Archived Posts November 2006 - Page 7 of 7 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Bjørn Lomborg responds to the Stern Report (discussed here) in today’s WSJ, “Stern Review.” is a project of the Heritage Foundation, the aim of which is to collect and promote research into the relationship between religion and family welfare. It announces a new fellowship for graduate students in social sciences with an interest in writing theses in the area of religion and religious institutions, particularly as they relate to the family and domestic public policy. See the website for more information and instructions on how to apply.

Karl Bode at Broadband Reports accuses various free-market think tanks of inconsistency and even hypocrisy in their approaches to the question of broadband internet regulation: “Wouldn’t banning towns and cities from offering broadband be regulation? And wouldn’t it be ‘un-necessary regulation’ considering companies like AT&T have discovered they can simply compete in the muni-wireless sector? Strange how such rabid fans of a free-market aren’t interested in allowing market darwinism to play out,” he observes (HT: Slashdot).

It seems to me not to be the case that the advocates of the municipal broadband compact aren’t in favor of competition. They simply want to guard against the unfair advantage that municipal and city governments would enjoy if they entered the internet provider business.

“While incumbent providers have every right to declare an area unprofitable, they should not have the right to then ban these communities from wiring themselves. These broadband black holes were created by the providers. They should either fill them or get out of the way, taking their cadre of subjective experts with them,” says Bode.

Actually, these “broadband black holes” have always existed…they just haven’t been noticeable until broadband was invented and the market began servicing surrounding areas. It’s not as if cable internet providers have taken away access these places previously had. Presumably their economies have not yet developed to the point where they can utilize this kind of technological innovation in a sustainable way.

But Bode doesn’t really understand the economics of markets: “Fans of a free market should be eager to see the organic free-market at work. If these municipal broadband operations are such a flawed idea: let them fail.”

It’s hard to put it any simpler than this: government-run services are not part of “the organic free-market at work.”

Despite Bode’s claims, there’s no real inconsistency here. And the fact that a current area may not be a profitable market for broadband provision does not mean that it will not be so in the future…but cities and municipalities wiring themselves and providing internet service on their own removes the possibility that these communities will ever be serviced by the market.

Update: Thanks to Broadband Reports for the equal time, noting my contrarian blog post along with a few others (all of which agree substantially with the original piece).

I also owe them thanks for noticing that I misspelled “noticeable” (corrected above), although, in due course, they mis-identified the Acton Institute as the “Action” Institute, a la “Action” Jackson, not Lord Acton.

Further Update: I’d also like to clarify that I’m not necessarily in favor of a federal-level restriction on the actions of city governments in this area. This may not have been obvious from my original post. I do think it is unwise for cities and municipalities to provide wireless access, but from this it does not follow that such should be outlawed. I was simply trying to clarify some of the reasons to oppose government provision of internet access and am not interested in defending the “municipal broadband compact” in detail.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann

One of the blessings we can look forward to on election day in the United States is the certain knowledge that, at last, we’ll be able to turn on the radio or TV without having to endure the unrelieved assault of political advertising. There seems to be some strange metaphysical law of campaigning that encourages politicians to outrageously inflate the actual record of accomplishments, and outrageously enlarge the scope of hopeless promises, as the number of campaign days dwindle down.

This year, a smaller companion blessing promises respite from all of the news stories that are generated by sending intrepid reporters out to — are you ready for this? — visit real churches in order to interview real Christians about their vote. One of the main news narratives this year is that President Bush’s Protestant Evangelical “base” is fracturing. We shall see.

In this election season, Christians are often voicing a deep disgust with politics. And there is plenty to be disgusted about. The temptation is to simply dismiss politics as a waste of time, a dirty business that people of faith have no need of. But that would be un-American. As Samuel Adams pointed out:

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

Accountable to God for our vote? Most assuredly. But let’s keep this in perspective. The great Russian Orthodox theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann pointed out that the “antinomical character” of the Christian faith has always generated a tension between the demands of the Kingdom of God and the earthly demands arising from a need for a government that serves humanity. Writing in “Church, World, Mission,” a collection of his essays published in 1979, the late Fr. Schmenann said that “to redeem the world or anything in the world, is then to place it in the perspective of the Kingdom of God as its end and ultimate term of reference, to make it transparent to the Kingdom as its sign, means and instrument.”

Fr. Schmemann cautioned against a dualistic view of the Church that sets it apart and above the concerns of the world. Rather, the world is the object of the Church’s “love, concern and action.”

Here’s the key thing:

The Church is not an agency for solving the innumerable “problems” inherent in the world, or rather, she may help solve them only inasmuch as she herself remains faithful to her nature and to her essential vocation: to reveal in “this world” that which by being “not of this world” is therefore the only absolute context for seeing, understanding and solving all human “problems.”

As to the “fundamental failure” of the Christian world, it should make us fully aware that there is but one essential sin, one essential danger: that of idolatry, the ever-present and ever-acting temptation to absolutize and thus to idolize “this world” itself, its passing values, ideas and ideologies, to forget that as the people of God “we have here no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). It is the “failure” of the “Christian world” that should make it possible for us to see through the “modern world” and the spiritual reality shaping it, to discern in it what is positive: the cry that comes from its Christian subconscious, and also what is negative: its truly demonic rebellion against God.

So, yes, get out and vote. It’s the faithful thing to do.

For more on Fr. Schmemann and his work, visit the web site dedicated to the ever-memorable Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann.

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Despite signs of a cooling economy, the Fed is holding the line on interest rates. And reason is fairly simple: Worries about inflation. While there are many good reasons for fiscal restraint in the face of the inflation threat, there are also larger moral issues at work, says Sam Gregg. Inflation strikes at the economy’s ability to assist people to achieve their full human potential. “Tough monetary policy is not just good economics,” Gregg writes. “It’s also an exercise in tough love – for all of us.”

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Christianity Today has identified four political races to watch that “feature debates about issues of special concern to evangelicals.” One of these is Michigan’s race for governor between incumbent Jennifer Granholm and challenger Dick DeVos.

CT is featuring the economy as an issue of evangelical concern in this race:

The September news of massive layoffs by Ford has become far too common in Michigan. Unemployment stands at 7.1 percent, well above the national average. What’s bad for the state could be good for the campaign of Dick DeVos, the Republican. The name may sound familiar to evangelicals. His father, Rich DeVos, helped found Amway Corporation and bankrolled many evangelical schools and ministries.

Acton’s Jerry Zandstra is quoted in the brief piece, as is Corwin Smidt, executive director of Calvin College’s Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics, whose “research indicates evangelicals have become more receptive to Republican economics.

Says Smidt, “Whereas evangelicals were fairly united on social issues in the 1980s and early 1990s and much less unified on economic issues, evangelical voters took a much more unified stand on economic issues by the end of the millennium.”

This contradicts, by the way, the message of Fr. Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout in their recent book The Truth About Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe. In a review of the book, E.J. Dionne writes of their conclusions, “All this suggests that a significant share of the white Christian community, including Evangelicals, is willing to hear alternative arguments to those offered by the Right. Greeley and Hout believe the best arguments for Democrats are about economics. ‘Get economic justice right,’ they argue, ‘and the conservative Christians held back by economic injustice will back you.'” (HT: Mirror of Justice)

Other races featured by CT include Pennsylvania’s Senate race between Bob Casey Jr. and Sen. Rick Santorum and South Dakota’s abortion ban.

Blog author: dwbosch
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Just in time to celebrate All Saints Day, I’m hosting this week’s Christian Carnival over at The Evangelical Ecologist.

I visited each site while building the carnival page and was impressed by what was there. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a chance to expand your blogroll or your boundaries of contemporary Christian thought, you really should drop by. You’ll be encouraged and challenged in many ways.

If you’re a Christian blogger, you can find out more about joining the Christian Carnival here.

Grace and peace,


For those still interested, the latest installment of the Bill Moyers/Cal Beisner saga is in (for those of you who need refreshing, check out the posts here, here, and here. Moyers summarizes his side of the story with links here, under the section titled “Moyers and Beisner Exchange”).

Last week, on Oct. 25, Bill Moyers circulated another letter to Beisner (linked in PDF here). As of Friday, Oct. 27, Beisner said, “Granted that I hope to pursue reconciliation consistent with 1 Corinthians 6, I have chosen not to respond publicly.”

However, presumably due to the further communication on behalf of Moyers by his legal counsel (dated Oct. 31 and linked in PDF here), Beisner has given permission to post the following public response:

“First, I didn’t lie but wrote honestly from the best of my memory. Second, the conversations on which my memory were based occurred before and after the recorded interview, as I reported in the October 12 issue of the ISA newsletter (before ever hearing from Moyers about the October 9 issue) and were not taped.”