Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Natural Law: Basic Principles, Objections, and Responses
Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition

A basic summary from Greg Forster’s very helpful book, The Contested Public Square: The Crisis of Christianity and Politics (IVP, 2008).

Free Markets, Democracy Are Nothing Without Moral, Religious People, Eric Metaxas Says
Tyler O’Neil, Christian Post

“The free market and democracy by themselves, unmoored by a religious population or a moral population, are nothing,” Metaxas said Friday. “The free hand of the market will provide cheaper, better pornography and drugs, if that’s what the population wants.”

What Does Public Schooling Teach Us About Predatory Pricing?
Bryan Caplan, EconLog

Predatory pricing is one of the simplest business practices to explain: Sell at a loss until you bankrupt your competitors. When you think about it, public schools apply this predatory strategy to an extreme degree. They don’t just sell education at a loss. They “sell” education for free!

An Unexpected Source of Human Flourishing
Shawn Ritenour, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The division of labor contributes to prosperity because people are more productive when they specialize in doing those tasks at which they are relatively most efficient. Instead of every person producing every good that he consumes himself, all of us are more productive if we specialize in producing those goods for which we are the low-cost producer.

Radio Free ActonThe latest edition of Radio Free Acton takes a look at the awful practice of human trafficking in advance of Acton’s upcoming moderated panel discussion on the issue, Hidden No More: Exposing Human Trafficking in West Michigan. Acton Director of Communications John Couretas speaks with Elise Hilton, whose name you’ll recognize from our blog, and who has authored a great many posts drawing attention to just this topic.

Give the podcast a listen via the audio player below, and be sure to register for the March 28th panel discussion as well

College-Fund-by-Tax-CreditsSenator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, recently argued that Congress should hike taxes on families and small businesses making more than $1 million, then use the tax revenue to let debt-ridden students refinance their college loans.

As a progressive redistribution scheme it’s rather ingenious: It allows the government to take money from private individuals and businesses and give it to other businesses (i.e., college and universities), all while giving the impression of helping another group of private individuals (i.e., students who take indebt themselves by taking out college loans). Warren’s proposal is an brilliant blend of cronyism, special interest pandering, and “soak the rich” class envy – which is why it has a high likelihood of becoming law.

But if we look past the proposal we discovers something else that is fueling the student loan debt “crisis.” Whenever a nanny state solution like this is proposed, we should ask why the government is needed to serve as a governess. In this case, it appears the government is being asked to be a surrogate parent because of the failings of actual parents.

According to a study by sociologists at Rice University, college students whose parents are not married to each other face significantly heavier financial burdens for the simple reason that married parents, relative to other parents, contribute significantly more to their children’s college education:


Calvin Sr. and Calvin Jr.

In reading Amity Shlaes’ marvelous biography of Calvin Coolidge, I was struck by a brief poem written by Coolidge’s son, Calvin Jr., during his father’s stint as vice president to Warren Harding.

Coolidge was having a hard time adapting to life in Washington, ridiculed for a variety of things, and struggling to remain supportive of an administration which, as Shlaes puts it, boasted “a temperament wilder than his own.” As one glimpse into these matters, Coolidge’s close friend, Frank Stearns, had sent him a letter expressing his sympathies. “It makes me a little sick at heart that you should not get more comfort out of your success,” Stearns wrote. A sample of Coolidge’s reply: “I do not think you have any comprehension of what people do to me.”

“The price of their status, having it or lacking it, was becoming clear to all the Coolidges,” Shlaes explains. (more…)

gr cityThe city of Grand Rapids, Mich. continues to deny the Acton Institute application for property tax-exemption, even as Acton presents evidence to support such status.

The Acton Institute, recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and ranked #11 in the world as a social policy think tank by the University of Pennsylvania, received notice from City Assessor Scott Engerson that it did not meet the criteria for tax-exempt status for property tax purposes.

Most people think that if they’re a tax-exempt 501(c)3 they’re exempt from property tax, and that’s not the case in Michigan,” he said. “In regard to Acton, it’s the charitable piece that the city was not able to definitively conclude.”

Acton is one of 435 organizations appealing the city’s ruling regarding tax-exemption this month alone. Today, Acton made its appeal. (more…)

Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament and writer, says he believes the European Union is “making its peoples poorer, less democratic and less free.” In the short video below, he explains why, when it comes to government, smaller is better.



Leghorn Chicken, a “socially conscious chicken shop” in Chicago, makes it quite clear that they intend to be, as one might put it, a culture-making enterprise.

Behold, their statement of faith (HT).

Such an attitude, worldview, and moral orientation isn’t all that appealing to someone such as myself, particularly when paired with the lovely parental advisory sign located at the counter. Yet I feel no inclination to enlist the muscle of the magistrates to manipulate them toward watering things down. I can consume their chicken blindly (not advisable), take my business elsewhere, or start a delicious chicken shop of my own.

Respond to the market signal with your own market signal. Heed your conscience. Shape and create the culture. Bear witness to the Truth. Etc.

Yet for those like Kirsten Powers, these folks should simply subdue their strident beliefs and get back to plain-old materialistic business. “Most people just want to eat a chicken sandwich,” she might say. “It’s not clear why some chicken shops are so confused about their role here.” Or, as Andy Stanley might put it, “leave gay rights out of it.”

I bring this up simply to re-affirm a point I’ve already made: businesses are culture-making enterprises, whether they or we like it or not. When we detest or disagree with particular cultural outputs of particular cultural enterprises, we should respond with healthy Christianly output, not systemic strong-arming and stifling.

This means maximizing the freedom to shape culture and maximizing it for all. That includes religious freedom for the baker, the florist, and the photographer, just as it includes the ramblings of the supposedly a-religious chicken shop.