Friday, July 11, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

World magazine continues to provide a public benefit to the non-profit community by their interest in accountability and transparency for evangelical Christian missions and organizations. In this week's issue, in an article titled "What Would Jesus Fly?," they look at the issue of Christian non-profits that operate private jets for senior personnel. They not only list the organizations and their planes in specific detail, they give the organizations an opportunity to respond as to why expensive private jet service is considered an essential part of the mission of the organization (in most cases, even sending people on full-freight, full-frills, first-class airline tickets is cheaper than operating private jets). Whether you agree or disagree with their conclusions, having a large organization lower the cost of gathering information for faithful stewardship for Christians is a good thing.

The article makes plain (sorry) that they are not questioning Christian mission and care organizations that use utilitarian air transport for things such as delivering food and medical supplies in hard to reach parts of the world.

Monday, July 7, 2008

China and Boycotts: Introduction

In March the ceremonial torch relay was under siege by people protesting China’s human rights record in many cities throughout the globe. Now, three months later, many Olympic qualifying events have taken place and athletic teams are being assembled as the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China approach on August 8, 2008.

Amidst the cries of injustice the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has indicated that the show will go on and reminded people that the consistent nature of world conflict has frequently made the Olympics a source of political tension. And, despite the show going on many discussed and are still discussing boycott. Edward McMillan-Scott, European Parliament Vice-President said in a March ABC interview, “There will be a boycott of some sort, what kind of boycott is the question right now. … At a minimum I think the EU should require that no elected official from the 37-member states attend the opening ceremony, but that is the minimum." The purpose of this article is to further understand what exactly is happening in China and what the economic and social impact of various types of boycotts would be for the Chinese and their people.

China has made a number of overtures to the IOC as a potential host of the Olympic Games. For the 2000 games China was dismissed on the grounds of their brutal treatment of their citizens with regards to the death penalty, detention without trial, and large amounts of censorship and restrictions on the internet and journalistic reporting. The Amnesty International website noted that death penalty reform which consisted of more review and more procedures prior to execution so as to reduce “wrongful deaths” and more freedom of speech for foreign journalists were improvements. But, other areas such torture and detention without trial still were lacking reform. Nevertheless, when China demonstrated to the committee in 2001 that they were mending their ways the Olympic Committee decided to give China the opportunity to host in 2008.

The question of whether a country should be rewarded for partial improvements in the humane treatment of their citizens to me is still debatable; but, the IOC decided that whatever improvements they made combined with exposure towards the country merited their election as the 2008 Summer Olympics host. IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge put it this way, "We were not naive. We knew discussions would flare up in the last six months and that has happened. … We cannot deny one-fifth of mankind the advantages of Olympism. … We believe the games will be a catalyst for change and will open a country, which used to be mysterious to much of the world." Whether or not the Olympic Games have actually been a catalyst is subject to question. Amnesty International suggests that the media scrutiny, especially with Tibet and potential protests at the Olympics is causing China to revert to its inhumane ways. So, now let’s turn to the precursor to my discussion on boycotts.

This may seem like a funny question; but, I will ask it anyway: What is the point of a boycott? Is it a) To demonstrate that you will not stand for the injustice that a country continues to exercise over its people or b) To affect change within the treatment of a country’s people. I do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive but that they walk a razor’s edge. Maybe because I am an economist I will address objective b. Historically speaking how instrumental have boycotts been in impacting the desired change?