Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 25, 2016
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Black-Friday-LineToday is the unofficial first day of the holiday shopping season. Here are five facts you should know about “Black Friday.”

1. The term “Black Friday” was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad in the 1950s. According to Philadelphia newspaper reporter Joseph P. Barrett, “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season.” Barrettt first used the term in the city’s newspaper, the Evening Bulletin, in 1961 to refer to the traffic problems on that day. Local merchants complained to police commissioner Albert N. Brown about the negative association of the term, so Brown released a press release describing the day as “Big Friday.” By then it was too late; the media had already started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as  “Black Friday.”

2. Because so few people were aware of the origin of the term Black Friday, analternative explanation became popular: that it is the day on which retailers finally began to show a profit for the year (in accounting terms, moving from being “in the red” to “in the black”). The earliest use of this meaning, though, dates only to the early 1980s.
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, November 25, 2016
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Aiming at abundant lives — and livelihoods
John Scott, Washington Times

As the second-generation owner of a commercial construction company near Washington, D.C., I have explored the driving force behind my work. I prayed for a vision and landed on this: Use your influence to create environments where people can experience abundant life.

Unlearned Lessons in Haiti
T. Norman Van Cott, FEE

No one asked why Haiti’s land was left bare, or why their houses were destroyed easily.

The Emotional Labor of Waitressing
Adrieene Green, The Atlantic

Marie Billiel, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years, talks about having to have a ”mask on” for eight hours at a time.

Bitcoin was supposed to change the world. What happened?
Timothy B. Lee, Vox

What went wrong? The Bitcoin community has been hampered by a dysfunctional culture that has grown increasingly hostile toward experimentation. That has made it difficult for the Bitcoin network to keep up with changing market demands.

While it may not seem like it when you’re at the supermarket checkout, Americans benefit tremendously from relatively low food prices.

Consider the typical Thanksgiving feast. According to an informal price survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving meal for ten people is $49.87—less than $5 per person.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk—all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.

That same meal a century ago would have been much more expensive. According to Business Insider, when adjusted for inflation the same meal for ten would have cost $167.77. One reason is that turkeys are considerably cheaper. A 16-pounder in 1911 prices would cost roughly $110 today (the AFBF says the average turkey today costs $22.74).

So when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, be sure to include prayer of thank that you don’t have to spend as much of our income on food as your ancestors.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
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BernieTweetIn this week’s Acton Commentary I weigh in with some reflections on the US presidential results: “Naming, Blaming, and Lessons Learned from the 2016 Election.” I focus on much of the reaction on the Democratic side, which has understandably had some soul-searching to do.

The gist of my argument is that “the New Left forgot the Old Left and got left out this election cycle.”

For further elaborations on this theme, I recommend the following: “The Real Forgotten Man Of 2016 Was Bill Clinton,” by Ben Domenech; “Rust Belt Dems broke for Trump because they thought Clinton cared more about bathrooms than jobs,” by James Hohmann; and “Bernie Sanders, In Boston: Democratic Party Needs To Focus On Working Class,” by Simón Rios.

The only coherent way forward for the Democratic Party in America is to embrace an Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders-style approach to material inequality, to return the Old Labor vision of progressive politics. To paraphrase Sen. Sanders, going forward the Democratic Party has to be much more Piketty and much less RuPaul.

Winning in politics, as in sports, can make things seem like they are better than they really are. For the GOP, it could be that holding both houses of Congress and taking the White House ends up preventing the kind of reflection and reformation that really needs to happen. In that vein, I conclude the piece by pointing out that Trump’s economic message, which resonated among certain voters this time around, has its own problems and shortcomings.

White working class voters have suffered materially to some extent. The benefits of globalization and economic growth are not spread evenly, and there are some tradeoffs. The Right has largely been unwilling to acknowledge even short-term domestic losers in the global, free enterprise system.

But perhaps even more importantly than material losses, working classes have experienced suffering in a subjective and psychological sense, which includes feelings of isolation, purposelessness, and disrespect. Donald Trump became the vehicle for expressing this disaffection, while Clinton was the embodiment of a cronyist, corrupt Washington establishment.
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Screenshot of Google Earth Satellite image of Chaeha Market in Sinuiju. Screenshot taken 11/23/2016.

“If North Korea shuts downs markets, it will collapse too,” defector Cha Ri-hyuk explains. Satellite images and testimonies from those who have fled the oppressive regime of Kim Jong-un are demonstrating the power of markets. A new report from Hyung-Jin Kim looks at this phenomenon in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

These markets, jangamadangs, are primarily supplied with goods smuggled from China or South Korea. There are hundreds of markets where people can purchase anything from skinny jeans to locally made food. Although South Korean products are illegal, the demand for clothes and entertainment from South Korea is especially high. One defector, Lee O.P., says that despite charging high prices, she would still sell out of South Korean products. She sold clothes in the market until she was able to defect to South Korea. (more…)

thanksgiving-assortmentFamilies across the country are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, expressing gratitude for God’s overwhelming grace and abundance. And yet even as we offer thanks to God for his provision — materially, socially, spiritually, or otherwise — how often do we pause and reflect on the freedoms and channels that God uses in the process?

Will we remember that the very foods we are sure to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day required a great deal of investment, cultivation, and risk-taking? Will we reflect with gratitude on the labor it took to grow and harvest, package and ship, market and sell these items? It’s but one small window into the innumerable hands working together each and every day in service of the common good.

And will we recognize that this mysterious, creative activity is not only due to human hands, but that such dominion and stewardship mirrors that of a Creator God who so loved that he gave?

Whether we talk about this phenomenon in terms of an “invisible hand” (Adam Smith), “spontaneous order” (Hayek) “the magic of the marketplace” (Reagan), or a “great and mysterious collaboration” (Grabill), we’d do well to remember that even as we pour gratitude and honor out to our neighbors, we should be careful that we orient things before and beyond the work of human hands. “The price system is indeed an amazing creation, but of the divine mind,” ” writes Joe Carter. “It’s one of God’s means of coordinating human activity for the purposes of human flourishing.”

At Carpe Diem, Mark Perry dusts of a Jeff Jacoby column that beautifully explains this very point, and does so in the particular context of Thanksgiving. “Isn’t there something wondrous — something almost inexplicable — in the way your Thanksgiving weekend is made possible by the skill and labor of vast numbers of total strangers?” Jacoby writes. (more…)

Daniel Garza

Daniel Garza at the Acton Lecture Series – November 17, 2016

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, we speak with Daniel Garza, Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the principles and values of economic freedom within the Latino community.

According to political conventional wisdom, the Latino community is a natural constituency of progressive politicians and part of an emerging progressive permanent majority in the United States. Garza counters this narrative by noting the fact that conservative values are well represented in the Latino community, and that the success of progressives in attracting Latino votes can at least in part be attributed to a failure to effectively communicate the principles of free markets and individual liberty to Latino voters.

You can listen to this edition of Radio Free Acton via the audio player below.