Category Archives: economy

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Four Talks You Can Use

Four exciting new short talks on theology and economics from national leaders are now available. These talks are designed to be used as assignments to help you introduce students to these vital issues in your classes. Featuring dynamic and engaging presentations from highly credible figures, and only 15 minutes in length, these talks promise to be a powerful curricular tool.

Oikonomianetwork Four Talks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to Vote?

In twelve days, Americans go to the voting booths. We will participate in both continuity an change as we cast our ballots. Some officials will be re-elected; others will find new work. Some ordinances and propositions will become law; others will await the next cycle or become a memory. It is good for us to pause in our celebration and recognize that the American Experiment is both exceptional and hard-won.  Our founders’ vision was extraordinary and the stability bequeathed to subsequent generations remains unprecedented in world history. This experiment in virtue-based liberty built on First Principles is something to celebrate.

This liberty has come with much suffering as well. It took a Civil War and Civil Rights to grant the franchise to millions of African-American citizens. Women were finally accorded the vote in 1920, after decades of petition and protest. Our soldiers suffering in Vietnam were the catalysts for opening this opportunity to 18 year old women and men. As we approach this election, we can rejoice that millions have the opportunity to shape the continuities and changes in local, state and national direction. We must also be vigilant that every legitimate vote is counted, from our military overseas to absentees at at home. We must reject all attempts to intimidate citizens as they express their freedom. At the same time, voting is the privilege of citizens, not documented or undocumented guests.

Are we ready to vote? I offer the following as a “The Twelve Days of Voting” preparation strategy that will make our nation stronger. Whether my readers agree with my opinions is less important than adhering to precepts of excellent preparation. Here are Twelve Questions, one for each day, as we prepare to cast our ballots:

Day One: Are we getting informed about our local and state issues as well as the Presidential race? Are we reading about the ordinances and propositions for our city, county and state? Are we aware of the positions of local and state candidates on issues that are important to us?

Day Two: Are we thinking about the Public Checkbook and electing men and women that will be good stewards our OUR money? We can and should argue how to spend public funds – there is much room for important debate here. But we must end the red ink at all levels.

Day Three: Are we investigating the voting records of incumbents and their connections with various special interests, regardless of party?

Day Four: Will we pause and pray for Almighty God to show mercy to a nation absorbed in her own pleasure, captivated by image, numbed by information overload and too eager to receive largess without considering its sources?

Day Five: After this pause, will we make friends with people outside our self-congratulatory circles, engage in civil dialogue and encourage others to vote?

Day Six: Will we focus on the local issues, asking ourselves which issues matter for future flourishing?

Day Seven: Will we concentrate on state issues, remembering the names of our assembly and senate leaders, evaluate their ideals and positions and prepare to cast our ballots intelligently?

Day Eight: Let’s look at the larger world as we examine our choices for Congress and the President. Which leaders do we trust the most to represent America well, both in our economic and safety interests as well as our ideals of freedom? What leaders will show courage in the face of Islamicist terrorism?

Day Nine: Which congressional and presidential candidates will balance the federal checkbook better? Which women and men will consider future generations in the budgets they pass?

Day Ten: Today we pause and consider the visions and values of the candidates and how they resonate with our own. We want character and competence, but ideals matter and we hope they have some humility as well, remembering that they serve us and not the reverse.

Day Eleven: Time for a final review and much more prayer and we implore the Lord for grace, love and truth in all things. This is a good day to read some quotes from Washington, Madison, John Quincy Adams, Lincoln and others.

Day Twelve: We vote, open our homes and stay up too late watching the results, celebrating peaceful transitions and preparing to hold all officials accountable.

Let’s be ready to vote with wisdom.

Some Questions for People in Power

My friends on the Left have demonized the Tea Party movement, rendering anyone connected with these groups ignorant, reactionary and the enemies of all that is noble and progressive. Some of my friends on the Right assail any advocate of environmental oversight or national medical care as anti-American and at least quasi-socialist. Amidst all the polemics, we have a paralyzed economy, mounting debt and social anger inflamed by irresponsible media outlets.

I invite my readers and all thoughtful Americans to change the course of our current direction and consider the following questions as we seek to build communities and a nation worthy of our founding principles.

To those of the chattering Left, I ask,

Have you actually sat down and spoken at length with your Tea Party neighbors or are you too content in your insulated world of self-importance? You might discover concerned, hard-working people with lots of different backgrounds and ideas that care deeply about their land. You might discover, as I have in many locations, people from every continent and cultural persuasion united by the dream of America.

Have you sat down and spoken with the owners of small and medium-sized businesses who carry an enormous tax burden and find themselves threatened by government-protected multinationals and state politicians squeezing them dry with regulations and taxes? Oh, you love the Hollywood moguls, and leaders of “progressive” companies; however, you recoil around anything with a smokestack or any state that will not support certain union mindsets. You might discover compassionate and generous folks who sustain our communities and want a better future for their children.

To those on the clamoring Right, I ask,

Have you sat down with people across cultural and generational lines and deeply listened as they share the challenges of being different in a world that rewards conformity? Have you heard the cries of disabled workers shuttled from one office to another awaiting help? Are you aware that history is not kind to capitalism divorced from ethical and spiritual restraints? You might discover that the “magic of the markets” is not so simple and that our military budgets are just as full of graft and waste as our social service ones.

Have you thought about how to ameliorate the cost of transitioning millions of workers into a 21st century global economy where other nations do not play by our rules? Family-sustaining jobs are harder to find for those without college and graduate degrees. You will discover many folks working many jobs to make ends meet and wondering if their kids will have a brighter future.

I have one question for both “sides” in the media war. Have you considered comparing the policies and principles of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower? A bit of history may inform all of us. No, there are no “good old days.” There were, however, among all Americans, rich and poor, black and white, religious or skeptical, some common values of fidelity to family, respect for neighbor, frugality, generosity and civic spirit that are undervalued in today’s sensationalized world. Thank God for the Civil Rights movement that created a better future for millions by appealing to such foundational ideas. Conservatives and liberals a half-century ago had more in common than they had in conflict.

Perhaps these queries will stimulate fresh answers as we reaffirm key values and reach for a better future.

Paralysis to Prosperity

Our current economic crises – yes, they are plural and global – stem from many factors. Bad government policies and processes for more than 50 years, unethical and unthoughtful business decisions and woeful strategic thinking have created this tsunami. In the midst of the (programmed) anarchy and polemics, we can miss one very important reality: this situation is reversible in months, not years if leaders have the courage to act decisively and wisely. If the following steps are taken, both the American and global economies will right themselves and we will not have a double-dip or a repeat of the 1930s.

Rein in government spending.

Judiciously privatize many public pension systems, with clear controls to protect the investments of workers.

End special health and retirement benefits for all elected officials.

Transform the tax code, closing outdated loopholes, eliminating double and triple taxation and capping top rates so that investments are rewarded.

Bring our troops home quickly, establish anti-terror military strategies that are mobile and not occupying and start reforming a bloated and corrupt defense industry.

Good ecological policies mean good economics for generations to come. Open new venues for oil and natural gas, while allowing profits from these efforts to fund private-public partnerships for cleaner alternatives. Let’s stop both the simplistic, “drill here, drill now” and the “de-development” social engineering and get on with the kind of creativity that built the world’s greatest economy.

Reform immigration with compassionate and judicious policies that open doors for legal residency and work while securing the borders and screening out criminals.

Carefully and humanely begin deportation of all illegal immigrants in US prisons.

Reform federal agencies and decentralize as much administration as possible. Instead of more federal money to the states, have a summit with the 50 governors and work on keeping more public dollars at home.

The list could continue for many more pages, but the principles are clear: ethical and fiscal integrity, wealth creation and local/regional socioeconomic strategies that deploy best practices.

Both local and global economies run on confidence. When fear takes over, recession and depression are not far behind. To my friends of the Right – we MUST reform military spending processes and stop being the world’s policeman, even while we judiciously confront terror. To my friends of the Left – we must secure our borders and create better efficiencies for public compassion.

Out of the crises of the 1990s both parties had to cooperate and the results were a nearly balanced budget and four million folks off welfare and deployed in the work force.

Will our leaders have the courage to change or will we slide toward Weimar-style amorality and anarchy that opens the door to totalitarian rule? The choice is ours, today and in 2012.