Nicholas Freiling offers three helpful suggestions for how advocates of liberty can defend the free market:

1. Raising questions is always better than giving answers.

Capitalism defends itself. It is logical, coherent and well-supported. The last thing it needs is your careless, back-of-the-napkin arguments that can sometimes do more harm than good.

Instead of arguing defensively with your friends, try raising some interesting questions. Ask them about their beliefs. Why do they think like they do? What do they think about our economic future? How do they propose the government deal with things like inflation, student loan debt and gun control?

If you’re like me, you’ll quickly find that questions build bridges and create mutual understanding. If you’re lucky, your friends will begin to seriously consider their own opinions, and will become more open to listening to alternative points of view. Helping others come to their own opinions will create more lasting change than asking them to adopt yours.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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The Dangers of Quasi-Capitalism
Howard Husock, National Affairs

Pointing out the inherent pitfalls of the quasi-capitalist approach is necessary in order to debunk it, but not sufficient. Those who would defend traditional capitalism must also address this new movement’s central assumption: that traditional capitalism is an anti-social activity predicated on private gain at public expense.

Religious Liberty in the Military
Matthew J. Franck, Bench Memos

In the waning days of its lame duck session, the 112th Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains this provision . . .

Deregulation as an Anti-Poverty Measure
Iain Murray, The American Spectator

Deregulation could provide a substantial benefit to the poor at no cost to the public purse.

The Biblical Foundations of Economic Principles
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

At IFWE, we talk about whole-life stewardship, which is the concept that stewardship extends far beyond how you spend your money or perhaps how you care for the environment.

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Alan Wallace, editorial writer at the Pittsburgh Tribune, reviewed Sam Gregg’s new book Becoming Europe.

In his article, “Where America is, where it’s going,” Wallace notes that:

Americans increasingly say their nation‘s becoming more like Europe; the Acton Institute‘s research director, [Sam Gregg] tackles that trend and its dangers, which he thinks are greater than many of them realize. He explores the “Europeanization” of the United States via the welfare state, debt, government‘s share of GDP, crony capitalism, taxation, labor regulations, public-sector unionization, an aging population and what the publisher calls “the emergence of an ossifying political class” more concerned with self-preservation than with economic reform. Gregg also examines the role played by the values and institutions that inform our economic culture and priorities. He says America isn‘t Europe yet and sees a path to recovery in what distinguishes our economic culture, but warns that the more European the U.S. becomes, the harder that trend will be to reverse.

Read the entire article here. Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future will be available on Tuesday, January 8. You can pre-order the hardcover or Kindle version here.

Even though the crowds stop paying attention, most fads never completely disappear. Just like Beanie Babies, Furbies, grunge music never really went away, some other 1990s fads—like campus speech codes and absurd political correctness—still haunt us:

From free speech codes and zones that quarantine unpopular speech to freshman orientation programs that force a left-wing world view on impressionable students to outright censorship and threats by Administrators to expel students and fire professors, Lukianoff’s new book, Unlearning Liberty, details dozens of blatant violations of the First Amendment and due process.

For instance, the University of Cincinnati attempted to corral Young Americans for Liberty to a free speech zone totaling an area less than 0.1% of the university’s 137-acre campus. With the help of FIRE and Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, students sued the university, and a federal judge overturned UC’s blatant violation of the First Amendment.

But not all violations make it to court. Lukianoff explains that FIRE often uses the court of public opinion to put pressure on universities to change policies before pursuing legal action.

Keith John Sampson, a nontraditional student who worked as a janitor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was brought up on charges of “racial harassment” for reading a book titledNotre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. The book jacket depicts Klansmen burning crosses against a backdrop of Notre Dame’s campus.

The book details a 1924 confrontation between students and Klansmen in which the students prevailed. IUPUI administrators judged the book by its cover, and Sampson with it. Only after receiving public pressure from FIRE, media outlets, and bloggers did the university reverse its decision and publicly apologize.

Read more . . .

Ernesto Sirolli says we are failing at helping the developing world, and he should know: he’s been doing this work for a long time. In this fresh, funny and insightful TedX talk, Sirolli says the key to bringing people out of poverty is entrepreneurship. Pointing out that the prevailing attitudes of paternalism and patronization don’t work, Sirolli emphasizes that we must become servants to the local passion before any development can occur. He quotes Peter Drucker: “Planning is actually incompatible with an entrepreneurial society and economy. Planning is the kiss of death of entrepreneurship.”

This is exactly the message of PovertyCure. Sirolli’s approach to development is to “shut up and listen.” In the PovertyCure Statement of Principles, it states, “Development is about more than GDP; it’s about integral human flourishing.” Without addressing local needs, customs, dreams and gifts, development fails. All we do is feed the hippos.

Paul and Henry Griesedieck, owners of American Pulverizer Company of St. Louis and pro-life Christians, made a stand against the Health and Human Services Mandate and won, for now.  The HHS mandate requires employers and health insurers to provide employees with health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs which terminate early pregnancies. According to LifeNews, “[t]he U.S. District Court for Western Missouri issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law.”

In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs.  In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to be able to prove that Obamacare “substantially  burdens their exercise of religion…Plaintiffs must either pay for a health plan that includes drugs and services to which they religiously object or incur fines.”

Judge Dorr noted that the federal government contends that the Griesedieck Companies are secular entities, and thus cannot “exercise religion.”  Judge Dorr responded by saying:  “There are many entities under which an individual can run a business…Does an individual’s choice to run his business as one of these entities strip that individual of his right to exercise his religious beliefs?”

In addition to concluding that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the mandate and its penalties would substantially burden plaintiffs’ free exercise rights, the court held that for 1st Amendment purposes, the mandate is not a neutral law of general applicability.

The court wrote: “Plaintiffs have shown to the court’s satisfaction for the purposes of these initial proceedings, that the [Affordable Care Act] mandate is not generally applicable because it does not apply to grandfathered health plans, religious employers, or employers with fewer than fifty employees.  Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the ACA mandate’s exemptions clearly prefer secular purposes over religious purposes and some religious purposes over other religious purposes.  Burdens cannot be selectively imposed only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”

Read the full article here.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, January 7, 2013
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California’s Blue Utopia
Robert J. Cristiano, New Geography

The number 1 topic of conversation amongst the despised 1% in California today is when you are leaving California or whether you can leave.

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility
Bloomberg News

In three decades, they and their successors lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and created a home-owning middle class as China rose to become the world’s second-biggest economy. Chinese on average now eat six times more meat than they did in 1976, and 100 million people have traded in their bicycles for automobiles.

State Contraceptive Mandates
Joseph Knippenberg, First Things

This patchwork of state insurance regulations will likely continue to pose a problem, even if the lawsuits against the Obama Administration’s contraceptive mandate succeed.

Next front in religious liberty fight: Military chaplains and “ceremonies”?
Tom Crowe, CatholicVote

The military chaplaincy, from the Catholic perspective, is one of the strangest amalgamations of duties, responsibilities, authorities, and chains of command.

A friend sent me a link to a Reuters story on Pope Benedict XVI’s New Year’s homily. The article carried this headline: “Pope hopes for 2013 of peace, slams unbridled capitalism.”

It is always a good rule of thumb with media reports like this to read the actual speech or document being cited, and not just go by the headline. From the Reuters report one gets the impression that the point of the statement and its theme is that the “Pope slams capitalism.”  When you read this in context you immediately see that Pope Benedict is actually calling for conversion. The operative phrase employed by the Holy Father in his homily is, “The prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism, various forms of terrorism and criminality.”

I say in Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Economy that “global capitalism can’t of itself supply the cultural and moral formation worthy of the human person … our increasing interconnectedness holds great potential for offenses against human dignity. Advances in technology and communication can make it easier to sell pornography – or to traffic in human beings…” and so on.

In other words, I stand with the pope, that sin (what he calls in this case a “selfish and individualistic mindset”) can find expression in the context of human liberty lacking moral orientation, (what he calls in this instance, “global capitalism”).

Is the pope saying that capitalism is in and of itself “selfish and individualistic”? No. Can it express the vices (and for that matter the virtues) of people living in free economies? Yes.

That is why the Acton Institute exists — to promote virtuous free economies.

Remember last month when we discussed the “platinum coin option”? If you’ve forgotten already, it was the ridiculous idea that President Obama could have the U.S. Mint produce a pair of trillion-dollar platinum coins and deposit them with the Federal Reserve to pay off the national deficit. You probably thought it was such a goofy plan that no one in Washington, D.C. could possibly take it seriously, right? Well, think again:
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Blog author: dpahman
Friday, January 4, 2013
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800px-Programming_language_textbooksIn addition to my post in late November about the textbook bubble (spurred by this post from AEI’s Mark Perry), the Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissmann joins the discussion, asking, “Why Are College Textbooks So Absurdly Expensive?” (also the title of his article). It is a good question, and one that highlights the danger of disconnecting the determination of prices from the subjective valuing of consumer demand. There is no competition, no free market, where students are required to buy only certain books for their classes at artificially inflated prices. Weissmann provides a helpful summary of Kevin Carey’s related Slate article as follows:

Academic Publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the industry also shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Just as doctors prescribe prescription drugs they’ll never have to pay for, college professors often assign titles with little consideration of cost. Students, like patients worried about their health, don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing a low-cost textbook start-ups [sic] over flimsy copyright claims. (more…)