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.

“What life experiences would best prepare Jesus for his later public ministry,” ask Klaus Issler, “for his distinctive divine-human role as Messiah and Savior of the world?”

We might think being born into a priest’s family would provide an excellent heritage for the Messiah, which was the life situation for Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptizer (Luke 1:5–17). Days could be devoted to studying Scripture, prayer and daily access to the temple precincts. Yet Jesus came into a layperson’s family, devoting the bulk of his young adult years to working at a “secular” job.

That seems surprising — particularly in today’s culture, which has widely viewed secular work as less, well, Christian than “full-time vocational ministry.” But as I’ve taken a deeper look at Jesus’ teachings and his own work experience prior to his public ministry, I’ve come to understand that business played a significant role in his life, and continues to play a vital role in God’s ongoing work today. As it turns out, secular work isn’t for second-class Christians after all.

Read more . . .

Blog author: John MacDhubhain
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Turns out that cronyism hits more than just your pocketbook. There’s a good chance it’s hitting your waistline too.

That’s the takeaway from this editorial by Charles Lane. You see, cheese is one of the highest fat foods we eat, and our country overproduces cheese because of government created market distortions.

Charles Lane points out how price supports for milk lead to an overproduction of milk. We have more milk than we would ever drink in its liquid form. So where does all the surplus go? It gets turned into butter and cheese. Basically, because milk is overproduced, the cost of producing other dairy products declines, lowering prices for consumers and increasing the amount of cheese that is consumed.

Which sounds great, until you remember we have an obesity problem in the United States. And the fact that farmers are already better off than most families. Price supports, subsidies, and quotas all represent market distortions that benefit the politically connected, rather than representing what the people that make up the market really want. I guess we can be thankful the milk is at least used for something, unlike other cases of government managed food policy.

The point is, if we find ourselves concerned that the American diet is contributing to obesity, maybe we should first stop subsidizing it? As Lane concludes in his opinion piece:

When you think about it, the whole trillion-dollar farm bill amounts to a vast federal subsidy to this country’s sugary, starchy, cheesy diet, filled out with grain-fed beef, pork and chicken.

I love candy, pizza and hamburgers as much as the next guy. I just don’t see why businesses that profit by supplying that diet deserve an advantage over potential innovators and competitors. Still less do I see why they should get that advantage at taxpayer expense.

Os Guinness makes the concise yet brilliant defense of the centrality of truth in the introduction to One Word of Truth: A portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn by David Aikman.

This short introduction not only offers keen insight into Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but directly speaks to the ills of our society.

Guinness points out that much of the West, to its detriment, paid closer attention to the political opposition to communism over the moral proposition on which it rested, thereby missing the true power of Solzhenitsyn. Spiritual freedom and political freedom are deeply intertwined. It is a sentiment articulated so well by the founders and framers of this nation. It has been largely forgotten today or simply misunderstood.

“Knowledge is power but truth is freedom,” says Guinness. Making the case for ordered liberty, Guinness adds that “without truth we are all vulnerable internally to passions and externally to manipulation.” He quotes Walter Lippmann who declared, “There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means to detect lies.” He echoes Lord Acton who stated that freedom is “not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

This introduction is worth continually revisiting over one’s life. Guinness quotes the French philosopher Simone Weil, who stated, “We live in an age so impregnated with lies that even the virtue of blood voluntarily sacrificed is insufficient to put us back on the path of truth.” It’s a reminder of the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, where he wrote that those lost in sin and without repentance are given over to their sinful desires. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised,” says Paul. (Romans 1:25)

PowerBlog readers can thank Elizabeth Dyar of RaceFans4Freedom, another Solzhenitsyn admirer, for alerting me to this gem. Below is the recording of Os Guinness on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and truth:

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Finally, in the Fall issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, I will be reviewing A Free People’s Suicide by Guinness.

A short post in thanks to Lee Harmon over at The Dubious Disciple for his review of Wisdom & Wonder. Here are a couple brief highlights from the review:

His writing, while dated and in many places relevant only to the most conservative Christian, is intelligent and opinionated, and the translation is elegant. It’s a pleasure to read.

Certainly the charm of this book is its antiquated quaintness, while simultaneously uncovering Kuyper as a profound theologian. The translation is superb, a perfect tone for the discussion.

Read the entire review here.

Blog author: Mindy Hirst
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our On Call in Culture community has been on a journey exploring different areas that God has us On Call in Culture. We have such a rich community of people living their lives to bring God glory. Here are examples of people we have seen who are being On Call in Culture in their life and work. Are there other job areas you would like to see us focus on? We’d love to hear what you think!

On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg challenges liberals on economic immobility:

When it comes to applying liberté, égalité, fraternité to the economy, modern liberals have always been pretty much fixated on the second member of this trinity. It’s a core concern of the bible of modern American liberalism: John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971). Here a hyper-secularized love of neighbor is subsumed into a concern for equality in the sense of general sameness. Likewise, economic liberty is highly restricted whenever there’s a likely chance that its exercise might produce significant wealth disparities.

So while it’s tempting to ascribe the Obama administration’s more or less naked appeal to class envy in the current electoral cycle as resulting from immediate calculations about how to defeat Mitt Romney, one shouldn’t forget just how central the endless pursuit of ever-greater economic equality is to the modern Left’s very identity. In fact, without it, the modern Left would have little to its agenda other than the promotion of lifestyle libertarianism and other socially destructive ends.

Read more . . .

On Friday, President Obama, during a campaign event in Virginia, told the crowd that people with successful businesses couldn’t give themselves a bit of credit:

Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart….Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

There are a number of people who might be startled to hear this. In The Call of the Entrepreneur, three men describe how they did “get there on their own”. For instance, Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer from Michigan, had to figure out how to save his failing dairy farm. And he did. HE did: not a government program, not a nebulous “somebody”, but Mr. Morgan himself.

In his book The Entrepreneurial Vocation, Rev. Robert Sirico says this about the men and women who take financial risks to create jobs for themselves and others:

What is unique about the institution of entrepreneurship is that it requires no third-party intervention either to establish or to maintain it. It requires no governmental program or governmental manuals. It does not require low-interest loans, special tax treatment, or public subsidies. It does not even require specialized education or a prestigious degree. Entrepreneurship is an institution that develops organically from human intelligence situated in the context of the natural order of liberty.

To tell a person who has made personal and financial sacrifices to create wealth for themselves and others that he or she owes it all to someone else…well. Maybe that’s the way it plays in politics, but not in entrepreneurship. Certainly, there is always room to recognize those who have helped along the way: mentors, guides, partners and cheerleaders, but the creators of wealth and business know that the words of Frank Sinatra ring true: I did it my way.

When it comes to Swiss bank accounts, pop culture brings to mind wealthy people who hide assets from various groups, such as the IRS or their jilted family members. Our sympathies do not align with the type of people we imagine hold Swiss accounts. In fact, it is easy to get quite envious of the idea of holding a Swiss bank account, or possibly resentful that others can that are well off can avoid paying as much in taxes as possible.

Sadly, our perceptions lead us astray and throw up barriers to peaceful trade. Last year, a measure to go after tax avoiders who used Swiss (and other foreign) accounts was included in the jobs bill. Now, that law (known as FATCA) is harming Americans and Swiss workers alike. The New York Times has the story.

“Congress came in with a sledgehammer,” said H. David Rosenbloom, a lawyer at Caplin and Drysdale in Washington and a former international tax policy adviser for the Treasury Department. “The Fatca story is really kind of insane.”

Essentially, the law is so onerous to foreign banks that many say they do not want American business at all.  In fact, the law affects more than just Swiss banking. It actually imposes costs on virtually all foreign banking that deals with Americans. From the NYT:

“The Fatca legislation treats all Americans with overseas bank accounts as criminals, even though most of them are honest, hard-working individuals who happen to be living and working or retired abroad,” said Jacqueline Bugnion, a director of American Citizens Abroad.

This is incredibly inconvenient to Americans abroad, who may earn income in foreign denominations which would normally be easier to deposit in foreign banks. On the flip side, we have foreign based firms who operate in the United States. A Swiss firm is set to bring 150 jobs to Youngstown, Ohio in September. Do you think a Swiss firm might have Swiss bank accounts? Thankfully, the law does not seem to have scared off this investment, but it’s possible this was planned long before FATCA came to be.

We should be very wary of policy that is born of the rhetoric of envy. According to the NYT article, the treasury expects to take in about $8 billion from the new law, which may be much lower than the costs that foreign banking institutions face in complying with the new rules. As Jordan Ballor wrote last year, taxation should be primarily be about raising revenues. Can a law that causes more economic harm than it raises in revenue be a good law for revenue? The politics of envy and resentment seem to have clouded our judgement so badly that we are going to create a greater economic harm than the fiscal benefit to our country. Envy and resentment are natural, but we should recognize them for what they are: vices. It’s not surprising that vices lead to bad law.

H/T to Matt Welch

A major reason why the nation has historically prospered, says John B. Taylor, is because Americans worked within a policy framework that was predictable and based on the rule of law, with strong incentives emanating from a reliance on markets and a limited role for government. When we deviate from that standard—as we have for the past few years—we struggle. But we can find our way back if we’d follow Hayek’s recipe for recovery:

In implementing this new economic strategy, policymakers should be guided by Hayek, especially by his emphasis on the rule of law and the predictability of policy. As he wrote in The Road to Serfdom, “Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law. Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand—rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge.”

Rules-based policies produce more stable economies and stronger economic growth. When people make decisions, they look to the future. Prices that convey information and provide incentives reflect the future. So good decisions as well as the prices that guide them depend on the predictability of future policy—and thus on clear policy rules.

Read more . . .