Transparency International has released its 2013 findings regarding global corruption and bribery. The implications of corruption and bribery are manifold: they decrease confidence in governments, make it difficult for the poor and corruptiondisconnected to get out of poverty, and break down trust throughout society. In fact, Transparency International found that two institutions that should be the most trusted (police and the judiciary) are the ones most riddled with corruption, world-wide.

Here is one example:

Fifty-year old Carmela [name has been changed] was sleeping at home when she was woken by banging and shouting from the  apartment above, where her son lives. Rushing upstairs, she says she found the 27-year-old mechanic being beaten by police officers. Ignoring her cries, the officers dragged him from the apartment and took him to their local headquarters, where they demanded payment for his release. Carmela’s problem is not new in her community, a makeshift settlement where local people claim to suffer constant harassment from certain police officers who demand bribes in return for leaving them in peace. Fearing retaliation, people find a way to pay the officers, who reportedly ask for as much as several thousand US dollars. But for Carmela, a housekeeper with four children, one suffering from cancer, this was impossible. Acting on Carmela’s behalf, Transparency International Venezuela contacted senior government and police officials, calling on them to take action. As a result, when she went to the local police headquarters to pay the bribe, the state authorities were watching. As soon as the money changed hands, they moved in and arrested the officers involved. Her son was released without payment. The police officers were detained and now await trial, while a full investigation is underway.

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Alexei Khomiakov, the Russian Slavophile thinker often credited with first articulating the Orthodox principle of sobornost.

Today at Ethika Politika I offer an assessment of the phenomenon of globalization from the perspective of Orthodox Christian anthropology. In particular, I focus on the concept of sobornost in the thought of the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, writing,

Solovyov’s account of the moral progress of humanity through globalization is rooted in the Russian idea of sobornost’, which Christopher Marsh and Daniel P. Payne define as “the idea that human beings retain their freedom while participating in human society, and that human society is a participatory process through which human beings actualize themselves as unique hypostases [i.e. persons].” Accordingly, Solovyov writes that true society does not abolish the individual, but “subordination to society uplifts the individual” and “the independence of the individual lends strength to the social order” — an Orthodox parallel to subsidiarity.

I had raised the question of the similarity between sobornost and subsidiarity a few weeks ago during Fr. Michael Butler’s Acton University talk on “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” I summarized his insight on the concept at the time, writing,

With the reforms of Tsar Peter the Great, however, the Church was literally made a department of the state [in Russia]. The inspiration for this, notably, was not symphonia but the European Protestant national Church model. While in this context the Russian Church still continued to carry out its functions in society, it had lost a great degree of autonomy. In the midst of this context, the Slavophile thinkers Alexei Khomiakov and Ivan Kireevsky reacted to this statist trend in Russian society by developing the theory of sobornost, inspired in part by the Russian word for “Catholic” in the Nicene Creed and inspired by the Orthodox Church’s conciliar basis of authority.

As they framed it, the idea of sobornost placed the idea of sovereignty in the whole of a people. All human beings are interconnected, and each therefore deserves their own autonomy while, at the same time, [each] has a duty to serve all others…. Ultimately, sobornost at its best would be an Orthodox parallel to subsidiarity in which each level of society, all the way down to the individual, has a role to freely play for the common good and each has a duty to assist others for that end.

The question of similarities and differences between subsidiarity and sobornost has been on my mind for some time. There would seem to be clear parallels between the concepts that were coincidentally developed in their modern forms at nearly the same time, though among different traditions for somewhat different purposes. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
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Solving Poverty Is Rocket Science
Richard Stearns, Christianity Today

Christians are among America’s most compassionate people. But we can do a better job responding to the complexity of poverty.

The Mosquito Bite Analogy
Bryan Caplan, EconLog

Free-market economists often lament the difficulty of communicating their ideas to a popular audience. Why? Because the free-market prescription is often, “Government should leave the problem alone. Trying to fix it only makes it worse.” How is anyone supposed to sell such counter-intuitive ideas?

Orthodox Priests Continue To Be Targeted By Syrian Rebels
Milena Faustova, OCP Media

The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), which unites 29 countries, made a statement saying that according to information available, two Orthodox metropolitans have been killed in Syria during the past few months.

The Myth of Unreligious America
Rodney Stark, Wall Street Journal

Most of those who say they have ‘no religion’ on surveys also pray. Half believe in angels.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for a Fall 2013 Calihan Academic Fellowship. The fellowships provide scholarships and research grants to future scholars and religious leaders whose academic work shows outstanding potential.

Graduate students studying theology, philosophy, religion, economics, or related fields are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is July 15. Information about eligibility, conditions, the selection process, and application requirements can be found on the Calihan Academic Fellowship page of the Acton Institute website.

Politicians and public educators seem to constantly revert back to status quo arguments of further centralization as a way to reform education failures in the U.S. The most recent push for uniformity in the public school system is the Common Core, a set of national assessment standards and tests that has been adopted by 45 states and will be implemented possibly as soon as the 2014 school year.  President Obama enticed the states to adopt Common Core with his $4.35 billion “Race to the Top Fund,” promising stimulus money to any that complied.  He also announced that $350 million of that fund would be spent on developing the tests that would be aligned with the Common Core Standards.

Common Core constitutes another government takeover under the Obama Administration. While defenders of the Common Core correctly point out that Obama and his cabinet had nothing to do with the design or implementation of Common Core, they fail to recognize the coercion of the governors to adopt Common Core through Race to the Top. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has also used questionable tactics in support of Common Core. In a recent speech at the American Society of News Editors Annual Convention, as reported by the Huffington Post, Duncan claimed, “When the critics can’t persuade you that the Common Core is a curriculum, they make even more outlandish claims. They say that the Common Core calls for federal collection of student data.  For the record, it doesn’t, we’re not allowed to, and we won’t. And let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.”  Such straw man arguments appear to be desperate attempts to obfuscate opponents’ central criticism: Common Core wipes out competition amongst states to produce better education programs, and it severely cripples school choice through more centralization. (more…)

Café con leche - Milchkaffee (CC)“Who could be against fairness?” Victor Claar asked this question at Acton University last month. He and Travis Hester gave a talk titled, “Fair Trade Versus Free Trade” with their focus on the coffee industry. They explained what the fair trade movement is, evaluated its effectiveness, and explored ways for caring people to help coffee growers overcome poverty.

Before looking at the fair trade movement, it is important to note that coffee is what economists call an inelastic good. That means that if the price of coffee increases, the quantity demanded will not decrease by a lot. Claar puts it simply: “If coffee prices rise, coffee drinkers will probably buy less coffee, but probably not much less.” Spikes occur frequently in coffee prices due to bad weather and the delicacy of Arabica coffee plants. The price of coffee is volatile and is, according to fair trade advocates, too low. (more…)

Depressing statistic of the week:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.

That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of private sector workers in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 97,180,000 full-time private sector workers in 2012.

The population of the U.S. is 316.2 million people, meaning nearly a third of Americans receive food aid from the government.