Posts tagged with: Samuel Gregg

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
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forgodandprofitIf we forget finance’s indispensable role in modern economies, says Samuel Gregg, research director for the Acton Institute, in an op-ed for The Detroit News, it’s guaranteed that everyone will be worse off.

Finance establishes links between the economic present and economic future of individuals and communities. It helps us manage risk and develops methods for continually enhancing the management of risk over the short, medium and long term. And it creates economic value by enabling money to assume the characteristics of capital.

Note that none of these functions are exercises in radical individualism. Finance can certainly help make us independent, but it also increases and is a sign of our interdependence.

Read more here. The op-ed is adapted from Gregg’s For God and Profit: How Banking and Finance Can Serve the Common Good.

Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.

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Obama addressing students at his town hall meeting in London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

There’s not a lot of agreement when it comes to the Great Recession and the 2008 financial crisis; either about what caused it or what ended it. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama blamed the “reckless behavior of a lot of financial institutions around the globe” and “the folks on Wall Street” for causing this economic slump. Who or what finally ended this recession? According to President Obama: President Obama. While reflecting on what his presidency will be remembered for, he said, “I don’t think I’ll have a good sense of my legacy until 10 years from now when I can look back with some perspective and get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. There are things I’m proud of … Saving the world economy from a Great Depression, that was pretty good.” Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, was “startled” by the president’s claim.

In a new piece for The Stream, Gregg argues that far from saving the planet, the president and government “probably mucked things up.” While he agrees that banks’ recklessness were partially to blame for the financial crisis, government agencies and their poor policies had a bigger effect:

Back in December 2007, the Nobel economist Vernon Smith warned that the activities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were buttressed by the assumption that, as government-sponsored enterprises with lower capital-requirements than private institutions, they could always look to the Federal government for assistance if unusually high numbers of their clients defaulted. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Smith underscored, had always been understood as “implicitly taxpayer-backed agencies.” Hence they continued what are now recognized as their politically driven and fiscally irresponsible lending policies until both were consigned to Federal conservatorship in September 2008.

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sandersgrinAt The Stream, Acton Institute Research Director Samuel Gregg does a crime scene investigation of Bernie Sanders’ take on Pope John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus encyclical. You might never guess, by listening to the Democrat presidential candidate, that John Paul actually had some positive things to say about the market economy. Gregg says that Sanders’ recent appearance at a Vatican conference “will be seen for what it is: grandstanding by a left-wing populist candidate for the American presidency.” Aside from that, there are Sanders’ “contestable” economic assertions:

In the first place, Sanders didn’t acknowledge just how much the encyclical being discussed by the conference, Saint John Paul II’s 1991 Centesimus Annus, underscored the positive role of free markets as well as limits on what the government can and should do in the economy. To be sure, Centesimus Annus is not a Catholic version of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose. But as I observed prior to the speech, Centesimus Annus contains some of the papacy’s strongest endorsements of the market economy and some of Catholicism’s most powerful critiques of not just socialism but also welfare states. None of these commendations or criticisms were referenced in Sanders’ address.

More generally, some of the claims made by Sanders about inequality are very contestable. His address referred, for instance, to “the widening gaps between the rich and poor.” This, however, doesn’t reflect the evidence of what’s happening to global economic inequality. In terms of global income, for instance, the most widely utilized assessment of income distribution, the Gini coefficient, went from 0.69 in 1988 to 0.63 in 2011. That matters, because a lower Gini coefficient indicates falling inequality.

Nor does Sanders seem aware of the sheer numbers of people who have escaped absolute poverty in Asia, especially India and China, over the past forty years. In 2010, for example, the Asian Development Bank stated that per capita GDP increased 6 percent each year in developing Asian nations between 1990 and 2009. According to the same report, about 850 million people escaped absolute poverty between 1990 and 2005.

Read “Bernie Visits the Vatican, and Misrepresents Pope John Paul II” by Samuel Gregg at The Stream.

New articles from the indefatigable Samuel Gregg, research director of the Acton Insitute:

Amoris Laetitia: Another Nail in the “Overpopulation” Coffin, The Catholic World Report

Here the pope signals his awareness of the efforts of various organizations—the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, the EU, particular US administrations—to push anti-natalist policies upon developing nations.

A Revolutionary Pope for Revolutionary Times, Crisis Magazine

Between 1878 and 1903, Leo issued an astonishing 85 encyclicals. Many dealt squarely with the political, social, and economic challenges associated with the “new things” that, having started in Western Europe and North America, were engulfing the globe. In this regard, Leo arguably showed himself to be a revolutionary pope made for revolutionary times

Constitutional Conservatism: Its Meaning and Its Future, Public Discourse

The project of constitutional conservatism must be about more than restoring limits on government. It must also invoke the ends of the American experiment in ordered liberty if the United States is to resist the siren-calls of egalitarianism and populism.

Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg

On Monday evening, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joined host Sheila Liaugminas on Relevant Radio’s A Closer Look to examine Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address as we approach the tenth anniversary of its delivery. Gregg emphasizes the fact that our understanding of who God is and what his nature is has important implications for how we understand human liberty and rationality, and argues that as western nations have gradually abandoned the Christian religious principles that formerly undergirded their societies, they have diminished their ability to respond to the various crises they face using reason.

You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.

As news of the Panama Papers scandal continues to break, Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been making the media rounds to help people understand what appears to have happened and why. Sam made two appearances on radio yesterday, first on Relevant Radio’s The Drew Mariani Show, speaking with guest host Ed Morrissey of HotAir.com; later in the afternoon he spoke with Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon. The audio of both interviews is posted below.