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The article I referenced a couple weeks ago about the trends in conservative think tanks and philanthropy noted that the first phase was ushered in by F. A. Hayek. In some ways, the arc that Piereson sketches follows a change in the relationship that Hayek observed between what he termed “academics” and “intellectuals.”

In his 1949 essay, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” (PDF) Hayek defines an intellectual in this way:

The term intellectuals, however, does not at once convey a true picture of the large class to which we refer and the fact that we have no better name by which to describe what we have called the secondhand dealers in ideas is not the least of reasons why their power is not better understood. Even persons who use the word “intellectual” mainly as a term of abuse are still inclined to withhold it from many who undoubtedly perform that characteristic function. This is neither that of the original thinker nor that of the scholar or expert in a particular field of thought. The typical intellectual need be neither: he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those whom he addresses himself.

As you can see, Hayek does not mean the term to be especially praiseworthy. He rather views the intellectual as a sort of gatekeeper (in his words an “intermediary”) between those who have expert knowledge (academics/scholars) and the public. This particular article by Hayek argues that the role and importance of intellectuals in the formation of public opinion is generally overlooked, and that their function needs to be better understood in order to better disseminate conservative ideas.

None of this, however, takes away from the importance of having and producing the ideas to disseminate in the first place. Piereson’s piece paints a picture of conservative philanthropy having gradually moved away from an emphasis primarily on ideas and secondarily on method of dissemination (enter the intellecual). The reverse has rather become true: the talking heads and intelligentsia have become the primary focal point.
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Making poverty history?

Much has been written in recent weeks about Live 8, a series of concerts that will take place on July 6 in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. The name refers not only to the original Live Aid concerts that took place in 1985, but is also a reference to the G8 meetings that will be taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland at the same time as the concerts. G8 organizers are planning for massive protests which have been urged on by concert organizer Sir Bob Geldof, who has called for one million people to show up in Edinburgh to call for increases in aid and trade reform for Africa.

Geldof’s goals are threefold: “By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.”

Yesterday, Geldof participated in a conference call with a number of bloggers spanning the political spectrum, all of whom came away impressed with his knowledge of and passion for the issue of African poverty. Most interesting to those of us concerned with free markets is the fact that Geldof is placing a heavy emphasis on trade as a potential solution to Africa’s problems.

As I noted in an earlier post, there is good reason to be skeptical of claims that increased government-to-government aid is the cure for what ails Africa, and Live 8, like many other well-intentioned efforts, suffers from too much emphasis on that same old "solution" that hasn’t worked in the past. But in the sense that Live 8 introduces a free-trade element into an advocacy mix that has, in the past, been totally leftist in outlook, it may be an event worth monitoring.

More blog reaction at Captain’s Quarters and The Indepundit.
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Blog author: mvandermaas
Thursday, June 2, 2005
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Bono: Heart in the right place, head not quite there yet

For those PowerBlog readers who don’t follow the world of rock and roll, the man in the photo on the left is Bono (aka Paul Hewson), the lead singer of the biggest rock and roll band in the world – U2. (I feel compelled to mention that I am Acton’s resident U2 Superfan: the proud owner of The Complete U2, regular attender of U2 concerts – I took that photo on May 7 in Chicago – and general aficionado of all things U2-related.)

What you may not have known about Bono is that he has become a relatively influential campaigner on behalf of Africa-related causes – primarily debt reduction, trade issues, and the AIDS crisis. It may surprise you that this rock star has managed to meet with and gain the respect of a wide range of politicians and world leaders, including Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Senator Jesse Helms, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, Kofi Anan, and even Pope John Paul II (whom Bono referred to as "the first funky pontiff" after giving the Pope a pair of his trademark fly shades).

As a longtime follower of his career, I believe that Bono is totally sincere in his efforts, but sincerity and good intentions don’t always translate into good policy.

Bono’s latest efforts on behalf of Africa revolve around support for the One Campaign, an effort to raise US foriegn aid to Africa by 1%. The Campaign’s website states rather grandly that:

We believe that allocating an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food, would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation of the poorest countries.

On their current Vertigo tour of the US, U2 have been urging their fans to text message their names to the electronic One Campaign petition during concerts with the goal of obtaining a list of 1,000,000 supporters of increased foreign aid. It makes for compelling theater, and they’ve made significant headway toward their goal – almost 650,000 people have sent in their names – but will it really help?
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Blog author: jballor
Friday, May 27, 2005
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Cuke Skywalker vs. Darth Tater

The popularity of the Star Wars franchise (and Episode III Revenge of the Sith) has been fertile ground (pun intended) for various political satire and commentary. For a mildly entertaining take on Star Wars from the Organic Trade Association, attacking "the dark side of the farm…more chemical than vegetable, twisted and evil," visit "Grocery Store Wars."

Check out the Acton Institute’s Environmental Newsletter on Genetically Modified Foods.

Following up on my post yesterday about the controversial Japanese history textbook that glosses over Japan’s past wartime aggressions, a new textbook is almost complete which will act as a supplement to current Japanese history textbooks with a much more complete picture of what happened around the time of World War II. The new textbook is a joint project by scholars and historians from Japan, China, and Korea. While the first controversial textbook was published by a nationalistic organization and tended to overlook any crimes that Japan commited in modern history, the new textbook (which will be published in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean in mid-June) is written from a human rights standpoint, and will contain several pages dedicate to the history of "comfort women" and the Japanese use of sex slaves during the Sino-Japanese War and World War II. The new text will also elaborate, presenting the evidence that does exist, on the Nanking Massacre including excerpts from the journal of Kesago Nakajima, the Japanese officer who led the operation.

Jordan Ballor writes about the ethical and moral implications of creating genetic chimeras. Ballor comments on a recent New York Times editorial promoting chimera research, calling their thinking "scientific pragmatism" and criticizing the general lack of understanding of both human nature and athropology. "The creation of new kinds of chimeras, using manipulation at the cellular and sub-cellular level, raises the stakes considerably," writes Ballor about the level of public controversy involved with chimera research thus far. Pursuing further research without adhering to an objective set of moral and ethical guidelines could have a devastating effect on our humanity.

Ballor has written about chimeras on this blog before.

Read the full text here.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visits Yasukuni Shrine.

Japan’s wartime atrocities have long been a source of tension and anger among various east Asian nations. Failure to admit guilt and continued veneration of wartime "heroes," many of whom are convicted war-criminals, cause diplomatic stress between nations even today.

In fact there is speculation that Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi abruptly left Japan before meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi yesterday because of Koizumi’s stated intent to visit Yasukuni Shrine again this year. An article in The Japan Times today states:

Speculation immediately grew that China may have canceled the meeting because of Koizumi’s remark last week that he may go ahead with another contentious visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines the nation’s war dead as well as 14 class-A war criminals.

The New History Textbook published by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform.

Koizumi’s intended visit to Yasukuni comes at an already tense time as anti-Japanese protests have been occuring in China due to the approval of the New History Textbook (新しい歴史教科書) published by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. (An English version of controversial chapters is available from their website as a PDF file).

Chinese outrage is caused primarily by the textbook’s lack of attention directed to various events which occurred during wartime occupation of China. In particular the textbook provides one paragraph about the “Rape of Nanking,” an event which has been described as “the single worst atrocity during the World War II era in either the European or Pacific theaters of war” by the United Human Rights Council and “one of the worst massacres in modern times” by the BBC.

The New History Textbook has this to say about the Nanking Massacre, and NOTHING more:

Japanese military officials thought Chiang Kai-shek would surrender if they captured Nanking, the Nationalist capital; they occupied that city in December.* But Chiang Kai-shek had moved his capital to the remote city of Chongqing. The conflict continued.

A footnote reads as follows:

Note*: At this time, many Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded by Japanese troops (the Nanking Incident). Documentary evidence has raised doubts about the actual number of victims claimed by the incident. The debate continues even today.

The lack of any kind of detail provided is competely offensive, especially to the countries which suffered during the war. A BBC story which details some of the more gruesome accounts from the massacre states:

Based on estimates made by historians and charity organizations in the city at the time, between 250,000 and 300,000 people were killed, many of them women and children.

The number of women raped was said by Westerners who were there to be 20,000, and there were widespread accounts of civilians being hacked to death.

Yet many Japanese officials and historians deny there was a massacre on such a scale.

While the end of World War II is now almost 60 years in the past, perhaps there is still time to acknowledge the atrocities that occurred. We cannot learn from history if we deny that it ever happened, or that we ever participated. What occurred in China should be mourned by the Japanese, remembered as an example of what not to do, and forgiven.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
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In a row over the Freedom of Information Act, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration has finally acknowledged expense information first requested by media outlets nearly two years ago. According to the Detroit Free Press, documents were turned over last month, “But in dozens of instances, pages were missing, or information on the city-supplied records was blacked out.”

Now that the Free Press has obtained unedited and complete copies of the records, comparison of the two sets of papers shows, “The information blacked out on records the city provided frequently dealt with Kilpatrick’s spending while out of town,” and, “More than a dozen documents dealing with the Kilpatrick administration and his family’s spending at hotels were not included with what the city turned over to the newspaper. Those documents were included in Harris’ unedited records.”

Poor bookkeeping practices, disputes of charges, and reimbursements were cited by Kilpatrick for the delay in making the documents public. Here’s an example of the kinds of charges made on Kilpatrick’s city-issued credit card:

In January 2003, when Kilpatrick went to Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, the city was billed for 36 hours of chauffeur service during the 62 hours Kilpatrick spent in the capital, according to detailed receipts obtained from the auditor.

The total cost to taxpayers was $3,837.60. City officials blacked out all but $135.15 of those charges from the mayor’s credit card statement and pulled receipts before providing documents to the newspaper. Beatty said the city is disputing those charges, too, and did not provide documentation.

For more about the rude reception an investigative reporter received when following Kilpatrick to a recent mayors’ convention, see this post.

For my take on proposals like Kilpatrick’s “fast-food tax,” see this op-ed from Sunday’s Oakland Press (PDF).

And for other mayorial mischief, see these two pieces (here and here) on Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell’s contention that his position deserves a raise to $85,000 per year, more than double the current salary.

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
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My more detailed response to last week’s NYT editorial defending chimera research is posted over at WorldMagBlog.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, May 12, 2005
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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has found a new way to get the word out about its efforts. Food Force is a free downloadable video game (for the PC and Mac) designed by the WFP, in which the users will “Play the game, learn about food aid, and help WFP work towards a world without hunger.”

Within the context of the fictional nation of Sheylan, the player embarks on a series of missions intended to give users a feel for the way in which the WFP does business.

A noble goal.

The overall goal of the WFP in fighting hunger is a noble one, and worthy of a great deal of public attention. While many flashier issues dominate global media coverage, hunger problems represent a true and dangerous threat to millions of people daily. And the good news is that there are real, achievable policies and actions available that could have incredibly positive effects.

The Copenhagen Consensus 2004, which brought together world-renowned experts in a variety of fields, determined that the challenge of malnutrition and hunger represented one of the key areas of potential action. The opportunity of providing micronutrients was ranked by a panel of expert economists as second only to the control of HIV/AIDS in the prioritization of responses to global threats.

According to the panel, “Reducing the prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia by means of food supplements, in particular, has an exceptionally high BCR (benefit-cost ratio).” In this respect, the WFP Food Force does a good job of emphasizing the nutritional value of food, as one of the six tasks in the game is come up with a formula for food rations that maximizes both economic and nutritional value. (more…)