Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Greetings from My Candidate

I received this mass e-mail with cool cross graphic before Christmas from the guy I'm currently voting for. I meant to post it sooner, but will do so now in the hope that Iowans will do the right thing. It tells a great story:

As a POW, my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night.

One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet, and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.

A month or so later, on Christmas Day, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw that same guard approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me, not looking or smiling at me.

After a few moments had passed, he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas, even in the darkness of a Vietnamese prison camp. After a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away.

That guard was my Good Samaritan. I will never forget that man and I will never forget that moment. And I will never forget that, no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up and carry you.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays,

John McCain

Friday, December 28, 2007

Outsourcing Humor

A month ago, I opined about the Hollywood writer's strike. I proposed offshoring all writing to China and India, and thought about what the shows would look like.

NPR offers the same solution. If you listen to the segment, they call India and get some joke offers from stand-up comedians for late-night TV shows in the U.S. The jokes are a little more than intelligent. If used, they would revolutionize late-night TV. Can't wait!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How important is the Bible?

So, my excellent trans-Atlantic flight was made even better by buying the Christmas edition of The Economist. In it there is an article entitled "The Battle of the Books," that looks at the publishing of the Bible vs. the Koran.

The article has these stats from a Gallup poll (with Economist commentary):

Americans buy more than 20m new Bibles every year to add to the four that the average American has at home... A Gallup survey found that less than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis), only a third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Billy Graham is a popular answer) and a quarter do not know what is celebrated at Easter (the resurrection, the foundational event of Christianity). Sixty per cent cannot name half the ten commandments; 12% think Noah was married to Joan of Arc. George Gallup, a leading Evangelical as well as a premier pollster, describes America as “a nation of biblical illiterates”.

It appears the Gallup info is several years old, but probably still accurate.

Back in the U.S.A.

So, we've returned from my 5-month internship in Moldova. I learned a lot about Business as Missions, microcredit, and married life overseas. We are now visiting family for Christmas/New Years and I'm looking for a job. We will also be having a baby boy sometime in May. I felt this information warranted its own post.

Friday, December 21, 2007

T-Shirt slogans

A friend of mine sent me an email saying he was thinking of buying this t-shirt:

I have converted my response to him into this blog post. My initial thought was that higher insurance premiums are probably a much more expensive income-transfer system that illegal immigrants benefit from than government services. (Covering the cost of emergency rooms, uninsured motorists, etc.).
So, how about a t-shirt with the Texas flag in the background that says:
"Remember to pay your insurance! 1,700,000 illegal immigrants are depending on you!"

Services for immigrants are actually a really small part of federal outlays. So, I want a different t-shirt about taxes.
The defense spending bill passed this week had over 9,800 earmarks attached to it! 9,800 pork projects with your tax dollars in one single bill! I've harped on this before. Here are some possible slogans:

"Remember to pay your taxes. People who no longer want their tattoos are depending on you!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. Cotton farmers are completely depending on you!"(HT: Dani Rodrik).
"Remember to pay your taxes. Peanut storage facilities everywhere are depending on you!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. We can't attempt to communicate with space aliens otherwise!"
For Waco residents: "Remember to pay your taxes. Otherwise, Bellmead residents won't know that they want a swimming pool!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. The Goth culture in Missouri must be eliminated!"

And thousands of other examples. You can't make this stuff up. If someone bought me a t-shirt with any of these I would totally wear it.

Subprime Solutions

The Fed announced new regulations this week to further regulate the home mortgage lending process.

For two different views on this:
Liberal Paul Krugman, denouncing Greenspan and previous deregulation while calling for greater government intervention.
"So where were the regulators as one of the greatest financial disasters since the Great Depression unfolded? They were blinded by ideology."


Bill Conerly, giving examples of unintended consequences of the increased regulation. (I really like Conerly's blog since he's in the business of forecasting).

"So why not have federal rules in place? Because there will be some adverse impacts of these new rules. Not huge, end-of-civilization impacts, but negative impacts none the less."



Conerly also points out that one unintended consequence of banning "Pay Day" lenders who charge outrageous interest rates, create a "debt trap," and are denounced by pretty much everyone (including me) has been more bounced checks and bankruptcies in states where pay day lenders are banned. Sometimes we may not like what the data says but we can learn from it nonetheless.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Bad is Kentucky Basketball?

I read the questions that fans and the media are asking about KY basketball. I haven’t watched a game, but when I look at the data the answers become absolutely clear. Thankfully, Pomeroy provides us with what we need. I think BCG must frequent his site and look at the same things that I do.

1. How good is Patrick Patterson? Should the offense run through him?
His numbers so far are better than Randolph Morris’, except for blocks and ability to get to the FT line. Morris was 21.9% of our scoring last year, and one of the best shot-blockers in the country. Patterson isn’t getting the touches that Morris did, and that’s the problem that Coach G keeps harping on. Fans don’t seem to realize this.

2. Why in the world is Ramon Harris starting over Crawford?
Because per-possession Harris doesn’t look for his own shot as much as Crawford, gets more steals than Crawford, is a better rebounder than Crawford, and gets to the FT line more often than Crawford. If you want the offense to primarily run through Patterson, Harris is the guy you want to get more minutes. The downside is his turnover ratio, which is why he gets yanked. Look at the numbers.

Crawford is a ball hog. Coming into the UAB game, Crawford was taking over 38% of shots while he was in the game (it’s now 33.3% of shots). There are 5 guys on the floor, and Patterson should get the majority of shots, not Crawford. 27.1% of KY’s possessions are ended by Crawford, compared to 22.9% for Patterson.

Alex Legion was the same problem, which is why he was benched so famously.

3. Why does Michael Porter play so much?
Because Porter looks to shoot less than anyone on the team. His steal rate is also the best on the team.

4. How bad is Kentucky?
Bad. Our Sagarin is now 149, probably an all-time low. Our rating fell from 63 to 149 once he eliminated his pre-season peg after Sunday. Our RPI has falled from 158 before the Liberty game to 177 today. Making the NCAA tournament appears highly unlikely.

I think the only recent season we can compare this to is Team Turmoil of 2000-2001, where we started 3-5 (but against a much tougher schedule). That team went on to win the SEC tournament and make it to the Sweet 16.

5. Should Kentucky be this bad?
Yes.
John Clay wrote a column where he argued Kentucky shouldn’t be this bad. A couple days later he interviewed Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News and DeCourcy basically said “Of course they should be this bad.”

Jasper and Meeks are out, so we have only 43.6% of our scoring from last year (not a very good team anyway). Jared Carter sat out last season, wasn’t great before he got hurt, and clearly isn’t up to speed now. We counted on Alex Legion for scoring, and he’s gone too. Morakinyo Williams wasn’t supposed to be very good, and A.J. Stewart plays like a 3-star freshman.

I think Billy Gillispie looks at the data. I can look at the numbers and understand what he is doing, why can’t the fans and the media?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Patriots' Punter

Last week, Bill Simmons wrote half-jokingly that the Patriots should keep their punter off the roster for the Jets game "to send a message" (to the Jets who reported the Patriots' sideline videotaping...something the Jets had apparently also got caught doing against the Patriots last season).

This got me looking: How often does the Patriots' punter actually see the field?
In 13 games, Chris Hanson has punted 32 times. That's only 2.46 punts per game! If he maintains his average, he'll have only 40 punts this season. Compare this with San Francisco's punter who already has 85 punts (6.54 punts per game).

Last year, the Patriots used 3 punters and punted 69 times. In 2005, their punter (Josh Miller) punted 76 times (or 4.75 punts per game).

The Patriots have almost halved their punt total in 2 seasons!

What's the record? It's actually 23 by San Diego in 1982, but they only played 9 games. So, 2.55 punts per game, worse than the Patriots' average. The 1941 Bears punted 32 times in 11 games, or 2.9 punts per game. Patriots win (so far)!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fun Videos

I don't really like the NBA, never watch it. The most important NBA event to me is the Draft. I learned years ago that it's more fun to only read the post-game synopses as they often read like a soap opera. If you want to know what else happened, just read the box score. That said, a blog called True Hoop does a good job of soap opera and stats. In recent weeks they have also posted 2 unique videos which I post here for your consumption.

The first is Darius Miles. He appears midway through this clip. I choked on my water first time I saw this. Your mission: Figure out what Darius Miles is saying. What??



If that didn't change your life, or at least your day, check out video #2. This is Milwaukee rookie Yi Jianli's commercial for some milk product in China. What is this commercial about?!


I like this interpretation from Just Another Bucks Fan. Everytime I start to think that people are the same everywhere, and that all cultures are similar, I see a commercial or a music video from East Asia and I totally change my mind.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Tom Brady

When I hear the name "Tom Brady," here's the first thing that comes to my mind:

A few years ago I was watching the Kentucky Derby on TV. It's always frequented by celebrities. Kenny Rice briefly interviewed Tom Brady, who was attending his 4th or 5th Derby. Rice opened with something lame like:
"You almost have as many Super Bowls rings as you have Kentucky Derby appearances."

Brady responded with a very serious answer, something like:
"And we hope to get many more of those rings. There's no reason why we can't do it."

You could just tell that getting Super Bowl rings was the most important thing to Brady. He wanted to get more, fully believed he could. It was the most confident answer from an athlete on a day that had nothing to do with football. Everyone at the Derby might be drunk and joking around, but for that moment you could tell: Nothing else really mattered to Brady other than Super Bowl rings. For whatever reason, I still remember that confidence.

(Peyton Manning was also interviewed by Rice at that Derby, but I don't remember a word he said, other than it was just light-hearted).

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Mitt Romney

I'm thankful to not be in the States and be bombarded by the election coverage. That said, Maureen Dowd's op-ed column about Mitt Romney caught my eye today. Dowd is as liberal as they come, but she's written a piece today that appeals to what conservatives are thinking more than we might want to admit.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a comment that Romney is "Arguably the smartest of the bunch," to which a friend e-mailed me and said (paraphrase) "Anyone who believes/does weird Mormon stuff can't be that smart."**

Dowd hits my friend's nail on the head:

“We have reporters asking Mitt Romney if he wears The Garment, the sacred one-piece, knee-length underwear with Mormon markings and strict disposal rules.

“I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private,” (Romney) told The Atlantic.


That's not a real reassuring answer to Evangelicals. One Mormon historian tells Dowd:

Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don’t buy all of the New Testament, he said, “which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies.”

Romney gave a speech in College Station last week to defend faith in general and to say that our founders didn't believe in a "litmus test" of faith for the President. He makes (I think) a good point:

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”


Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew makes the point that Christians trying to figure out who "God's man" is for the Presidency is completely alien to the New Testament (they didn't have a choice, other than to submit and pray). We're blessed with being able to choose our leaders, but the Church should focus on being salt and light rather than spending resources to make the fallen World around us look and behave more morally. The Church should be the Church no matter who is elected President. They should know us by our works, love, and unity rather than our legislative work.

Is Mormonism a cult? Absolutely. I think it's tempting (for me) to think that Romney will receive secret messages from satan (or the Mormon President) that will wreck our country. But, Romney is no more under the influence of Satan than any other lost person.

Scripturally, there is no difference between an atheist, a cult member, and someone who claims to be "born again" but habitually commits sin, like adultery. All are lost and under the influence of Satan. But, I'd rather vote for someone (like Romney) who believes this:

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

than vote for the atheist, secularist, or the guy who is on his 3rd marriage. I personally would also rather vote for the guy who finished valedictorian of his class at BYU, in the top 5% of his class at Harvard MBA school, and has had real success in a non-political job and in other non-political endeavors, and who also listens to Greg Mankiw. But, Romney isn't my first choice.

**(As far as how a "smart" person can believe in Mormonism, I encourage you to check out Have You Witnessed to a Mormon Lately, or Beyond Mormonism, by former Mormon elder Jim Spencer. He offers these great texts for free online. It's a psychological part of having to check certain brains at the door. He tells the story of an intelligent engineer who rationalized how men could be living on the moon, as Joseph Smith claimed. You can be a rocket scientist in the real world, but limit your brains in applying scientific logic to your religious thinking if you're part of a cult that allows no such questions to be asked).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cluckin' Chicken

This is one of my favorite SNL fake commercials of all time. Joni will attest that I quote the "It's me!" part a lot. I finally found the clip and showed it to her yesterday. Sometimes she finds my sense of humor to be a bit... off.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sermons

Joni and I have thrived on John Piper sermons on Sundays when we don't attend local church. I post links to two here that have meant a significant deal to us.

In September and October, Piper did a series on how God ordains "spectacular sins" in order to work His purposes.
His sermon on Genesis 37, entitled "The Sale of Joseph and the Son of God," is one of the best sermons I've ever heard. Everything a sermon should be, IMO. You can download it free here.

Another incredible one is the finale: "Judas Iscariot, the Suicide of Satan, and the Salvation of the World."

I recommend everyone to download and listen to these powerful sermons. I learned a lot, particularly through the Joseph one, and found Piper's application of the lessons to our own lives to be rewarding.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Saturday Night Live Gets It

For those of you who have been through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and such, a little support from SNL. May the rest of the country (including our government!) soon catch on (HT: Businomics Blog):

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Russian Elections

Everyone should check out this NY Times article: Russia's Election Is for Parliament, but the Real Vote is on Putin and especially watch the 2 campaign commercials on the left. They're for United Russia, obviously Putin's party. Russian parliamentary elections are on Sunday, and Putin is slated to be at the top of his party's ticket.
Constitutionally, he can no longer run for President because you can't serve 3 consecutive terms. Now, he will become Prime Minister and United Russia will have enough seats in Parliament (as many as they want) to change the Constitution to give PM the majority of power (if they want).

Rumor has it that he's going to step down as President (see last paragraph), let someone else serve out the term, then run again for President in March arguing that, because he stepped down he, won't be serving a 3rd consecutive term. In a televised address, Putin said (among other things):
"We cannot allow the return to power of those who once tried but failed to rule the country," referring to the liberal politicians who advised his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.-- BBC

Enjoy the campaign commercials. For those of you who are unaware, over 70% of Russians really are VERY pro-Putin. He's got a cult of personality, with a youth organization ("Nashi") ready to do whatever it takes to see him keep power. They credit the booming economy and growing political clout solely to him. It's kind of like if America's economy was booming like the 1990's and Iraq had been a 6-month easy victory, and Osama Bin Laden had been captured-- Republicans would still dominate the government and Bush would be the most popular President ever.

Meanwhile, Putin decided to limit the number of election observers to 30-40, then OSCE observers were denied visas, which the U.S. quickly condemned. Afterwards, Putin blamed the U.S. State Department for telling observers not to go in order to make Russia look bad.

(Sorry, I didn't take the time to provide links to all my sources. Most are public media and most are linked in the 20 or so Russia blogs I subscribe to in my Google Reader).

This morning, I woke up singing this song. It sort of pokes fun at Putin but also shows his popularity. It was very popular earlier this year among Russians and ex-pats:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Writers' Strike

I have no idea if the Writers' Strike affects what TV looks like in America. All I know is that it is preventing any new episodes of The Office and Friday Night Lights, the only 2 shows worth watching, from being aired.

At the risk of opening my blog up to a ridiculous number of hits and harrasment, I post the following links to 2 blogs:

1. UnitedHollywood.blogspot.com—the official blog of the Strike.

2. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Theater Producers (AMPTP-- the "bad guys").

I’ll start with the AMPTP's op-ed in the LA Times supporting their position:

“In short, the guild is demanding an unjustifiable increase in the residual rate that writers receive for downloads, money they receive in addition to the salary they were paid in the first place (the WGA’s 4,434 working members make an average of $200,000 per year). They are also demanding a percentage of the advertising revenue earned by the networks from ad-supported streaming.

However, the WGA’s contract is not with networks, it is with producers, who receive no proceeds from these advertisements, just as they receive none of the revenue achieved by networks through commercial television…Regardless of whether a show or a movie is a hit or a flop, the writer is paid.”

It’s a good tactic to let America know that the average writer is quite wealthy and receives Grade-A health insurance to boot.

Now, UnitedHollywood: This post features the story of a 12 year old boy who is picketing along with the writers. Why? I’m not sure he even knows! He thinks they’re “superheroes.”

I think, like any union, the writers saw a way they weren’t getting money and decided to go after it, betting they could get the nation to support them through media campaigning. Of course actors jump on their side because without writers they can't act, and if they don't act they don't get paid!

My personal solution:

Offshore all writing to China and India. That’d be easy for reality shows, but for sitcoms it gets a little trickиer. But, I’m willing to deal with some Bollywood movies as long as I can see Steve Carrel act in them. “Michael Scott” already speaks English badly, so Тhe Office would still be funny. Friday Night Lights will probably become about soccer or, better yet, cricket!

And with the amount of money that Hollywood could save, maybe they could make all of their shows even cooler—more special effects, explosions, car chases…Sounds good to me.

What? You want to tell me that sitcom writing is a non-tradable good?

Sports Myths

Reason #839 why I love economics: So many economists publish papers dealing purely with sports data. I've illustrated this once to help diffuse the myth of the value of punting.

The latest "sports economist" to gain attention is Trevor D. Logan at The Ohio State University. His new paper's title is: "Whoah, Nellie! Empirical Tests of College Football's Conventional Wisdom." (Hat tip: Freakonomics).

Logan uses AP poll data along with 25 years of data from 25 different teams to examine the following widely-quoted conceptions about polls and declares them myths:

1. It's better to lose early in the season than late.
2. Voters reward wins over tough opponents.
3. Blowing out your opponent is rewarded more than narrowly beating them.

Logan finds that:
1. Voters re-rank teams that lose later higher than they would have if they had lost earlier in the season.
2. Strength of your opponent only matters if you lose. Losing to a tougher opponent allows you to be ranked (slightly) higher than you would be had you lost to a bad opponent.
However, beating a good opponent doesn't affect your ranking more than beating a bad opponent.
3. Likewise, blowouts only matter if you lose. Blown-out teams are ranked lower than narrow-loss teams. But, the winning teams in blowouts are not ranked higher (or lower) or rewarded for throttling the other team.

I'll compare Logan's working paper with Gene Wojciechowski's ESPN column today about "BCS myths." Wojo uses no data, only his opinion, but some of them are funny:

Wojo's myths are:
1. The BCS Works.
We're stuck with the BCS and its weekly standings weirdness. For example, Missouri is your No. 1 team in the country. This is like Homer Simpson picking up Eva Mendes at a Chi Omega party. Nothing against Mizzou and quarterback Chase Daniel, but the Tigers aren't the No. 1 team in the country. They aren't even favored in Vegas to beat No. 9 Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship (Mizzou is a 3-point dog).


2. Heisman Trophy voters know what they're doing.
There are 925 Heisman voters -- 870 media, 54 living Heisman winners, one collective fan vote. The more voters, the more probability of the dreaded Knucklehead Factor... Twenty years ago, a Heisman voter once told me he never cast a first-place vote for an African-American player
3. Nebraska is an elite coaching job.


I find the regression analysis to be more enlightening than just a pundit's opinion. One asks "What does the data say?" while the other just says what he thinks.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who You'll Vote For

I find this little tool from ABC News to be handy. Take the quiz, it tells you who your answers indicate you'll be voting for (assuming you're an informed voter, that is).

My top 2 candidates ended up being Mike Huckabee and John McCain (McCain and I should not be surprising). McCain has been gaining momentum in the past couple months, but Huckabee looks like he could charge ahead now that Chuck Norris is on his side (hat tip: Rynoman):



Who did the Match-O-Matic say you're voting for? If you'd like to know the right answers to the quiz, let me know. :-)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Churches that own for-profit businesses

A must-read article in the NY Times: Megachurches Add Local Economy to Their Mission.

I haven't found the knee-jerk reaction among Christian bloggers to this article yet.

I have a couple thoughts:
Business, like the rest of creation, cries out to be redeemed. Redeeming business (using them for God’s glory) should be the mission of Christian businesspeople.
These churches have used their economies of scale to buy businesses, transform them, provide jobs for local believers, and evangelize their communities through those businesses. They’re able to use some of the revenue to support church functions. The paradigm shift is that the businesses are owned by the church body rather than individual believers.

The article points out that churches pay taxes on these for-profit businesses. That gets complicated.

Doug Rieder, the church business administrator, said WC Properties files a federal tax return and pays property taxes on the commercial space at the mall.

But Mr. Rieder acknowledged the difficulty of allocating space, staff time and expenses to the appropriate tax category. “We’re very intertwined — it gets tough day to day,” he said adding, “I have to constantly ask myself whether I am accurately allocating our costs.”


If you're interested in redeeming businesses for the glory of God, check out the Business As Mission Network, www.businessasmissionnetwork.com.

I thought about this for Moldova... churches here are amazing at raising would-be capital (money) and they use it mainly to build buildings. What if a church here bought a McDonalds and used some of the revenue to fund the church, and allowed Christians to evangelize there regularly? (just as an example)

The company I work for is Christian-operated. The board is made up of Christian business leaders and local pastors, including the head of one denomination here. The CEO of the company's response to the NY Times article, however is:

"Somehow I think that the Bibilical model is for Church members to be involved in business in order to generate revenue and support the Church and the ministry."

IE: not the other way around, as in the article. This sums up the mission of his company.

I've recently read a book (that I hope to soon get as many people as possible to read and discuss) in which a Christian economist argued that the "Biblical model," isn't very easily applicable to our times as there was no notion of capitalism until just a few hundred years ago.

Another opinion:

"I think that the Church will slowly move away from what it was intended for by the Lord if it will continue this way. My personal subjective opinion is that Church has to preach the word, take care of spiritual needs of people, take care of orphans and widows, bring people to the Lord and partner with other entities to achieve the Biblical mission. I don't think that the Church as Christ's bride is suppose to get involve in business or politics itself, but it's members individually can do it."

Raise your hand (ie: comment!) if you agree with the above opinion. I know you're out there.

Some of the activities listed in the Times article deal with real estate and the running of retirement homes. This is seen as the Church ministering by taking care of the elderly, and supporting the Church community. Do we separate those profitable activities from, say, running a McDonalds or a bookstore?

We desperately need a discussion among Christian businessmen, Christian workers, pastors, missionaries, and economists about these issues. There's a lot of money, opportunity, and potential problems/pitfalls at stake.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Story

John Stossel gives us a Thanksgiving lesson:

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

They nearly all starved.

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.

The solution? Privatization (really just establishment of property rights).

"Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623."

It appears the early Pilgrims were behaving rationally rather than purely spiritually. I'm thankful to John Stossel for dispelling myths by asking "what does the data say?"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back-to-Back!

Jimmie Johnson wins his second Nextel Cup. The Jimmie Johnson era has begun! Very pleased for my favorite driver and my favorite crew chief.

Hendrick MotorSports dominantly finishes 1, 2, and 5 in The Chase. (Jeff Gordon finished second).

Joni and I have greatly enjoyed watching most of the races and we are sad that the season is over.
Can't wait until next season starts and we welcome possibly my new favorite driver to the Hendrick fold!:Woo hoo, I'm excited already! Racing really is the only true sport.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

He's right you know...

"We simply cannot go on being as dumb as we wanna be." --Thomas Friedman in his common-sense op-ed today.

He cleverly cites Greg Mankiw to get the attention of fans like me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Data Says...(War on Terror edition)

Congress' Joint Economic Committee leaks their report to the media:

The economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to total $1.6 trillion -- roughly double the amount the White House has requested thus far.

The $1.6 trillion figure, for the period from 2002 to 2008, translates into a cost of $20,900 for a family of four, the report said. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report stated.

Future economic costs would be even greater. The report estimated that both wars would cost $3.5 trillion between 2003 and 2017. Under that scenario, it would cost a family of four $46,400.

This report factors in "hidden costs" like future health care for veterans, and interest on the loans we take out to pay for the war.

You hopefully would ask: If it costs $1.6 trillion and the President has only requested $804 billion, then who is paying for this? If it ends up costing us $3.5 trillion, where will we get the money?

One of a few correct answers:


With interest, of course.

Your CHILDREN'S tax dollars at work.

Worth Reading Today

A well-educated Pakistani decries the current situation, courtesy of Registan.net.

"The powerful spy agency (ISI-- Pakistan's FBI/CIA)knows very well that the US-led war in Afghanistan is unable to root out the Taliban. Therefore, they are simply counting down the days till the end of the Western war in order to return to the old policy of installing the client regime dominated by extremist mullahs in Afghanistan. This is the core reason why the ISI has staked its future with the Islamists, by keeping clandestine links with the Taliban and Pakistani religious parties who act as a go-between for the Taliban and military rulers in Islamabad."

I've harped enough on Pakistan this week, how about another country? Here's one on how proud Russians are of one of their most famous spies in America; someone who most Americans never heard about.
"The spy’s success hinged on an unusual family history of migration from Russia to Iowa and back. That gave him a strong commitment to Communism, a relaxed familiarity with American mores and no foreign accent."

Wal-Mart makes concessions in their health care policies, hires liberal advisers, the liberal world applauds them for it, and everyone seems better off.
"The changes in its policies have accomplished what once seemed impossible. Many of its most ardent critics have put down their pitchforks...Executives sought out policy analysts like Len Nichols, a health economist at the New America Foundation, which supports universal coverage, asking him, among other questions, 'What would the liberals say?'"

Dr. Blake uses his blog to share some truth. Good for you, Dave.

A pastor named Joe Thorn gives Six Rules of Cultural Engagement that are both practical and challenging.

Mark Thoma, the most-read economist blogger in the world, posts on how the falling dollar has done what the DEA could not do: hamper drug smuggling in America.

Justin Timberlake will host a PGA tour event in Las Vegas.
"The four-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, record producer and actor will serve as host of its Las Vegas event in 2008, becoming the 14th celebrity to host an official tournament. 'I couldn't be more excited,' said Timberlake, who plays to a 6-handicap, according to a Golf Digest ranking that was released earlier this year."


"What goes around comes back around. I shoulda told you. Yeah."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Elasticity of Demand for Your Favorite Team

I think in the mind of some fans, the demand for their favorite team HAS to be very inelastic. That means they’ll pay whatever price is necessary to consume and anyone who doesn’t have that same inelastic demand curve isn’t a “true fan.” Their curve looks like this:

Even if their team is a terrible loser, they’ll still consume the team (through time, watching, ticket prices, etc.). Any fan that doesn’t consume at a given price is insultingly labeled “fair weather" fan or “not real.”

“Fair-weather” fans, however, are making a rational economic choice. The marginal cost of consuming at the given price is higher than the marginal benefit. The “fair-weather” demand curve looks more like this: Kentucky fans booed and left early at the Gardner-Webb game. This shows an elastic demand curve among these fans: At the given price, the marginal cost of being at the game and approving the play was higher than the marginal benefit of watching their team get beat soundly. This gets the ire of other die-hard fans who accuse these fans of not being “real fans.”

“Former Kentucky player and athletic director C.M. Newton said college fans are always wrong to boo.

"I don't care how much the ticket cost or the money you pay for priority seating," he said. "That, to me, is bush league."

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas watched the entire game. He thought the fans were booing the performance, not the players. New coach. New system. He suggested the performance has plenty of time to improve.

Bilas is smarter than the average commentator—I think he took an economics class or two.

I argue that team management needs a signal to respond to. If it puts out a losing product and everyone still consumes it happily, then what incentive do they have to improve it? This has been the basis of the argument about why the much-loved Chicago Cubs will never win a World Series, their fans support the team financially no matter what so management has no reason to work hard and produce a winner.

By refusing to consume at a given price, “fair weather” consumers send the signal that the price is too high for what they’re getting. Management then has to lower the price, or improve the product. In college sports, there are boosters who take up this role. Boosters support a large part of the athletic budget, and if they are no longer willling to pay then management will respond by making changes. A booster tends to be seen as a “die-hard,” whereas his demand curve is likely much more elastic than a true “die hard.”

My conclusion: ELASTIC demand curves for consumption of sports make our teams better. Athletic boosters have fairly elastic demand curves and therefore help improve the program more than the “die hard” fans who have inelastic demand curves.

So, next time you see fellow fans of your favorite team booing and leaving an arena early, or rooting for their team to lose so that the coach will be fired, know that they’re doing more to improve your team than the die-hard fans who will bear any price to support the team. “Die hards” should embrace their die-hardness but not criticize “fair-weather” fans and boosters for improving the team.

Why I thought about this: I read that A-Rod is demanding a $300 million contract from the California Angels. $300 million for one guy. I asked: At what point do I quit supporting a team financially because of the poor choices its management makes?

Am I a “fair-weather” fan if I choose to not support (ie: consume) my favorite team because the price of support becomes higher than the product the team produces? If I was an Angel fan, I would stop buying tickets.

A similar question has been asked in College Station the past couple football seasons. You may be unhappy with the team’s play, see no long-term benefit in keeping a coach, but you love your team and want to root for them… what do you do? Fortunately, enough Aggies stepped up and said “Either you change the coach, or you can forget our money,” and Tubby, er Dennis Franchione gets fired.

Don’t knock the boo-birds or those who stop buying tickets. It doesn’t mean they don’t love the team, it means they’re making a rational economic choice that will actually improve the team in the long-run.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dominance

Eye-catching story in the NY Times today about the Smith Center High School football team.
"Last month, they received national notice when they scored 72 points in the first quarter against Plainville."

The refreshing part:

“We aren’t proud of it,” said (Coach) Barta, who was born and raised in Plainville. “They had some turnovers that we took for touchdowns, and it just snowballed.”

Barta pulled his starting offense after his team’s third touchdown. He played his freshmen, but the touchdowns kept coming. So he told his young players to run out of bounds or fall to the ground if they got loose. Still, the final score was 83-0.

They are a high school football team, a superb one that has won 51 games in a row and three consecutive state championships, and has outscored opponents this season, 704-0. They are more than that, however, to the 1,931 people here who all know one another’s names: The Redmen are proof that hard work and accountability still mean something.

The trading cards, for example, are not about hero worship. Each player and cheerleader signs a contract pledging to remain alcohol-, drug- and tobacco-free. If they break that promise, they must go to the elementary school to explain to the children why they were kicked off their team, and their cards are revoked. "

Admittedly, I also like this part:

Barta’s scouting report for the coming opponent also becomes the hot topic of discussion throughout the week. This week for Oakley, it runs 28 pages and kicks off simply with, “This is the real deal, we must prepare well and quick.”

“We get it on Monday night,” said Joe Windscheffel, the Redmen’s senior quarterback. “As soon we get home, our dads start devouring it, and pretty soon, wherever you go in town, that’s all anyone is talking about."

Play hard, be more prepared than the other guy, and have class. Good formula there.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bhutto, Pakistan, and what comes next?

I wrote most of this post before Bhutto was arrested as part of a wider crackdown.
"Across Punjab Province on Thursday an estimated 500 workers of Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party were arrested in the government’s latest sweep of its opponents. By Friday morning, party officials said, the number detained in the past three days had climbed to 5,000."
Benazir Bhutto wrote an Op-Ed for the NY Times on Wednesday. Is it political grandstanding or sincere patriotism? She was almost killed by a bomb last week, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

“The United States alone has given the Musharraf government more than $10 billion in aid since 2001. We do not know exactly where or how this money has been spent, but it is clear that it has not brought about the defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, nor succeeded in capturing Osama bin Laden, nor has it broken the opium trade. It certainly has not succeeded in improving the quality of life of the children and families of Pakistan.

The United States can promote democracy — which is the only way to truly contain extremism and terrorism — by telling General Musharraf that it does not accept martial law, and that it expects him to conduct free, fair, impartial and internationally monitored elections within 60 days under a reconstituted election commission. He should be given that choice: democracy or dictatorship with isolation.”

Apparently, all the lobbying worked.

I’m in the middle of Karl E. Meyer’s The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery of the Asian Heartland. It’s a combination of histories of Central Asian countries. There was a lot about the making of Pakistan that I did not know.

Benazir Bhutto is the descendent of a long line of powerful, wealthy Pakistanis. Her father was a ruler who was ousted and executed. He and she herself are/were often accused of “corruption,” a vague charge that everyone is apparently guilty of.

Meyer writes:

“With Benazir Bhutto, one encounters another major recurring theme—the persistance of a powerful landowning elite that colides repeatedly with the meritocratic military, a competition that gives bargaining leverage to the third major force in Pakistan, the Islamic establishment, with its political parties and its ubiquitous religious schools.”

In the end, who or what will rule Pakistan come February?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

If I were a NASCAR crew chief, who would I be?

As I've stated before, I'm a Hendrick MotorSports and Jimmie Johnson fan. The team is methodical, smart, and dominant. Hendrick has already broken the record for the highest % of wins in a season by a single team in NASCAR history. Here's an article contrasting Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, with Steve Letarte, Jeff Gordon's chief. Here's a pic of Johnson and Knaus.

Chad Knaus is definitely my kind of guy:

"Chad Knaus gets to work at 6:45 (ie: early) every morning, arriving at the Hendrick Motorsports shop with his shirttail tucked in, his face shaven, his mind completely focused and expecting each of his crewmen to appear the same way...an ultra-intense gearhead who feeds on data and is obsessed by performance...He's a very intense guy, he's very quiet, very reserved, very to the point...He's all about the technology and the details...Knaus is the kind of crew chief who beats himself up over calls that don't work out, who will go back and review tape in an effort to improve his performance, who obsesses over issues until they're taken care of."

So, maybe I'm really rooting for Knaus moreso than I am for Johnson. It's like rooting for the Patriots because you like Bill Belichick, and not because you just like to watch Tom Brady or Randy Moss.

The #48 team has won 3 consecutive races, including Texas last weekend and swept races at 3 different tracks this year. (I've been able to acquire several of the races since we've been in Moldova, and Joni and I have greatly enjoyed watching them together. NASCAR is the way to go, I'm telling you).

Monday, November 05, 2007

I was mad enough to come back

After a long personal blogging hiatus, my frustration with the lack of Truth out there finally got to me.

First, I read this:Musharraf imposes emergency rule, and conveniently Pakistan Rounds Up Musharraf's Political Foes.
Yes, 6 years and $10 BILLION later and the Taliban is stronger than ever in Pakistan, their self-proclaimed President decides to quote Abraham Lincoln while suspending the Constitution, and the U.S. is left in the position of condemning him while still cutting him checks.
I should call this blog "Your Tax Dollars at Work."

The reason for the indifference on Pakistan I am sensing among Americans made even more sense after I saw this and this, courtesy of Registan.net.

From the March edition of Time Magazine. Compare the cover of the international issues to the one sold in the U.S. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. When the barbarians reach the gate of America we'll be too busy debating what shape and color our gate should be rather than realize why it's about to be taken from us altogether.

Then, I read this over at Rynoman's blog. Stunned silence.

Thankfully, Greg Mankiw is here to help clear up some truth-twisting on U.S. health care by political candidates in EVERY party. He gives us "the rest of the story" from other economists whose research have been manipulated and misrepresented by EVERY candidate. Every voter should read this article.

The Truth is out there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Brief Interlude

Technically, this blog is still closed. Go to Tapps to Moldova! for updates about our work.

I just wanted to post a couple of things that I was really happy about that don't fit that blog.

#1. UK being 4-0 and ranked #13 by Sagarin.

I woke up at 2am a couple Sundays ago to listen to the UK-Louisville game in its entirety. A friend at the game sent me this picture from her Blackberry because she knew I'd like it. It's now my desktop wallpaper. That Sunday (Saturday, EST) was the only time I've ever wished I could be somewhere other than Moldova. It's the first season since 1977 that UK has the talent and discipline to overcome adversity, and the breaks are starting to go their way.

#2: Go Hendrick Motorsports!

My wife roots for Jeff Gordon (because he's the anti-redneck. He has his own wine vintage, for pete's sake).I root for defending Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, shown below winning a couple races ago (because he's awesome).


Together with Casey Mears and other Race for the Nextel Cup competitor Kyle Busch,
Hendrick Motorsports puts the hurt on people and dominates Car of Tomorrow races. I like teams that dominate. I think I want Hendrick memorabilia (like a polo shirt) for Christmas.

I almost want to live in America next year just to watch as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. replaces Kyle Busch and Hendrick goes head-to-head with an awesome Joe Gibbs Racing team who will be switching to Toyota.
NASCAR and college football are among the only really competitive sports worth watching anymore. I can't watch them here, but I can at least blog my pride.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

This blog is closed

After two years and 548 thought-provoking political/economic/sports/school/church posts, it's time to move on.
Future posting will be done at Tapps to Moldova! Please check it out, and check out the previous couple of posts here to catch the vision for what we're doing.

If you've happened across this blog via Google or some other search engine, please feel free to peruse the archives.

Thanks for reading! Keep in touch!

--The Management

Friday, July 06, 2007

What is Christian Microenterprise Development? (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I explained the microcredit side. Now, I want to talk about entrepreneurial development.

In answering the question “why should Christians care about starting businesses?” I talked about how the mass migration of people from places like Mexico and the former Soviet Union are disrupting the entire societal structure there, a structure that the Church is asked to be salt and light in.

Another way to think about it: Unemployment causes serious social problems. 30-40% unemployment, like we see in Moldova, means a lot of men sitting around without a way to earn income to feed their family. The unemployment and lack of opportunity is one reason that alcohol and drug abuse are so prevalent, and why you have the problem of street urchins (gangs of orphaned or abandoned kids on the street). This is often why young Muslims turn to their local mosques and religious schools for food and support, and how they are cultivated into radical terrorists.

If the Church has the opportunity to address the root of these problems both spiritually and economically, why shouldn’t it? The church has the calling to be salt rubbed into meat of society, preserving it from going completely rotten (Matthew 5:13).

Business Professional Network (the organization sending Joni and me to Moldova) has developed a way to let the church be on the forefront of creating jobs and opportunities in many countries.

BPN helps locals form Business Development Groups (BDGs). They start with a small group of 8-12 national believers who have proven to be faithful to their church and good business operators. These believers will pool some funds to be loaned out to aspiring entrepreneurs. The group will be responsible for evaluating the applicants’ business plan and willingness to repay, and will also be responsible for coaching and encouraging the borrower. This is how the BDG builds a relationship with the local.

The BDGs organize seminars on how to write a business plan, how to properly account for finances, all the while salting their teaching with Biblically-based principles of ethics and accountability, and using the courses as a good bridge to share the Gospel.

BPN organizes BDGs here in the U.S., small groups of Christian entrepreneurs in a diverse range of professions. These groups seek to adopt certain entrepreneurs overseas, and will give funds to the Moldovan (or other country’s) BDG for a particular entrepreneur’s project.

If possible, the people from the U.S. BDG will provide advice and coaching to the national entrepreneur, and even travel to meet with him or her.

For example, BPN recently sent a U.S. BDG to Moldova to help train some women in how to run a beauty salon (one of the BDG members owned a salon). They provided some loan funds for women wanting to start salons, and provided encouragement and coaching to them as well. Western businesspeople get to use their God-given business talents and experiences to reach out to nationals. The nationals, in turn, are greatly attracted to having Western help as a resource and are more inclined to turn to the Christian Business Development Group for loans and support.

Check out the story of Vasile (abbreviated here), who first took out a loan in order to bake and sell cakes. Vasile eventually took out another loan to get into the sausage business. Vasile was lost in a world of alcoholism before he came to CAMED for a loan. Through the BDG’s coaching and influence, he repented and dedicated his life and business to the Lord. Now, he is able to employ 10 people and support 7 households, all of which he is leading to the Lord. Vasile’s sausage success is about to go international, as he’s in the process of finding ways to export his sausage to the rest of Europe.

So, CAMED (BPN’s partner that we will be working with directly) was able to provide:

  1. Loans to an aspiring entrepreneur.
  2. A God-centered relationship that led Vasile to repent and trust Christ. He’s now free of his alcoholism and healthy.
  3. Coaching to help him grow his business internationally.
  4. Jobs for more members of the community, helping lift 7 households out of poverty.
  5. A way for Vasile to reproduce himself by witnessing to and discipling his employees.

Development economists love it when firms reproduce themselves through "knowledge spillovers" and more industries are created as employees leave a business to start their own. Maybe one of Vasile’s employees will start a cheese factory and the cycle of faith+job reproduction will begin again.

Businesses that multiply create other businesses that multiply. When the business-planting process begins with Christ, it will create other Christ-centered businesses that multiply and groups of believers who multiply along with them. Then, you begin to see a people become liberated from both economic and spiritual poverty.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What is Christian Microenterprise Development? (pt. 1)

Since Joni and I will be working with a Christian microenterprise development agency, I’d need to explain what that is. “Microenterprise” captures 2 ideas: microcredit lending and entrepreneurial development.

First, microcredit:

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize went to Mohammed Yunus and his Grameen Bank for their efforts in pioneering microcredit lending. It's "bottom-up" poverty relief, as opposed to the more "top-down" macroeconomic approach of Jeffery Sachs and others, which I talked about in my previous post.

What is microcredit? It’s the extension of very small loans to entrepreneurs who are not bankable; people with no collateral, credit history, or any way to get money for their business ideas without paying astronomical interest rates.

Yunus discovered he could make small loans, just a few dollars, to his students who would then use those funds to earn money and then pay him back on time. He understood that often times poor people have some good ideas and opportunities to earn income, they just lack start-up capital to get it.

If you want to start a business in the U.S., you typically go to a bank or a venture capitalist and ask for a business loan. They assess your ability to repay, evaluate your business plan, and, if they approve, extend you a loan. You use that loan as your initial start-up, and once your business gets rolling you pay if off and either get another loan to help you grow faster or begin self-financing your firm from profits or bring on investor equity by selling shares of your company.

Most people in poor countries don’t have this option. Banks only loan out very large amounts to account holders and require collateral and other things up front. Thus, entrepreneurs are left to either wait a long time to start a venture, or never start one at all.

Microcredit groups enter the picture to fill in the gap and provide small loans to poor people. These groups typically assess credit risk by talking with family members, friends, and community leaders; maybe even requiring them to co-sign on the loan so that the borrower has social pressure to repay. It may require the person putting up small collateral, like their wedding jewelry or something small in monetary value but steep in sentimental value.

It may be $10 for a person to buy some shoeshine materials. Or $20 for a single mom to buy a wheelbarrow to cart vegetables to sell around her neighborhood. Or $50 for someone to buy a cell phone and start a pay-phone service in their village. It allows them to begin earning money, which they can use to grow their business. As they spend their money (on more vegetables, for example), they help employ other members of the community. The local economy starts to grow. People begin to live outside of poverty.

Some questions that are often asked about microcredit is:

“Why loans? Why not just give the people money?”

By giving them a loan that they’re obligated to repay, the borrower has an incentive to use his/her money as efficiently as possible. They will work to make sure they can meet the requirements.

The microloan process shows the recipient that this isn’t a one-shot game. It’s about establishing a relationship. They will have the opportunity to earn greater rewards by being faithful in the first loan they receive. Otherwise, they would just take the money and run.

“Aren’t you just saddling these poor people with more debts they can’t pay?”

Micro loans help them generate revenue through business and get out of the poverty. Microcredit institutions experience near 100% repay rates in every country. That’s considered to be the “miracle” of the process. Whether through the relationship process, or by bringing in members of the community to vouch for the loan recipient, people repay and economies grow.

Think about what might happen when the loan-givers building the relationship are Christians. They now have a way to build a relationship with many people in the community and share with them about Christ. More on that tomorrow.

“Why do we care about growing businesses? Shouldn’t we just care about sharing the Gospel and planting churches?”

As mentioned before, microcredit is a way for the Church to share the Gospel, but it’s also much more. It’s about the Church being salt in its community by helping keep it together. In many former Soviet countries (and in Mexico), people are migrating to other countries as quickly as they can in order to find jobs. This breaks up families as husbands and fathers leave their homes, perhaps never to return. The entire structure of society begins to break down. Younger educated people do not want to invest time and energy into the community that they just want to get out of. Anyone with leadership ability or talent exists the community, leaving a gaping void. The resulting economic and social collapse in these countries bring about anarchy, crime, war, and usually a harsh totalitarian-style regime. This makes it hard for the Church, whose members are also looking to leave the country. Churches in these types of community face the daunting challenge of reaching out when the society is coming apart.

With Christian microenterprise development, members of the Church have the ability to give back to their community by helping create jobs and stability. It allows them to be hugely influential the community and build relationships with people who might not have ever darkened the churches’ door. It shows the community that Jesus is not just a nice story or creed, but He’s a Savior who cares about their needs. He cares about giving a them cup of cold water, or clothing, or a way to keep their families together.

BPN, the organization Joni and I are working for, is more focused in helping people beyond purely small microloans. They mostly fund people who have “graduated” to higher levels of borrowing, in the $2000 range.

Here are some of their stories in Moldova. Check them out. They’re simple, but very effective. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the “enterprise development” side of the story and how the church is deeply involved.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's Wrong with Economic Development.

2 years ago I read Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty, which I reviewed here, and gave it to others as a “must-read-now.” Sachs is probably the foremost development macroeconomist on the planet, and maybe the most well-known and publicized economist in the world (he's the one who Bono calls "my teacher").

However, much of my 2 years at Baylor have been in learning deeper ways to evaluate and critique Sachs’ (and others’) proposals. I have now reached a deep conclusion, which I share with you now.

Sachs proposed targeted, cooperative experiments in poor African villages. He outlined how even a simple $100,000 could save a village via mosquito nets, vaccinations, better farming techniques, a cellphone for communication of prices, etc. Sustainable development that would save the village forever.

He has now implement those projects in 11 extremely poor villages in 10 different African countries using aid money. Here’s a very interesting article evaluating the original project in Sauri, Kenya by Sam Rich, an veteran of African development projects with the World Bank.

What struck me about Rich’s article are the descriptions of the problems. It’s no longer a lack of funding, or monitoring, or interest. They’re completely human in nature, and not easily addressable.

Understand, these are perfectly designed development projects with enough funds to do whatever is necessary.

They organize locals into elected committees to make effective decisions, they provide everything the village needs to approach sustainability: mosquito nets, water wells, vaccines, meals for students attending school, the Internet, you name it. $2.75 million into one village so far and achieving the results you’d want:

Healthier people who are able to work more. Higher crop yields for more food. Children being educated and having a chance at a brighter future. This should propel the village onward and upward.

However, it’s not a utopia. Why?

The Human Factor. Even the best-designed, best-equipped society ends up developing serious cracks. Why? Because man is sinful and depraved. Development that doesn’t address this issue will only achieve limited success.

Rich provides examples, while noting that people involved in the project would only voice their criticisms “off the record”:

Sauri has achieved more than (other) such projects could ever reasonably hope to, but it’s not yet a model village. Instead, Sauri remains Africa in microcosm. All the fundamental problems that exist in Africa still exist in Sauri; in some cases, these problems are ­magnified.”

1. Tribal divisions still exist. The dominant tribe is still keeping the lesser tribes from gaining access to resources.

2. The newly-formed committees already suffer from corruption.

3. The truck donated to take goods to market and use as an ambulance now sits unused due to political in-fighting.

4. Many villagers quickly sold their mosquito nets and fertilizer then simply conspired to get more from the donors.

“The best-laid plans…”

You see, there’s only one type of people who will recognize no distinction between tribes (Gal. 3:28), will share what they have unselfishly (Acts 4:32), will put others’ needs first (Phil. 2:3), and won’t take advantage of people offering help (Luke 12:48b).

Those people are the Church. People who have had their hearts completely changed by God (Deut. 30:6).

The best-designed aid and development projects will only be able to reach peoples’ physical needs (which is a good thing), but will fall short of their goals and be unsustainable in the long-run without seeing hearts changed by Jesus. He’s the missing component of these “perfect” projects.