Individualistic Cultures Foster Innovation

IndividualismProductivityGraph2018-04-20.pngSource of graph: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Luther matters to investors not because of the religion he founded, but because of the cultural impact of challenging the Catholic Church’s grip on society. By ushering in what Edmund Phelps, the Nobel-winning director of Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society, calls the “the age of the individual,” Luther laid the groundwork for capitalism.
. . .
(p. B10) Mr. Phelps and collaborators Saifedean Ammous, Raicho Bojilov and Gylfi Zoega show that even in recent years, countries with more individualistic cultures have more innovative economies. They demonstrate a strong link between countries that surveys show to be more individualistic, and total factor productivity, a proxy for innovation that measures growth due to more efficient use of labor and capital. Less individualistic cultures, such as France, Spain and Japan, showed little innovation while the individualistic U.S. led.
As Mr. Bojilov points out, correlation doesn’t prove causation, so they looked at the effects of country of origin on the success of second, third and fourth-generation Americans as entrepreneurs. The effects turn out to be significant but leave room for debate about how important individualistic attitudes are to financial and economic success.

For the full commentary, see:
James Mackintosh. “STREETWISE; What Martin Luther Says About Capitalism.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 3, 2017): B1 & B10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 2, 2017, and has the title “STREETWISE; What 500 Years of Protestantism Teaches Us About Capitalism’s Future.” Where there are minor differences in wording in the two versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

FDR’s Coast Guard Denied Entry to Future Medical Visionary

(p. B12) Dr. Arno G. Motulsky, a former refugee from Nazi Germany who became a founder of medical genetics, recognizing the connection between genes and health long before mainstream medicine did, died on Jan. 17 [2018] at his home in Seattle.
. . .
“It was his vision to study how heredity could be involved in practically everything,” Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist and the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview. “The relationship between heredity and the response to drug therapy — nobody was thinking about that until he started, 60 years ago. He anticipated it decades before science made it possible to get the answers that he dreamed of.”
As technologies emerged to decode DNA, the fields that Dr. Motulsky helped originate came to the forefront of medicine, leading to improved diagnosis and treatments for a host of diseases.
. . .
Dr. Motulsky’s path to prominence began in harrowing fashion. He had been one of more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, which reached the Miami coast in 1939 but was turned away by the United States and sent back to Europe.
. . .
His parents tried to leave Germany with him and his younger siblings, Leah and Lothar, in 1939, before war broke out in Europe. In an account he gave to the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics in 2016, Dr. Motulsky said his family had hoped to join his father’s brother in Chicago but headed for Cuba instead after hearing that a United States quota system was causing long delays in granting visas.
His father left first. His mother followed soon afterward, taking young Arno and his brother and sister with her aboard the St. Louis in Hamburg on May 13, 1939, bound for Havana. But Cuba refused to accept the refugees, as did other Caribbean countries.
“We asked to land in America, but were denied,” Dr. Motulsky said. “When we sailed close to Miami, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and planes shooed us off.”
Its passengers filled with dread, the ship headed back to Europe on June 6.
“Miraculously, a few days before we would have arrived back in Germany, four other countries — England, France, Holland and Belgium — each agreed to take one-fourth of the passengers,” Dr. Motulsky said.

For the full obituary, see:
DENISE GRADY. “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics 60 Years Ago, Dies at 94.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 30, 2018): B12.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 29, 2018, and has the title “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics, Dies at 94.”)

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.

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..)

When Istanbul Was “a Place of Tolerance and Enlightenment”

(p. C7) In vivid and readable prose, Ms. Hughes tells the story of the three cities that succeeded one another on the Golden Horn. First came ancient Byzantium, “the armpit of Greece,” an “ethnically mongrel place” where Greek settlers mingled with native Thracians. Then there was Constantinople, the New Rome founded in 324 by the emperor Constantine, “a city with both Greek and Near Eastern genetic coding, strengthened by Roman muscle and sinew and wrapped in a Christian skin.” And at last there was Istanbul, the “buzzing, polyglot” capital of the Ottoman Empire, transformed by the architect Sinan (perhaps the greatest genius of the European Renaissance) into “one of the world’s most memorable and impressive urban environments.”
One of the leitmotifs of Ms. Hughes’s book is the cultural pluralism that has characterized Istanbul since earliest times. The 11th century saw the Viking Harald Hardrada and thousands of other “pugilistic opportunists” from the wild Baltic serving in the Byzantine emperor’s Varangian guard. In 1492, Sultan Bayezid II welcomed thousands of Jewish refugees who had been expelled from Granada by Ferdinand II of Aragon, making early Ottoman Istanbul “the largest and most flourishing Jewish community in Europe.” Although the Christian Greek population of the city has dropped from 240,000 in the mid-1920s to fewer than 1,000 today, Istanbul remains a true “global city.” Leaving aside the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees eking out a miserable half-life “on the sides of inner-city roads and trunk-route intersections,” perhaps 20% to 25% of the settled population of modern Istanbul is composed of Kurds from eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia, making Istanbul by far the largest Kurdish city in the world. Throughout its history, as Ms. Hughes writes, “Istanbul has been a city for the Cosmopolitan, for the World Citizen.”
. . .
Ms. Hughes doesn’t conceal the fact that Istanbul’s history has often been a bloody one, from the vicious Nika riots of 532 (when the emperor Justinian butchered some 50,000 civilians) to the dark spring of 1915, when “hunched groups of Armenians could be seen being frog-marched to the city’s police stations, and not coming home.” But Istanbul has also been a place of tolerance and enlightenment, and when one compares its recent history with that of the other great multicultural cities of the Middle East–Aleppo, Baghdad, even Jerusalem–Istanbul can still fairly be called, as it was in Ottoman times, “the Abode of Happiness.”

For the full review, see:
Peter Thonemann. “The Abode of Happiness.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 9, 2017): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 8, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Hughes, Bettany. Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2017.

Christian Praise for Ayn Rand Novels

(p. A13) Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE restaurants and a practicing Roman Catholic, finds nothing worrisome in that fact: “I encouraged my six children to read both ‘Fountainhead’ and ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S. Lewis,” he told me. Each child later read “Atlas Shrugged.” Mr. Puzder argued that “there’s no contradiction between raising my children in the church, and urging them to lead the kind of lives of achievement, integrity and independence that Ayn Rand celebrated in her novels.”
Randall Wallace, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 1995’s “Braveheart,” and the director of 2014’s “Heaven Is for Real,” is such an admirer of Rand’s work that he wrote a screen adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged.” Mr. Wallace, a Southern Baptist, said, “My faith isn’t contradicted by her beliefs. We live in a world of labels, but God surely cares less about the labels we give ourselves than about how we live because of them.” Rand, Mr. Wallace feels, wrote fiercely and fearlessly about bold and brave characters. “I think it would contradictory to my own beliefs not to admire her.”

For the full commentary, see:
JENNIFER ANJU GROSSMAN. “Can You Love God and Ayn Rand?; A friend claims the atheist philosopher at one point saw the appeal of spirituality.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., Nov. 11, 2016): A13.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 10, 2016.)

The Ayn Rand novels praised above, are:
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943.

In 1596 Luis de Carvajal Was Burned at the Stake for “Observing Jewish Practices”

(p. C1) It is perhaps the most significant artifact documenting the arrival of Jews in the New World: a small, tattered 16th-century manuscript written in an almost microscopic hand by Luis de Carvajal the Younger, the man whose life and pain it chronicled.
Until 1932, the 180-page booklet by de Carvajal, a secret Jew who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Spain’s colony of Mexico, resided in that country’s National Archives.
. . .
(p. C6) De Carvajal was a Jew who posed as Catholic in New Spain, now Mexico, during a period when the Inquisition ruthlessly persecuted heretics and false converts with deportation, imprisonment, torture and grisly public executions.
. . .
In 1596, after having been found guilty again of observing Jewish practices, he was burned at the stake. He was 30.

For the full story, see:
JOSEPH BERGER. “A Jewish Treasure in Fine Print.” The New York Times (Weds., JAN. 4, 2017): C1 & C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 1, 2017, and has the title “A Secret Jew, the New World, a Lost Book: Mystery Solved.”)

Carvajal’s writings were translated into English and published in:
Carvajal, Luis de. The Enlightened; the Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo. Translated by Seymour B. Liebman. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1967.