venezuela-food-shortagesThe Venezuelan economy is buckling under the weight of its severe socialist policies, and even as its president admits to a nationwide economic emergency, the government continues to affirm the drivers behind the collapse, blaming low oil prices and global capitalism instead.

This was supposed to be the dawn of “21st-century socialism,” as the late President Hugo Chavez proclaimed over 10 years ago, complete with the right tweaks and upgrades to its materialistic, mechanistic approach to the human person. “We have assumed the commitment to direct the Bolivarian Revolution towards socialism,” he said, “and to contribute to the socialist path, with a new socialism…which is based in solidarity, in fraternity, in love, in justice, in liberty, and in equality.”

Alas, with a shrinking economy, booming inflation, violent outbreaks, and empty food shelves, “21st-century socialism” is feeling mighty nostalgic in all the wrong ways.

In the years before Chavez, the country was in better shape than much of the continent. Now, thanks to the temptations of centralized power, the arrogance of centralized planners, and a series of faux upgrades to age-old bad ideas, the nation is crumbling. The oil prices simply served as the messenger. (more…)

olive garden
Your writer lives beyond the outskirts of Midland, Michigan, a small Midwestern town that is buoyed fortuitously by a Fortune 50 company. It’s a nifty place: Population around 50,000, a plethora of parks and bike trails, three rivers converging west of town, relatively low crime rate, and plenty of establishments of both the local and national variety in which to dine out. One of these eateries is the Darden Restaurants, Inc. chain Olive Garden. Can’t say I’ve ever dined there, but I’ve noticed the parking lot is always full whenever I drive past on my way to the movie theater or book store, which must indicate something positive. Then there are these little nuggets of info: Darden reports $6.7 billion in sales each year, largely accountable to its 1,500 Olive Garden casual-dining restaurants, which serve 320 million meals annually.

Despite its widespread popularity, however, Olive Garden is the source of grave agitas among leftist activists behind the Good Food Now! crusade, which includes our old friends over at Green America. This group, readers will recall, is allied with shareholder activists Ceres and the US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing that, in turn, boast affiliations with faith-based investment organizations As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

What has Good Food Now! folk so up in arms, taking to the streets, waving protest signs and whatnot? Could it be serious violations of labor laws or crimes against pasta or a desire for cannoli made from non-genetically modified ingredients? Nah, as ridiculous as those may be they don’t measure against the stated Good Food Now! attempts to squelch Darden’s lobbying against a minimum-wage hike and source its food locally. (more…)

theeconomy2In every stage of my formal schooling – from high school to college to graduate school – I took courses in economics. Yet with all that education I struggled to understand a seemingly simple question: How does the economy actually work?

Sure, I can still draw supply and demand curves or give the equation for GDP (Y = C + I + G + (X − M)). But when it comes to picturing a reasonably functional model of how it all fits together, I was at a loss. Until a few years ago when Ray Dalio came to my rescue.

Dalio is the founder of the “world’s richest and strangest hedge fund” and #48 on Forbes list of richest people in America. But more importantly (at least for our purposes), Dalio is also the creator and narrator of the 30-minute video, “How the Economic Machine Works.”

Dalio’s video is one of the best explanations of economics I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched it at least half a dozen times over the past three years and highly recommend setting aside half an hour to watch this entire video.


Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bribery Taints $2 Trillion of Transactions Globally, IMF Says
Ian Talley, Wall Street Journal

The broader cost of graft, fraud and other forms of official corruption is likely much higher.

The Promises and Perils of Christian Politics
Russell Kirk, The Imaginative Conservative

Every generation fights the same battles over again. So it is that many Christian communions, in the 1980s as in the 1930s, are deafened by fife and drum ecclesiastic.

Could The Next Bill Gates Hail From Africa?
Laura Secorun Palet, Ozy

They are determined to tend to the root causes of problems, moving away from “Band-Aid” solutions and one-off projects that disappear when the funding dwindles after a few months.

Don’t solve problems, stop causing them
Scott Sumner, EconLog

Given that I share the same utilitarian value system of many progressives, you might expect me to also be a progressive. If I had to provide a one sentence explanation of why I am not, I might use the title of this post.

Is the dominant economic system we have today, the market economy or capitalism, compatible with Christianity? Orthodox Christian theologian David Bentley Hart in a June 2016 First Things article titled,”Mammon Ascendant: Why global capitalism is inimical to Christianity,” is skeptical. As you might gather from the title of his article. On Public Discourse, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg takes a closer look at Hart’s curious economic postulates such as the one about the “purely financial market” and his rather overbroad claim that wealth is intrinsically evil. Then there’s the one about the investments that wealthy people and institutions make, with homicidal malice, in new businesses and the like. Gregg:

Even more contestable is Hart’s suggestion that the venture capital that, he concedes, built places like Manhattan and provided millions with jobs is somehow responsible for particular evils. Notable among these is what he calls “the carboniferous tectonic collision zones of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky” in which “a once poor but propertied people were reduced to helotry on land they used to own” and “forced into dangerous and badly remunerated labor that destroyed their health, and then kept generation upon generation in servile dependency.” This is an example of how, to use Hart’s words, “the market murders.”

To murder is to intentionally kill an innocent person. Is Hart really suggesting that the workings of “the market”—which is simply an economy in which there is a free creation and exchange of goods and services by individuals and communities in a particular institutional setting—involves the intentional killing of innocent people?

Did people on Wall Street, for instance, directly will the alleged enslavement of people in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky? Who, one might ask, “forced” people into these jobs in West Virginia? Could it be possible that some of these crypto-peasants weren’t so content with their three acres and a cow and actually regarded working in a mine as a better economic option, given their available choices at the time? It’s likely that the vast majority of their descendants live far more comfortable material existences, enjoy longer life-spans, and are better educated than their small-landowning forebears. Some are probably working on Wall Street.

Read “Global Capitalism versus Christianity? A Response to David Bentley Hart” on Public Discourse by Samuel Gregg.

One of the most common criticisms of capitalism is that the system exploits workers. It’s an old claim (dating back to at least Karl Marx). But is it true?

Philosopher Matt Zwolinski argues that even if individual capitalists want to exploit workers the free market tends to prevent them from doing so. However, government interference in labor markets does allow some parties to gain at someone else’s expense.

I want to be very clear from the outset that moral concerns surrounding transgender identity are not unimportant. But in the likely event that we don’t come to any national consensus on that question any time soon, it is important not to overlook other moral and social concerns that are far more pressing. In particular, there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and privacy, no matter which side one favors, but resorting to the force of law will leave some real victims vulnerable.

On the one hand, the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence found that compared to violence among the general population, “Transgender women [i.e. biologically male] survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence and 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, when compared with other survivors.” I have seen headlines connecting this violence with restroom use in the past, but now that the issue has become politicized those stories are harder to locate. In any case, privacy and safety are real and major concerns for many. We should not be indifferent to this.

On the other hand, according to the CDC,

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 women and men (5.6% and 5.3%, respectively) experienced sexual violence other than rape….

Again, privacy and safety are real and major concerns here. We should not be indifferent. (more…)