Archived Posts July 2005 - Page 8 of 9 | Acton PowerBlog

St. Thomas More sans stubble

The legitimization of so-called same-sex marriage in Spanish law has not surprisingly elicited a strong response from Christians around the world. This particular disagreement is often cast by proponents of change as a matter of Religion trying to encroach on Politics. However, I always flinch when the Church/State dichotmy is used to suggest that we can exist in one of these realms individually and absolutely, as if neither realm influences the other. On this topic, Rocco Buttliglione notes a particular point of unity between State and Religion: the person.

"For the person, even if he divides his activites between different domains, each of which is regulated by its own law, remains indissolubly united, and the fundamental structure of human experience as such also persists as a unitary whole."

Today, July 6, is the anniversary of the execution of St. Thomas More. More refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the English Church and was thus convicted of treason. (On the chopping block, he is reported to have said "Wait till I have put my beard aside, for that hath done no treason"; click here for a fuller account of his noble death.) May he be a reminder that we cannot completely seperate our faith and our politics, for both are located in the locale of the indivdual human person.

London has been awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics, beating out Paris, New York, Madrid, and Moscow.

According to a report, “The victory means that London will play host to the world’s premier sporting event in seven years’ time with a specially-built stadium and village rising from what is now an urban wasteland in the east of the city.”

And PM Tony Blair pledged full support for the games, “My promise to you is we will be your very best partners,” Blair said. “The entire government are united behind this bid. … It is the nation’s bid.”

Clearly cities vie for the Olympic games as an attempt to inject some economic development into otherwise struggling urban settings. But just what is the economic benefit to a host city or nation (short-term and long-term)?

Being awarded the games is just the beginning of the process. As you might remember, Athens had a lot of work to do to get ready in time for the last summer’s games. Perhaps the benefit to a city might be related to the amount of work needed to be done prior to the games. Sydney hosted the games in 2000, and reports that the games delivered “substantial benefits.”

I’m not convinced that the games are really a panacea, at least not for everyone. I would liken the situation to that of a professional sports team, which clearly are huge players in local and regional economies. But at the same time, they very often hold local governments hostage, threatening to move unless new multi-billion dollar stadiums are built. So the taxpayers end up footing the majority of the bill. John Stossel in his book Give Me a Break has a section on this titled, “Sports Tycoon Freeloaders.”

He relates a conversation with Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox, who says that the government “had to” fund his new stadium, but ends up admitting: “You mean, if somebody walks up to you and hands you money, you shouldn’t take it? The fact is–I was offered this stadium by elected officials.”

Stossel gets it right in his analysis of these situations:

Every scheme to create jobs through government spending means people who work and pay taxes have less money to spend on projects they would choose. But we in the media miss that. I can interview the people who got jobs or benefits from the government project, but I can’t find the people who didn’t get a job because money was diverted.

So says Dr. George Ayittey, a professor of economics at American University and founder of the Free Africa Foundation, in an interview on today’s Morning Edition from NPR.

Ayittey argues in part that after the African nations gained independence, they rejected the market system out of hand as a Western innovation, to the detriment of their societies. He calls for a return to indigenous structures of civil society, which embrace markets and free trade.

He also says that we need to distinguish between African governments and African people…a confusion that is simply made all too often.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, July 6, 2005

A question over at the ONE Campaign blog:

Why don’t these celebrities cough up their own money and stop asking for mine?

Answer: First off, they are. Most of the celebs involved in the campaign give hundreds of thousands, if not millions to charity. They just choose not make it public. But this campaign is not about asking you for YOUR money either, we want your voice. We are also talking about BILLIONS of dollars here. Not millions. If all the celebs in Hollywood banded together it still wouldn’t touch the amount that the G8 countries could give.

Well, as you read on, it is actually about “YOUR money.”

If the USA agreed to commit an additional ONE percent of its budget, or 25 billion dollars per year, it would cost every American 23 cents a day. I’m ready to do that if it saves lives…are you?

Why use the US government as a middleman, and a bureaucratic and inefficient one at that? Why not ask for 23 cents directly from the individual person?

Perhaps because then the answer might be no, but if you use the coercive power of government, no one can say no. And of course, the question is really if the same old types of aid and patterns of giving to African governments really will save lives. If corrupt governments haven’t been trustworthy with a little, why should they be trusted with a lot? (See Matthew 25:23)

President Bush, on his way to the G-8 Summit, said that views like abortion or gay marriage will not serve as litmus tests for selecting a Supreme Court nominee. "I’ll pick people who, one, can do the job, and people who are honest, people who are bright and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from," Bush said. "I will take my time," Bush said. "I will be thorough in my investigation." The president hopes to see a new justice in place by the time the court begins its new term in October.

Robert Bork comments on interpreting the Constitution:

If there is an "actual" Constitution it can only be the set of principles those who made the Constitution law understood themselves to be ordaining.

The idea that the Constitution should be interpreted according to that original understanding has been made to seem an extreme position. That is convenient for those who want results democracy will not give them, but the truth is that violation of original understanding ought to be the extreme position. Would it be legitimate for a judge in the United Kingdom, which has no constitution comparable to ours, to strike down an act of Parliament on the ground he did not like it? Obviously not. But a U.S. judge who goes beyond the Constitution behaves like the hypothetical U.K. judge.

Democratic theory requires that a judge set the majority’s desires at naught only in accordance with a superior law-in our case, the written Constitution. A judge who departs from the Constitution, as the majority did in the five cases mentioned, is applying no law other than his will. Our country is being radically altered, step by step, by Justices who are not following any law.

We can send President Bush to the G8 Summit carrying the compassion, justice and generosity of millions of Americans

The Group of Eight (G8) conference this week in Gleneagles, Scotland has been the object of a lot of attention from various charity campaigns. Jordan Ballor writes, “What is similar in all these movements is an emphasis on the role of government in providing assistance to the poor. But it is precisely this aspect of the initiatives that is most problematic from a Christian perspective.”

Read the full text here.

A study released late last month by the Hudson Institute found “$62.1 billion in U.S. private donations to developing countries in 2003, the last year numbers are available.”

The report, cited in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, goes on to argue that the formula used by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) to judge the generosity of various countries “fails to take into account the primary way in which Americans help others abroad: through the private sector.”

And beyond the giving, the report rightly identifies “$51 billion of U.S. private capital flows to developing countries, consisting of foreign direct investment and net capital markets. This private investment creates jobs and economic growth, the surest way to reducing poverty.”

The worldwide Live 8 shows have come and gone, and are being hailed as perhaps the greatest collection of concerts ever. While moments like the introduction of Birhan Woldu or (to a lesser extent) the reunion of the estranged members of Pink Floyd certainly made for compelling television, only time will tell whether or not they will have a significant impact on Africa’s future.

One item of news that could have a significant impact seems to have been lost in the American media shuffle, however. Yesterday, in an interview on Britian’s ITV network, President George Bush indicated a willingness to end agricultural subsidies in the US if European leaders would do the same:

GEORGE BUSH: Let’s join hands as wealthy industrialised nations, and say to the world, we’re going to get rid of all our agricultural subsidies together. And so the position of the US Government is we’re willing to do so, and we will do so with the, uh, with our fine friends in the European Union.

TREVOR MCDONALD: So you would if they would? Because at the moment for example…

GEORGE BUSH: Absolutely…

TREVOR MCDONALD: …cotton farmers in this country get subsidised to the extent of US $230 per cotton acre. You’d get rid of those things if the EU does?

GEORGE BUSH: Absolutely. And I think we have an obligation to work together to do that and that’s why it’s very important that the Doha round of the WTO go forward.

Bush also noted the value of international trade: “The benefits that have come from opening up markets, our markets to them and their markets to us, far outweigh the benefits of aid.”

James Joyner notes that Bush’s challenge is unlikely to bear any fruit:

A bold rhetorical gesture, although ultimately an empty one. The president knows the EU, especially France, will never lift their subsidies. Further, even if they did, the U.S. Congress will not abolish them entirely, as too many congressional districts and states are heavily dependent on agriculture.

I tend to agree with that pessimistic analysis. However, I take some comfort in noting yet again an increased focus on the value of trade as a mechanism for lifting people out of poverty and building wealth in impoverished areas.

More: Writing in today’s Washington Times, Wes Pruden notes a clear-eyed assesment of the situation from a US diplomat:

William Bellamy, the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Kenya, startled the guests at his Fourth of July garden party yesterday with just the kind of bluntness needed to keep African aid in realistic perspective. “Turning on the fire hose of international compassion and asking Kenya and other African nations to drink from it is not a serious strategy for promoting growth or ending poverty.”

Three separate studies
published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that too much TV-watching can harm children’s ability to learn. The article says that in one study, involving nearly 400 northern California third-graders, those with TVs in their bedrooms scored about eight points lower on math and language arts tests than children without bedroom TVs. A second study, looking at nearly 1,000 adults in New Zealand, found lower education levels among 26-year-olds who had watched lots of TV during childhood. A third study, based data on gathered from nearly 1,800 U.S. children, found that those who watched more than three hours of television daily before age 3 scored slightly worse on academic and intelligence tests at ages 6 and 7 than youngsters who watched less TV.

In our current political climate, the response might be to now pass a law limiting TV viewing in the home. Or maybe 26-year-olds will now start suing television companies for lowering their educational achievements? But, like all things in the market place, this study reveals that parents play a crucial role in mitigating technology in the home. The larger issue is not so much that television dumbs down children but the fact that what the market provides must be consumed with wisdom. What at home rules for kids work the best?

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Rev. Robert Sirico wrote a column in the Detroit News’ Faith and Policy series over the weekend on the Kelo v. New London decision handed down by the US Supreme Court. In “Court reveals conflicting ownership ideas,” Sirico writes,

In the Supreme Court’s “new” ownership society, the very safety and security of God-given, inalienable rights are threatened. Pope Leo XIII was pointing to this when he described private ownership as “a natural right of man” and a right that must be held “sacred and inviolable.” We can only hope the inevitable abuse of this newfound power will not manifest itself before there is a chance to reverse Kelo’s corrupting effects.