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Pillar: Business & Economics

Business & Economics

The fifth pillar, business and economics, is built upon concern for the common good and the ways in which the economic order contributes to—or detracts from—human flourishing. Public Discourse examines the ways in which the market is shaped by—and gives shape to—our understanding of the human person, the role of the family, the rule of law, and education and culture.

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Toward a New Vision of Wealth

In modern societies, wealth is not tied to land or long-lasting material things, nor is it transmitted across generations; it is fluid, shapeshifting, and usually doesn’t extend beyond the horizon of our own lives and personal needs. This series attempts to offer fresh ways of imagining wealth so that it becomes more conducive to cultural vibrancy and helps us flourish.

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Are Marriage and Parenthood Only for the Wealthy?

In a post-industrial society where marriage and fertility are expressions of values, rather than buttresses for economic security, policies that strive to make it as easy as possible for people to get married and have children should be at the forefront of the agenda. Broader state investment alone cannot take the place of a pro-family culture, from media outlets to religious institutions to schools.

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The Burden of Being a Family

As some of the financial benefits to marriage have eroded, it can be tempting to use policy to make family formation more attractive. The rising median age at first marriage and first birth, however, largely arise from a mix of technological progress and preference for career, which aren’t things policies can reverse. Better solutions come from civil society, where entrepreneurs work to find solutions to the everyday problems modern parents face and religious communities help young adults order their priorities.

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The Cash Economy’s Liquidation of Social Stability

In some ways, the central problem of America has become liquidity: wealth, energy, and the self all have lost their solidity. The flow of money has had a profoundly corrosive effect on our financial institutions and also our social ones. But there’s no going back to a golden age. Only by reinvigorating our modes of association can we successfully address the pathologies brought on by the quest for financial (not economic) independence.

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Third Places: Restoring Civic Life and Resisting Consumerism

The drive for maximal efficiency and convenience has impoverished the fabric of our daily lives. As we forget the value of place, we occupy increasingly thin, homogenized, placeless environments. The role we can play in these sterile settings is only one of consumption, not citizenship. That is why we must turn to third places: they help us form close friendships and increase our civic involvement, and they compose the social infrastructure of a community.

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The Best Policy for Supporting Families Is “Do No Harm”

Conservatives have recently set aside their natural wariness of government intervention to propose new “pro-family” welfare programs, such as Senator Romney’s Family Security Act. In post-Roe America, the search for ways to support families is more pressing than ever. The problem is that there is very little evidence that these types of policies work.

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An Aristotelian Defense of Ownership in the Age of the Sharing Economy

The emergence of the online sharing economy calls to mind the Socratic desire to abolish ownership with the goal of ending competition and discord. But, as Aristotle reminds us, this is a corrosive vision that would exacerbate rather than mitigate conflict, while also preventing the cultivation of key virtues such as generosity, moderation, and political friendship.

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Unsettled Science

In a carefully researched and insightful book, Steven Koonin highlights the significant uncertainty underlying climate models and statistics, the limits of technical and political responses, and the need to reassert the core values of scientific independence and integrity that drive social progress.

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The Steady State Delusion

While still on the fringe, organizations like The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) seek to push anti-growth ideas into the political mainstream. The vision is economically illiterate, politically implausible, and incompatible with America’s constitutional freedoms.

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The Inherent Virtues of Commerce

Is it possible to argue that commercial activity is inherently virtuous, that it does not need to be tolerated as a necessary evil, but rather should be embraced as a positive good? If we all have the mind of the maker, if we are all created in the image of God, then we are all creators. For some, creativity manifests itself in commercial life. The changes of the eighteenth century, the bourgeois deal, allowed whole new sets of people to finally unchain their creative impulses.

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The Demographic Future of Humanity: Social Change (Part III)

Precisely because our demographic future is uncertain, we should be even more careful and consider all scenarios. Many children grow up surrounded by a high number of adults, but with very few children in their family environment. Many regions, especially rural ones, will begin to run into problems in providing basic public goods, such as universities or hospitals, which require certain minimum sizes to operate with reasonable efficiency. The housing market, higher education, and electoral distribution will all be dramatically impacted by these demographic changes.

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The Demographic Future of Humanity: Economic Challenges (Part II)

For the last three centuries, humanity has been participating in a race in which, on the one hand, it is increasingly difficult to come up with new ideas, but on the other hand, there are more and more of us engaged in research. So far, these two forces have counteracted each other, leading to economic growth. With a falling population, however, we will start to lose the race.

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From the Archives: Conservatives Should Embrace Labor Unions

If we think there’s too much government regulation, then the authentically conservative solution is not to say, “Well, let’s just try to operate a landscape of isolated individuals jostling in a competitively economic marketplace,” but “Let’s create institutions of countervailing power so that where exploitation is happening, the people themselves are equipped to resist it, and the government doesn’t need to intervene to fix it.” If designed correctly, a system of sectoral labor unions can actually help achieve the conservative goal of limited government.

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Resisting Impossible Career Choices: My Family’s Move to the Farm

Rory Groves argues in his 2020 book, Durable Trades, that we should secure careers that will see us through from entry to retirement while supporting—rather than opposing—the relational and economic development of our families and communities. In my family’s case, farming was a way to enjoy the benefits of a durable trade while making up the gap between a single income and a double income.

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The Bad Old Days: How Scientism and Market Logic Corroded the Family Long Before the Sexual Revolution

American “family values” before the baby boomers and Roe v. Wade and second-wave feminism were shaped more by modern notions of industrial progress than by eternal truths about the human person. The sexual revolution emerged from axioms that had already permeated the mainstream for decades. Even among social conservatives, those axioms still shape our discourse about the family today.

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The Universal Destination of Goods and Private Property: Is the Right to Private Property a “Second-Tier” Natural Right?

Catholic tradition has never considered the relationship between the principle of universal destination of goods and the right to private property as one between a “primary” and a “secondary” right. The former does not formulate a right at all, but only a fundamental principle from which the right to private property receives its ultimate justification.

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Fostering a Culture of Academic Integrity in Our Business Schools

Our schools of business should be places where the whole academic community, which includes administrators, faculty, and the students themselves, can work together towards educating tomorrow’s business leaders, cultivating the very best in them. We should not allow the cheating subculture’s self-righteous and narcissistic agenda to undermine the higher quest for excellence.

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