[Part 1 is here.]

A common reading of Western history holds that the principles of the free economy grew out of the secular Enlightenment and had little to do with Christianity. This is mistaken. The free economy (and we can speak more broadly here of the free society) didn’t spring from the soil of the secular Enlightenment, much less, as some imagine, from a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog philosophy of life.

The free economy sprang from the soil of Christian Medieval Europe and the Renaissance, beginning in the monasteries and city states of Medieval northern Italy and spreading from there across Europe, taking particularly firm root among the Dutch and English.

Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, and other secular Enlightenment thinkers propagated the myth of a so-called Dark Ages, an age of regression, religious superstition and irrationality. And some of my Protestant forebears happily seized upon this distorted characterization in the interest of discrediting Catholicism. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Remaining Cases
Gabriel Malor, The Federalist

The First Amendment and executive power are the major themes for this term’s remaining cases. Here is the run-down on the most important cases yet to be decided this term.

Obamacare Anti-Conscience Mandate: Court Says Being Complicit in Sin Isn’t a Sin
Elizabeth Slattery, The Daily Signal

Last week, in Michigan Catholic Conference v. Burwell, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected the appeal of Catholic nonprofit groups in their challenge to the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate.

Can Christians Flourish While They Suffer?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Are the notions of suffering and Christian flourishing incompatible? Can a Christian flourish while they suffer?

Pope, archbishop of Canterbury battle trafficking
Associated Press

Pope Francis and the archbishop of Canterbury denounced human trafficking as a crime against human dignity Monday and pledged to combat it jointly — finding common ground on a social issue amid deep theological divisions over the Anglicans’ ordination of women bishops.

[Part 1 is here.]

The free economy frees entrepreneurs to create new wealth for themselves and others, which brings us to the issue of consumption. In his book Crunchy Cons, conservative author Rod Dreher describes consumerism this way: “Consumerism fetishizes individual choice, and sees its expansion as unambiguous progress. A culture guided by consumerist values is one that welcomes technology without question and prizes efficiency…. A consumerist society encourages its members both to find and express their personal identity through the consumption of products.”

Dreher’s critique of consumerism is pointed, and many people, including many Christians, could benefit from hearing it. At the same time, though, Dreher’s description runs the risk of obscuring the crucial differences between consumerism and capitalism.

It’s true that capitalist economies are far better at wealth creation than socialist economies, which is why freer economies tend to have fewer people living in extreme poverty. But capitalism and consumerism—far from being necessarily joined at the hip—are not even compatible over the long term. A moment’s reflection suggests the reason. (more…)

JMM_17 1As a new feature for the Journal of Markets & Morality, the folks at Journaltalk have helped us create discussion pages for the editorial and each of the articles of our most recent issue, vol. 17, no. 1 (Spring 2014). The issue is forthcoming in print in the next few weeks but already published online. While all articles require a subscription (or a small fee per article), this issue’s editorial on the state of academic peer review is open access.

Just another reason to sign up for or recommend a subscription to the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Subscription information can be found here.

Our most recent issue (17.1) can be found here.

And be sure to check out discussions on other articles and publications at Journaltalk here. It looks to be a promising forum for continuing discussion of academic research and scholarship.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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The much-touted Lego Movie drops on disc today, and before you pick up your copy, I encourage you to remember that “Everything Really Is Awesome.”

the-lego-movie-movie-poster-11Emmet’s words to Lord Business apply to us all:

You don’t have to be the bad guy. You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special. And so am I. And so is everyone. The prophecy is made up, but it’s also true. It’s about all of us. Right now, it’s about you. And you… still… can change everything.

Everything really is awesome, or in other words, all is gift, so get your hands dirty.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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Biblical Illiteracy in US at Crisis Point, Says Bible Expert
Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

For the past 15 years that Kenneth Berding has been teaching the New Testament, he admits that his students have always had little knowledge about the Bible. But today, he says, biblical illiteracy has reached a crisis point.

The War on Christians
Paul Marshall, The Weekly Standard

From Africa, to Asia, to the Middle East, they’re the world’s most persecuted religious group.

For Poorer Workers, the Recession Is Nowhere Near Over
Filip Jolevski and James Sherk, The Daily Signal

A study released by The Heritage Foundation Thursday shows how weak the recovery has been for workers in the bottom fifth of the wage distribution.

Unconventional Ways to Fight Poverty
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Should you sponsor a child? Donate your old clothes? Get involved with activism? Or go on a church service trip? With all of the options to get involved in the fight against poverty, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s best to do, let alone know whether or not what you’re doing is actually helping.

[Part 1 is here.]

Even a cursory look at the annual list of the freest and least free economies in the world suggests a strong correlation between economic freedom and the prosperity of its citizens, including its poorest citizens. But there’s another correlation that tends to capture the attention of those making a cultural critique of the free economy. They note that America is economically free, and that it’s experiencing cultural decay, so they conclude the first causes the second. The conclusion isn’t absurd, but it also doesn’t follow necessarily. Sometimes correlation is due to causation, and sometimes it isn’t. To avoid confusion and false conclusions, we need to distinguish the idea of economic freedom from some things it isn’t.

A lot of people view economic freedom as synonymous with big corporations cutting sweetheart deals with politicians to suppress competitors and consumer choice. This stuff goes on all the time, of course, but it isn’t economic freedom. It’s the leviathan state and big business colluding to manipulate the market, to stack the deck in favor of political insiders. Every market economy on the planet has some of this sort of thing, since economies are operated by fallen human beings. The question is, where does cronyism tend to be the worst? (more…)