Indiana University      Research & Creative Activity      April 1998 Volume XXI Number 2


Forum

We agree with many of the points made by Malcolm Boyce in his contribution to The Forum (April 1998). But we need to ask how he would implement the "technology and market force" approach to finding the solutions that he advocates to our energy and environmental problems.

We will address two primary issues. 1) Economists who study exhaustible resource problems uniformly agree that markets do not adequately take future needs for resources into account. 2) Markets are unable to conserve most environmental resources because they are not traded in markets. The unregulated competitive market is more or less forced to exploit these resources because they are regarded as "free" or "unpriced." The consequence is that we buy our goods at artificially low prices, but at a high social cost‹pollution.

The traditional approach to pollution control has been through regulation‹command and control (CAC). A large number of studies have found, however, that this approach is much more costly than pricing approaches, such as effluent taxes or marketable pollution permits. Perhaps even more important, effluent taxes establish a continuous incentive for producers to find cheaper ways to control pollution. The incentive is to escape the tax by additional pollution control at low cost. This is Boyce's "technology" in operation. The record of CAC in this regard is often poor and sometimes adverse. Pricing approaches are gradually supplementing or replacing other forms of regulation with the support of most major environmental groups.

On the issue of conserving for future use, even a modest tax on energy would help correct for the shortsightedness of markets with respect to future energy needs. Raising prices of these resources would lead to conservation and greater availability of these ultimately exhaustible resources for the future. In addition, the overall effect of the two taxes in raising the price of fossil energy would be to stimulate research to develop the technology and lower the cost of renewable energy resources.

Most taxes achieve an important social purpose with a bad side effect; they fund the public sector, but they distort economic decision making and reduce the efficiency of the economy. In contrast, pollution and energy taxes, when seen as a substitute for ordinary taxes, achieve three important social purposes: 1) they fund the public sector, 2) they improve the efficiency of the economy‹especially in our efforts to control pollution, and 3) they help to smooth the transition from present to future energy resources.

Lloyd Orr
Professor of Economics
Indiana University Bloomington

Bob Bent
Professor of Physics
Indiana University Bloomington



"Scriptures of the World," the April 1998 issue of Research & Creative Activity, highlights the contributions of Indiana University faculty to our understanding of "scripture" as a category in the history of religions. The contributors' research projects exemplify in different ways the new type of approach to the study of scripture advocated in recent years by historians of religions such as Wilfred Cantwell Smith and William A. Graham. The study of scripture since the nineteenth century has been almost exclusively the domain of biblical and orientalist scholars, who have focused on the content of particular religious texts and on questions of the history of origins, of causes and conditions that have produced specific texts. The more recent approach advocated by historians of religions focuses, in contrast, on the concept of scripture as a relational category, which refers not simply to a text, but to a text in its relationship to a religious community for whom it is sacred and authoritative. This approach is concerned not only with questions of the history of origins, but also with the history of effects, which encompasses the ongoing roles that a sacred text has assumed in the cumulative tradition of a religious community both as a normative source of authority and as a prodigious living force.
The contributors to the "Scriptures of the World" issue raise a number of important issues that are germane to the study of scripture as a relational category. First, this type of approach is concerned with issues of canonical authority and includes an examination of the mechanisms of canon formation, the means by which a corpus of texts is circumscribed and set apart as authoritative for a particular religious community. Second, such an approach involves reconstructing the history of interpretations of particular sacred texts in the cumulative histories of the different communities that cherish those texts as scriptures. Third, the relational approach seeks to excavate the multiple reception histories of particular scriptures among different groups in different historical periods, in different cultural contexts, and in different social locations. This includes an examination of the variety of cultural forms in which scriptures have found expression‹in ritual performances, in sermons and testimonies, in drama and dance, in music, literature, and the visual arts, and in political movements and social reforms. Faculty at Indiana University, through their ongoing research on such issues, promise to make significant contributions to our understanding of scripture in the history of religions.

Barbara A. Holdrege
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara


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