IKEA-Refugee-Shelter3When looking for solutions to humanity’s problems, conservatives and libertarians tend to prefer turning first to free markets rather than government. The reason for such a preference is often misunderstood, and can be difficult to explain since it appears paradoxical: free markets are often better at serving human needs than governments because free markets make it easier to fail.

As Arnold Kling explains, the best way to deal with failure depends on the institution. An individual needs to fail with a fallback position, a small startup firm needs to fail quickly, and a large, established firm needs to fail gracefully. But government, says Kling, cannot do any of these things well.

Of the many things that governments do poorly, failing is probably the worst. That is why governments rarely produces significant innovations. To produce innovative ideas, products, processes, or services requires testing what works and adjusting what doesn’t until you find the right formula. In a free market, the actions of consumers provide a signal to individuals and firms that they are doing well – or that they are failing.

If a company is failing, they have an incentive to adjust — and are pressured by competitors to adjust quickly — in order to give the customer what they need. They are often faced with a brutal, binary choice: innovate or fail. Government agencies, in contrast, tend to lack such feedback mechanisms and the ability to adjust quickly precisely because they have a low fear of failure. Even if they are unable to innovate and serve the needs of their “customers” they will likely stay in business due to bureaucratic inertia.
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protestOffering yet another contribution to a series of recent discussions about the religious liberties of bakers, florists, and photographers, Jonathan Merritt has a piece at The Atlantic warning that the type of protections Christians were fighting for in Arizona “could come back to hurt the faithful.”

“These prophets of doom only acknowledge one side of the slope,” Merritt writes. “They fail to consider how these laws could be used against members of their own communities. If you are able to discriminate against others on the basis of religious conviction, others must be allowed to do the same when you are on the other side of the counter.”

Merritt sets things up with the following hypothetical:

“I’d like to purchase a wedding cake,” the glowing young woman says as she clutches the arm of her soon-to-be husband. “We’re getting married at the Baptist church downtown this coming spring.”

“I’m sorry, madam, but I’m not going to be able to help you,” the clerk replies without expression.

“Why not?” the bewildered bride asks.

“Because you are Christians. I am Unitarian and disapprove of your belief that everyone except those within your religion are damned to eternal hell. Your church’s teachings conflict with my religious beliefs. I’m sorry.”

Would conservative Christians support this storeowner’s actions? (more…)

Pope Francis recently installed 19 new cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican, the first that he has chosen in his pontificate. Most of the new Cardinals hail from outside Europe and North America, and the group includes the first Cardinal from the long-impoverished nation of Haiti. Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, spoke with the BBC about what this new group of Cardinals means for the Roman Catholic Church, and how they reflect the changing face of the church in the 21st century. This interview originally aired on February 22, 2013.

Dennis Prager at Prager University reminds us that big government makes everything else (goodness, charity, self-reliance) smaller. Big government also creates a sense of entitlement amongst citizens, creating ingratitude and resentment – hardly what one wants in society.

From The Independent:

He leads a company that some would consider the epitome of ruthless global capitalism. But Apple chief executive Tim Cook has shocked some in the US with an impassioned attack on the single-minded pursuit of profit – and a direct appeal to climate-change deniers not to buy shares in his firm.

Eyewitnesses said Cook, who succeeded Steve Jobs as boss of the technology giant in 2011, was visibly angry as he took on a group of right-wing investors during a question-and-answer session at a shareholders’ meeting.

And what were these (presumably) egregious and inappropriate questions levied by the “right-wing investors”?

Responding to calls from the National Centre for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a conservative think tank and investor, for Apple to refrain from putting money in green energy projects that were not profitable, he shot back that Apple did “a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive”.  The chief executive added: “We want to leave the world better than we found it.”

Addressing he NCPPR representative directly, he said: “If you want me to do things only for ROI [return on investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

So some Apple investors were concerned that the company might be throwing good money after bad (but socially chic) investments into green energy, and that is what set off the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies? Really? (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
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The Conscience of Thomas More and the Little Sisters Of The Poor
Sandra Laguerta, First Things

With the battle raging between the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Federal government on the HHS Mandate, some writers have likened their case to the trial of St. Thomas More as seen in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons or Fred Zinnemann’s famous film adaption. Zinnemann’s film and Bolt’s play, however, inaccurately convey Thomas More’s idea of conscience.

What Is the Right to Religious Freedom?
Fr. Dylan Schrader, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

The most fundamental right in the area of religion is that which should be attributed to God, what we owe to God. God is absolutely sovereign.

The Rich Get Married, the Poor Get Poorer
Peter Jon Mitchell and Andrea Mrozek, Public Discourse

The Canadian dialogue on marriage and economic prosperity lags behind the American conversation, but a new report aims to change that.

An Argument to Turn to Jesus Before the Bar
Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times

Americans like to sue. But many evangelicals believe that they should turn first to Jesus, not the bar. “If another member of the church sins against you,” Jesus says, according to the Gospel of Matthew, “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”

oskari-novak

Today the Acton Institute announced the 2014 Novak Award winner. Full release follows:

A rigorous researcher and sound contributor to various academic disciplines and initiatives, Finnish native Oskari Juurikkala has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Novak Award by the Acton Institute in recognition of his early promise as a scholar.

Educated in both law (London School of Economics) and economics (Helsinki School of Economics), he earned a joint Ph.D. in law and economics from the University of Eastern Finland in 2012.

Before starting his doctoral thesis, Juurikkala was a researcher at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. He has also worked as economic policy advisor as well as researcher at the Institute of International Economic Law at the University of Helsinki. Much of his time has been spent teaching various university-level courses, including law and economics, intermediate microeconomics, business ethics, and the economics and politics of European integration.

Juurikkala has published on a range of topics including regulation of financial derivatives, venture capital, philosophy of economics, the history of economic thought, and natural law jurisprudence. He has also written a monograph on pension reform, entitled Pensions, Population, and Prosperity (Acton Institute, 2007). He is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. (more…)