Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Where do some of our economic ideas come from?

There are times while reading newspapers’ opinion columns, and watching 24/7 newscasts, that I become somewhat confused about the best and most moral way to interject politics into the economy, especially during this continued Great Recession. I too wonder what our tax policy should espouse.  I try to imagine the proper role of the government in regulations of markets. Then I realize that there is the rub to all this:  Can we even talk about morals and the economy in the same sentence?  No where do I read or hear on radio or TV any call for a moral review of our economic policies and perspectives.  Add to that, there are few if any commentaries in the current public discourse about how the tenets of our faith traditions, especially Roman Catholicism, can shed light on economic fundamentals and consequences.

Angus Sibley’s “The ‘Poisoned Spring’ of Economic Libertarianism; Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: A Critique from Catholic Social Teaching of the ‘Austrian School’ of Economics” (Pax Romana/CMICA-USA, 2011) provides such a critique and analysis of our global political economy that led to the Great Recession of 2008/9, and its current aftermath.  Sibley argues that the philosophical-theological perspective of Catholic social theory can and does bring much to the debate about the role of the state and the economy.  His most important contribution, in this reader’s estimation, is his critical review and analysis of the hyper-competitive, outrageous anti-statism and supra-individualistic ideology of the libertarian movement based in the Austrian School of Economics.  Sibley methodologically articulates and deconstructs the philosophical underpinnings of notable economists from the Austrian School, namely, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich von Hayek.  The author then directly criticizes the failed and disingenuous attempt, he calls it ‘heresy,’ by some Catholic thinkers, like Michael Novak and Robert Sirico, of justifying Austrian libertarianism within Roman Catholic social thought.

This book provides an excellent review of how philosophical assumptions can parade as immutable laws of nature, rejecting any interference from governmental regulations and moralists.   Sibley sheds light on the fundamental assumptions of our current debates in political economy that are rooted in a specific school of economics which “believes” in immutable laws detached from human life.  He offers reflections from the Catholic moral tradition to provide a counter-weight to the assumption that economics is a non-moral activity.  This book is ideal for business ethics, history of ideas, and/or political economy classes.

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Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Economic Policy, Market Place, morals, Personal Reflections, Politics, Social Doctrine, Social Justice

Bishops: World Cup Cloaks Human Trafficking

Prelates Call for Global Attention to Problem
ROME, MAY 27, 2010 ( Zenit.org ).- Bishops of southern African nations are trying to bring global attention to the problem of human trafficking in their region.

The prelates, collaborating with the group Planet Waves, organized a meeting last week on the phenomenon, which affects an unknown number of people. Four episcopal conferences were represented at the meeting: Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It’s estimated 300 people a week enter South Africa illegally from Mozambique alone.

Trafficking in the region is “complex and is fueled by a wide range of factors and these include poverty, dysfunctional economies, conflicts and demands for cheap labor,” the bishops noted in a communiqué, Fides reported. “The exact number of people who are lured into trafficking in the [area] remains unknown because of the non-availability of official statistics on this scourge.”

The Interregional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa is formed by the bishops’ conferences of Angola and Sao Tome, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, Losotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The prelates lamented that their governments give too little attention to the problem, though they are aware of it. They acknowledged that the nations lack both human and financial resources to deal with the issue.

However they affirmed, “Religious groups can play a significant role in raising awareness and acting on this issue with the support of their governments to curb this problem.”

Hiding

The prelates also noted how the World Cup to be held in South Africa from June 11 to July 11 has become a way to send people to traffickers.

“All those people who would like to make some money during the World Cup have become vulnerable to trafficking, especially girls who are told that they will be waitresses or tour guides for the visitors,” they said.

The participants at the meeting organized a series of workshops to be held through November, focusing on the definition of trafficking, how traffickers operate, how to identify and help victims, the Church’s position on the issue, and the way forward.

Host country

Earlier this month in South Africa about 1,000 people gathered in Pretoria to pray for an end to human trafficking.

It is estimated that as many as 40,000 sex workers and prostitutes will be imported to the nation during the World Cup.

Sister Melanie O’Connor, coordinator of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, is warning parents of the dangers of leaving their children unattended. She has noted how research increasingly shows that women recruiters are becoming more prominent in the trafficking process.

“South Africa is recognized internationally as a ‘hot spot’ for human trafficking — being a country of origin, transition and destination for trafficking,” the bishops’ conference noted on their Web site, “and there is the fear that trafficking of women and children will increase significantly during the World Cup.”

Filed under: Market Place, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Bishop speaks out about how migrants are used as pawns

U.S. bishops’ migration chairman writes for Politico: “Migrants pawns in Mexico-U.S. game” http://ow.ly/1Ncas

Migrants pawns in Mexico-U.S. game
By: John C. Wester
May 19, 2010 05:03 AM EDT Mexican President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday, which is good news, considering the problems along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In fact, a strong relationship between Obama and Calderon may hold the key to the many problems affecting both the United States and Mexico domestically — drug-related violence, the economy and, of course, immigration.

One big misperception of the U.S. immigration debate is that if Congress could pass an immigration reform bill, it would be the magic bullet that kills illegal immigration.

Such a bill is indeed indispensable to a long-term solution and must be addressed — sooner rather than later. But it should be understood that the humane and lasting answer to this vexing social issue lies in regional, if not global, cooperation among nation-states.

Immigration is not just a domestic issue; it is keyed to foreign affairs.

If the world is a marketplace, then migrants and their labor help deliver the produce and stock the shelves. In other terms, while economically powerful nations hold the capital, migrants help fill the jobs needed to turn capital into profit. This important role in the world economic order should give migrant workers an honored place — with the appropriate legal and labor protections.

In North America, Europe and most places in the industrialized world, however, migrant workers are left without legal protection. They are characterized as criminals — as in Arizona — and blamed for myriad social ills.

The de facto migration relationship between the United States and Mexico is a prime example. Migrants from Mexico, unable to support their families at home, take a dangerous journey to the United States and fill menial but crucial jobs in the U.S. economy — dishwashers, farmworkers and day laborers, for example.

As a result, the United States receives the benefit of their toil and taxes without having to worry about protecting their rights — in either the courtroom or the workplace. When convenient, they are made political scapegoats and attacked — through both rhetoric and work-site raids — as if they were not human.

But Mexico also wins financially under this system. The country receives up to $20 billion in remittances per year — perhaps down to $15 billion during this recession — without having to pay attention to the lower rungs of its economy.

What is left is a “go north” policy that exposes Mexican citizens to the ravages of human smugglers, corrupt law enforcement officials and potential death in the desert.

The big losers in this globalization game are the migrants, of course. They have no political power and are unable to defend themselves from inevitable abuse and exploitation.

These migrants are pawns in a system that preys on their desperation and expropriates their work ethic. As in a chess match, they are expendable and at the service of the most valuable player, the king — in this case, the sovereign nations of the United States and Mexico.

As a moral matter, the United States and Mexico cannot have it both ways — accepting the labor and remittances of these immigrants without recognizing their basic human rights.

It is time for both nations to abandon this mutual “nod and wink” policy, not found in written law but still all too real.

In its place, they should reform their national immigration laws and enforce current labor and due-process protections, so that migrants can come out of the shadows and travel and work in a safe and controlled manner.

Over the long term, joint efforts could be pursued to promote development in communities now drained by the migrant outflow, so that Mexicans can remain at home to work and support their families.

At a minimum, both Obama and Calderon should strive to ensure that international economic agreements, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, do not devastate industries that hire low-skilled workers in their home countries.

Obama has indicated his support of U.S. immigration reforms and his interest in addressing the root causes of migration, like underdevelopment. Calderon has emphasized the need for job creation among Mexico’s poor, and he has acknowledged the continuing mistreatment of migrants within Mexico.

But neither leader has done enough to address these issues.

The state visit this week could be a good first step to help change that equation.

Together, the two leaders have the opportunity to reframe the immigration debate in a way that recognizes the effects of globalization on the movement of labor yet injects basic human rights principles into the system.

The world would take note.

They can also remind us — and the global community — that migrants, including those without legal status, are not goods to be traded but human beings to be protected.

John C. Wester is the bishop of Salt Lake City and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

Filed under: Economic Policy, Fair Trade, Market Place, Migration, Social Justice, Uncategorized

Easter and new ways of living….

Lent has been a time to question our priorities and our worldview.  As a Christian, I am challenged to review the way I see the world.  Do I see the world as Jesus would have seen it?  Do I show compassion, love and mercy to those who disagree with me or irritate me?  Do I use my money for just causes or do I even think about it?

As we end this season of Lent, our work of prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not over, but transformed.

As we approach the Easter season, consider your spending habits.  Where do you purchase your teas, coffees and chocolates?  Where do you purchase your on-line gifts?

I encourage you to consider as part of your Easter reflection to visit Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade section.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Fair Trade, Personal Reflections, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Here are some important points to consider when reviewing the health care reform debate

During the August recess, please urge members of Congress to keep working on comprehensive health reform.  We also need to educate/form our selves and neighbors on some important aspects to this debate, informed by the Catholic moral tradition, rather than rely on blasts by various interests.

Here are some issues in health reform legislation that need to be considered:

  • Support Health Care Coverage for All :
    • Expand Medicaid to everyone under 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL);
    • Cover immigrants, both documented and undocumented;
    • Provide subsidies for low-income individuals and families up to 400% FPL;
    • Reform the health insurance market, by prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions, requiring guaranteed issue of insurance, and establishing premium rating restrictions;
    • Ensure access to preventive care and chronic care management;
    • Provide support for long-term care services by including the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.
  • Preserve Provider Conscience Protections and Support “Abortion Neutrality” — Not an Abortion Coverage Mandate:
    • Support an “abortion neutral” approach by continuing longstanding and widely supported policies protecting provider conscience rights; prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion; and not mandating abortion as part of any benefit package
  • Support Delivery System Reforms that improve quality of care, patient outcomes, and efficiency, but do not arbitrarily reduce reimbursement rates:
    • Support a targeted Medicare hospital readmissions policy focused only on the top 8 to 10 conditions for readmission;
    • Support a Medicare Value Based Purchasing program that reimburses hospitals based on improved quality of care, implemented in a budget neutral manner;
    • Test the feasibility of bundled hospital and post acute care payments through pilot projects and a study prior to considering a bundled payment system;
    • Ensure any public plan, if included, provides adequate payment rates for providers.
  • Ensure Sufficient and Fair Financing with “shared responsibility”:
    • Protect Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments by ensuring that any DSH payment reductions are tied to and occur after demonstrated reductions in the number of uninsured.
  • Visit the Catholic Health Association of the United States for more details.  Catholic health care is one of the largest providers of health services in the US and throughout the world.  Our moral tradition is very much connected to the practice of medicine and ethics that have been a hallmark of the Christian tradition for centuries.  Health care practice and policy have been a concern of the Catholic Church for centuries.

Filed under: Culture, Economic Policy, healthcare, Market Place, Medical Ethics, morals, Social Justice