What economic issues do America’s two main political parties agree on? The short answer: not much. But the New York Time‘s Annie Lowrey identifies eight areas of overlap:

1. Tax simplification
2. Regulatory simplification
3. Fannie and Freddie
4. Avoiding the fiscal cliff
5. Son of Debt Ceiling
6. Drill, baby, drill
7. Start-ups
8. Iran sanctions

What is interesting about the list is that except for the items that are overly obvious (e.g., #4 could be restated as “Avoid the Apocalypse), the areas of agreement are concerns that would be common to corporate lobbyists—and ignored by the general public. This is probably to be expected since the political parties are heavily influenced by lobbyists. But another reason may be that if politicians followed the bipartisan advice of economists, they’d never get elected.

For instance, NPR’s Planet Money asked a panel of economists (mostly left-leaning, though with a couple of libertarians thrown into the mix) to come up a economic platform for a presidential candidate. They mostly agree on the following items:


A recent national Pew Research Center survey has found conflicting opinions regarding many Americans’ view of the rich:

As Republicans gather for their national convention in Tampa to nominate a presidential candidate known, in part, as a wealthy businessman, a new nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans believe the rich are different than other people. They are viewed as more intelligent and more hardworking but also greedier and less honest.

Nearly six-in-ten survey respondents (58%) also say the rich pay too little in taxes, while 26% say they pay their fair share, and just 8% say they pay too much. Even among those who describe themselves as upper or upper-middle class … 52% say upper-income Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.

In spite of these views, overwhelming majorities of self-described middle- and lower-class Americans say they admire people who get rich by working hard (92% and 84%, respectively). (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Sad Secular Monks
Leah Libresco, First Things

Most careers aren’t vocations, so we need space outside them to grow and love.

Study: Less religious states give less to charity
Associated Press

A new study on the generosity of Americans suggests that states with the least religious residents are also the stingiest about giving money to charity.

Does Belief Belong In the Marketplace?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

The arguments made by the Justice Department in Newland v. Sebelius may infer that religious belief can be left at the doorsteps of both the marketplace and the public square. But they cannot.

Wheaton College lawsuit dismissed
Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune

A federal judge has dismissed Wheaton College’s lawsuit against the Obama administration for requiring the evangelical Christian college to offer health insurance that covers the cost of contraception, including the morning-after pill, for employees.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 27, 2012

As the Presidential debates draw near, there is one question that tops my wish list of questions that should (but won’t be) asked of the candidates: What income range constitutes “middle class”?

This undefined group of citizens seems to be a favorite of politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. Reagan and Bush cut their taxes. Clinton too. And Obama promised not to raise their taxes. But who are these people? Ask the janitor sweeping your company’s floors and he’ll likely tell you he’s in ‘middle class.’ Query the vice-president of marketing and he will give you the same answer. The single girls down in accounts payable and the married attorneys in the legal department will give the same response. In the land of equal opportunity, it appears, we’re almost all middle class.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center confirms that almost half (49%) of adult Americans say they are in the middle class. But as Catherine Rampell notes, there is a wide variety of responses about what a family of four needed to earn to maintain a “middle-class lifestyle.”


Marvin Olasky, a Senior Fellow in Acton’s Research Department, has an article in World Magazine regarding evangelism and effective economic development in Ghana. There is an effort to teach strategic economic skills to budding entrepreneurs incorporating a wholistic approach, combining not only economic lessons, but spiritual ones as well.

The clubs teach about showing love to neighbors in concrete ways. For instance, young Esther Wood received business start-up money that allowed her to buy a small bowl and fill it with plastic containers to sell. When she reported back to the older women, she was discouraged: I’m selling, yet I have no money. They asked what she did with the money she earned, and she said: Whatever my eyes saw, I bought, items like ice cream and meat pies. So the club leaders talked with her about resisting the temptation to fritter away her earnings.

The next time Wood reported to them, she was so successful that she had traded in her small bowl of plastic wares for a big one filled with attractive cooking pots. She gave her small bowl and a few plastic items to another woman starting out. Now, when Dwarko, Teye, or Gyemfi walk through Pokuase, residents come to them with job problems and hear from them messages like those Ampadu vigorously proclaims: “We have no excuse for our poverty. … We will not advance without integrity and compassion.”

Some of the more interesting aspects to come out of the program are noted by Chris Ampadu, coordinator of the Samaritan Strategy ministry in West Africa. He teaches college-level courses that address ethics, corruption and pride in one’s community. He is also quick to point out

…the need for Africans themselves to help their neighbors, and shows schools and wells and other projects produced by the savings and sweat of Ghanians themselves: “Western money will not solve our problem.”

Cross-posted at PovertyCure blog.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 27, 2012

HHS Mandate “Serious” Threat to Religious Liberty
Ken McIntyre, The Foundry

Are the concerns of religious employers about a mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) simply a matter of getting “all worked up over nothing,” a new video asks, as the Obama Administration suggests?

When Liberals Misread Bastiat
Sheldon Richman, Reason

Slate’s Matt Yglesias furnishes the latest example of “vulgar liberalism.”

Why the Gold Standard Is the World’s Worst Economic Idea, in 2 Charts
Matthew O’Brien, The Atlantic

Whether it’s 1896 or 2012, it doesn’t make sense to crucify our economy on a cross of gold.

Hayek’s Serfdom: Fifty Years Later
Ralph E. Ancil, The Imaginative Conservative

In the present political and economic circumstances of the United States, the difficulty of attaining true liberty should have made us all covetous of it long ago. Instead, we seem to have whitewashed the fence that keeps liberty out while congratulating ourselves we were doing something worthwhile.

Order matters. So much in life builds on what has come before and prepares us for those things that are in our future. So it is no accident that Sunday comes before Monday. Since the Early Church, Sunday has been both the first day of the week and the day of rest and worship for Christians around the world.

But have we stopped to ask why God gave us Sunday before Monday? What is supposed to happen on that first day of the week, and how should it impact the subsequent days? It is easy to live a life without making those connections. We silo our time between weekend and weekday. Our understanding of the spiritual is carefully kept within the confines of our devotional time and our Sunday worship experience.


In his magnificent reflection on the nature of art, Real Presences, polymath George Steiner invites us to make a thought experiment: What if we lived in a city where all talk about art, mere talk about art, was prohibited? In other words, what would follow if we did away with artistic criticism qua criticism, an activity derivative by nature and one Steiner calls “high gossip”? In this posited city, what Steiner calls the Answerable City, the only permitted response to a work of art would be another work of art. Thus participation in the “art scene” could never launch itself from the risk-free loft of criticism, but it must be real participation, a participation that demands that the viewer invest something of his own imaginative capacities. In this city, the word “interpretation” denotes not something exegetical, but something performative; an activity not of professional academics or theater critics, but of actors and directors — as in an actor “interprets a role.” Here, art means incarnation, not judgment.

But such a city is only a thought experiment, and since judgment requires the participant to invest less of himself, it will always be easier to be a critic than to be an artist. And therefore the artist will always be tempted first to pass judgment rather than to respond with his own creativity.

After a decade of trying to walk the slippery ridge between “he who does” and “he who discusses” art, I have tried to avoid criticism these last couple of years to focus only on doing. But I feel the need to again jump into the critical ring, thanks to a recent article in GQ Magazine (it was sent to me by a friend), an article on my own town, Grand Rapids, and its increasingly famous festival, ArtPrize. (more…)

At the Mackinac Center blog, I look at a really shabby piece of reportage in GQ Magazine on ArtPrize, the annual public art competition in Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids is also where the Acton Institute is based and it’s a terrific Midwestern city doing a lot of things right. But when East Coast writer Matthew Power visited GR he saw only “flyover country,” a “provincial” mindset, “G.R.-usalem” (lots of churches) and “ordinary” local inhabitants.

You know where this is going. I say:

Ultimately, Power gets to his main point, which readers could easily anticipate as leveling a charge of what is perceived as the only sin known to Western Civilization by East Coast writers of a particular persuasion: hypocrisy. For it seems Rick DeVos’ parents fund free-market (including the Mackinac Center) and conservative Christian causes, and young Rick’s motivations are judged negatively by Power’s perceived “sins” of DeVos’ mere et pere and the causes they fund.

“To some of the [DeVos] family’s detractors, the millions in soft money and the funding of conservative Christian organizations suggest more ambitious goals: an end to nearly all government control and regulation, media, education … and the arts,” Power cavils. “Whatever their motives, it seemed odd that a family with such an agenda would let its heir apparent throw open the gates to its city in an open call to any and all artists, not matter how starving or unwashed.”

Power notes that the Acton Institute, a beneficiary of DeVos monies, “has advocated for the abolition of public funding for contemporary art” when, in fact, Acton has no official position whatsoever on the matter. True, some Acton articles and blog posts (several written by your author) take issue with public funding for art, arguing along with Jacques Barzun that the practice results in a “surfeit of fine art” (and I would argue strenuously against DeVos applying for and accepting a $100,00 National Endowment for the Arts grant for ArtPrize, as the businesses benefitting most from the competition could easily pony up the relatively insignificant amount) but, again, my opinions and for that matter the free-market ideology of Mr. DeVos’ parents hardly are germane to a story that merely aims to discredit ArtPrize by any means necessary.

Power winds up his Grand Rapids’ hit piece with interviews with the losers, apparently cheesed off that the public judging was insufficient to their superior aesthetic concepts and artistic execution. But, of course, that’s to be expected.

Read “GQ Hit Piece on GR ArtPrize” at the Mackinac Center.

After relating how city regulations in Chattanooga, Tenn., helped kill a small business, economist Mark J. Perry offers a sympathetic sentiment for failed entrepreneurs:

To paraphrase President Obama:

Look, if you’ve been unsuccessful, you didn’t get there on your own. If you were unsuccessful at opening or operating a small business, some government official along the line probably contributed to your failure. There was an overzealous civil servant somewhere who might have stood in your way with unreasonable regulations that are part of our American system of anti-business red tape that allowed you to not thrive. Taxpayers invested in roads and bridges, but you might have faced city council members who wouldn’t allow you to use them. If you’ve been forced to close a business – it’s often the case that you didn’t do that on your own. Somebody else made that business closing happen or prevented it from opening in the first place. You can thank the bureaucratic tyrants of the nanny state.

(Via: Cafe Hayek)