Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Archive for March, 2008

Abort a Baby to Save the Planet!

Posted by Tony Listi on March 31, 2008

This is just disgusting. What a horrifying combination of errors. But I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that some environmentalist wacko would follow a perverse premise to its logical conclusion. At least she is more consistent and thorough. Thus has environmentalism reached its climactic absurdity: kill people to save the earth! If these eco-pagans would be entirely consistent though, they would take their own lives and thus save the rest of us from their perversity. Why should her life be any less damaging to the earth than that of her baby?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=495495&in_page_id=1879

A British woman who had an abortion 10 years ago and was later sterilized did so because she believes pregnancy is bad for the environment, the London Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Toni Vernelli, 35, hopes her actions would ensure her carbon footprint would be kept to a minimum, the Mail reported. The environmental advocate also sees having children as an egotistical act.

Toni Vernelli
“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” Vernelli told the Mail, adding she believes bringing new life into the world only adds to the problem.

Another woman, 31-year-old Sara Irving, also underwent sterilization because she felt “a baby would pollute the planet.”

Irving became an environmentalist as a teenager when she realized saving the environment was her top and foremost priority in life, the Mail reported. After going through several boyfriends she finally found her now husband Mark Hudson who shares in her ‘no kid’s policy.’

————————————————————————

In a bizarre interview with the Daily Mail’s Natasha Courtenay-Smith, 35 year-old Toni Vernelli, an environmentalist and vegetarian, said she had an abortion and had herself sterilized rather than bring a child into the world.

Toni assured readers that her colleagues at the environmental charity where she works share her extreme, socially suicidal anti-motherhood views. She stated, “I didn’t like having a termination, but it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world.”

She said. “I’ve never felt a twinge of guilt about what I did, and have honestly never wondered what might have been.”

Courtenay-Smith wrote that Toni relished her decision “with an almost religious zeal”. “Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet.”

The exceptionally negative environmentalist creed was summed up by Toni, “Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

Her husband, she said, agreed with her conviction. “We both passionately wanted to save the planet – not produce a new life which would only add to the problem.”

Advertisements

Posted in Abortion, Global Warming and Environment, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

How Catholicism Created Capitalism

Posted by Tony Listi on March 31, 2008

http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_article_344.php

How Christianity Created Capitalism

By Michael Novak

Capitalism, it is usually assumed, flowered around the same time as the Enlightenment–the eighteenth century–and, like the Enlightenment, entailed a diminution of organized religion. In fact, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages was the main locus for the first flowerings of capitalism. Max Weber located the origin of capitalism in modern Protestant cities, but today’s historians find capitalism much earlier than that in rural areas, where monasteries, especially those of the Cistercians, began to rationalize economic life.

It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.

The Protestant Ethic without Protestantism

The people of the high Middle Ages (1100—1300) were agog with wonder at great mechanical clocks, new forms of gears for windmills and water mills, improvements in wagons and carts, shoulder harnesses for beasts of burden, the ocean-going ship rudder, eyeglasses and magnifying glasses, iron smelting and ironwork, stone cutting, and new architectural principles. So many new types of machines were invented and put to use by 1300 that historian Jean Gimpel wrote a book in 1976 called The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages.

Without the growth of capitalism, however, such technological discoveries would have been idle novelties. They would seldom have been put in the hands of ordinary human beings through swift and easy exchange. They would not have been studied and rapidly copied and improved by eager competitors. All this was made possible by freedom for enterprise, markets, and competition–and that, in turn, was provided by the Catholic Church.

The church owned nearly a third of all the land of Europe. To administer those vast holdings, it established a continent-wide system of canon law that tied together multiple jurisdictions of empire, nation, barony, bishopric, religious order, chartered city, guild, confraternity, merchants, entrepreneurs, traders, et cetera. It also provided local and regional administrative bureaucracies of arbitrators, jurists, negotiators, and judges, along with an international language, “canon law Latin.”

Even the new emphasis on clerical celibacy played an important capitalist role. Its clean separation between office and person in the church broke the traditional tie between family and property that had been fostered by feudalism and its carefully plotted marriages. It also provided Europe with an extraordinarily highly motivated, literate, specialized, and mobile labor force.

The Cistercians, who eschewed the aristocratic and sedentary ways of the Benedictines and, consequently, broke farther away from feudalism, became famous as entrepreneurs. They mastered rational cost accounting, plowed all profits back into new ventures, and moved capital around from one venue to another, cutting losses where necessary, and pursuing new opportunities when feasible. They dominated iron production in central France and wool production (for export) in England. They were cheerful and energetic. “They had,” Collins writes, “the Protestant ethic without Protestantism.”

Being few in number, the Cistercians needed labor-saving devices. They were a great spur to technological development. Their monasteries “were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe, and perhaps in the world, before that time,” Gimpel writes.

Thus, the high medieval church provided the conditions for F. A. Hayek’s famous “spontaneous order” of the market to emerge. This cannot happen in lawless and chaotic times; in order to function, capitalism requires rules that allow for predictable economic activity. Under such rules, if France needs wool, prosperity can accrue to the English sheepherder who first increases his flock, systematizes his fleecers and combers, and improves the efficiency of his shipments.

In his 1991 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II points out that the main cause of the wealth of nations is knowledge, science, know-how, discovery–in today’s jargon, “human capital.” Literacy and study were the main engines of such medieval monasteries; human capital, moral and intellectual, was their primary economic advantage.

The pope also praises the modern corporation for developing within itself a model of relating the gifts of the individual to the common tasks of the firm. This ideal, too, we owe to the high medieval religious orders, not only the Benedictines and the Cistercians, but the Dominicans and Franciscans of the early thirteenth century.

Jump-Starting a Millennium of Progress

The new code of canon law at the time took care to enshrine as a legal principle that such communities, like cathedral chapters and monasteries before them, could act as legal individuals. As Collins points out, Pope Innocent IV thereby won the sobriquet “father of the modern learning of corporations.” In defending the rights of the new Franciscan and the Dominican communities against the secular clergy and lay professors at the University of Paris, Thomas Aquinas wrote one of the first defenses of the role of free associations in “civil society” and the inherent right of people to form corporations.

The Catholic Church’s role helped jump-start a millennium of impressive economic progress. In ad 1000, there were barely two hundred million people in the world, most of whom were living in desperate poverty, under various tyrannies, and subject to the unchecked ravages of disease and much civic disorder. Economic development has made possible the sustenance now of more than six billion people–at a vastly higher level than one thousand years ago, and with an average lifespan almost three times as long.

No other part of the world outside Europe (and its overseas offspring) has achieved so powerful and so sustained an economic performance, raised up so many of the poor into the middle class, inspired so many inventions, discoveries, and improvements for the easing of daily life, and brought so great a diminution of age-old plagues, diseases, and ailments.

The economic historian David Landes, who describes himself as an unbeliever, points out that the main factors in this great economic achievement of Western civilization are mainly religious:

• the joy in discovery that arises from each individual being an imago Dei called to be a creator;

• the religious value attached to hard and good manual work;

• the theological separation of the Creator from the creature, such that nature is subordinated to man, not surrounded with taboos;

• the Jewish and Christian sense of linear, not cyclical, time and, therefore, of progress; and

• respect for the market.

Capitalism Infused with Caritas

As the world enters the third millennium, we may hope that the church, after some generations of loss of nerve, rediscovers its old confidence in the economic order. Few things would help more in raising up all the world’s poor out of poverty. The church could lead the way in setting forth a religious and moral vision worthy of a global world, in which all live under a universally recognizable rule of law, and every individual’s gifts are nourished for the good of all.

I believe this is what the pope has in mind when he speaks of a “civilization of love.” Capitalism must infused by that humble gift of love called caritas, described by Dante as “the Love that moves the Sun and all the stars.” This is the love that holds families, associations, and nations together. The current tendency of many to base the spirit of capitalism on sheer materialism is a certain road to economic decline. Honesty, trust, teamwork, and respect for the law are gifts of the spirit. They cannot be bought.

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Industrial Revolution Was Good for Common Worker

Posted by Tony Listi on March 31, 2008

http://www.econlib.org/Library/Enc/IndustrialRevolutionandtheStandardofLiving.html

Industrial Revolution and the Standard of Living
By Clark Nardinelli

Between 1760 and 1860, technological progress, education, and an increasing capital stock transformed England into the workshop of the world. The industrial revolution, as the transformation came to be called, caused a sustained rise in real income per person in England and, as its effects spread, the rest of the Western world. Historians agree that the industrial revolution was one of the most important events in history, marking the rapid transition to the modern age, but they disagree vehemently about various aspects of the event. Of all the disagreements, the oldest one is over how the industrial revolution affected ordinary people, usually called the working classes. One group, the pessimists, argues that the living standards of ordinary people fell. Another group, the optimists, believes that living standards rose.

The debate over living standards is important because it represents a place where the critics and defenders of capitalism meet head-on. It is no coincidence that the debate heated up during the Cold War. The pessimists wanted to show that the English industrial revolution, which took place within a capitalist economy, necessarily made working people worse off. Optimists defended capitalism by showing that the industrial revolution made everyone better off.

This disagreement over the standard of living is confined almost entirely to academicians. Most other people, if they think about it at all, consider it well established that the industrial revolution was a disaster for the working classes. Indeed, the ghastly images of Dickens’s Coketown or Blake’s “dark, satanic mills” dominate popular perceptions of what life was like during the early years of English industrialization. Economic historians, however, have gone beyond popular perceptions to try to find out what really happened to ordinary people.

First, we must consider what “standard of living” means. Economic historians would like it to mean happiness. But the impossibility of measuring happiness forces them to equate the standard of living with real income. Real income is money income adjusted for the cost of living and for the effects of things such as health, unemployment, pollution, the condition of women and children, urban crowding, and amount of leisure time.

Because a rise in real income was precisely what made England’s transformation “revolutionary,” it would seem that, by definition, the industrial revolution led to a rise in the standard of living. According to the estimates of economist N. F. R. Crafts, British income per person (in 1970 U.S. dollars) rose from $333 in 1700 to $399 in 1760, to $427 in 1800, to $498 in 1830, and then jumped to $804 in 1860. (For many centuries before the industrial revolution, in contrast, periods of falling income offset periods of rising income.) Both sides in the debate accept Crafts’s estimates. But if the distribution of income became more unequal and if pollution, unemployment, and crowding increased, the real incomes of ordinary people could have fallen despite the rise in average income.

If significant economic growth is sustained over a century or so, the only way the poor become worse off is if inequality increases dramatically. Crafts’s estimates indicate that real income per person doubled between 1760 and 1860. Therefore, the share of income going to the lowest 65 percent of the population would have had to fall by half for them to be worse off after all that growth. It didn’t. In 1760 the lowest 65 percent received about 29 percent of total income in Britain; in 1860 they got about 25 percent. So the lowest 65 percent were substantially better off. Their average real income had increased by over 70 percent.

This evidence means that the optimists have won the debate on the big issue of whether the industrial revolution helped or hurt ordinary people. It helped. But smaller debates remain. Did the working class become worse off during the early years of England’s industrialization, 1790 to 1840, when real income per person grew at only about 0.3 percent per year? Growth at such a slow rate made a deterioration in the lot of the working classes possible. A simple numerical illustration will show why. If we take 0.3 percent per year as the annual rate of growth of real income, average real income in 1840 would have been about 16 percent higher than in 1790. The share of total income going to the lowest 65 percent of the income distribution need only have fallen to 86 percent of its 1790 level to negate the benefit of rising average income. Although they do not agree on how much, most economic historians agree that the distribution of income became more unequal between 1790 and 1840. Moreover, if we add the effects of unemployment, pollution, urban crowding, child labor, and other social ills, the modest rise in average income could well have been accompanied by a fall in the standard of living of the working classes.

The modern debate over this issue, which began with a 1949 paper by T. S. Ashton, has focused on other measures of living standards, especially wages. Ashton himself used changes in the cost of living-measured by the prices of basic commodities-to conclude that real wages rose after 1820.

The debate heated up considerably during exchanges between the pessimist Eric Hobsbawm and the optimist Max Hartwell in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to Hobsbawm, Ashton’s evidence on real wages was inconclusive. He argued that high unemployment indicated that living standards may have deteriorated before 1840. Hobsbawm stressed that evidence on consumption also implied that living standards did not rise and may have fallen between 1790 and 1840. He placed particular emphasis on these estimates of consumption, reasoning that a decline in food consumption per person indicated a decline in the standard of living. He noted that the number of beef and sheep slaughtered at various markets failed to keep pace with the growth of population before 1840.

Hartwell criticized Hobsbawm’s use of evidence. The problem with looking at the volume of beef and sheep sold at particular markets, he noted, was that new markets were appearing. Hartwell also emphasized the appearance of new, previously unavailable consumer goods after 1820, such as popular periodicals, inexpensive cotton clothing, and the exotic fruits made available by improved transportation. But Hartwell’s main point was that few theories can explain falling real wages in the face of economic growth-particularly when rising labor productivity accompanied that growth. He emphasized that it would take implausibly high increases in unemployment or inequality for living standards to fall when average income was rising.

The debate gradually receded into the background until a 1983 paper by Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson brought new life to the controversy. Lindert and Williamson produced new estimates of real wages for the years 1755 to 1851. Their estimates were based on money wages for workers in several broad categories, including both blue-collar and white-collar occupations. Their cost of living index attempted to represent actual working-class budgets.

The Lindert-Williamson series produced two striking results. First, real wages grew slowly between 1781 and 1819. Second, after 1819 real wages grew rapidly for all groups of workers. For all blue-collar workers-a good stand-in for the working classes-the Lindert-Williamson index number for real wages rose from 50.19 in 1819 to 100 in 1851. That is, real wages doubled in just thirty-two years.

Lindert and Williamson’s findings were reinforced by estimates that economist Charles Feinstein made of consumption per person for each decade between the 1760s and 1850s. He found a small rise in consumption between 1760 and 1820 and a rapid rise after 1820. Other evidence that supported the hypothesis of rising real wages came from statistics on life expectancy at birth and on literacy rates. According to historians E. A. Wrigley and Roger S. Schofield’s population history of England, life expectancy at birth rose from thirty-five years to forty years between 1781 and 1851. A modest increase in literacy in the generation before 1840 also supported Lindert and Williamson.

Although the evidence favors the optimists, doubts remain. For example, pessimists have long maintained that the largely unmeasurable effects of environmental decay more than offset any gains in well-being attributable to rising wages. Wages were higher in English cities than in the countryside, but rents were higher and the quality of life was lower. What proportion of the rise in urban wages reflected compensation for worsening urban squalor rather than true increases in real incomes? Williamson-using methods developed to measure the ill effects of twentieth-century cities-found that between 8 and 30 percent of the higher urban wages could be attributed to compensation for the inferior quality of life in English cities. Yet even the 30 percent estimate was much too small to fully offset the rise in real wages before 1850.

Another criticism of Lindert and Williamson’s optimistic findings is that their results hold only for workers who earned wages. We do not know what happened to people who worked at home or were self-employed. Because the consumption per person of tea and sugar failed to rise along with real wages, Joel Mokyr has suggested that workers who were not in the Lindert-Williamson sample may have suffered sufficiently deteriorating real incomes to offset rising wage income and leave the average person no better off.

Contemporary pessimists argue that for at least some part of the industrial revolution the happiness and well-being of the lower classes was not rising much, if at all. Even if one accepts their argument, however, it is not necessary to abandon the optimists’ position. For example, the industrial revolution had a positive effect on real income, but its positive effect may well have been offset by the negative effect of frequent wars (the American Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the War of 1812). Some economic historians include bad harvests, rapid population growth, and the costs of transforming preindustrial workers into a modern labor force as additional causes of slow growth before 1820.

So careful economic research has narrowed the debate. Whether one is an optimist or pessimist today depends on whether one believes that the sustained rise in real wages began in the 1820s or the 1840s. Virtually all participants agree that growth was slow at best before 1820 and rapid after 1840.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Economics, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Origin of the Spirit of Capitalism: Middle Ages Scholasticism, not Protestantism

Posted by Tony Listi on March 31, 2008

In the lecture at the link below, Samuel Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute, critiques Weber’s claim that Protestantism gave rise to the spirit of capitalism. He argues that medieval scholastics actually gave rise to the ideas that would form the foundation of the spirit of capitalism.

http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=Commercia

Posted in Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

UN Condemns Needed Criticism of Islam, Silences Free Speech

Posted by Tony Listi on March 29, 2008

The film in question merely quotes the Qur’an, shows video of radical Muslim sermons, and then shows the terror and horror of the violence of Jihadism. It was not “hate speech” unless quoting the Qur’an is hate speech! The film was not meant to incite violence against Muslims; it was meant to tell the world that the Qur’an (not so-called Western oppression) inspires many Muslims to commit violence against non-Muslims! It was meant to challenge Muslims to confront and reject the clear, violent commands of their faith. This film was a legitimate use of free speech. The Netherlands and UN should not have caved in to political correctness and undermined free speech, a cornerstone of progress and civilization.

Watch the video for yourself here.

http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSN2844232220080328

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned as “offensively anti-Islamic” a Dutch lawmaker’s film that accuses the Koran of inciting violence.

Ban acknowledged efforts by the government of the Netherlands to stop the broadcast of the film, which was launched by Islam critic Geert Wilders over the Internet, and appealed for calm to those “understandably offended by it.”

“There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence,” Ban said in a statement. “The right of free expression is not at stake here.”

The short film, titled “Fitna,” an Arabic term sometimes translated as “strife,” intersperses images of the September 11 attacks on the United States and Islamist bombings with quotations from the Koran.

The film urges Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” verses from the Koran and starts and finishes with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, accompanied by the sound of ticking.

Several Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, have also condemned the film.

“Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility,” Ban said.

“We must also recognize that the real fault line is not between Muslim and Western societies, as some would have us believe, but between small minorities of extremists, on different sides, with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict,” Ban said.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Posted in 1st Amendment-Free Speech, Government and Politics, Islam, Politics and Religion, The War on Terror | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama: Secretly Angry at White People??

Posted by Tony Listi on March 26, 2008

“For the men and women of Rev. Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table.”

Obama, are you hiding anger that “may not get expressed in public”? Are you secretly angry at white people but an expert at not letting it show? Your own words raise the questions. You are not of “Wright’s generation” but you obviously admire Wright and thus the generation he embodies, no? Perhaps you are a stoic and more cagey Al Sharpton.

Posted in Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Politicians | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Government Gridlock is Good

Posted by Tony Listi on March 25, 2008

Every now and then I will hear someone complain that government “doesn’t do anything” or “gets nothing done” or similar such sentiments. Such things are very troubling to me for two reasons: they demonstrate that that person has no idea of what good government looks like AND that that person has no idea of how the federal government was originally intended to (dys)function! My immediate response to such sentiments is always this: Would you rather concentrate all power in one person or one group like the fascists, communists, monarchists, etc. did? Everyone should take delight in government gridlock: it means the system is working!

Though it should be second nature to Americans that decentralized government is good government, many Americans (mostly on the Left) see no danger in centralizing power. They see government as beneficent and benign. They want to remove the dividing lines and checks and balances in order to empower government to be more “compassionate.” Apparently, they have forgotten, chosen to ignore, or never studied history which is literally one big story about the failure of centralized power. They also do not understand economics and the superiority of the free market system.

So many people really have no perspective on how unique the American system of government is, even compared to modern-day parliamentary democracies. At the time of the founding, it was completely unique and radical. When you sit down and read the Constitution objectively, you realize that the genius of the Framers lies not in how they intended the federal govt. to work but in how they intended it NOT to work. What other nation in human history up until that time had purposefully divided its government (and thus its power and authority) into three or more distinct entities? There may have been some city-states in Europe during the Middle Ages that experimented with republican government, but other than that, one would have to go back to the time of the Greek poleis and the Roman Republic to find such decentralized govt. So don’t blame the politicians for gridlock. In fact, don’t blame anyone; take pride in it.

Today there are many countries modeled on the US, but many of the world’s democracies are parliamentary. That means that the separation of powers between the legislative and executive powers is weaker than in the American system, which in turn means that these countries are more unstable and in danger of tyranny through a concentration of power. Whereas the American system is inherently conservative (in the sense that policy changes tend to happen more slowly), European government may often fall prey to popular passions of the time (as historically they did with regard to fascism and now socialism).

The only concern conservatives have with regard to governmental structure is that over the past century or so the Supreme Court has usurped much of the authority of the other two branches. Therefore, what should have been gridlock became judicial fiat. The SCOTUS and federal judiciary in general is now the instrument by which liberalism by-passes the legitimate institutions of government and the constitutional restraints on its power and imposes its ideology upon the masses. Now conservatives are trying to reverse the damage done to the Constitution and our country because of this judicial tyranny. Gridlock with a liberal status quo is unbearable to the conservative. Conservatives must be activists to restore the rule of law. We must put originalists and strict constructionists on the courts and utilize the amendment process.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

New Chapter in Judicial Fascism: Socialized Education in California

Posted by Tony Listi on March 25, 2008

This is outrageous. Why is it that communists, fascists, and liberals “care” so much for “the children”? Because this is the only way to control and indoctrinate them. They want to separate children from their parents. (Apparently, government “cares” more for children than their own parents!) They want the government to determine/transform American culture rather than the free market of ideas. They want a government education monopoly that fails our children rather than a free market of competition that produces a better quality product (that might even raise teachers salaries naturally according the value society places on education).

Or, to borrow the Left’s vocabulary, they are just so prejudiced and intolerant of parents and the home school community! Parentism! Home schoolism! Where are the civil rights leaders?? ACLU, where are you? Home schoolers are now an oppressed minority!…. Hypocrites….

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120614130694756089.html
Certifying Parents
March 22, 2008; Page A24

In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter. A California court ruled this month that parents cannot “home school” their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching. Parents “do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” wrote California appellate Justice Walter Croskey.

The 166,000 families in the state that now choose to educate their children at home must be stunned. But at least one political lobby likes the ruling. “We’re happy,” the California Teachers Association’s Lloyd Porter told the San Francisco Chronicle. He says the union believes all students should be taught only by “credentialed” teachers, who will in due course belong to unions.

California law requires children between six and 18 to attend a full-time day school. Failure to comply means falling afoul of the state’s truancy laws, which say kids can’t play hooky without an excuse. But kids who are taught at home are less likely to be truants. Their parents choose to spend their time teaching English, math and science precisely because they don’t think the public schools do a good enough job.

The case was initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after a home-schooled child reportedly complained of physical abuse by his father. A lawyer assigned to two of the family’s eight children invoked the truancy law to get the children enrolled in a public school and away from their parents. So a single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids. If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel.

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure — namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, the rate of home-schooling increased by 29%.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT — and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide. But what they can’t accomplish legislatively, unions are now trying to achieve by diktat from the courts.

If John McCain wants an issue to endear him to cultural conservatives, this would be it. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rarely stray from the preferences of the teachers unions, but we’d like to know whether they really favor the certification of parents who dare to believe they know best how to teach their children.

Posted in Education, Government and Politics, Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Muslim converted by Pope says life in more danger

Posted by Tony Listi on March 23, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI baptises journalist Magdi Allam (R) as he ...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080323/wl_nm/pope_muslim_dc  

By Philip Pullella
March 23, 2008
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – An outspoken Muslim author and critic of Islamic fundamentalism who converted to Christianity at the hands of Pope Benedict said on Sunday he realized he was in greater danger but he has no regrets.

“I realize what I am going up against but I will confront my fate with my head high, with my back straight and the interior strength of one who is certain about his faith,” said Magdi Allam.

In a surprise move on Saturday night, the pope baptized the 55-year-old, Egyptian-born Allam at an Easter eve service in St Peter’s Basilica that was broadcast around the world.

The conversion of Allam to Christianity — he took the name “Christian” for his baptism — was kept secret until the Vatican disclosed it in a statement less than an hour before it began.

Writing in Sunday’s edition of the leading Corriere della Sera, the newspaper of which he is a deputy director, Allam said: “… the root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual.”

Allam, who is a strong supporter of Israel and who an Israeli newspaper once called a “Muslim Zionist,” has lived under police protection following threats against him, particularly after he criticized Iran’s position on Israel.

His conversion, which he called “the happiest day of my life,” came just two days after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused the pope of being part of a “new crusade” against Islam.

The Vatican appeared to be at pains to head off criticism from the Islamic world about the conversion.

“Conversion is a private matter, a personal thing and we hope that the baptism will not be interpreted negatively by Islam,” Cardinal Giovanni Re told an Italian newspaper.

Still, Allam’s highly public baptism by the pope shocked Italy’s Muslim community, with some leaders openly questioning why the Vatican chose to shine such a big spotlight it.

“What amazes me is the high profile the Vatican has given this conversion,” Yaha Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, vice-president of the Italian Islamic Religious Community, told Reuters. “Why could he have not done this in his local parish?”

ANOTHER DEATH SENTENCE

Allam, the author of numerous books, said he realized that his conversion would likely procure him “another death sentence for apostasy,” or the abandoning of one’s faith.

But he said he was willing to risk it because he had “finally seen the light, thanks to divine grace.”

Allam defended the pope in 2006 when the pontiff made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith.

He said he made his decision after years of deep soul searching and asserted that the Catholic Church has been “too prudent about conversions of Muslims.”

At a Sunday morning Easter mass hours after he baptized Allam, the pope, without mentioning him, spoke in a prayer of the continuing “miracle” of conversion to Christianity some 2,000 years after Christ’s resurrection.

The Vatican statement announcing Allam’s conversion said: “For the Catholic Church, each person who asks to receive Baptism after a deep personal search, a fully free choice and adequate preparation, has a right to receive it.”

It said all newcomers to the faith were “equally important before God’s love and welcome in the community of the Church.”

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Mary Gabriel)

Posted in Catholicism, Islam, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Protestantism and Liberalism: Sola Fide and Good Intentions

Posted by Tony Listi on March 22, 2008

Aren’t the good intentions of modern American liberals merely the secular counterpart to sola fide? It would seem intentions trump consequences for liberals, and faith (merely mental assent or intention and thus not faith at all) trumps actual obedience and good works for Protestants.

But we know that the professed intentions of liberals are not good enough. Good politics MUST have good consequences. Likewise, a saving faith MUST have good works and obedience (unless one is instantaneously in a state of grace and die before one has the opportunity to live out one’s faith).

Is this merely an analogy or perhaps a discovery of cause and effect?….

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »