Category: General

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, August 26, 2013

abc_lululemon_ceo_wanted_sign_jt_130615_wgPro-market advocates often talk about how markets are self-correcting. But why do businesses in free markets fix their own mistakes? Because if they don’t, customers and other stakeholders will punish them:

Lululemon, which produces yoga and other athletic apparel, provoked outrage from its devoted customer base when it released a flawed product earlier this year: see-through yoga pants. Founded in 1998, the company had built trust and loyalty among its yoga-loving clientele for delivering quality products: In just 15 years, Lululemon had grown to over $1.3 billion in annual revenue. So, it’s no surprise that Lululemon’s fans were upset and disappointed at the failure.

But Lululemon’s response to its mistake demonstrates why government intervention in the marketplace is unnecessary and, often, inferior to that of the free market. To address all the complaints the company received from consumers and stores, Lululemon recalled the pants on March 18, offered refunds, and apologized.

Despite the gesture, the market punished Lululemon for its error: Its stock price plummeted the next day, decreasing the company’s value by $250 million. Several weeks later, the chief product officer resigned. The repercussions for Lululemon’s mistake affect the short term as well as the long term: The damage to consumer confidence will take time to rebuild and revenues will reflect the damage.

The incentives for the company to address this mistake couldn’t be any higher. They will be far more powerful in encouraging better customer service than having the government inspect all clothes manufactured.

Read more . . .

Blog author: Nick Smith
posted by on Thursday, August 22, 2013

GiveBack_webA recent ad on our listener-supported community radio station here in Boise spoke of a business sponsor’s practice of “giving back to the community.” This is done, of course, by sponsoring the radio station and other similar causes. As a fan of the station in question, I’m grateful for such local sponsors, and I’m grateful that they give to the community in that way. There is, however, a problem – not with the practice, but with the way we describe it. The phrase “giving back to the community” belies a deep misunderstanding of the nature of business.

The picture that seems to be assumed is that most of the time, through its everyday work, the business is in fact taking from the community. Then, from time to time, it chooses to “give back” to the same community. At a superficial level this language makes sense: most of the time it is customers – members of the community – who are giving money to the business, while the business is then giving money back through its charitable donations. But this misses the fact that the business – if it is successful – is always giving to the community. A profitable business, conducted with integrity, is not taking from the community at all; indeed, its profits are nothing more or less than indicators of the value that the community has received from the business.

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Little-House-on-the-Prairie-Book-and-Charm-With-Locket-9780060000462Was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of children’s books written as an anti-New Deal fable? The Wilder family papers suggest they were:

From the publication of the first book in 1932, the series was immediately popular. And, at a time when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was introducing the major federal initiatives of the New Deal and Social Security as a way out of the Depression, the Little House books lulled children to sleep with the opposite message. The books placed self-reliance at the heart of the American myth: If the pioneers wanted a farm, they found one; if they needed food, they killed it or grew it; if they needed shelter, they built it.

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Does your state have the basic legal framework in place to combat human trafficking, punish trafficker, and supports survivors? The Polaris Project recently released their 2013 State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws, which examines the progress states have made in passing legislation to combat both labor and sex trafficking.

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According to the report:

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, August 15, 2013

burnt-churchHundreds of supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi were killed in Cairo this week by Egyptian security forces. The protestors, mostly members of the Muslim Brotherhood, responded by destroying Coptic Christian churches throughout the country.

Here’s what you should know about what’s going on in Egypt.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood, begun in 1928, is Egypt’s oldest and largest Islamist organization.

Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work. The movement initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence. While the Brotherhood say they support democratic principles, one of the group’s stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is: “Islam is the solution.”

Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, the Freedom and Justice Party.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pope-Ecumenical-Patriarch-Bartholomew-2013-03-20-620x320In Crisis Magazine, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg discusses how Pope Francis and the Catholic Church engage other religions and philosophies:

“Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”

That, according to Pope Francis, is the response he gives when leaders ask him for advice about how to resolve their societies’ internal differences. It is, he recently told a gathering of prominent Brazilians, the only way for societies to avoid the dead-ends of what Francis called “selfish indifference” and “violent protest.”

Throughout the twentieth century, the Church provided powerful examples of how to proceed along this path. A case in point was the manner in which the Catholic Church in Poland in the face of constant—and, at times, extreme—provocation never ceased talking to the Communist regime, despite the fact that the conversation was with people who were generally of ill-will and who supported an evil political system.

Read more . . .

SexTraffickingWould legalizing adult prostitution decrease the demand for child sex slaves? That’s the curious argument made by one of my favorite libertarian economist. Donald J. Boudreaux , a professor of economics at George Mason University, recently wrote:

If men can legally buy sex from women 18 years of age or older, men will have less demand to patronize children. And sex entrepreneurs will have less incentive to ‘supply’ children. With all prostitution being illegal, those who demand as well as those who supply commercial sex are subject to prosecution regardless of the age of the women they patronize or employ. By making adult prostitution legal, however, not only will that trade become more open to public scrutiny, but also the ability of those in the commercial-sex market to avoid prosecution simply by patronizing and employing women aged 18 or older will likely dramatically reduce incentives to turn young girls into prostitutes.

Boudreaux is one of the most astute economists in America, so it’s surprising to find him make such shockingly naïve claims about sexual trafficking.

The theory behind Boudreaux’s idea is based on a basic economic concept: substitute goods. Goods or services that, as a result of changed conditions, may replace each other in use are considered “substitutes.” Two classic examples of substitute goods are margarine and butter and coffee and tea. If the price of coffee or butter rises, people are more likely to choose a suitable substitute, such as tea or margarine.

But what constitutes a suitable substitute can vary considerably. Anyone who has ever been to Starbucks knows that the rise in coffee prices – both as a commodity and a consumer product – has not caused people to give up their mug of java for a cup of Earl Grey. The taste and preferences of coffee consumers tends to be inelastic. For most coffee lovers, the price would have to rise considerably for them to switch to tea.

Boudreaux is implying that adult prostitution and child prostitution are suitable substitutes. Does he really think that pedophiles and hebephiles (people with sexual interest in pubescent individuals approximately 11–14 years old) would become teleiophiles (people with a sexual interest in adults) if only they could get a discount on the cost of sex with an adult prostitute?

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Blog author: Jane Ziolowski
posted by on Friday, July 26, 2013

The painting Rembrandts Prodigal Son Revisited, by Jonathan Quist is part of The Larry & Mary Gerbens Collection of Art inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Jonathan Quist painting Rembrandts Prodigal Son Revisited, is featured in the book The Father & His Two Sons - The Art of Forgiveness“While he was still a long way off…”

On display at Acton Institute in Grand Rapids is an art exhibit centered on the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15. “The Father and His Two Sons: The Art of Forgiveness,” was collected by Larry and Mary Gerbens. It includes a 1636 etching by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, a painting by American artist Robert Barnum, and a reproduction of Rembrandt’s famous “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” among others. Though the works span six countries of origin and five centuries, each portrays a scene from the well-known parable.

Winds rip trees from their roots. Branches are bent backward against the sky. Chaos rules as the wayward son runs toward his father’s farm in Robert Barnum’s Americanized representation. In the distance, an outhouse flies into the air. The son battles gale-force winds to get back to his father. The viewer can almost feel him being tossed about like a leaf.

Rembrandt takes us 30 seconds later in the story. In his 1636 etching, the son kneels at his father’s feet, but his father reaches to raise him up. The stone steps they stand on are firmly attached to the ground. The foundations of the house are secure. We can see great compassion in the father’s embrace.

Of course, the older brother, who has never rebelled, feels jealous and marginalized. In the Rembrandt, he leans out of the window and looks directly at the viewer as if to appeal to an unbiased fourth party.

And, after the homecoming, his self-righteousness is still palpable. An etching by James Tissot (“No IV- The Fatted Calf”, 1881) shows him complaining that his father has never honored him in the way that he now honors his younger brother. Larry Gerbens pointed out that the older son is just as distant from the family as the younger is; another Tissot etching shows him daydreaming while his brother viciously takes leave of his father. (more…)

In an ambitious essay at Intercollegiate Review, James Kalb attempts to dissect the driving political forces in Western culture today. He says that while we live in a world that touts diversity, the reality is extraordinary uniformity and a distinct christ-of-the-abyssdistaste for anything outside the new norm. We have narrowed our political choices, our educational choices, our recreational and consumer choices. We say we want religious freedom, but only in a very narrow manner.

Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history. The intended result is an increase in freedom as man becomes his own creator. The effect, though, is that human life becomes what those in power say it is. Western political authorities now claim the right to remake the most basic arrangements. If you want to know the nature of man and the significance of life and death, you look to the political order and its authorized interpreters. That is the meaning of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions and the transformation of abortion into a human right. Man has, in effect, become God, and politics is the authoritative expression of his mind, spirit, and will.

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, July 22, 2013

human-sex-traffickingThe combination of poverty, sexual trafficking, and technology has given rise to a new form of slavery: cyber-sex trafficking. As CNN explains, anyone who has a computer, internet, a Web cam, and an exploited woman or child can be in business:

Andrea was 14 years old the first time a voice over the Internet told her to take off her clothes.

“I was so embarrassed because I don’t want others to see my private parts,” she said. “The customer told me to remove my blouse and to show him my breasts.”

She was in a home in Negros Oriental, a province known for its scenic beaches, tourism and diving. But she would know none of that beauty. Nor would she know the life she’d been promised.

Andrea, which is not her real name, said she had been lured away from her rural, mountain village in the Philippines by a cousin who said he would give her a well-paid job as a babysitter in the city. She thought she was leaving her impoverished life for an opportunity to earn money to finish high school. Instead, she became another victim caught up in the newest but no less sinister world of sexual exploitation — cyber-sex trafficking.

Read more . . .