A friend passed along a link to the Neil Gaiman commencement address that has received a lot of attention on YouTube. I can see why — Gaiman makes a strong and inspiring case for devoting ourselves to “make good art”. A highlight is when he goes through a litany of things that can go wrong in our lives, and his response to each is “make good art”.
If I made the speech to the graduates I would probably insert a little more respect for practicalities like earning a living. But Gaiman is right — we need to make good art, which in some vocations translates to “do good work”. Seeing our chosen work as good, and as art, and engaging it fully, can go a long ways towards re-establishing a healthy life.
A couple of weeks ago I flew to Florida to attend the wedding of a nephew. Meeting and interacting with people in their twenties gave me a big shot of hope. To see these “kids” establishing themselves in various ventures and careers was really encouraging — they will do well, if we don’t overburden them with various restrictions (and debt!).
On one of the flights, I set next a elderly Chinese immigrant (now a U.S. citizen and a surgeon by trade). He made an interesting observation — that he was always moved when he flew into a city at night and saw all the lights and abundance. As he put it, we are a naturally energetic and productive people who create prosperity — if we are left alone to do so. I think he is right; our children will prove it, if we let them.
The Center for Faith and Enterprise will be conducting its second Spiritual Practices for the Active Work Life July 20/21 in Southern California. The response to the May 12 event was very positive, so we are expanding.
The purpose is to help people find practices, primarily involving prayer and meditation, that can help them in their work lives. More information is available at http://www.faithandenterprise.org/SP/spiritualpracticesretreat.html.
Consider yourself invited. Please also let us know if yourchurch would like to host a future event of this sort.
Panagiotis Evangelopoulos has an excellent short article in the current (summer) issue of The Independent Review (available by subscription). His basic argument is that political leaders in Greece, both left and right, have used political rent seeking to maintain themselves in power. A key quote:
In this type of society, politicians work as brokers in a system of political clientelism. They expand the public sector, exchanging jobs for votes. They also push the private sector into bed with the public sector, assigning to the former secure profits, privileges, and finally explicit and legally established rents — with bribes and corruption forming the dark side of the modern Greek economy.
It’s not just Greece.
Today might be an important day for economic liberty — the Institute for Justice goes to court on behalf of the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey to protect their right to make and sell caskets on the open market. Chip Mellor of I.J. writes:
When we appear before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on behalf of the monks of St. Joseph Abbey, we will ask the court to confront head-on whether protecting cartels from competition at the expense of economic liberty is a constitutional use of government power.
The Institute for Justice has been doing great work researching the unjust restrictions on small entrepreneurs and advocating for their removal. The degree to which governments at all levels restrict the activity of small entrepreneurs in their efforts to start new businesses should be seen as a major scandal. The IJ’s most recent study on restrictive licensing laws has received considerable well deserved attention; it is clear that established interests often use licensing and other restrictive regulations to protect their own position — at the cost of enterprising individuals being thwarted in their attempt to build businesses. We used an I.J study for a recent CFE article on the absurd restrictions on business formation (and job creation) enforced by the City of Los Angeles.
Recommended read: Virginia Postrel on the economics of donated used eyeglasses: “Recycling Eyeglasses is a Feel-Good Waste of Money”. It turns out that the cost of screening and evaluating donated used glasses is considerably more expensive for charities than buying new glasses. Postrel points out that “we overestimate the importance of the physical things we can see and forget about the real costs of time and attention . . .”.
Michael Kruse has an excellent short post at KruseKronicle blog titled “The Church’s Contribution to the Corruption of Business”. The video (from Higher Calling) of an interview with a young MBA student to which he links demonstrates very clearly the impact of the church’s failure to affirm business as a vocation. This issue is at the core of the mission of the CFE.
Kruse’s blog as an excellent source of information and insight regarding the intersection of economics, business, and faith.
I did not comment on the KONY2012 video at the time it came out. My opinion of the video was very negative, but after the backlash I did not see much point in piling on. Perhaps the leaders of Invisible Children (the producers) meant well and were shocked at the negative reaction to the video; maybe the experience would provide them with a useful lesson for the future.
Today, however, I see that my town has been plastered with KONY2012 posters that are designed to look like campaign signs. It is time to comment.
The video is about rebel warlord Joseph Kony, who inflicted terrible suffering on the people of northern Uganda for two decades and has since fled Uganda. The harshest and most credible critics of the video have been Ugandans who have suffered at the hands of Kony (I spend quite a bit of time in Uganda and with Ugandan friends, and am embarrassed by the video). Many Ugandans have strong views on the subject — note that when the film was shown in Lira (in northern Uganda), the audience was outraged and some began throwing rocks at the screen. The objections, as best I am able to relay them, are as follows:
1) It is wrong to make Kony famous. He is an evil man who has caused enormous suffering and should not have the satisfaction of being internationally famous.
2) The video makes it look like the charismatic leaders of Invisible Children were responsible for solving the problem while the Ugandans were helpless and dependent on heros from the west. In fact the reverse was true. It was Ugandans who fought Kony and drove him out, not Invisible Children. When Kony is captured or killed, it will most likely be Ugandans who will be responsible for getting the job done, maybe with some help from American special forces who are assisting in the chase. Western mission agencies should not promote their cause by making Africans look helpless and dependent on the west; they are neither.
3) Many Ugandans are aware that Invisible Children has been raising large sums of money by marketing the suffering of Ugandans and believe that a relatively small portion of this money gets to Uganda. Invisible Children is not alone in this, of course — but they are a very visible example of a practice that offends Ugandans and should offend those of us in the U.S.
The leaders of Invisible Children undoubtedly mean well, but their next video should open with an apology.
The Center for Faith and Enterprise is sponsoring a one day retreat on May 12 in Southern California to explore the subject: Spiritual Practices for the Active Work Life. If you are interested, send us an email at email@example.com. More information is available at www.faithandenterprise.org/SP/spiritualpracticesretreat.html.