For the most part, I endorse Thomas Carlyle’s description of economics as the dismal science. I have to add the “most part” qualifier after meeting and working with an economist who with her husband – also an economist – has developed the Family Prosperity Index. Measures like gross domestic product have value, but fail in themselves to measure prosperity in all its dimensions. FPI brings together data on fiscal and social well-being.

What is authentic prosperity, in terms of families? Where’s the objective data to evaluate prosperity? How do public policies help or hurt families? Explore the Index for yourself, and see how Dr. Wendy Warcholik and J. Scott Moody demonstrate how economic and social policy affect each other and in turn affect families.

As Mr. Moody told me in a recent interview, “We need to take a longer perspective, not election to election, about problems [affecting families]. That’s something the Family Prosperity Index is trying to do: break that vicious cycle of jumping from election to election with policy, and instead put into place programs that are going to be there long term, that will actually make a difference.”

It was my good fortune to work for Dr. Warcholik a few years ago when she served as executive director of a New Hampshire nonprofit organization. Today, she and Mr. Moody are senior fellows at the American Conservative Union (ACU) Foundation, where they are working on their Family Prosperity Initiative. I met with them at CPAC 2017 to learn more about what they’re doing and to follow up on some recent research they’ve published about the opioid crisis in my home state of New Hampshire.

Q. How did FPI come to be connected with the American Conservative Union?

WW: We met the executive director, Dan Schneider, and that’s how the partnership came about. We’d been working on the idea for the Index for the last five years. We had known Dan for awhile before that. We knew he was very interested and passionate about building out the foundation side of American Conservative Union. He was the first person who really saw the big vision for the Index and its data-driven capability to capture and measure what is truly prosperity.

Q. You look at more data than the typical economic analysis.

WW: We do. We’ve spent most of our career looking at the fiscal side of things, the economic side of the equation for prosperity. Through our many years in the free-market arena, doing the research and looking at different measures of prosperity indices, we really felt it needed to be a broader measure that takes into consideration the entire person. We wanted to go with an economic index with variables that truly measured human choices, not statutory measures. We wanted actual socioeconomic data that show the choices people are making.

Q. Regarding my own state, you titled a 2016 report “New Hampshire’s Suicide and Drug Use/Overdose Crisis.” Why are those two things – suicide and drug use – in the same title?

SM: The strength of the Family Prosperity Index is that it’s grounded in the academic literature. We were going through the literature on drug overdoses, and there’s a growing body of evidence that our medical examiner system is deficient in its ability to discern a drug overdose from a suicide. It’s very important that we understand this linkage. You might be able to effectively tackle drug overdoses through law enforcement and drug treatment facilities. But if we’re talking about a public health situation like suicide, then that is a truly different problem altogether.

Obviously, there’s mental illness [as a factor in some suicides]. We know that treatment, whether it’s for substance abuse or mental health, pays huge dividends down the road, even though they can be very pricey upfront. We need to take a longer perspective, not election to election, about these problems.

Q. Your studies have found a strong linkage between drug use and religion. You point out in your New Hampshire report that we are the third-least religious state, as measured by weekly religious attendance. At the same time, we have a relatively high rate of illicit drug usage.

SM: We want to bring to light [via FPI] all of these linkages that exist within the data or the academic literature, so that policymakers can discuss them in a neutral setting. Data doesn’t take sides. The literature doesn’t take sides. We need to have this discussion to fundamentally solve the opioid drug overdose problem in New Hampshire.

When we held a heroin crisis leadership summit in New Hampshire [in 2016], we purposely included members not just of law enforcement, but of the religious community and other important segments of our state that are all going to play a role in fighting the opioid problem.

From an economic perspective, religion brings to a society or state a much longer-term level of thinking.  [Religious faith] extends your time horizon, and makes you other-people-centered.

WW: From the public policy perspective, there are no silver bullets for solving this issue. That’s part of the point we’re trying to make with the index: you have these complex relationships between these social variables that impact economic outcomes. We’re so focused on the economic side of the equation. Until our public policy leaders turn their heads to the other side of the equation, the policies that we put together aren’t as durable as they could be. 

Q: Are you working in particular states now?

WW: We’re working with Governor LePage in Maine. He’s six years into fighting the heroin and opioid crisis. He’s putting some practices into place with the drug court there. He’s been very active in some of the laws passed to be very hard on drug dealers, as well as laws to open up more beds [for inpatient treatment of substance abuse]. It’s a very slow process. He’s put more money into law enforcement, but he knows that’s not the full answer. We’re working with him to develop an educational campaign about those other factors that are causing people to abuse. We’ll be up there in Maine to do a forum in late April or May. We’re also doing a legislative forum where we’re going to be bringing the FPI to all the legislators and the governor.

###

Note: the complete 2017 Family Prosperity Index, with information from every state, is available for download

Ellen Kolb blogs about New Hampshire life-issue policy at Leaven for the Loaf and looks farther afield in ellenkolb.com

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Xi’an, the former capital of mainland China, may be the best example of the country’s heart, power, history and future of the country.

Emperor Qin [pronounced chin] Shi Huang unified China in the Third Century B.C, making Xi’an [pronounced she-ON], the country’s most important city for roughly 1,500 years.

During his reign, his generals greatly expanded the size of the Chinese state. He enacted major economic and political reforms aimed at the standardization of such things as roads and currency. He is said to have banned and burned many books and executed scholars,  but experts dispute these claims.

His public works projects included the unification of diverse state walls into the Great Wall of China and a national road system, as well as the city-sized  mausoleum guarded by the life-sized Terra Cotta Army. He ruled until his death in 210  B.C.

Today China looks back at the history and the ties to its national roots.

Nearby lies the tomb of Wu Zetian, the only woman to ever rule China and a key component of the Tang Dynasty’s role in building the Silk Road that made the region rich. She’s well known and revered in China, but I was the only visitor to her massive tomb on a brilliant Sunday morning.

Wu (624-705) and the Tang Dynasty devised The Silk Road or Silk Route, an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West. Think Marco Polo.

While the term is modern, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk  (and horses) carried out along its length.

Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, Iran, the Horn of Africa and the Arab Peninsula, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, philosophies and various technologies.

Today, President Xi has revived the Silk Road philosophy through his “One Belt, One Road” strategy to improve economic and political relations with a variety of countries.

Essentially, the plan includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges and broadening trade. Apart from this zone, which is largely analogous to the historical Silk Road, another area to be included in the extension of this ‘belt’ is South Asia and Southeast Asia.

A report from Fitch Ratings suggests that China’s plan to build ports, roads and railways in under-developed Eurasia and Africa is out of political motivation rather than real demand for infrastructure. Fitch also doubts Chinese banks’ ability to control risks, as they do not have a good record of allocating resources efficiently at home, which may lead to new asset-quality problems for Chinese banks that most of funding is likely to come from.

Simply put, the plan is believed to be a way to extend Chinese influence at the expense of the United States, in order to fight for regional leadership in Asia. The estimated $1 trillion for the projects can be considered a masterstroke by China to establish itself as a world-leading economy and to spread its power, particularly in the South Asian region. China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to improve their basic infrastructure, with important implications for both China’s trade regime as well as its military influence.

One final note: Put Xi’an on your bucket list. It’s easy to get to and easy to get around. But make sure you see more than the Terra Cotta Army!

My new friends in Xi’an

Remember the  HuffPo article asking that men be denied the right to vote? Not all men, only white men, and not forever, just for twenty years?

Yeah, the article supposedly written by the female philosophy student?

That article.

Well, the writer was not a female named Shelly Garland but a guy named Marius Roodt, who succeeded in outing the HuffPo’s political bias. I certainly was outraged at the proposal, but thought that sort of asininity is almost in keeping with the HuffPo daily fare.

As it turns out,

The CEO of Media24, which operates HuffPost in South Africa, issued a statement calling the article’s publication “hugely damaging” to their reputation.

Back at the farm they call that “closing the barn door after the horse ran away,” especially since it took some doing from an outside ombudsman:

South African press ombudsman Johan Retief found that the controversial blog post was both discriminatory and constituted hate speech.

Verashni Pillay, the editor who first approved the article,  resigned but (oh yes, but) in a post where she bemoaned “our lack of racial healing,” she declared,

Despite the pressure for me to recant my thoughts in my initial response I cannot, authentically, do that.

I still believe that despite the gains for equality and universal human rights in the last century, the fact is that white men still enjoy disproportionate power. And yes, I believe that a loss of oppressive power is necessary to create a truly level playing field.

This will come about through

more honest, inclusive conversations, fewer accusations and growing suspicion of each other and eventual, authentic healing.

Because nothing leads to “honest, inclusive conversations” that reduce suspicion which bring about “authentic healing” like denying men of any race their unalienable rights to vote, to own property, to legal representation and to anything that Marxists don’t agree with.

In other words, standard feminist theory’s idea of “authentic healing.”

$5 says Ms Pillay lands a better-paying job at a liberal entity before the month is over.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog.

During the first Day of his visit to Boston a group of people from Prayers for life and other Pro-life groups joined Fr. Stephen Imbarrato of Priests for life at a protest at Planned Parenthood in Boston.

It was a rather rainy day

But that didn’t stop this protestor

Or these two

Or this deacon and his wife who gave some interesting perspectives on the permanent deaconate

After a little while Fr Imbarrato arrived and spoke to the folks

They prayed together

and after a few others arrived

And he blessed some holy water and prayed some more

there was a procession that went from the back of the building

and back to the front

the person asking the question was a police officer assigned to the area.

the area was more confined than usual due to some sidewalk being laid right in front of the building that complicated keeping the egress open for passers by, but what really struck me was this.

Planned Parenthood and their workers are no strangers to protesters and people praying. It happens regularly so the idea of seeing us in the rain would not seem to be anything that should have caused any kind of commotion among the workers etc. However it seemed to me that the sight of fr. Imbarrato seemed to particularly disturb these folks far beyond the norm.

This impression of mine was shared by at least one other person who has been there in the past.

A Photo gallery follows


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