Next Monday will be the sixtieth anniversary of Luigi Einaudi’s inauguration as Italian President. Einaudi (1874-1961) was a distinguished economist and defender of classical liberalism. In the immediate period following World War II, he was governor of the Bank of Italy and finance minister. Many credit his policy of low taxes and dismantling tariffs with having laid the foundation for Italy’s “miracolo economico” of the 1950s and 1960s.

However, while his role as president between 1948-55 is still remembered, his legacy of economic freedom as a key to Italian post-war development has largely been forgotten. In a recent article, the Milanese financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore lamented that currently there is no political force in the country which feels inspired by Einaudi’s actions and insights.

The center-right led by Silvio Berlusconi which won the recent general elections in April cannot be considered a catalyst for market reforms. Its new economy minister Giulio Tremonti has expressed hostility to free trade and blames most of the world’s economic problems on an ideology he calls “marketism”. At the same time, the Northern League, Berlusconi’s junior coalition partner, is impossible to categorize in terms of its economic policy. It demands decentralization and reducing the role of the Italian state but also advocates protectionism.

Neither can Einaudi’s heirs be found on the Italian center-left. The recently founded Democratic Party (PD) has its origins in communism. One can appreciate its transformation towards more moderate positions and a certain openness to economic liberalization. However, the transition is not complete and cannot be compared to the process initiated by Tony Blair in the UK Labour Party in the 1990s.

It is regrettable that nobody wishes to emulate Einaudi’s achievements. These go beyond the technical mastery and application of market economics. Einaudi’s understanding of freedom also led him to insights of more wide-ranging importance for Italian society. He believed that an excess of state power tends to make citizens more lazy in the way they live their lives and think of their responsibility towards others. This attitude leads them to tolerate the social ills around them. They view the poor state of public services as inevitable and accept corruption and rent-seeking as unchangeable phenomena.

Now, that so many people in Italy worry about the economic situation of the country and feel alienated from the political institutions and their lack of accountability, one might think that the time is ripe to return to Einaudi’s lessons.

Last Friday the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 2008 report, noting eleven nations as “countries of particular concern,” being “those that are are most restrictive of religious freedom”: Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. (HT: The God & Culture Blog)

Howard Friedman relates, “The Commission is postponing its recommendations as to Iraq pending a Commission visit to the country later this month. This compromise was approved after a sharp party-line split among Commissioners over the draft chapter in the report on Iraq.” This amid widespread reports that the situation for Christians in Iraq has deteriorated markedly since the invasion.

I’m becoming more and more convinced as time passes that the recognition of the complex realities of persecution, suffering, and martyrdom around the globe is of fundamental importance for the vitality of the Christian church in North America. We need to come to terms with solidarity, what it means to be one with our fellow Christians in the world, and in what ways all Christians “suffer” in the daily work of sanctification. To keep abreast of these sorts of concerns, be sure to check out Voice of the Martyrs.

With this in mind, I want to pass along a section from the Zurich Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, from a treatise titled, A Brief Exposition of the One and Eternal Testament or Covenant of God (1534). Reformation scholars, under the influence of Heiko Oberman, have long recognized the nature of the Protestant Reformation as a “refugee reformation” (consider the travels and travails of Peter Martyr Vermigli, Jerome Zanchi, and Wolfgang Musculus, for instance). Bullinger is a notable exception, as once he was established in Zurich it was rare for him to travel to even neighboring Swiss cities.

But from that perspective his thoughts on persecution ring out even more clearly for us today. The text of the section follows below. (more…)

Blog author: dwbosch
Monday, May 5, 2008
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Daily Times of Pakistan:

LAHORE: Electricity shortage has exceeded 3,500 megawatts and load shedding is likely to increase across the country, Geo TV reported on Sunday. The water in both Tarbela and Mangla dams has dropped to dead levels, causing the shortfall, the channel quoted PEPCO officials as saying. The electricity demand had shot up after an increase in the use of air conditioners…

Ah, load shedding.

We lived in Guam for a couple of years in the early 90’s. The island was making the difficult transition from a 50 year old Navy-run power grid to a public utility and a growing tourist hotel presence on the island. Regularly scheduled blackouts were a fact of life. We learned to put up with them with the help of kerosene lanterns swung from hooks on the walls in case of earthquakes. We weren’t missing much in the way of TV back then anyway. There was that one stretch of outages by which we knew the wristwatch on the guy running the grid was running exactly seven minutes late. And while my very pregnant better half sometimes bristled at the loss of air conditioning twice a day, I quite liked the night-time blackouts that revealed a carpet of stars stretching from one horizon to the other, and bright blue phosphorescence on the reefs.

Anywho, one Pakistani doctor suggests their current power situation is the path to religious, military, political, and economic salvation:

Then there are my dear and good friends who keep pointing out that if only we as a nation revert to the true Sunnah, all our problems would be solved almost immediately. During periods of load shedding my mind does indeed turn to such admonishments.

More importantly, the only major advances in Muslim history, scientific, cultural and political, occurred before electricity was discovered. The Mughals, the Ottomans, the Safavids, the Ommayyads in Spain, the Fatimids in Egypt all brought great glory to Islam without a car, a motorbike, a split air-conditioner or a cell phone in sight.

Therefor I am convinced, especially during periods of load-shedding that our new and popularly elected government wants us, the people of the Islamic Republic, to revert to our greatness by recreating the environment in which Muslims excelled and built rich and thriving empires. In this connection I have a few suggestions that are offered in the true humility of my faith…

Heh. And this bit was great:

Also, the Islamic Republic will literally have no ‘carbon footprint’ since there will be virtually no production of ‘green-house’ gases except those produced in a biological fashion or in the industrial enclaves.

Therefore we can sell our carbon units to our neighbours to the east and the north. And if there are no airplanes, no cell phones and no ‘pillion riding’, then as a country we can demand a lot of money from our benefactors in the West. They all know what those three can lead to!

Hmmmmmm. Load shedding as a U.S. political platform? Nah – we’re way too impure for that.

[Don's other habitat is www.evangelicalecologist.com]

The story of the Deutsche Bank building following the NYC 9/11 attacks is a study in bureaucratic incompetence…but more importantly it’s an ongoing experience in human tragedy and loss.

There’s a great deal to sort out. This piece, “The tombstone at Ground Zero,” does a good job introducing the issues.

The article begins with an introduction into the fire at the building site in August of last year:

…Thick black smoke was pouring out of the shell of what used to be the Deutsche Bank building. The structure had been badly damaged in the terrorist attack when portions of the collapsing south tower dug a 15-story gash and propelled toxic dust into it. Six years later the bank building was finally being taken down.

The fire quickly spread to 13 floors. The 100 firefighters inside the building couldn’t douse the flames because, as would become clear later, the basement standpipe that should have supplied water to the floors above had been disconnected. The scene was chaotic. Firefighters couldn’t see through the dense smoke and found their retreat blocked by a mazelike series of plywood walls and polyethylene sheeting that made it nearly impossible to locate exits. Panic was audible in the voices on the firefighters’ radios.

Eventually some 275 firemen used ropes to hoist hoses up the scaffolding on the building and tamed the seven-alarm conflagration around 10:30 that night, seven hours after the blaze began. But the struggle to extinguish the flames had cost two lives. Firefighters Robert Beddia, 53, and Joseph Graffagnino, 33, were found lying on the 14th floor near a hose line and pronounced dead at a local hospital. The cause: smoke inhalation.

Here’s a picture of the building when it was on fire:

Photo provided by Rev. Benjamin Spalink of City Fellowship Church.

How is the 80’s song “The Final Countdown” by the band Europe tied to sound Catholic secondary education? Surprisingly, it’s through Acton’s Catholic High school Honor Roll.

After a short prayer, the below video shows the pep band for Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisconsin pumping up the crowd for its Honor Roll announcement this past Fall. After applying for the Honor Roll last year, the school earned a place among the Top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States.


The second half of the announcement ceremony can be seen here.

This type of recognition and attention is typical of schools that excel in the Honor Roll’s 3 areas of examination: academics, Catholic identity, and civic education. The program serves as an incentive for schools to excel in these areas, and it is a resource for parents, schools, colleges, and donors. Along with this recognition opportunity, applicant schools receive thorough evaluations with valuable feedback.

Schools can apply online at www.chshonor.org by May 15, 2008. However, many fine schools have not heard about the program or do not take the time to submit an application. It is a tragedy for schools – perhaps even Catholic schools you know – to miss this opportunity.

Many of the schools that do not apply may be your alma mater or located in your area. Your encouragement will help them reap the substantial benefits the program offers. Contacting the principal and development director at these schools goes a long way to encourage schools to participate in the Honor Roll.

Acton Senior Fellow in Economics Jennifer Roback Morse made an appearance last night on The Glenn Beck Show on Headline News Network. The topic of conversation was “hookup culture” and the degraded sexual ethics of our culture. Dr. Morse is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World. If you missed the show, the clip is below:

Sure to be a significant issue in the presidential campaign going forward, the question of immigration reform continues to divide otherwise like-minded religious folks. Mirror of Justice sage Michael Scaperlanda penned an article on the subject for First Things in February. A raft of letters upset with what the writers deemed Scaperlanda’s unreasonably lenient view toward illegal immigrants followed in the May issue (not accessible to non-subscribers), along with an article-length exchange between Scaperlanda and attorney William Chip. Scaperlanda’s initial article as well as part of the subsequent debate revolves around statements made by Catholic bishops on the subject.

Scaperlanda wants to see tighter borders in the sense of eliminating illegal immigration, but he also advocates a path to citizenship for currently illegal residents as well as a significant expansion of immigration quotas. Chip thinks large numbers of immigrants depress American wages and observes that most illegal migrants (specifically, Mexicans) are gainfully employed in their native country and not as desperately poor as they are sometimes portrayed.

Both Chip and Scaperlanda make valid points. The former on the possibility of enforcing the law:

The specter of mass arrests and deportations is a red herring. Approximately 500,000 aliens legally cross the border every day. They come to shop or to sightsee, to attend university, to conduct business, to work for an embassy, or to fill a temporary job. If we are to enjoy the benefits of these international visits without being overwhelmed by overstayers, it should be obvious that we cannot depend on the “hard power” of arrest and deportation except as a last resort.

We depend instead on the “soft power” of allowing legal visitors the means of a comfortable but temporary stay (including free emergency medical care if they ­cannot afford to pay for it) while withholding from them the means of taking up a comfortable permanent residence. Denying aliens who are not eligible for permanent residence the opportunity to hold a regular job, to drive a car, to draw nonemergency public benefits, and so forth is such an effective deterrent to breaking the law that 99.8 percent of aliens who enter the country each year return home of their own accord.

And Scaperlanda (in his response to the letters):

One commonly held myth is that illegal immigrants have cut in line ahead of others who are patiently waiting their turn to immigrate to the United States. In reality, no line exists for the vast majority of illegal entrants. The United States grants five thousand immigrant employment visas annually to low-skilled workers worldwide. Currently, we have more than ten million illegal immigrants residing in the United States. If they lined up today, and if we allotted all five thousand spots to Mexico and Central America, the one millionth would be eligible to receive a visa in the year 2208, and the ten millionth in 3008.

But the key question on which the debate hinges, it seems to me, is whether the United States possesses the economic capacity (and hence, for Christians and others who share a common moral view, responsibility) to sustain large numbers of immigrants. On this point, Scaperlanda finds that the evidence suggests that the answer is affirmative. I’m inclined to agree.

Blog author: mvandermaas
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By

Continuing with my posts highlighting just how wonderful things will be here in the United States when the government finally does its job and takes over the healthcare sector of the economy, I’d like to bring your attention once again to the fabulous success story that is the Canadian health care system:

Last year, the Canadian government issued a series of reports to address the outcry over long wait times for critical tests, procedures and surgeries. Over a two year period:
• Wait times for knee replacements dropped from 440 to 307 days.
• Wait times for hip replacements dropped from 351 to 257 days.
• Wait times for cataract surgeries dropped from 311 to 183 days.
• Wait times for MRIs dropped from 120 to 105 days.
• Wait times for CT scans dropped from 81 to 62 days.
• Wait times for bypass surgeries dropped from 49 to 48 days.

Sure, you might have to wait a couple of months for that lifesaving bypass surgery. But remember: it’s free!

The recent dramatic rise of food prices reflects the worst agricultural crisis of the last 30 years, especially for developing countries whose citizens inevitably spend a larger portion of their incomes for basic needs. The list of countries facing social unrest as a result is long and growing: Cameroon, Egypt, Niger, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, and the Philippines.

Consequences of these price increases are also affecting the United States, where rice is beginning to be rationed, Europe, where the price of bread in the last six months has grown 17%, and Japan, where butter has disappeared from markets and inflation is appearing for the first time in 10 years.

Many people in the developed world know that the price of oil has risen from $88 to over $114 a barrel in the last six months. But the price of corn, wheat, rice, milk and soybeans have increased even more so; corn and wheat have shot up 70% and rice is up 141% compared to January 2007.

This global crisis is affecting approximately a billion people around the world and the World Bank estimates that it could lead 100 million people into poverty, not to mention starvation.

The causes of this phenomenon are multiple and inter-related. Most economic analysts and agricultural experts have highlighted six main root causes to this emergency:

  • In the United States subsidies given to farmers that grow corn used for the production of biofuel (ethanol). A quarter of the national crop production is now devoted to the bio-fuel industry.

  • In Europe, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which pays farmers to restrict their output and locks out agricultural products from outside the European Union.
  • In Australia, a terrible draught that has lasted 2 years and compromised 60% of the agricultural production.
  • Increasing demand for rice, wheat, meat in China and India
  • Decrease of cultivated land especially in China and India, where agricultural districts are transformed in industrial areas.
  • Increase in the price of fuel which has resulted in an increase in the price of fertilizers.

The market perversions caused by government subsidies for bio-fuel production and the export restrictions mandated by governments in the name of “food security” are particularly damaging and add to what we already know about the law of unintended consequences.

It is interesting and perhaps even surprising to note how the Catholic Church is reacting to this issue, given the Church’s significant role in many developing countries and its presence in many international and humanitarian activities.

Despite heavy lobbying from environmental activists, the Church has given priority to the needs of the human person and his integral development. In practice, this has meant Vatican criticism of bio-fuel subsidies and Vatican support for biotechnology that increases agricultural yields such as the use of genetically modified organisms.

For example, at a recent FAO conference in Brazil, the Holy See’s representative, Msgr. Renato Volante, said “bio-fuel is a serious threat to the natural right of every individual to proper nutrition, causing food riots and an increase in worldwide poverty.” The bishop of San Marino, Luigi Negri, hosted an April 22 event that highlighted the potential of GMOs and new seed specimens that are already being used by 12 million farmers worldwide.And Archbishop Silvano Tomasi the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, has blamed poor distribution, rather than the lack of food, for the crisis.

Curiously enough, Catholic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Caritas Internationalis, Sant’Egidio and FOCSIV seem to be behind the curve when compared to the Church hierarchy. The NGOs have generally clamored for more foreign aid but have not addressed core issues as bio-fuels and biotechnology.

Even secular NGOs such as Oxfam and CARE are beating them to the punch and have even called for the elimination of trade-distorting subsidies, export restrictions and price controls.

It is difficult to generalize about such as complex international problem and about a Church of 1 billion people. But it is a shame that Catholic NGOs need to catch up not only with their fellow Catholics as well as their fellow humanitarians.

CalCatholic.com:

What I have found odd is that so many Catholics, especially female religious, should gravitate toward what appears to be essentially pantheism or what some eco-spirituality thinkers prefer to call “panentheism” (the universe as the “body of God”) when the Church has addressed the entire ecology question in a way that would, practically speaking, lead to the same results in terms of respect for the created order and sustainability.

Indeed.

Given the present direction of Catholic movement on climate change, and given that many global warmists are also anti-populationists, it’s not hard to envision a collision with the Church’s pro-life values. The way to reconcile this, of course, is by proclaiming the Personhood of the Trinity and the value of human beings created in His image while upholding ecology as stewardship, not dogma.

"Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself," is the Commandment. "Love the planet" has never been in Jesus’ vernacular.

Confusion between the two is growing.

[Don's other habitat is www.evangelicalecologist.com]