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.

“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:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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