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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bolivia's President Morales: A De-Facto Dictator Undemocratically Removed from Office

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, resigned on November 10, 2019 after an audit by the Organization of American States found that the results of the election held the previous month could not be validated because of “serious irregularities,” including “failures in the chain of custody for ballots, alteration and forgery of electoral material, redirection of data to unauthorized servers and data manipulation.”[1] Election officials had stopped the count for about 24 hours without explanation; when the count resumed, Morales’ lead was much greater. Accordingly, along with Morales, the vice president, and the president of the state senate, the president and vice president of the electoral council resigned. Before the end of the day, the two officials of the council had been arrested for “electoral crimes.”[2] Although the state police were justified in arresting the officials, I submit that the police acted beyond their proper sphere when they joined with the military, which also acted beyond its sphere, to force Morales to resign.

[1] Kay Guerrero and Dakin Andone, “Bolivian President Evo Morales Steps Down Following Accusations of Election Fraud,” CNN.com, November 10, 2019 (accessed on November 12, 2019).
[2] Ibid.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Financial Scandal in the Vatican: A Historical Perspective on Christian Economic Ethics

In the history of Christian economic thought, theologians, with the exception of Clement of Alexandria, interpreted the biblical story of the rich man who refuses to part with his wealth in order to follow Jesus as meaning that having wealth is itself indicative of the presence of the underlying sin of greed. The dominance of this anti-wealth paradigm only began to give way during the Commercial Revolution in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when the expansion of trading made it possible for ordinary people to save, and thus hold wealth without any sense of an underlying sin. Hence, Aquinas differed from Aristotle in allowing for moderate profit without the assumption of any underlying greed. In the Renaissance, theologians generally agreed that the Christian virtues of liberality and munificence could justify even being rich. Even Cosimo de Medici, who made his fortune from the sin of usury (i.e., interest on loans), gained the approval of the Pope in Rome by donating a fraction of the fortune to the Church. Under the dominance of the pro-wealth paradigm, Christians could be wealthy without being assumed to be greedy.[1] As for the Church itself being able to hold wealth, the collective wealth, gained from donations and selling goods, of monasteries in the Middle Ages was the door-opener. It was not as if a greedy individual could be said to exist if a religious organization owned the wealth. Aquinas approved of such wealth, a stance that, with his approval of moderate profit earned (and held as wealth) by individual Christians, began the shift that would result in the hegemony of the pro-wealth paradigm.[2] Unlike individual Christians holding coin without being presumed greedy, monasteries owning substantial wealth could be subject to a critique based on Jesus’ objection to money-changers in the Temple. When I visited a convent in Tucson, Arizona once, a sister rebuffed my request to pick a couple of oranges from the trees behind the building. “We make juice that we sell,” she replied. I had the impression that I had witnessed greed over charity in a religious vocation. Such hypocrisy, enabled by the allowance for collective monastic wealth, rivals Pope Eugene IV’s absolution of Cosimo de Medici, in spite of his fortune having been gained entirely from usury, because he renovated a monastery in Florence. This historical background can help us situate the Vatican’s financial scandal that culminated in five Vatican officials being suspended in 2019.

The full essay is at "Financial Scandal in the Vatican."

1. Skip WordenGod’s Gold: Beneath the Shifting Sands of Christian Thought on Profit-seeking and Wealth, available at Amazon. The related academic treatise, Godliness and Greed, is also available at Amazon.
2. Ibid.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Perception-Based Healthy Reputational Capital as a Strategic Competitive Advantage: The Case of CVS Health

In 2014, CVS drug-stores stopped selling tobacco products. The strategic choice rendered CVS Health more internally consistent on wellness. To be sure, the company continued to sell alcohol products, such as wine and hard liquor, which are harmful to human health. Yet the incremental correction was significant both in regard to the short-term hits to the bottom-line and the salubrious contribution to the health of customers. If the share of revenue (and profit) from the sale of alcohol increased in the meantime to make up the difference, the net effect on the bottom-line could have been zero or even positive, and the net impact on the health of customers and the company’s healthy image could also have been nugatory or even negative. Writing in 2019, however, Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health, saw a perfect convergence of the long-term bottom-line and making a contribution to society even at the expense of short-term revenue.

The full essay is at "Perception-Based Healthy Reputational Capital."