Archived Posts May 2006 » Page 3 of 6 | Acton PowerBlog

“As we look at how the immigration debate is unfolding, there are reasons to be concerned about the rule of law,” Jennifer Roback Morse writes. “The mass demonstrations of the past weeks reveal a much more sinister development: the arrival of French-style street politics in America.”

Read the complete commentary here.

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Yesterday afternoon, Andrew Yuengert joined host Al Kresta on Kresta in the Afternoon on the Ave Maria Radio Network to discuss immigration reform and President Bush’s most recent proposal to secure the USA’s southern border. Yuengert is an Associate Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University and the auther of Inhabiting the Land, an economic analysis of migration and part of Acton’s Christian Social Thought Series of monographs.

To listen to the interview, click here (6.5 mb mp3 file). Inhabiting the Land is available for purchase through Acton’s Bookshoppe.

Jaroslav Pelikan

Jaroslav Pelikan, the great historian of the Christian Tradition, died May 13 at his home in Hamden, Conn. He was 82 years old and had been battling lung cancer.

Pelikan wrote more than 30 books and over a dozen reference works covering the entire history of Christianity. Perhaps his best known work is the five-volume “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.” In 2003, he published “Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition.” He was Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.

Pelikan, raised a Lutheran, was received into the Orthodox Church in 1998. His obituary on the home page of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary notes that Pelikan “often quoted a line from Goethe’s ‘Faust,’ which says, ‘What you have as heritage take now as task, and thus you will make it your own.’ Unlike most church historians, who focus on one period or one aspect, Dr Pelikan ranked as one of the only authorities in the entire field of Christian history. His books and articles included subjects as diverse as the New Testament, the Reformation, Saint Augustine, Kierkegaard and medieval philosophy, and he is credited with broadening Western church scholarship to include the Eastern Orthodox tradition.” In 2005, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press also published “Orthodoxy and Western Culture,” a collection of essays honoring Pelikan on his 80th birthday.

You can listen to an interview Pelikan did with the public radio program Speaking of Faith on the topic of “The Need for Creeds.” The page also includes a transcript of the program.

Also see “The Doctrine Doctor,” Mark Noll’s interview with Pelikan in Christianity Today.

MAY HIS MEMORY BE ETERNAL

In his fragmentary and incomplete Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer examines the reality of the will of God, which he contends come to us from Scripture in the form of four mandates: work, marriage, government, and church. Here’s a great summary of Bonhoeffer’s view of the mandate of the government or state, from his essay, “Christ, Reality, and Good,” pages 72-73:

The divine mandate of government already presupposes the mandates of work and marriage. In the world that it rules, government finds already existing these two mandates through which God the Creator exercises creative power and upon which government must rely. Government itself cannot produce life or values. It is not creative. Government maintains what is created in the order that was given to the creation by God’s commission. Government protects what is created by establishing justice in acknowledgment of the divine mandates and by enforcing this justice with the power of the sword. Thus, marriage is not made by the government, but is affirmed by the government. The great spheres of work are not themselves undertaken by the government, but they are subject to its supervision within certain limits—later to be described—to governmental direction. Government should never seek to become the agent of these areas of work, for this would seriously endanger their divine mandate along with its own. By establishing justice, and by the power of the sword, government preserves the world for the reality of Jesus Christ. Everyone owes obedience to this government—according to the will of Christ.

As a brief follow-up to my post last week about the state of scholarly publishing, I want to highlight this recent article in The New York Times, “Scan This Book!” by Kevin Kelly, who is on the staff at Wired magazine.

He conjures up the same image as Janet H. Murray, of “the great library at Alexandria,” and laments that “for 2,000 years, the universal library, together with other perennial longings like invisibility cloaks, antigravity shoes and paperless offices, has been a mythical dream that kept receding further into the infinite future.”

But when Murray predicted the inevitable advent of the universal library nearly a decade ago, she acknowledged some complicating factors, such as consumer taste and market forces. Kelly makes similar predictions about the inevitability of absolute digitization: “The reign of the copy is no match for the bias of technology. All new works will be born digital, and they will flow into the universal library as you might add more words to a long story.”

But he won’t admit the validity of any real barriers, be they economic, social, or even legal. He writes, “The great continent of orphan works, the 25 million older books born analog and caught between the law and users, will be scanned. Whether this vast mountain of dark books is scanned by Google, the Library of Congress, the Chinese or by readers themselves, it will be scanned well before its legal status is resolved simply because technology makes it so easy to do and so valuable when done. In the clash between the conventions of the book and the protocols of the screen, the screen will prevail.”

Thus, he concludes, “On this screen, now visible to one billion people on earth, the technology of search will transform isolated books into the universal library of all human knowledge.” I think Kelly is correct about the power of search and its implications for new depth and complexity with respect to learning. I don’t think he’s right that such a digital “Tower of Babel” project is inevitable, at least in the sense that all books will be digital and they will also be completely open access.

Intellectual property laws are created to protect the economic incentive for people to create things. New technology isn’t going to suddenly replace the need for people to be paid for what they make. Kelly points to the paradigm in the sciences as an alternative, but as I noted earlier, the strange economics of scientific publishing is created in large part because of the widespread dependence on subsidization by the government. The same publishing paradigm simply won’t work for commercial and popular publications.

Blog author: dphelps
posted by on Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Sir Bob, Free Trader?

The May 16 Independent is guest-edited by the ubiquitous Bono and sports the RED brand–another Bono project where a share of the profits from the mag will be donated to fighting AIDS and poverty in Africa. (Other companies with RED brands include Converse, American Express, Armani, and GAP.) See the issue for yourself (where you will find a critique of subsidies, as well as Nelson Mandela giving props to RED as well as an interview with commedian Eddie Izzard–two men who much too rarely share a marquee).

What is of special interest to PowerBloggers is the article by Bob Geldof, founder of Live8, titled: Aid isn’t the answer. Africa must be allowed to trade its way out of poverty. This is the same Bob Geldof who has been lobbying for huge aid packages for twenty years, the same Bob Geldof who said “We must do something, even if it doesn’t work.” It quite something that this same fella who wrote the following:

In a time of weak world leadership, when the WTO negotiators are failing so miserably, let us remind their bosses – Bush, Chirac, Merkel et al – that we agree with them when they argue that, long term, “aid isn’t the answer”, and that the continent of Africa and its people must trade its way into the global market and sit where it rightfully belongs, negotiating as equals with the rest of us.

As always, I have no interest in questioning the intentions of Bob and Co.–I think they are the noblest of intentions, and I think more people ought to share their zeal for the poor. But could this admission that long term aid isn’t the answer mean that projects like the ONE Campaign are losing their luster? Or are people realizing that governments can’t solve poverty, but maybe the corrective is individual charity and free trade amongst free peoples?

And it is also worth noting that the cover art for the mag includes “Gen. 1:27″–I will save you the trouble of looking it up: “God created man in his own image; in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them.” I am curious how far Bono has parsed out the implications of this statement, as this verse lays the foundation for many of Acton’s economic arguments (for example, see here).

In the in-box, this interesting survey from Nate at Field & Stream:

A new survey conducted by the National Wildlife Federation (the results of which are being hosted exclusively on fieldandstream.com) shows that:

  • 76 percent of sportsmen believe global warming is occurring
  • 71 percent believe it’s a serious threat to fish and wildlife
  • 78 percent believe the U.S. should reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2

even though:

  • 73 percent consider themselves conservative to moderate on political issues
  • 50 percent consider themselves evangelical Christians

and

  • 53 percent voted for Bush (compared to 29 percent for John Kerry)

Here’s the link to the full survey. I have lots of brothers in Christ who are outdoorsman and know they have been conservation conscious for generations. But I’m surprised the numbers are that high. I’ve emailed Nate back to see if we can get more details on this; worth expanding on.

[Originally posted at The Evangelical Ecologist]

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, May 15, 2006

John Stossel has made an excellent and noteworthy journalistic career by going where the evidence takes him. He possesses an intellectual honesty and curiosity that is refreshing, especially when compared to the banal talking head syndrome which dominates most main stream media.

As co-anchor of ABC’s 20/20, Stossel has negotiated a deal which allows him to do special reports on whatever interesting and controversial topics he chooses. His latest was a special aimed at debunking popularly accepted myths, tied to the release of his new book, Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity.

Here’s Stossel’s #1 myth: More foreign aid will end global poverty. (You can view video of the segment here.) Stossel points to Bono and Jeffrey Sachs as examples of people who perpetuate this myth, with their advocacy of the ONE campaign and emphasis on increased foreign aid.

Stossel relies in part on June Arunga and James Shikwati of the Inter Region Economic Network to explode this myth: “Arunga grew up in Kenya, and she wonders why Americans waste money on foreign aid to Africa … when many politicians just steal it.”

“What’s holding down Africans is actually the bad governments, the bad policies that make it difficult for Africans to make use of their own property,” Shikwati said. “What the aid money is doing to Africa is to subsidize the bad policies that are making Africans poor.”

The Acton Institute has worked on exposing the false assumptions of this myth a long time, and with the help of Arunga and Shikwati as well. Arunga wrote a letter from a WTO meeting in Cancun in 2003, first published by the Acton Institute (PDF) and subsequently carried in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 6, 2003). James Shikwati authored an Acton Commentary that same year, “The WTO and the Voice of the Poor.”

For more information about Acton’s work in these areas, check out our special Aid to Africa section, which brings together a number of important and related resources, including conversations on debt relief and the moral nature of business with the Rt. Rev. Bernard Njoroge, bishop of the diocese of Nairobi in the Episcopal Church of Africa, and Chanshi Chanda, chairman of the Institute of Freedom for the Study of Human Dignity in Kitwe, Zambia.

You can also visit Acton’s award-winning IMPACT ad campaign, aimed at raising awareness about the complexity of global poverty and the Solutions video, which addresses failures of governments first, governments only proposals.

And for more of John Stossel, check out the 2 CD set of his address at the Lord Acton Lecture Series on October 20, 1997, in which he deals with the pervasiveness of government and the nature of self-interest in the free economy.

Over at the Alabama Policy Institute, Gary Palmer takes on University of Alabama law professor Susan Pace Hamill and her assertion that Christians have an obligation to pay higher taxes. In “No Biblical Mandate for Higher Taxes,” Palmer examines her “theocratic tax inquisition.”

In one article directed at Christians in Alabama, Professor Hamill contends that to be truly pro-life you must also support paying higher taxes to give the government more money to provide more government programs for the poor. She contends that because we are all fallen beings with “…inescapable greedy tendencies…a pro-life community cannot rely on charity to meet these standards and must compel taxation.”

Read the full article here.

And here’s a quote from Hamill’s recent “Tax Policy Offends Christian Values.”

Federal law must force us to pay taxes to meet these common needs because nobody pays their fair share voluntarily. Due to our inescapable greedy tendencies resulting from the Fall of humankind, charitable giving cannot replace adequate tax revenues. An “A+” in charity will never average an “F” in justice to a “C.”

The biblical messages, “to whom much is given, much more is required”, and, wealth can only be held with a “light grip” require the tax burden to be moderately progressive. This is not socialistic confiscation.

Rev. Robert Sirico joined Laura Ingraham’s radio show last week to talk about The Da Vinci Code. With the approach of the movie’s May 19 release, there’s quite a stir in Christian communities. Many believers are trying to raise awareness that Dan Brown’s book and now the movie is a historical fiction -– not 100 percent factual history and definitely not theology. A few faith communities are calling for a boycott of the movie, and others are engaging in Da Vinci Code education/discernment classes.

In response to the popularity of the book and the movie’s advance publicity, Rev. Sirico said that “much too much is being made of [The Da Vinci Code]. I don’t know if it even rises to the level of blasphemy, its so banal … ” He and Laura covered several other topics relating to The Da Vinci Code including the Gnostic gospels and their role in the ideology behind the book, attacks on Roman Catholicism, and exaggeration of Opus Dei. If you have access to the archives of the Laura Ingraham show, I encourage you to find this segment (2006-05-08).

Rev. Sirico also spoke on the Neil Cavuto Show (Fox News) about The Da Vinci Code back in March.