Helping the Poor
Bleeding hard liberals and leftists generally have a very short term mentality in helping the poor. The whole idea that you can solve global poverty by people simply giving more to the poor is myopic to the extreme. First things has a good article explaining some of the sources of the problem.
Speaking about the many people in the world who go hungry, Pope Benedict XVI says that we need “to eliminate the structural causes linked to the system of government of the world economy, which allocates the greater part of the planet’s resources to a minority of the population.” (See the ZENIT Daily Dispatch for November 12, 2006.)
In focusing on the allocation of goods, however, Benedict misdiagnoses the problem, which really concerns economic growth. Like most non-economists, he speaks as if the world’s stock of goods and services were fixed, the only issue being how properly to distribute them. In fact, the total amount of goods and services in the world has been increasing very rapidly for a long time. According to the United Nations Statistics Division (from which all the statistics below are taken), the aggregate gross domestic product of all countries in the world—that is, the total value of all goods and services produced in the world—has increased from about $3.26 trillion in 1970 to about $40 trillion in 2004 (all measured in current U.S. dollars).
In other words, the world nowadays produces twelve times the goods and services it did thirty-five years ago, and, apart from recessions (defined as two or more successive quarters of declining GDP), we will produce even more in the future. This is why we are much better off than we were in the past.
But economic growth is very uneven, with the economic output of some countries increasing much faster than that of others. If you want to know why some countries have become wealthy and others have stayed poor, therefore, you need only compare the growth of their respective GDPs per capita. Consider South Korea and Zimbabwe. In 1970, their respective GDPs per capita were virtually identical: $290 for Zimbabwe and $291 for South Korea. By 2004, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita had hardly budged, having increased to just $351, meaning that the average Zimbabwean was only marginally better off in 2004 than 1970. In South Korea, however, GDP per capita increased to $14,266, an astonishing forty-nine-fold increase. (In fact, matters are even worse than these numbers imply, for Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita had been as high as $867 in 1982, and from 1997 to 2004 it declined every year, from $735 to $351.) Comparisons for similar pairs of nations—e.g., Singapore and Zambia—yield similar results.
It is thus true, as Benedict says, that the greater part of the planet’s resources is enjoyed by a minority of the population, but this is because the greater part of those resources is produced by that same minority of the population. The world economy is not rigged in favor of the rich nations. South Korea did not get rich, and Zimbabwe did not stay poor, because the captains of industry and the Wall Street bankers met in a smoke-filled room and decided that they loved South Korea but hated Zimbabwe. The South Koreans got rich because they earned their riches and continue to do so, year in and year out. Zimbabweans are poor because they produce little—and less now than twenty years ago. People who produce wealth naturally think they are entitled to keep most of it for themselves and their children. I don’t dispute that such people ought to give away more of what they have, but we should be clear that they have this wealth in the first place because they are producing it themselves, not wrongfully taking it away from others.
When some people are producing a tremendous amount of wealth and others are producing little, it is fine, as a stopgap measure, to tell those producing much that they should share what they produce with those producing little. The immediate needs of the poor must be met. But any permanent solution to the problem requires that those producing little start producing more. The conditions needed to generate sustained economic growth are well known: political stability, transparent and just government, respect for the rule of law, strong property rights, free trade, free flows of capital, disciplined monetary policy, and an educated and hard-working population. Most people in the poor nations are willing to work hard, but the other conditions for economic growth rarely obtain in such nations. This is the fault, primarily, of their leaders—sometimes, it is true, aided and abetted by the governments of developed countries—who have largely prevented the emergence of the other factors needed for sustained growth. The tyranny of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is a particularly spectacular example, but the conditions for economic growth are fragile, and pathological political, legal and economic regimes nowhere near as bad as his are quite sufficient to stifle economic growth.
In our fallen condition, such problems may be intractable. After all, we have it on good authority that we shall always have the poor with us. Still, we have to try to help when we can, and doing so begins with understanding clearly why the poor nations are poor. The problem is one of production, not distribution. Pretending otherwise only makes the problem harder to solve by obscuring its true nature.
Robert T. Miller is an assistant professor at the Villanova University School of Law.
Quality of Life and Euthenasia
Secular Humanists tell us that we get to decide our own 'purpose' in life; Maslow's "Self-Actualisation", where a person fulfills all this final need and thus their potential.
The problem is, what happens when a person becomes unable to to achieve what they view as their 'purpose'? Or when they can no longer do the thing that makes them 'feel' complete? If you are the sort that buys the secular humanist line, life becomes not worth living.
Sooner or later, everyone gets to the point where their independence and physical abilities are seriously degraded. Pity the person who finds their purpose in 'self-actualisation'.
Big Government is Dangerous
When governments decide what your children learn, what you are allowed to think is moral and who gets to live or die based on 'quality of life', it is time to reconsider 'big government'. Mark Steyn makes this point using an argument from experience.
As we can see in Europe every day of the week, Big Government is a national security issue -- for all the reasons Milton Friedman understood: In diminishing individual liberty, it transforms free-born citizens into nanny-state charges to the point where it imperils the existence of the nationBig government is about short term feel good solutions. Dealing with the real issues involve individuals, not governments.
Darn Global Warming
Imperfection may soon get you killed. The British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has released a report suggesting euthenasia of the 'sickest of newborns'. Obviously they think life would be too hard for them and their families. But this logic doesn't stop there. The tendency for people to view imperfection as making life not worth living will move from serious deformity, to mild deformity (just look at babies aborted for cleft palletes) to anything you don't like.
Notice also the progression from unborn, to newborn....that progression can also keep going.
Real Clear Politics looks at some of the people who would not make the cut...
The list of accomplished people with birth defects, meanwhile, is long. Two born with clubfeet are Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic champion figure skater, and U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), who helped draft the 14th Amendment and the Reconstruction Act.Quality of life really means conformity. It's ironic how we can get to conformity from rampant individualism.
Imagine what our cultural conversation would have been without Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist philosopher - a hunchback with uneven legs. Or Juan Ruiz de Alarcon, the 17th century Mexican dramatist, who also was a hunchback and wrote some 20 dramas including "La Verdad Sospechosa."
Richard Dawkins Irrational Evangelism Continues
Telic Thoughts has a video of Richard Dawkins being interviewed in a small studio. It is a long interview, but it is worth viewing if you want to see just how irrational and zealous Dawkins really is. In essence his religion is atheism and he won't be happy until he has forced everyone to convert, using what ever means he can, be it fearmongering, conspiracy theories or forceful removal of children from religious parents.
I'm just glad atheists are such a minority. I don't want to live in the world they want to create.
Ted Haggard, Morality and Dawkins
Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. In response Ted has resigned his presidency, and asked for an investigation of his affairs by his eldership.
Other than the accusation by the prostitute involved, to date, no other evidence has surfaced, and Haggard denies any such activity. Stand to Reason and David Frum are both highlighting that the frenzied leftist response and talk of hypocrisy are illogical and plain old dumb. Failing morally does not make you a hypocrit, only human. As Melinda at STR says
A hypocrite is someone who says they believe what they don't; it is not someone who doesn't live up to their values and ideals. That only makes us human, which is the starting point for the Gospel. Unfortunately, our moral failures give many skeptics an excuse to reject any serious consideration of Christianity.
Another point I would make is the guilty until proven innocent stance that many people are taking. It seems they WANT him to be guilty. Maybe they think they will feel better, be less morally convicted if it was true.
On a side note, All this hubub over Ted Haggard has brought a discussion between him and Richard Dawkins to my attention. YouTube has the video. I find it amazingly ironic that Dawkins is worried that Ted is teaching his congregation to be certain about things, when 'mature' people know there is no such thing. Consider how certain Dawkin's is about that....Or how certain he is that religion is harmful? This is the problem with the atheistic evangelists like Dawkins. Their very position, its entire foundation is contradictory and thus irrational.
Climate Change - A Tale of Two Reports
Opinion Journal has a great piece on what gets press and what doesn't....
Two scientific events of note occurred this week, but only one got any media coverage. Therein lies a story about modern politics and scientific priorities.Gold!
The report that received the headlines was Monday's 700-page jeremiad out of London on fighting climate change. Commissioned by the British government and overseen by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, the report made the intentionally shocking prediction that global warming could eliminate from 5% to 20% of world economic output "forever." Meanwhile, doing the supposedly virtuous thing and trying to forestall this catastrophe would cost merely an estimated 1% of world GDP. Thus we must act urgently and with new taxes and policies that go well beyond anything in the failed Kyoto Protocol.
The other event was a meeting at the United Nations organized by economist Bjørn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center. Ambassadors from 24 countries--including Australia, China, India and the U.S.--mulled which problems to address if the world suddenly found an extra $50 billion lying around. Mr. Lomborg's point is that, in a world with scarce resources, you need priorities. The consensus was that communicable diseases, sanitation and water, malnutrition and hunger, and education were all higher priorities than climate change.
The author of the second report has also written a response to the Stern report which highlights just how horribly biased this hack job of a report is.
The Stern review's cornerstone argument for immediate and strong action now is based on the suggestion that doing nothing about climate change costs 20% of GDP now, and doing something only costs 1%. However, this argument hinges on three very problematic assumptions.Essentially, the real figure is that global warming may cost us 3% of GDP in 2100, and nothing now. Even these figures ignore the possible benefits from global warming (some places will have better crop seasons etc).
First, it assumes that if we act, we will not still have to pay. But this is not so--Mr. Stern actually tells us that his solution is "already associated with significant risks." Second, it requires the cost of action to be as cheap as he tells us--and on this front his numbers are at best overly optimistic. Third, and most importantly, it requires the cost of doing nothing to be a realistic assumption: But the 20% of GDP figure is inflated by an unrealistically pessimistic vision of the 22nd century, and by an extreme and unrealistically low discount rate. According to the background numbers in Mr. Stern's own report, climate change will cost us 0% now and 3% of GDP in 2100, a much more informative number than the 20% now and forever.
In other words: Given reasonable inputs, most cost-benefit models show that dramatic and early carbon reductions cost more than the good they do. Mr. Stern's attempt to challenge that understanding is based on a chain of unlikely assumptions.
Moreover, there is a fourth major problem in Mr. Stern's argument that has received very little attention. It seems naive to believe that the world's 192 nations can flawlessly implement Mr. Stern's multitrillion-dollar, century-long policy proposal. Will nobody try to avoid its obligations? Why would China and India even participate? And even if China got on board, would it be able to implement the policies? In 2002, China decided to cut sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 10%--they are now 27% higher despite SO2 being nationally a much bigger health and environmental problem than climate change.
Far too many on the loony left are willing to twist things to suit their agenda.
Bono and Poverty
Those social justice guys who bag everyone else for not giving enough money to the poor, and not forcing their governments to donate more often turn out to be a bit hypocritical. It seems Bono may be different.
Bono, the rock star and campaigner against Third World debt, is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he's reducing tax payments that could help fund that aid.Bono and U2, unhappy with the good tax haven status of Ireland, are moving their biz to the Netherlands.
Great stuff...Of course, it could be the case that Bono donates a bigger proportion of his income to the needy than the government would, in which case, it wouldn't be hypocritical.
Homosexual Marriage in Scandinavia
Once again, secular humanist moonbats are spinning the state of affairs in Scandinavia. This time, it is a book showing that homosexual marriage isn't bad for hetero sexual marriage.
Seventeen years after recognizing same-sex relationships in Scandinavia there are higher marriage rates for heterosexuals, lower divorce rates, lower rates for out-of-wedlock births, lower STD rates, more stable and durable gay relationships, more monogamy among gay couples, and so far no slippery slope to polygamy, incestuous marriages, or "man-on-dog" unions.
Both Instapundit and Eugene Volkh have linked to an op-ed on the book, and Instapundit seems to have accepted it completely uncritically. Volkh at least adds in the caveat that correlation is not causation. Neither however ask the obvious question. How much of these effects are due to the growing population of muslims? You know, those monogamous, no sex before marriage, against divorce religious beliefs, with the Imam's wielding real authority over their members.
In missing this point, Volkh's comment that "it is at least possible from these numbers to say that gay marriage has not led to any significant harm to marriage as an institution (pace Stanley Kurtz)." is completely wrong. As any statistician should be able to tell you, there can be factors that can mask significant harm.
Of course, I am completely skeptical about the research that has gone in for this book. Why? Because of the comment about having no slippery slope to polygamy. I seem to recall a little whilst back that the first polygamous union was done in the Netherlands.
Even more interesting, author David Spedale is a gay marriage advocate (no surprise), but it seems that the Scandinavian countries do not actually have 'gay marriage' but instead have a partnership register. Just another bit of spin that causes questions about the authors objectivity.
I also found this other article by David (which again uses the in correct term 'Gay marriage' for Scandinavia - so much for a lawyers attention to detail). In this article he, like other deluded secular humanist moonbats, holds Scandinavia as a model of a great society saying
It borders on the ironic that Kurtz should choose to attack the social culture of the Scandinavian countries, which have the lowest poverty rates in the world, the highest education rates, and a greater level of equality for women than any other set of countries.It's a pity that this 'greater level of gender equality' is an out and out lie. Spedale contradicts his books finding (both assumedly based on his 2 years of 'empirical' research) when he says
Certainly, it is true that, over the past several decades, many couples in Scandinavia have chosen to live their lives together without actually going to city hall or church and signing official marriage documents Â thereby living together as what we would call Âdomestic partnersÂ Â permanent partners without a marriage certificate. This trend began decades ago, starting in the 1960Âs, and has continued to grow (both in Scandinavia and all other western countries, including the U.S.).It seems that Spedale has used modified his definitions of marriage in order to be able to conclude that marriage rates for heterosexuals has increased.
It seems my suspicions are correct. David is indeed a secular humanist moonbat. Check out this paragraph.
What is important to note here is that in the Nordic countries, where religion does not play the role in politics that it does in other countries, tolerance and respect for people’s choice of family structure is a key component of the culture. In Scandinavia, family laws are created to reflect the way that people actually choose to live their lives, and to provide support and protection for those family structures, such as choosing to live together as a permanent couple without getting a marriage license.Yep. moonbat.
This differs drastically from the United States, where family law has been often used to reflect the religious values of politicians in office (which may reflect the views of their constituent majority, as opposed to their constituent minority), and as a punitive force to enforce the personal values of this group. That is, U.S. family law is often written in such a way to reward those who choose to create a family structure that is in line with the personal values of those in office, and to punish those who choose to create a family structure that such legislators personally disapprove of. (It is ironic to note that many American politicians, who in decades past attacked gay rights on the basis of the alleged promiscuity of gay men, now attack gay rights for on the basis of gay couples’ desire to make a permanent and legally enforceable commitment to one another.)
See also Stanley Kurtz's response to David Spedale's study.