Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
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Giorgio Vasari - Last Supper“Succumbing to despair is by definition never a winning strategy, which is why the story of Giorgio Vasari’s painting, ‘The Last Supper,’ resonated so strongly with me when I read it had been successfully restored,” says Rev. Robert A. Sirico in this week’s Acton Commentary.

I’ve loved Vasari since discovering his “Lives of the Artists” when I was in college, and the restoration of his work (not to be confused with the more famous Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci) was reported a week before one of the most bitterly fought presidential elections of my memory. Readers at that time may have found little space for optimism, and much less hope for the immediate future. But we at the Acton Institute recognize that recent events only represent an opportunity to redouble our efforts to advance free-market principles based on sound religious doctrine.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Every year we hear the same laments about Christmas presents. Economists are fond of saying gift-giving is inefficient and wasteful, while many Christians complain that it is driven by commercialism.

But how did the tradition start? How did the idea of gift-giving at Christmas move from the marketplace to the home? In this short video, Ryan Reeves explains the history of Christmas presents.

IMG_1902In his many addresses to the nation, President Calvin Coolidge made a point of routinely redirecting the country’s attention to the “things of the spirit.”

In his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, he encouraged the country to reorient its vision of abundance, progressing not only in material prosperity, but also “in moral and spiritual things.” In his reflections on the Declaration of Independence, he reminded us that ours is a liberty not meant for “pagan materialism,” which would surely turn our prosperity into “a barren sceptre in our grasp.” Years earlier, as President of the Massachusetts Senate, he urged legislators to remember that “statutes must appeal to more than material welfare.” “Man has a spiritual nature,” he continued. “Touch it, and it must respond as the magnet responds to the pole.”

All in all, the message was consistent: “The things of the spirit come first.” For Coolidge, America had entered an “age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things,” and thus, was in sore need of such reminders. When it came to an occasion such as Christmas — a season compounded with those same temptations of materialism — the theme would continue.

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind,” Coolidge wrote in a 1927 Christmas greeting. “To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.” That short refrain is likely the most widely read of Coolidge’s reflections on Christmas, but after the presidency, he offered a more extended view. (more…)

Radio Free ActonOn this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with David LaRocca, director of a new documentary called Brunello Cucinelli: A New Philosophy of Clothes.

Brunello Cucinelli is an entrepreneur based in Solomeo, Italy and a rising star in the world of high fashion. While that may be interesting in and of itself, what is far more interesting are the ideas that animate Cucinelli and shape the way he conducts his business and relates to his employees, customers, and community. LaRocca’s documentary reveals an entrepreneur who uses the humanistic tradition in Western philosophy to guide him in his business decisions and relations with his employees, customers, and community. It’s a fascinating story.

You can listen to the podcast via the audio player below; after the jump, check out the trailer for Brunello Cucinelli: A New Philosophy of Clothes.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
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Stereotypes Are Poisoning American Politics
William R. Easterly, Bloomberg View

J.D. Vance calls on Appalachians to alter a “culture that increasingly encourages social decay.” To what Central Committee on Appalachian Culture is he appealing?

Vatican official: Religion in public has never been more at risk
Elise Harris, Catholic News Service

Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Under-secretary for relations with the States, warns that Western nations face a new type of oppression meant to eliminate religion from public life. “To act and speak out publicly as a committed Christian in one’s professional life has never been more threatened,” he said.

Aleppo sold out by the ‘human rights’ community’s moral hypocrisy
Michael Rubin, The Hill

What the world now witnesses in Aleppo was never supposed to happen.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market. How it is organized is surprising.
Anja Shortland, Washington Post

Here is why kidnapping involves some tricky business relations, how private sector institutions work to resolve them and why governments have a harder time preventing kidnapping from escalating.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
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Most consumers have heard of fair-trade coffee, but have no idea how fair-trade actually works. In this video, economist Victor Claar covers the basics of the fair-trade model, and explores whether fair trade can deliver on its promises to help the poor. Fair trade can also be used to vividly illustrate many key concepts in a principles of micro class, note s Claar, such as price elasticity and monopoly power.

It's_a_Wonderful_Life[Note: This is the final post in a series highlighting some of the financial aspects and broad economic lessons of Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. You can find part one here and part two here.]

Economist Don Boudreaux recently outlined ten foundational lessons that should be learned in every well-taught principles of economics course. Examples of nearly all of the ten lessons can be found in Capra’s Christmas classic, but for the sake of brevity I’ll merely highlight two of them.

Principle 1: The world is full of both desirable and undesirable unintended consequences – consequences that are largely invisible but that even a course in ‘mere’ principles of economics gives us great vision that enables us to “see”.

This holiday film may be attributed to Frank Capra, but it could have just as easily been called “Frederic Bastiat’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.” The central theme of the film is a creative example of Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen”—which is (as both Boudreaux and I claim) the most important essay in economics.

In the opening line of his essay, Bastiat writes,

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