Public Orthodoxy: Orthodox Theology and Economic Morality

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.

Read my full essay here.

Acton Commentary: The Unseen Good of Technology

For this week’s Acton Commentary, I examine the unseen good of technology and automation:

To circle back to manufacturing, more machinery does mean some less human work … at those factories … maybe. What people don’t see is that that machinery comes from somewhere. It represents entirely new industries that have been created and that employ many people of their own. That machinery needs to be maintained by people with the skill and expertise to do so. At the same time, because automation reduces the labor cost of production, it enables companies to lower prices to consumers while still increasing profits. What is a loss for the few is a win for the many.

Read the full essay here.

Faith & Economics: Toward a Kuyperian Political Economy

This week, my article on Abraham Kuyper and the relationship between ethics and economics was published in Faith & Economics. The abstract is below. The issue also includes two other articles and two response articles. So be sure to order a copy or subscribe!

Modern economics is generally considered an entirely positive field of study, and the role of ethics and normative analysis is found to be irrelevant in contrast to facts and data. However, economics was once considered a portion of the broader field of political economy that evolved from the study of moral theology, and this origin is significant in understanding the extent to which normative analysis is appropriate in economics. Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper emphasizes the use of sphere sovereignty to explain the relationship between different academic disciplines, and his perspective is applicable to the discussion of the role of normative analysis in economics. Kuyper found that while each sphere of study is distinct, each sphere is essentially related to the spheres that it evolves from. This paper applies the theological perspective of Kuyper to the field of economics and compares and contrasts this point of view with modern scholarly opinion on the subject.

Read the whole article here.

PowerBlog: Pokémon GO and the Success of Failure

Last week at Acton, I examined the economic (and spiritual) insights of Pokemon GO:

What Nintendo does is a microcosm of what successful markets in general do: They fail all the time. And they are able to fail all the time because they have sufficiently diversified their product offering without overextending themselves. So if one product, despite huge investments of time and money, fails, Nintendo still has two or three other big ideas just waiting to explode. And all they need is for one to catch on to completely make up for the losses inherent to the innovative process.

Read the whole post here.

Acton Commentary: Economics and the Orthodox Council

Today for Acton’s weekly Acton Commentary op-ed, I critique the economics (or lack thereof) behind the economic ethics of the recent statement approved by the Orthodox council in Crete, “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World.” I write:

The document begins strong by claiming that the word of the Church, “addressed to the world, has as its aim first of all not to judge and condemn the world … but to offer it as guidance the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” This is wonderful. However, in seeking to tease out the social implications of the Gospel, it at times comes frightfully close to judging and condemning virtually all of human civilization.

Read the full essay here.

PowerBlog: Spiritual and Economic Lessons from the N64

Today at Acton, I tease out some economic and — by way of analogy — spiritual lessons from the success of the Japanese company Nintendo, in honor of the Nintendo 64 gaming system’s 20th birthday:

Nintendo is an example of capitalism at its best. And its success (and failures) ought to remind us of what the spiritual life requires of us. Praying a prayer every now and then or reading one’s Bible from time to time may be enough. But a plurality (to the point of redundancy) of spiritual practices makes a person far better prepared for the unpredictable challenges of real life.

By contrast, cronyistic and protectionist measures seek to preserve a company’s or market’s current state, rather than being open to development. It may work for a while, but eventually creative destruction will displace a company or industry ill-equipped to adapt. Similarly, an over-confident spirituality sets one up to fall into unexpected temptation or to be unable to bear unexpected tragedy.

Read the whole post here.

Powerblog: Millennials, Entrepreneurship, and Hope

Today at the Acton PowerBlog, I note a recent article at FEE by Zachary Slayback (who I will give my 2016 award for most badass last name) on the decline in entrepreneurship among those under 30, emphasizing the importance of Christian hope:

Slayback argues that our education system discourages this sort of thinking. I don’t disagree, but I would add the benefit of Christian hope to the need for education reform. Indeed, while I’m sometimes skeptical of the claim, many say that Millennials are less religious and less Christian as a generation, a decline that would correlate with the decline in entrepreneurship among the young as well.

Whether that is due to a common factor is an open question, of course. But if, despite such anti-entrepreneurial education, a person truly believes that Jesus Christ overcame death by his death and created the Church out of a bunch of quarrelsome fishermen — a big risk! — then perhaps she would be more likely to imagine that the risks of enterprise are not too much for her and that earthly failures are not the end of a truly heavenly life.

Read the whole post here.

PowerBlog: How to Have a Great and Holy Council

Today at Acton, I have a post that combines Church politics, spirituality, economics, history, and theology (oh my!). Excerpt:

Put in spiritual terms, we know that the path to sainthood is not instant perfection but a long and dedicated repentance. Like a healthy market economy, “Successes in life often come at the end of a long road of many failures.” So too with sainthood. If that is what it takes for individuals to be holy, why should Church councils be any different?

Read the whole post here.