Archived Posts May 2005 » Page 6 of 8 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, May 12, 2005

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has found a new way to get the word out about its efforts. Food Force is a free downloadable video game (for the PC and Mac) designed by the WFP, in which the users will “Play the game, learn about food aid, and help WFP work towards a world without hunger.”

Within the context of the fictional nation of Sheylan, the player embarks on a series of missions intended to give users a feel for the way in which the WFP does business.

A noble goal.

The overall goal of the WFP in fighting hunger is a noble one, and worthy of a great deal of public attention. While many flashier issues dominate global media coverage, hunger problems represent a true and dangerous threat to millions of people daily. And the good news is that there are real, achievable policies and actions available that could have incredibly positive effects.

The Copenhagen Consensus 2004, which brought together world-renowned experts in a variety of fields, determined that the challenge of malnutrition and hunger represented one of the key areas of potential action. The opportunity of providing micronutrients was ranked by a panel of expert economists as second only to the control of HIV/AIDS in the prioritization of responses to global threats.

According to the panel, “Reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia by means of food supplements, in particular, has an exceptionally high BCR (benefit-cost ratio).” In this respect, the WFP Food Force does a good job of emphasizing the nutritional value of food, as one of the six tasks in the game is come up with a formula for food rations that maximizes both economic and nutritional value. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Interested in reading and reviewing various publications for your blog? Head on over to Mind & Media, a blog-based book reviewing service. The Acton Institute has placed three titles from the Lexington Books Studies in Ethics & Economics series, edited by Acton director of research Samuel Gregg. One of the books is Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II, by Acton research fellow Kevin Schmiesing. Become a reviewer

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, May 11, 2005

According to the AP, Molly Akers has filed a lawsuit against the University of Chicago Hospitals, seeking more than $200,000 in damages for the pain, suffering and lost wages she suffered when her healthy right breast was surgically removed.

The mistake was the result of a lab mix-up, and in a statement released on NBC’s Today Show, the hospital expressed regret for the mistake.

Akers’ lawyer, Bob Clifford, is using the case as an opportunity to speak against proposed tort reform measures. Mr. Clifford, on the Today Show, derided President Bush’s cap on pain and suffering and punitive damages to $250,000, and in the AP report “said if state lawmakers move forward with one malpractice reform plan gaining momentum in Springfield, Akers could end up with only $75,000.” He also said that the AFL-CIO and NAACP are on board with him opposing the tort reform measures.

This is certainly a tragic case, but it raises for me a nagging question about the punishment of well-intentioned actors for mistakes. In this case, the mistake may or may not have been legally negligent.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A New York Times editorial today argues that spreading concerns about the ethical validity of chimeras (human-animal hybrids) are unfounded. Here is a summary of the argument:

1) Strange and disturbing possibilities are more like science-fiction than real science. These “should not distract us from welcoming more mundane experiments with chimeras that will be needed to advance science.”
2) This is just the next logical progression. There’s no real substantive difference between transplanting organs or tissues and splicing genes.
3) A probable reason why many people worry about chimeras is because of the possibility that such actions might “visibly change the fundamental nature of either the human or the animal.”
4) We can trust scientists, who don’t want to make science-fiction, but rather do real scientific work. The scientific community is already implementing valuable and important ethical safeguards.

There isn’t a single one of these four points that rings true. Let me respond briefly point-by-point.

1) Clearly there is a pragmatism at work here. Almost anything is permissible in order to “advance science,” and anyone who says otherwise are either worry-worts or lunatics. And I’m not sure that any kind of genetic manipulation could ever be consdired “mundane.”
2) There is a real difference between organ transplantation, which may not in all cases be objectionable, and genetic manipulation. Genes are the building blocks of life and fundamentally affect the identity and function of physical bodies. The editorial also assumes that all previous chimeras are noncontroversial, e.g. the transplantation of “human fetal tissue into mice.”
3) People are certainly concerned about obvious changes to humans (i.e. visible), but this is only reflective of the deeper recognition that genetic manipulation fundamentally affects the subjects, whether or not the change is visible. The human person consists of much more than just a physical body or what is visible.
4) A brief look at the NAS guidelines for embryonic stem cell research shows that what is operative here again is a scientific pragmatism. Proposed experiments creating genetic chimeras have already been approved by university ethics boards, using the only ethical framework they know. This framework, however, is inadequate.

All of these problems seem to stem from a basic misunderstanding of the human person. A naturalistic/materialistic anthropology will eventually lead to such conclusions, because the picture of the human person is severely truncated. Instead of reflecting a true and biblical conception of the human person, body and soul, humans are reduced merely to physically evolved bodies. I might write up a more detailed response later, but you get the idea of what the problems are with such rationales.

Noting the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alexis de Tocqueville, Samuel Gregg analyzes the current situation in Europe. “Tocqueville’s vision of ‘soft-despotism’ is thus one of arrangements that mutually corrupt citizens and the democratic state,” and clear signs of this ‘soft-despotism’ are emerging, contends Gregg.

Read the full text here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Iain Murray at Tech Central Station writes that the EU is going to have a lot of trouble meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, and this could have disastrous economic effects. He writes of recent statements from Spanish officials:

This is a clear indication that at least one government has realized that Kyoto brings a severe economic cost with it, contrary to the protestations of the European Commission and Kyoto boosters around the world.

Murray concludes, “The reality, then, is that Kyoto is doomed and it is its greatest champion, the European Union, which is destined to reveal this to the world.”

Fast Food Tax Redux

As I alerted you to more than three weeks ago, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has proposed a 2% tax on fast food restaurants, in a vain attempt to cover the city’s fiscal woes. Here’s a sneak preview to this week’s ANC feature, “The Flawed Fast Food Tax,” in which I conclude:

As a rule, governments should not seek quick and temporary fixes to structural budget problems. Sin taxes like the fast food tax are quick fixes that would have serious economic and moral consequences. Government leaders really ought to address their own appetite for spending tax dollars before they try to regulate the appetites of their constituents.

Read the full text here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Max Blumenthal over at Arianna Huffington’s overhyped new blog, “The Huffington Post,” concludes that “the struggle for America’s future is not a conflict between political parties, but between two ideologies. One values individual freedom, the other, clerical authoritarianism. True conservatives should choose sides more carefully.”

Blumenthal misunderstands the true nature of freedom, ignoring the moral foundation of freedom and lumping it in with “clerical authoritarianism.”

As Lord Acton says, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”

Or, in the words of John Milton, “None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.”

Blumenthal’s theological relatives would be something like the antinomians who misconstrued Christian freedom in Christ, and against whom the apostle Paul wrote, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:13-15 NIV).

See also Romans 6:18, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

This BBC Newshour story (RealAudio) following on the first Rolls-Royce automobile purchased in India in fifty years contains some interesting analysis about the state of the Indian economy. Citing the liberalization of the economy beginning in 1991, Indian diplomat Pavan Varma states that “the number of people below the poverty line have been reduced fairly dramatically.” This in spite of the protestations of the interviewer, Claire Bolderson, that the gap between rich and poor illustrates “quite a contradictory picture that’s emerging from India today.”

The official in charge of governmental relief funds in Indonesia is “shocked” at the lack of reconstruction progress in the Aceh province, fully five months after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

BBC News reports that Kuntoro Mangkusubroto primarily blames bureaucratic wrangling for the delays. “There is no sense of urgency,” he said.

Meanwhile private funding continues to flow freely as NGOs effectively implement their relief efforts. Visit Acton’s Tsunami Guide to Effective Giving for information about how your money can help the continuing need in southeast Asia.