There is much talk about raising minimum wage, even to the absurd rate of $22 per hour. President Obama has promised an increase to $9 per hour. Some small business owners, feeling the pinch of these raising wages, are turning to technology to solve their economic issues.

Carla Hesseltine, who runs a small bakery, is considering eliminating employees and replacing them with tablets that will take orders:

In order for her Just Cupcakes LLC to remain profitable in the face of higher expected labor costs, Ms. Hesseltine believes the customer-ordering process “would have to be more automated” at the Virginia Beach, Va., chain, which has two strip-mall locations as well as a food van. Thus, she could eliminate the 10 workers who currently ask customers what they would like to eat.

Small business owners can only raise prices so much without damaging sales, in order to cope with increased labor costs. Of course, there are costs involved with the set-up, upkeep and repair of technology, and the intangible cost of the loss of human contact.

Many studies about the effects of higher wages on overall employment tend to be politicized, clashing over whether the benefits of higher paid workers outweigh the costs of having fewer low-wage jobs. To support President Obama’s case for an increase in the minimum wage, the White House cites a 2009 academic study that says any adverse employment effect from such would be of a small and possibly irrelevant magnitude.

The raise in minimum wage to $9 does in fact seem to be minor. However, it is clear from Ms. Hesseltine’s story alone that tinkering with the minimum wage system will have ramifications. One could argue that the loss of minimum wage jobs will be balanced out by sales of technology and the jobs created there. It remains to be seen.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, March 29, 2013

What the Resurrection Means for Our Work
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

The resurrection and the coming Kingdom of God bear great implications for our faith and work. When we talk with biblical clarity about the resurrection, we discover an excellent foundation and purpose for our vocational work in this present world—not, as some suppose, for an escapist piety.

The Case for Prison Labor
Reihan Salam, National Review

In the new National Review, Stephanos Bibas, a professor at Penn Law School, argues that prison labor ought to be part of our efforts to reform the criminal justice system.

Generous Self-Interest
Luke Holladay, Values & Capitalism

We’ve developed a natural aversion to self-interest. An aversion so strong that our altruism is halted by the twisted question, “Do people give because it makes them feel good?” We think it may be better to forego generosity than risk satisfying our self-interest.

Excellence or Faithfulness?
Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspectives

We have a confession to make—we’re sick and tired of hearing so much about the importance of excellence in all things.

We continue to round up media appearances from the days surrounding the election of Pope Francis in Vatican City on March 13. This particular clip features Acton President Rev. Robert A. Sirico and Instituto Acton Operations Manager Michael Severance, who discuss the new Pope’s style, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities he faces as he assumes his role as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

I was thinking about just this thing after reading an opinion piece in today’s Detroit News from yet another technocrat who thinks he’s got a solution to the city’s deep, decades-old problems. His plan, dressed up with a lot of happy talk about building “vibrant central cities,” defaults to (surprise) convincing Michigan taxpayers that they should fund “local services” for Detroiters. This sort of abstract theorizing, divorced from political and public policy reality, always defaults to more taxes, bigger government and “public-private partnerships” led by corporate execs and teams of technocrats. This has been going on for close to 50 years in Detroit.

The writer of this article, Lou Glazer of the nonprofit Michigan Future, Inc., says the city, and places like Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Kalamazoo (full disclosure: I’m from Pontiac) need new “delivery systems” for services. And light rail and bike paths. “If Michigan will not reinvest in cities, then there needs to be some new system of municipal finance put in place,” he writes. Yes, investment. Nowhere, however, amid all the talk of growing the city with “young, mobile talent” does he suggest that there might be some people in Detroit with new ideas about how to come to grips with the city’s problems. Or do they all lack what it takes to turn Motown into a “talent magnet,” as he puts it. (more…)

The Acton Institute presents Acton University every June in Grand Rapids, Mich. The course offerings are rich and diverse, but there is often the idea that Acton University is all about economics. It is, but keep in mind that economics is truly about human interaction, and thus the depth of the courses. Who should come to Acton University, and what can they expect to get out of it?

David Clayton, artist, teacher, writer and broadcaster who holds a permanent post as Artist-in-Residence and Lecturer in Liberal Arts at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, has written a blog post about his experience at Acton University:

The last time I attended was my first and in the introductory lectures the speakers described how economics is a reflection of network of social interractions. And the nature of these interractions derives from our understanding of the human person, which in turn comes from Catholic social teaching.

Each person attending must sign up for a an integrated series of lectures so that each builds on the last. It is cleverly worked out so that the first lecture you choose restricts your choice for the second and so on.  As this is my second year there, I will be doing a different set of classes, that build on what I learnt last time.

As a Catholic I tended to pick courses that focus on Catholic social teaching or are consistent with it. They seem to touch on a whole range of subjects that cover topics as varied as economics, theology, public policy, globalization, the environment. What impressed me is that far from being the detached libertarians unconcerned with morality that some had portrayed them as, they were all profoundly interested in the poor and the foundations of a good and moral society. Furthermore, and again this goes against the way they were characterised, they were extremely interested in promoting a culture of beauty and seeing how this was connected to a free economy.

Are you interested in this type of experience? Learn more from our video, and then check out the registration process.


Blurring the distinction between religious faith and totally unrelated political activism has attained new levels of absurdity during the 2013 proxy resolution voting season.

One needs look no further than the network neutrality proxy resolutions submitted to AT&T Inc. by a host of clergy and religious organizations for evidence. These groups assert that net neutrality – described in their resolution as “open Internet policies” – “help drive the economy, encourage innovation and reward investors” when nothing could be further from the truth on all three counts.

Instead, the only groups advocating for net neutrality are left-of-center organizations who wish to shackle the profitability of Internet providers and stifle the growth of what has become one-sixth of the nation’s economy over the past 20 years. Joining these organizations with the AT&T proxy resolutions are the following Interfaith Council of Corporate Responsibility members:

  • Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Rose Marie Stallbaumer, OSB;
  • Trillium Asset Management Corporation, Jonas Kron;
  • Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, Sr. Henry Marie Zimmermann, OSB;
  • Christus Health, Delia Foster;
  • Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Carolyn Psencik;
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation, Laura Shaffer Campos;
  • Congregation of Benedictine Sisters, Boerne TX, Sr. Susan Mika, OSB.

The resolution filed by these groups reads: “AT&T expects mobile data traffic to grow more than eight times from 2011 levels.

“A critical factor in this growth is the open (non-discriminatory) architecture of the Internet. Non-discrimination principles are commonly referred to as ‘network neutrality’ and seek to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment for all content.”

Keep in mind that Comcast sued the Federal Communications Commission over net neutrality regulations in 2010 – and won in a unanimous decision by the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (more…)

ForbesAlejandro Chafuen, president and chief executive officer of Atlas Economic Research Foundation and board member of the Acton Institute, recently wrote a piece for about crony capitalism.

Chafuen used to spend his summers in Argentina, so he begins his article with a story about a friend from Argentina. Enrique Piana, known to his friends as “Quique,” was heir to “Argentina’s oldest and most respected trophy and medals companies.”

During part of the ’90s, the government of President Carlos Menem, and then-Minister Domingo Cavallo, had a policy for the importation of gold and exports of gold fabrications that amounted to a major subsidy for exporters. Attracted by the incentives, Quique, who had become CEO of his company, became a key player in a scheme whereby exporting overvalued gold-plated products netted them 30 million in subsidies for fake transactions. As it seems that none of the medals were sold at artificial value to true customers, the only victims here ended up being the Argentine tax-payers.

The scheme involved a “business” in the United States. As there is still substantial respect for rule of law in the United States, Quique was indicted, captured, and—after some months in a U.S. jail—extradited to Argentina. In his book, he lists the government officials who he claims knew about the scheme and who received bribes for his fraudulent activities. I will not mention them here. None of them were sentenced to jail. (more…)