Over at Rough Trade, the always intriguing James Poulos celebrates the increased attention now being given to the “relationship between economic and religious life,” pointing to the Acton Institute’s very own Samuel Gregg to kick things off.
Yet he remains unsatisfied, fearful of a return to what he views to be unhelpful “conceptual frameworks and cultural antagonisms” of the past, and urging us to push toward “a new mode of analysis that breaks away from the old, exhausting debates.” For Poulos, this means embracing an “economics of grace,” an interrelated component of something he has called “radicaltarianism” in the past (see more on this here and here).
Poulos observes the typical divides among Christians as follows:
Christians who accept these teachings [about the fall of man and grace] tend to split into two economic camps: those who lean toward an uncritical embrace of free-market capitalism, and those who tilt toward a far more skeptical, suspicious attitude. For the first group, the social upshot of Christianity is an institutional framework that supports flourishing with minimal reliance on the state. Christianity supplies a good foundation for market activity. For the second, the most durable and authentic institutional frameworks supplied by Christianity raise damning questions about the sustainability of neoliberalism — the secular “democratic faith” that gives market capitalism its modern philosophical foundations. For both groups, the key is that, ultimately, religion drives sustainable economic life. The difference is that the first group typically understands religion in a Protestant way, as a driver of explosive, and morally legitimate, economic growth, while the second takes a more Catholic view, doubtful of the moral purity of explosive growth, and focused much less on growing capital than other sorts of things, like families.
Describing the state of the debate more broadly, Poulos argues that our political factions have also proven unhelpful, using terms like “economic growth” based on limited materialistic assumptions. (more…)
In 1936, near the end of the Great Depression, Children International launched one of the earliest child sponsorship charities. Today, child sponsorship is one of the most significant forms of foreign aid. It’s estimated that there are over 8 million internationally sponsored children in the world. With the average monthly sponsorship level set at about $30 (not including other gifts sent to sponsored children), the flow of resources from wealthy countries to poor countries from international child sponsorships is about $3.2 billion per year.
Despite the substantial amounts of money being funneled through these charities, few empirical studies have been conducted to gauge their effectiveness. But a new peer-reviewed, independent study on the viability of international child sponsorship led by Bruce Wydick, professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, reveals “large and statistically significant impacts on life outcomes for children enrolled in Compassion International’s Christian child sponsorship program.”
Some of the key findings from the study include:
Michael Matheson Miller, Acton’s Director of Media and PovertyCure, joined host Hugh Hewitt on the Hugh Hewitt Show this afternoon to discuss the election of Pope Francis, and how his experiences in Argentina may influence his actions as Pope in addressing issues of poverty. He notes that Pope Francis is not a proponent of Liberation Theology, and quotes the new Pope’s earlier writings:
We cannot truly respond to the challenge of eradicating exclusion and poverty if the poor continue to be objects, as targets of actions by the state and other organizations in a paternalistic and aid based sense, instead of subjects in an environment where the state and society create social conditions that promote and safeguard their rights and allow them to build their own destiny.
Listen to the full interview here:
I’m just back from the republic of Texas and Acton’s Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conference. One of my fellow lecturers was Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ben Phillips. In between sessions, he showed me a recent Houston television news piece on SWBTS’s Darrington prison extension, where Phillips and other Southwestern profs are bringing prisoners to Christ, with a plan to send graduates of the program to other Texas prisons. Many of these men may grow old and die in prison, but they won’t die without hope, and they won’t die without becoming a blessing to their fellow prisoners at Darrington and other Texas prisons.
The cover story of a recent Religion & Liberty tells about a similar program on a larger scale, at Angola Prison in Louisiana, where many men on death row, with no hope of parole, have been transformed by the power of the Gospel.
It’s hard to imagine an example more dramatic than Angola prison, but if there is one, it’s the work of Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana, Prison Fellowship, and others to bring the grace of Christ to the imprisoned genocidiers of Rwanda. Through this work, many of the men involved in the 1994 genocide that took almost a million Rwandan lives have repented of their participation in the genocide, sought and obtained forgiveness from the families of their victims (itself a miracle), and been reintegrated into society after serving their prison sentences. (more…)
When Adam Smith wrote his famous “Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” he helped shift the terms of the discussion. Centuries earlier, work focused on different aspects of poverty. Jurists and city authorities analyzed whether the poor should be allowed to beg freely and move to other cities. Charities were set up to help the destitute. The great Florentine Saint, Antonino Pierozzi (1389-1459), even set up a charity to serve the “shameful poor” (poveri vergognosi). These were formerly rich people who were impoverished by government attacks and injustices, but who would prefer to die rather than beg. It is easy to be poor; it is harder to understand how wealth is created. Smith changed the approach.
PovertyCure tries to create a similar shift among those who work in this field. It seeks to move efforts from aid to enterprise and from paternalism to partnerships. We often ask how to alleviate poverty. But the real question is: How do people in the developing world create prosperity for their families and communities?
Read “From Aid to Enterprise: Intelligent Poverty Cures” by Alex Chafuen at The Blaze.
Ernesto Sirolli says we are failing at helping the developing world, and he should know: he’s been doing this work for a long time. In this fresh, funny and insightful TedX talk, Sirolli says the key to bringing people out of poverty is entrepreneurship. Pointing out that the prevailing attitudes of paternalism and patronization don’t work, Sirolli emphasizes that we must become servants to the local passion before any development can occur. He quotes Peter Drucker: “Planning is actually incompatible with an entrepreneurial society and economy. Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship.”
This is exactly the message of PovertyCure. Sirolli’s approach to development is to “shut up and listen.” In the PovertyCure Statement of Principles, it states, “Development is about more than GDP; it’s about integral human flourishing.” Without addressing local needs, customs, dreams and gifts, development fails. All we do is feed the hippos.
All good people are concerned about the plight of the poor, and there are a multitude of ways to address this. The umbrella of “social justice” seems to get bigger every year, with Millenium Development Goals, the ONE campaign, and a host of other foreign aid projects that seek to remove the scourge of abject poverty. However, many of these projects overlook one fact: foreign aid doesn’t work.
While there are some success stories, aid has been largely ineffective. Now why is that? John Paul II said that “The primary fault of socialism was anthropological in nature.” What he meant was, socialism failed because it got the person wrong. Well, I would argue that aid failed because it gets the person wrong.
Leslie Eastman, of Legal Insurrection, echoes this sentiment in a recent blog post addressing the so-called “fiscal cliff”, stating that the answer to our economic woes is the church, with its focus on subsidiarity, and on the free market. She writes:
Mark Meckler, noted national Tea Party spokesperson and founder of Citizens for Self Governance, recently attended a dinner at the Acton Institute. The Acton Institute works to promote a free and civil society” characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” A great deal of their efforts are directed at highlighting the benefits of free market to clergy.
“It’s inspiring to know that the Acton Institute exists and is working to effect cultural change in the clergy surrounding the issue of free markets and free societies,” said Meckler. “The founder of Acton, Father Sirico has written the best book ever on the morality of a free market. His new book, Defending the Free Market; The Moral Case for a Free Economy, presents a clear and convincing case that a free economy promotes charity, selflessness, and kindness and is the surest route to a moral and socially–just society.”
Knowing that economic justice IS social justice is one step closer to alleviating poverty. Thank you, Legal Insurrection, for helping to spread the word.
If you haven’t joined us for this lecture series yet, there’s still time! The final live session for the Globalization, Poverty, and Development AU Online series, Fair Trade vs. Free Trade, has been postponed. This means that you now have a few extra days to catch up on the lectures that we’ve already held before joining us next week for Victor Claar’s lecture on Tuesday, December 18, 2012.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about topics related to development, trade, globalization, or human flourishing, be sure to check out the recently released DVD Series from our friends at PovertyCure.
Global poverty and its alleviation are often subjects of heated debate. Join us for an AU Online lecture series that explores the theme of human flourishing as it relates to poverty, globalization, and the Church in the developed world. The Globalization, Poverty, and Development series is scheduled for December 6 through December 13, 2012. Online sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. EST on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visit auonline.acton.org for more information and to register.