Saturday, February 13, 2010

Juhu Beach Mumbai

Israeli Students in Haifa

Easton Express Letter Regarding Baha'i Trial

Editorials, letters to the editor and columns from The Express-Times
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Devotional gathering set to support prisoners
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Much of the general population of Iran has suffered greatly at the hands of the current regime in that country. Particularly at risk by the regime are members of the Baha'i Faith. The Baha'is, whose chief teaching is the oneness of God and mankind, is the largest religious minority in Iran. More than 200 Baha'is have been executed since the 1979 revolution.
On Feb. 7, seven Baha'i leaders, imprisoned for the last two years on baseless charges, face sentencing with the prospect of further harsh punishment and even death. Many other Baha'is have recently been arrested and imprisoned without cause. The human rights abuses against the Baha'is have been condemned by the United States government and countries and human rights organizations around the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pillars of Prosperity: Back to the Basics

Pillars of Prosperity: Back to the Basics
by James P. West

(c. James West, appreared in Chicago Tribune and Morning Call September 2009)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching an educational campaign designed to save capitalism. Chamber President, Thomas Donahue saying, ‘…enough is enough’, sees government bailouts, industry takeovers, and deficit driven stimulus programs, as dangerous to our prosperity and ultimately our freedom. Perhaps the last straw was the irony of China and Russia giving the United States economic advice. Donahue says he is prepared to spend $100 million of Chamber of Commerce money to educate (or re-educate) Americans on what is being called a ‘Campaign for Free Enterprise”.
As a longtime professor of economics, I support increased economic education, but fear task this will not be easy. First, there is the growing supply of critics that blame market capitalism for the current state of affairs in the U.S economy. Second, the counter intuitive nature of many economic concepts, such as comparative advantage, opportunity cost, and marginal analysis, are not easily digested. The Chamber would do well to stick to the basics.
In this spirit, I offer my opening freshman lecture on the ‘Four ‘P’s of Prosperity’. Like educators returning to the three ‘R’s, reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic, the 4 ‘P’s focus on the foundation principles of capitalism . The ‘P’s are: Production, Property, Prices and Profits. Each of these is a pillar in the edifice of capitalism. Each is also widely misunderstood resulting in poor public policy.
Production is the foremost concern of the free enterprise system. When politicians focus on employment numbers, e.g. “how many jobs can we create”, they tend to confuse cause and effect. Full employment is the result of incentives motivating efficient private production. Just “creating jobs” or “making work” to reach full employment is unsustainable and expensive. As one astute economist noted, we could create full employment tomorrow by simply outlawing agricultural machinery. Motivating private production that creates sustainable employment is the key to prosperity. Adam Smith, in his aptly named 1776 book, ‘The Wealth of Nations’, made exactly this point.
Property rights are critical to motivating production and constitute a moral foundation of our free society. While the property debate usually centers on the rights to acquire and protect private property, these rights are dependent on the moral imperative of property rights, which is to respect the property of others. Failure to respect property rights is where the path to prosperity takes a bad turn. If a person seizes another’s property that is, of course, theft. To misuse the power of the state to legitimate the taking of property is also theft. Property rights need to be clearly defined and enforced by the rule of law. State coercion to reallocate property, while at times necessary, must be exercised with prudence. Eminent domain, taxation, intellectual property concerns are a few, among the many critical property related issues faced by society today.
Prices are such a common phenomena that their origins and significance often go unappreciated. Prices are at their root a means of economic communication. Like the letters that make words and sentences, prices communicate information about values that buyers and sellers need in order to make to make beneficial decisions. The complex economy requires that this information be rapidly developed and disseminated. Prices generated by market processes create that information. We may not always like the prices we get, but artificial manipulation of prices, will undermine the important communication function that prices play. An overly managed pricing system underlies much of the weakness of the health care system.
Finally, profits are the most demonized of all the ‘P’ concepts. A prosperous, vibrant economy requires creativity and risk taking. Yet, critics complain against the very concept that encourages creative and sensible risk taking. Profits are a driving force of human creativity. Not all creativity, of course, but a lot of it. Profits reward those who take the risks to create new products, services and explore new frontiers. Suffering the consequences of the failure to make profits i.e. bankruptcy, is likewise, a part healthy capitalism. The political desire to sustain unprofitable business is short sighted, as are policies that discourage individuals and firms from making profits. In recent decades, many developing nations have abandoned their profit phobias and have transformed their societies.
The four ‘Ps’ are not really new. They are the same principles that the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, called the ‘system of natural liberty’. Smith knew that private production, not the accumulation of government wealth and power, is the driving force of prosperity. A system of property rights, prices and profits, as he predicted, would and did generate unparalleled prosperity. While Smith identified many important roles for government in the economy, he cautioned that this system of natural liberty must be left free to work its magic.
The economic and ethical questions raised by the four ‘P’s loom large in the current economic debate. The swinging pendulum balancing private and state action appears to be swinging heavily toward the state. As the U.S. Chambers of Commerce takes up its campaign, which it has called ‘one of the most important and necessary initiatives in our nearly 100 year history’, these core principles should be at the center of the syllabus. Perhaps, when this is accomplished they can turn to the ethical issues raised in Smith’s other great work, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. This is another ‘must do’ lesson.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Op-Ed The Morning Call, Lehigh Valley PA Wednesday June 24, 2009
Religious persecution in Iran is felt in America and across the world

By Dr. James West
June 24, 2009

Iran is prominently featured in our news these days. Much of that news is not good.For instance, interviews following the imprisonment and release of American journalist Roxanna Saberi from an Iranian prison gave a disturbing glimpse of the human rights abuse that has characterized the ruling regime in Iran. Although she spent much of her time in solitary confinement and was threatened repeatedly, she mentioned that among the heartening experiences was time spent with fellow female prisoners, who showed remarkable faith and courage. Among those women were members of the Baha'i Faith, whose adherents are routinely persecuted and arrested by the Iranian regime solely on religious grounds.

The Lehigh Valley Baha'i community recently marked the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of seven Baha'i leaders in Iran. Approximately 30 others are in prison throughout the country. Baseless charges, including conspiring with Zionists and ''spreading corruption on earth,'' carry the potential penalty of death. Their only crime is their faith. Their one hope of justice -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi -- is prevented from meeting with prisoners.

More than 35 years ago as a young college student, I came across the Baha'i House of Worship while driving in Wilmette, Ill. Intrigued by this architectural gem of a building, I entered and learned of a religion whose principal message is the elimination of prejudice and the essential oneness of the human race. The religion also teaches equality, harmony of science and religion, interconnectedness of the world's religions, moral basis of economic relationships, need for universal education and independent investigation of truth. There is no clergy.I also learned the religion had its roots in Iran, where it was founded in 1844. It has spread throughout the world and has millions of followers. Later I learned of the ancient history of Iran, the beauty of the art and architecture and kindness and generosity of most of the people. But what surprised me most was that this peace-loving religion, the Baha'i Faith, was the target of brutal persecution in Iran.

I visited Iran in 1975, during the time of the Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, and had to travel with great secrecy to visit places of Baha'i history. Most of those places have been destroyed. The harsh fate of the Baha'i people worsened tenfold after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when the shah was overthrown and religious extremists seized control.

To Americans, freedom of religion is fundamental to our collective consciousness. It literally comes with the territory. This is especially true here in Pennsylvania, where the cause of religious freedom is at the core of our history. The coexistence of Moravians, Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, Catholics, Jews and increasingly today Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists, is a source of pride to our American identity.

My long connection with the Baha'i community has brought me into close contact with the suffering of the Baha'i of Iran. A few years ago, I met the mother of a 16-year-old girl who was hanged along with 12 other young women for no reason other than their faith.I have met Iranian refugees who have been fired from jobs and expelled from schools and have had their homes invaded in the night, family members imprisoned, pensions seized, children harassed and cemeteries desecrated.

Iran is a country with the talent and potential to work toward the peace and prosperity of the world. Yet its character and future are darkened by the intolerance and persecution of the innocent.The power of the free press and strong voices promoting human rights compelled the happy ending to Ms. Saberi's ordeal. The Baha'i community prays for a similar happy ending for its imprisoned co-religionists. Readers are encouraged to write our leaders in Congress to co-sponsor and vote for two resolutions, House Resolution 175 and Senate Resolution 71, demanding an end to religious persecution in Iran, especially for the seven Baha'is who are threatened with death.

(James West of Schnecksville is a member of the Baha'i community of the Lehigh Valley).

Back to Business

After 3 years it's high time to update this blog.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My New Pal----Lila

G'day Mate!

Yakity Yak Marzi