While the United States and EU inflation rates are similar, America's inflation is fundamentally different. It is less painful in the short run but more difficult to manage in the long. To curb inflation—and especially inflation expectations—FED Chairman Jerome Powell must act, and quickly.
Pillar: 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.
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.
For the first time in forty years, we must confront the consequences of a rapidly depreciating dollar. To tame the inflationary beast and to build a more humane economy, especially for the poor, we need to grapple with inflation’s practical and moral effects.
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.
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.
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.
Inflation is on the rise in the United States. With it, there are politicians now arguing that "greedy businessmen" are to blame for it. This is not only a misleading notion but also a dangerous one, as it could end up leading to policies as destructive as the ones implemented in countries like Venezuela.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The world’s demographic future is highly unusual. Those younger than age fifty will witness a prolonged decline in the human population. The decline will not be caused by an epidemic or climate change, but rather by the collapse of fertility around the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided us with many real-world examples of timeless economic principles.
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.
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.
The best way to decide whether to say yes to the job offer in front of you lies, as is so often the case, on the other side of more questions.
The only reliable method we have found to aggregate preferences, abilities, and efforts is the free market. Through the price system, it aligns incentives with information revelation. This method is not perfect, and its outcomes are often unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, like democracy, all the other alternatives, including “digital socialism,” are worse.
Economics today is a decadent discipline, with a rich legacy but atrophied creativity. Uncredentialed economists and maverick academics offer the best hope for reviving worthwhile economics.
To fix the social contract, we need more market capitalism, not less.
We often fail to see that business is a morally formative mode of solidarity even as it also serves as a means to prosperity. Aristotle might describe it as a “friendship of utility.” Respecting the communal form of the business firm, which is essential to its productivity, demands a deeper vision of the proper goals and just governance of businesses.
Are Pope Francis’s insights into our world’s social and economic situation perfect? No. Should we wish that his economic advisers would represent a broader range of views and include more pro-market voices? Yes. Nonetheless, Fratelli Tutti is anything but an unmitigated attack on markets and individualism, as some have been eager to depict it. It holds valuable advice for those who favor capitalism.
Should social conservatives embrace large-scale economic programs aimed at subsidizing family formation and childbearing? Is it more effective to focus on long-term economic growth? Are our declining birth rates really cause for concern, anyway? If they are, to what extent can the problem be solved by governmental family subsidies?
Conservatives need to start thinking of children as an investment in our economic future. Families, too, need to start thinking of children as an investment and not a cost—as they did in the past, when children were employed in farm work. The only way to do this in the modern economy—an economy that has severed the age-old link between children and additional labor—is by ensuring that economic resources are directed toward families by the state.
Minimum wages, despite good intentions, harm the very people they are intended to help. The right minimum was $0.00 in 1987, and it still is now.