Category: Business and Society

A promising brief recognizing the critical role of civil society in Nigeria, and especially that the Christian church, from Ecumenical News International:

Nigerian president urges African churches: Play part in governance

Abuja (ENI). Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo has urged African church leaders to become key players in the process of achieving good governance in the continent.

“The Church must be a critical partner in the on-going efforts at strengthening the structures of democratic governance, and bringing about sustained development in an environment of justice, equity, and fairness,” Obasanjo told leaders at a meeting of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
By

There’s yet more evidence that supports my claim, “Besieged by the media and public opinion, quick-service restaurants have got the reputation for being unhealthy. But the truth of the matter is more complex. Franchises that have put an emphasis on providing healthy foods have done well…. And as usual, the service industry has responded quickly and efficiently to customer demands.”

The AP reports, “Inspired by the documentary ‘Super Size Me,’ Merab Morgan decided to give a fast-food-only diet a try. The construction worker and mother of two ate only at McDonald’s for 90 days and dropped 37 pounds in the process.”

The key is personal responsibility: “People are responsible for what they eat, she said, not restaurants. The problem with a McDonald’s-only diet isn’t what’s on the menu, but the choices made from it, she said.”

“I thought it’s two birds with one stone to lose weight and to prove a point for the little fat people,” Morgan said. “Just because they accidentally put an apple pie in my bag instead of my apple dippers doesn’t mean I’m going to say, ‘Oh, I can eat the apple pie.'”

Blog author: jspalink
Monday, August 15, 2005
By

Be one of the first to book a flight to space.

In an interview with The Space Review Richard Garriott, vice-chairman of Space Adventures discusses the possibilities of space tourism and the potential market in the United States. Garriott describes Space Adventures as

currently an [travel] agent, and we have millions of dollars in cash paid reservations for sub orbital flights. But with few or no suborbital space lines to book today, we are working to ensure they exist and that may mean SA invests in that eventuality.

Garriott looks forward to the development of space-worthy vehicles from the private sector that will allow Space Adventures to blast off with the evolution of a new branch of tourism. Garriott sees this occurring soon, and views the success of the X-Prize as evidence of the dawning of a new era in space travel.

Blog author: dphelps
Thursday, August 11, 2005
By

In John Stossel’s article yesterday, he recounts a story that illustrates the dangers of artificial wage contols. (Davis Bacon is a federal law that requires construction workers be paid an amount determined by a bureaucratic formula instead of wages determined by market forces.)

When Chicago decided to repair the Cabrini Green housing project, people who lived in the project assumed such a big job would provide work for the unemployed young men who grew up there. But because of Davis Bacon, every contractor had to pay high salaries — even for the simplest jobs. So contractors, locked into paying high salaries, were not about to take a chance on beginners. They hired the most experienced union workers they could find. They used workers who would “normally never come near our neighborhood,” said aspiring construction worker John King. “I think it’s wrong that they do that. We want to provide. We’re not just derelicts and drug dealers and thugs.”

Because of the federal government’s regulation of wages, those who live in the community were essentially unemployable as entry level workers. Thus, they had no hand in working to rebuild their own community. It’s another example of how governmental controls can stymie the individual initiative and community pride that comes with a proper application of the principle of subsidiarity.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, August 11, 2005
By

Two not-so-obviously related news items from today’s Marketplace midday update:

#1) Pharmaceutical company Pfizer says it’ll change the way it markets drugs to people. The company announced this morning it will educate doctors for at least 6 months about new medicines before running television or print ads. Pfizer also says it won’t advertise male impotence drugs during the Super Bowl.

#2) Rafael Palmeiro is heading back to work after serving a 10-day suspension for using steroids. Business of sports analyst David Carter talks to Cheryl Glaser about steroids and baseball.

These stories raise the question whether Rafael’s need for the “little blue pill” is related to his use of steroids. One of the side effects listed for steroids is “increased libido,” albeit with “lowered natural production of testosterone thus effecting the male sperm count.”

In a WebMD feature, Martin Downs examines the issue, as he writes of Palmeiro’s endorsement agreement, “The deal has made people wonder whether Palmeiro really represents men with erectile dysfunction, or whether Pfizer, the company that makes Viagra, wants to persuade young men to try it for fun.” If Palmeiro’s steriod use did result in increased libido, it’s more doubtful that he had a legitimate need.

Perhaps a steroid-increased sexual appetite played a role in his VIAGRA® use. There is no doubt that Palmeiro’s baseball success, powered in part by steroid use, had some positive economic impact for him beyond his baseball stats and contracts. He became a pefect pitchman for Pfizer’s VIAGRA. (One of the suggested lines for opening dialogue with your doctor about VIAGRA used to be: “Have you seen the VIAGRA commercial with Major League Baseball Star Rafael Palmeiro?”)

And in a related story, “VIAGRA is a proud sponsor of Major League Baseball®.”

In a recent post, Jordan Ballor highlighted the efforts of Mr. Armen Yousoufian, who has been seeking public disclosure of records relating to the financing of the new stadium built recently for the Seattle Seahawks largely at taxpayer expense. Mr. Yousoufian has responded to Ballor’s post with the following comment:

In reply to: “They picked on the Wrong Armenian”, which is about my successful and landmark Public Disclosure Act violation lawsuit here in Washington state, thank you for the coverage. The case goes to court again on August 19 for determination of penalties and the amount of legal fees I am to be awarded for my two successful appeals of the original verdict (that will be the 4th round in over 8 years, after I won every step of the way and all the way to the state Supreme Court). If you or your readers would like more information, please visit my website: www.ArmenYousoufian.com or my blog: www.Yousoufian.blogspot.com. Lots of material, including trial briefs at all four stages of the litigation. Or email me at ayousoufian@comcast.net with something in the subect line referring to this comment left at this site.

Armen Yousoufian
Vashon Island, Washington

Those are some websites that are probably worth keeping an eye on.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Monday, August 8, 2005
By

Can a person of faith work here?

In the weeks that have passed since the announcement of the nomination of John Roberts to serve as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, an old debate has moved into the forefront once again: can a person with deeply held religious beliefs (in Judge Roberts’ case, a devout Catholic) hold a high political or judicial office and still abide by the Constitution?

Rev. Robert Sirico made a guest appearance on the Laura Ingraham Show this morning to discuss this important topic. You can listen to the interview by clicking here (3.5 mb .mp3 file).

And if you’re interested in hearing more about Constitutional interpretation from two current practitioners of the craft, be sure to check out the Acton Bookshoppe, where addresses from Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are available for purchase.

Blog author: jcouretas
Friday, August 5, 2005
By

In a column in today’s Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave looks at the growing gap between executive compensation and the pay of just about everyone else. He quotes a Wall Street Journal study showing that in 2004 the median salary and bonus for CEOs soared 14.5 percent, while paychecks for salaried employees averaged a 3.4 percent increase. Among those who view this situation with alarm are Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and Christopher Cox, the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

de Borchgrave notes that “William J. McDonough, chairman of the Public Company Oversight Board since 2003, and president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank for the previous decade, called the yawning gap ‘the single most important issue’ in today’s America. Hello. Is anyone listening? Income disparity is now wider than anywhere in the European Union or Japan, and can only be found in Third World countries.”

de Borchgrave predicts that this wealth gap is “guaranteed” to produce a backlash that will lead to increased labor union militancy. That’s far from certain. For one thing, Americans tolerate and perhaps grudgingly admire the extravagant compensation packages of Wall Street execs and other corporate chiefs because they understand that the market system rewards those who compete and succeed. Not a few Americans aspire to a life where they are vastly overpaid, themselves. If you look at a business career as a high stakes poker game, then you should be playing for the jackpot.

A retired business executive recently explained it to me: “There are three ways to acquire wealth. You can inherit it. You can marry it. Or you can steal it. Of the three ways, stealing is by far the most honorable.” This is a joke, of course. The point, I think, is that Americans look on passively acquired wealth with suspicion, while those who succeed in the marketplace on their talents and their wits, are admired.

But the issue of executive compensation — or overcompensation — raises profound moral questions about the character of CEO stewardship, the oversight role of boards of directors, and the just treatment of salaried and hourly employees. Time and again at public companies, we see examples of CEOs obsessively enriching themselves as their companies go into long-term decline or oblivion. These cases are not soon forgotten by those who have been left broken and adrift when these woefully mismananged companies disintegrate or go under.

If de Borchgrave is right about the prospect of more labor militancy, then Americans will see the truth of an old adage: If your company has a union, it probably deserved it. And that’s no joke.

Check out this Seattle Weekly article, detailing the experience of Armen Yousoufian, who sought public disclosure of records in 1997 relating to “the proposed new Seahawks stadium, now called Qwest Field, which was built largely with public money.”

When faced with government foot-dragging in release of the records, “Instead of giving up, Yousoufian was energized by the rejections. ‘They picked on the wrong Armenian!’ he liked to say.”

John Stossel exposes government welfare for billionaires in the form of public money for sports stadiums in his book Give Me a Break, in a section titled, “Sports Tycoon Freeloaders.” Sports teams very often hold local governments hostage, threatening to move unless new multi-billion dollar stadiums are built. So the taxpayers end up footing the majority of the bill.

Stossel relates a conversation with Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox, who says that the government “had to” fund his new stadium, but ends up admitting: “You mean, if somebody walks up to you and hands you money, you shouldn’t take it? The fact is–I was offered this stadium by elected officials.”

Stossel gets it right in his analysis of these situations:

Every scheme to create jobs through government spending means people who work and pay taxes have less money to spend on projects they would choose. But we in the media miss that. I can interview the people who got jobs or benefits from the government project, but I can’t find the people who didn’t get a job because money was diverted.

In light of the recent exodus from the AFL-CIO, Dr. Charles W. Baird examines the nature of labor unions through the lens of Catholic social teaching. “Catholic social teaching has supported labor unions as part of a general defense of freedom of association,” he writes. “This defense has not extended, however, to unions that are coercive or politically partisan.”

Read the full text here.

Dr. Charles W. Baird is professor of economics at California State University, East Bay and author of Liberating Labor: A Christian Economist’s Case for Voluntary Unionism.

A recent interview with Dr. Baird on the AFL-CIO split is available for download here (MP3).