At Work & Economics 101 & Public Square

The Year In Freedom

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Here at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, we’re committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.

To build a free, flourishing society, we believe that people need an economic environment that not only provides them the freedom to pursue their calling and flourish in their work, but also reflects the inherent dignity of every human being.

Here are five of the top stories from 2013 that exhibited this freedom and made us think about it more deeply.

TOMS Shoes Embraces the Role of Enterprise

This fall, TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie realized how important economic freedom is to overall prosperity and poverty alleviation. After being criticized for its “buy one, give one” model of selling shoes, Mycoskie announced in September that TOMS is moving to a more sustainable, long-term approach to development by beginning to manufacture shoes in Haiti. He remarked, “I want everyone to hear me clearly: This is not just additional aid to Haiti…This marks a major investment and will have one of the most important investment returns possible – and that is improving people’s lives.”

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Rebuilding and Restoration On Display in Detroit

Revitalizing the nation’s cities, especially Detroit, grabbed headlines in 2013. While most of the news about the Motor City has focused on its decline, there are signs of hope. Christopher Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries and Campus Dean at Moody Theological Seminary, is a leading figure working towards the restoration of Detroit. He brings to bear a unique mix of biblical and economic principles as he and his church live out the Gospel in their city.

Brooks shared some insights at this year’s Acton Institute Annual Dinner, saying, “God wants to heal these cities, and his medication for healing is heavy doses of things like free economies, virtue, and those things that make for prosperity and self-government.”

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile,” Jeremiah 29:7 exhorts. Brooks and his fellow Christians are doing just that as they work for spiritual and economic progress in Detroit.

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 Toys Become Tools for Economic Growth

Is it possible to fight poverty one toy block at a time? The work of Tegu Toys, a wooden block manufacturer, shows that the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Joseph Sunde reported on Tegu in April, saying, “In a country where 64% of people live below the poverty line, Tegu is creating economic growth and, in the process, is seeing the lives of its employees transformed.”

HOPE International’s Chris Horst also wrote about Tegu, remarking, “For more people living in poverty to experience dignity and purpose, we need to tell the stories of companies like Tegu. They’re pushing back darkness, and creating opportunities for thousands, in places like Peru, Ecuador and Honduras.”

Tegu is another example of how entrepreneurs are changing the way we do charity.

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The Pope Engages Economics

Pope Francis created a dynamic discussion about economics with the release of his apostolic letter Evangelli Gaudium. His critiques of capitalism in turn drew criticism from economists, theologians, and other thought leaders as they defined and debated the role of market economics in promoting human flourishing. While Evangelli Gaudium featured some misguided economics, it nonetheless drove home the truth and joy of the Gospel – and gave Christians a fresh opportunity to consider the relationship between biblical and economic principles in their own lives.

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A Lively Debate Over A Living Wage

This summer, Wal-Mart’s plans to build three new stores in Washington, D.C. ignited a debate over the best way to bring about prosperity, human flourishing, and the assistance needed to overcome the struggles of low-income.

Hundreds of job applicants lined up outside Wal-Mart’s hiring centers as D.C.’s City Council voted 8-5 to pass the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would require big-box retailers to pay a minimum wage of $12.50. Wal-Mart halted their plans for the stores’ construction, resuming again after Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the bill. Two of the new stores opened up this December.

Commenting on the news this past summer, IFWE’s Anne Bradley said, “No one thinks that earning the minimum wage is sufficient for a life of prosperity…The best thing we can do for the poor…is to provide them opportunities to start developing skills that make them more marketable. When big-box retailers enter urban areas, they do just that.”

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