“Oral histories often paint a rosy picture of the moral fiber of previous generations,” write Anthony Bradley and Sean Spurlock in this week’s Acton Commentary. “But close attention to history reveals the truth about human condition: that regardless of our social status, everyone is in need of moral formation – and thus it has always been.”

In Britain and elsewhere, as the contrast between the publicly held moral code and private behavior became clear, the code itself was discredited. The need for repentance and reform among today’s aristocratic elite – in Hollywood, on Capitol Hill, on Wall Street – is obvious. Thanks to the media, private indiscretions held in secret among the elite in a previous era are now part of the daily news cycle. Couple these stories with America’s high divorce rate and we begin to see why confidence in the virtues of marriage among our youth is on the decline.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

zero-sumWhy do liberal and conservative evangelicals tend to disagree so often about economic issues? This is the second in a series of posts that addresses that question by examining 12 principles that generally drive the thinking of conservative evangelicals when it comes to economics. The first in the series can be found hereA PDF/text version of the entire series can be found here.

In my first post, I covered the first four principles (#1 – Good intentions are often trumped by unintended consequences; #2 – Our current economic and historical context must be taken into account when applying Biblical principles; #3 – To exploit the poor, the rich need the help of the government; #4 – We love economic growth because we love babies). In this post I want to consider points #5 (The economy is not a zero-sum game) and #6 (Poverty in America is more often a matter of personal choice than structural injustice).

5. The economy is not a zero-sum game.

In a zero-sum game, one person’s gain (or loss) is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the other participants. If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. It’s similar to dividing a pumpkin pie between five people: someone can only get a larger slice if someone else’s portion is smaller.

Many progressives in America, including far too many (though not all) liberal evangelicals, believe economics is a zero-sum game. They believe wealth, like a pumpkin pie, is fixed and that “there must be one winner and one loser; for every gain there is a loss.” This may be true in some economic systems, but it does not apply in free markets.

Jay W. Richards explains why free enterprise does not require that there be an economic loser for every economic winner:
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Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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tillingHelping people get out of poverty is hard, dirty work. It isn’t glamorous. Most of those involved do not get to wander around the developing world wearing cool blue shades and giving sound bites. In fact, the Campaign for Boring Development is so insistent on this, they’ve written a manifesto to drive home the point: development work can be…boring.

  • Development Does Not Photograph Well. Watching a family till their land does not make for riveting video. It’s just plain ole hard work.
  • “Making the Lives of the Poor Better” is not the same thing as ”Fighting Poverty.”

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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Over the past few months I’ve become obsessed with the idea that economic principles and arguments need to be explained more intuitively. I’ve assumed that the best way to approach that task would be to create robust metaphors that can be intuitively grasped. But a short parody video by Julie Borowski on the minimum wage has made me realize that sometimes all we really need is to show the obvious conclusions of policy positions.

Borowski’s presentation is silly, her style slapdash and homemade, and her argument well worn to the point of being trite. But there is something about having the argument presented visually that helps to put a fresh spin on an stale (and obvious) point.

Watch the video below and keep in mind that when she talks about “raising your own minimum wage” that this is exactly what we are asking the government to do on the behalf of low-skilled workers — often with the same results.

(Via: Cafe Hayek)

Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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lets-break-upDr. Kristin Held, a Texas physician, wrote a “Dear John” letter to Aetna, one insurance provider under which she works that now mandates Obamacare. Held believes patients will suffer under the new health care law.

You see, health insurance has evolved such that insurers and government have inserted themselves smack-dab in the middle of the once sacred patient-doctor relationship. I am called a provider- not a doctor. My patient is now yours- not mine. What I can do as a physician now has strangulating strings and nonsensical numbers attached- to you and government and money-not the best interests of the patients. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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“Extreme Religious Liberty Rights”
Mark Barrett, First Things

Terming the protections of RFRA as “extreme religious liberty rights,” the Foundation and associated groups go beyond even what the Obama administration requests, asserting not only that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood don’t qualify for the law’s protections, but rather that RFRA itself is unconstitutional.

An Economic Lesson from the Sermon on the Mount
Brian Baugus, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

One of the most important lessons in the Sermon of the Mount deals with keeping one’s word in agreements and contracts.

Reason and Revelation: Why Christians Need Philosophy
Sherif Girgis, Public Discourse

Many Christians question the value of philosophical arguments for conjugal marriage, preferring to appeal to revelation. But our natural moral knowledge in some ways precedes revelation and helps us to understand it.

Mississippi Most Religious State, Vermont Least Religious
Frank Newport, Gallup

Religiousness across the U.S. in 2013 remained similar to previous years. With 61% of its residents classified as very religious, Mississippi held on to its position as the most religious state, while Vermont, with 22% very religious residents, remained the least religious.

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
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povertycureCan the current model of humanitarian aid generated by networks of large philanthropic foundations, NGOs, and Western governments actually alleviate global poverty? The latest Liberty Law Talk podcast asks Acton’s Michael Miller, director of the new Poverty Cure Initiative, to address that question and to explain what conditions can lead to prosperity:

As Miller discusses, the prevalent humanitarian aid model frequently uproots the very beginnings of the circles of exchange that must exist for wealth to be created in these societies. Frequently missing as well in the current approach is understanding how crucial the rule of law, property rights, and markets are in the uplift from poverty, and that frequently, these economic and legal orderings are absent in regions of hardship. Consequently, the conditions for human flourishing don’t exist and cannot be created by large philanthropic interventions, which everywhere substitute parental relationships between the donor and recipient in the place of real human flourishing in these communities.

Click here to listen to the podcast.