Archives For Economics

 

838882: Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed)

A Review of

Why Business Matters to God:
(And What Still Needs to Be Fixed)


By Jeff Van Duzer
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner

Too often, a Christian view of business is couched in terms of pros and cons. Jeff Van Duzer, in his theologically saturated business book Why Business Matters to God, reorients the discussion to focus not on the worthiness or ethics of business, but why it matters in the first place.

Building his case for business on a vocational theology defined by the creation story, Van Duzer expands the role of business beyond just being a means to an end for workers and businesspersons alike. In the creation story the material world is forefront and “good,” which for Van Duzer is a starting point for redefining the role of business. If the material world matters to God, then what we do with our material goods?the creativity, the entrepreneurship, the buying and selling of goods and services?is a furthering of God’s original creation. Next, Van Duzer does something interesting. Taking the theological perspective of Miroslav Volf and the creative theory from the Tolkien/Sayers camp, he defines the role of the Christian business and business leaders:

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“Assessing a Broken System”

A Review of

The Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

By Stan G. Duncan

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.


Stan Duncan - Greatest Story OversoldThe Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

Stan G. Duncan

Paperback: Orbis, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Economics isn’t always the most exciting field of study, and when you factor in the charged politics of globalization, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the flood of graphs, charts, statistics, and emotions. Thankfully, the principal strength of this new book by Stan G. Duncan is the clear, accessible language he uses to outline his thesis and corresponding details. The Greatest Story Oversold is a solid, faith-based introduction to the intricacies of modern global capitalism, with specific attention being given to how this system has created such a profoundly divergent set of winners and losers.

From the outset, Duncan is upfront with his biases, and such blatant openness is refreshing and welcoming, as it allows the reader to not feel like he or she has just cracked open a graduate-level text in macroeconomic theory. It’s plain to see that Duncan comes from the Christian faith, that he’s comfortable with the language of the Church and the Economics, and that he thinks the system is broken. To put a finer point on it, it’s obvious that the author is a progressive activist who seeks to educate and mobilize like-minded believers who are aware that something is wrong in the world, but aren’t clear on the details.

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A Review of
All That We Share:
A Field Guide To the Commons.

Jay Walljasper, Editor.
Introduction by Bill McKibben.
Paperback:  The New Press, 2010.

Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

An essential part of following in the way of Jesus is koinonia.  This New Testament word is often translated as “fellowship,” which in many contexts dulls the pointedness of its meaning.  The Greek root of koinonia is koine, meaning common, which is the same word that is used to describe the dialect of Greek in which the New Testament texts were written.  Perhaps a better translation of koinonia than fellowship would be “sharing in common,” and a familiar biblical image of this would be the early church in Jerusalem who shared all things in common.  Walter Brueggemann’s recent book Journey to the Common Good (reviewed here; one of our best books of 2010), uses the Old Testament texts to explore – in essence – what a community that really cared about koinonia might look like.  Brueggemann’s book is essential reading for rooting a theological understanding of why koinonia should be a defining characteristic of our church communities, in both the life we share together within our congregations and the manner in which we engage our neighbors in our particular places.  However, for exploring the practicalities of what a community defined by sharing might look like, Jay Walljasper’s new book All That We Share: A Field Guide To the Commons, would make a perfect complement to Brueggemann’s work.

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A Review of

Toward a Truly Free Market:
A Distributist Perspective on the Role of
Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More
.
John Médaille.
Hardback: ISI Books, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Sara Sterley.

I first heard about distributism a few years ago as I was reading something about peak oil and “the end of the world as we know it.” Distributism is a third-way economic philosophy articulated by Pope Leo XIII and more recently popularized and rediscovered by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc whose aim is to disperse property (and, therefore, power) as widely as possible among the populace. It is often accused of being redistributive and socialistic, but, more accurately, it proposes to minimize wealth disparities not by force, but by creating systems that foster fairness and equality.

From my very limited research on the topic at the time, John Médaille, an author and adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, seems to be the resident expert on distributism. He runs The Distributist Review and has written several publications on the topic. When I heard rumblings about his latest book, Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More, I was intrigued enough to pick up a copy.

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“Compelled to put a Price Tag on Everything?

A review of
Scroogenomics:
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays

By Joel Waldfogel
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Scroogenomics:
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays

Joel Waldfogel
.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Scroogenomics - Joel WaldfogelThe Christmas season is not my favorite time of year; the busy-ness, the shopping, the over-the-top giving of gifts, they all drive me insane.  I was therefore intrigued when I heard about the new book Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays by economist Joel Waldfogel.  Although Waldfogel makes some good points over the course of the book, it was disappointing overall.  I’m sure you are familiar with the old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”  Well, there must be a parallel adage describing economists, something along the lines of “If the only tool you have is economic theory, then everything starts looks like it needs a price tag.”  Or at least that was what kept popping into my head as I was reading through this book.  Gift-giving itself isn’t the problem for Waldfogel – a point on which I heartily agree – but for him the big issue is the obligatory giving of gifts that are not appreciated, or dare I say valued, by their recipients.  Waldfogel is particularly bothered by the “waste” inherent in gift-giving, and here waste has a very specific meaning, which may be a common definition among economists but was one with which I was unfamiliar; waste, for Waldfogel, is the difference between what was paid for a gift and the monetary value that the recipient puts on it.  As an example, if I buy you a gadget that costs $30, and you are less than enthralled with the gift and if surveyed about it, would have only bought the item if you could pay $5 for it, the $25 difference in these two values is the “waste” to which Waldfogel so vigorously objects.  I’m not completely sure, especially in the present economy, that the money is wasted, as it does go to fund jobs at a number of points along its production and distribution cycles.

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“Reimagining
Poverty and Development”

A review of
Relationality

By Claudio Oliver.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Relationality
Claudio Oliver.
Pamphlet: Relational Tithe, 2010.

Buy now: [ Relational Tithe ]

Claudio Oliver- RELATIONALITYClaudio Oliver, a pastor and community developer from Curitiba, Brazil stands in a rich tradition of recent Christian social critics that includes Ivan Illich, John McKnight and Jacques Ellul.  Indeed, my very first exposure to Claudio’s work was stumbling upon an online video of him defending his graduate thesis on Ivan Illich, Leo Tolstoy and Paulo Freire (HERE, but be forewarned, it’s in Portuguese).  Oliver’s first English publication, a pamphlet entitled Relationality, has recently been published by Relational Tithe.  This little gem of a pamphlet follows Ivan Illich’s and John McKnight’s critiques of poverty and development (especially Illich’s Toward a History of Needs; read an essay that basically summarizes the book here), but does so in a clear and narrative style that is simple to read and thoroughly engaging.  One of Oliver’s main points here is that “[Poverty] is not fundamentally not the lack of things or of stuff, but rather the lack of friends.  To be poor is to have no friends” (14).

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An Excerpt from COMMON PRAYER:
A LITURGY FOR ORDINARY RADICALS
By Shane Claiborne, Enuma Okoro
and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

To Be Relased in November…

http://www.commonprayer.net/CP.pdf

COMMON PRAYER:
A LITURGY FOR ORDINARY RADICALS
Shane Claiborne, Enuma Okoro
and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
Hardcover: Zondervan, 2010.
PRE-ORDER: [ Amazon ]


Excellent Review of the Television Show
THE WIRE (and related books) in
THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/14/life-wire/


The most intriguing phrase Simon has used regarding The Wire is to say that it is about “the death of work.” By this he means not just the loss of jobs, though there certainly is that, but the loss of integrity within our systems of work, the “juking of stats,” the speaking of truth to power having been replaced with speaking what is most self-serving and pleasing to the higher-ups. In a poker game with the mayor, one folds on a flush to allow the mayor to win. (As opposed to the freelance stickup man Omar, who, beholden to no one, shows up at at a kingpin’s poker night with two pistols and the Dennis Lehane line “I believe these four 5s beat your full house.”) Police departments manipulate their stats for the politicians; schools do the same; newspapers fake stories with their eye on prizes and stockholders. Moreover, in the world of The Wire almost everyone who tries to buck the system and do right is punished, often severely and grotesquely and heartbreakingly. Accommodation is survival at the most basic level, although it is also lethal to the soul.

Ideas are no good without stories. Stories are no good without characters. In drama, characters are no good without actors. If the integrity of The Wire derives from the integrity of its creators, its power lies, in an old-fashioned way, in the brilliant acting of a varied and charismatic cast. Not to diminish the quality of the writing or the careful cinematography, but little of Simon’s agenda would convince without the series’s acting: this is how the humanity of various people is given its indelible life. The Wire‘s producers claim it contains the most diverse cast ever on television, and it is hard to doubt it.

Read the full review:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/14/life-wire/

The Wire: Truth Be Told
by Rafael Alvarez,
with an introduction by David Simon
Paperback: Grove, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


Orion Magazine Review of
The Common Man: Poems
by Maurice Manning

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/review/5630/

IN KENTUCKY, the muse might be an older boy who says, “Take ye a slash / o’ this—hit’ll make yore sticker peck out?—“; or the muse might be the moonshine the boy hands over. Either way, Maurice Manning’s The Common Man  begins with a hint of the illicit and a shot of whiskey. Such an initiation forecasts the diction, desire, and occasional delinquency that course through Manning’s fourth collection, which amasses to an oral history of the landscape and community that the poet has consistently and creatively plumbed. Manning’s earlier collections each coalesce around a specific figure: an imagined adolescent (Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions); Daniel Boone (A Companion for Owls); a breathless shepherd (Bucolics).


Read the full review:
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/review/5630/

The Common Man
by Maurice Manning
Hardback: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

 

Heavenly Merchandize - Mark Valeri A Review of

Heavenly Merchandize:
How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America
.
Mark R. Valeri.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mark Eckel

How many of us form an opinion on something based on spurious evidence and then allow the idea to set concrete-like into fact?  If there is any historical point of reference to which this dictum may apply it has to do with America’s founding.  We tend to “cherry pick” quotes and ideas that suit our rock hard position.  Our tendency, then, is to use these lovely out-of-context-ideals to chip away at other points of view.  Might I suggest that we break out a jack hammer to all our hallowed—and sometimes hollow—positions.

Mark Valeri’s Heavenly Merchandize is a historical treatise which reinvestigates Puritan economic positions at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries.  Key to the book is the dynamic of change that moves people over a short time within the Puritan movement.  Understood, yet not a focal point, is the way words changed meaning over time.  Moreover, Valeri notes what historical markers were allowed to lapse when the present pressures of commerce—including individual profit—meant more than principle itself.  In short, Puritan commitments to clear Scriptural standards were left behind when a better deal came along.

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“Uncovering a Common Wealth

A Review of
What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

by Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Joe Bowling.


What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

Wendell Berry

Paperback: Counterpoint Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

What Matters? Wendell BerryTo paraphrase from memory something I believe Norman Wirzba once wrote, “For a growing number of us, reading Wendell Berry is perhaps the most important thing that we do.” For quite some time now, I have believed this statement to be true. If you are reading this review and have not yet read from Wendell Berry’s works, please allow me to play a small role in helping to change your life for the better. If you are reading this review and are familiar with Wendell’s poetry, novels, or non-fiction, you are almost undoubtedly nodding in agreement.

Providing a review for something that Wendell Berry has written is a difficult task. There is little chance of either providing a meaningful critique or of helping to better communicate his ideas. Few authors write with such clarity, economy and imagination. Each of Berry’s ideas is part of a comprehensive whole, a finely-attended garden if you will, which he has cultivated, and — as he would likely say — has been cultivated in him, for many decades.

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“Let’s Talk about Money

A Review of
Economy of Love:

Book / DVD set.
Featuring
Shane Claiborne, Darin Petersen and others.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


Economy of Love: Book / DVD set.
Featuring

Shane Claiborne, Darren Petersen and others.

Paperback: The House Studio, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

In this age of overwhelming greed and competition, one of the most radical things we can do together as church communities is to talk about money – how much we make, how we spend it and how that all relates to the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Toward this end, the network of friends known as Relational Tithe has assembled some resources that are very helpful for initiating these sorts of conversations within our churches.  These resources, a book and a DVD, entitled Economy of Love, challenge us to think differently about the nature of money and how much of it we need.

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