Category: Public Policy

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

S. T. Karnick over at The Reform Club comments on a recent suit filed against DuPont over Teflon, claiming that “DuPont lied in a massive attempt to continue selling their product.”

Karnick observes that abuse of the tort system is rampant, in part because “it has been perverted into a proxy for the criminal justice system: a means of punishing supposed wrongdoers through the use of a weaker standard of proof—preponderance of the evidence instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Trial by Fury

Law professor Ronald J. Rychlak outlines the changes over time to America’s tort law system in his recent book, Trial by Fury: Restoring the Common Good in Tort Litigation. The weakened burdens of proof is one of the trends that Rychlak investigates, in addition to increases in damage awards, the recognition of new torts, and the growth of class action suits.

Rychlak argues for a recovery of the purpose of the tort system. He concludes in light of the changes in tort law, “Effective tort reform, therefore, must return the system to one based on fault and causation, that holds responsible those who caused the damage, makes the injured whole, and does not impose upon the innocent.”

A growing controversy over hidden content in video games – sexually explicit or violent scenes – has led to a call for government regulation and fines. Is that the best way to address this problem? David Phelps calls for greater parental involvement in selecting appropriate video games for children, rather than a turn to the nanny state.

Read the full text here.

John Paul II gave us all a tremendous gift by endorsing the terms Culture of Life and Culture of Death. But as with all great gifts, we must guard these terms carefully so as not to wear them out with misuse, robbing them of their relvence. Unfortunately, this is precisely what is happening in the current debate over CAFTA. A group called Catholics for Faithful Citizenship claims the following: “Clearly, supporting CAFTA is inconsistent with upholding a culture of life.” They provide a list of vague quotes by a Colorado bishop and conlcude (somehow–I cannot quite follow their reasoning) that free markets are “clearly” inconsistent with a culture of life.

To jump immediately to rhetoric like this–and what’s more, to do so without an actual reasoned argument behind it!–is not only irresponsible, but smacks of trite political lobbying. If this group is truly concerned with a better society, they will consider the freedom inherent in the people for which they claim to advocate and allow them fair access to greater markets. They ought to use some economic prudence here instead of resorting to sound-bite politics, throwing around “culture of life” as if it were the latest political buzzword.

Instead, they have slapped this powerful term onto their half-reasoned view of CAFTA, capitalizing on the term’s moral connotative power, using it to advance a half-truth. It is crucial that sound economic thought is employed by Christians before tossing out irresponsible rhetoric involving our most powerfully relevent terminology. Otherwise, we appear to be no different than other flapping mouths blasting the landscape with an irrelevent wind.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Foreign Policy hosts this exchange on environmental issues and economics. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, gets the first word and Bjørn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, gets the last word.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I’m not quite sure what to make of this local story: “Four people are charged for their alleged involvement in killing two bald eagles.”

The details of the alleged crimes are as follows: “Prosecutors say two teenagers shot the eagles in the Muskegon State Game Area with a .22 caliber rifle in April 2004 and then chopped them up with a hatchet.” Since the bald eagle, one of the nation’s revered symbols, is an endangered animal, it is protected by both state and federal laws.

Given the law of the land (the Endangered Species Act), it makes some sense that those involved would be prosecuted for illegal killings of protected animals. But here’s the strange thing: two of the alleged participants are “charged with one count of animal cruelty, which is a four-year felony.” Unless I’m misunderstanding something, the eagles were “chopped…up with a hatchet” after they were killed. How can you be cruel to something after it’s already dead?

And just in case you were wondering which is considered more severe, the two men “are also facing one count each of killing a bald eagle, which is a 90-day misdemeanor.”

It’s hard for me to fathom why anyone would shoot and slaughter bald eagles, but that perversity is almost matched by the irrationality of the possible sentences.

There are so many things wrong with this news item from Canada, I hardly know where to begin.

But I’ll make perhaps the most obvious point of contradiction. This guy is “worried that the separation between church and state is under threat,” so he wants to initiate state control over religion, especially “given the inertia of the Catholic Church.”

I’m not at all familiar with Canadian law. Is there something in Canada similar to the American Establishment Clause?

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, July 25, 2005

The New York Times reports this morning that “leaders of four of the country’s largest labor unions announced on Sunday that they would boycott this week’s A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention, and officials from two of those unions, the service employees and the Teamsters, said the action was a prelude to their full withdrawal from the federation on Monday.”

The withdrawal is the culmination of a period of dissatisfaction with the direction of big labor in the US. The leaders of the dissedent unions feel that “the federation under the leadership of its president, John J. Sweeney, has been ineffective in halting the decades-long slide of organized labor.” The disagreement is in part over the amount of AFL-CIO money that should go back to the local unions for recruitment.

Some of the dissenters feel that more money should be used for recruiting the next generation of union members, while the AFL-CIO leadership fears the diversion of funds would weaken the national political influence of labor unions.

This schism is occuring despite the efforts of the labor leadership to utilize religious leaders to push union membership. The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the interfaith outreach of the AFL-CIO, which “has hired more than three dozen aspiring ministers, imams, priests and rabbis to spread the gospel of union organizing across the nation this summer.”

This attempt to revitalize a form of the social gospel “seeks to recreate the historic partnership between faith and labor, an alliance that for nearly a century gave union leaders an aura of moral authority — and their cause the stamp of divine righteousness.”

There is some cause for doubt as to the authenticity of the effort, however. After signing up an interested worker, rabbinical student Margie Klein:

was pinning on a yarmulke — “to look more like a rabbi,” she explained — and preparing to march on AlliedBarton.

She read through a letter she had drafted to the firm: “Our traditions tell us that when one of us is poor, we are all impoverished…. When we work hard, we must be given the resources not only to get by, but to live, pray, and dream.”

“It’s a little spiritually cheesy,” she said doubtfully.

Two other interns came by to help; they added a quote from the Book of Micah to make the letter more authoritative. When Klein made her pitch to the exasperated manager at AlliedBarton, the other interns sang the line from Micah in the background: “We’ve got to do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with our God.”

The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, a Washington-based amalgam of left-liberal religious activists, has asked the U.S. Congress to reject ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Here’s a representative statement: “Religious leaders boldly stood with impoverished people and called today for sustainable development in Central America and respect for the integrity of Creation.” Some of our best friends are impoverished?

In this group’s statements, there’s scarcely an intelligible economic thought to be found or, for that matter, a practical understanding of what makes business part a functioning society that creates wealth not only for owners, but for workers, too.

Let’s turn the tables. How would these religious leaders respond to theological platitudes tossed at them from people who make their living in finance and industry? Imagine an economist trying to pass a graduate seminary exam with statements such as, “God loves us, that’s why” or, “We should all be nice to people.”

So, imagine a business person sitting in the pews on Sunday and the pastor hauls out the Interfaith Trade Group’s Statement on International Trade and Investment in lieu of a real sermon. This business person learns that the free economy has brought about “mounting global inequities” and “growing disparities and injustices” and we should be working for “distributive justice.” And so on.

A better way to prepare a sermon on the justice of trade would be to first absorb some real understanding. Maybe start by reading this analysis from the Dallas Fed which informs us that:

Entering into regional trade agreements has well-documented positive effects on participating nations, rich or poor, even though the impact on the United States would be lessened by the small market sizes of the DR-CAFTA countries. From the DR-CAFTA countries’ perspective, the agreement’s impact would be large. Even the most populous of these nations, Guatemala, has less than half as many people as the state of Texas. Moreover, despite what the habitual detractors of trade liberalization claim, there is much evidence that trade openings typically have positive effects on income per capita — generally including that of the poorest fifth of the population, even in developing countries.

Increasing the opportunities for trade is precisely what people of faith should be demanding for the impoverished. Unless we want the impoverished to stay that way.

Read Rev. Robert Sirico’s analysis of the Religious Left’s drive to derail CAFTA in “Unholy Opposition: A Moral Case for CAFTA” on National Review Online.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 22, 2005

The last of many gems here:

“Here’s Williams’ roadmap out of poverty: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.” — Walter Williams

HT: The Anchoress

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 22, 2005

Gregor Mendel, a monk and Abbot of Brünn, was born on this date in 1822. Mendel’s work opened up the promising and troubling field of genetics. He is often called “the father of genetics” for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants.

For information about what might be identified as the contemporary offspring of Mendel’s work, see the Acton Environmental Newsletter on Genetically Modified Foods, including Rev. Michael Oluwatuyi’s “How Will We Feed Africa?” and my article, “A Theological Framework for Evaluating Genetically Modified Food.”

Image taken from Genoma del genere Gallus.