halo-effect1As church attendance continues to decline across the West, many have lamented the spiritual and social side effects, namely a weakening of civil society and the fabric of community life. What’s less discussed, however, is the economic impact of such a decline.

In a new study published by Cardus, Dr. Michael Wood Daly of the University of Toronto explores this very thing, researching the “economic value” of ten Toronto congregations, and finding “a cumulative estimated economic impact of approximately $45 million,” based on a combined budget of only $10 million. The study refers to this as the “halo effect,” noting the church’s value to the community, whether through social capital, community services, or physical resources and infrastructure.

The research builds on an existing framework from a pilot study done in 2010 by Partners for Sacred Spaces and the University of Pennsylvania, which resulted in similar findings. Focusing on 12 congregations, the Pennsylvania study found an economic contribution of roughly $52 million, concluding that local congregations can “now be viewed as critical economic catalysts.” Both studies evaluated a range of variables in the seven key categories, including (1) open space, (2) direct spending, (3) education, (4) magnet effect, (5) individual impacts, (6) community development, and (7) social capital and care. (more…)

“Both economic and religious freedom tend to exist together in the same societies,” says Jay Richards in this week’s Acton Commentary, “they are both based on the same principles; they tend to reinforce each other; and over the long haul, they arguably stand or fall together.”

By economic freedom, I refer to the social condition in which individuals, families, and associations enjoy the rule of law, respect for their rights, limited government, a vibrant civil society outside the jurisdiction of the state, well-delineated rights to private property and contracts, and broad discretion on economic matters. If it is easy to start a business; to seek employment; to hire employees without invasive dictates from political authorities, private cartels, or organized crime; to negotiate salary, benefits, and responsibilities; to have fair contracts enforced; and the like, then a society enjoys some measure of economic freedom.

The philosophical basis for religious freedom rests on the same foundation as the case for economic freedom: individual rights, freedom of association and the family, and the presence of a government with limited jurisdiction.

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


Profile of Adam Smith, 18th century

In a new piece written for Public Discourse, Research Director for Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, revisited crucial points made by Adam Smith in his classic Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations which argued for an embrace of international trade. Unfortunately, many of Smith’s ideas have today been cast aside for a stronger cry of economic nationalism. Gregg combats some misconceptions of free, global trade by revealing the dangerous results which would occur if nations chose to only implement ‘neo-mercantilism’ in the name of national interest.

Gregg organizes Smith’s insights into three categories, first addressing how Smith proved that a country’s economy “flowed from the development and extension of the division of labor within and between nations…the wider and deeper the size of the market, the greater the division of labor and the subsequent gains in productivity and growth.” Smith’s understanding of the benefits of international trade has been undermined however by ideas encroaching on rights to property and on labor. In the wake of growing restrictions, “a retreat from free trade would not only worsen this situation. It would also raise the price of a good number of foreign-made products and services, thereby putting many such goods beyond the reach of lower-income Americans.” (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Communism Still Persists. We Must Remember Nations Where People Are Not Free.
Lee Edwards, The Daily Signal

Communism is a cancer that must be removed lest it spread. That historical lesson led President Ronald Reagan, after four decades of containment and accommodation, to lay down a new policy to end the Cold War: “We win and they lose.”

Stop Making CEO Pay a Political Issue
Alex Edmans, Harvard Business Review

Presidential candidates once campaigned on taxes, government spending, and foreign policy. But more recently, executive compensation has suddenly become a hot topic for winning the public’s approval.

Countries That Transitioned Rapidly From Communism to Capitalism Fare Better
Marian Tupy, Reason.com

Former Soviet bloc countries that transitioned slowly now lag behind.

Mission Muffins: Serving the Poor in a Biblical, Sustainable, and Effective Way
Kathryn Feliciano, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

This organization is an example of program that is fighting poverty in a way that is biblical and effective.

President Eisenhower signed the first Captive Nations Week into law on July 17, 1959. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

President Eisenhower signed the first Captive Nations Week into law on July 17, 1959. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

On July 17, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring the third week of July “Captive Nations Week” for that year and every year “until such time as freedom and independence shall have been achieved for all the captive nations of the world.” At the time, Eisenhower was condemning the unjust and oppressive Soviet regime and lending a voice to those countries trapped under Soviet rule. The threat of the Soviet Union no longer exists today. Still, we have celebrated Captive Nations Week every year since 1959, and are doing so this year, because, unfortunately, threats to freedom persist today.

President Obama released a beautiful proclamation this week that extols the value of liberty and the power of the American commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom at home and abroad.

Since our earliest days, the United States has worked to uphold the rights enshrined in our founding documents. The ideals that sparked our revolution find their truest expression in democracy, and our enduring belief in the right to self-govern is not limited to our borders — we believe the human impulse toward freedom is universal. During Captive Nations Week, we recognize the inherent dignity of all people, and we renew our support for those struggling under oppressive regimes and striving to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.




Vox recently published an article claiming that Charles Koch is right and Bernie Sanders is wrong about how the economy is rigged. Both agree that there are laws that unfairly favor some financially over others. Sanders often claimed during his campaign that the rich have used their money to lobby for laws that favor their interests over those of everyone else.  Meanwhile, Charles Koch has condemned excessive regulation and restrictions on economic freedom that allow the few to bend laws in their financial favor against the many. In looking at the real problem in the economy, Charles Koch’s analysis of the problem comes closer to the truth.


Poverty rates in America’s largest cities; such as Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Detroit; have risen in the last decade. New York City however, stands out as an exception, as its poverty rate has conversely declined. The combined actions and innovations of individuals have proven yet again to be effective in producing economic flourishing. The hope of New York City springs from the ability of people made in the image of God to use their skills and rise up out of poverty.

Believing that poverty is best combated with the rise of the job force, Robert Doar (Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute) stresses that it is not in government which we should rely, but rather in the people.