The 2008 credit crisis is not only a crisis in economics, but also a crisis in the basic concepts and assumptions that underlie our thinking about economics, economics as a science. Critical analyses are called for of both economic practices and economic theory. New concepts and paradigms are needed. The first Kuyper Seminar Amsterdam aims at exploring what resources the Christian tradition has to offer for developing a sustainable and just economy of the future.
Jordan Ballor’s paper, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Two Kingdoms, and Protestant Social Thought Today,” just made the Social Science Research Network’s current Top Ten download list for Philosophy of Religion eJournal. From the abstract:
Last century’s Protestant consensus on the rejection of natural law has been quested in recent decades, but Protestant social thought still has much work to do in order to articulate a coherent and cogent witness to contemporary realities. The doctrine of the two kingdoms has been put forward as a model for advancing the discussion, and while there is much to be learned from such a doctrine, its excesses ought to be avoided, just as the excesses of a transformationlist ethic ought to be avoided as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian, is put forward as an example of a modern Protestant thinker with much to offer towards the advancement of Protestant social thought today, particularly with regard to his perspectives on the two kingdoms and the divine ethical mandates (marriage, work, government, and church).
You can download a free copy here.
It is important to remember that for Kuyper, reflection upon these disciples is not for the sake of their own merit, but instead, in an attempt to bring a coherent understanding of how, as the foreword states, ‘the gospel, and thereby the practice of the Christian faith, relates to every single area of society.’
Many who profess an interest in Kuyper have often become Kuyperians by reading about Kuyper instead of reading him. For many, Kuyper’s influence is mediated through second-hand sources. Wisdom & Wonder is an important step in bringing Kuyper’s cultural theology to bear on new audiences.
Wisdom & Wonder consists of the last ten chapters of Volume 3 in the larger Common Grace set by Abraham Kuyper. Common Grace Volume 1 will be released in early 2013. Click here for more information on the Kuyper Translation project. Read Walker’s entire review here, and connect with the Common Grace project on Facebook here.
Article: “Big Questions and Poor Economics”
James Tooley. “Big Questions and Poor Economics: Banerjee and Duflo on Schooling in Developing Countries.” Econ Journal Watch 9, no. 3 (September 2012): 170-185.
In Poor Economics, MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo set out their solutions for global poverty. Their key premise is that development experts have been sidetracked by the “big questions” of development, such as the role of government and the role of aid. This approach, they say, should be eschewed in favour of adopting carefully tested “small steps” to improvement. The book ranges widely, covering topics such as food, health, family planning and microfinance. Here I treat only their arguments on education in developing countries. Poor Economics points to evidence that shows that governments have not been successful in bringing quality education to the poor. Nevertheless, the authors bring their own big-think judgments to suggest why, despite the evidence, governmentally owned and operated schooling should remain central. Part of their own evidence concerns how private schooling, including for the poor, is burgeoning and outperforming government schooling. But private education cannot be the solution, they argue, because private schooling is not as efficient as it could be. The problems identified by Banerjee and Duflo are, however, clearly caused by bad public policy. I suggest that development economists are quite justified in forming and exercising judgment on the big questions, and that when they do exercise such judgment they should be aware that they are doing so.
This week, in Christianity Today, HOPE International’s Chris Horst profiles another Christian business, Blender Products, whose owners Steve Hill and Jim Howey actively work to elevate the practices of the metal fabrication business and, above all, operate their business “unto the Lord.”
Their company’s foundational verse? Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
“The metal fabrication business is extremely cutthroat,” says Hill. “Workers are given a singular task, and maximum output is demanded. They’re simply a factor of production. As a general rule, they have no access to management. There is very little crossover between guys on the floor and guys in the offices.”
Hill and Howey aim to subvert the us-versus-them mentality. Many days they walk the shop floor, engaging their workers as peers. Employees on the floor are treated as importantly as the managers, undermining the adversarial culture simmering in many manufacturing businesses.
“The company has tried to abide by a simple philosophy concerning our employees,” Steve said. “Pay them well, provide great benefits, and invest in lives…The guys in our shop… know that I’m a human too. I have many of the same struggles they do. Showing humanness to people is key to disarming those stereotypes.”
And the employees aren’t the only ones who benefit:
The very work that Blender employees accomplish benefits a broader community. On the shop floor, talented metal artisans convert stacks of sheet metal—what looks like an oversized stack of paper—into massive fans that improve the efficiency of machinery by mixing airstreams. Their proprietary mixing designs decrease pollution, reduce machinery fire risks, and improve ventilation wherever they’re installed. Fastened in hospitals, schools, office buildings, and factories, they silently make buildings and machines work better and safer.
But although Hill and Howey’s Christian values inform the way they conduct their business and treat their employees, the approach has impacted far more than employee paychecks, customer satisfaction, and environmental stewardship:
World Politics Review recently interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg about the Vatican’s foreign policymaking:
WPR: What are the main policy initiatives that the Vatican is currently promoting on the international stage, and how receptive are other nations to its interests?
Gregg: At present, one major initiative concerns the promotion of religious liberty. The Holy See believes this right is poorly recognized in many nations — especially in the Middle East and China — and that Christians are suffering as a direct result. The Holy See is also concerned that religious liberty is being eroded in some Western nations in the sense a number of governments now prefer to speak of “freedom of worship,” which has a more restrictive meaning.
Are you a risk-adverse investor? Then you may want to avoid choosing a mutual fund that’s headquartered in an area with lots of Catholics.
New research from the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University and published in Management Science shows that the dominant local religion—whether Protestant or Catholic—significantly affects mutual fund behaviors.
Specifically, the findings show that mutual funds headquartered in heavily Catholic areas tend to take more risks and funds in heavily Protestant areas take less risks, said lead author Tao Shu, assistant professor of banking and finance in UGA’s Terry College of Business. The paper was co-authored with Eric Yeung of the Terry College and Johan Sulaeman of Southern Methodist University.
“Finding evidence that a local culture’s religious beliefs affect mutual funds’ risk-taking decisions is surprising because this a very competitive industry. One would expect that profit chasing would eliminate all the impact of culture or anything else,” Shu said. “But, surprisingly, a local culture’s religious beliefs still impact risk-taking decisions.”
Because mutual funds make up about half of all institutional investments in the U.S., the findings have widespread implications for how investors manage their money, he added.
Shu also notes that surveys show Catholics are more tolerant and Protestants less tolerant to speculative risk than the general population. “One suggestion is that many Protestant congregations are against gambling,” said Shu, “but Catholic churches are more tolerant of it—they may even use lotteries to generate funding for the church.”
Despite the risk-preference differences, the study showed that end results are about the same and that the risk-taking associated with local religious beliefs does not lead to superior fund returns. So rather than pouring over prospectuses when choosing a mutual fund company, just look at Google Maps and pick one that is surrounded by Baptist churches.
A recent survey contains one of the most disheartening statistics I’ve ever read: In eastern Germany the survey was unable to find a single person under the age of 28 who claimed they were “certain God exists.”
The survey was taken in 2008, which means that not a single person born after the fall of the Berlin Wall could be found who expressed no doubt about the reality of their Creator. In contrast, 17.8 of young people in western Germany are certain about God (which is still low compared to the U.S. (53.8 percent) or even Russia (28.2 percent).
In the Guardian, Peter Thompson says that some observers believe East German atheism is a form of continuing political and regional identification:
Trends in Voter Preferences Among Religious Groups
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
A new interactive graphic tracks voting preferences for the upcoming presidential election among several major religious groups.
Welfare Reform as We Knew It
Wall Street Journal
This new standard didn’t appear out of thin air, but is part of a liberal critique of welfare reform that has made its way into the Administration.
British Religion in Numbers
The majority of Britons are keen to keep religion apart from politics, according to a study published on 13 September 2012. 81% affirmed that religious practice is a private matter, which should be separated from British politico-economic life.
Why Christian Pacifism Is Inconsequential to Real World
Keith Pavlischek, Institute on Religion & Democracy
So, what does a pacifist do if he wants to get a serious hearing in the “halls of power?” Over the past several decades Christian pacifists have tried to come to grips with this problem.
Writing in the American Spectator, Acton’s Director of Research Samuel Gregg says the “enlightened” Western mind can no longer think seriously or coherently about religion:
Given the decidedly strange response of the Obama Administration and much of the Western commentariat to the violence sweeping the Islamic world, one temptation is to view their reaction as simple incomprehension in the face of the severe unreason that leads some people to riot and kill in a religion’s name. But while the Administration’s response has plenty to do with trying to defend a foreign policy that has plainly gone south, it also reflects something far more problematic: the Western secular mind’s increasing inability to think seriously and coherently about religion at all.