Blog author: KHanby
Friday, September 9, 2016
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Sistine Hall.

The finances of the Catholic Church, and more specifically of the Vatican, are quite the mess. When Pope Francis was elected, he recognized this problem and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as the inaugural Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy.  Cardinal Pell was given the authority and the task to clean up the finances of the Vatican, something that has been an issue since the mid-1970s.  But now reports are surfacing that Pell is losing his authority to make any moves toward resolving this problem.  Samuel Gregg recently wrote a piece for The Stream explaining what is at stake if the Vatican fails to fix its financial problems.  Gregg starts out by making the claim that this could really hurt the Pope’s image:

Whatever the cause, any serious obstruction or even termination of Pell’s efforts to make all the Vatican’s institutions fully financially transparent and subject to modern auditing requirements surely would be judged as a major failure of this papacy. Moreover, given the amount of time and words Pope Francis spends denouncing what he regards as various economic and financial injustices, that rhetoric will seem somewhat hollow if there’s any perception he couldn’t get his own house in order.

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Today at Public Orthodoxy, the blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, I have an essay on the need for Orthodox theology to more seriously engage modern economic science. The argument would likely apply in some degree to other theological traditions as well.

I write,

Personal relationships and the monastic life have different norms than impersonal markets. This does not mean that markets have no norms, nor that the norms of markets should overrule any other concerns. But it does mean that if we wish for our economies to be more moral, whether we hail from the political right or left (or somewhere outside of that simplistic binary), we must first understand what they are and how they function.

In the article, I quote Peter Hill and John Lunn on this distinction, but it can be found in the work of Paul Heyne as well. For example, in his essay “Are Economists Basically Immoral?” citing a newspaper article about Mother Theresa (now officially recognized as a Roman Catholic saint as of this past Sunday), he wrote,

I shall conclude with two recent newspaper items. One is a short news item reporting that Mother Teresa was about to appeal to prevent the execution of a convicted California murderer. I don’t know whether she did appeal or not, but the newspaper said that she was going to call the Governor and say that this man should be forgiven because that is what Jesus would have done. Now I don’t want to get into the issue of capital punishment; I just want to point out that if Mother Teresa made that argument she was mixing different moralities. I choose Mother Teresa because I can’t think of a person for whom I have more respect; she is a far better person than I am. But forgiveness is appropriate only in face-to-face relations or for God. The criminal-justice system of the State of California is not God nor is it running a face-to-face society. A judge who forgives a convicted criminal is not a candidate for sainthood but for impeachment. The morality of large social spheres is simply different from the morality of face-to-face systems. Arguments against capital punishment must take those differences into account, and so must our arguments for revised economic policies.

This is a crucial distinction that I have come back to again and again, and one that I explore in more detail at Public Orthodoxy today. Read my full essay here.

The key to creating economic flourishing is economic growth and the key to creating long-term economic growth is to create new ideas. But what is the key to creating ideas that lead to innovation?

Economist Alex Tabarrok says the idea equation goes like this: Ideas = Population x Incentives x Ideas/per hour

This equation is a useful way to lay out the factors affecting idea production, says Tabarrok in the video below. When we understand the factors behind production, then we can better predict how the future will go.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 9, 2016
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How Can Your Church Serve Unemployed Men?
Russell Moore

With rates of male unemployment the way they are, your church has a spoken or unspoken specter over the men in your congregation and your community.

The Plight Of The White Working Class Isn’t Economic, It’s Cultural
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

The white working class thinks Donald Trump can solve its economic problems. But their problems aren’t primarily economic, they’re cultural.

Capitalism Is Good for the Poor
Steven Horwitz, FEE

The biggest gains in the fight against poverty have occurred in countries that have opened up their markets.

Economics Struggles to Cope With Reality
Noah Smith, Bloomberg View

There are basically four different activities that all go by the name of macroeconomics. But they actually have relatively little to do with each other. Understanding the differences between them is helpful for understanding why debates about the business cycle tend to be so confused.

Note: This is the fifth in a series examining the positions of several minor party and independent presidential candidates on issues covered by the Acton Institute. A previous series covered the Democratic Party platform (see here and here) and the Republican Party Platform (see here and here).

CP_logo png 125Although minor parties—often called “third parties” to distinguish them from the dominant two—have always been a part of American politics, the dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic parties in the current election season has led some Christians to give them more consideration. The intention of this series is to provide some basic information on where some of these parties stand on issues covered by the Acton Institute.

A couple of caveats are thus in order.

1. Because there are roughly 50 minor political parties in America this series will not be able to cover them all. The choice of what will be included is undeniably arbitrary and subjective. My intention is to highlight the four or five parties (or individual presidential candidacies) that would be of most interest to our readers. Currently, the plan is to include Evan McMullin (a conservative independent candidate), the Libertarian Party, the American Solidarity Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party. (Others will be added if there is sufficient interest/demand.)

2. In general, the PowerBlog covers issues related to economics and individual liberty, particularly religious freedom. For this reason some social issues of concern to Christians are not included. This is not because they are unimportant or because those of us at Acton do not care about the issues. It’s merely because they are outside the focus of this blog.

3. For the sake of simplicity, this series will highlight the position listed in a party’s platform or, if they are a non-aligned independent candidate, the positions listed on their website. Unlike with the two major parties, the nominees of the minor parties often have no direct control over their party’s platform. For this reason, the positions held by the particular presidential candidates may differ radically from the positions held by the party.

4. Minor parties tend to focus more on broad principles than specific policy prescriptions. Wherever possible, I’ll try to highlight the direct policy positions. Otherwise I’ll attempt to summarize their underlying philosophy on a public policy area.

Here are the positions of the Constitution Party as outlined in their 2016 Platform:

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Mike Rowe was recently criticized for his new partnership with Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, whose philanthropy for conservative and libertarian causes routinely garners controversy, despite its tremendous fruits.

Rowe, himself an increasingly provocative figure, recently interviewed Koch on their core areas of collaboration, including work, the trades, cronyism, higher education, and criminal justice reform. 

Koch on the politicization of “work ethic”: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 8, 2016
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You Don’t Have to Get Elected or Make Movies to Change Culture
Greg Forster, TGC

The place where we have the most opportunity to shine gospel light into our culture isn’t in elections or in movies, but in everyday workplaces.

Developing a Strategy for a Life of Meaningful Labor
Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Harvard Business Review

Whether you are a Millennial, a Gen Xer, or a Baby Boomer, here are five actions you can take to get your career strategy rolling.

Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age?
Johan Norberg, The Spectator

If you look at all the data, it’s clear there’s never been a better time to be alive.

Socialism: The World’s Greatest Generator of Poverty
Allen Mendenhall, Mises Wire

Why have death, destruction, and abject destitution become so hip and cool? Because of effective propaganda and utopian promises of “free” everything.