LemonisMarcus2I’ve written before on how television can be a powerful tool for illuminating the deeper significance of daily work and the beauties of basic trade and enterprise. Shows like Dirty Jobs, Shark Tank, Undercover Boss, and Restaurant Impossible have used the medium to this end, and today at The Federalist, I review a new contender in the mix.

CNBC’s The Profit is arguably the best reality show currently on television. Starring Marcus Lemonis, a Lebanese-born American entrepreneur and investor, each episode highlights an ailing businesses in desperate need of cash, care, and wisdom.

By the end, we get a remarkable view into the types of struggle, pain, glory, and redemption that occur across countless businesses every single day.

The show counters a host of false stereotypes about business, three of which I highlight in my piece. But one that is perhaps more popular and pernicious than all is the notion that business and is necessarily driven by greed and selfishness.

On the contrary, I argue, selfishness kills and service prospers: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Indifference to the moral dimension distorts the study of human action in economics,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary, “so too does it deform the discipline that reaches behind that action to the human mind: psychology.”

Built on a sound anthropological foundation and guided by an equally sound morality that is clear on the proper goals of human life, the empirical findings and practical techniques of psychology can foster the flourishing of both persons and communities. Unfortunately, as Theodore Dalrymple argues in his most recent book Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, contemporary psychology has long been not only hostile to traditional morality but also indifferent to and dismissive of the larger context of Western culture within which it arose. As a result contemporary psychology, according to Dalrymple, “is not a key to self-understanding but a cultural barrier to such understanding as we can achieve.”

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

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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FREE-STUFF-Several years ago economist Bryan Caplan provided the most succinct and helpful statement about how we should think about free trade: “We’d be better off if other countries gave us stuff for free. Isn’t ‘really cheap’ the next-best thing?”

As with any simplification, critics could find many reasons to grumble about what that leaves unstated (e.g., trade leads to offshoring of jobs). But it highlights an important point about why free trade matters. Free trade is about as close to a “free stuff” economy as you can get in the real world.

A primary effect of free trade, as Tim Fernholz says, is that when companies hire or set up factories abroad to take advantage of cheap labor elsewhere, Americans’ real income goes up because a lot of the stuff they’re buying is cheaper.
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Thou-shall-not-steal-600x360When is the last time you broke the eighth commandment? (Depending on how you count them, that usually the one about “Thou shalt not steal.”)

Most of us would say we never (or almost never) break that one rule. We’re not thieves. We’re not swindler. We’re not plunderers. We don’t break that one at all.

Or do we?

As Kevin DeYoung (and the Heidelberg Catechism) point out, the eighth commandment forbids more than outright robbery:
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benedict newspaperWe are five months into 2015, and life is still unjust. People are still ignorant and hurting each other. All the things we hope and pray for – peace, love, faith, understanding – still seem unattainable.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) has spent his life thinking, theologically, about these things. In today’s Crisis Magazine, author James Day examines Ratzinger’s writings and teachings regarding “the source of mankind’s pervading unhappiness and alienation from each other and God.”

Ratzinger has seen in his lifetime a world transformed from celebrating widespread Catholic feast days in the “years of Our Lord,” Annis Domini—A.D.—to the artificial designation of the relativistic Common Era, and with it, an abandonment of things divine and a lowering of standards so much so we dare not contemplate forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new way. This transformation has been a disaster for both the possibility of real change and recognizing the impact of Benedict’s place in culture’s wake. James V. Schall’s reflection written the week of the pope’s abdication continues to hold true today: “Anyone who is not aware of the intellectual caliber of Benedict simply reveals his own incompetence or incomprehension.”

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RFAWhat happens when a group of high school students decide to form a group to discuss the intersection of religion, liberty, and markets? At Grand Rapids West Catholic High School, they founded The Acton Club. Acton Institute Director of Programs and Educational Impact Mike C. Cook talks with the founders of the club about their experience over the last year in starting the group and their hopes for the future on this edition of Radio Free Acton.

Certificate of Achievement for Acton Club Leaders

Certificate of Achievement for Acton Club Leaders

Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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If you’re a college grad, what was your first job out of college? Mine was working at a day-care center. It was not my dream job. I’m not sure I even knew then what my dream job was, but I knew that wasn’t it.

There is a lot of talk in the media about the underemployed, people with a skill set that is not utilized fully in their current job. We also have a lot of young people graduating from college who are looking for that first “real” job, the one that will launch their career. It is frustrating to find yourself waiting tables when you have that shiny new degree in business. It can feel demeaning to be working on a loading dock after you’ve been downsized from a 20-year career in retail.

The young lady in the video below from the Institute of Faith, Work and Economics knows this. However, she shares her insight about how to deal with this very situation.

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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economicman (1)“As a social psychologist, I have long been amused by economists and their curiously delusional notion of the ‘rational man.’” writes Carol Tavris. “Rational? Where do these folks live?”

In a review of behavioral economist Richard Thaler’s new book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Tavris notes how economists are slowly beginning to see — or, one could argue, finally returning to the notion — that the discipline ought treat man as more than a mere robot or calculator.

“Researchers in this field are making up for lost time,” Tavris continues, “or perhaps realizing that they are social psychologists after all.”

As human beings who arrogantly and often wrongly consider ourselves “sapiens,” we simply don’t match the model of human behavior favored by economists, one that “replaces homo sapiens” (whom Mr. Thaler calls Humans) with “a fictional creature called homo economicus” (whom he calls Econ). “Econs do not have passions; they are cold-blooded optimizers,” he says. “Compared to this fictional world of Econs, Humans do a lot of misbehaving”—thus the book’s title.

The problem, Mr. Thaler argues, is that although economists “hold a virtual monopoly” on giving policy advice, the very premises on which that advice rests are deeply flawed. That is why “economic models make a lot of bad predictions”: some small and trivial, some monumental and devastating. “It is time to stop making excuses,” he admonishes his colleagues. Mr. Thaler calls for an “enriched approach to doing economic research, one that acknowledges the existence and relevance of Humans.” By injecting economics with “good psychology and other social sciences” and by including real people in economic theory, economists will improve predictions of human behavior, make better financial and marketing decisions, and create a field that is “more interesting and more fun than regular economics.” In that way, Mr. Thaler believes, economists will finally produce an “un-dismal science.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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E.U. Agrees to Naval Intervention on Human Traffickers
James Kanter, New York Times

European Union foreign and defense ministers agreed on Monday to establish naval operations to disrupt human traffickers from setting off from North Africa.

To Overcome Polarization, Focus on the Poor
David Lapp, Family Studies

Debating how culture and economics shape poverty can distract us from helping the poor people right in front of us.

Report: Only ‘full recognition of religious freedom’ will protect people
Carol Zimmermann, Crux

The cover photograph on a new 232-page report outlining religious freedom violations around the world last year pretty much says it all.

Carrying out the Cultural Mandate Is Essential for Biblical Flourishing
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The cultural mandate was meant not only for Adam and Eve, but for Christians today, too. It still stands as God’s directive for the stewardship of his creation.

spring_cover_2015The Houston- based Prison Entrepreneurship Program looks at convicted criminals as if they were “raw metal in the hands of a blacksmith – crude, formless, and totally moldable.” PEP puts prisoners through a rigorous character training and business skills regimen to prepare them for a productive, even flourishing, re-entry to life after incarceration. Ray Nothstine took part in PEP’s “pitch day” presentations where prisoners test their start-up dreams before a panel of business people and investors. He describes his day at Cleveland Correctional Facility near Houston in the main feature in the Spring 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty and contributes an interview with Bert Smith, PEP chief executive.

Also in this issue, Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation, a new book by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal. Rev. Jensen reminds us to pay attention to policy decisions that can help or hinder “our pursuit of the ethical goals that so many of our religious leaders recommend.”

“In the Liberal Tradition” profiles Isabel Paterson (1886-1961) a journalist, philosopher, and literary critic who is credited with being “one of the three women (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand) who launched the libertarian movement in America.” Not enough people remember her today even though her 1943 book, The God of the Machine, was highly influential on its publication. You’ll want to read this profile, and learn why Paterson had a major falling out with Rand. (more…)