Archived Posts June 2005 - Page 2 of 11 | Acton PowerBlog

In my years of observing and participating in the legislative process both as a voter and as a legislative aide, I have noted a number of tendencies common to politicians of all political persuasions. High on this list are two items: first, politicians have a deep desire to be seen by their constituents as helpful problem-solvers. If that means bringing the full force of the federal or state government down on an issue that should be solved at the local level, well, so be it. Re-election beckons.

Unfortunately, another common trait of legislators is the fact that they are extremely busy individuals. Between legislative sessions, committee meetings, constituent calls, dealing with the press, district events, fundraising, campaigning, and traveling between all of the above, there simply isn’t much time to spend deeply pondering the probable outcomes of all of the various actions a legislature can take.

As a result, legislative “problem solving” often is relegated to the appropriations process. In other words, well-meaning politicians throw money at perceived problems and needs and hope that the problem goes away.

The end result of such activity is often the opposite of the legislative intent. And it’s not strictly an American problem. In an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Company, Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute talks about the negative effects on local voluntary organizations when government tries to “help.” (4.3 mb mp3)

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

AMD is suing Intel, claiming "freedom of choice and the benefits of innovation…are being stolen away in the microprocessor market," says Hector Ruiz, AMD chairman, president and chief executive.

This case raises concerns over at Fast Company Now, as Kevin Ohannessian writes,

I worry that this could start a new trend. Is a competitor trouncing you? Sue him. Do you feel your product is underperforming due to unfair opposition? Take your rival to court. It does seem at times that America is a nation built on litigation, but capitalism is about competition. Such lawsuits should make competition more fair, and not replace it altogether. Let us hope the next year proves this to be the case.

Tort reform policy is an important part of addressing the litigious mind-set of America. Ohannessian’s comment brings out the critically important role of the courts, as arbiters of justice. But they should be arbiters of the last resort, not replacing other structures and spheres of reconciliation.

In Trial by Fury, the latest volume in the Christian Social Thought Series, law professor Ronald J. Rychlak makes the argument that the tort system needs to be oriented to the common good in order to maximize justice. And part of realizing the common good is appreciating the role of essential mediating institutions.

USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios set the record straight at a U.N. conference when he told the gathering that the United States has "no intention" of committing to a goal for foreign aid pegged to a percentage of gross domestic product. Some countries are pressing for the U.S. to commit to an official development assistance (ODA) goal of 0.7 percent of GDP, a figure that would oblige the United States to spend more than $90 billion annually. The Washington Times reported that Natsios "vigorously defended" the American aid policy, and had this to say about pegging assistance to the U.N.’s or anyone else’s "official" number:

"There is ample evidence that ODA is not generally the limiting factor on nations’ development. Development progress is first and foremost a function of country commitment and political will to rule justly, promote economic freedom and invest in people."

Yet, the U.N. and E.U. continue to push these arbitrary ODA goals. Reminds you of the way that French farmers force feed geese to produce foie gras. Only, with superabundant foreign aid, the only ones getting stuffed are people like Nigeria’s Sani Abacha and his kleptocrat fraternity.

The battle over public displays of the 10 Commandments indicates to me just how much ground Christians have given up in recent years. Radical secularists have attacked any and all public expressions of Christian faith, most often by means of the “T” word (theocracy) and appeals to the “wall of separation.” What Samuel Gregg calls “doctrinaire secularism” is winning.

It has gotten to the point that identifiably or uniquely Christian expressions have been all but expunged from, or at best have become impediments to, public life. So evangelical and other concerned Christians have been reduced to squabbling over generically theistic or broadly religuous symbols. How far the mighty have fallen.

This is essentially a rearguard action. The emphasis placed on the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, perhaps the most representative instance of a generic civil religion, speaks well to this. In the fight over the Decalogue some Christian leaders have attempted to emphasize the historic and legal importance of the code, rather than its explicitly religious nature, in the attempt to keep a place for public religious expression.

The radial secularists have been so successful in their campaign that orthodox and traditional Christianity (“Jesus is Lord”) is no longer a real target or threat. They’ve moved on to mop-up maneuvers, targeting the last bastion of public religious expression: the generic God of American civil religion.

What does the face of a miracle look like?

The case is open. Today marks the first day the canonization of John Paul II is officially underway. (Read BBC’s account.) To those for whom the procedures of the Catholic Church in matters such as these seem alien, I point to the lucid explanation of the Reverend Giuseppe D’Alonzo (the man in charge of verifying the claims of John Paul’s miracles):

Asked what he thought about making John Paul II a saint, the Rev D’Alonzo replied that it was not for him to decide, only to "verify the truth".

Of the many things that have deepened my faith, one is certainly the Catholic Church’s comfort in recognizing the miraculous. Fr. D’Alonzo’s statement is precisely what I mean. His job is not to conjure fantastic stories, but to acknowledge the supernatural that was always before our eyes, here on this earth, in the person of a frail, aged, international superstar.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Monday, June 27, 2005

Sani Abacha – Strange, I don’t recall you being a multi-billionaire when you took power…

In a number of previous posts, I have expressed concern over new efforts to increase the amount of government-to-government aid to Africa (see here, here, and here for background).

Today brings another bit of news that should give pause to anyone advocating for massive increases in government aid to Africa. From Saturday’s London (UK) Telegraph :

The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria’s past rulers stole or misused ꌢ0 billion.

That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa’s most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent…

…Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has spoken of a new Marshall Plan for Africa. But Nigeria’s rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country’s 130 million people – one in seven of the total African population – live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply…

…The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the ꌢ0 billion of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan.

General Sani Abacha of Nigeria is an example of an African leader who did pretty well for himself at the expense of his nation, stealing “between ਱ billion and ਲ਼ billion during his five-year rule.”

Nathan Elawa: Debt relief is good, but civil society is vital.

The importance of building strong institutions of civil society and establishing the rule of law before dispensing aid cannot be emphasized enough. If debt forgiveness is an appropriate first step for the west to take in assisting Africa, the next step must not be to simply flood the continent with aid once again without preparing it to appropriately use the funds.

At the recent Acton Summer Symposium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we spoke with Nathan Elawa, a native of Nigeria and a participant in Acton’s Toward a Free and Virtuous Society Conference. He commented on the issue of debt relief and the need for stronger foundations of civil society in Africa. (Click here for video.) For more information, check out Acton’s Aid to Africa special section.

Journal of Markets & Morality Volume 8 • Number 1

The publication of this issue (vol. 8, no. 1) marks the full implementation of the journal’s two issue moving wall. This means that as an archived issue, volume 7, number 1 is now freely available in its entirety. Subscribers are able to access electronically the full content of the two most current issues. Stephen Grabill’s editorial deals with these trends in scholarly publishing, with an eye on the specific situation of the Journal of Markets & Morality. You can read more about this in associate editor Jordan J. Ballor’s, “Scholarship at the Crossroads: The Journal of Markets & Morality Case Study,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 36, no. 3 (April 2005): 145-65.

Are you a subscriber but don’t have online access? Send us an email here or call Meredith Nieuwsma at 1-800-345-2286.