Samuel Kampa recently reviewed Victor Claar’s monograph, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution. Kampa begins by commenting on how quickly the “fair trade” moment has gained popularity, especially among the college and post-college aged, but also in the church community. He says that young people “are doing one thing right: expressing sincere concern about world poverty.  If this concern can be channeled into effective action, great things can happen.  Of course, effective is the key word.”

First, he offers a short list of reasons, given by fair trade advocates, why the fair trade movement is necessary:

1) Many farmers and workers in the international community receive very low prices for foods and commodities and are forced to live on less than $2 a day.
2) Many of the foods that Western consumers eat have been harvested by grossly underpaid farmers and workers.
3) The fact that Western consumers benefit at the expense of impoverished farmers and workers is both unfair and morally undesirable.
4) Agencies like Fair Trade USA guarantee fairer prices for crops and commodities, vastly improving the quality of life of farmers and workers.
5) Fair trade products are more expensive than non-fair trade products, but fair trade farmers and workers are receiving fairer prices.
6) Fair trade materially benefits the lives of impoverished farmers and workers at little cost to the consumer.
7)  Therefore, consuming fair trade products is morally preferable to consuming non-fair trade products.

Kampa explains Claar’s conclusions about fair trade: “Far from improving the lot of the poor, fair trade actually hurts non-fair trade farmers, keeps fair trade farmers in relative poverty, and diverts money from more efficacious charitable endeavors.” Kampa offers the two main critiques against the movement from the monograph as: “(1) Fair trade economically damages non-fair trade farmers. (2) In the long term, fair trade does more harm than good to fair trade farmers.” He then points out that “if true, [these two critiques] damage premises 4-7 in the pro-fair trade argument outlined above.” (more…)

Our health care system is broken. So why can’t we agree on how to fix it? The main problem is that disagreements about health care reform tend to be caused by a difference in values. Conservatives value personal choice and efficiency while progressives value coverage and affordability, says AEI’s Henry Olsen. But what if we could reform the healthcare system so that it recognized all these values?

What if we could design a health care system from scratch, what would we build, and why? AEI has produced several materials to help Americans think about how to answer that question.

foia-guidance-resources-picThere’s a new front in the struggle for religious liberty, says Brian Simboli: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

FOIA’s implementation is broken, and defenders of religious liberty ought to seek ways to fix it. . . .

t would be extraordinarily naïve to assume that threats to religious liberty are going to diminish in coming decades. Religious institutions will have to seek ways to check government power and seek bureaucratic accountability. Improving our FOIA system now will prove a boon to religious bodies and other counter-cultural groups years into the future.

Read more . . .

There’s a real business advantage to treating employees well, says Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco Corporation, an international membership warehouse club. Boasting the lowest employee turnover rate in retailing, Costco pays 40 percent more than its closest rival, Sam’s Club, and provides health insurance to more than 90 percent of its employees.

“Wall Street is in the business of making money between now and next Tuesday,” Sinegal says. “We’re in the business of building an organization, an institution that we hope will be here 50 years from now. And paying good wages and keeping your people working with you is very good business.”

Chris Horst, Matthew Horst, Costco

For Matthew Horst, Costco has become much more than an employer.

And the advantages don’t stop at profit margins and good wages.

In an open letter to Sinegal and president Craig Jelinek, Chris Horst of HOPE International shares a beautiful story about how Costco gave his brother a career, a community, and much, much more: (more…)

4109902429_491e5d15d3Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly via Compfight cc

Following up on last week’s proposal and discussion about the future of the Detroit Institute of Arts in the midst of the city of Detroit’s ongoing budgetary woes, arts commentator Terry Teachout penned a piece for the WSJ about the need for Detroit’s leaders to step up: “Protecting Detroit’s Artwork Is a Job for Detroit.”

Among other things, Teachout writes, “Any argument to keep Detroit’s masterpieces in Detroit has got to make sense to Detroiters who think that pensions are more important than paintings.” Teachout goes on to explore a couple such arguments, but the most salient point is that Detroiters themselves are the best ones to make such arguments.
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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
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Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Renaissance
Andrew Doran, First Things

“The entire twentieth century,” Solzhenitsyn observed in his 1983 Templeton Lecture, was “sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction.”

Why Jesus and Comic Books Need Each Other | Book of Revelation Graphic Novel
American Orthodox Institute

An interview on FOX News with Fr. Mark Arey of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese on transforming the book of Revelation into a graphic novel.

Loving God’s Law: the Key to A Flourishing Society?
Gabrielle Jackson, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

Love plays a significant role in how we build social structures such as the family, the church, our business, and our economy. But what does love have to do with the law? And if the rule of law is an essential pillar of a flourishing society, how should Christians think biblically about law?

How to Help Fast-Food Workers
Sheldon Richman, Reason

Raising the minimum wage will hurt, not help.

umcWhen the Obamacare legislation was rushed through Congress in 2010, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops for The United Methodist Church (UMC), said he “rejoiced” at the passage of the bill because it aligns with the denomination’s values. But now, many Methodists bishops — and other Christian clergy — are wishing they hadn’t waited for the bill to pass to find out what was in it.

According to a statement released by the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, clergy and lay employees of United Methodist churches may soon lose their health care coverage due to some coming Obamacare provisions:

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