Archived Posts May 2005 - Page 3 of 8 | Acton PowerBlog

From First Things, June/July 2005, No. 154, p. 68

The Public Square: A Survey of Religion and Public Life
• Rome Diary, etc., Richard John Neuhaus

• “Civic friendship.” What a beautiful idea, but in our rancorous political climate some might be excused for thinking it is a pipe dream. In an instructive little book published by the Acton Institute, Trial by Fury, by law professor (and FIRST THINGS contributor) Ronald Rychlak, applies the idea of civic friendship to tort reform. Here is how a tort system that encourages
accepting responsibility in the context of community relations ought to work: “Those who have been harmed know that the legal system will guarantee that they are compensated, and those who have committed the harm know that society ultimately will not let them avoid responsibility. Above all those without genuine claims will know that neither will the legal system permit their compensation nor will society condone their immorality. This knowledge encourages potential litigants to resolve disputes justly and privately. The perceived superiority of courtroom justice over personal interaction (civic friendship) is neither part of Christian social thought, nor historically corroborated, and it is very harmful to the community and to justice itself. As the tort law system evolved over the past several decades, however, it has moved away from practices that promote community relations. Courts lowered barriers to litigation, dismantled immunities, lessened causation requirements, and increased monetary awards. These developments have transformed the legal landscape and the message that the tort system carries.” Rychlak thinks tort reform is on the way and proposes some directions: “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. This will require careful examination of the current incentives that exist to the filing of lawsuits, especially class action lawsuits. Among the first matters to be considered would be the restoration of some form of immunities to entities that are today held responsible for actions that are outside of their scope of responsibilities. At the very least, the concept of awarding punitive damages against charities and governmental agencies must be revisited. Judges and juries also need to have more structured guidance regarding punitive damages in all cases. A loser pays system for attorney fees would also go a long way toward easing the fear currently felt by so many individuals and entities in the society.” Civic friendship. An idea that is not only beautiful but, if we have the will and the wit for it, maybe possible.

This Wired News article examines the European outrage at Google’s announced plans to digitize the holdings of all the world’s libraries.

“There is a growing awareness in continental Europe of the technology gap, even with some of the very good technologies they have had, of companies like Google, like Microsoft, like Apple … which are presented as almost technology imperialists at the forefront,” said Jonathan Fenby, a former Observer editor and author of France on the Brink. “There is this defensive reaction: ‘We have to defend what we’ve got. We mustn’t let the Americans and the British get into this.'”

The article goes on to share the lament the failed efforts of European national governments to invigorate the continental tech industry. For example,

“France poured billons of dollars in state aid into subsidizing Bull’s operations for years, but the longtime state-owned computer and software group never managed to capture a credible share of the server and workstation markets against the likes of IBM, HP or other U.S. firms. France’s Minitel teletext information system was once a mainstay in French households — and was considered the country’s consumer technology crown jewel — but the internet has largely rendered it obsolete.”

The backlash against Google is just the latest example of anti-Americanism creeping into the global economic and business world. Davids Medienkritik is a blog devoted to covering anti-American sentiment in Germany.

Perhaps this really is a clash of worldviews: the EU big-government, top-down based economic model versus the competitive and entrepreneurial model of the US. That the former is losing to the latter shouldn’t really be a surprise. As Lord Acton once said, “History is a great innovator and breaker of idols.”

Rev. Robert Sirico responded over the weekend in the Detroit News to a letter disputing one of his previous columns. In “Catholic social teaching embraces markets,” (May 21) Rev. Sirico writes that “the fact that the church has no economic models to propose is not the same as saying all economic models are the same. Some have greater moral potential than others.”

You can read Rev. Sirico’s initial piece, “Pope Benedict XVI will turn out to be a real liberal,” (April 30) as well as the letter in reply from Michael W. Hovey, Director of the Office for Catholic Social Teaching, Archdiocese of Detroit, “John Paul had reservations about capitalism” (May 5).

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–U.S. Book of Common Prayer, “For all Chistians in their vocation,” (1979), p. 206

Blog author: jcouretas
Friday, May 20, 2005

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is currently hosting the Body Worlds show, a display of plasticized cadavers and body parts. According to museum publicity, some 16 million people worldwide have seen the show, the creation of Gunther von Hagens, a German inventor who claims to have created the “plastination” technique. This, basically, is a modern-day form of mummification which allows museums to exhibit skinned and otherwise dismembered bodies in interesting and even entertaining postures.

Depending on your point of view, Body Worlds is either an assault on human dignity, or a marvelously educational exhibit designed to point attendees in the direction of healthier lifestyles (see the resinated lungs of smokers! Touch plastinated organs!). But curators at the Museum of Science and Industry knew they were treading into morally problematic territory. Their “parents resource kit” addresses the viscerally repelling nature of the show by equipping parents with a number of morally-neutral inanities such as “Answer your child’s questions honestly — it is okay not to know all the answers,” and “Be sensitive to your own reactions and your children’s reactions.” Presumably, the kids will want to know why the “embryos, fetuses and a pregnant woman who died with her fetus in her womb” are segregated into their own area. No doubt, the impertinent little ones will have embarrassing questions for mom and dad about the polymerized unborn. Suspecting this, curators have helpfully offered that “visitors may choose whether or not to view this area.”

Hagens and his Body World organization dismisses any reservatins we might have about the subjects of his entertainment by reminding us that “religion and ideology impeded the study of human anatomy for many centuries.” By the late Middle Ages, he notes, there was a “fundamental shift away from a mythical symbolic understanding of the human body (including corpses and internal organs) and towards a more realistic perspective.” Having kicked the blocks away from the wheels of progress — blocks placed there by religious sorts with “symbolic” views about human person — Hagens has now freed society to view his resinated freak show. He’s also emancipated museum curators to pursue box office success with “dry and odorless” specimens that will “remain unchanged for a virtually unlimited amount of time.” No word how the plastinated will fare at the parousia.

Many may know that the season finale of The Apprentice was brodcast last night, with the conclusion being a victory for the “Book Smarts” team (college educated or higher) over the “Street Smarts” team (high school only).

Arnold Kling at EconLog points out that the contributions of the young and above-average are almost always undervalued. This experientially strikes me as true. His advice: “If you are exceptional and young, you should start your own business. That way, you will get more than an average reward.”

In a book smarts vs. street smarts comparison, Kling adds, “Learning comes from taking on challenges. Entrepreneurship is a constant, in-your-face challenge. Relative to that, college is a stroll in the park.”

Blog author: jballor
Friday, May 20, 2005

I recently watched a rerun of Seinfeld, in which Jerry becomes entangled with a movie bootlegger, and finds out that he has a gift for movie piracy. Jerry’s talent would be the cure for what this Slashdot poster complains about: “I’ve yet to find a blockbuster movie that isn’t readily available on the net after it opens, but somehow this is still news. It’s still usually worth shelling out the cash to see a version that isn’t fuzzy with garbled sound, though.”

This post refers to a pirated copy of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith already available on the Internet. IP Blog has links to more info on this.

And all this is happening while the EU Parliament is debating new IP protections, including those related to software, video, and audio piracy.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, May 20, 2005

Dr. Andrew Yuengert, the John and Francis Duggan Professor of Economics at Seaver College, Pepperdine University, discussed the various economic and moral dimensions of the critically important immigration issues facing America today. In an interview on The Jerry Bowyer Show yesterday, Dr. Yuengert discussed “The Right to Migrate” (MP3).

Dr. Yuengert argues, within the context of Catholic Social Teaching, that there is a “right to migrate,” but it is not an “absolute right.” This means that for policy discussions, “the purpose of rights-language is not to end public policy debates and disagreements, but to orient them toward the common good of all persons, natives of the host country and immigrants alike.”

In general, political arguments have been made in favor of limiting immigration, on the basis of the severe economic consequences to the U.S. Yuengert asserts instead that “the economic stakes of immigration policy are relatively small; if there are any real stakes, they are cultural,” and that “illegal immigration, with special emphasis on the qualifier ‘illegal’, as opposed to ‘undocumented’, is the source of our most severe immigration problems, and is our most urgent challenge.”

Related resources by Yuengert:

“What Is An American?,” National Meeting of The Philadelphia Society, April 30, 2005.

“The Stranger who Sojourns with You: Toward a Moral Immigration Policy,” Policyforum, no. 6 (Winter 2004).

Inhabiting the Land, no. 6, Christian Social Thought Series (Acton Institute, 2003).

On another note, Andrew Yuengert is also the author of The Boundaries of Technique: Ordering Positive and Normative Concerns in Economic Research (Lexington, 2004), part of the Studies in Ethics & Economics series, edited by Acton director of research Samuel Gregg. The Acton Institute has placed three books with Mind & Media, a blog book review service. If you have a blog and would like to review a free copy of Yuengert’s book, become a Mind & Media exclusive reviewer today.

From the “biting the hand that feeds you” department:

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin today launched an attack on his record label EMI and the company’s shareholders.

It came after EMI, the world’s third-largest music company, warned that profits would be lower because the band took longer than expected to finish their first studio album in three years.

But as Coldplay prepared for a concert in New York to promote their new album, called X&Y, Martin said: “I don’t really care about EMI. I’m not really concerned about that.

“I think shareholders are the great evil of this modern world.”

Celebrities have been know to utter things that could charitably be called unintelligent, but this may take the cake. It’s of particular interest in this instance to see that Martin has moved beyond the standard attack on the “evil corporation,” and has instead decided to level an attack on those individuals who would invest in a company’s stock.

Martin told reporters at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre that the band was uncomfortable that they sell so many albums they can affect a major corporation’s stock price.

“It’s very strange for us that we spent 18 months in the studio just trying to make songs that make us feel a certain way and then suddenly become part of this corporate machine,” Martin said backstage.

He criticised what he called “the slavery that we are all under to shareholders”. However, having sold 20 million albums worldwide to date, their album release on 7 June and subsequent two-month tour of America in August and September will play a large role in determining EMI’s profits

Poor Chris. It’s pretty clear that he and his bandmates have been taken advantage of by a corporation that has provided them with nothing in return (excepting, of course, international fame, unimaginable wealth, and of course the mechanism to allow millions of people to become fans of their music – but who’s keeping track, anyway?). And it certainly is a burden akin to slavery to be asked to be responsible in your use of other people’s money.

I will admit that I feel a twinge of guilt over the fact that I have pre-ordered the new Coldplay album from the iTunes Music Store, and as a result have padded the wallets of the evil shareholders of Apple Computer. No doubt it was those shareholders and not the members of the band who decided to add a premium of two bonus songs with every pre-order in order to trick people like me into supporting their evil ways. But the root of the matter is this: by purchasing Coldplay’s new album, I have put money in the pockets of corporations and their shareholders, and am thus guilty of supporting “the great evil of this modern world.” Rest assurred: if I can find a way to extricate myself from this awful situation by returning the album, I will do so. And I would suggest to those of you who have yet to purchase Coldplay’s new album: Resist! To do so would be to support evil.

This article is a must-read for anyone interested in the recent history of American evangelicalism:

For a movement that began its modern life among the Calvinists, the sometimes strong critique evangelicalism has received in the past decade from its own Calvinist caucus cannot be dismissed lightly. While most of these Calvinist voices have not distanced themselves from the movement they helped create, their accusations of doctrinal declension, human-centered worship and idolatrous narcissism stand in sharp contrast to the more upbeat boosterism found in a movement that has witnessed a remarkable resurgence in the modern era.

From “Evangelicalism’s Insecure Calvinists: The Proliferation of the Evangelical Self-Critique Book at the End of the Twentieth Century,” by Gregory Johnson