unemployment-decemberSeries Note: Jobs are one of the most important aspects of a morally functioning economy. They help us serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and for communities. Conversely, not having a job can adversely affect spiritual and psychological well-being of individuals and families. Because unemployment is a spiritual problem, Christians in America need to understand and be aware of the monthly data on employment. Each month highlight the latest numbers we need to know (see also: What Christians Should Know About Unemployment).

Positive news is marked with the plus sign (+) while negative employment data is marked with a minus sign (-). No significant change is marked by (NC).

Overview: While most of the metrics were positive, few jobs were added and a large number of Americans dropped out of the labor for, making this one of the worst jobs report in years.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, January 6, 2017

An old anti-Catholic law has resurfaced in Georgia
Matt Hadro, Catholic News Agency

An amendment from the 1870s is now being invoked in Georgia to challenge a scholarship program allowing children to attend religious schools. “It would be a terrible mistake to use a bigoted law from the nineteenth century to hurt schoolchildren today,” religious freedom advocates say.

What Christians are finding as they return to the Nineveh Plain
Matt Hadro, Crux

As villages on Iraq’s Nineveh Plain are liberated from Islamic State forces, the Christians who lived there have returned, only to find destruction and betrayal.

GOP Sen. Rand Paul Blasts Party Leaders For Ignoring Debt
Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday blasted fellow GOP lawmakers for ignoring the government’s spiraling debt problem in their rush to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Religious Sources for Modern Human Rights
David E. Anderson, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

It is a version of history that runs against the grain of received wisdom and the conventional story of the birth of human rights.

“A lot of doom and gloom types say we’re living in dark times. But they’re wrong,” says economist Donald J. Boudreaux. “While there are real problems, the world has never been healthier, wealthier, and happier than it is today. Over a billion people have been lifted from dire poverty in just the past few decades.”

Globalization is routinely decried for its disruptive effects, particularly as it relates to local culture and community enterprises and institutions. Even as it’s proven to drive significant economic growth, questions remain about its steamrolling influence on the culture.

“Even if we grant that global competitive markets create prosperity, is it worth the fast food chains and the big box chains we see everywhere we go?” asks Michael Miller in an excerpt from PovertyCure. “What about a sense of vulgarity and bringing things to the lowest common denominator? And perhaps most important, does globalization destroy local culture?”

The threats to culture are real and pronounced. It is undeniable that globalization can and has and will diminish or destroy certain cultures, traditions, and enterprises. Yet as Miller and others remind us in, we are not powerless in our response, whether as creators or consumers. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 5, 2017

sayToday is the 250th anniversary of Jean-Baptiste Say, one of the most important economic thinkers of the nineteenth century. Here are five facts you should know about this French economist:

1. Say’s conviction that the study of economics should start not with abstract mathematical and statistical analyses but with the real experience of the human person was likely based on his own vocational experiences. He had worked at a broad range of occupations including journalist, soldier, politician, cotton manufacturer, writer, apprenticeship in a commercial office, and secretary in a life insurance company. As David M. Hart explains, “The major reason for his constantly changing career were the political and economic upheavals his generation had to endure: the French Revolution, the Revolutionary Wars, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, economic warfare with Britain, and eventually the fall of the Empire and the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Only after this quarter century of turmoil could Say take up his first position teaching political economy in Paris in 1815, an activity he was to continue until his death in 1832.”

2. Say is credited with coining the term “entrepreneur” in his influential book, A Treatise on Political Economy, or the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth. When the book was translated into English in 1880, it included this note on the term: “The term entrepreneur is difficult to render in English; the corresponding word, undertaker, being already appropriated to a limited sense. . . For want of a better word, it will be rendered into English by the term adventurer.”

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 5, 2017

The economists have had another terrible year. It’s time for a complete re-think
Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph

his may or may not be a good time for democracy, but one thing is certain about the past year of political upsets; it’s heaped further humiliations on the economics profession.

Faith on the Hill
Aleksandra Sandstrom, Pew Research

The religious composition of the 115th Congress.

Conservative Groups Warn of Obama’s ‘Midnight Litigation’ Against US Business
Leah Jessen, The Daily Signal

Conservative and pro-business groups warn that the Obama administration may pursue legal action to enforce some of its thousands of new “job-crushing” regulations before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

Finland is starting a national experiment to try and prove a basic income doesn’t make people lazy
Eshe Nelson, Quartz

Now, thanks to Finland, we will get an idea of how basic income programs might work in practice. For the next two years, the Finnish government is handing out €560 ($583) tax-free every month to a group of citizens.

Chirrut Îmwe

The newest Star Wars film, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,’ has enjoyed a box office success of more than $700 million since its release and generally positive reviews from fans and critics alike. The film series has a mythic quality for many, offering stories of heroism, betrayal, virtue, pride, and even spirituality.

At First Things this week, Marc Barnes offers a decent analysis of the different developments of how the Force in particular — the main religious element of the films — is depicted throughout the different Star Wars movies. He’s particularly critical of the prequel trilogy for their “secularization of the Force,” offering a naturalistic explanation (the much-maligned “midi-chlorians”) and treating it like technology or magic.

By contrast, he praises the new films, especially Rogue One, for restoring religious reverence the Force: “If the prequels scooped the sacred from the Force by biologizing and technologizing it, Rogue One returns it by spiritualizing and refusing to use the Force.”

All this has merit, but I actually thought that Rogue One in particular represents a third depiction of the Force, in some ways equally contradictory to the original trilogy or Episode VII. (more…)