Posts tagged with: Business/Finance

Visigoths sack RomeThe travails of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the implications for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) continue to garner speculation about the place of art in society and the value of the DIA to the city, both now and in the future.

Emergency manager Kevin Orr has “formally engaged Christie’s to appraise a portion of the city-owned multibillion dollar collection at the DIA.” John Fund at NRO has advised that even a limited number of paintings could be sold, keeping the remainder of the collection intact. This would allow for a reformation of the institution itself, “to make the art in the DIA more relevant to the people who actually live near it.”

Meanwhile, Graham Beal, the director of the DIA, plays a dangerous game of brinksmanship in the media. By Beal’s account, any change to the DIA would result in the shuttering of the institution: “If works of art are sold by anybody, that breaks the operating agreement — then that money ceases to come from the three counties, then the DIA will effectively be closed down.” Such claims continue to be made despite the real danger of liquidation by order of a federal judge and regardless of the realities of the institution’s operating budget. For fiscal year 2011, the DIA had an operating excess of nearly $22 million.

But Beal doesn’t seem inclined to give any quarter to talk about changes to the DIA. Thus he’s called suggestions like mine to “privatize” the DIA “a bit of a fairy tale.” But if anyone is living in a fantasy land, it’s those who think the DIA will be immune to the political turmoil surrounding Detroit. Rather than galvanizing around efforts to save the DIA, political and civic leaders in Detroit seem increasingly intent on looting the collection: “The Van Gogh must go,” said Mark Young, president of the Detroit Lieutenants and Sergeants Association. “We don’t need Monet – we need money.” The combined interests of the city’s creditors and pensioners might just be enough to sink the DIA. As Philip Terzian writes, “the financial claims of creditors might well have greater weight than the principle of a distinguished art collection in Motown.”

Barbarians are at the gates of the DIA, and the director fiddles. The best thing for a thriving DIA would be to become fully independent, but by all accounts Beal is uninterested in pursuing such options. Having gained a spot at the public trough, the DIA seems loathe to give it up, even if it means endangering the future of the institution.

First they came for the Picasso. Then they came for the Van Gogh. Then they came for the Rivera…

Monsanto PlantWriting over at the Live58 blog, Catherine Sinclair describes her transition from uncertainty regarding GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) to outright opposition: “After doing some more research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should avoid GMO as much as possible.” This a conclusion that we might think is counter-intuitive, to say the least, for an organization committed to ending the scourge of global hunger and poverty.

Sinclair’s main indictment of GMOs comes down to the agribusiness giant Monsanto: “Because they are companies seeking profit, seed developers like Monsanto do whatever they can to control the agricultural industry.”

It’s important to distinguish the theoretical and ethical basis for genetic modification from the actual behavior and practice of corporations like Monsanto. Too often the two are conflated. In my new book, Get Your Hands Dirty, I have an updated discussion of a theological framework for evaluating GM foods. As I caution at the conclusion of my examination of GM foods, “nothing in this framework presumes any particular policy outcome in the realm of law, and so, for instance, concerns about the use of property rights as a means to tyrannize or monopolize particular industries ought to be considered.”

Making such a distinction allows an approach that is more nuanced and responsible than simply identifying Monsanto with GMOs in general. So, for instance, a self-identified “hippie” writes in Slate:

I think Monsanto is evil, that patenting seeds and suing farmers is unethical, and that some GMO crops (like Roundup Ready Soybeans) lend themselves to irresponsible herbicide and pesticide use and cross-contamination.

But I’m also not going to let my anti-corporate sentiments get in the way of a diverse and promising field of research. (emphasis added)

Genetic modification and the cronyism that is so endemic to big agribusiness simply aren’t identical. That distinction strikes me as a helpful starting point for responsible discussion of GMOs.

For a critical but balanced examination of GMOs in theological context, check out Brad Littlejohn’s treatment of his “inner Luddite” at Mere Orthodoxy.

The official White House website says that all Americans will now have access to affordable medical care, and that small business owners need not worry about rising costs:Unemployment-line-640x245

The proposal will also provide tens of billions in tax credits for small business owners to make insurance coverage more affordable. Small businesses will also have a new option of purchasing insurance through the exchanges. By pooling their resources in the new insurance marketplace, small business owners will lower their costs and have the same choices that big corporations and unions enjoy.

That’s all well and good, but as the National Bureau of Economic Research sees it, we may end up with less people working. In a paper published this month, three of the think tank’s researchers concluded, “Our results appear to indicate that the soon-to-be-enacted health-care reform may cause substantial declines in aggregate employment.” What does that mean? Small businesses aren’t going to go for the “pooling” option; they’ll just hire less people, and provide less people with health insurance. (more…)

Charitable giving, for the most part, involves money. But not always. The auto manufacturer, Toyota, donates efficiency. The car company’s model of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”) was one their employees believed could be beneficial beyond the manufacturing business.

Toyota offered to help The Food Bank of New York, which reluctantly accepted their plan. The charity was used to receiving corporate financial donations to feed their patrons, not time from engineers. But the non-profit quickly saw results.

Toyota’s engineers helped reduce the wait time for dinner from 90 minutes to 18.

Instead of having clients stream into the cafeteria 10 people at a time, the company recommended that diners take a seat just as soon as one becomes available. Toyota also set up a waiting room where diners could pick up trays and designated one employee whose job is to scour the dining room for an available space.

Toyota has ‘revolutionized the way we serve our community,’ Margarette Purvis, the chief executive and president of the Food Bank…

Toyota also worked with the Food Bank in their outreach distribution services following Hurricane Sandy, as the video below shows.

Gerard Berghoef & Lester DeKoster, in their book Faithful in All’s God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, say this about work:

It is of the nature of work to serve the community. Whether work is done in the home, on the land, or in the countless forms of enterprise developed across the centuries, work is doubly blessed: (1) it provides for the family of man, and (2) it matures the worker.
Both of these points are well-illustrated in the video.

It’s no secret that the economy of the European Union is, ahem, struggling. But Vikas Bajaj says the global economy is worse than anyone seems to want to acknowledge:global-economic-growth

In a new report released on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund says that China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other developing countries are growing more slowly than previously thought. That weakness, combined with Europe’s enduring recession and middling growth in the United States, means the global economy will grow at 3.1 percent this year, about the same as last year and down from the I.M.F.’s April forecast of 3.3 percent.

Developing economies are struggling for a variety of reasons. Some, like Brazil and Russia, are hurting because there is less demand for their exports in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. China is trying to reduce its reliance on exports and investments while increasing the importance of domestic consumer spending. Some countries are also under pressure as foreign investors start moving money out of emerging markets to invest it in the United States, where interest rates have risen in recent days.

Bajaj points out that economist have been talking about this for months, but the response has been “a collective shrug” from policy makers. The International Monetary Fund calls for nations’ policymakers to create more robust attempts to stimulate economies, but Bajaj worries: “Is anybody listening?”

Blog author: ehilton
Monday, July 8, 2013
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Too many regulations, too much government intrusion: business leaders and entrepreneurs are “going John Galt”, according to Andrew Abela at Legatus magazine.

john-galt-oathFed up with the socialistic world he’s living in, Galt decides to leave and encourages numerous other entrepreneurs to follow him. As a result, the economy more or less grinds to a halt.

At Legatus chapter meetings across the country where I’ve been speaking — and with individual and groups of Catholic entrepreneurs and business leaders who visit us at the Catholic University of America — I’m meeting more and more people who are basically just walking away. Whether because they have had enough of fighting the EPA over every aspect of their business or they are concerned about going to jail because they didn’t comply with the umpteenth new regulation this week, they believe that the fun and sense of accomplishment in building a business is being sucked away by big government.

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In a May 28, Huffington Post article, Rev. Seamus P. Finn, OMI, exhibits a woeful lack of economic knowledge. In most cases members of the clergy can be forgiven somewhat for getting it so utterly and completely wrong. After all, few people go into the ministry because they’re fascinated with things like lean manufacturing techniques or monetary policy. But in this instance Finn must be taken to the proverbial woodshed for a lesson in what truly benefits the world’s poor.

Why Finn and why now, you ask? Most important, because he represents the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and represents the Oblates as a board member at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. He also serves on the executive committee of the International Interfaith Investment Group (IIIG). From this resume, one might gather that he is influential with the faithful on financial and business matters.

PowerBlog readers who have been following my series of posts on religious-based shareholder activism these past few months may recall my coverage of several ICCR proxy resolutions submitted to a host of companies this spring. I called attention to these resolutions because they draw more from leftist ideology than they do from centuries of deeper Christian thinking on social problems.

Now comes Finn with a HuffPo piece linking ICCR and IIIG initiatives with recent statements made by Pope Francis. While the current pope is no fan of capitalism – read about his views of the market economy here and here on the PowerBlog – Finn apparently despises it outright. (more…)

Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals to engage in political speech. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, the “corporate identity” of a speaker did not justify a reduced level of free speech protection. Can that same concept about corporate identity be applied to religious liberties? Do corporations have religious liberty rights too?

Some legal scholars are claiming they do not:
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Acton’s Director of Research, Samuel Gregg, has a column in the latest issue of Legatus magazine. In it, he recognizes the accomplishments and Catholic faith of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Charles Carroll. Carroll, the only Catholic signer charles carrollof the Declaration of Independence, was an established businessman, and signing the Declaration was a risky move. It literally put his entire fortune at risk.

Carroll’s commercial interests extended far beyond those of the typical Marylander of his time. They ranged from grain products to livestock, small cloth factories, building crafts, cattle, mills, orchards, land speculation, and iron production. As well as investing in domestic and European markets, Carroll was in the business of making loans, charging market interest rates. He even authored a document defending the legality and morality of compound interest. And, it should be said, a portion of Carroll’s assets consisted of slaves.

Carroll’s commercial success did not mean, however, that what he often called the “habit of business” became suffocating for him. He would have thoroughly agreed with Calvin Coolidge that “the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.”

Gregg also points out that Carroll had a sense that “the life of business was itself one full of potential nobility and purpose…” Carroll believed that order and discipline, in business and in life, made one’s life fruitful.

Read “Catholic Founder, Catholic businessman” at Legatus Magazine.

According to the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference, Michigan’s three largest universities (Michigan State, University of Michigan and Wayne State) are producing entrepreneurs at twice the national average. According to Michael Wayland, the report included:

…responses from more than 40,000 of the 1.2 million alumni of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. The responses revealed that more than 19 percent of the alumni surveyed have started a company, and some have created more than one.

The study suggests a significant number of alumni are starting their own businesses, and more than 50 percent of those businesses are here in Michigan, contributing to our state’s economic prosperity,” said URC [University Research Corridor] Executive Director Jeff Mason in a statement. “The URC is committed to supplying the tools that can lead to new companies and more jobs.” (more…)