Category: Business and Society

Anthony Bradley looks at America’s children of privilege and the influences that have put so many of them into crisis. “There is mounting evidence that we are faced with a new reality in America: educated, middle-class kids represent a new ‘at risk’ group, as both perpetrators and victims of peer-related violence,” Bradley writes.

Read the rest of Bradley’s commentary here.

Despite strong overall growth, a number of internal problems, including excessive regulation, continue to limit wealth creation throughout Latin America, reports Samuel Gregg. The regulations Dr. Gregg examines include those on starting a business and on banking.

Dr. Gregg explains that while it takes as few as 5 days to file the appropriate paper work to start a business in the United States, it takes an average of 152 days in Brazil. Dr. Gregg states that there are fewer loopholes to starting a business in Iran, than in most of Latin America.

Dr. Gregg also examines, in detail, some of the legacy economic laws that exist in much of Latin America, which regulate banking. These laws, intended to protect people from unjust interest rates, often hurt the people best in the position to increase the economic prosperity of Latin America – namely first-time entrepreneurs who are will to take risks to gain the capital needed into order to create wealth. Dr. Gregg argues that removing some of the regulations mandating interest-rate ceilings would benefit Latin American much more than it helps to protect it.

Read Dr. Gregg’s commentary here.

Blog author: jspalink
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Grand Rapids seems to be establishing a precedent for private corporations and individuals stepping up to the plate in the face of budget cuts and financial difficulty. The most recent example is the announcement that all six city pools will be open this summer, rather than just three. That means that the Director of Parks and Recreation is now looking to fill 160 new jobs (including lifeguards and water safety instructors) to man the parks. Why, when Michigan is facing a severe budget crisis, are we opening all the swimming pools in the city? Because Roosevelt Tillman, a local business man, remembered the days when he used to spend all day at the pool during the summer wanted today’s children to experience the same thing.

This is not the first time that the local population has stepped in to save the day in the midst of a budget crisis. This winter La Salle Bank and Centennial Wireless in cooperation with the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation provided the necessary funds to keep the Rosa Park Skating Rink open to the public.

There are several advantages to both individuals and corporations that fund these parks. A person invests in something because they think its worth it – there is good chance of a positive return. A company may invest in order to increase awareness and costumer loyalty. There’s a good chance that I’ll be more likely to bank with LaSalle or get a cell phone plan with Centennial because I drive by people skating in the rink every evening on my way home from work.

A big thank you to the people and corporations who invest in Grand Rapids. Your contributions to this community will not be forgotten.

[UPDATE] Here is the story about the pools from the Grand Rapids Press.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, April 19, 2007

One of my favorite industries to criticize is the state-run lottery business.

Philosopher William F. Vallicella writes the following: “Your chances of a significant win are next-to-nil. But suppose you win, and suppose you manage to not have your life destroyed by your ‘good fortune.’ The winnings are arguably ill-gotten gains. The money was extracted via false advertising from ignorant rubes and is being transferred via a chance mechanism to someone who has done nothing to deserve it” (HT: the evangelical outpost).

One could of course argue that the winner did take the superficially meritorious action of risking a small amount of money for the potential for a huge reward. Lottery players do at least have to “opt-in.” Perhaps that’s the action that accrues some semblance of desert.

But then again, if Vallicella is right about the nature of the system and its state-sponsored advertising, in the larger sense participation in such a corrupt industry might overshadow any meritorious action.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that in modern life characterized by the lack of meaning,

One gambles with the future. Lotteries and gambling, which consume an inconceivable amount of money and often the daily bread of the worker, seek the improbable chance of luck in the future. The loss of past and future leaves life vacillating between the most brutish enjoyment of the moment and adventurous risk taking.

Add to those effects government sponsorship and promotion, and you have a pretty foul mix.

The John Locke Foundation recently published a report linking lotteries to high poverty and high unemployment in North Carolina counties. See the case of Jack Whittaker for someone whose ruin was occasioned by the influx of great wealth.

Even so, philosopher David Schmidtz expresses a way in which the “merit” of lotteries shouldn’t be accrued to the actions leading up to the windfall, but rather following it. Speaking of what he calls transitive reciprocity in his recent book, Elements of Justice, Schmidtz writes,

Having received an unearned windfall, we are in debt. The moral scales are out of balance. The canonical way to restore a measure of balance is to return the favor to our benefactor, as per symmetrical reciprocity. However, the canonical way is not the only way. Another way is to pass the favor on, as per transitive reciprocity. Transitive reciprocity is less about returning a favor and more about honoring it – doing justice to it. Passing the favor on may not repay an original benefactor, but it can be a way of giving thanks (83).

Schmidtz leaves us with a picture of the lottery winner as one who has inherited a responsibility to act in an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude, passing the favor on to others.

I like that.

Anthony Bradley revisits the case of the Duke lacrosse team, and finds that most everyone involved — including op-ed pundits — had something to learn from the scandal. “This case reminds us that broken, weak-willed women can easily be taken advantage of and can easily deceive,” he writes. “America was ‘called out’ as a culture more concerned about its kids’ achievements than their moral formation.”

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last month the Pacific Research Institute released a report estimating that costs associated with the American tort system exceed $865 billion per year (HT). Check it out for a detailed breakdown and comparison of these costs with other sectors of the economy and government spending. (Here’s a WSJ op-ed from the authors of the report.)

ABC’s 20/20 had a segment last week on the largest lottery winner in history, Jack Whittaker of West Virginia, who won $315 million in 2002. It’s a sad story for many reasons, but I want to point out one aspect of Whittaker’s tale.

At the time of his jackpot, Whittaker owned a successful construction company that was “doing $16 million to $17 million worth of work.” According to the story, Whittaker “enjoyed years of success with few complaints, but less than a year after winning the lottery things began to change.”

“I’ve had over 400 legal claims made on me or one of my companies since I’ve won the lottery,” said Whittaker.

When asked why that might happen, Whittaker said it’s because “everybody wants something for nothing.”

Rob Dunlap, one of Whittaker’s many attorneys, said Whittaker has spent at least $3 million dollars fending off lawsuits.

Another recent development in tort news is the mainstream acceptance of animal law, which will likely be front and center in any class-action lawsuit resulting from the poisoning of thousands of pets via Menu Foods products. Are pets persons or property?

Amy A. Breyer, one of the only full-time Chicago-based attorneys who specializes in animal law, says that when animals are considered property, as they are in Illinois, they have no voice in the courts.

For more reading on the devolution of the American tort system, check out Trial by Fury: Restoring the Common Good in Tort Litigation, by Ronald J. Rychlak, associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Why would a hip hop group called “Crime Mob” be invited to the campus of a Historically Black College? And why would the group’s “Rock Yo Hips” music video — featuring college cheerleaders as strippers — get so much play on television? Anthony Bradley looks at the effect of misogynistic and violent music on a black culture that desperately needs healthy models of academic achievement and honest economic progress.

Read the full commentary here.