Mortgage foreclosure rates soared 53 percent in August, compared with a year earlier, and many people who were eager to buy a house with low “teaser” interest rates and creative financing are in trouble. Acton Senior Fellow in Economics Jennifer Roback Morse expects new calls for goverment oversight of the mortgage industry, which is already highly regulated. A better idea, she suggests, would be for buyers to examine their motives for acquiring real estate with gimmicky loans and take some responsibility for their actions.
“The United Nations is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to utopia but through it.”
In case you haven’t seen it yet, Beliefnet, in conjunction with Sojourners, is hosting a blog based on Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.
One of the key features in the blog’s short tenure to date is a discussion between Jim Wallis and Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition. Jim says that Ralph is his “first dialogue partner on God’s Politics,” so perhaps we can expect more to come.
And in case you haven’t seen it, Acton’s Jay Richards reviewed Wallis book in the October 2005 issue of Touchstone magazine.
The Summer 2006 issue of Religion & Liberty is now available. This issue focuses on the relationship between virtue and success. Looking at this question from several different perspectives – from an economic to a Biblical point of view – we convey that a virtuous society will best satisfy the requirements for liberty and free, and effective, markets.
Inside This Issue:
The Economy of Trust: R&L interviewed Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize and National Medal for Science winner, on the value of morality and religion in markets. Kenneth Arrow poins out that morality, ethics, and religion all help to fill in the gaps that are inherant in markets. Markets require ethics and morality, virtues such as honesty and trust, in order to function efficiently. “Religion calls for a sense of responsibility to the other, which the market, in principle, doesn’t have,” says Arrow.
Trust and Entrepreneurship: Raymond J. Keating, an economist and columnist, talks about the neccessity of trust in a marketplace that would flourish. Keating systematically explains need for trust between businesses, consumers, and the government. If trust breaks down, between business and the government then it becomes doubtful that contracts will be enforced or private property protected. If trust breaks down between business and consumers, consumers will not buy products. Looking at the neccessity of trust, Keating then argues that a re-evaluation of the “big-business” trusts of the 19th century is in order – as they were a “fantastic example of entrepreneurs who served consumers well.”
Second-Career Clergy and Parish Business: R&L interviewed journalist Jonathan Englert, author of The Collar: A Year of Striving and Faith inside a Catholic Seminary, the story of five seminarians through one year of education. The seminary that Englert examines is specifically geared towards men who have begun discerning their vocation later in life, many who came to the seminary from business backgrounds. R&L, always seeking to insersect religion and economics, examines the approach that a business-person turned priest may have when addressing the “business” of a parish.
The Dividends of Social Capital: Michael Miller, director of programs at the Acton Institute, explores some of the ideas presented in Francis Fukuyama’s Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity. Private property and rule of law, states Miller, are essential for free and prosperous economies. But “social capital,” specifically the existence trust, is also essential.
Defending the Weak and the Idol of Equality: This article is taken from a lecture delivered by Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., at the Pontifical North American College in Rome as part of the Centesimus Annus Lecture Series. In it, Dr. Morse explains the social teaching of the Roman Catholic church in regard to equality, specifically its teaching regarding care of the poor. Dr. Morse explains that the Catholic church advocates for defense of the weak and those in poverty, rather than the socialist tendency to turn “equality” into an idolatrous extreem embraced by the state.
The more opportunities there are in a Society for some persons to live upon the toil of others, and the less those others may enjoy the fruits of their work themselves, the more is diligence killed, the former become insolent, the latter despairing, and both negligent.
Please visit the Religion & Liberty and read the newest issue (a PDF is also provided for your offline reading pleasure). Archived issues are also available!
NBC Nightly News has long had a special feature titled, “The Fleecing of America,” which investigates various instances wasteful spending by government officials.
To get a visual clue about the massive size and diversity of the federal budget, check out “Death and Taxes”, the 2007 edition, “a representational graph of the federal discretionary budget. The amount of money that is spent at the discretion of your elected representatives in Congress. Basically, your federal income taxes.”
The website also notes, “Don’t forget about the national debt! It’s the circle so big it doesn’t even fit in the box.”
I recommend printing out the graph in landscape orientation on ledger-sized paper and posting it somewhere near your desk. You’ll get plenty of questions from curious passers-by.
(HT: Mises Economics Blog)
Update: In response to the limitations of the graph noted by Tim in the comments section below, it should be noted that this graph does only refer to discretionary spending. This does not include either the mandatory spending that falls under the federal budget each year or the various entitlement programs, such as Social Security, which are “off budget.” With this in mind, of course, the pork in the graph above is the good news, relatively speaking.
With regard to speculation as to why the makers of the budget graph chose only to look at discretionary spending, I quote this Reason article: “Because discretionary spending can theoretically be zeroed out each year, it is generally regarded as the clearest indicator of whether a president and Congress are serious about reducing government spending.”
Received some emails in the past week from the folks at Magnolia Pictures announcing the release of Jesus Camp, which they call a "new, controversial documentary." According to one mailer, "The film follows children at an Evangelical summer camp, as they hone their prophetic gifts and are schooled in how to take back America for Christ."
Disclaimer – I haven’t seen it. Haven’t even been offered comp tickets to attend a screening of it, though I have been asked to promote it, which seems rather odd (and by your reading this, may be too late to avoid). You can see clips of it here and here.
Apparently some "Evangelical leaders" – the emails don’t say which – aren’t happy about it. Maybe they don’t like the portrayal of this Pentecostal summer camp as an American madrassa, as David Byrne (who has seen the film) puts it. In any event, Eamonn Bowles, President of Magnolia Pictures, felt it necessary to release the following statement:
“We’re frankly surprised and a little disheartened by the efforts of prominent members of the evangelical community to clamp down on JESUS CAMP. Whether or not the children and camp depicted in the film represents the ‘mainstream’ of the Evangelical movement is beside the point: they exist, the film documents them, and the subjects feel they’ve been treated fairly. Why a community that’s so quick to attack discrimination from secular Americans would then turn and do the same to other Evangelicals is unexpected, to say the least.”
Christianity Today interviewed the film’s documentrixes. Besides Byrne’s and Bowles’ comments, their interview suggests what might be bugging some conservative evangelicals:
You talk about the range of evangelicals you came across. Would Mike Papantonio [a radio talk-show host who appears throughout the film, and at one point debates Fischer] self-identify as an evangelical? Grady: No, he’s not evangelical. He’s a Methodist, he goes to a mainline church, but he’s quite devoted to his church. [snip] Ewing: . . .While Mike is not officially a born-again Christian, he does echo a lot of the concerns that these gentlemen have, and we thought this was a more creative way to vent those concerns, because he is a Christian. He just thinks that the politicization of the church is going to be the downfall of it, and he doesn’t like that association. So officially, no, he’s not a born-again, but he does, I think, speak very well for the concerns of Christians that don’t like the political nature of the evangelical movement, or at least of the far right part of that movement.
He’s not evangelical – he’s a Methodist. Heh. Will have to remember that one. I think these ladies are being modest about their protagonist. Their own promotional materials say this about Papantonio:
The film also features a counterpoint, in the form of excerpts from Michael Papantonio’s "Ring of Fire" show on NPR’s Air America. Though he frequently takes aim at the fundamentalist Christian movement, Papantonio is an active Methodist who admits that his moral compass comes from his faith.
…a show Mike shares with Bobby Kennedy, where "two of the nation’s most dynamic legal warriors" take on "corporate crooks, polluters, hypocritical preachers and ugly politicians."
First, I doubt evangelical leadership is discriminating against Pentecostals, but rather decrying the exploitation of this group by religious folk like Papantonio and the secular Left. Conservatives may well be frustrated by a portrayal of this group as "mainstream," but since the Body of Christ is pretty diverse anyway, the whole what-is-mainstream-thing is territory in which neither evangelicals nor secular movie makers should tread.
Second, Magnolia clearly has a right to make the film. Pastors also have a right to counsel their flock according to what they know about the film, and the folks in the pews have a right to spend or not spend their family cash as they (prayerfully) see fit.
Third, by their own admission, Jesus Camp was meant to be "controversial." It seems pretty disingenuous for Mr. Bowles to turn around and complain when Evangelicals pan the film, then accuse Christian critics of discriminating against another Christian group.
All that said, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover (and the liner notes). In the case of Jesus Camp, I’m not going to waste my time with it. Recommend you do the same. I also hope/assume that the crack Acton readership will quickly roll in and correct me if I’ve misjudged the picture.
[Don’s other habitat is The Evangelical Ecologist]
UPDATE: If it helps, I checked the United Pentecostal Church website and updated the spelling above, though many sites use pente and penta interchangeably. db
Know how to sell your wares, Intrinsic quality isn’t enough. Not everyone bites at substance or looks for inner value. People like to follow the crowd; they go someplace because they see other people do so. It takes much skill to explain something’s value. You can use praise, for praise arouses desire. At other times you can give things a good name (but be sure to flee from affectation). Another trick is to offer something only to those in the know, for everyone believes himself an expert, and the person who isn’t will want to be one. Never praise things for being easy or common: you’ll make them seem vulgar and facile. Everybody goes for something unique. Uniqueness appeals both to the taste and to the intellect.
Marketing has come a long way since this advice. In today’s NYT, Kenneth Chang examines how “more and more retailers are also using more rigorous scientific techniques to improve their bottom line.”
In “Enlisting Science’s Lessons to Entice More Shoppers to Spend More,” Chang writes that “OfficeMax is one example,” of a company engaged in this in-depth marketing research. “It has hired Envirosell, a market research company based in New York that takes an anthropological approach to understanding how shoppers navigate stores. Other companies turn to statistical methods used in testing nuclear weapons. New scientific technologies like brain scans also allow companies to peer directly into consumers’ minds.”
That last line is no doubt a bit of hyperbole, but the physicalist/materialist assumptions of many scientists and marketers become rather obvious as you read through the story. Marketing, it seems, has “evolved” in more ways than one since the days of Baltasar Gracián y Morales.