dan-price-gravityThey say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What they don’t often mention is that, like a parade route, both sides of that road are crowded with well-wishers cheering you on.

In a country where we give children “participation trophies” for merely showing up and “doing their best,” it’s not surprising that we applaud business leaders simply for “trying to make a difference.” As long as their intentions are good, why should we criticism their efforts?

I was reminded of that pervasive attitude after writing about Dan Price and Gravity Payments. My article in April on “Why the $70,000 Minimum Wage is Doomed to Fail” was the most criticized piece I’ve ever written for this blog. As one commenter wrote, “We just witnessed a CEO become a humanitarian and I’ve never seen so many people wish for his failure.”

This was a typical reaction to the article, and an all-too-common response to any criticism of good intentions, especially in the business world. Merely pointing out that a policy is likely to conflict with the norms of economics and human behavior is enough to get you labeled a cold-hearted pessimistic scrooge. Why focus on the negatives, people say, when someone is merely trying to do good?

The reason, as the old proverb implies, is that when divorced from prudence good intentions can lead us to be worse off than we were before. That was the reason I was critical of Price’s decision to pay every one of his 120 employees a minimum of $70,000 a year. I thought then—and believe still—that is could lead to unemployment for the company’s workers.

However, in my article there was one thing I was clarly wrong about. I assumed the policy would lead to the company’s bankruptcy within 5 years. A new article in the New York Times shows that the company many not last even that long.
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Blog author: ehilton
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

Classroom in Dharavi; photo courtesy of Medium

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like to travel. It’s exciting and fun to see new things, whether it’s a natural phenomenon or a man-made wonder. Some like to travel for the food: local specialties and exotic fare. Travel is good: it broadens our horizons, gives us new ways of seeing our world and often leads us to new friendships.

But can travel be more than that? Can it do more good than simply what we gain from it? Yes, it can.

Medium recently published Travel As a Force For Good: Social Enterprise and Community Impact, part of a series on travel and social enterprise. Two of Medium’s writers, Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, explored various parts of the globe, seeking new horizons, but also see how travel can positively impact local communities.

Many homes in the developing world use oil to heat and light their homes. It’s easy to get and inexpensive, but it creates thick black smoke, which in turn creates breathing issues. Medium’s travelers were in a Maasai village near Arusha, Tanzania, to visit a local family. Unfortunately, it was a short visit:

We followed Kisioki into the hut’s central room and I was accosted by acrid smoke. Within seconds, I could barely see. I labored to breathe. I blinked repeatedly, trying to clear the smoke and sting from my eyes.

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Your writer has been telling readers for some time now that so-called “religious” shareholder activism is more political than spiritual. I’ve also pointed out time and again that the priests, nuns, clergy, and religious affiliated with such shareholder groups as As You Sow are opposed to corporate donations to political activities only when it suits them.

This last point was clarified recently by events in Arizona. First Affirmative Investments and Calvert Investments joined AYS in an attempt to force Arizona Public Service Company and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., to disclose whether either had donated money to the Free Enterprise Club, a 501c(4) nonprofit. It seems FEC provided funding to candidates campaigning for seats on the Arizona Regulatory Commission, and the source of the “dark money” disbursed by FEC to the candidates may or may not have come from APSC and Pinnacle. The kerfuffle stems from suspicions voiced by a Washington, D.C. outfit, the Checks and Balances Project, that an Arizona Corporation Commission official breached ethics or broke the law by communicating with APS and FEC.

Confused? Don’t be. The Arizona Attorney General is sussing out whether the official actually broke the law. The remainder of the story boils down to the left’s distaste for private political donations, which have been protected since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Citizens United. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, August 3, 2015
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Major US foundations committing millions for campaign to eliminate religious exemptions
Catholic World News

Several major American grantmaking foundations have committed millions of dollars to a campaign to eliminate religious exemptions to gay-rights laws, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports.

Human Trafficking: A Crime Hard to Track Proves Harder to Fight
Caroline Reilly, Frontline

Oksana was promised a good job with good pay when she came to the United States from Ukraine. But when she arrived in Philadelphia to meet her new boss, things were not as she expected.

Can a Catholic be a Collectivist?
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

Should Catholics today work, as a matter of conscience, toward ever broader bureaucratic responsibility for human well-being in general?

State Supreme Court Ruling: ‘State Employees are Subject to Right-to-Work’
Jack Spencer, Michigan Capital Confidential

Court rules 4-3 that Civil Service Commission can’t require involuntary payments to union.

Milton-Friedman-Pic-750x400Aristotle has often been described as the philosopher of common sense. Similarly, Milton Friedman, who would have been 103 years old today, could be described as the economist of common sense. Friedman’s writings are often so clear and straightforward (unusual for modern economists) that when reading him you often find yourself wondering how anyone could disagree. Even the uber-liberal Paul Krugman, admits that Friedman was “One of the most important economic thinkers of all time…”

In honor of his birthday, here are six quotes by Friedman on freedom and economics:
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Blog author: bwalker
Friday, July 31, 2015
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Sisters Of Loretto Divest From Fossil Fuels, Cite Pope’s Encyclical
Antonia Blumberg, Huffington Post

The Sisters of Loretto, a Kentucky-based Catholic community, are joining a growing movement of religious groups taking a stand for the environment. The sisters voted unanimously during their July assembly meeting to divest from fossil fuels, citing Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical on the environment.

Jeb Bush says human activity contributes to climate change, calls for GOP to ‘embrace science’
Scott Sutton, Sun Times Network

“The climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not,” Bush said during that speech, adding that he remained “a little skeptical” about taking advice about climate change from Pope Francis, who was just days away from releasing his climate change encyclical at the time.

The time for resisting change in the Church is over
Michael Sainsbury, UCA News

Asked for the reason, he said: “I cannot give one coherent reason for this, but I was talking to a Buddhist monk recently in Chiang Mai and he had the same message. He sees a decline in vocations to the monkhood, especially in the cities. “He gave similar reasons to what I have heard among our religious, such as an increase of consumerism, rise of secularism, the culture of the cities and what our superior general calls the ‘globalisation of superficiality’. Also, of course, families are smaller, opportunities are greater and there are more distractions.”

Here’s a trick to break through climate change apathy
Tom Jacobs, The Week

The economic frame was crafted to emphasize either fairness, much like the message of Pope Francis in his recent encyclical (“Unless we do something about climate change, there will be dire consequences for the poor”), or the direct harm that will be done to our own nation (“The United States will incur large costs”).

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We’ve seen lots of commentary on the lopsided outrage over the inhumane death of Cecil the Lion — how the incident has inspired far higher levels of fervor and indignation than the brutal systemic barbarism of the #PPSellsBabyParts controversy or the tragically unjust murder of Samuel Dubose.

At first, I was inclined to shrug off this claim, thinking, “You can feel pointed grief about one while still feeling empathy about the other.” Or, “the facts of the Cecil case are perhaps clearer to more people.” Or, “How can we be sure this imbalance actually exists?”

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But alas, the social media rants and media (non-)developments of the past few days have only continued to confirm that the reaction we are witnessing is, indeed, stemming from some kind of distorted social, moral, and spiritual imagination. This isn’t just about what is or isn’t bubbling up in the news cycle. It’s about what’s brewing, and in some cases, festering deep inside our hearts. (more…)

loan treeThere are three possible futures for American Evangelicalism. These diverse destinies depend upon the moral, social and theological convictions of the communities and leaders of the different streams. They also represent patterns found in three centuries of American Evangelical history. These futures will also determine whether or not particular communities flourish economically and socially.

American Evangelicalism has never been a uniform subculture. The term “Evangelical” denotes adherents of historic Christian faith within a Protestant ethos.

Remembering the Past

Synthesizing the insights of historians George Marsden and Mark Noll, the Awakenings that gave shape to the Evangelical ethos between 1730 and 1840 focused on five key attributes: (1) Biblical authority and inspiration, (2) affirmation of historic creedal theology, (3) the necessity of personal conversion, (4) commitment to local and global evangelization/missions, and (5) integration of personal piety and public charity and engagement in making the world a better place.

Integrating personal faith with deliberate generosity of material and spiritual resources for the common good was normal discipleship for Evangelicals. John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, eschewed any separation of piety and public charity, insisting that members develop relationships with the recipients of their largesse. He also commended entrepreneurship and hard work, enjoining friends to “earn, save, and give” in proper proportion.

The three reactions mentioned above have their origins in the 18th century. One group resisted change and rejected the affective experiences of renewed believers and their insistence that their ministers display sufficient enthusiasm and fidelity to Scripture. These were the “Old Lights.” They eventually split into two camps, with some retaining historic creedal faith and others embracing Deism and/or Unitarianism as the Enlightenment calls for eschewing old superstitions gave way to modern scientific understanding.

By 1800, reactions to change are established: (1) retrenchment and rejection of new experiences and ideas, (2) revision of the faith itself, including questioning cardinal doctrines, and (3) renewal leading to reform and revival of biblical faith. (more…)

U.S. Terracycle office, photo courtesy of BBC

U.S. Terracycle office, photo courtesy of BBC

Starting a business is a risky undertaking. You need money, a product or service people want and away to deliver that product or service that keeps some of that money in your pocket. For social entrepreneurs, the  stakes are even higher: their goal is to do something good while making money.

Tom Szaky of TerraCycle is quite clear: “I want to make a lot money doing good.” And he just may do it. TerraCycle has been based in the U.S. for 13 years, but Szaky and his family fled communist Hungary when he was very young. The ended up first in Holland, then Canada, then the U.S. One thing that struck young Szaky and his father was the amount of “good stuff” people threw out:

In Hungary back then, you needed a licence for a TV set,” he explains.

You couldn’t just go and buy one. Instead, after applying for a licence maybe a year later you’d get a black and white TV, and you’d get the one state channel.

Tom says: “Only a few years later we end up in Canada where every Friday my dad and I would drive round and see mountains of TVs thrown out of every apartment buildings. (more…)

Bill McKibben’s New York Review of Books essay on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, has prompted two previous posts by your author (here and here). Working through the review has helped identify McKibben’s affinity for liberation theology and his outlandish claim that Pope Francis shares this affinity.

In the The Wall Street Journal, Lord Lawson, former Great Britain Secretary of State for Energy, Chancellor of the Exchequer and current chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, reviews Ronald Bailey’s most recent work, The End of Doom. Lawson favorably compares Bailey’s book to Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist (high praise indeed). Much of the material Lawson recounts in his review directly refutes McKibben and, to a lesser extent, Pope Francis. The world, according to Bailey, Ridley and Lawson, and contrary to McKibben, is a much better place for the poor than it was a half-decade ago – largely attributable to technological advancements and the midwife who made it possible: capitalism.

Ronald Bailey begs to differ. As his book demonstrates, a careful examination of the evidence shows that, at least in material terms (which is not unimportant, particularly for the world’s poor), life is getting better. The overriding reason for this, according to Mr. Bailey, is continuing technological progress, facilitated—and this is crucial—by the global triumph of market capitalism.

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