Category: Business and Society

Check out Global Integrity, “an independent, non-profit organization tracking governance and corruption trends around the world. Global Integrity uses local teams of researchers and journalists to monitor openness and accountability” (HT: Librarians’ Internet Index: New This Week).

There are limitations, of course, such that countries such as Venezuela or China are not listed as of yet. But Global Integrity might be one valuable tool to add to your “global citizen’s” toolkit.

And while we’re on the topic, don’t forget to add this to your toolkit as well: A Theory of Corruption, by Osvaldo Schenone and Samuel Gregg.

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
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In the wake of last month’s stock market tumble, Samuel Gregg examines the nature of risk in a free economy. “Risk-taking is indispensable for wealth-creation,” he says. “At the root of wealth-creation is entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is impossible unless we are ready to risk testing new ideas, products, and services in the market-place.”

Read the complete commentary here.

Joe Carter concludes:

What we need is a third way. We need a clear Christian vision that understands that markets are a moral sphere (contra the libertarians). We need to promote the idea that free individuals rather than government force is necessary to carry out this task (as the left often contends). We need to realize that the “market” is not a mystical system that will miraculously provide for our neighbor (as many conservatives seem to think). What we need is develop a coherent Biblically-based conception of how the market as a human institution can be used for the redemptive purposes of our Creator. As with every institution, what the markets need is for Christians to act more like Christ.

Via The New Editor, a restatement of a basic economic rule that we all need to remember as government in America swings back to the left. Clive Crook, in the course of reviewing Robin Williams’ Man of the Year, notes the potential unintended consequences if an anti-business mood overtakes our representatives:

Case by case, the merit in these proposals varies from substantial (executive pay) to less than none (taxing profits), but put the merits of the individual policies aside. What they have in common is a fallacious premise — namely, that the cost of a new fiscal or regulatory burden stays where you first put it, with the companies concerned. The idea is very appealing: If businesses are told to give their workers more-generous benefits, or to pay higher taxes, or to use alternative fuels that reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, or whatever it might be, the rest of us — workers and consumers — get that benefit at no cost.

But that is rarely, if ever, true. In the end, the costs of those policies, as well as the benefits, mostly find their way back to voters at large as higher prices or lower wages (and this is to say nothing of the dynamic effects on incentives to grow and innovate). In short, business is not a separate segment of society that can be squeezed to advance the interests of the other segments. Economies are not built that way.

A very basic idea, to be sure, but one far too easily overlooked by populists who promote governmental intervention and regulation on behalf of “the poor” or “consumers” or whatever other group happens to wander into their line of sight. And having worked in political offices in the past, I know all too well the pressures that politicians face to “do something” when economic problems begin to mount. But we all need to step back and remind ourselves that in many (probably most) cases, governmental action to correct perceived economic injustices ends up penalizing not only the intended target of the action, but also the intended beneficiary.

Blog author: kschmiesing
Thursday, March 1, 2007
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The John A. Ryan Institute at the University of St. Thomas has been organizing a series of international conferences on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education. The latest was on the topic “The Good Company: Catholic Social Thought and Corporate Social Responsibility in Dialogue.” You can access a number of the papers through this site.

These conferences are usually a mixed bag, so investigate at your own risk. But there are always a few outstanding presentations and this edition is no exception. Albino Barrera offers a fine, concise treatment of the application of Catholic social teaching to the issue of outsourcing. My only question is whether the phrase “race to the bottom” is an accurate description of what happens in some cases. But I can agree with Barrera’s conclusion, which includes a caveat: “A race to the bottom, if true, is not permissible in CST’s vision of a properly functioning economy” (emphasis added).”

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
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As a follow-up to the rather wide-eyed optimism I expressed in a post almost a year ago, the city of Grand Rapids has rejected the sole bid application received for development of property on the Grand River.

Duane Faust’s group did submit materials by the deadline, but the application lacked $65,000 in fees. WOODTV.com reports that there were two other developers in the running, but “Faust’s bid was the only offer to come into the city offices on Friday, but without $65,000 needed as an earnest deposit and to cover the cost of evaluating the proposal. Initially, city officials were assured the money would be in their hands by the end of business last Friday. But it wasn’t and still isn’t.”

“I am at a point where I personally would not like to see this go forward,” said Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell. “Chalk this up to experience. Sooner or later we will develop that property, but not this time around.”

It looks like for the time being at least the plans to make Grand Rapids a “cool” city won’t include that riverfront property.

This made me think of this.

From the NYTimes: “Zimbabwe’s economy is so dire that bread vanished from store shelves across the country on Wednesday after bakeries shut down, saying government price controls were requiring them to sell loaves at a loss. The price controls are supposed to shield consumers from the nation’s rampant inflation, which now averages nearly 1,600 percent annually.”

From the poem, “The Incredible Bread Machine”:

Now bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled.
The Public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each,
But our leaders do their best!
The selling price is half a cent.
Taxes pay the rest.