Archived Posts August 2005 - Page 2 of 13 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: kjayabalan
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is there a columnist anywhere in the world more in line with Pope John Paul II’s social teachings than Mark Steyn?

All the more amazing as he regularly writes for the extremely secularist British press!

First, Mark has re-posted this gem he wrote for The Spectator in 1998 about the relationship between abortion and euthanasia, a.k.a. the culture of death. See also John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.

Then, in today’s Daily Telegraph, he writes about the importance, indeed the centraility, of human culture over nature, even in light of the devastation brought on by hurricane Katrina.

If you aren’t a regular visitor of SteynOnline, you should be.

Hurricane Katrina passed over New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast earlier today, and reports of “price gouging” are already coming in.

In Alabama, when the governor declares a state of emergency, it triggers a legal barrier to “unconscionable pricing.” That is (arbitrarily?) determined by the government to be a raise of 25% or more above the “normal” price.

Raising prices for scarce commodities during an emergency situation smacks of opportunism at best. So it seems on the face of it like an open and shut case in favor of state intervention.

But a greater understanding of how markets work and the price mechanism make the case somewhat more complex. An examination of the practical effects of price controls and limits shows the unintended consequences of such laws.

David M. Brown wrote a provocatively titled piece, “Price Gouging Saves Lives,” for following Hurricane Charley in 2004. The thrust of the argument is essentially that to limit the prices vendors can charge is to reduce the incentive for vendors to go through the hardship and risk of transporting commodities to the afflicted areas.

If someone can sell gas for the “normal price” in both northern Louisiana and in New Orleans, why would that person take on the added expense of moving gas in to a disaster area? Brown writes:

If we expect customers to be able to get what they need in an emergency, when demand zooms vendors must be allowed and encouraged to increase their prices. Supplies are then more likely to be sustained, and the people who most urgently need a particular good will more likely be able to get it. That is especially important during an emergency. Price gouging saves lives.

Brown’s entire piece is worth reading. The ability to charge more for goods ensures that those goods will find their way into the “state of emergency.” Those interested in looking for a biblical precedent for situational pricing could look to Joseph’s actions during the famine in Genesis 41 (with the added caveats that biblical narrative does not equal imperative, that Joseph was technically acting in the interests of the government [i.e. Pharaoh], and that his actions fulfilled a specific purpose within God’s redemptive history. In other words, biblical precedent doesn’t necessarily create an ethical norm).

Blog author: jspalink
Monday, August 29, 2005

“First Lightning” detonation

This day in 1949, the Soviets tested their first nuclear device, codenamed “First Lightning.” The 20 kiloton bomb was dropped in a remote region of Kazakhstan and detonated over a model town filled with empty buildings and animals, placed to measure the effects of the bomb on a city populated by mammals.

The development of nuclear weapons by the Soviets (research speeded along by the espionage of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born physicist involved in the US nuclear weapons project) removed the United States from supremacy in the nuclear arms race but fueled the development of “bigger and better” hydrogen based weapons that continues (although in modified form) even today.

Stephen Younger, the Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear Weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory writes this regarding the effect of nuclear weapons in the world:

Nuclear weapons played a pivotal role in international security during the latter half of the twentieth century. Despite rapid increases in communications, transportation, and weapons technology, there has been no large-scale strategic conflict since the Second World War. Nuclear weapons, as the most destructive instruments ever invented, had a stabilizing effect on superpower relations by making any conflict unacceptably costly. However, geopolitical change and the evolution of military technology suggest that the composition of our nuclear forces and our strategy for their employment may be different in the twenty-first century. The time is right for a fundamental rethinking of our expectations and requirements for these unique weapons.

For more information about the post-Cold War state of the arms race, read Stephen Younger’s paper “Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century.”

The European Union is running into some problems with its quota policies on Chinese goods:

The European Union will tomorrow put proposals to member states for the release of millions of Chinese garments stacked up at customs warehouses since the EU imposed import limits in June, said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

If the proposals are accepted, then about 70 million sweaters, trousers and bras could be released by mid-September, Mandelson said in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview.

Designed to protect European manufacturers from cheaper Chinese clothing, the quotas have led European retailers to complain they may have to find higher-cost suppliers in other parts of Asia or Eastern Europe to avoid shortages.

Kishore Jayalaban, Director of Acton’s Rome office, commented on the political scrambling that is currently underway to end this impasse on Vatican Radio today. You can listen to the report by clicking here (544 kb mp3 file).

Blog author: jballor
Friday, August 26, 2005

It’s been determined that the view of the human person at work behind “The Human Zoo” exhibit is best exemplified by Agent Smith’s monologue from the original installment of “The Matrix.”

“Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.”

While Morpheus is held captive, Agent Smith tells him the following:

I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.

He continues:

I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I’ve somehow been infected by it.

This comes, of course, from a piece of software representing the machines who view humans as essentially batteries and feed the liquidated dead to the living. It is perhaps not the best anthropological foundation to adopt.

Blog author: jballor
Friday, August 26, 2005

Just in case you were thinking that the rabid anti-human elements of environmental movements had dissipated, take a look at the newest exhibit at the London Zoo.

Titled “The Human Zoo,” the exhibit features 8 people living in “natural” conditions over the course of three days, and is “intended to show the basic nature of human beings,” that is, our inherent animalism.

The world’s first ever human zoo exhibit is unveiled. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty

In the words of a London Zoo spokesman, “We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man’s place in the planet’s ecosystem.” One commentator notes, “We may be watching evolution in action.”

There are a number of important issues here. The first is the linkage of the view of humans as a “plague species” with the myth of unsustainability of the population explosion. This anti-human perspective is manifested in any number of policies and programs around the world, including PETA and things like the UN’s World Population Day. Now the London Zoo is joining the fray. For a literary movement embodying this position, go here.

Of course, another questions you have to wonder about is why an “ethic” based on a Darwinian philosophy of natural selection should be concerned about a “plague species.” Isn’t it just survival of the fittest?

This soft sentimentality and romanticism of the environmental movement isn’t based on philosophical rationality, of course. If we really are no different than animals, why should our behavior be held to a higher standard? The position is fundamentally self-defeating.

The only perspective that accounts for all of the complex realities of human existence and the rest of creation is one normed by the Bible. The creation accounts, along with the dominion and stewardship mandates, of Genesis 1 and 2 describe both the continuities and discontinuities between humans and the rest of the animal world and our resulting responsibilities.

The fall into sin gives us a basis for understanding how and why humans do negatively impact the world and fracture the created relationships. But the history of redemption gives us hope for a consummated new heaven and new earth…a hope that cannot be approached from a merely naturalistic worldview. It also gives us a reason to be concerned about stewardship of the world (rightly construed).

Blog author: jballor
Friday, August 26, 2005

An interview at Money & Faith with Dr. Robert Cooley, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, explores the biblical concept of stewardship.

A key quote: “Church leaders need to remember they have an awesome responsibility to manage well the funds the people of God give each Sunday and to maintain the trust of the congregation in the life and work of the church. As stewards, we also need to be reminded that God holds us accountable not only for the giving of our treasure but also for the giving of our time and talents.”

In addition, Cooley gives some bullet points summarizing the “theology of stewardship.” Cooley concludes, “Stewardship is a lifestyle. It requires all of my time, all of my talent, and all of my treasure. All of my work, all of my wisdom, and all of my will are subject to my relationship with God through Christ.”

Biblical stewardship includes a complex of interrelated ideas. The relationship between work, vocation, faithfulness, charity, and love is exemplified in the Heidelberg Catechism’s exposition of the eigth commandment. The positive aspect of this commandment against theft requires “That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need” (LD 42, A 111).