This morning at Acton University I attended a fascinating lecture by Dr. Edd Noell, “Origins of Economics: The Scriptures and Early Church Fathers.” I have briefly examined one ancient Christian perspective on wealth in the past (here), but Dr. Noell’s survey today was far more expansive. For the benefit of PowerBlog readers, I would like to reflect on some of the major themes of his talk here as a sort of preview of what one could expect once the audio is available for sale. (more…)
A decade ago, Virginia Postrel argued in her book The Substance of Style that we live in an age of aesthetics, a period where the way things look, feel, and smell have come to matter to all social classes. She explained why the aesthetic aspects of products, services, and experiences are not merely cosmetic niceties but tap into deep human instincts and needs.
Many corporations, such as Apple and Target, have used this insight to attract new customers and increase customer loyalty. But social entrepreneurs whose “customers” are the poor and needy have been slow in making their services more aesthetically pleasing. One prominent exception is the services provided by Willow Creek Community Church, an evangelical megachurch located outside of Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune,
Many of you know Jay Richards from his regular lecturing at Acton University. He has a newly co-authored piece in The Daily Caller, “Enterprise is the most ‘effective altruism.’” There’s more to be said on the complex issue of helping the poor than can be put in a single op-ed, of course, but there’s some great food for thought here, particularly for those who view business and markets as necessarily part of the problem. Jay and Anne Bradley use the example of Microsoft to explain the confusion:
The Gates Foundation has saved an estimated 5 million lives thus far. But we rarely hear of the countless lives saved or improved by the profit-seeking activities of Microsoft…. One effect is the Foundation itself. To be able to start such a large aid organization, Bill Gates first had to be a successful entrepreneur. As a philanthropist, Gates is not “giving back” to the world, as if he had taken from it in the first place. His philanthropic giving is possible only because he first “gave” as an entrepreneur.
… Microsoft succeeded only because they provided value for hundreds of millions of people. Gates had to meet the needs of his customers … And to stay ahead, he had to invest wisely rather than consume or give away all the profits.
Pope Francis has made interesting comments on poverty, some of which have been misconstrued by the media and in the Church itself. Samuel Gregg, Director of Research for the Acton Institute, discusses both the meaning of poverty within Church teaching and what Pope Francis is truly referring to when he addresses poverty in our world today. In Crisis Magazine, Gregg points out that Christians are never to be forgetful of economic disparities, but that “poverty” has a richer and far more important meaning that just the economic one. (more…)
When we consider poverty alleviation, what areas should be focused on to yield effective and sustainable results? In the blog article, “The fruits, the roots, and the soil,” PovertyCure’s Mark Weber asserts that it is oftentimes the neglected aspects that are most necessary for long-term prosperity. We can often be lured by attractive, short-term assistance approaches, rather than recognizing and building the strong foundations that allow individuals and communities to thrive. We need to focus on the soil.
We poverty junkies spend a lot of time examining the fruits and the roots. But what of the soil? Humanitarians generally focus on the former, i.e. physical needs such as food, water, clothes, and medicine. Development types generally focus on the latter, i.e. infrastructure, agriculture, education, and various government or multilateral programs. Send out an agronomist to analyze a section of land for agricultural fertility, and his primary focus will be on the nature and fertility of the soil. We can have all the fancy technology in the world, we can genetically engineer seeds for pesticide resistance and higher yields, we can till the land with the powerful machines, but if the soil is sterile, nothing will grow.
At the beginning of the month, Rev. Robert Sirico traveled to El Salvador to speak at ENADE XIII (Encuentro Nacional de la Empresa Privada,). This event is put on every year by the National Association for Private Enterprise of El Salvador and its theme this year was “bettering business, transforming lives.” Rev. Sirico gave the closing presentation at the event and spoke about the effectiveness of businesses in the fight to end poverty.
He said that neither piety nor charity can ultimately end poverty. The best thing that businesses and entrepreneurs can do to break the circle of poverty is to be successful. It is a moral obligation, not a bad thing to be successful in business. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) illustrates this point. What’s more, entrepreneurs are given the same calling that Adam and Eve were given in the Garden of Eden: “be fruitful and multiply.” Labor is something sacred and not simply a means to wealth and riches.
The state has a role in helping the poor, but it is limited. Governments should work to create environments where businesses can thrive and provide opportunities for employment. Profitable private businesses are closely linked to poverty reduction and the overall progress of communities. He asked which is better: a powerful state with a powerful bureaucracy or a competitive and productive private sector that creates employment? (more…)
Ronald Davis is homeless and living on the streets of Chicago. In this video clip he shares how he feels about the way other people treat him.
“No matter what people think about me, I know I’m a human first.”
When we see people like Mr. Davis on the streets our first tendency is often to wonder how he got into this situation or what, if anything, can be done to help him out of his plight. But Davis shows there is an even deeper need that is as powerful and as urgent as food or shelter: the need to be treated with dignity.
All too often we see the Ronald Davis’ of the world and our thoughts turn to big-picture policy questions (e.g., What can be done about homelessness in America?). But while such concerns should motivate us to find responsible solutions, that shouldn’t necessarily be our first thought when we are face to face with the men and women in our world like Davis.
We can think about the “homeless problem” when we’re in our cars or at our desks. While we’re on the street, confronted with a cup-shaking panhandler, we should be wondering how we can show them that we recognize their dignity. We should seek to let them know we realize they too were made in the image of Creator of the universe. We need to show them that whatever else they’ve lost—job, home, family—they still have their dignity. And that no matter what we might think of them, we know they’re a human first.
(Via: 22 Words)
A recent report by the United Nations states that out of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have a mobile phone, but only 4.5 billion have a modern toilet. In India, there are almost 900 million cell phone users, but nearly 70 percent of the population doesn’t have access to “proper sanitation.” Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary General has called this a “‘silent disaster’ that reflects the extreme poverty and huge inequalities in world today.”
Despite the lack of sanitation, most people are able to afford a mobile phone with a wide range available for [$15] or less and the price of calls reducing from [15c] a minute to [3c] a minute in the last decade.
This report focuses on the negative: the lack of sanitation for those in abject poverty, but it fails to note the extraordinary fact that people living in poverty have access to a device that was, until recently, a luxury item for wealthy Americans. Tim Worstall, a contributor on Forbes.com, addresses this report in a recent article:
It’s possible to be a little cynical about this phones versus thrones number though. Actual flush toilets aren’t in fact the problem. What is the provision of water to flush them and a sewage system to flush them into. Both of which are largely government provided. While mobile phone systems are largely private company provided. Whether you want to call it the lust for profit or the greater efficiency of the private sector, it won’t surprise the more right leaning of us that phones do have a greater market reach than toilets.
Andreas Widmer, president of The Carpenter’s Fund in Switzerland, has spoken a great deal about small businesses, aid, and investing in Africa. In an interview with PovertyCure, he explains causes of poverty: (more…)
The Hitachi Foundation is accepting applications for its 2013 Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur Award, which identifies up to five young people striving to build “sustainable businesses” in the United States. Each awardee will receive $40,000 over two years, along with the tools and training designed to put a startup on the path to success. Deadline is March 28.
The Hitachi Foundation says its Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur Program “identifies and highlights leaders who are using the power of business to fight poverty in the United States.” Those whose entrepreneurial efforts are animated by faith principles are encouraged to apply. Eligible entrepreneurs are those “intending to lift low-wealth people out of poverty in the context of their business.” These, the foundation explained, “could range from creating quality jobs, producing new products and services or devising management strategies that propel the business and low-income people forward.”
Hitachi Foundation will also host up to ten finalists in Washington for a “two-day networking event with peers and field leaders.”
Applicants must have started a business that is now between one and five years old and the entrepreneur must have launched the business before reaching age 30. In addition, the business must be generating revenue for at least the last 12 months. The business can be legally structured as a for-profit or nonprofit enterprise, but must be a revenue-generating model and not rely primarily on grants or donations.
Investors Circle, an early-stage network of “angels, venture capitalists, foundations and family offices” that has invested in 269 enterprises, is collaborating with Hitachi Foundation on the award program.