Category: Virtue

Photography by Larry D. Moore

Today marks the 20th birthday of the Nintendo 64 (N64) gaming console. Don Reisinger offered a great tribute at Fortune:

On this day in Japan 20 years ago, Nintendo introduced the gaming system, among the first consoles to create realistic-looking 3D worlds filled with monsters, soldiers, and blood. It’s standard game design today, but at that point, it was new and exciting.

Before the Nintendo 64’s launch, gamers were largely forced into games with pixelated graphics and basic gameplay that required scrolling around a screen and solving basic puzzles. The Nintendo 64, which notched more than 30 million units sold over its lifetime, was a sign of bigger and better things to come.

Yet he notes that it wasn’t the most successful console at the time:

If sales are the sole guide of success, the Nintendo 64 was a middling performer. The nearly 33 million units it sold is notably lower than the 62 million Nintendo Entertainment Systems sold and the 49 million Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems the company sold.

While the Nintendo 64’s sales were more than the Sega Saturn, which could only muster 9 million unit sales over its lifetime, Sony sold 102.5 million PlayStation units while competing with the Nintendo 64.

There are a lot of things that Nintendo tried with the N64 that didn’t really work in their favor. But Nintendo’s willingness to take such risks, and their general product differentiation (for example, their massively successful Pokémon series debuted just one year earlier for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld console, spawning a cartoon and a card game) make it an outstanding example in the long run … not only economically, but (metaphorically) spiritually as well. (more…)

When it comes to basic definitions of work, I’ve found great comfort in Lester DeKoster’s prescient view of work as “service to others and thus to God” — otherwise construed as “creative service” in For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

Our primary focus should be service to our fellow man in obedience to God, whether we’re doing manual labor in the field or factory, designing new technology in an office or laboratory, or delivering a range of “intangible” services and solutions.

But alas, in an economy as gigantic, complex, and information-driven as ours, it can be all too easy to feel like robotic worker bees or petty consumer fleas, isolated and atomized as we toil and consume in a big, blurry economic order. The layers of the modern economy tend to conceal this basic orientation, and thus, many of us could use some reminders.

In his latest profile for Christianity Today, Chris Horst highlights an area where work’s universal ethos of service is abundantly evident: the hospitality industry. (more…)

The Barna Group recently released a fascinating new study on morality in America. The press release is titled, “The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code.” It summarizes the study:

New research from Barna reveals growing concern about the moral condition of the nation, even as many American adults admit they are uncertain about how to determine right from wrong.

Sounds like a problem. And, indeed, the data does give reason to be concerned. But the framing of at least one question presumes a false dichotomy.

In particular, the question “Moral Truth: Absolute or Relative?” gives as possible answers only “Absolute,” “Relative,” or “Never thought about it.”

I presume that “both” wasn’t an option because the questioners believed that the two options were mutually exclusive. However, this is simply not the case. (more…)

There’s been a lot of discussion leading up to the planned Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete this month. As is typical of councils in the history of the Church, so far it’s a mess, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

In what has been described as an act of self-marginalization by Bulgarian Orthodox scholar Smilen Markov, it looks like the Bulgarian Patriarchate has already backed out.

Antioch has a laundry list of grievances.

The OCA, which might not even technically be invited in the first place, has issued a statement.

And further statements from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Georgian Patriarchate, and others can be found.

No need to review the contents as the point is simply to note that, once again, the council is already a mess.

Officially, I should be calling it the “Great and Holy” council, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. That’s not out of cynicism (well, not entirely) but due to the record of history and the science of economics. (more…)

“Men Without Chests” is the curious title of the first chapter of C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man. In the book, Lewis explains that the “The Chest” is one of the “indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.” Without “Chests” we are unable to have confidence that we can grasp objective reality and objective truth.

The result of such chest-less education, as Lewis warns, is a dystopian future. “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise,” says Lewis. “We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

A YouTube channel called CSLewisDoodle contains a number of videos that illustrate some of Lewis’s selected essays to make them easier to understand. This video contains the essay on “”Men Without Chests.” (Because the essay contains a number of obscure literary references, CSLewisDoodle has put together a PDF with the text and explanatory notes.)

JMM_19 1Our most recent issue of the Journal of Markets & Morality, vol. 19, no. 1, has now been published online and print issues are in the mail.

In addition to our regular slate of articles examining the intersections between faith, freedom, markets, and morality, this issue contains a new entry in our Scholia special feature section: “Advice to a Desolate France” by Sebastian Castellio. Writing in 1562, Castellio was one of the first early modern defenders of freedom of religion on the basis of freedom of conscience, in the midst of a turbulent time of conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in sixteenth-century France. His insights should still be valuable today, both to scholars and others who value that same freedom.

As is our usual custom, this issue’s editorial, “Self-Interest and Moral Contexts,” is open access. In it, I examine the necessity of context for determining the morality of the choices of market actors:

The economic idea of self-interest as the driving motivator of economic (and other) behavior is as widely accepted by economists as it is criticized by others. The critics, generally, object to the assumption that “widespread and/or persistent human behavior can be explained by a generalized calculus of utility-maximizing behavior,” to quote George Stigler and Gary Becker. Is not that selfishness? And is not selfishness immoral? And do not people, at least sometimes, act morally? Furthermore, should not they be encouraged to act altruistically instead of only thinking of their own interests?

In reality, context complicates such moralisms.

The full editorial can be read and downloaded here.

Read the entire issue here.

Subscription instructions to access all of our content can be found here.

cracked-flag-fragment-america-dividedThe fabric of American society is tearing at the seams. Whether witnessed through the disruptive insurgencies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders or the more mundane fissures of pop culture and daily consumerism, Americans are increasingly divided and diverse.

Yet even in our rash attempts to dismantle Establishment X and Power Center Y, we do so with a peculiar nostalgia of the golden days of yore. You know, those days when institutions mattered?

This is particularly evident in the appeal of Mr. Trump, whose calls to burn down the houses of power come pre-packaged with a simultaneous disdain for the power of bottom-up diversity and the liberty it requires. Once the tattered castle on the hill is torched to the ground, we’re told, we will receive a greater castle on a higher hill with a far more deserving king. The scepter will be yuge, and with power restored to the hands of a man shrewd enough to exploit it, surely we will “win” again. (more…)