Looking for a great opportunity to expand your intellectual capacity? We are still seeking applicants for two upcoming Liberty and Markets conferences: Religion and Liberty: Acton and Tocqueville and Evaluating the Idea of Social Justice.

Co-sponsored by the Acton Institute and Liberty Fund, Inc., these conferences offer an excellent opportunity for networking and discussion within a small group environment, with an average faculty/participant ratio of 1:3.

Both conferences are free and include single-occupancy lodging, meals, nightly hospitality, book gifts, and up to a $500 stipend for travel and participation. A mixture of lectures and Socratic discussions of primary texts (sent out in advance of the conference) engage participants and foster in-depth dialogue.

See below for more specific details:

Religion and Liberty: Acton and Tocqueville

September 12–15, 2013 in Grand Rapids, MI

Brief Summary: At this conference, graduate students will discuss religious freedom, the church-state relationship, and the role of religion in shaping the moral order of free societies. These issues will be examined through the lens of history, and readings and discussion will explore the relationship by illustrating how, at different points in history, Christianity has acted as a support for liberty and, at others, has failed to do so. The conference readings will focus on the writings of Lord Acton and Alexis de Tocqueville, two of the most insightful nineteenth-century liberal thinkers to write about the relationship between Christianity and liberty.

Last call for applications!

Intended Audience: Individuals currently enrolled in graduate school or have completed graduate-level studies in the last 6 years

Evaluating the Idea of Social Justice

October 10–13, 2013 in Grand Rapids, MI

Brief Summary: The purpose of this conference is to explore the idea of “social justice” and compare and evaluate it against the understanding this concept now evokes in contemporary debates about justice and political order. The all-encompassing claims made on behalf of social justice in these debates often translate into calls for the reduction of personal liberty and a concomitant increase in state power to distribute material goods and the resources of private enterprise in common.

Intended Audience: Clergy, Seminarians, Church and Parachurch workers

Visit the Acton Institute events webpage for more information and to apply.

SexTraffickingWould legalizing adult prostitution decrease the demand for child sex slaves? That’s the curious argument made by one of my favorite libertarian economist. Donald J. Boudreaux , a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently wrote:

If men can legally buy sex from women 18 years of age or older, men will have less demand to patronize children. And sex entrepreneurs will have less incentive to ‘supply’ children. With all prostitution being illegal, those who demand as well as those who supply commercial sex are subject to prosecution regardless of the age of the women they patronize or employ. By making adult prostitution legal, however, not only will that trade become more open to public scrutiny, but also the ability of those in the commercial-sex market to avoid prosecution simply by patronizing and employing women aged 18 or older will likely dramatically reduce incentives to turn young girls into prostitutes.

Boudreaux is one of the most astute economists in America, so it’s surprising to find him make such shockingly naïve claims about sexual trafficking.

The theory behind Boudreaux’s idea is based on a basic economic concept: substitute goods. Goods or services that, as a result of changed conditions, may replace each other in use are considered “substitutes.” Two classic examples of substitute goods are margarine and butter and coffee and tea. If the price of coffee or butter rises, people are more likely to choose a suitable substitute, such as tea or margarine.

But what constitutes a suitable substitute can vary considerably. Anyone who has ever been to Starbucks knows that the rise in coffee prices – both as a commodity and a consumer product – has not caused people to give up their mug of java for a cup of Earl Grey. The taste and preferences of coffee consumers tends to be inelastic. For most coffee lovers, the price would have to rise considerably for them to switch to tea.

Boudreaux is implying that adult prostitution and child prostitution are suitable substitutes. Does he really think that pedophiles and hebephiles (people with sexual interest in pubescent individuals approximately 11–14 years old) would become teleiophiles (people with a sexual interest in adults) if only they could get a discount on the cost of sex with an adult prostitute?


Domenichino Adam and Eve(1623-25)Courtesy of Web Art GalleryThere are two prominent schools of thought within conservative Protestant circles that continue to clash over what Christianity is about because their starting points comprise different biblical theological visions. I use the word “prominent” here because I fully recognize that there are other more nuanced voices in the Christian diaspora. No “binaries” or “false dichotomies” are intended here. This is simply a distinction between the two dominant voices in a choir of others.

One begins by constructing an understanding of the Christian life orientated around Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and the other begins with Genesis chapter 3. A Gen 1 and 2 starting point views the gospel as a means for human beings to have a realized experience of what their humanity was meant to be and to do, whereas a Gen. 3 orientation sees the gospel as a means of saving us from our humanity in preparation for the eschaton (heaven).


Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 8, 2013

Voting-booth-006A popular saying (often misattributed to Alexis de Tocqueville) states that a democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. If this is always the case then we should expect the poor to vote themselves even more welfare payments. However, as Dwight R. Lee explains, the desire for transfers that others will pay for has almost no effect on people’s voting behavior:

This argument that a significant financial gain from transfers does not motivate poor people to vote is supported by voter behavior. Evidence is clear that low-income people are less likely to vote than high-income people. Even in the 2008 presidential election when Obama was credited with attracting a high percentage of low-income people to the polls with promises to “spread the wealth around”, the percentage of low-income citizens who voted was far lower than the percentage of high-income citizens who voted.4 If low-income people knew that only those who voted would qualify for government transfers, their individual votes would become far more decisive and their voting participation would increase dramatically.5 But since low-income with few assets are eligible for transfers that are enacted into law whether they vote or not, their individual votes are not decisive and many who do vote will vote against the transfers for reasons I now explain.6

If financial advantages are not what motivate people to go to the polls, or to vote in favor of those advantages when they do go, why do so many people vote? The most obvious answer is that people vote to express their support for candidates and policies that they believe benefit the general public.

Read more . . .

Referring to the Affordable Care Act, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) stated earlier this year, “Unless we implement this properly, it’s going to be a train wreck.”

And indeed, from looking at the Obamacare implementation timeline alone, the law seems to have gotten off to a shaky start. The implementation of the so-called employer mandate, which would require businesses with more than 50 workers to offer insurance to all full-time employees, or else pay a fine of $2,000 per worker, has been delayed until after the 2014 midterm elections. And in late June, the Obama Administration announced another delay when it pushed back the August 1, 2013 deadline of requiring religiously-affiliated non-profits to comply with the mandate to provide coverage of contraceptives, to the beginning of next year.

Time can prove valuable and as the impending “train wreck” of Obamacare gathers momentum, more and more good, free-market alternatives are beginning to take shape.

One such approach will soon be discussed in the Michigan Senate. Last week, the Senate Government Operations committee voted to send two pieces of legislation, which would create a free-market alternative to Medicaid expansion, to the full Senate for consideration by the Chamber. “Senate Bills (SB) 459 and 460, introduced by Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) and known as the Patient-Centered Care Act, would enact a patient-centered healthcare plan that expands access to quality care without expanding government,” according to a statement released last month. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is greed really good? Does self-interest equal sin? Samuel Gregg takes on these questions at Aleteia.org, in an excerpt from his new book, Tea Party Catholic: the Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Tea-Party-Catholic-196x300Flourishing.

In many ways, the free economy does rely upon people pursuing their self-interest rather than being immediately focused upon promoting the wellbeing of others.

One response to this challenge is to recognize that fallen humanity cannot realize perfect justice in this world. ‘We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it’, Pope Benedict wrote in Spe Salvi, ‘but we cannot eliminate it.'[v] This Christian truth helps us to understand, like Saint Augustine, that what fallen humanity can achieve ‘is always less than we might wish.'[vi]


Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, August 8, 2013

523470_10151545229211463_1028298364_nOver at the Kern Pastors Network, Greg Forster points to Rev. Robert Sirico’s speech from this year’s Acton University, drawing particularly on Sirico’s emphasis on Christian anthropology. “One may not say that we are spirits inside of flesh,” Sirico said, “but that we are spirits and flesh.”

Forster summarizes:

Christianity teaches that the human person is, in Sirico’s words, both corporeal and transcendent. We cannot make sense of ourselves if we are only bodies. How could a strictly material body think for itself and make its own decisions, much less be aware of itself as it did so? Yet it is equally mistaken to locate our humanity only in the transcendent, as if we are spirits trapped inside bodies. It feels liberating at first to think that the mind and the will are all that matters, and that the body is an appendage to be used and reshaped however we wish. But whenever we try to live that way, our lives quickly become arbitrary and meaningless.

How we approach such matters impacts everything we do. When it comes to economic life, that means everything from our daily work to the economic systems we work within:

The worker who knows that his spirit and body are integrated on equal terms is able to find satisfaction in work. Unlike the materialist, he knows that work can have dignity and meaning. Unlike the Gnostic, he knows that the ultimate source of that dignity and meaning are outside himself. He can see the possibilities for transcendent satisfaction in so-called “menial” work, and he hears the call to humility and service in so-called “mind work” that others would use to glorify themselves. (more…)