Category: Public Policy

Blog author: kschmiesing
posted by on Friday, December 16, 2005

Eugene Hickok and Gary Andres give us an optimistic piece on education reform on NRO today. They see even public educational professionals opening up to the positive potential of reforms that shift the educational enterprise into non-governmental hands. No doubt the continued advance of public education threats such as homeschooling and vouchers have prodded some educators into reform-mindedness. Progress on this issue is painstakingly slow and therefore hard to gauge, but one hopes Hickok and Andres have correctly identified the direction of momentum.

Paul Theroux, a former Peace Corps volunteer, indicts what he calls the “more money” platform, headed by none other than U2 frontman Bono, in a NYT op-ed, “The Rock Star’s Burden.”

“Those of us who committed ourselves to being Peace Corps teachers in rural Malawi more than 40 years ago are dismayed by what we see on our return visits and by all the news that has been reported recently from that unlucky, drought-stricken country. But we are more appalled by most of the proposed solutions.”

The piece is well worth reading: “We should know better by now. I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for – and this never happens. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful; it is also ignoring some obvious points.” Theroux goes on to examine some of these points, in convincing fashion.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dr. Philip Stott at EnviroSpin Watch shares with us an article featuring an interview with Maugrim, head of Queen Jadis’ secret police from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, on the growing threat of global warming to the peaceful nation of Narnia. The so-called “greenhouse gas” in question is Pantheron Dileoxide (PL2), also commonly known as “Lion’s Breath.”

“PL2 is a dangerous, roaring greenhouse gas”, the Chief Wolf, Maugrim, growled. “It melts everything, even frozen fauns and fountains. Climate change is the biggest threat ever to Narnia – we might even have Christmas, and the Queen’s war chariot polar bears will have nowhere to live”, he snarled.

The interview concluded with a demand to return to “zero emissions.”

HT: The Corner

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.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, December 14, 2005

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.”

Read the full commentary here.

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.

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, December 14, 2005


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!

HT: LifeHacker

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has taken another step forward with the announcement of an agreement with the State of New Mexico:

Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space, and New Mexico announced an agreement Tuesday for the state to build a $225 million spaceport. Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 “founders” who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.

It all sounds very cool, although one might quibble with New Mexico’s decision to use taxpayer funds to build a spaceport for Mr. Branson.

Nevertheless, the preliminary details of the plan sound pretty cool:

Virgin Galactic said it had chosen New Mexico as the site for its headquarters because of its steady climate, free airspace, low population density and high altitude. All those factors can significantly reduce the cost of the space flight program.

The spaceport, to be located some 25 miles south of the town of Truth or Consequences, will be constructed 90 percent underground, with just the runway and supporting structures above ground.

An underground spaceport? Near a town called Truth or Consequences? It’s like something out of James Bond…

Richard Branson, circa 2018?

Update: Come to think of it, there may be a slight resemblance there… (more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Much attention is on the World Trade Organization summit in Hong Kong. Here are a couple of ENI briefs on the WTO:

Food, agriculture, subsidies grip faith groups as well as WTO

Hong Kong (ENI). Participants at an interfaith conference on economic justice have urged the World Trade Organization to respect people’s food sovereignty and halt the current negotiations on agriculture and the production of food. “People’s food sovereignty is being undermined by the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture,” a declaration said after a meeting held in Hong Kong.

Southern Africa faith groups urge: End barriers to farm exports

Blantyre, Malawi (ENI). Southern Africa faith-based groups and non-governmental organizations are urging developed countries at world trade talks in Hong Kong to stop subsidising agricultural products and to remove barriers to agricultural exports from poor countries. “The highly industrialised countries must immediately stop subsidies for their domestic production and exports that result in the dumping of their excess agricultural production in our countries,” the groups stated.

Regarding the first item, I take “people’s food sovereignty” to mean the right to grow whatever you want at a profit regardless of the world supply and demand. This is the same logic at the heart of the “fair” trade movement: I should be able to grow what I choose when I choose and make a living off of it. Who cares if we already have too many coffee beans? I know my rights! Respect my food sovereignty!

This looks like it will be one of the growing buzzwords for the anti-global market crew. Here’s a group, People’s Food Sovereignty, formed in 2001, “a loose global coalition of peasant-farmer organizations and NGO’s working on food and agriculture issues.”

Food sovereignty is defined here as “the RIGHT of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies.” (Apparently, if you put the word “right” in all caps and bold, it makes whatever you say after it true.)

There’s a kernel of truth in this, insofar as it manifests some respect for the principle of subsidiarity. But here the RIGHT of the grower here is opposed to the rights and freedoms of the buyer…the world is compelled to pay a set price, rather than letting a system of free exchange, respecting both the rights and responsibilities of buyer and seller alike, do the job.

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.