Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
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Does Jubilee Involve Redistribution of Wealth?
Art Lindsley, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

If Jubilee did not involve the forgiveness of debt, and was instead the celebration of a debt paid off, then there is no redistribution of wealth. There is no redistribution because the land never left the ownership of the original family to whom God gave the land.

Russell Kirk and the Anamnesis of the West
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

Western culture itself has served as an anamnesis, an event that brings us back to right reason and reminds us of the sovereignty of the Transcendent.

The gift of constraints
James K.A. Smith, Faith & Leadership

Instead of a “completely free hand,” maybe what we need are good constraints and the imagination to receive them as gifts for innovation.

A helping hand for Haiti
David Brown, Oman Tribune

Personal coaches help Haitian families escape poverty

Blog author: rnothstine
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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Below is my review of A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future by Os Guinness. A final version of this book review will appear in the Fall 2012 Journal of Markets & Morality (15.2). You can subscribe here.

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A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. By Os Guinness (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2012). 205 pages

Review: A Free People’s Suicide

That our republic suffers from disorder and decay is no secret. The moral and economic order appears increasingly chaotic and lacks a deeper meaning. The country, bitterly divided politically, cannot agree on the purpose of freedom. Frustration has turned into increased political activism and fragmentation, and perhaps the only national agreed-upon principle is that people feel increasingly separated from their own government.

The current year (2012) has seen some like-minded books published to address the magnanimity of the crisis we face. Sound thinkers such as Arthur Brooks and Rev. Robert Sirico have offered up, respectively, The Road to Freedom and Defending the Free Market. They are, without a doubt, worthwhile examinations of economics and our moral order. While there is no dearth of books to address our problems and its root causes, perhaps none is better than Os Guinness’s A Free People Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future.

Guinness trumpets a stirring defense of ordered liberty, examining the deep meanings of freedom and its ability to survive and perhaps flourish again. An assessment of freedom beyond the surface is truly central to our republic. Americans, as they have in the past, must once again ask, “How can a free Republic maintain its freedom?
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Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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On his personal blog, author and publishing industry executive Joel J. Miller asks, “What if we dumped Rand for Röpke?” Good question. Miller says that it’s simply unnecessary for Christians to invoke Rand in their defense of the free market. Why not base that defense on the work of a Christian economist instead?

“Unlike Rand,” he writes, “Röpke grounded his critique of socialism and his defense of free markets in a thoroughly Christian understanding of man and his world.” He goes on to say that not only is this critique “of an entirely differing quality than Rand’s, it’s far deeper as well. Röpke saw the materialist answers of socialism as papering over the spiritual crisis that beset Western civilization in the middle twentieth century, and still does to this day.”

Miller also includes a link (bottom of post) to a free, downloadable copy of Röpke’s The Humane Economy.

The PowerBlog has archived a number of articles on Röpke by Samuel Gregg, Acton Research director and author of Wilhelm Ropke’s Political Economy (Edward Elgar, 2010).

In the archives you’ll find links to the July 2 American Spectator piece titled “The Prophet of Europe’s Crisis” and have access to “The Profoundly anti-Keynesian Political Economy of Wilhelm Röpke,” a new podcast on the Library of Law and Liberty.

During the recent Democratic National Convention, the party played a video which stated, “The government is the only thing we all belong to.” Daniel Kelly explains what’s wrong with such claims:

That one compact statement raises a question I thought we had settled quite some time ago: Are we a people who has a government, or a government that has a people? Pretty much the whole of Western political history is the story of becoming the former and fleeing the latter. And our pursuit of freedom, and flight from government’s proprietary embrace, has traditionally been something on which we have been of one mind.

But is that as true now as it has been in the past? The gentleman’s statement, as well as others made at the national conventions, suggests we ought to explicitly revisit what it is that holds us all together, what it is that has traditionally made us “one people.” Here are a few.

We don’t belong to the government. Government belongs to us. That is the gist of Abraham Lincoln’s formulation that ours is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” This is not a merely semantic quibble. We are fond of saying we are a sovereign people in this country. And that is quite true, which is why our Constitution’s preamble explains that it is “we the people” who established a more perfect union. The government did not arise of its own accord, nor did it create its own authority. It does not exist except by our consent, and cannot operate but through the authority we choose to delegate. We could be said to belong to a government only if it was totalitarian and tyrannical – at which point even John Locke would throw a flag and declare a revolution.

Read more . . .

Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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Subsidiarity, the idea that those closest to a problem should be the ones to solve it, plays a particular role in development. However, it can be an idea that is a bit “slippery”: who does what and when? What is the role of faith-based organizations? What is the role of government?  Susan Stabile, Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law, has written “Subsidiarity and the Use of Faith-Based Organizations in the Fight Against Poverty” at Mirror of Justice blog and has a succinct view of subsidiarity:

Faith-based organizations have tremendous advantages over the provision of direct benefits by the federal or state governments, being capable of steering a course between welfare as an entitlement for all and state based determinations as to what general criteria make one worthy of receiving governmental assistance. The fact that they are closer to the problem allows them to better tailor aid and solutions to the situations of those they serve. The fact that they are community-based allows them to better facilitate the full development of the human personality of those who they touch. The fact that they are faith-based allows them to capture benefits of attempting to address some of the behavioral contributors to the difficulty of improving the lives of those they serve.

However, subsidiarity emphasizes action at the level most suited to address a problem, not merely action at the lowest level. It is thus important that subsidiarity not be used as an excuse to merely devolve responsibility downward without assurance of effectiveness, that it not be used as an excuse for the federal government to abdicate responsibility to provide for the social welfare of its citizens, viewing social welfare as the responsibility of states and localities, aided by private actors. Doing so would be inconsistent both with the concerns underlying the principle of subsidiarity and with subsidiarity’s context within the broader body of Catholic social teaching, and would be little more than merely a ruse for simply reducing federal expenditures. It is thus important to recognize that the effective provision of social services requires multiple actors. While it is desirable that faith-based organizations play a significant role, the federal government must also retain a significant role both in enabling faith-based organizations to do their job and in doing those things that can not be done effectively by such organizations. Ultimately, the government must remain the ultimate backup to ensure that no one is left behind.

Ms. Stabile goes on to say that, “…addressing people’s spiritual needs, helping change their lives rather then just providing for their material needs, empowers them.” By focusing on the empowerment of people on the local level, both those in poverty and those trying to alleviate poverty, we remain centered on the human person, created in God’s image and likeness, with creative power to serve and solve.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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Do We Give Laws Too Much Credit?
Isaac Morehouse, Values & Capitalism

It is true that fires have declined over the last 35 years (at least), but is it true that government fire codes are the reason?

Towards A Moral Amorality?
Kyle Ferguson, Hang Together

Consider that both major Presidential candidates have attacked the other’s view of economics using the word “immoral,” which is ironic considering the morality of manipulating the truth is not addressed. Yet these various economic positions have little to do with the realm of morality.

The Constitutionalism of The Federalist Papers
W.B. Allen, The Imaginative Conservative

The constitutionalism of The Federalist Papers directs our attention away from its scientific and historical roots and toward its particular ambitions.

How to Get a Do-It-Yourself MA in Political Philosophy
Greg Forster, Between Two Worlds

I am grateful for his extensive recommended reading list below, which also functions as a nice overview of the big brush strokes of political philosophy.

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Monday, September 10, 2012
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Most of the time we spend on this planet we are looking down. Down at our desks . . . down at our feet . . . down at the dishes. Life is full of little details that require us to look down, put our backs into the work and get things done.

But the problem with this common posture, as C.S. Lewis puts it, is that “…as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.” Of course you say! But think about that for a minute. If you are always focused on the details of the day, then you never see the scope of the world above and around you.

This is a problem. Too often those whom God has called to bless the world have their faces focused squarely in this world’s dirt and cannot get a sense for what they are about and what God is doing through their work.

As a leader, your role very difficult. You have to vigorously affirm the dirt that each of those in your church or organization is plowing and at the same time you must lift their eyes to see why they are doing their work.

You see, the “why” gives inspiration to the “how” of the everyday. Your efforts to lift their eyes above the kitchen sink, the office desk or the path, will allow them to see how their efforts to be On Call in Culture are blessing the world and making a difference.

We have created a new resource along these lines for pastors and spiritual leaders seeking to Lead Up in their congregations. Click here to download it.

From the video vault, a classic presentation by Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, based on his monograph The Entrepreneurial Vocation.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, September 10, 2012
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I thought this piece in BusinessWeek last month from Mark Oppenheimer was very well done, “The Rise of the Corporate Chaplain.” I think it profiles an important and under-appreciated phenomenon in the American commercial sphere. One side of the picture is that this is a laudable development, since it shows that employers are increasingly aware that their employees are not merely meat machines, automata whose value is only to be calculated in terms of material concerns, and that spiritual matters cannot simply be ignored or factored in as a variable included in the cost of doing business.

But this rise in corporate chaplaincy also reminds me of the comment by Walter Rauschenbusch (noted in this recent article from Hunter Baker) that “business life is the unregenerate section of our social order.”

If by some magic it could be plucked out of our total social life in all its raw selfishness, and isolated on an island, unmitigated by any other factors of our life, that island would immediately become the object of a great foreign mission crusade for all Christendom.

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In his latest column at Forbes, Fr. Robert Sirico discusses his memories of 9/11 and the end of freedom:

One might also be tempted to imagine that the answer to bin Laden’s religious mania is a morally neutral public square. But all the great and successful battles against tyranny, all the efforts to build flourishing free societies in the first place, teach a different lesson. Freedom, as indispensable as it is, is insufficient for constructing a society and culture appropriate to man, much less for defending it. If it is to flourish and endure it must be a freedom oriented to something beyond itself, oriented to Truth — the truth of man’s origin, the truth of man’s nature, and the truth of man’s destiny. It must meet envy and the will to negation with an opposite and more than equal force — with the kind of virtue that drove Smagala and his fellow firefighters toward danger that fiery September morning, a virtue that also works in quieter circumstances to knit together the countless ties of a free society.

Read more . . .