The Theologian Who Challenged Papal Infallibility

(p. A13) In his 2015 remarks to a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis was the picture of a modern pontiff. He noted that “the contemporary world . . . demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it.” He cheered the future technological contributions of “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions.” He saw it as his papal duty “to build bridges” and, departing the Capitol, asked for the good wishes of those “who do not believe or cannot pray.”
This was a far cry from his 19th-century predecessor Pius IX, who in 1864 issued a “Syllabus of Errors” to correct some of the alarming social and intellectual trends that had proliferated over the previous decades. Among the errors that “Pio Nono” condemned were the notions that “every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true” and that “the Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”
Those seeking to understand this dramatic transformation of the modern papacy would do well to read Thomas Albert Howard’s “The Pope and the Professor.” Mr. Howard, a professor at Valparaiso University, explains in captivating detail the circumstances of the papacy’s historical conservatism. He also resurrects the plucky scholar who sought to calibrate papal authority for modern times, the German theologian Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890). The conflict between Döllinger’s critique of papal supremacy and Pius IX’s defense makes for a riveting story that goes well beyond church history and explores the key intellectual and political developments of 19th-century Europe.

For the full review, see:
D.G. Hart. “BOOKSHELF; Infallibility and Its Discontents.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 30, 2017): A13.
(Note: ellipsis in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 29, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Howard, Thomas Albert. The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz Von Dollinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Wisconsin Regulators Protect Consumers from Delicious Imported Kerrygold Butter

(p. A3) Attorneys with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty are taking the state to court over a 1953 law that mandates all butter sold in Wisconsin be graded and labeled on factors such as flavor, texture and color by state-licensed tasters.
Those convicted of selling unlabeled butter in the state more than once could pay up to $5,000 in fines and spend a year in county jail.
The statute has enraged devotees of the popular Kerrygold brand of butter, which is produced in Ireland and hasn’t been tested by the state. Local retailers say their inability to sell the grass-fed, gold-packaged spread has affected their bottom line. WILL is representing four consumers in counties across Southeast Wisconsin in the suit, as well as a health-food store in Grafton.
“I think the issue is important because it’s a specific instance of a larger problem,” Rick Esenberg, WILL President and lead counsel, said of the obscure, 64-year-old ordinance. “The government should not restrict our liberties–particularly our ability to engage in a legitimate business and make a living.”
. . .
Wisconsin laws have shielded the dairy industry from out-of-state competition for decades, but have often crumbled under judicial scrutiny.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1927 ruled unconstitutional a law prohibiting the sale of oleomargarine and other butter substitutes in the state, and in 1952 turned back an attempt to ban the sale of Dairy Queen soft-serve.
In 1895, Wisconsin forbade the sale of artificially colored margarine, forcing neighbors to pool funds and make “oleo runs” to the Illinois border to buy yellow-hued margarine in bulk. That law wasn’t repealed until 1967.
A half-century later, Wisconsin residents are now embarking on similar Midwestern voyages to stock up on Kerrygold.
“It has a richness to it and a taste to it that’s uncomparable to the other butters,” said Jean Smith, an avid consumer of Kerrygold and one of the plaintiffs in the Wisconsin suit.
Ms. Smith especially enjoys adding the Irish butter to her tea on mornings when she doesn’t have time for a full breakfast, and is a member of a Facebook group where neighbors keep each other abreast of the few Wisconsin stores supplying Kerrygold.
She buys the product whenever she travels out of state, picking up roughly a dozen bricks of butter on two trips to Nebraska this summer and then again when visiting Montana in May for her nephew’s graduation.
“The fact that I have to do that is absolutely ridiculous,” Ms. Smith said. “If it’s not related to safety, it’s not the government’s decision whether they should offer a product or not.”

For the full story, see:
Quint Forgey. “Wisconsin Lawsuit Aims to Whip Butter Statute.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Aug. 31, 2017): A3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 30, 2017, and has the title “Wisconsin Lawsuit Aims to Cut Through Butter Laws.” Of the last eight short paragraphs quoted above, the first and third appear in both the online and the print version of the article. The rest only appear in the online version.)

“We Grow at Night, While the Government Sleeps”

HarareNightStreetMarket2017-09-10.jpg“In Harare, unauthorized street vendors wait until dark to avoid the police. The government says 95 percent of the work force is involved in the informal economy.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

I remember my Wabash College economics professor, Ben Rogge, telling us that during one of his visits to Brazil, many decades ago, he asked an entrepreneur how the Brazilian economy managed to grow in spite of the heavy government regulations. With a smile, the entrepreneur told Ben: “We grow at night, while the government sleeps.”

(p. 6) HARARE, Zimbabwe — Dusk falls and thousands of vendors fan out across central Harare. Through the night, they hawk their wares — vegetables, clothes, kitchen utensils, cellphones — from carts, wheelbarrows or even the pavement, transforming the city’s staid business district into a giant, freewheeling village market.

On Robert Mugabe Road, around the corner from the city’s remaining colonial-era luxury hotel, the Meikles, Victor Chitiyo has sold dress shirts since losing his job as a machine operator at a textile factory several years ago.
“Since then, I’ve never been employed,” Mr. Chitiyo, 38, said under the dim light of a street lamp. “If the economy improves, I’d want to be employed at a company again. But I don’t think that will happen. It’s been a long time since we were optimistic in Zimbabwe.”
Harare’s night market is the most visible evidence of Zimbabwe’s swelling informal economy, which the government estimates now employs all but a small share of the country’s work force.
Even as Zimbabwe’s government, banks, listed companies and other members of the formal economy lurch from one crisis to another, the thriving informal economy of street vendors, traders and others unrepresented in official statistics helps keep the country afloat. For the government of President Robert Mugabe, that parallel economy is both a source of stability — and a potential challenge.
Once one of Africa’s most advanced economies, Zimbabwe has rapidly deindustrialized and shed formal wage-paying jobs, forcing millions like Mr. Chitiyo to hustle on the streets in cities and towns.
From 2011 to 2014, the percentage of Zimbabweans scrambling to make a living in the informal economy shot up to an astonishing 95 percent of the work force from 84 percent, according to the government. And of that small number of salaried workers, about half are employed by the government, including patronage beneficiaries with few real duties.
. . .
The government has occasionally cracked down — sometimes violently — on the street vendors, who are not licensed, describing their activities, near the seat of government and businesses, as an eyesore. Some of the vendors have also staged protests against Mr. Mugabe’s rule.
But the government mostly turns a blind eye, clearly calculating that a permanent crackdown on the livelihoods of an increasing number of its citizens would result in greater political instability. According to an unspoken rule, the street vendors are allowed to operate only after dark on weekdays and starting in late afternoon on weekends.
“If I come too early, the police will take my wares away and I’ll be broke,” said Norest Muza, 28, who sold popcorn and chips while carrying her 2-year-old son on her back. “Evenings, the police don’t come.”
Many of the street vendors arrive in Harare’s business district at dusk and spend the night on the streets before going home at dawn with the morning’s first taxis and buses.
. . .
Mr. Mugabe’s violent seizure of white-owned farms starting in 2000 precipitated a decline in manufacturing and a process of deindustrialization. Manufacturing peaked in 1992, accounting for about 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Now it is 11 percent and declining.
. . .
With the government now strictly controlling the transfer of dollars outside Zimbabwe, companies dependent on trade are finding it increasingly difficult to import critical goods.
“We have companies scaling down or discontinuing certain lines that are heavy on import requirements,” said Busisa Moyo, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
. . .
As the formal economy keeps shrinking, more and more people have been crowding the area where Mr. Chitiyo sells shirts on Robert Mugabe Road.
Across the street, a girl’s voice was crying, “Twenty-five cents for a cob!” It belonged to Tariro Dongo, 13, on her first evening working as a street vendor. It was past 9 p.m. Tariro said she was good in school and wanted to become a teacher.
She had bought 20 corn cobs for $2 near her home in Epworth, a poor township outside Harare. If she sold everything, her profit, after transportation, would amount to a couple of dollars. Sitting on a black bucket and fanning the coals in a small charcoal burner with a piece of cardboard, Tariro roasted the cobs.
She was happy with the money she had made on her first day, Tariro said.
“Twenty-five cents,” she cried. “One cob left!”

For the full story, see:
NORIMITSU ONISHI and JEFFREY MOYO. “Trade on the Streets, and Off the Books, Keeps Zimbabwe Afloat.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., MARCH 5, 2017): 6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 4, 2017, and has the title “Trade on Streets, and Off Books, Keeps Zimbabwe Afloat.”)

Connecticut Upholds Car Dealerships’ “Lucrative Stranglehold” on New Car Market

(p. A23) Connecticut and Tesla should be a perfect fit. But lawmakers failed to act on a bill in this year’s regular legislative session (for the third straight year) that would have legalized direct sales by Tesla, whose business model is rooted in selling directly to consumers.
The culprit? Heavy lobbying by the state’s car dealerships.
Thanks to Connecticut’s decades-old franchise laws, new cars can be sold only through licensed franchises independent of carmakers. Even though only about 5,500 zero-emission cars have sold in Connecticut since 2011, Tesla’s effort to cut out the middlemen would undermine the lucrative stranglehold that car dealerships have on the new car market.
. . .
. . . , the National Automobile Dealers Association claimed franchise laws “keep prices competitive and low.” However, a 2009 paper by an economist at the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division instead concluded that “car customers would benefit from elimination of state bans on auto manufacturers’ making direct sales to consumers.” The paper pointed to a study by a Goldman Sachs analyst in 2000 that found that direct manufacturer sales could lower costs by 8.6 percent, with most of the savings resulting from more efficient matching between consumer demand and supply, and a subsequent reduction in inventory.
No wonder the Federal Trade Commission has criticized franchise laws as a “special protection” for these dealers — “a protection that is likely harming both competition and consumers.”

For the full commentary, see:
NICK SIBILLA. “‘Connecticut Should Be Tesla Turf.” The New York Times (Fri., JULY 7, 2017): A23.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the title “Connecticut Should Be Tesla Country.”)

The Department of Justice research paper, mentioned above, is:

Bodisch, Gerald R. “Economic Effects of State Bans on Direct Manufacturer Sales to Car Buyers.” U.S. Department of Justice, Economic Analysis Group, Competition Advocacy Paper # EAG 09-1 CA. May 2009.

Brooklyn Reinvented Through Creative Destruction

(p. A13) The Wythe Hotel sits in the heart of Williamsburg, a Brooklyn neighborhood directly across the river from Manhattan. Opened to rave reviews in 2012, the hotel offers luxury dining at Reynard restaurant and spectacular city views from the rooftop bar. (Beers: $11.) Not long ago, the Williamsburg waterfront was a postindustrial wilderness, abandoned but for squatting artists; today it’s lined with glass towers and strolling millennials. The Wythe, set in a 1901 factory that once produced barrels for local breweries, features rooms with exposed-brick walls, spare concrete floors and beds made from salvaged wood. The streetscape retains a gritty feel–except at 3 a.m. on a Saturday, when party kids pour out of the nearby nightclubs and limos jostle for curb space with Ubers.
It’s easy to mock such scenes. But the borough’s boom deserves to be taken seriously, argues Kay S. Hymowitz in her engaging book, “The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back.” Ms. Hymowitz, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, recounts how “a left-for-dead city”–“a cultural and economic peasant enviously eyeing the seigneur just across the East River”–has reinvented itself in recent decades and emerged as “just about the coolest place on earth.” What, she asks, turned Brooklyn into a global brand?
The history of the borough, according to Ms. Hymowitz, embodies what economist Joseph Schumpeter dubbed the “creative destruction” of capitalism–the continual obliteration of old modes of production by rising industries and new technologies. In colonial times, Dutch and English farmers tamed the lush hills of Long Island’s southwestern tip. Slavery flourished; the indigenous Canarsee people disappeared. In the 19th century, industrial growth annihilated the bucolic past, while immigration reshaped the city’s culture. Factories closed and capital fled in the postwar decades, shattering communities and leaving the built landscape to decay. That destruction, though, cleared the decks for another burst of creative energy–one that has made Brooklyn a model, and a cautionary tale, for the cities of tomorrow.

For the full review, see:

Michael Woodsworth. “BOOKSHELF; Kings County Comeback.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Aug. 17, 2017): A13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 16, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Hymowitz, Kay S. The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.

Boys Town Closes California Sites Due to Intrusive Regulations

(p. 1A) It’s been a century since a young Irish priest named Father Edward Flanagan welcomed homeless boys into a run-down Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha.
But as Boys Town celebrates its centennial, the organization is lessening its focus on the kind of residential care model that made it famous.
The latest wave came in June, as Boys Town announced the shuttering of sites in New York, Texas and California, including one residential care site in Orange County.
. . .
In 2000 under the Rev. Val Peter, then its executive director, the organization had 16 sites — though some were shelters without residential care.
The Rev. Steven Boes, current president and national executive director, insists the Flanagan mission of caring for American families and children remains, despite what he called some tough decisions to close sites.
. . .
(p. 2A) Boys Town decided to shutter its 80-acre residential site in Trabuco Canyon and two family homes in Tustin, California, after years of advocating for regulatory changes in that state. At the time of the June announcement, those homes housed 28 children.
The Trabuco Canyon site was one of 14 Boys Town residential care facilities opened in the 1980s and ’90s as Peter worked to spread the model to larger metro areas around the nation.
Since then, changing state regulations have made it more difficult to implement the Boys Town model in many of those areas, said Bob Pick, executive vice president of youth care.
“We opened those sites 20 or 30 years ago, and it was an exciting time,” Pick said. “But times change, contracts change and we have to serve kids with the highest quality. We just couldn’t do that in some locations.”
When the Trabuco Canyon facility opened, youths stayed for up to two years, Pick said, adding that Boys Town’s own research shows that the minimum stay should be about six months and a yearlong stay is ideal.
Because of contractual rules including mandated length of stays in California, “we couldn’t get kids to stay longer than two or three months,” Pick said. “That’s just not quality care.”
. . .
The changes at Boys Town haven’t come without criticism.
The Rev. Peter worries that the closing of Boys Town sites and focus on research runs afoul of Flanagan’s mission. “I gave my whole life to this — to Flanagan’s dream,” Peter, 83, said. “This is called God’s dream. Times change, but God’s dream doesn’t.”

For the full story, see:
Klecker, Mara. “Renowned care model no longer main focus; Overall trend is toward in-home family consulting, fewer residential sites.” Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 27, 2017): 1A-2A.
(Note: ellipses added..)

Silicon Valley Firm Defies Disruption

(p. A1) LOS GATOS, Calif.–Companies that resist change don’t tend to last long in the caldron of innovation called Silicon Valley.
Then there’s the Z.A. Macabee Gopher Trap Co.
Founded in 1900 by local barber and inventor Zephyr Albert Macabee to manufacture his patented metal gopher traps, the company is a stickler for tradition.
The traps’ design has remained exactly the same, including their forest green color–despite complaints that the hue makes them hard to spot. Some customers gripe of hitting them with mowers, and have repainted them bright red or other colors. Still, the company doesn’t waver.
Macabee operates out of the same small Victorian house where “Zeph” Macabee started it all on a quiet residential street. Even the packaging—Spartan white boxes of 24–remain unchanged since the postearthquake edition of 1906.
“We have a strong product identity,” says Ronald Fink, the company’s cheerful septuagenarian general manager, who grew up on a nearby apricot farm.
But existential questions loom. The company’s patent expired in 1917. The threat of cheap Asian knockoffs led the company in (p. A10) 2008 to shift all production to China and lay off the eight Cambodian refugees who built traps in the basement on decades-old machines.
Another new competitor has popped up: a pest exterminator named Steve Albano, founder of Trapline Products in Redwood City, who used and studied Macabee traps and came up with what he considers a better design. “I think they just work better,” says Mr. Albano.
. . .
As the owners sort out their differences, copycat traps are flooding the market. Most retail for about a third less than the roughly $9 a Macabee commands, including several that even mimic the forest color.
“But people still buy us, because they know they’re getting quality,” says Mr. Fink.

For the full story, see:
Timothy Aeppel. “Old Time Rodent-Trap Company Doesn’t Gopher Change; At one firm in Silicon Valley, disruption is a dirty word; existential fears after 100 years.” The New York Times (Fri., June 19, 2015): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “Macabee, an Old Time Maker of Rodent Traps, Doesn’t Gopher Change; At one firm in Silicon Valley, disruption is a dirty word; existential fears after 100 years.”)