Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bureaucratic Red Tape is Killing the World's Poor.

An interesting article on how structures that keep the poor from owning private property are keeping the world's poor in a cycle of poverty by burdening them with bureaucratic red tape.

The Poor Strangled by Red Tape—Hernando de Soto (1941 – )

Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, founder and president of the Institute of Liberty and Democracy in Lima,1 was listed by Time magazine as one of the five leading Latin American innovators of the 20th century. His first book, The Other Path,2 published in 1989, has been translated into more than ten languages and was a bestseller throughout Latin America. His latest bestseller, The Mystery of Capital, from which the quotation below is taken, further develops the central thesis of his first book: that the chief obstacles to wealth-creation in the Third World are the barriers to legal property ownership erected by defective administrative and legal systems. As a result, the poor of the Third World cannot use their savings and assets to raise the capital they need to expand their economic activities.

To get an idea of just how difficult the migrant’s life was, my research team and I opened a small garment workshop on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. Our goal was to create a new and perfectly legal business. The team then began filling out the forms, standing in the lines and making the bus trips into central Lima to get all the certifications required to operate, according to the letter of the law, a small business in Peru. They spent six hours a day at it and finally registered the business, 289 days later. Although the garment workshop was geared to operating with only one worker, the cost of legal registration was $1,231—thirty-one times the monthly minimum wage. To obtain legal authorization to build a house on state-owned land took six years and eleven months—requiring 207 administrative steps in fifty-two government offices. To obtain a legal title for that piece of land took 728 steps. We also found that a private bus, jitney, or taxi driver who wanted to obtain official recognition of his route faced twenty-six months of red tape. . . .

In Egypt, the person who wants to acquire and legally register a lot on state-owned desert land must wend his way through at least 77 bureaucratic procedures at thirty-one public and private agencies. This can take anywhere from five to fourteen years. To build a legal dwelling on former agricultural land would require six to eleven years of bureaucratic wrangling, maybe longer. This explains why 4.7 million Egyptians have chosen to build their dwellings illegally. If after building his home, a settler decides he would now like to be a law-abiding citizen and purchase the rights to his dwelling, he risks having it demolished, paying a steep fine, and serving up to ten years in prison.

In Haiti, one way an ordinary citizen can settle legally on government land is first to lease it from the government for five years and then buy it. Working with associates in Haiti, our researchers found that to obtain such a lease took 65 bureaucratic steps—requiring, on average, a little more than two years—all for the privilege of merely leasing the land for five years. To buy the land required another 111 bureaucratic hurdles—and 12 more years. Total time to gain lawful land in Haiti: nineteen years. Yet even this long ordeal will not ensure that the property remains legal.3

Footnotes:
1

For more information see Institute of Liberty and Democracy Website, www.ild.org.pe (accessed February 23, 2006).

2

Hernando de Soto, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World (London: I. B. Tauris, 1989).

3

Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 18-21.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Coarsening of a Culture or its Effects?

Up or Down on Chuck Colson's perspective. Is the way we dress a contributor to the downfall of the west or a result?

Grooming Counts—Charles Colson (1931 – )

Charles Colson is the author of many books (including Born Again, Loving God,and How Now Shall We Live?) and founder of the international ministry Prison Fellowship. In 1993, he was awarded the famed Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. In the following piece, Colson points out how seemingly small matters of dress and conduct can fuel a more general, and serious, demoralization of culture.

The coarsening of our culture is evident in our discourse. For example, news journals defer to our sensitivities, not by omitting vulgarities, as they once did, but by using three dashes after the first letter of offensive words. Really clever. Over the water cooler at work or in school corridors, no one seems embarrassed anymore by conversations sprinkled with four-letter words.

Nowhere is this coarsening more evident than in our dress. I'm used to being an anachronism—the only person on an airplane wearing a coat and tie. Yes, I know business is going casual. But T-shirts stretched over protruding bellies, shorts exposing hairy legs, and toes sprouting out of sandals are not casual—they're slovenly. And you see it more and more on airplanes, in restaurants, and even in church.

How we present ourselves to others says something about how we view ourselves. When I was a Marine, we checked our spit-shined shoes and starched khakis in a full-length mirror before leaving the barracks; it was drilled into us that if we were to be sharp we had to look sharp. That's the right kind of pride, the antidote to sloth.

How have we arrived at this state? In his A Study of History, the great historian Arnold Toynbee contends that one clear sign of a civilization's decline is when √©lites—people Toynbee labels the “dominant minority”—begin mimicking the vulgarity and promiscuity exhibited by society's bottom-dwellers. This is precisely what some political leaders and most media moguls have done. The result: The entire culture is vulgarized.

Christians need to be conscious of the subtle ways in which our culture is sinking into sloth. We must resist the slide by creating strong countercultural influences. We can start by elevating our own standards in speech and dress. One good place to start is in our worship services. I realize that casual is “in” for contemporary services—but “casual” should be decorous.1

Footnotes:
1

Charles Colson, “Slouching into Sloth,” Christianity Today, April 23, 2001, 120.

Friday, November 25, 2011

One Continuous Miracle from Conception to Death

Cut and paste this link into your browser.

http://youtu.be/fKyljukBE70

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Is Pure Secularism the Solution to Terrorism?

Another article from the Kairos Journal. It is unlikely that the secular drift of western culture will yield the good results promised to us by social theorists on the left. All we have to do to understand this is just a little bit of historical reflection. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, don't take it for granted that the richest part of giving thanks is that there is truly a God to whom we can give thanks. He is really there.

The Perils of Pure Secularism: Part I

Today, Europe, indeed the West, faces great challenges, not the least from resurgent Islam. Unfortunately, at this critical historical juncture, much of the continent has chosen to forsake its Judeo-Christian heritage, turning to secularism for strength and deliverance. Alarmingly, a moral and spiritual vacuum has developed as Europeans have forgotten that their arts and sciences, laws and letters, and leading institutions, both public and private, are rooted in biblical perspectives. What, then, will become of the culture of DaVinci and Pascal, Newton and Nightingale, Mendelssohn and Bach, Shakespeare and Rembrandt, St. Patrick and Tolstoy, Mendel and Bohr? What hope is there that atheism or agnosticism might generate and sustain such cultural and technological greatness in the future?

Consider the lesson of the kite: When tethered, it can soar, but once the string is broken, the kite crashes to earth. Similarly, when man, in his vanity, presumes to break free from the counsel of God, he is capable of all sorts of perversity. He may start with good material, but without biblical correctives, he carries thought and action to the point of ruinous absurdity—as the following trajectories demonstrate:

1. Deduction. God gives man the ability to reason, but when the terms and premises are flawed, it is “garbage in, garbage out.” For instance, Spinoza developed pantheism (All is god; God is all) from a flawed notion of substance. Today, environmental extremists thank him for putting microbes, trees, otters, and men on equal, “divine” footing.

2. Induction. Empirical, observational reasoning can go wrong too. The senses are wonderful, but as Hume demonstrated, one can lose track of God, science, and the human soul in the jungle of perceptions. This skepticism opens the door to moral decay, producing the licentious sexual counsel of such empiricists as Russell, Ayer, Singer, and Dawkins.

3. Will. Beginning with Kant, German philosophers have proclaimed the mind’s power to engineer reality. This is the tradition of Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer, and yes, Nietzsche, with his “will to power.” Not to be outdone in “willfulness,” the French have given the world Sartre (whose man creates his own nature) and Foucault (who denigrates logic, calling it a mere power play).

4. Impulse. The desires for self-preservation, for sexual intimacy, and for community are healthy, but fallen man is apt to misuse them. Hence, the error ofJean-Jacques Rousseau, who glorified the “noble savage.” The 1960s and their aftermath have shown that wildness is not so noble after all. “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” are a dead end.

5. Creativity. As Marcel Duchamp’s famous choice of a urinal as his art-show entry demonstrated, novelty-for-novelty’s-sake and the-shock-of-the-new has replaced beauty as the standard of artistic excellence. Pointless provocation now enjoys the place of honor.

And so on it goes. In sector after sector, modern man has pushed legitimate concerns to illegitimate extremes—order to fascism; fitness to eugenics; self-respect to narcissism; civility to cultural relativism; sensitivity to speech codes; dissent to anarchy; commerce to materialism; debate to sophistical sound bytes; society to tribalism; objectivity to apathy.

Western civilization is not fool proof, for fools are so ingenious. In their hearts, and from the rooftops, they have proclaimed, with great effect, “There is no god.” And now the West watches itself fall to earth in a death-spiral of godlessness. Its children are contraceiving and aborting the next generation into oblivion; its relativists are giving away the cultural store; its nihilists are laying down the arms of common

sense and conviction. The kite’s string has been cut.1

Footnotes:
1

This article is taken from a longer paper that was presented at the 2008 Vienna Forum titled, "The Perils of Pure Secularism."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living for the Gospel-Good of Your Family on Thanksgiving

Here's a great post on making the most of Thanksgiving (or anytime you gather with family and friends) for the gospel-good of your family. ope you have a great thanksgiving praising the One who provides all things.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Modern Government Is

"Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us."
---Leo Tolstoy

Friday, November 18, 2011

Making the Budget Understandable---and Unforgivable!

A friend sent me the following illustration that cuts through the media confusion and political rhetoric of our politicians on the economy and the budget. Why is it so hard for the folks in Washington to understand?

I love it when complex things are simplified so that we can all understand.

Check this out in less than 60 seconds.
. U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000
. Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000
. New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000
. National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
. Recent budget cut: $ 38,500,000,000

Now, remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget.
. Annual family income: $21,700
. Money the family spent: $38,200
. New debt on the credit card: $16,500
. Outstanding balance on credit card: $142,710
. Total household
budget cuts: $385
Sorta brings out the issue, doesn’t it...??

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Challenging Youth Culture Inside and Outside the Church

Here's a challenging article directed not only at youth pastors and youth culture but at the whole way we go about discipling new believers of all ages.

Source: Kairos Journal

Teenagers Losing the Gospel

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently instituted a new minor for its students: “Christianity and Culture.” Sociologist Christian Smith,1 the faculty member who spearheaded the change, indicated that the “program is neither ‘devotional nor antagonistic’ toward Christianity.” It operates under the assumption that students who fail to understand Christianity in general and evangelicalism in particular will fail to fully understand the West. Smith, an Anglican, admits there are dangers to learning about evangelicalism in an academic environment. However he explained that the genesis of his campaign for the new courses was rooted in his discovery that incoming evangelical students often know little about Christianity. Hypocrisy is more than the pretense of righteousness—it can be the pretense of knowledge as well. Though Christian teenagers identify themselves as believers, in too many instances they actually believevery little about God and His work in history.2

Some well-intentioned youth ministers have encouraged this hypocrisy by coating Christian discipleship in a varnish of entertainment. One expert explains, “Young people are drawn to excitement. They enjoy being involved in activities that are fun.”3 This may explain why another expert was led to announce at a conference, “Young people today will not listen to a message longer than seventeen minutes.”4 Their attention spans have been amused into submission. This has produced a teenage culture that is heavy on flair but light on substance.

Smith described the problem facing so many teenagers who profess to be Christians today. They have adopted a new religion: “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Their beliefs are worldly, not biblical. According to Smith this faith consists of five basic tenets: First, God created and watches over human life. Second, God wants people to be nice and fair. Third, life’s ultimate goal is for each person to be happy and to feel good about himself. Fourth, God does not need to be intimately involved in anyone’s life—He is just there for emergencies. Fifth, good people go to heaven. Who is this God? Smith asks. He is the God of “Leo Buscaglia, Oprah Winfrey, and Self magazine. Times change. So must God, it seems.”5

Instead of Christ being the sovereign Lord to whom everyone, including teenagers, is called to submit, He becomes an instrument of personal growth. Teenagers may still profess Christ is Lord, but their lives and the ministries to which they belong betray a different perception altogether. Religious hypocrisy is encouraged when Christianity is seen as a panacea instead of a cross:

Given such instrumentalist assumptions about religious faith, youth ministers are ever obliged to be entertaining, religious youth activities always need to be great fun, Sunday-school teachers must be interesting and ‘relevant’ in ways that do not always comport well with the actual interests and priorities of religious traditions, etc. . . . It is difficult to have it both ways.6

To the extent that churches are encouraging this “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” they are their own worst enemies. They are promoting hypocrisy, for this is not simply a watered-down version of the Christian faith. It is no faith at all. “It is not-Christianity.”7

The Church has its own, sacred calling: to teach its children God’s commandments and to remind them of His covenant faithfulness (Deut. 6). Jesus said those who love Him have and keep His commandments (John 14:21). Not to be lost in the din of youth group concerts and ski trips is the majesty of Christ and the substance of the gospel. The church can too easily produce religious-knowledge hypocrites at a very young age, individuals who are able to say just enough to profess faith but know in fact very little about the faith they profess. Even worse, if the Church is not careful, it can produce a generation with a Christian veneer that is actually devoted to the church of Oprah.

Footnotes:
1

Now at Notre Dame.

2

Jamie Dean, “Classroom Christianity,” World Magazine, January 27, 2008, http://www.worldmag.com/articles/12617 (accessed March 24, 2008).

3

Nido Qubein, What Works and What Doesn’t in Youth Ministry (Colorado Springs, CO: Meriwether Publishing, 1996), 121.

4

Quoted by Alvin L. Reid, Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2004), 57. Reid’s argument counters the entertainment-driven youth ministry that is so popular.

5

Christian Smith, “Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the New Religion of American Youth? Implications for the Challenge of Religious Socialization and Reproduction,” in Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, ed. James L. Heft (New York: Fordham University, 2006), 65. Buscaglia was a professor at the University of Southern California and a bestselling author of books about love.

6

Ibid., 62.

7

Ibid., 67.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Brutalization of American Culture: We've Seen this Before

This morning I read of a widow of a one year old who just lost her 11 year old daughter to poisoned Halloween candy. Our culture become more brutal, mean and senseless with each passing week. Violence is everywhere in our streets, our TV's and movies. The popularity of Cage Fighting is a demonstration of the dehumanization of our culture. If we look to history, we can see that we have been here before. Great cultures can be corrupted by violence. This short article from Kairos Journal is an example. Read it an pray for your nation.

Savagery in the Arena: The Brutalization of the Roman Empire

Towards the end of the first century, the Roman Emperor Domitian1 staged a favorite drama, Laureolus, in the arena rather than at a traditional theatre. The play’s namesake was a runaway slave who became the leader of a gang of highway robbers. He was captured eventually and executed, both by crucifixion and the attack of wild animals. The play was no different; Domitian had the bright idea of inserting a condemned criminal into the title role and making his execution a real one. The Roman writer Martial recorded the crucifixion of this unfortunate “Laureolus” and how he “gave up his vitals defenceless to a Caledonian bear.”2

This terrible incident is just one of the many cruel and bloody spectacles for which the Roman amphitheatre became notorious. It began with small-scale gladiatorial fighting, but soon evolved into major productions of torture and bloodletting for mass entertainment. The earliest recorded contests took place in 264 B.C., between three pairs of gladiators at a ceremony Decimus Junius Brutus held in honor of his dead father. Later on, these fights became so popular that candidates for public office sought to curry favor with the voters by sponsoring them – a public relations exercise that grew in scale as the Republic collapsed and the era of emperors began.

As the popular appetite for violent entertainment increased, the repertoire of Roman “games” was extended to include fights between wild animals (for example, elephants against bulls); fights between humans and wild animals; and the execution of criminals by wild animals and by each other.3 One particularly sad and early example of this growing inhumanity occurred in 55 B.C. when elephants were pitted against javelin-throwers at games organized by Julius Caesar’s future rival, Pompey.4 According to Cicero, who witnessed the occasion, the crowd was greatly impressed but manifested no pleasure: “Indeed, the result was a certain compassion and a kind of feeling that the huge beast has a fellowship with the human race.”5

But as time went on, constant exposure to violence and bloodshed hardened the hearts of the spectators and encouraged the staging of ever more bloody and novel amusements. The Emperor Trajan,6 for example, had 11,000 animals slaughtered at a spectacle lasting 123 days in A.D. 107, and in the years between 106 and 114 some 23,000 men fought to the death.7 Nor were these orgies of cruelty and bloodletting confined to the city of Rome. They extended throughout the empire, for nearly every town built its own arena and staged its own games. In Sparta (Greece), for instance, youths had to prove their fortitude by being scourged at the altar of Artemis Orthia: “Around the altar was erected a theatre, so that a better view could be obtained of the scourgings, the endurance of the lads, the sanguinary [bloody] scenes.”8 Reflecting on the period, historian W. H. Lecky, wrote, “Those hateful games…spread their brutalizing influence wherever the Roman name was known,” rendering “millions absolutely indifferent to the sight of human suffering.”9 Not surprisingly, early Christian apologists, such as Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225),10 vigorously condemned the Roman arena and all those involved with it.

At first reading, these cruel appetites and practices seem distant and bizarre, but a look at contemporary entertainment shows that decency is, for many, a veneer. The same dark impulses that filled the Coliseum are present in the heart of modern man. Hence, the popularity of Saw movies, where victims are forced to mutilate themselves and others to escape; the rise of “no mercy” and “modern gladiator” bouts, so-called “extreme fighting” by men in cages; the incidence of staged dog fights, drawing a celebrity audience. Thus, the coarsening continues, obscuring the image of God in man. Today, it is more a matter of gruesome drama than actual death, but once the conscience is seared, the viewer desires yet greater thrills. Perhaps history is coming full turn, with a new production of Domitian’s Laureolus in the works.

Footnotes:
1

He ruled from A.D. 81 to 96.

2

Anne Glyn-Jones, Holding up A Mirror: How Civilizations Decline (London: Century, 1996), 104-105.

3

Ibid., 95-98.

4

Lived from 106 - 48 B.C.

5

Glyn-Jones, 97.

6

Emperor from A.D. 98-117.

7

Glyn-Jones, 100.

8

Martin P. Nilsson, Imperial Rome, tr. G. C. Richards (London: Bell, 1926), 180.

9

W. H. Lecky, quoted in Glyn-Jones, 259.

10

“If we can plead that cruelty is allowed us, if impiety, if brute savagery, by all means let us go to the amphitheatre.” Quoted in ibid., 169.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Difference Between Rhetoric and Reality in the Obama Administration

I got this off of the
INSTApundit blog and thought it was right on target.

OCTOBER 29, 2011

Posted by Glenn Re
ynolds at 11:55 pm

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Michelle Obama and ‘the Few at the Top.’ “When Ms. Obama charges, ‘Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? Who are we?’ one wonders, why, then, in the past three years of hard times, did she insist on vacationing, in iconic fashion, at Vail, Martha’s Vineyard, and Costa del Sol, the tony haunts of ‘the few at the top’? In these rough times, surely a smaller staff, less travel, and budgetary economies would have enhanced her populist message of some at the top enjoying perks at the expense of others.”

Source: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/130653/