Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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If you’re a college grad, what was your first job out of college? Mine was working at a day-care center. It was not my dream job. I’m not sure I even knew then what my dream job was, but I knew that wasn’t it.

There is a lot of talk in the media about the underemployed, people with a skill set that is not utilized fully in their current job. We also have a lot of young people graduating from college who are looking for that first “real” job, the one that will launch their career. It is frustrating to find yourself waiting tables when you have that shiny new degree in business. It can feel demeaning to be working on a loading dock after you’ve been downsized from a 20-year career in retail.

The young lady in the video below from the Institute of Faith, Work and Economics knows this. However, she shares her insight about how to deal with this very situation.

Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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economicman (1)“As a social psychologist, I have long been amused by economists and their curiously delusional notion of the ‘rational man.’” writes Carol Tavris. “Rational? Where do these folks live?”

In a review of behavioral economist Richard Thaler’s new book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Tavris notes how economists are slowly beginning to see — or, one could argue, finally returning to the notion — that the discipline ought treat man as more than a mere robot or calculator.

“Researchers in this field are making up for lost time,” Tavris continues, “or perhaps realizing that they are social psychologists after all.”

As human beings who arrogantly and often wrongly consider ourselves “sapiens,” we simply don’t match the model of human behavior favored by economists, one that “replaces homo sapiens” (whom Mr. Thaler calls Humans) with “a fictional creature called homo economicus” (whom he calls Econ). “Econs do not have passions; they are cold-blooded optimizers,” he says. “Compared to this fictional world of Econs, Humans do a lot of misbehaving”—thus the book’s title.

The problem, Mr. Thaler argues, is that although economists “hold a virtual monopoly” on giving policy advice, the very premises on which that advice rests are deeply flawed. That is why “economic models make a lot of bad predictions”: some small and trivial, some monumental and devastating. “It is time to stop making excuses,” he admonishes his colleagues. Mr. Thaler calls for an “enriched approach to doing economic research, one that acknowledges the existence and relevance of Humans.” By injecting economics with “good psychology and other social sciences” and by including real people in economic theory, economists will improve predictions of human behavior, make better financial and marketing decisions, and create a field that is “more interesting and more fun than regular economics.” In that way, Mr. Thaler believes, economists will finally produce an “un-dismal science.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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E.U. Agrees to Naval Intervention on Human Traffickers
James Kanter, New York Times

European Union foreign and defense ministers agreed on Monday to establish naval operations to disrupt human traffickers from setting off from North Africa.

To Overcome Polarization, Focus on the Poor
David Lapp, Family Studies

Debating how culture and economics shape poverty can distract us from helping the poor people right in front of us.

Report: Only ‘full recognition of religious freedom’ will protect people
Carol Zimmermann, Crux

The cover photograph on a new 232-page report outlining religious freedom violations around the world last year pretty much says it all.

Carrying out the Cultural Mandate Is Essential for Biblical Flourishing
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The cultural mandate was meant not only for Adam and Eve, but for Christians today, too. It still stands as God’s directive for the stewardship of his creation.

spring_cover_2015The Houston- based Prison Entrepreneurship Program looks at convicted criminals as if they were “raw metal in the hands of a blacksmith – crude, formless, and totally moldable.” PEP puts prisoners through a rigorous character training and business skills regimen to prepare them for a productive, even flourishing, re-entry to life after incarceration. Ray Nothstine took part in PEP’s “pitch day” presentations where prisoners test their start-up dreams before a panel of business people and investors. He describes his day at Cleveland Correctional Facility near Houston in the main feature in the Spring 2015 issue of Religion & Liberty and contributes an interview with Bert Smith, PEP chief executive.

Also in this issue, Rev. Gregory Jensen reviews Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation, a new book by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal. Rev. Jensen reminds us to pay attention to policy decisions that can help or hinder “our pursuit of the ethical goals that so many of our religious leaders recommend.”

“In the Liberal Tradition” profiles Isabel Paterson (1886-1961) a journalist, philosopher, and literary critic who is credited with being “one of the three women (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand) who launched the libertarian movement in America.” Not enough people remember her today even though her 1943 book, The God of the Machine, was highly influential on its publication. You’ll want to read this profile, and learn why Paterson had a major falling out with Rand. (more…)

TPP-CountriesYesterday the U.S. Senate voted 92-0 to approve an amendment which adds a religious liberty provision to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The addition would require the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements within the partnership.

During a floor speech on the amendment earlier tonight, Senator James Lankford’s (R-OK) said, “Our greatest export is our American value. The dignity of each person, hard work, innovation, and liberty. That’s what we send around the world. It has the greatest impact.” Lankford added,
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Blog author: ehilton
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
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rohingya refugeesGreed. Lust. Corruption. Thirst for power. A wretched lack of compassion for human life. That is Myanmar.

Myanmar is home to 1.3 million Rohingya, a religious and cultural minority in what was once known as Burma. The Myanmar government staunchly refuses to recognize the citizenship of the Rohingya, claiming they are all illegal immigrants of neighboring Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya families have lived exclusively in Myanmar for generations. This lack of citizenship makes the Rohingya vulnerable to trafficking, forced labor, and poverty. (more…)

united-states-constitutionThe U.S. Constitution is arguably one of the most important legal documents in the history of the world. Because of this venerated status, though, many people assume that you need to be a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and an expert on recondite Constitutional law to understand how to read the document, much less interpret the Constitution. But as Michael Stokes Paulsen says, reading and understanding the Constitution is not an especially complicated intellectual exercise. It takes lawyers, judges, and law professors to turn it into something difficult and convoluted.

“Ninety-five percent of constitutional law amounts to deciding how to go about the enterprise of reading and applying the Constitution itself,” adds Paulsen. In the first of a two part series for Public Discourse, he outlines five broad categories of techniques one might use for interpretation.
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tppThe controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), backed by many Republicans and President Obama, hit a snag Tuesday when key Democrats spoke out against the agreement.

What exactly is the TPP? It is a free trade agreement with 12 nations (including China and Japan) that purports to increase economic growth, jobs and free trade. However, there is much opposition in Congress.

Leading opponents of the measure in the Senate have pushed for additional protections for U.S. workers and address concerns about alleged foreign-currency manipulation by China that makes American products too expensive.

“It’s a betrayal of workers and small business in our communities to pass fast track, to put it on the president’s desk without enforcement  … and without helping workers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told The Washington Post.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
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A meeting in Managua – liberation theology 30 years later
Alejandro Bermúdez, Catholic News Agency

If the Soviet bloc wasn’t the mother of liberation theology, it was certainly a sinister stepmother, enlisting Catholics in a geopolitical cause and inviting them to sell their souls for funding and support.

Do Churches Fail the Poor?
Ross Douthat, New York Times

Last week two prominent Americans — an eminent social scientist and the president of the United States — decided to answer the question: How have America’s churches failed the poor?

American nuns, Chinese booze and religious persecution
Mark L. Rienzi, USA Today

Forcing Chinese Muslims to sell alcohol and smokes is an obvious ploy to hurt Islam.

What If Everybody Didn’t Have to Work to Get Paid
David R. Wheeler, The Atlantic

Advocates say that a guaranteed basic income can lead to more creative, fulfilling work. The question is how to fund it.

I attended an informative — and very moving — presentation yesterday on the humanitarian relief effort underway in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The talk was given here in Grand Rapids by Mark Ohanian, director of programs for International Orthodox Christian Charities (see my podcast with him here). What I learned was that despite the massive scale of human suffering, the crisis is likely to get much worse. Given the gains that the Islamic State is making in Iraq, that might be a safe prediction.

Ohanian said that the relief effort in Syria, where IOCC works alongside Red Crescent and other principal agencies, is made more difficult and expensive because of the breakdown in Syrian society and the need to import so much of the supplies. The video above shows how entrepreneurial Syrians are already starting businesses in the refugee camps to help themselves.

If you want to offer direct help the refugees, you can make a donation on the IOCC site here. IOCC, in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, serves all refugees regardless of religion or ethnicity. (more…)