“Christians obtain grace from reflecting on the miracle of the Incarnation but they have given the event called Christmas as a glorious gift to the world,” Rev. Sirico writes. “This is why this holiday can be so secular and yet remain so sacred. There is a distinction between the two but not always a battle between the two.”
Remember: when you recieve a “free” service from the government, it’s not actually free. You’re paying for that service through your taxes. And when the government sets up a monopoly in an area like health care, it’s probably going to end up being more expensive and cheaper at the same time – more expensive because people are less likely to use a “free” service prudently, and cheaper because the overuse of the service will force officials to impose major restraints on the program in order to aviod complete financial disaster, thereby reducing the amount and quality of services available to consumers. Anthony Dick provides an overview of Canada’s situation today on National Review Online:
Canada’s universal-health-care system has long been a darling of the nanny-state Left. Its stated purpose, jealously touted by swooning cohorts of compassion from coast to coast, is to provide free and equal health care for all, regardless of ability to pay.
In practice, sadly, this high-minded endeavor has hit a few snags. The pesky fetters of reality have imposed stingy budget constraints on the enterprise, while the promise of free service for all has increased the demand for treatment. The Canadian government has thus struggled to treat more patients while spending as sparingly as possible on each of them, causing waiting lists to swell and the quality of care to sag. Not helping matters have been some medical professionals, who have fled the public system in search of better compensation. With shaking heads and sullen spirits, everyone involved agrees: It’s just not fair.
There is hope, however, thanks to the legal efforts of Jacques Chaoulli, a 53-year-old French Canadian physician. As they say, read the whole thing.
Fast Company Now is reporting that “for the first time, customer satisfaction with federal agency Websites has surpassed offline government services,” according to an American Customer Satisfaction Index report.
What is especially noteworthy, however, is that online private sector services consistently rank higher in satisfaction than their governmental counterparts. “Where the gap between offline public and private services has narrowed, the report said, e-government is trailing far behind the private sector online. That, said ACSI chief Claes Fornell, shows room for improvement: ‘They still have ground to close,’ he said.”
Update: In case you were wondering, FEMA’s ratings were dragging down the aggregate federal number a bit. The two divisions of FEMA’s that were rated by the ACSI were its “Flood Map Store” and the “Mitigation Division website”, which scored 70 and 65 respectively (out of 100). The overall governmental average was 71.3.
Several of the comments regard Max Weber’s thesis on the Protestant work ethic and capitalism, and reveal a misunderstanding of what makes for economic growth in Ireland and the lack of it in Latin America.
It’s pretty obvious there are few Actonites or economists taking place in the debate over at Amy Welborn’s. If they had been reading the Journal of Markets and Morality, they could have saved themselves a lot of time.
Jordan Ballor’s recent post on “Christian Reason and the Spirit of Capitalism” hit onto something big.
In today’s New York Times, op-ed columnist David Brooks weighs in with a piece entitled “The Holy Capitalists”. (Once again, the Times has blocked access to non-subscribers. If you aren’t a subscriber, buy today’s Times just to read this column – it’s worth it.)
Brooks calls the debate over the foundations of success the most important in the social sciences today and praises Rodney Stark’s book “The Victory of Reason” for its unconventional take on Western progress.
“Religion didn’t stifle economic and scientific ideas – it nurtured them. […] Catholic theology had taught [European scientists and economists] that God had created the universe according to universal laws that reason could discover.”
He concludes, “Ideas and culture drive civilizations. The Catholic Church nutured one of the most impressive economic takeoffs in human history. Today, as Catholicism spreads in Africa and China, it’s important to understand the beliefs that encourage people to work hard and grow rich.”
Some of these themes can be found in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent World Day of Peace Message (albeit in less provocative language). And they are also of great interest to the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, headed by Prof. Mary Ann Glendon.
Maybe this discussion will be joined on the letters page of the “newpaper of record”. And maybe the Times will even allow non-subscribers to take part.
In a new Acton Commentary, Anthony Bradley examines a new report from the Fraser Institute that measures economic freedom in Arab countries, an important indicator for cultures that are in many places still struggling to lift their people out of poverty. In discussing the report, Bradley says, “As history demonstrates, individuals or families having freedom to determine their own economic destiny liberates them from government dependence and long-term dependence on charity.”
A newly published letter by Narnia creator C.S. Lewis shows his distaste for Disney “vulgarity” and his fear of seeing fictional animal characters transformed into cartoonish buffoons. Jordan Ballor, in a new Acton commentary, explores how Lewis might have felt about the new Disney film of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Ballor looks at Lewis’ dislike of animatronic, or costumed people acting the parts of animals, as well as his feelings towards Walt Disney’s “vulgarity.” Dispensing with Lewis’ objections to animatronics as an argument based on obsolete technology, Ballor focuses most of his thoughts on the larger picture of a gravely depraved movie industry, and how Christians should discern, practice restraint, and strive to infiltrate the industry to use it to create family friendly and edifying films.
In an not-so-subtle take-off of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice franchise, ExperiencePoint has come up with a fun interactive game to challenge your event-planning and management skills. The background:
Inspired by his favorite reality programs, Santa Claus invited eight elves to the North Pole for the purpose of selecting one as his new protégé. Through a series of rigorous holiday competitions, Santa has whittled down the group to the final two candidates – congratulations, you’re one of them! Now you must manage a rag-tag team of previous cast-offs in one final competition. Succeed, and you will have earned the coveted position of “Santa’s Little Helper”.
Check the game out, it’s called Santa’s Little Helper. Fun times.
I became Santa’s Little Helper on the first try!
Roger Cohen’s column in today’s International Herald Tribune slams the French economic system by telling the story of Rachid Ech Chetouani, a young French Muslim.
(Unfortunately, the column is behind the New York Times Select firewall and available only to subscribers. Isn’t it ironic that the Times can write such moving pieces about social exclusion while practicing it at the very same time?)
Chetouani has been to China and North America, so he has some alternative economic systems for comparison purposes.
Speaking of China: “It’s seething, it never stops, it’s full of pitiless people emerging from hard times,” he said. “There are no cafés! They don’t have time for that. Everyone’s out to make it.”
“The difference in North America is that it’s competence that counts,” he said. “Nobody’s interested in where you came from as long as you can bring them money. Here [in France], the system is based more on knowing the right people.”
France’s problems apply to the European social model as a whole, with its high level of taxes and regulations to ensure high levels of supposedly more humane social protection. But where does that leave young people like Chetouani who are intelligent and willing to work hard, yet somehow trapped outside the system?
He remarks with not a little bitterness, “I’m for a society of winners. France doesn’t like winners. When you make it, you hide it. One question nobody seems able to answer is: If the French economic model is so great, how come nobody copies it?”
A very good question in search of an answer throughout large parts of Europe.
New Perspectives Quarterly has a great interview with Milton Friedman, who at 93 years of age still exhibits more economic clarity than whole academic faculties and episcopal justice and peace commissions.
Senior Research Fellow,
Some of Friedman’s gems:
– On how European economies can get back on track: “They all ought to imitate Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; free markets in short.”
– On the European social model as a third way between capitalism and socialism: “I don’t think there is a third way. But it is true that a competitive market is not the whole of society. A great deal depends on the qualities of the population and the nation in how they organize the non-market aspects of society.”
– On the Chinese market-Leninist approach: “Political freedom will ultimately break out of its shackles. Tiananmen Square was only the first episode. It is headed for a series of Tiananmen Squares. It cannot continue to develop privately and at the same time maintain their authoritarian character politically. They are headed for a clash. Sooner or later, one or the other will give. If they don’t free up the political side, their economic growth will come to an end — while they are still at a very low level.”
– On the prospects of freedom in the 21st century: “The world as a whole has more or less embraced freedom. Socialism, in the traditional sense, meant government ownership and operation of the means of production. Outside of North Korea and a couple of other spots, no one in the world today would define socialism that way. That will never come back. The fall of the Berlin Wall did more for the progress of freedom than all of the books written by myself or Hayek or others. […] This free-market base will likely expand from there by example to others not so free. Everyone, everywhere, now understands that the road to success for underdeveloped countries is freer markets and globalization.”