The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy will be holding a theological conference on the subject of “Economy: Love of God, Production, and the Free Market.” Taking place tomorrow (Tuesday), you can either follow it live or read the proceedings later at the dicastery’s web site.
Data from a new CNN poll: “Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country’s problems.”
These results follow a period in which the GOP has dominated both the executive and legislative branches at the federal level. During this time, “Discretionary spending grew from $649 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $968 billion in fiscal year 2005, an increase of $319 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.” That’s nearly a 50% increase.
“Conservatives came to office to reduce the size of government and enlarge the sphere of free and private initiative,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. “But lately, we have increased government in order to stay in office.”
Power tends to corrupt…
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48 NIV).
When Bank of America Philanthropic Management noticed that “the wealthiest 3% of American households responsible for nearly two-thirds of charitable giving,” it decided to study philanthropic giving. (The top 5% paid 54.4% of taxes in 2003.)
Passed on by Don’t Tell the Donor, “Bank of America today released the initial results of the most comprehensive survey to-date of the philanthropic behavior of wealthy Americans. The Bank of America High Net-Worth Philanthropy Study was conducted by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University for Bank of America.”
Among the key findings:
- “Giving back” is more important than “leaving a legacy”
- There is a surprising correlation between donations of time and dollars
- Wealthy donors report that even major tax policy changes would not impact their giving
- Entrepreneurs are especially generous donors
- Charitable giving increased over the last five years
- Wealthy donors support a broader array of causes
Otto Reich at NRO claims that Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro is dead, or soon will be. That has been suspected for some time, but Reich says that funeral arrangements are now definitely in the works. Cuban authorities are evidently modeling the funeral on that of Pope John Paul II, a comparison that Reich teases out in the rest of the article. One is inclined to say that the forthcoming grandiose tributes to Castro are risible, but it is hard to laugh given the long suffering of the Cuban people.
The Wired.com blog Autopia passes along this NYT story outlining some of the fundamental challenges facing plug-in hybrid electric cars. The basic formula for the appeal of such hybrids is as follows: “The electric system runs mostly on coal, natural gas and uranium, all relatively plentiful. Cars run mostly on oil, oil and oil, which lately has been expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect the two?” And as attractive an option as this might be, the NYT story writes that “despite the hopes of policy makers, engineers say there is no prospect of this happening in the near future.”
John Gartner is not so pessimistic about the short-term prospects for plug-in hybrids, and concludes, “The competition between the oil companies and electric companies will result in cleaner and more cost-efficient choices for consumers, and that we can all be happy about.”
But here’s the kicker for advocates of plug-in hybrids: The main source of electricity for the United States is fossil fuels, according to the DoE providing “nearly two-thirds of our electricity,” and more than half of that comes from coal. So it isn’t the case that moving from gasoline-powered engines to plug-in hybrids will move us away from the use of fossil fuels. It will, for the most part, simply shift the consumption from oil to coal.
That has some attractive national security implications, since “one quarter of the world’s coal reserves are found within the United States,” as opposed to our need to massively import foreign oil. It is on this basis that Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. argues, “It makes eminent sense to make as rapid a transition to those plug-in hybrids as we can.” This of course assumes that the withdrawal of international trade actually improves rather than worsens the prospects for international peace. Let’s leave that questionable assumption aside for now, which contradicts Bastiat’s observation, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
With respect to the “green-ness” of plug-in hybrids, their environmentally-friendly image belies the fact that such hybrids will to a large extent be running on the energy provided by coal. Until our nation’s electricity comes from renewable and alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power, the environmental attractiveness of hybrids will remain illusory.
In a previous commentary examining some related aspects of these issues, I ask rhetorically, “Just how many coal-powered SUVs have you seen lately?” Well, if there were plug-in hybrid SUVs, they would to a great extent be coal-powered…and not so green as you might first think.
In awarding the Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, the Nobel Committee has focused the world’s attention on the power of “bottom up” economic development. Jennifer Roback Morse reminds us that “the micro-credit movement has helped many of the poor become less poor, and to lift themselves, their families, and their neighbors out of abject poverty.”
Dr. Morse reflects on Yunus’ background as an economics professor, educated at Vanderbilt, teaching in Bangladesh and seeing the abject poverty that afflicted communities near his post. Muhammad Yunus began to reach out and practice his own principles, and started giving loans — not handouts — to people in these communities who he believed had the potential to work themselves out of poverty, given the chance. In conjunction with the Grameen Bank, Yunus has now financed millions of small projects, many of them requiring loans of only $50, and helped many poverty stricken, yet driven, people emerge from their poverty by the work of their own hands.
[Got a request to cross-post this from my other habitat.]
In the in-box from an "evangelical enviromentalist who prefers to remain anonymous," responding to the Moyers/Beisner fallout:
IF Moyers said what Cal claims, and tape recorders were running, where is the tape? IF no tape, presumably no statement, and Cal is, um, lying. Is this how a Christian defends his presumably biblical position to a sceptical journalist?
Looking at other transcripts on the same subject (linked here), Moyers certainly gives the impression that he sees ecology as devisive to evangelicals. But it’s also possible [Cal] Beisner could have jumped to conclusions on Moyers motives (vis a vis deliberately using ecology to divide evangelicals politically) and either interpreted what Moyers actually said in light of this, or deliberately put words in his mouth; the latter Cal clearly denies, by the way.
Don’t know though; wasn’t there, and yep – no tape.
The whole Moyers/Beisner kerfuffle was unfortunate because (a) litigation ain’t a great way for two Christians to resolve issues, and (b) it detracted from the discussion over God being green, which frankly benefits neither Beisner nor Moyers, regardless of political leanings.
Thoughts from the group?