Category: Public Policy

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 8, 2005

As the jobless levels across the nation continues to decline, Michigan continues to lag behind. The nationwide unemployment rate decreased to 5.0% in June, to the lowest levels since September, 2001 according to reports. Meanwhile, Michigan remains at the bottom of the list with the worst unemployment levels, upwards of 7%.

But the key to understanding why these improving numbers have not translated into job gains in Michigan appears in the same report: “Factory payrolls shrank for the fourth straight month as auto assembly and parts plants cut back on production. A glut of inventories has prompted many automakers to slow production lines until demand can catch up. Some 96,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since August 2004.”

Michigan’s manufacturing-centered economy has simply been unable to compete in the global marketplace, and state policies have tended to restrict rather than promote new business enterprise. An op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal argues that Gov. Granholm’s proposed tax plan

does nothing to reduce the excessive overall tax burden on job providers. The governor’s $2 billion bond proposal places taxpayer dollars under the control of “independent job creation experts” (the administration’s term; in the real world, we call them entrepreneurs) and instructs them to invest directly into the perceived industries of tomorrow.

This additional debt does nothing to improve Michigan’s attractiveness to investors, but instead hopes the administration’s handpicked experts will invest “other peoples’ money” effectively. And the governor’s $40.5 billion budget increases spending $1.6 billion above last year’s level and includes $300 million in tax increases. History and basic economics teaches us that Gov. Granholm’s attempt to tax-spend-and-borrow Michigan to prosperity will fail.

The answer to increasing economic growth, creating jobs and raising incomes in Michigan is simple and works whenever tried: Reduce taxes.

On the heels of the defeat of proprosed protections for intellectual property at the hands of the European Parliament, according to the AP the European Commission is addressing an aspect of the same debate: online music and copyright.

With respect to the potential economic benefits, “The most effective model for achieving this is to enable right-holders to authorize a collecting society of their choice to manage their works across the entire EU,” said the Commission in a statement, adding such a system would “considerably enhance” earnings for artists.

It seems the European Commission is determined to be a force for unity, while the European Parliament is a bit more, shall we say, divisive.

HT: Slashdot

The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills, by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn, illustrated by Richard LaPierre, ISBN 0974531510, 234 pp. Christian Logic, 2005.

Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn are brothers who live in Indiana (more about them at www.christianlogic.com) and The Thinking Toolbox is a follow-up to their first book, The Fallacy Detective. These books are primarily intended for use as homeschooling textbooks, and the Bluedorns’ interest in this area stems largely from their education at home growing up.

In an interview, Nathaniel gets at the intention behind the book: to make logic accessible and enjoyable for students. “Logic books are notorious for being very difficult, very austere,” he says. Instead, logic should be “a very enjoyable thing that everybody can do.” Hans affirms that the first step is to get kids to “think at all, and then the next step is to get them to think correctly.”

The book is a course of 35 lessons, with illustrations, applications, and exercises forming distinct little units. Colorful illustrations abound in the book, courtesy of Richard LaPierre. The book starts with the most basic building blocks of critical thinking, inculcating rules like “Just because somebody tells you something, that doesn’t mean it is true,” and moving on to examine things like the different kinds of discourse, and recognizing the difference between facts, opinions, and inferences.
(more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, July 7, 2005

I’m not sure whether this reflects the fractiousness of the European “Union,” or European unity in opposition to protection for intellectual property (or both), but yesterday the European Parliament “overwhelmingly rejected a proposed law Wednesday to create a single way of patenting software across the European Union.”

“Patents will continue to be handled by national patent offices … as before, which means different interpretations as to what is patentable, without any judiciary control by the European Court of Justice,” said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, representing the EU head office at the vote.

So in one sense this development maintains the status quo, with each member state retaining the sovereignty to fashion its own patent law. Of course, it undermines the unity of Europe as a market governed by common regulations and laws. This follows months of volleying the bill back and forth between the Parliament and the Commission, which originated the measure.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, July 7, 2005

ARMAVIRUMQUE passes along an excerpt from an article posted yesterday by The New Republic, “The Killing Machine,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa. The article is about Che Guevara, and the famous photograph that “thirty-eight years after his death, is still the logo of revolutionary (or is it capitalist?) chic.”

Llosa interviews Javier Arzuaga, a former Catholic priest, self-described as “closer to Leonardo Boff and Liberation Theology than to the former Cardinal Ratzinger.” Arzuaga’s relates the following:

there were about eight hundred prisoners in a space fit for no more than three hundred: former Batista military and police personnel, some journalists, a few businessmen and merchants. The revolutionary tribunal was made of militiamen. Che Guevara presided over the appellate court. He never overturned a sentence…. I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners. I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge.

For more about Guevara, check out ARMAVIRUMQUE for a link to a story in The New Criterion, “The real Che,” by Anthony Daniels.

You may also recall the recent Hollywood release, The Motorcycle Diaries, examined in part in an Acton Commentary by Bruce Edward Walker, “Scary Movie: Hollywood Humanizes the Despot.” Walker writes that the film is “frightening in its attempts to humanize the South American ideologue and revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. The film is an attempt to validate the Communist ideology as a cure for the diseases of poverty and illness and as a substitute for the religion that is, in the film’s depiction, petty and ineffective.”

So we see the irony of a rabid Communist like Che Guevara becoming a pop culture icon, so that, in the words of Llosa, “His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandannas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea,” and more. Whence comes this contradiction?

As I commented in a relevant blog post over at Brad Warthen’s Blog, some of the contemporary appeal can be linked to the popularization and idolization of Guevara by Zack de la Rocha and the group Rage Against the Machine. Their music is featured in The Matrix movies, and they are perhaps most famous for their subversive politics and revolutionary ideology. The group was formed in 1990 and broke up in 2000, a decade in which their popularity peaked, influencing a generation of pop culture.

A new analysis of birth records by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that in 2002 almost one in four births in the United States was to an immigrant mother (legal and illegal), the highest level in American history. In addition, nearly ten percent of all births in the country were to illegal-alien mothers. It is currently U.S. government policy to award American citizenship to all persons born on U.S. soil, even the children of tourists and illegal aliens. In 2002, 23 percent of all births in the United States were to immigrant mothers (legal or illegal), compared to 15 percent in 1990, 9 percent in 1980 and 6 percent in 1970. The states with the most dramatic increase in births to immigrants in the last decade are Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Nebraska, Arkansas, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Colorado, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland.

A fascinating interview with Kenyan economist James Shikwati in the July 4 edition of Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…

Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the interview is the palpable disbelief of the interviewer when confronted a perspective that varies from the standard “Aid is always good, and more is better” perspective so prevalent in developed world.

In September of 2003, Mr. Shikwati wrote an Acton Commentary: “The WTO and the Voice of the Poor”.

From an interview on Zenit.org with Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the president of the Italian division of Santander Central Hispanic Bank and a professor of the Catholic University of Milan, discussing African debt relief:

“What should have been done was to put these countries in a condition of being able to pay the debts, even if in 1,000 years, helping them to create the necessary wealth for their own survival, as well as for their own dignity as human beings, who do not want to feel incapable and failures, in need of non-repayable charity…the G-8 members should listen to the suggestions of Pope Benedict XVI, who shows himself to be the most concrete “statesman,” inviting them to take concrete measures to help Africa, appealing for the just distribution of the goods of the earth. And, in order to distribute them, it is necessary to make them bear fruit, ‘to plow, plant, water and harvest.’”

So says Dr. George Ayittey, a professor of economics at American University and founder of the Free Africa Foundation, in an interview on today’s Morning Edition from NPR.

Ayittey argues in part that after the African nations gained independence, they rejected the market system out of hand as a Western innovation, to the detriment of their societies. He calls for a return to indigenous structures of civil society, which embrace markets and free trade.

He also says that we need to distinguish between African governments and African people…a confusion that is simply made all too often.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 6, 2005

A question over at the ONE Campaign blog:

Why don’t these celebrities cough up their own money and stop asking for mine?

Answer: First off, they are. Most of the celebs involved in the campaign give hundreds of thousands, if not millions to charity. They just choose not make it public. But this campaign is not about asking you for YOUR money either, we want your voice. We are also talking about BILLIONS of dollars here. Not millions. If all the celebs in Hollywood banded together it still wouldn’t touch the amount that the G8 countries could give.

Well, as you read on, it is actually about “YOUR money.”

If the USA agreed to commit an additional ONE percent of its budget, or 25 billion dollars per year, it would cost every American 23 cents a day. I’m ready to do that if it saves lives…are you?

Why use the US government as a middleman, and a bureaucratic and inefficient one at that? Why not ask for 23 cents directly from the individual person?

Perhaps because then the answer might be no, but if you use the coercive power of government, no one can say no. And of course, the question is really if the same old types of aid and patterns of giving to African governments really will save lives. If corrupt governments haven’t been trustworthy with a little, why should they be trusted with a lot? (See Matthew 25:23)