In a FoxNews article, Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation reveals some interesting finds from their year-long study of the military industry: US Defense relies heavily on a global free market for its equipment. This may seem to fly in the face of the idea that if anyone ought to buy American, it is the American government. But as Spencer points out
Congress has tried repeatedly over the years to steer defense contracts in directions that would supposedly shore up or expand America’s military-industrial capacity. Yet these efforts have nearly always interrupted the natural tides of the market and led to unintended consequences, including inefficient practices, high prices and limited choices for the military. America’s war-fighting institutions have consistently achieved better results when they have relied on the free market to decide where and how products should be made.
Simply put, for good stuff, the free market delivers. This is a fact. For a concise case study of how and why free markets work (and why subsidies don’t), check out the rest of this article here.
Pope Benedict’s highly publicized trip to Germany for this week’s World Youth Day stands as an opportunity for the event to, in the words of Kishore Jayabalan, engage “serious theological and intellectual work.” The pope’s homecoming means, “If there is a place to show how the Christian faith shaped Europe and formed heroic persons even in its darkest hours, this is it.”
Read the full text of this commentary.
…You might be a Member of Congress:
Members of Congress want to establish a new government-backed venture capital program…
OK, but what’s the catch?
…to replace one that’s being phased out because of sizable losses.
I wonder if they’ve considered whether the Government should even be involved in the venture capital business in the first place?
Hat Tip: Don Luskin
A wide ranging piece in Policy Review by Robert W. Han and Paul C. Tetlock examines current aid practices, suggests the implementation of “information markets,” and looks at how such markets might impact current policy analyses like the Copenhagen Consensus and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG are the nearly exclusive focus of the ONE Campaign, and the failings of the MDG as such become closely tied to the failings of the ONE Campaign.
The authors write of the MDG in “Making Development Work,”
At this point, the MDG represent little more than a wish list specifying what some well-intentioned practitioners would like to see happen. The goal setters do not appear to have paid significant attention to the benefits and costs of different options before setting goals; nor does it appear that the goal setters paid sufficient attention to real budget constraints so that they could provide a realistic assessment of the feasibility of meeting the goals. It also does not appear that the goal setters have given much serious thought to putting proper incentives in place to assure that maximum benefits will be achieved for a given level of expenditures. Instead, hundreds of countries and organizations have signed on to support the goals without any clear rewards if they are reached or penalties if they are not.
A move to a performance-based policy arrangement, linked to well-functioning information markets, would have the ability to transform the vagaries and ineffiencies of traditional aid programs, like the MDG, into a system that “encourages accountability. It also encourages openness, because the information gained in evaluating the effectiveness of projects and paying for results could be made public.”
One other possibility is that “because the performance-based policy framework increases accountability and transparency, it may prove to be part of the solution to the corruption problem as well.”
A promising brief recognizing the critical role of civil society in Nigeria, and especially that the Christian church, from Ecumenical News International:
Nigerian president urges African churches: Play part in governance
Abuja (ENI). Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo has urged African church leaders to become key players in the process of achieving good governance in the continent.
“The Church must be a critical partner in the on-going efforts at strengthening the structures of democratic governance, and bringing about sustained development in an environment of justice, equity, and fairness,” Obasanjo told leaders at a meeting of the Nairobi-based All Africa Conference of Churches.
There’s yet more evidence that supports my claim, “Besieged by the media and public opinion, quick-service restaurants have got the reputation for being unhealthy. But the truth of the matter is more complex. Franchises that have put an emphasis on providing healthy foods have done well…. And as usual, the service industry has responded quickly and efficiently to customer demands.”
The AP reports, “Inspired by the documentary ‘Super Size Me,’ Merab Morgan decided to give a fast-food-only diet a try. The construction worker and mother of two ate only at McDonald’s for 90 days and dropped 37 pounds in the process.”
The key is personal responsibility: “People are responsible for what they eat, she said, not restaurants. The problem with a McDonald’s-only diet isn’t what’s on the menu, but the choices made from it, she said.”
“I thought it’s two birds with one stone to lose weight and to prove a point for the little fat people,” Morgan said. “Just because they accidentally put an apple pie in my bag instead of my apple dippers doesn’t mean I’m going to say, ‘Oh, I can eat the apple pie.'”
What Amrith Lal calls patriotism in this piece from the Times of India is probably more accurately called nationalism, but the point is well-taken nonetheless. The brief essay begins:
As practised in our times, it is religion at its worst. The canons of morality and logic are lost on it. All that is expected of the patriot is blind devotion to an abstract entity called the state or whatever that symbolises the state. Needless to say, the state can never go wrong. Orwell’s Big Brother is morally permissible in the patriot’s idea of nation. All this is built into our understanding of the nation.
In this sense, patriotism/nationalism can clearly become a competing religion with biblical Christianity. And so often, the nationalistic impulse becomes expressed in partisanship (which I take a brief look at here).
This tendency should serve, I think, to temper the optimism of the growing movement among evangelical pastors to run for political office (most recently Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has been rumored to be considering a run for Congress). Let me be clear: I’m not saying that pastoral ordination should necessarily disqualify a person from running for political office. I’m also not saying that Christian laypersons should refrain. It’s difficult, of course, to make universal rules about such things. Perhaps all I can say in general is that we need to guard against the conflation of Christian and civil religion.
As such, churches, and church leaders in particular, should be careful to test their motivations and intentions for becoming politically active. According to the evangelical outpost, yesterday’s Justice Sunday II raised this question:
Do politics and local churches go together? Yes, says Ted Haggard, there is nothing that we believe that does not affect public policy. Haggard encourages Christians to get more involved in politics, learning the skills needed to run for public office if necessary. All it takes is a God intoxicated generation to influence a people, Haggard says, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let’s hope it’s a “God intoxicated” and not a “power intoxicated” movement.
An article from Nature examines how even human activity as inherently destructive as military exercises can actually boost biodiversity. In “Military exercises ‘good for endangered species,'” Michael Hopkin writes of the results of a study conducted following US military exercises in Germany.
Ecologist Steven Warren of Colorado State University says that “military land can host more species than agricultural land.” And “What’s more, its biodiversity can also exceed that of natural parks, where species that need disturbance cannot get a foothold” (emphasis added).
Hopkin further reports, “The tendency when setting aside a nature reserve is to prevent disturbances such as periodic flooding, says Warren. But this can inadvertently remove some habitats.”
“[Tanks] replace to some degree the processes that have been stopped,” Warren says. The same goes for fires caused by bombing. “We’ve trained generations of people that fire is bad,” he says, “but in fact it’s crucial for ecosystems.”
This flies in the face of conventional eco-wisdom, which holds up undisturbed and pristine wilderness, untouched by human hands, as the environmental ideal. For more comparison of the productive vs. the preservationist view of stewardship, see this commentary.
In an interview with The Space Review Richard Garriott, vice-chairman of Space Adventures discusses the possibilities of space tourism and the potential market in the United States. Garriott describes Space Adventures as
currently an [travel] agent, and we have millions of dollars in cash paid reservations for sub orbital flights. But with few or no suborbital space lines to book today, we are working to ensure they exist and that may mean SA invests in that eventuality.
Garriott looks forward to the development of space-worthy vehicles from the private sector that will allow Space Adventures to blast off with the evolution of a new branch of tourism. Garriott sees this occurring soon, and views the success of the X-Prize as evidence of the dawning of a new era in space travel.