Economic globalization has lifted millions out of dire poverty and is an unparalelled engine of wealth creation. But, like other economic systems, it needs the moral framework that the Church provides to guide it as a humane force for good. Brian Griffiths, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, examines the role of faith in a rapidly globalizing world in this excerpt from his new Acton monograph.
Clement of Alexandria, Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?, trans. William Wilson, ch. XIV:
Riches, then, which benefit also our neighbours, are not to be thrown away. For they are possessions, inasmuch as they are possessed, and goods, inasmuch as they are useful and provided by God for the use of men; and they lie to our hand, and are put under our power, as material and instruments which are for good use to those who know the instrument. If you use it skilfully, it is skilful; if you are deficient in skill, it is affected by your want of skill, being itself destitute of blame. Such an instrument is wealth. Are you able to make a right use of it? It is subservient to righteousness. Does one make a wrong use of it? It is, on the other hand, a minister of wrong. For its nature is to be subservient, not to rule. That then which of itself has neither good nor evil, being blameless, ought not to be blamed; but that which has the power of using it well and ill, by reason of its possessing voluntary choice. And this is the mind and judgment of man, which has freedom in itself and self-determination in the treatment of what is assigned to it. So let no man destroy wealth, rather than the passions of the soul, which are incompatible with the better use of wealth. So that, becoming virtuous and good, he may be able to make a good use of these riches. The renunciation, then, and selling of all possessions, is to be understood as spoken of the passions of the soul.
Wealth, like liberty, is not an ultimate end in itself. Wealth is the good product of a rightly ordered economic system. Liberty is the result of a properly functioning political structure. These are both penultimate realities.
But to what end are wealth and liberty (economics and politics) to be subsumed? I know no better answer than to say, “To glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”
The number of jobs (nonfarm, not seasonally-adjusted) added to the US economy since 2004 numbers around 6 million.
But over the same period, Michigan has lost over 50,000 jobs. What’s going on?
A relative of mine recently described to me the situation from his perspective. His company has an office located in Michigan, and of the rather modest net profits accrued by the Michigan location, over 56% were paid to the state by means of the Single Business Tax (SBT).
The SBT has now been phased out going forward, but there’s been a huge partisan battle between Republicans in the state congress and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm about what to do. The debates are well-chronicled on the Democratic side by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mickey Switalski (see, for instance, the Feb. 23, 2007 edition of his newsletter, The Insider).
It looks now like the new tax policy replacing the SBT will be “revenue neutral,” in large part because the state was already facing a $1 billion budget deficit before the SBT was to be phased out. Besides the punitive SBT, many blame the employment climate in Michigan on the state’s “heavily unionized culture.”
The “revenue neutral” nature of the new tax plan seems to indicate to me that businesses in Michigan can continue to expect big chunks of their profits going to the state’s coffers. And that can only mean that Michigan’s single-state recession will continue, even if the tax penalty for adding payroll is modified under the new plan.
Oliver “Buzz” Thomas: “We’re like cancer. Unable to pace ourselves, we are greedily consuming our host organism (i.e. planet Earth) and getting dangerously close to killing ourselves in the process. The difference is that cancer has an excuse: No brain.”
Compare to the words of Agent Smith: “…There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.”
Be sure to take the Misanthropy Quiz.
With more efforts like this we could solve global warming tomorrow (and mismanaged pensions, and short necks, and the auto industry, and…).
TOKYO (Reuters) – An unseasonal chill had some cabinet ministers shivering in their short-sleeved shirts as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched Japan’s annual "Cool Biz" fashion campaign to save energy and fight global warming.
Japan began its "Cool Biz" push two years ago to get office workers to shed their stuffy suits and ties and keep thermostats at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) as a way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Known as a stylish dresser himself, Abe had instructed his cabinet members to wear ‘kariyushi’ summer wear from the southern island of Okinawa, similar to Hawaiian aloha shirts.
"It’s nice and comfortable. But today it seems a bit chilly," Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa, clad in a blue short-sleeved shirt imprinted with tiny red cats and birds native to Okinawa, told reporters.
"I ordered a long-sleeved shirt but they were out of stock so I could only get short-sleeved," added Yanagisawa, who appeared pleased to have something to talk about other than a furor over mismanaged pensions that is dogging Abe’s administration.
Administrative Reform Minister Yoshimi Watanabe welcomed the chance to substitute a collarless shirt for his jacket and tie.
"It’s good for people like me with no neck," said the stocky politician.
Economics Minister Hiroko Ota, one of only two women in Abe’s 17-member cabinet, was complimented by reporters on her striking red ‘kariyushi’ with a butterfly and floral print.
"Thank you. It’s actually still a bit cold to wear this. But this building is hot, so it’s nice," Ota told reporters.
The temperature on Friday morning was around 4 degrees below the June 1 average of 21.8 centigrade, but was expected to warm up later, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Later in the day, Abe, keen to polish his anti-global warming credentials ahead of next week’s Group of Eight summit in Germany, took part in a demonstration of Japanese clean diesel cars at his official residence.
"I feel certain that Japan’s energy-saving technology is the best in the world," he said before test-driving several cars.
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” That’s a good rule, I think.
The Care of Creation blog is noting, however, that “people who work longer hours use more energy and generally contribute more to the decline of the ecological quality of life on planet earth.”
The basis for the claim is a report that comes from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and “finds that if all countries worked as many hours per week as U.S. workers do, the world would consume 15 to 30 percent more energy by 2050 than it would by following Europe’s model.”
As I’ve asserted before, calculations that simply take into account the outputs of various environmentally-relevant factors, like GHGs, without also noting the relevant economic variables, are highly flawed.
So perhaps per capita American workers do work longer hours and therefore use more energy than their European counterparts. But do the American workers also contribute more to their respective country’s GNP than do Europeans? I’m betting they do…and it shouldn’t be surprising that all these factors correlate, because of the energy-dependent nature of the economy in the 21st century. But as recent trends suggest, perhaps even that doesn’t mean that economies must increase GHG emissions to grow.
Who gets more bang for their energy buck? The EU’s share of gross world product (GWP) is roughly 20%. Estimates put the EU’s population right around 490 million. The US’s share of GWP is larger than the EU’s, somewhere between 20% and 30%, but accomplishes that with a fraction of the population, numbering barely above 300 million.
So, work less and “save” the planet, but also contribute less to the global economy. That’s a formula for disaster.
For another take on how you can do nothing and save the planet, see the May 21 edition of the Joy of Tech comic.
The pro-assisted suicide movement always couches its argument in terms of “compassion” and “choice,” downplays the word “suicide,” and breezily dismiss any counter arguments about the (very real) slippery slope that will accompany the legalization of the practice. For example, here’s a section from the FAQ of the Compassion and Choices website:
The slippery slope argument hypothesizes that legal aid in dying will lead to forced euthanasia. Slippery slopes are precarious situations that one step logically necessitates subsequent steps. This does not define aid in dying, which is always dependent upon one individual. That said, we recognize that any law is subject to abuse, which is why the Oregon law and other proposed legislation have built-in safeguards.
The breezy dismissals are a little harder to swallow when reality looks like this:
Prosecutors are calling for tougher regulations on Switzerland’s assisted suicide clinics after uncovering evidence that some of the foreign clients they help to die are simply depressed rather than suffering incurable pain.
The clinics, which attract hundreds of foreigners, including Britons, every year, have been accused of failing to carry out proper investigations into whether patients meet the requirements of Switzerland’s right-to-die laws.
In some cases, foreign clients are being given drugs to commit suicide within hours of their arrival, which critics say leaves doctors and psychologists unable to conduct a detailed assessment or to provide appropriate counselling.
Let’s face facts: when you deny that human life has intrinsic value from start to finish, and substitute the idea of “quality of life” as the sole determining factor as to whether someone can live or take their own life, you’re marching full tilt down a path that leads to people killing themselves to avoid the pain of a completely treatable condition – and worse.
In what might be the coolest thing ever to happen to me, a Grand Rapids-based “progressive” news outlet has implied that I – as the creative dynamo behind the beloved and highly anticipated Global Warming Consensus Watch posts – am little more than a corporate stooge of Exxon. Yes, the good folks at Media Mouse are pointing the righteous finger of progressive accusation at yours truly for the unimaginable crime of “…running a regular blog feature dedicated to challenging the idea that there is scientific consensus on global warming. These recent activities fit within a history of advocating industry-friendly ‘free-market’ policies and attacking environmental regulations.” Acton also stands accused of giving a forum to an individual with nonstandard and non-”progressive” opinions on both the subject of Global Warming and Corporate Social Responsibility, Mr. Fred Smith. Thoughtcrime, my friends! Thoughtcrime!
Naturally, there must be a reason that we at Acton are so willing to engage in this sort of dangerous expression of subversive views, and Media Mouse has found the smoking gun: a $50,000 contribution to Acton – for general operations – from the Exxon Foundation! Yes, that must be it! That must explain why I, while browsing news on the internet, regularly notice articles published by independent news sources in which the “scientific consensus on global warming” is called into question by 1) scientists or 2) new scientific findings. (Presumably, the media outlets that publish these articles – which include Reuters, The Rocky Mountain News, The International Herald Tribune, The Huntsville Times, and The Financial Times among many others – must also be under the thumb of Exxon, as they’re the ones who actually publish the news articles that I have the audacity to notice.)
So I guess it’s settled: I am little more than a whore for Exxon. Each morning, I receive my talking points from corporate HQ, and every Friday I head down to my local Exxon station to pick up my bag of filthy oil money, a portion of which I use to light cigars that I then extinguish on the backs of the various downtrodden and oppressed wage slaves that I have acquired through my support of “free markets” to do menial labor on my palatial estate while I crank out another issue of Global Warming Consensus Watch.
Or perhaps I simply believe that the science isn’t as settled on this issue as groups like Media Mouse claim, and enjoy presenting a contrary view. Perhaps I didn’t know (and frankly couldn’t care less now that I do know) that Acton does, or ever has received support from Exxon.
Naaah, that couldn’t be it. It must be that we’re all corrupt. So I thought I’d do everyone a favor by just getting it out in the open once and for all.
By the way, climate change is normal. And pay no attention to the massive disparity in the amount spent by Exxon in grants to organizations that oppose global warming alarmism last year ($2 million) versus the amount paid out to various alarmist organizations ($100-$150 million). And certainly don’t read this article, which notes that the “gotcha!” funding game can cut both ways. OOH! There I go again with the filthy dirty LIES!
More lies after the jump. (more…)
Representatives of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and the Evangelical Environmental Network faced off in informal debate Thursday, May 31, at the Family Research Council in Washington. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and Dr. Kenneth Chilton represented the Alliance on a discussion panel about global warming hosted by the FRC. Opposite them were EEN representatives Dr. Jim Ball and Dr. Rusty Pritchard. To hear the panel discussion, click here.
Assisted suicide crusader Dr. Jack Kevorkian is out of prison as of this morning. For a good recap on who Kevorkian is, what he proposes for society, and just how creepy the man really is, I encourage you to check out Wesley Smith’s article at National Review Online. A sample:
…most of Kevorkian’s “patients” were not terminally ill, but disabled and depressed. Several weren’t even sick, according to their autopsies. Moreover, Kevorkian never attempted to treat any of the 130 or so persons who traveled to Michigan to be hooked up to his suicide machines to die either by drug overdose or carbon monoxide poisoning.
And as for compassion — forget about it. Kevorkian was never in the killing business to alleviate unbearable suffering. Indeed, over the course of decades he repeatedly explained his ultimate goals in professional journals and in his 1991 book, Prescription Medicide. As Jack Kevorkian articulately expresses it himself, compassion had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Kevorkian’s adulthood obsession has been to perform live human experimentation on people he was killing.
No doubt this event will bring the issue of physician assisted suicide to the forefront of our national dialogue for a time. I added my two cents to this debate almost two years ago and I don’t have much to add to what I’ve already said:
We hear a lot in our society about the importance of “death with dignity.” Often this phrase is used in the promotion of physician-assisted suicide by people who argue that those with terminal illnesses should have the right to “hasten their death” in the face of suffering. In so arguing, however, advocates of assisted suicide reinforce the idea that those who suffer have no intrinsic value as human beings that would cause society to favor sustaining their life; and as a result they strip those who suffer of any dignity at all. They seem to say that the terminally sick and aged have no inherent dignity – but it can be earned by choosing suicide.
The assisted suicide movement – like so many well-meaning “compassionate” efforts – fails because it does not recognize the inherent worth of every man, woman, and child. Dignity and value are not commodities that rise and fall on some moral market in response to the fluctuations of human frailty. They are intrinsic to what we are as humans. They are a part of our very nature, as real a part of us as the blood that flows in our veins.
These thoughts come to mind as I read of the passing of Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the modern Hospice movement. Her life’s work has allowed countless individuals to face the end of their life with some amount of physical comfort, often in their own home surrounded by their loved ones. There is a profound truth at the core of the movement that she founded: that dignity in death comes not through the act of dying, but through the act of living one’s life to the fullest until death.
You can read the full post here.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my father, my grandmother, and the other friends and loved ones now departed who demonstrated to me – in the midst of their suffering – the true nature of dignity at life’s end.
More: Jordan Ballor sent along links to three commentaries written by Rev. Robert Sirico in 1996 and 1998 on the topic of Dr. Kevorkian’s activities; they’re all well worth a read as well:
- How About a Debate, Dr. Kevorkian? (October 26, 1996): “I am challenging Jack Kevorkian to a formal debate on assisted suicide. I’d like this debate to go beyond the legality or illegality of his practice, and even beyond the facts of the many cases of suicide in which he has assisted. These are the areas most critics concentrate on, whereas he and I both know that real issue here is the morality or immorality of the ‘right-to-die’ position itself, and the ethical implications of assisting people in exercising this supposed right.”
- Kevorkian’s Moral Lapse in Right to Die (December 1, 1996): “The faxed response from Geoffrey Feiger reads: ‘”‘Keep your religious nose out of medical affairs,” says Dr. Kevorkian and me.’ I take from this that Dr. Kevorkian thinks people of faith–and 95 percent of Americans describe themselves as such–have nothing to contribute to the subject of medical ethics.”
- Terminal TV (November 25, 1998): “What the man actually wants to legalize, it is now apparent, is the untrammeled right to pull the trigger on anyone he deems ready to die anyway – a step from ‘assisted suicide’ to outright medical homicide, an action that violates every code of medical ethics.”