Posts tagged with: Rev. Robert Sirico

On Wednesday, Acton’s President Rev. Robert Sirico was interviewed by the Rome bureau of Catholic News Service regarding the work of the Acton Institute.

The Catholic News Service interview “Is Capitalism Catholic?” showcases the mission and influence which the Acton Institute has had on religious leaders’ socio-economic perspectives over its 22 years, including a clip from a meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops in which the Institute’s work on free market economics was both welcomed and criticized.

Rev. Sirico also explains some of his against-the-grain opinions on issues, such as his reasons for maintaining a system of private health care in the United States. He tells Catholic News Service, “For me the important thing is not whether you are radical or not, but whether you are right or not. I am just looking for the truth in my life.”

Watch the full interview here:

Also see, in print, “Is capitalism Catholic? A priest defends free-market economics” by Francis X. Rocca at CNS.

From a purely political standpoint last night’s Vice Presidential Debate was probably a victory for both candidates. Vice President Joe Biden fired up his base with his aggressive and somewhat dismissive behavior towards Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan of course did nothing to hurt Romney and showed he is prepared to be president in an emergency.

Ultimately, the Vice Presidential Debate matters little to nothing in terms of outcome, and that’s why these two were probably in a better position to sit down together and have a candid and civil conversation about the economic and spending crisis this nation faces. It was not to be of course. And it’s probably too much to expect given the nature of the budgetary wars between the Republican Congress and the White House over the last two years. So much of the spending fight had already exhausted itself between these two behind the scenes in Washington.

Save for Ryan’s defense of a plan for cautious entitlement reform, much of the domestic argument came down to which team is better equipped to manage the bureaucracy. The federal government has now doubled in size from just over a decade ago. And it has funded that expansion all through borrowed money. We’ve spent $2 trillion on education at the federal level alone with no marked improvement, only educational decline. Greater urgency and details are needed from our leaders on how they are going to cut and limit federal spending. Everybody knows gutting subsidies to PBS won’t cut it.

Catholics can address the abortion question as it relates to Catholic Social Teaching and who is the serious thinker about their faith, but I also feel there was a real opportunity by both candidates last night to speak less politically about the debt and take moral leadership on an issue. Our spending problem is a visible sign of America’s holistic decline when it comes to our historic strong moral values, strong work ethic, and moral courage. Rev. Robert Sirico has said, “When one generation borrows what cannot be expected to be paid in the next generation, such a civilization is at a crossroads.” We need our leaders to embody those words or we need to replace them.

Rev. Robert Sirico’s book ‘Defending the Free Market’ has a review in today”s Washington Times. It notes the timely aspects of the book, given the upcoming presidential election:

As the presidential race centers on America’s economic woes, President Obama and many of his supporters depict capitalism as a system that allows greedy CEOs and Wall Street insiders to profit atthe expense of the common good. Increased government regulation is their proposed solution for checking corruption and standing up for the rights of the average American.

But do Americans really have to choose either exploitative capitalism or excessive government intrusion? In “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy,” the Rev. Robert Sirico argues that popular rhetoric presents a false dichotomy between “the free market and the nanny state.”

Read the entire review here.
Blog author: aknot
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
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French President François Hollande has promised a 75% tax rate on those in his country who earn an annual salary above one million euros ($1.24 million). Not surprisingly, this number has struck fear into the hearts and wallets of quite a few of France’s top earners, including some who are contemplating leaving and taking their jobs with them. The New York Times has the story:

Many companies are studying contingency plans to move high-paid executives outside of France, according to consultants, lawyers, accountants and real estate agents — who are highly protective of their clients and decline to identify them by name. They say some executives and wealthy people have already packed up for destinations like Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and the United States, taking their taxable income with them.

They also know of companies — start-ups and multinationals alike — that are delaying plans to invest in France or to move employees or new hires here.

The potential tax increase threatens to handcuff “les Riches” and, ironically enough, undercut France’s prized notion of egalité, taking with it liberté and fraternité, the remainder of the country’s tripartite maxim. In Hollande’s France, these principles may not apply to the wealthy.

Of course, Hollande’s tax initiative is sure to have some beneficiaries. No, not the poor or the middle class. The real winners? Well, they live on the other side of the border. Also from the Times:

“It is a ridiculous proposal, but it’s great for us,” said Jean Dekerchove, the manager of Immobilièr Le Lion, a high-end real estate agency based in Brussels. Calls to his office have picked up in recent months, he said, as wealthy French citizens look to invest or simply move across the border amid worries about the latest tax.

“It’s a huge loss for France because people and businesses come to Belgium and bring their wealth with them,” Mr. Dekerchove said. “But we’re thrilled because they create jobs, they buy houses and spend money — and it’s our economy that profits.”

The entire story reminds me of a passage from Rev. Robert Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. In a chapter titled “The Idol of Equality,” Sirico addresses the unsustainable nature of simple redistribution. Instead, business development and job creation are essential–and lasting–tenets of economic growth. From the book:

When most people picture the 1 percent and their wealth, what comes to mind is designer clothing and jewelry, yachts and limousines, mansions and penthouses—all sorts of alluring and attention-grabbing luxuries. Luxuries so distracting, in fact, that we tend to lose sight of the fact that most of the wealth of the wealthiest is invested. It is put to work in the businesses they own and manage, and in stocks and other financial vehicles that provide the capital for countless other businesses. These are the businesses that provide the 99 percent with the goods, services, and employment that they regularly enjoy and often take for granted.

Whether it’s a big automotive plant or a small bakery on the corner, a microchip manufacturer or a family farm, all businesses that produce goods and employ people are owned by someone. It’s businesses that make up most of the wealth of the 1 percent. Confiscating that wealth and giving it to the other 99 percent would mean shifting much of that wealth from investment and production to consumption, since the poor and middle class consume a far higher percentage of their income than the wealthy do. This sudden shift from investment and production to consumption would demolish the infrastructure that makes jobs, goods, and services possible.

Hollande would be wise to read Defending the Free Market. Doing so might save his nation and preserve liberty, equality and brotherhood in the process.

In his new book, Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy, the Rev. Robert Sirico points out that capitalism has been given a bad name that it truly doesn’t deserve:

Rightly understood, capitalism is the economic component of the natural order of liberty. Capitalism offers wide ownership of property, fair and equal rules for all, strict adherence to the rules of ownership, opportunities for charity, and the wise use of resources. Everywhere it has really been tried, it has meant creativity, growth, abundance and, most of all, the economic application of the principle that every human being has dignity and should have that dignity respected.

So why all the distrust, distaste and dislike for capitalism? Charles Murray at The Wall Street Journal suggests that capitalism has been segregated from that which conforms us to the good: virtue.

Historically, the merits of free enterprise and the obligations of success were intertwined in the national catechism. McGuffey’s Readers, the books on which generations of American children were raised, have plenty of stories treating initiative, hard work and entrepreneurialism as virtues, but just as many stories praising the virtues of self-restraint, personal integrity and concern for those who depend on you. The freedom to act and a stern moral obligation to act in certain ways were seen as two sides of the same American coin. Little of that has survived. To accept the concept of virtue requires that you believe some ways of behaving are right and others are wrong always and everywhere. That openly judgmental stand is no longer acceptable in America’s schools nor in many American homes.

Murray goes on to say that the principled stewardship that has been a hallmark of middle class America needs to be restored in order for capitalism to once again be seen as not only good, but great.

Read the entire article here.

Last week, CBS Radio Philadelphia host Dom Giordano took to the airwaves to address President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech. The speech, which garnered plenty of discussion at Acton and elsewhere, drew varied responses from Giordano’s radio audience. Among those responses were several callers who recommended Rev. Sirico’s latest book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy, as a useful corrective to the President’s speech. This prompted Giordano to read the book and invite Sirico, who was in Hong Kong at the time, on his show. What followed was a fruitful discussion on entrepreneurship, capitalism, and free enterprise. Excerpted below is the answer Sirico gave to the question “Why is the free enterprise system moral?”:

It’s moral because it reflects human nature. Human beings are several things simultaneously. Human beings are individual and yet we’re in relationship. From the first moment of our existence, we’re a unique biological entity. But we’re also in relationship with our mothers in the womb but later on with friends and neighbors. You can’t have a market economy without a society. …

But the second thing we are–and this gets to the moral dimension of it–we are physical, obviously, but we also transcend our physicality. We know innately that we’re more than the sum total of our material parts. When you blend these things together, you have a market economy that is productive, that is social, that can be moral. …

We’re never really satisfied when we’re acting beneath our capacity to be beings of destiny, beings of purpose, noble beings that can create. The very act of the creation involves working with other people as well.

Full audio here:

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Earlier this week, Dom Giordano of CBS Philadelphia’s 1210 AM radio affiliate led a discussion of President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech to entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Multiple callers recommended Rev. Sirico’s recently published Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy as a counter to the President’s comments. And this morning, Sirico is slated to appear on the Dom Giordano Program at 10:05 a.m. EST.

Tune in here to listen to Sirico and Giordana discuss the new book and its relevance today.

On Friday, President Obama, during a campaign event in Virginia, told the crowd that people with successful businesses couldn’t give themselves a bit of credit:

Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart….Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

There are a number of people who might be startled to hear this. In The Call of the Entrepreneur, three men describe how they did “get there on their own”. For instance, Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer from Michigan, had to figure out how to save his failing dairy farm. And he did. HE did: not a government program, not a nebulous “somebody”, but Mr. Morgan himself.

In his book The Entrepreneurial Vocation, Rev. Robert Sirico says this about the men and women who take financial risks to create jobs for themselves and others:

What is unique about the institution of entrepreneurship is that it requires no third-party intervention either to establish or to maintain it. It requires no governmental program or governmental manuals. It does not require low-interest loans, special tax treatment, or public subsidies. It does not even require specialized education or a prestigious degree. Entrepreneurship is an institution that develops organically from human intelligence situated in the context of the natural order of liberty.

To tell a person who has made personal and financial sacrifices to create wealth for themselves and others that he or she owes it all to someone else…well. Maybe that’s the way it plays in politics, but not in entrepreneurship. Certainly, there is always room to recognize those who have helped along the way: mentors, guides, partners and cheerleaders, but the creators of wealth and business know that the words of Frank Sinatra ring true: I did it my way.

American Enterprise Institute president and 2012 Acton University plenary speaker Arthur Brooks has a recent column in The Washington Post that lists five myths about free enterprise. Brooks’ five myths address some of free enterprise’s most common critiques and do so by giving free enterprise a moral aspect. The five points are especially relevant this election season, he says, because the two candidates represent such different fiscal perspectives.  Here’s a look a myth #2:

2. Free markets are driven by greed.

I once asked Charles Schwab how he built the $16 billion investment company bearing his name. He never said a word about money. He spoke instead about accomplishing personal goals, creating good jobs for employees and the sacrifices along the way — including when he took a second mortgage on his home so he could make payroll.

Entrepreneurs are rarely driven by greed. According to Careerbuilder.com, in 2011, small-business owners made 19 percent less money per year than government managers. And as Northwestern University business professor Steven Rogers has shown, the average entrepreneur fails about four times before succeeding.

Free markets and entrepreneurship are driven not by greed but by earned success. For some people, earned success means business success, while for others, it means helping the poor, raising good kids, building a nonprofit, or making beautiful art — whatever allows people to create value in their lives and in the lives of others.

Earned success gets at the heart of “the pursuit of happiness.” The General Social Survey from the University of Chicago reveals that people who say they feel “very successful” or “completely successful” in their work lives are twice as likely to say they are very happy about their overall lives than people who feel “somewhat successful.” And it doesn’t matter if they earn more or less; the differences persist.

Those acquainted of Acton Institute president and co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico will recognize arguments such as these from Sirico’s recent title, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. Sirico, like Brooks, argues that free enterprise is the economic system that best complements morality.

To listen to Brooks’ 2012 Acton University Lecture, click here.

Franciscan University has launched the site Faith and Reason intended to be a hub for Catholic intellectual life. The Rev. Robert Sirico, along with others such as Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal at the Apostolic Signatura and Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, preacher to the Papal Household, are contributors to the site which focuses on issues concerning the Church, culture, politics, philosophy, morality and the marketplace.

Read more about Faith and Reason here.