Archived Posts March 2007 » Page 3 of 6 | Acton PowerBlog

Kevin noted earlier this week that the UK has issued a paper bill featuring Adam Smith. I also received notice this week that the Adam Smith Review is planning a conference in January of 2009, celebrating the semiquincentennial (250th) anniversary of the publication of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments.

The conference announcement notes that scholarship has “come to appreciate the importance of Smith’s moral philosophy for his overall intellectual project.”

For more on just how Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments fits in with works like Wealth of Nations, see this article in the Journal of Markets & Morality by Robert A. Black, “What Did Adam Smith Say About Self-Love?” Black makes the following methodological point: “The first two chapters of [Wealth of Nations] must be read as a whole and in light of Smith’s idea of ‘sympathy’ from the Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS 1759) to get the full meaning of the appeal to self-love.”

Also, check out this nice introduction to Theory of Moral Sentiments from the Adam Smith Institute.

The Adam Smith Review is published by the International Adam Smith Society.

According to published reports, China is planning on adding new censorship regulations covering blogs and webcasts (HT).

President Hu Jintao says the government needs to take these steps to “purify” the Internet, leading to “a more healthy and active Internet environment,” according to the Xinhua news agency.

Estimates put the number of Internet police manning the “Great Firewall of China” at 30,000-40,000. To see if those cops are looking at a particular website, test it at GreatFirewallOfChina.org.

You can also check out more details about the global spread of Internet censorship, “practised by about two dozen countries and applied to a far wider range of online information and applications,” in this FT story, “Web censorship spreading globally.” China is described as one of 10 “pervasive blockers,” and it seems that countries that are new to the censorship racket are “learning from experienced practitioners such as China and benefiting from technological improvements.”

Update: Apparently not having learned its lesson from the China debacle, which Sergey Brin called “a net negative,” this from Slashdot: “Google Aids Indian Government Censorship.”

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The nation which hosted a large conference welcoming Holocaust deniers last year is now full of righteous indignation over historical inaccuracies in the film ’300′.

As Azadeh Moaveni reports from her daily travels in Tehran, “Iranians buzzed with resentment at the film’s depictions of Persians, adamant that the movie was secretly funded by the U.S. government to prepare Americans for going to war against Iran.” (HT: Disorganizational Behavior)

No word yet on whether the Athenians are upset over being called “boy lovers” by King Leonidas.

Update: Despite what are surely the government’s best efforts at censorship, the Iranian marketplace has apparently already decided that there is to be some demand for ’300′. According to one Iranian paper, “bootleg DVDs were already available.” Iran claims to filter over 10 million websites it deems immoral. No doubt this includes the ’300′ homepage.

From the “we had to destroy the village to save it” department, check out this item from the Huffington Post by Dave Johnson, “A Global Warming Suggestion: Fewer Babies.”

It’s pretty indefatigable logic: if there are no people to be affected by environmental catastrophe, then the problem has been avoided. Johnson writes, “Yes, hundreds of millions of people will face water shortages and starvation by 2080 — but only if those hundreds of millions of people are alive in the first place.”

He continues, “What am I getting at? One solution to the crisis is for people to stop having so many babies. We’re already using up the fisheries. The cattle being raised to feed so many meat-eaters is as big a problem as the cars we’re all driving.”

Read more background on the connection between global warming activism and population control measures here, which introduces the joint paper, “From Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’.”

In this week’s Acton Commentary, I examine recent events surrounding the conflict amongst evangelicals over global warming political activism. In “Evangelical Environmentalism’s Moral Imperative,” I compare the shape of the argument to the debate over the last decade on the topic of poverty.

In the same way that conservatives were accused of not caring for the poor because they opposed an expansive welfare state, critics of climate change politics are being portrayed as not caring for the environment. To the extent that conservative critiques have not made it a point to sharply distinguish between global warming and the broader moral mandate to steward the earth, they deserve blame for this state of affairs.

This fault is exemplified well in the recent letter from James Dobson and others to the National Association of Evangelicals questioning the activities of Rev. Richard Cizik, who is actively promoting federal policy on climate change. The Dobson letter (PDF) challenges global warming but only notes pro-life issues, marriage, and sexuality as “the great moral issues of our time.” While the letter doesn’t explicitly exclude stewardship of the environment as a “great moral issue,” its omission from this list can easily give the impression that the letter’s signatories don’t find environmental stewardship to be a compelling moral imperative.

But it also falls to the responsibility of evangelicals who favor government action to combat climate change to acknowledge “the commitment of their opponents to ‘care’ of the creation, even amidst the sometimes pointed disagreements over the means and institutions responsible for that care.”

Read the entire commentary here.

I also recommend Andy Crouch’s recent review in Books & Culture of Roger Gottlieb’s A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet’s Future, in which Crouch writes that Gottlieb’s book “could not be more calculated to inflame the suspicions of the politically and theologically conservative.” Crouch also outlines some of the recent activities and perspectives of groups like the Evangelical Climate Initiative.

Update: Bob Francis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, reacting to reader comments, acknowledges that “whether the issue is poverty or the environment, well-meaning Christians differ on solutions.”

Kathryn Joyce at The Revealer writes about “the real point of contention between Dobson, Bauer and Perkins on the one hand, and Cizik, on the other. Not so much that Cizik is drawing energy and outrage to global warming and away from gay marriage and abortion, but that, in the mind of many conservative Christians, choosing between pro-life or environmental activism must be a zero-sum game.”

The title of this post is not intended to imply anything by way of comparison between Smith and the American gentlemen. It is only to report that the United Kingdom has launched a new 20£ note sporting the visage of the Father of Economics.

Peter Heslam spins the news to good effect in a brief comment on Smith’s moral sensibility. To investigate that issue more thoroughly, see James Halteman’s 2003 article in the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Check out the links from this piece by Joe Knippenberg at No Left Turns, which make the case that “small-scale support for private slum schools—through scholarship programs, backing for school-voucher schemes, or subsidized microfinance—might do far more good than a big aid push directed at government-run education.”

Combine that with the insights from this recent NBER paper, “The Effects of Education on Health,” which examines the “well known, large, and persistent association between education and health,” and you could reach the conclusion that private education in the developing world could do much to raise the level of global health.

Meanwhile, Oprah’s private school initiative in South Africa is under fire from some parents for being “too strict” (HT). This includes the imposition of a diet of “fruit, yoghurt and sandwiches.” It seems to me that if this diet were enforced in public schools in America it might do a great deal to increase health.

The Acton Institute won first place in the Free Market Solutions to Poverty category in the 2007 Templeton Freedom Awards competition. The award, managed by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, recognized Acton for its use of the “power of the popular media to challenge common beliefs about how to alleviate poverty.”

Using the tagline, “Don’t Just Care, Think!,” the Acton project used documentaries, short films, public service announcements, print ads, and other educational materials to make the case that good intentions alone will not help the world’s poor.

This is the third award for Acton. The Institute also won Templeton Freedom Awards in 2005 in the Excellence in Promoting Liberty category -– for its Toward a Free and Virtuous Society conferences — and in 2004 in the Ethics and Values category for “its extensive body of work on the moral defense of the free market.”

The multi-faceted awards program, which attracted this year more than 200 entries from 53 countries, recognizes innovative civil society programs sponsored by independent research institutes around the world. The program is named in honor of famed investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. “Economic and political freedom are advancing globally, and men and women focused on ideas, rather than violence, are leading the way,” said Atlas President Alejandro Chafuen. “The winners of this year’s Templeton Awards demonstrate the breadth of this movement.”

Read more on the award here.

Speaking of a “red-letter hermeneutic,” for which I criticize Vince Isner of the National Council of Churches, Tony Campolo says that the new group of evangelical activists, who “transcend” partisan politics, has decided to go by the name of “Red-Letter Christians.”

“By calling ourselves Red-Letter Christians, we are alluding to the fact that in several versions of the Bible, the words of Jesus are printed in red. In adopting this name we are saying that we are committed to living out the things that He said,” writes Campolo.

They chose that name because “progressive evangelicals” might be construed in such a way as to be seen as “a value judgment of those who do not join us.” If it’s one thing these “red-letter Christians” don’t want to be seen as, it’s judgmental. After all, “Do not judge” appears in red letters in the Bible.

Of course, this doesn’t really mean that the agenda of the “red-letter Christians” is not progressive. Thus, Campolo speaks of the “progressive social agenda we espouse.”

Who’s the “we”? Just mainstream evangelical types like, “Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine; Richard Rohr, a well-known Catholic writer and speaker; Brian McLaren, a leader of the Emergent Church movement; the Rev. Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders, a prominent African-American pastor; the Rev. Noel Castellanos, a strong voice in the Hispanic community, and several other outstanding Christian communicators.”

John Henry Newman called him “by far the greatest thinker America has ever produced,” but I venture to say very few Americans have ever heard of Orestes Brownson. (Acton devotees, of course, are unusually well informed and have seen him featured among our “Liberal Tradition” biographies.)

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., recently deceased, wrote a biography of Brownson some seventy years ago, but there had been little interest in the nineteenth-century Catholic convert from transcendentalism since then—until recently. The unmistakable signs of a rehabilitation of the reputation of Brownson include the Patrick Carey-edited series from Marquette University Press and ISI Books’ new collection of Brownson’s thought in its Works in Political Philosophy series.