joseph-interpreting-dreamsNote: This is the latest entry in the Acton blog series, “What Christians Should Know About Economics.” For other entries in the series see this post.

The Term: Consumption Smoothing

What it means: Consumption is the use of goods and services by households. Consumption smoothing is the balancing out of spending and saving over a period of time to maintain the highest possible standard of living (measured in consumption) over the course of one’s life.

Consumption is one of the first economic concepts mentioned in the Bible. Similarly, consumption smoothing is one of the first economic concepts to play a significant role in redemptive history.

In Genesis 41 we find that the Pharaoh of Egypt has two dreams that he is unable to interpret. Joseph is brought in to explain the meaning:
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Blog author: CRoberts
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Working comprises the bulk of most people’s adult lives. Unfortunately, many people find their work unfulfilling and dread Monday mornings. How can we find meaning and a sense of vocation in even the most mundane work environments?

In a recent article published in The Atlantic, Uri Friedman presents seven helpful pieces of advice given by David Brooks (New York Times columnist) and Arthur Brooks (president of the American Enterprise Institute) in order to shed light on how people can better view their job and find purpose. The difference between attitudes of boredom and laziness versus those of enthusiasm and productivity boils down to one’s motivation to work. Do you work for the paycheck alone? Or do you view your work as contributing to the service of others?

Construction WorkerI found one point especially helpful. Friedman narrates a story:

Arthur Brooks set out on a career as a French horn player. But then he came across Johann Sebastian Bach’s answer to why he’d become a composer: “The aim and final end of all music is nothing less than the glorification of God and the enjoyment of man.” Brooks gradually decided that he could better serve such aims as an economist, with a focus on improving the lives of the poor, than as a musician.

“The happiest people feel like they’re needed,” Brooks said. “The greatest engine of misery in our society is a sense of social and economic superfluousness”—a sense, he added, that is contributing to the anger on display in U.S. politics today.

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gmo-food1“A group of more than 100 Nobel Laureates have publicly declared Greenpeace’s anti-GMO campaign a crime against humanity,” says Allison Gilbert in this week’s Acton Commentary.  “These men and women say the science is clear — the world needs GMOs, and objecting to the production of genetically modified foods both denies scientific evidence and exacerbates the suffering of the world’s poor.”

“We call upon Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general,” the laureates write.

Richard Roberts, the molecular biologist who spearheaded the campaign, said that mankind has been modifying food for centuries, and modern GMOs are only a continuation of this process. The letter urged Greenpeace to “re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide” to recognize that biotechnology is safely improving seeds, crops and farming’s environmental impact.

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

On June 17th, Acton Institute President and Co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico delivered the final evening plenary address of Acton University 2016. We’re pleased to present the video of his address here on the PowerBlog.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Is Liberalism a Heresy?
Francesca Aran Murphy, First Things

The only viable vehicle of conservatism in modernity is a market-oriented liberalism that regards freedom within law as the means to the common good.

Why African Entrepreneurship Is Booming
Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Harvard Business Review

This adaptation by the local companies to indigenous creativity is a response to new market realities.

Welfare reform to promote work and marriage
Robert Doar and Kiki Bradley, AEI

A disturbing lack of progress within the current poverty model calls for reform. The odds of a child born into poverty moving out of it have remained almost completely static for the last two decades.

Redemption
James K.A. Smith, Comment

Restoring creation will require the Spirit-inspired work of building caring institutions and life-giving habits.

Samuel Gregg, Research Director for Acton Institute, recently published an article titled “Catholicism and Global Institutions: It’s Time for a Rethink” in The Catholic World Report which calls for the Catholic Church to reform its approach to supranational bodies, and think critically before engaging with issues raised by Brexit.

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Pope Francis visits the European Parliament in Strasbourg in November 2014 (AP)

Gregg shrewdly justifies his call for the Catholic Church to reform its treatment of political organizations. Gregg points out that many Catholics are increasingly suspicious about the Europeans Union’s growth of power and recognize that some United Nation agencies “directly violate Catholic teaching on human life”- and while this is true, he organizes additional points which strengthen his case.

Some of the most important factors which the Catholic Church should consider is first the lack of prioritizing decentralization among EU officials, and secondly the tendency of supranational institutions “not only to dilute national sovereignty but even national identity” through Kantian institutional internationalism. Lastly, Gregg explains that even if the Kantian liberalism were taken out of supranational bodies, the EU has only shown signs to approach change by implementing ‘top-down’ centralization. (more…)

Blog author: sstanley
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
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Theresa_May_UK_Home_Office

Theresa May, UK Home Office

A true feminist, a devout Christian, and a leader with common sense will soon move into 10 Downing Street.

As excitement—and dismay—surrounded Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, Remainer and (former) prime minister, David Cameron announced his resignation from British parliament’s highest position. Today he officially leaves office, allowing Theresa May to become the next British Prime Minister.

Originally, Cameron planned to wait until October to pass the torch to the next leader, but on Monday he stated that, “we now don’t need to have a prolonged period of transition. And so tomorrow I will chair my last Cabinet meeting. On Wednesday I will attend the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s questions.”

The background on May’s rise to this office may be a tad complicated to Americans, even compared to our current messy presidential election.  Rather than a national vote for a new prime minister, in the British parliamentary system the ruling party’s leader (in this case, the Conservatives) automatically becomes prime minister. (more…)