It’s hard to think of anything more onerous than preventing enterprising people from entering the market. To do so is to interfere with their ability to serve others and engage in their vocation. It keeps people poor by preventing them from improving their lives. And one of the worst barriers of this kind is a type of law known as occupational licensing.

And that’s exactly what a group of monks in Louisiana ran into in 2010 when the state government tried to prohibit them from selling handmade caskets to their fellow Louisianians. Kevin Schmiesing wrote on that issue in 2010 on the PowerBlog.

It’s the coffin business that got St. Joseph’s in trouble. By selling its pine boxes without a funeral director’s license, the monastery violates state law. So the abbey is suing the State of Louisiana in federal court.

It’s a classic case of what economists call “barriers to entry”: regulations put in place by existing businesses or professionals to limit competition and thereby drive up prices and compensation. Usually the vested interest posits some rationale concerning the public good (e.g., not just anybody should be allowed to practice medicine…), but frequently enough the reasoning is pretty thin (e.g., should you really need a license to cut hair or drive a taxi?).

The monks are represented by the libertarian public-interest group, Institute for Justice. They won their case in 2011 and appeared last month before a Federal Appeals Court. A decision won’t be out for several months.

This all started when the Benedictine monks at Saint Joseph Abbey started receiving several requests from their community to sell caskets that the monks had constructed for their own deceased members for many years. In a hard hit post-Katrina Louisiana, this seemed like a reasonable way for them to serve their community and bring in some money to the abbey. Unfortunately, they ran into occupational licensing laws, which forbid non-funeral homes from selling caskets. The Institute for Justice argued that such laws could only serve to reduce competition and drive up the prices of caskets. The BBC has a good video on their troubles with the state. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, July 19, 2012

‘Guilty as charged,’ Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on biblical & family values
K. Allan Blume, Baptist Press

“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy said in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.” “That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”

Lessons from Bonaventure on the Spirituality of Work
Ryan Bradley

According to Bonaventure, those in the mechanical arts are fundamentally involved in ministering the mercy of God. Think of the architect who designs a house that literally protects a family from the stigma of homelessness and the suffering of being “in the elements;” a building that makes it less difficult for that family to feel a sense of connection and security.

Chinese Love Free Markets as Much as Americans Do
Cahtherine Rampell, New York Times

Chinese people are as likely to believe that most people benefit from a free market economy as Americans are, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Four Tenets of American Republicanism: A No-Frills Primer
Bradley J. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative

One may find four fundamental tenets to republicanism rightly understood. First, for a society to be effective, men must behave virtuously. Second, men must use the gifts that nature or God has bestowed upon them.

Richard Land argues the case that free-market capitalism is the economic model that most closely fits in with Christian anthropology:

When I lived in England as a Ph.D. student, I was visited during my first fortnight in the country by a fellow student seeking to sign me up for the Socialist Club. In some wonderment I asked him, “Why would you think I would want to join the Socialist Club?” He responded, “Well, I’ve been told you are a Christian minister, and if you are you would have to be a Socialist.”

I responded that if I am a Christian who believes the Bible is the truth, I couldn’t be a Socialist and be intellectually consistent.

Why? The Bible tells us men are fallen, sinful and selfish. Socialism is based on the premise that individuals in particular and as a whole are at best good, and at worst neutral. Thus, Socialists believe men will work according to their ability and receive according to their need. But the overwhelming majority of human beings only do that grudgingly and then only when forced by government coercion. Such coercion never produces the productivity and innovation produced by a capitalist, free market system.

Read more . . .

Blog author: rnothstine
Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Reuters article highlights the fact that U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack is praying for rain to help relieve droughts in the Midwest. The drought is having a significant impact on farmers and their crops. The negative affect will of course inevitably lead to higher food prices as the supply is cut. Experts say it could be the most severe dry spell since 1950.

The lack of rain and heat is really a simple reminder of our lack of control over the created order. Even with all of our technological advances and gadgets, we are still dependent on God. Sometimes it seems our culture and society has forgotten the source of life. Secretary Vilsack recognizes the need for prayer, and often times, governors, especially of farm states, will issue declarations for citizens to pray for rain.

God of course uses rain and droughts to get the attention of His people. The Old Testament is full of teaching on God’s use of droughts and rain to teach theology, obedience, judgment, and favor.

On the Ricky Skagg’s album Ancient Tones, there is a song titled “Give Us Rain.” Part of the lyrics to the tune certainly speak to us today,

Grandpa raised a family on a worn out cotton farm
Borrowed money on his word, he never did nobody harm
Sometimes he’d get discouraged when a dry spell came around
He’d go out in the cotton field and he’d kneel down on the ground

Give us rain on this dry old ground today
Give us rain, wash the troubled times away
I believe you’re faithful, I’m not meaning to complain
But Lord we sure could use a little rain
Lord we sure could use a little rain.

We can’t say for certain what the lack of rain means, but we know that God can give us rain. We can use the reminder that we are a world dependent on God and His goodness for our life and sustenance.

Did you know that, with our new website (, you don’t have to be a subscriber to read content from the two most recent issues of the Journal of Markets & Morality? Now individual articles can be purchased for the meager price of 99 cents.

Certainly, it would be more cost-effective to subscribe if you want to read all of our content, but perhaps you would just like to preview an article or two before purchasing the whole thing…. Perhaps, given current financial crises, you would like to read Charles McDaniel’s article  “Reviving Old Debates: Austrian, Post-Keynesian, and Distributist Views of Financial Crisis” or Marek Tracz-Tryniecki’s article “Tocqueville on Crisis” from the most recent issue (15.1)? 99 cents. Or maybe you just can’t get enough of the debate about the compatibility (or lack thereof) between Catholic social teaching and libertarian economics? Well, now you can purchase the six articles from the Controversy section in our Fall 2011 issue (14.2), each for only 99 cents. Or perhaps you would like to read one of our stellar book reviews? 99 cents.

It’s like iTunes, but for high-quality academic articles instead of popular music.

Furthermore, this is an excellent opportunity for me to remind our readers that, with our new website (, all editorials, even from the most recent two issues, are free (or perhaps I should say, “Priceless”?). For example, you could be reading Jordan Ballor’s editorial on “Business and the Development of Christian Social Thought” right now. Nothing is stopping you.

Ok. Enough shameless promotion. Back to reading “Settling the ‘Social Question': Three Variants on Modern Christian Social Thought” by Marinus Ossewaarde….

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, July 19, 2012

I belong to the Christian Reformed Church, and our synod this year decided to formally adopt a report and statements related to creation care and specifically to climate change. I noted this at the time, and that one of the delegates admitted, “I’m a skeptic on much of this.”

He continued to wonder, “But how will doing this hurt? What if we find out in 30 years that numbers (on climate change) don’t pan out? We will have lost nothing, and we’ll have a cleaner place to live. But if they are right, we could lose everything.”

Over at Think Christian today, I reflect on the delegate’s question and try to begin to answer it in “Climate change and the church.” I do so primarily by attempting to inject the idea of opportunity cost into the discussion about climate change and specifically ecclesial responses.

This recognition of opportunity cost is closely identified with a central insight of economics, and it is informative to see how natural scientists and social scientists, like economists, approach the question of climate change. It’s also intriguing to see whether and how these two different groups are given platforms to speak to (and sometimes for) the church. Robert Murphy has a lengthy and worthy entrance into this broader discussion, which includes this critical observation about the insights of economists on the climate question:

The general public has no idea that the “consensus” (if we wish to use such terminology) of economic studies shows net benefits from anthropogenic climate change for decades.

Are the conclusions of such economic studies relevant to the question of how churches, groups of Christians, and individuals address the question of climate change? I submit that they are. And I also submit that Murphy’s general conclusion should chasten the confidence with which non-experts (which includes nearly everyone involved in church leadership) engage these issues:

The scientific modeling of climate change, and its possible impacts on human welfare, are very technical areas requiring years of study to master. When experts try to summarize the fields for the layperson, they sometimes present matters in misleading ways, however inadvertent.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Does Acts 2-5 Teach Socialism?
Art Lindsley, The IFWE Blog

Acts 2-5 presents a beautiful picture of Christian community. But does it mandate socialism for believers? What can be said to such a claim?

Choices Matter in Avoiding Poverty
John Leo, Minding the Campus

The problem is that single mothers are presented as victims of a tsunami of inequality that has little or nothing to do with their own behavior. The language is passive. Two-income families are presented as a sort of unfair advantage that descends on some married women more often than on single ones.

When Bankers Behave Badly
Irwin M. Stelzer, The Weekly Standard

Where’s the outrage? No, not at President Obama’s performance, foreign and domestic, or his airbrushing the past three years of his failed economic policies out of the history books. That particular outrage Mitt Romney is taking good care to express as part of his strategy of concentrating on Obama’s failures rather than risk proposing policies to return morning to America. But where is the Republican candidate’s outrage at some of those who might be considered his own friends and allies?

Regulatory Capture in Action
Matthew Yglesias, Slate

Regulatory capture is sometimes treated as a somewhat mysterious illness, and in the right circumstances, it can be. But it can also be surprisingly crude, which is exactly what we saw with the regulatory officials who were supposed to be overseeing mining on federal land and here with the bank regulators.

Blog author: aknot
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

That’s the question asked at the “Economics for Everybody” blog. The answer? A resounding yes:

Work is important to God. It’s so important that He put Adam in the garden “to work it and keep it.” God took His creation and assigned it to Adam “to fill and subdue.” That sounds like work to me.

So, what does this have to do with economics?

The Bible shows us economics begins with work. God demonstrated this with His own creative action, then told Adam to follow His example. But it’s not work for work’s sake, or even work for Adam’s sake. It’s work for God’s sake.

This is the point of God commanding Adam to do specific things. Theologians often refer to these initial commands as the “creation mandate.” They are binding for everyone in the world. You could say the creation mandate is pressed into our DNA. We were designed to follow God’s commands. It’s our purpose in life.

Now when you follow someone’s commands, it means you’re ultimately working for them. In other words, with the creation mandate, God made us stewards of the creation. According to Genesis 1 and 2, our primary job as stewards is to have families and manage God’s property for their provision, all the while enjoying a close relationship with Him.

The article goes on to note that stewardship necessitates choices, and choices are foundational to economic thinking. Be it naming animals, investing, farming, or leading a family, daily tasks of stewardship are marked by the choices they demand. These choices require a broadened sense of economic thinking and force us to reckon with economics as a serious field of thought and study in the created world.

The article concludes:

This means economics starts with work, is driven by choices, and is guided by God’s commands. We could sum it all up by saying ‘economics is the study of the choices we make while using our limited resources in order to be good stewards before God.’

Complete article here.

President Obama’s speech last week in which he asserted to businesspeople, “You didn’t build that,” has been getting some pretty harsh and some pretty hilarious responses.
In this week’s Acton Commentary, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Business,” I caution against responses that play into a simple individualist/collectivist dichotomy that underlays the president’s message:

We all know at some level that we didn’t get where we are on our own, and that we have an ongoing responsibility and dependence on others for our continuing enjoyment of the goods of human existence. Christians realize too that our independence and freedom is ultimately limited and dependent not simply on other people but on the grace of God.

So to President Obama’s problematic construal of the structure of society (essentially consisting of the individual and the helping hand of government), critics shouldn’t respond simply with the vehement assertion of naked individualism. Instead, we need to articulate a more balanced and accurate perspective, one that properly relates “independence and mutuality, individuality and community.”

One such response from Hunter Baker is here, and is worth checking out.

Earlier this week, Dom Giordano of CBS Philadelphia’s 1210 AM radio affiliate led a discussion of President Obama’s “You didn’t get there on your own” speech to entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Multiple callers recommended Rev. Sirico’s recently published Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy as a counter to the President’s comments. And this morning, Sirico is slated to appear on the Dom Giordano Program at 10:05 a.m. EST.

Tune in here to listen to Sirico and Giordana discuss the new book and its relevance today.