Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We Abandon Social Conservatism at Our Own Peril
Carlos D. Flores, Public Discourse

Fiscal conservativism cannot exist without social conservatism. Strong families form the foundation of healthy societies and strong economies.

Straight Talk About Christopher Columbus
David Tucker, Wall Street Journal

Europeans acted the way that conquerors always did. We judge them harshly because they spread a then-novel idea: equality.

Turkey Builds 9,000 Mosques, Bans Orthodox Christian Liturgy
Robert Jones, PJ Media

While the Turkish government has built so many mosques across the country with state funds, it has banned Orthodox Christian liturgy in the Sumela Monastery, a historic site in Trabzon.

Will Americans Ever Trust Their Government Again?
Salena Zito, The Federalist

It’s not just scandals like Watergate that have crippled voters’ trust. It’s also attitudes of entitlement and media fear-mongering.

Economic GrowthIn 1820, America’s per capita income averaged $1,980, in today’s dollars. But by 2000, it had increased to $43,000. That economic growth has benefited the rich, of course. But it has also transformed the lives of the poor—and prevented many more from becoming or staying poor. Because of economic growth we not only have less poverty and hunger, but less disease and and increase in life expectancy measured in decades.

Yet despite these benefits we are often uncomfortable with economic growth, i.e., a rising standard of living for the clear majority of citizens. Indeed we are, as Benjamin M. Friedman says, we tend to denigrate the material welfare of ourselves and our neighbors are being of little moral consequence:

Blog author: jballor
Monday, October 10, 2016

taxesLast week, before the most recent news about Donald Trump and the current US presidential campaign burst onto the scene, Think Christian ran a short reflection of mine on the question of taxation. As I argue, “There is no duty to pay anything other than what we owe in taxes. But whatever we do owe we must pay in good conscience and out of a spirit of justice.”

If you spend any time on the internet reading about political liberty, you are likely to come across the formula, “Taxation is theft.” The picture the Apostle Paul paints is rather different. The point of departure for my thoughts on taxation is his instruction: “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes.”

So the moral status of taxation as such doesn’t seem to be problematic. But as I note in the piece, the question of implementation is different and much more complex. Just because taxation isn’t in itself theft, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t forms or levels of taxation that cannot devolve to that level.

Leo XIII, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, considers appropriate taxation. He warns of the necessity “that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation.” He continues,

The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair. (47)

As with so many questions of political economy, the issue turns on the question, “Who decides?” What Paul and Leo make clear, however, is that there is a divine standard of justice to which those who require and those who pay taxes must both adhere.

initiativeThe term “free market” doesn’t really capture the essence of the economic system that produces prosperity, says Michael Novak. The secret that “liberated more than a half billion of their citizens from poverty” was not mere freedom but private ownership and personal initiative.

The new economy in which we live is often called “the free market economy.” But markets are universal. Markets were central during the long agrarian centuries, through biblical times, in all times. For this reason, the term “the market economy” or even “the free-market economy” somewhat misses the mark.

More accurate is the “initiative-centered,” the “invention-centered,” or in general the “mind-centered economy.” More than anything, mind is the cause of wealth today. The Latin word caput (head) — the linguistic root of “capitalism” — has inadvertently caught the new reality quite well.

“The free economy” captures only part of the secret — it emphasizes the conditions under which the mind is more easily creative, in the fresh air of freedom. Freedom is a necessary condition, but the dynamic driving cause of new wealth is the initiative, enterprise, creativity, invention — which use the freedom.

Freedom alone is not enough. Freedom alone can also produce indolence and indulgence. To awaken slothful human beings out of the habitual slumber and slowness of the species, the fuel of interest must normally be ignited. One must move the will to action by showing it a route to a better world. Since humans are fallen creatures, mixed creatures, not angels, the fuel of interest is a practical necessity. The fire of invention lies hidden in every human mind, the very image of the Creator infusing the creature. To ignite it, one must offer incentives, a vision of a higher, better human condition, not only this-worldly, but also nourishing the expansion of the human soul and easement of bodily infirmities.

There is a natural desire in every human being, although it is often slumbering, to better his or her condition. And it is good for a woman to liberate herself and her whole people from the narrower horizons within which they find themselves. It is good for humans to catch glimmers of new possibilities for human development.

This, or something very like this, is the famous, celebrated and usually misunderstood “spirit of capitalism.” This is not a spirit of greed or avarice, which are grasping and small, not creative. It is an esprit, a gift of the spirit rather than of the body.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, October 10, 2016

France Shows That “Free” College Is Neither Free Nor Fair
Bill Wirtz, FEE

These subsidies have created a generation of people who attend college because it is free, even if an apprenticeship might suit them better.

“Sharing Economy” Reveals that Licensing Laws Are Really About Shutting Down the Competition
Brittany Hunter, Mises Wire

The sharing economy has completely reshaped the way we do business with each other as well as expanded opportunities for those looking to go into business for themselves.

How U.S. AID Offers a Guide to Good Government and American Exceptionalism
Tom Rogan, Opportunity Lives

The mission of the U.S. Agency for International Development (US-AID) is “to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.”

Three Essential Requirements for Flourishing
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

To be free in a world where we can love and serve strangers by doing our work well, we need certain institutions: property rights, prices, and the rule of law.

faith-at-work-ifwe1In a special report and symposium for the Washington Times, the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics has organized an array of diverse perspectives on economic freedom, human flourishing, and the church.

Authors include familiar Acton voices and partners such as Michael Novak, John Stonestreet, Christopher Brooks, Jay Richards and Ismael Hernandez, as well as leading figures such as Senator Tim Scott, Arthur Brooks, and Dr. Albert Mohler. The report also includes Acton’s very own Rev. Robert Sirico and Trey Dimsdale, each sharing their own vision of economic flourishing in the free and virtuous society.

Sirico explains the importance of preserving economic liberty and the “institutions of liberty” in our efforts to maintain a just and peaceful society: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, October 7, 2016

When we think about the places on the globe that continue to have the most consistent and seemingly intractable problems, we tend to think of Africa. While areas like East Asia and the Pacific continue to grow richer and more stable, many African countries remain mired in corruption and poverty.

Grasping the scale of problems in Africa is often hindered by our inability to grasp the scale of the continent. For example, on most maps Greenland appears to be the same size as Africa (Africa is 14 times larger). Most of us are shocked to learn that China, India, the contiguous U.S. and most of Europe could fit into Africa with room left over.

We also have difficulty in understanding both the diversity and similarities of the area. Africa has 54 nation-states, nearly one-third of countries on the planet, but only two countries on the continent (Equatorial Guinea and Seychelles) are among the top 50 richest countries.

To help us understand the problems in Africa it helps to have a simplified model. Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys, has provided that model with a helpful animation that puts the region in perspective. This short video asks, “If Africa had 100 citizens, how many would have a voice in decisions that affect their lives?”