few decades.”

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
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Makers FrontIn this week’s Acton Commentary I examine the foundations of what is today identified as the “preferential option for the poor” in writings that appeared 125 years ago, Pope Leo’s Rerum Novarum and Abraham Kuyper’s “The Social Question and the Christian Religion.” These two texts have appeared in an anniversary volume, Makers of Modern Christian Social Thought: Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper on the Social Question, now available from the Acton Book Shop.

In the introduction to that volume, I touch on important themes that arise from these foundational texts, such as subsidiarity, solidarity, sphere sovereignty, stewardship, and property. In today’s essay, “The Christian Preference for the Poor,” I examine another theme that runs throughout both texts: the overt concern for the marginalized that is required within the context of any social order.

As Leo and Kuyper both observe, the wealthy, the well-connected, and the powerful can fare well under any regime. They can help to shape or reform laws and policies in their favor. But the poor and the marginalized have little influence and are least able to draw on their own reserves, whether capital or otherwise, in times of need.
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Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
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BernieTweetIn this week’s Acton Commentary I weigh in with some reflections on the US presidential results: “Naming, Blaming, and Lessons Learned from the 2016 Election.” I focus on much of the reaction on the Democratic side, which has understandably had some soul-searching to do.

The gist of my argument is that “the New Left forgot the Old Left and got left out this election cycle.”

For further elaborations on this theme, I recommend the following: “The Real Forgotten Man Of 2016 Was Bill Clinton,” by Ben Domenech; “Rust Belt Dems broke for Trump because they thought Clinton cared more about bathrooms than jobs,” by James Hohmann; and “Bernie Sanders, In Boston: Democratic Party Needs To Focus On Working Class,” by Simón Rios.

The only coherent way forward for the Democratic Party in America is to embrace an Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders-style approach to material inequality, to return the Old Labor vision of progressive politics. To paraphrase Sen. Sanders, going forward the Democratic Party has to be much more Piketty and much less RuPaul.

Winning in politics, as in sports, can make things seem like they are better than they really are. For the GOP, it could be that holding both houses of Congress and taking the White House ends up preventing the kind of reflection and reformation that really needs to happen. In that vein, I conclude the piece by pointing out that Trump’s economic message, which resonated among certain voters this time around, has its own problems and shortcomings.

White working class voters have suffered materially to some extent. The benefits of globalization and economic growth are not spread evenly, and there are some tradeoffs. The Right has largely been unwilling to acknowledge even short-term domestic losers in the global, free enterprise system.

But perhaps even more importantly than material losses, working classes have experienced suffering in a subjective and psychological sense, which includes feelings of isolation, purposelessness, and disrespect. Donald Trump became the vehicle for expressing this disaffection, while Clinton was the embodiment of a cronyist, corrupt Washington establishment.
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“The mundane progress driven by ordinary economic and social processes in a free society becomes dramatic only when its track record is viewed in retrospect over a span of years.” –Thomas Sowell

In a recent edition of Uncommon Knowledge, economist Thomas Sowell discusses his latest book, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, which provides a comprehensive argument for the origins of prosperity.

“There’s no explanation needed for poverty. The species began in poverty,” Sowell says. “So what you really need to know is what are the things that enable some countries, and some groups within countries, to be prosperous.”

Revisiting many of the same themes and economic arguments found in his other works, Sowell adds a wider historical exploration of culture, geography, and politics, connecting the dots between each and critiquing competing social analyses along the way (e.g. Keynes, Piketty, etc.). (more…)

The following article is the Acton Institute’s English translation from the Italian “Il Papa e la condanna dei soldi. Parla Padre Robert Sirico” written by  Matteo Matzuzzi and published in the Rome-based daily Il Foglio on November 8.  Readers should note that there is no official English translation of Pope Francis’ November 5 address to leaders of lay movements gathering inside the Vatican. The original speech in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese can be found here.


“It certainly would be absurd to criminalize money if one’s sincere concern is the well-being of the poor. Lamenting the struggle of the poor is not the end goal of moral compassion. Ameliorating their concern is. And at least at the material level, this requires the production of wealth,” said Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the American think tank, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which aims to promote a free, virtuous and humane society.

Rev. Sirico shared his views with the Italian daily ll Foglio following the Pope’s long speech delivered last Saturday before an audience of charismatic lay movement leaders who had come to the Vatican for their third world gathering. During the audience, Pope Francis relaunched his accusation that money is “an idol that rules instead of serves, which tyrannizes and terrorizes humanity.”

Francis

Pope Francis regularly speaks to leaders of cultural and social change during specially arranged private audiences inside the Vatican.

It is money, continued the Holy Father, “that rules with the whip of fear, inequality, economic, social, cultural and military violence. [It] generates ever more violence in a seemingly unending downward spiral. There is a basic [form of] terrorism stemming from the global control of money on earth and which threatens all of humanity.”

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Today at Mere Orthodoxy, I argue that

the duty of the Christian statesman (or stateswoman) to the poor requires defending human rights, supplying urgent needs, reducing barriers to market entry, and guaranteeing access to the institutions of justice, seeking realistic, gradual reform as possible and prudent.

Of particular interest to readers of the PowerBlog, I dedicate substantial space to explaining and advocating for free markets:

Jobs are what the poor need, and jobs are created by businesses. People settle for bad jobs only when good ones aren’t available. Thus, eliminating barriers to market entry ought to be of primary concern to the Christian statesman, combatting the unjust inequality created by closed markets. Barriers to entry include onerous occupational licensing and patent laws, high corporate taxes, zoning laws, overregulation, and subsidies. These things close markets to new competitors because, even though it might seem against their interest (except for subsidies), large, established firms are more likely to benefit from them and lobby for them (which is called rent seeking)….

In free markets, properly understood, these barriers are kept to a minimum, increasing competition and wealth creation. The more businesses there are looking for workers, the more demand there is for labor. Thus, not only will there be more jobs, but wages will be higher as well. It should be no surprise that the decline in American entrepreneurship has coincided with wage stagnation. Beyond wages, an additional benefit of increased competition is that it also drives down the price of consumer goods, thus lowering the cost of living for everyone as well. Free markets help the poor—and everyone else—in terms of production (labor), distribution (wages), and consumption (lower cost of living).

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Pope Francis meets students from Jesuit schools at an audience in the Paul VI Hall.

We all (probably) want to reduce poverty, but how do we actually go about doing that? Pope Francis has been extremely vocal about this problem, but many have taken issue with his suggested solutions.When describing modern capitalism, he’s used phrases like “globalización de la indiferencia” and “cultura del descarte” or a globalization of indifference and a throwaway culture. Beyond soundbites and one-liners, many are trying to get at the exact meaning of the Pope’s statements on economics and poverty.

During a recent trip to Buenos Aires, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, spoke to La Nacion’s Ramiro Pellet Lastra about these issues. Gregg states that the Pope’s very populist language when discussing economics and poverty suggests that he does not appear to have a clear understanding of how markets actually function. Like Pope Francis, Gregg sees the common good as very important but argues that this is compatible with free markets. In fact when you dispense with free markets and economic freedom in the name of the common good, as did Communist systems, it leads to even greater poverty. (more…)