Category: Public Policy

From SoYouWanna.com:

“Socially responsible investing is when you take your beliefs and values and apply them to how you invest your money. This is also known as having a ‘double bottom line,’ because not only are you looking for a profitable investment, but also one that meets certain moral criteria and that lets you sleep well at night. Your second bottom line could be moral, religious, or based on whatever Chicken Soup for the Soul principles help guide you through life.”

Acton’s Sam Gregg underscores this last point in a commentary on why Christians should look closer at the ethics behind “ethical” investing.

HT: the evangelical outpost

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, August 2, 2005

The issue of the federal regulation of non-profit groups, including churches, has meshed with a number of other questions, including allegations of government discrimination against faith-based groups. Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, writes of an attack on funding for faith-based initiatives in the New York Times as “typical of what’s been happening in the press and in Congress. Year after year, a Senate minority blocks votes on faith-based legislation. They demand that ministries not ‘discriminate’ by hiring only people of their own faith.”

But this is the inherent danger in taking money from the government (or anyone else for that matter). The tendency is to become increasingly dependent on that revenue source, and to become correspondingly beholden to the interests of the benefactor. If that benefactor is the government, the fight becomes more and more political, as a faith-based group might lobby for greater freedom in hiring, while a secular program might lobby to exclude some of the faith-based competition. In the process, valuable time, funds, and intangible resources are spent politicking.

And if government policies do change disfavorably, a program might face the hard choice of seeking replacement funding elsewhere or acquiescing to the new guidelines. But since much of the focus has been on lobbying government, necessary skills and infrastructure for grassroots fundraising have probably atrophied greatly in the interim. The choice might come down to the collapse of a program or meeting the demands of government.

Churches face similar pressures, in that their dependency on tax-exempt status can become a way for the government to manipulate their activities. A pastor may feel compelled to speak out about a particular policy or political issue, but refrains from doing so out of fear of retribution. In accepting the government’s tax breaks, churches run the risk of compromising their independence.

Karen Woods, director of the Center for Effective Compassion, spoke about many of these kinds of issues in an in-depth interview yesterday on The Inquisition (MP3), a web-based radio program.

The latest issue of Policy Forum, co-authored by Woods, studies how faith influences the behavior of charitable organizations, and finds that “a program’s faith element relates to the people they serve and the type of help they provide, as programs with more explicit and mandatory faith-related elements are likely to be substance-abuse programs.”

The study is based on Acton’s Samaritan Award program, “a national search for ten United States charity programs that receive little to no government funding and that agree that effective charity is rooted in the unique dignity of the human person.” The emphasis on the “little to no government funding” comes from the recognition of the complicating problems that dependence on government funding can bring for faith-based organizations.

I can therefore agree with Colson that “faith-based programs work where secular efforts fail,” and “that the Gospel is the best answer to our social problems.” But such agreement does not mean that we should necessarily seek government funding for our charitable work. It may, in fact, lead us to purposefully avoid it.

From last week’s McLaughlin Group (July 30), an exchange between Pat Buchanan and Mort Zuckerman on the AFL-CIO split:

MR. BUCHANAN: There’s no doubt it is a blow to the Democrats. And what Eleanor said is very important earlier. The future of the labor movement is in service workers and it’s government workers, John, because the industrial unions are dying. We are exporting all of their jobs overseas, whether it’s textile or steel or (atomic?) workers or auto workers. All of that’s going overseas. Free trade is killing the labor movement.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think that the timing –

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I’m sorry. It’s not just that it’s going overseas. Automation has changed those industries.

MR. BUCHANAN: Automation –

MR. ZUCKERMAN: They don’t need anywhere near — two-thirds of those workers are no longer needed to produce more cars and more steel. It’s automation.

MR. BUCHANAN: Globalization is killing them too.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That’s another part of it. And automation doesn’t apply to the service workers.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask –

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That’s why the future is there. I agree with that.

A little earlier Mr. Zuckerman says, “There’s been a complete transformation of the nature of the workforce in America. Thirty-five years ago, if you look at the auto workers and the steel workers, for example, 78 percent of them did not have a high school education. Today everybody is educated. It’s much less attractive to join a union, both culturally and politically.”

In addition, the move to a post-industrial, servece and information-oriented economy in America, and the resulting lack of mobility and innovation in some places (like Michigan), has played a large part in driving down union membership.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, August 2, 2005

On this date in 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was killed, shot dead from behind by Jack McCall while playing poker. He held a pair of aces & a pair of 8s, forever giving that combination the nickname “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Poker has come a long way since then, becoming a global multi-million dollar industry. There’s a good discussion over at World Magazine Blog, asking where parents should “draw the line,” given the rising popularity of poker among youth.

This story from CBS’s Morning Show last year profiled a mom who hosts poker nights for her son and his friends. Liz Perry says the kids are “having a great time. They’re …home. They’re not out on the street. They’re all great students great athletes and at night, this is a great way for them to hang out with each other and be with each other.”

Christian responses to gambling, card playing, and other games of chance vary, from the moderately permissive to the prohibitionist. Social conservative groups worry about the effect of gambling on young children. Keith Whyte, who runs the National Council on Problem Gambling, says “for most kids, gambling if they choose to engage in it will not be harmful. But for a percentage, four to six percent of kids will develop a serious gambling problem.” Some advocate greater government regulation and/or prohibition of gambling, saying that to do otherwise is to implicitly endorse the practice.

I would assert that governments should logically first cease the active promotion of gambling (via lotteries) before they take greater measures to restrict or discourage other forms of gambling. I just can’t see a substantive difference between spending money on the Mega Millions jackpot and having a night of poker with friends…except that the former is essentially a regressive tax promoted by the government.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, August 1, 2005

Here’s a view of procreation that doesn’t line up with the UN-sponsored “World Population Day”. In the midst of a discussion about a Jewish tradition mandating that each couple has at least one male and one female childe, Bryan Caplan at EconLog writes,

I’m on the record in favor of having more kids. I believe that, in most cases, both individuals and society would be better off if families had three or four. A lot of people have small families because they are mildly tired when they are young, and fail to consider that as a result they will be very lonely when they’re old. Two grown children is not enough to get a decent quantity of phone calls and grandchildren.

From ENI:

Nigerian president wants Church to nurture God-fearing politicians

Lagos (ENI). Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, lamenting poor leadership and corruption among public officers in his country, has urged churches to help nurture political leaders who are honest, hardworking, visionary, and inspiring. “The Church has a major role to play in identifying, nurturing, promoting and guiding such leaders at all levels of our society and our polity,” Obasanjo said in Lagos at the laying of the foundation stone of a sanctuary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. [368 words, ENI-05-0582]

Want to take a ride?

This has been a momentous week for manned space exploration. First, NASA returned to flight with Tuesday’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was almost immediately followed by a return to not flying, as safety concerns will be grounding the shuttle fleet once again. The whirlwind of activity has rekindled the debate over the future of the Space Shuttle program and the government’s manned space flight in general.

But in the end, the space news that this week may be remembered for has nothing to do with NASA and everything to do with the introduction of the first real effort to open space to tourism. British entrepeneur Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace innovator Burt Rutan have announced plans to form a new aerospace company with the express purpose of designing craft that can carry passengers into space.

Called The Spaceship Company, the new entity will manufacture launch aircraft, various spacecraft and support equipment and market those products to spaceliner operators. Clients include launch customer, Virgin Galactic—formed by Branson to handle space tourist flights.

The Spaceship Company is jointly owned by Branson’s Virgin Group and Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Scaled will be contracted for research and development testing and certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve. Rutan will head up the technical development team for the SS2/WK2 combination.

Like most new technology, the price tag is pretty steep, but Rutan and Branson hope to bring the costs down over time:

At present, seats onboard Virgin Galactic spaceships are price tagged at $200,000 each.

But Branson hopes that this seat price will drop over time. “Our aim is to bring the price down,” he said.

“Our principal aim behind this is not to make money. The principal aim is to reinvest any money we make into space exploration,” Branson said. “We expect to double, triple, quadruple the number of astronauts in the next few years that have currently experienced space,” he said.

To date, Branson said, about a 100 pioneers have been willing to pay $200,000 to be the first people to go into space via Virgin Galactic. “These are the kinds of people who are going to enable us to bring the cost of space travel down,” he stated.

A hat tip for this information goes to Dean Esmay, who notes that if $200,000 a seat sounds like a lot of money:

consider that the average shuttle launch costs about a billion dollars and takes months or years to plan, and the price has gone up over time, while Branson and Rutan plan to aggressively persue getting the price down over time.

Rutan and Branson are true pioneers. I for one wish them well as they pursue their amazing goal of making space travel more widely accessible.

“Congress should not expand the powers of the FCC by giving it a new role to regulate the latest technologies. Instead, lawmakers should direct the FCC to simply resolve issues derived from the past AT&T monopoly and government control of spectrum. And then they should keep the agency from regulating new communication platforms, deferring to the communications marketplace for that job. What’s more, the current static legal classification of different types of communications services needs to be overhauled.”

–from Braden Cox, “Reform FCC — Limit It!” at Tech Central Station

I express concerns about the creeping power of the FCC here and here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, July 29, 2005

Alan Warren / Associated Press

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, July 28, 2005

Here’s a great interview from the Marketplace Morning Report with Chris Farrell, in which he argues for the lifting of trade sanctions against dictatorial and oppressive regimes. He compares the cases of Cuba and China, in which two different strategies have been used, with vastly different results.

We need to “stop the policy of broad based sanctions against nations that we don’t like,” says Farrell. This is directly opposite of the view, for example, which primarily blames economic engagement and the concern that, in the words of Kai Ryssdal, “some of these governments will be propped up.”

This is something the Acton Institute has been talking about for years. Read Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s “It’s Time to Do Unto Cuba as We Do Unto China,” from The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2000.