I’ve been a Craigslist fan for years, using it for everything from snagging free goods to securing new jobs to buying baby strollers to selling baby strollers—you name it. Yet even as I’ve become somewhat of a Craigslist veteran, swapping this for that and that for this, each experience brings with it a new set of surprises and takeaways, particularly when it comes to the way I view trade and exchange.

craigslist screen

Alas, in today’s giant global economy, it can be all too easy to feel like robotic worker bees or petty consumer fleas in a big, blurry economic order. We shouldn’t need reminders that daily tools like pencils and smartphones don’t just appear out of thin air, but based on the protectionist ethos that dominates our discussions on trade, it appears that we do.

In a way it’s understandable, what with all the conglomerates conglomerating and such. The bulk of Western society is no longer confined to bartering at the village market, nor are we bound to spend our days planting seeds and reaping harvests in a badda-bing badda-boom sort of way. Value creation, even at its largest margins, is increasingly difficult to spot.

And it is precisely here, I would argue, that bottom-up trading tools like Craigslist serve a bigger purpose than ridding our attics of stinky old mattresses. There’s something special about hum-drum personal exchange that reacquaints our economic imaginations with basic beauty of it all, cutting through and tearing down whatever pessimistic zero-sum mythologies we may be constructing. (more…)

As a child of the 1970s, your writer was witness to an amazing transformation in a large swath of the religious community. In what seemed like a wink of an eye, clergy, religious and nuns grouped together with yippies, hippies, and other left-of-center tribes to advance progressive causes. Never you mind that much of these initiatives have little overlap with Judeo-Christian principles, just believe in your heart that Jesus would oppose genetically modified organisms and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, while championing diversity and staunchly advocating the curtailment of greenhouse gases.

Of the above bugbears embraced as major issues by progressives, perhaps none resonates more than overturning Citizens United. Why, you ask? Because a reversal of the SCOTUS decision would tilt political discourse decidedly to the left, making all other issues fall like so many dominoes toward larger government, higher taxes and exponentially more regulations.  Take away businesses’ political voice and you’re left with nothing but one side of the debate.

This was the topic I watched debated on July 12 in Seattle at the Society of Corporate Secretaries & Governance Professionals’ Governance/Wired Conference. I attended the conference to help clarify the political spending and disclosure policies that seem to be front-of-mind for the shareholder-activist members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow I’ve written so much about for Acton these past few months.

The debate featured Brian G. Cartwright, senior adviser, Patomak Global Partners, as advocate for Citizens United, and Bruce F. Freed, president and founder, Center for Political Accountability, arguing that the ruling posed grave threats to current political speech. Freed’s CPA nonprofit, incidentally, authored many of the campaign-finance proxy resolutions issued by shareholders.

Freed rhetorically asked: “Why is disclosure important?” and answered: “To reduce shareholders’ risk” by preserving the reputation of the business in which they hold stock. Among the threats listed were potential legal issues and risks of extortion. (more…)

As we noted yesterday, rock star Bono is now preaching the good of capitalism in alleviating poverty. James Pethokoukis at AEI illustrates exactly what happened in China when the power of entrepreneurial capitalism was unleashed.

china

Bono spoke on the topic of capitalism and poverty at the 2012 Global Social Enterprise Event at Georgetown University:

Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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james madisonWhat do vegans, Catholics, and Starbucks have in common? According to attorney Mark Rienzi they all share the right to “decisions of conscience.”

Starbucks has ethical standards for the coffee beans it buys. Vegan stores refuse to sell animal products because they believe doing so is immoral. Some businesses refuse to invest in sweatshops or pornography companies or polluters,” Rienzi said in an Aug. 11 opinion essay for USA Today.

“You can agree or disagree with the decisions of these businesses, but they are manifestly acts of conscience, both for the companies and the people who operate them,” he said. “Our society is better because people and organizations remain free to have other values while earning a living.”
(more…)

ups-freight-globalUPS CEO D. Scott Davis was asked in a recent BusinessWeek interview, “You talk a lot about trade, global trade. What is your company’s role?”

Here’s what Davis said (emphasis added):

We always consider ourselves an enabler of global commerce. The worst thing for this country and UPS, and for the world, is protectionism. The natural reaction in a recession is people look inward and say, “Let’s put up barriers.” That stifles economic growth for everybody. I’m on the president’s Export Council, and my job is to educate the public and Congress. We’ve got to have a country that exports. We need more trade agreements.

In a piece earlier this year in Comment magazine, I examined the relationship between “Trade and Mutual Aid.” As Martin Luther described interpersonal obligation in another context, “It remains, therefore, for us to render mutual service with our gifts, so that each with his own gift bears the burden and need of the other. Thus we shall fulfill the law of Christ.”

In the BW interview, Davis also addresses the nature of the relationship between UPS and the USPS, Amazon, and what it’s like shipping sharks.

Pope-Ecumenical-Patriarch-Bartholomew-2013-03-20-620x320In Crisis Magazine, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg discusses how Pope Francis and the Catholic Church engage other religions and philosophies:

“Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”

That, according to Pope Francis, is the response he gives when leaders ask him for advice about how to resolve their societies’ internal differences. It is, he recently told a gathering of prominent Brazilians, the only way for societies to avoid the dead-ends of what Francis called “selfish indifference” and “violent protest.”

Throughout the twentieth century, the Church provided powerful examples of how to proceed along this path. A case in point was the manner in which the Catholic Church in Poland in the face of constant—and, at times, extreme—provocation never ceased talking to the Communist regime, despite the fact that the conversation was with people who were generally of ill-will and who supported an evil political system.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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She Stood for the Quotidian: Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941 – 2013)
Marc LiVecche, The Gospel Coalition

Jean Bethke Elshtain’s true professional measure is taken elsewhere, perhaps, if I might suggest, in this: she worked where life was lived.

Islam Conquering Higher European Education
Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute

The Catholic University of Leuven, the oldest university in Belgium and one that has been a major contributor to the development of Roman Catholic theology for more than 500 years, will offer a degree in Islamic theology beginning in 2014.

The Root of Evil
William T. Cavanaugh, America

Does religion promote violence?

Putting Virtue into Practice
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Benjamin Franklin offers one of the most famous examples of striving to live within a code of conduct.