It is staggering that anyone could be so self-infatuated as to single out their own particular policy preferences as "anti-war." Anyone who is not a sadist or an idiot is anti-war. The only serious issue is how best to limit, deter or conclude war. But responsibility for confronting this issue is evaded by those preoccupied with the moral preening of being "anti-war." -Walter Williams
Some advice for the President, Secretary of Defense, and Joint Chiefs:
When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.
Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War
So Al Gore wins a Nobel prize for "raising awareness about global warming."
I've spread countless loads of manure—beef, dairy, swine—on fields from Wisconsin to North Dakota. What do I get? A big, fat nothing.
Is that fair?
This is not a treatise on the practical failure of socialism. I will not be telling you why socialism doesn’t work and capitalism does. If you’re looking for a lesson in economics, read Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, or Thomas Sowell. This is an explanation of why — all pragmatic considerations and emotional motivations aside — socialism is wrong, and should be rejected by all Christians as an inherently sinful system.
Before I begin, let me assure you that I am not cold and uncaring of the needs of others. I think it would be great if everyone had plenty to eat, nice clothes, and a solid roof over their heads. I would be happy to see everyone receive a good education and quality medical care. I would like to see everyone have everything they need in abundance. I would like to do what I can to make that a reality. Wouldn’t you? I hope you would. On the other hand, I know that all people should not have what they need. Scripture tells us that those who will not work should not eat. The logical end of that, of course, is that those who are unwilling to earn a living should be allowed to starve. This, by the way, was not the word of the mythical harsh God of the Old Testament. This was the command of the Apostles to the New Testament Church. I am also not among the wealthy targets of the “tax the rich” mentality. This is not a crusade to protect my wealth from the IRS.
Socialism is often presented as the Christian response to poverty. Jesus cared for the poor, and so should we. The early church shared all things in common, didn't they? Therefore, it is right that the entire nation share all things in common with everyone. Governments ought to redistribute the wealth of the fortunate, privileged classes with the less fortunate and underprivileged. There are a few problems with this thinking, however, one of which is the fundamental reason why I believe socialism is antithetical to Christianity. That problem is simply that governments do not produce and possess wealth to distribute. They must take it from those who produce it.
Now I’m going to get straight to the point. This will be short and seem very simplistic, but that’s only because it really is this simple. First, let me illustrate the difference between Christian giving and socialist “giving”.
Suppose I find someone in need and discern that their need is legitimate and they truly cannot meet it through normal means (something a government can never do). I dig into my resources and give what I can. Maybe that isn’t enough, so I alert others to the need and some of them are able to help, as well. The need is met and we give glory to God.
Or, I see people in need and think, “someone should help them.” I see that there are people who have more than they need, so I go about robbing them and distributing their money as I see fit.
You see, it’s one thing to give of your own resources and to exhort others to do the same. That is Christian charity. It’s something else entirely to give from someone else’s resources. We call that theft. We call it theft no matter how good the motivation behind it is. And when it’s done by force, we call it robbery. That’s what socialist governments do.
“Hold on, there,” you might say, “ours is a democratically elected government. They represent the will of the people, so it isn’t stealing.” Well, yes, it is. Just because the majority agrees that Joe Rich and John Middleclass should be robbed to keep Susie Singlemom in groceries — and let’s be honest, to keep Bubba Trailerpark in beer and cigarettes — doesn’t make it less than robbery. The majority does not have the right to democratically oppress the minority.
It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are or how many people agree with you. It doesn’t matter how much good is actually done. The end does not justify the means. When you reach into your neighbor’s pocket to fund your good deeds, you are a thief. If you see a need that ought to be filled, go to it. Put your money where your mouth is. Just don’t put my money where your mouth is. I have my own conscience to deal with, and you are not it.
Now, I just know there is someone reading this and nodding, “You tell ’em, man!” Thanks for your support. But now is the time to look into your own heart and ask if you’re really practicing Christian charity. How many Susie Singlemoms do you know who are living on public assistance because their churches — and you — have more exciting ways to spend the money God has trusted to you? That new car or plasma screen — did you neglect one of “the least of these” within your sphere of influence to acquire it? Are you decrying the increasing socialism in America (or where ever you may be) while living like a socialist by passively letting government do your job? You also need to put your money where your mouth is.
It has been said that we ought to vote and govern as cold, hard capitalists, because that ensures the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people, but live as socialists, sharing our wealth with the needy. I agree with the first part of that statement, but the second part misunderstands what socialism is. Socialism is not giving what is mine. Socialism is taking what is yours and giving it away, and that is stealing, no matter how you try to justify it. We ought to live as Christians, following Christ’s example as we steward the resources God has entrusted to us. That is what the Bible teaches.
The Wealth of Nations
Capitalism and Freedom
Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One
Coincidentally, Chip Bayer posted on this subject the day after I wrote this article. Read his article here.
2 Thessalonians 3:10
The classifications of “fortunate” and “privileged” are Marxist inventions; but that is not the subject of this essay.
This is why the American founders designed a republic rather than a democracy. Democracy is nothing but a tyranny of the majority.
. . . or elderly widows, or families just “down on their luck” due to various difficulties?
I’m not advocating a monastic lifestyle. God’s normal means of preventing poverty is through work. That means the best way to fight poverty is to purchase the products and services that people produce (read the authors mentioned above for a better understanding of this principle). However, we must not neglect those who may be temporarily, or in some cases permanently, outside the normal economic process.
I believe very strongly that Christians ought to take part in the political processes in the countries in which they live, from the national to the local level. I believe in promoting right political ideology at every opportunity. And I believe that there is an ideology that is right, and that Christians cannot land anywhere they want on issues of politics and economics and still live Biblically. There is a Biblically correct view of law and government that excludes all others, and I believe Christians ought to be actively promoting that Biblical view.
But . . .
I also believe that certain segments of the church — not just the apostate Gospel-free church that tends to lean left, but the true church that still maintains the Biblical Gospel and thinks it leans right (but, in fact, does not) — have, at best, badly obscured the Gospel and severely crippled their witness in the world, and worse, in many cases have completely abandoned and actually repudiated the Gospel in favor of a political transformation of society, which, ironically, can never be affected by anything but the Gospel.
While I would hate — really hate — to provoke you to political pacifism, I would much rather see you go Amish than join the religious right (with whose goals I largely agree) and prostitute your witness to politics. The Gospel is what we are to be about. The Gospel is everything we are to be about.
Now, the reason I wrote this post today: I want you to listen to a seminar presented last week by Phil Johnson at the 2008 Shepherds Conference entitled Politically Incorrect? How to shepherd your congregation in an election. You may now download this message free of charge here, or if that fails, find it here.
So you want universal socialized health insurance. Alright, let’s suppose you get it. You’ve surrendered another large chunk of your liberty to the nanny state, but that’s okay, because now Big Brother will take care of you.
But health care is expensive. Very soon it becomes obvious that government is doing what it does best: building bloated bureaucracies that produce inferior services at astronomical costs. The system cannot be sustained. Something must be done, and that something will definitely not be admitting that another government program has failed. Another committee is formed. The committee looks into the cause of the extreme high cost of Hillary — no, strike that — Obama-care. Who shall we blame? The health care administration? No, that only works when private industry is involved, or an evil Republican administration.
Who is the culprit? Why, it’s you, of course. You have bad habits that are driving up the cost of your health care. For one thing, you’re too fat. The solution to that is to raise your insurance premiums. Oh, wait — you don’t pay any. It all comes out of that big congressional piggy-bank where everyone’s taxes go. That’s where all entitlements come from — you know, the money you earned to which someone else who didn’t earn it is entitled; but, I digress.
Back to the question at hand: what to do about your bad habits that are bankrupting Utopia. Strategy one: nag you about your eating habits. Strategy two: harass restaurants, especially fast food chains, to stop making food that you will actually buy. If McDonalds french fries tasted more like school lunch tater-tots, not only would they be healthier, you probably wouldn’t eat them at all. These two plans are already in action; but they’re not enough. You’re still too fat.
Execute strategy three: institute invasive, oppressive laws governing your diet. Require periodic measuring of your wasteline (I spelled it that way on purpose. It’s a joke — get it?) and impose penalties when it gets too big. Sound far-fetched? It’s already happening in Japan.
Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.
Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education* after six more months.
—New York Times, June 12, 2008
So you voted for universal health insurance, and got it. Congratulations; Big Brother is now your daddy and mommy, too.
Before I begin, I want to say that I appreciate John Piper’s ministry immensely. I have listened to him preach, and, deo volente, will again. I have read some of his books, and there are a couple still on my shelf that I am eager to read. Nothing I am about to say should be taken as a slight to his character or ministry.
However . . .
Today I must strenuously disagree with John Piper. I’ve disagreed with him before, but never like this. In most other disagreements, I’ve at least had some empathy with his position. In this case, I have none; his logic is badly flawed.
If it was almost anyone else, I’d probably ignore it; but John Piper has a following of bloggers who run to their keyboards every time he moves, gasping breathlessly at the profundity of his latest twitch. So I expect to see his latest statement spread virally all over the blogosphere in this and following weeks. In fact, I’m seeing it start already, and it was only posted this morning (it’s Sunday as I write this). And, though his sentiments are noble, I think they are completely wrong-headed, and deserve a rebuttal.
I’m referring to his statement on the Desiring God blog concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the 2nd Amendment was properly (though narrowly) upheld.
Dr. Piper made no statement on the court’s decision per se. His statement addressed why he would not use a gun to defend his home, and expressed his hope that no one else would, either. He used, as his example, Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries, who chose not to defend themselves against the spears of their attackers because “The natives are not ready for heaven. We are.”
I tend to believe that those young missionaries made the right choice. However, I don’t believe their reasoning applies in the vast majority of home-defense situations. My reasons are as follows (none of them would have applied in the jungles of Ecuador):
- In the majority of instances of defensive firearms use, no shots are fired. The threat is enough to subdue or put to flight the perpetrators. Yet being confronted with a violent response increases their fear of other potential victims, most of whom “are not ready for heaven.”
- The knowledge that potential victims, most of whom “are not ready for heaven,” might be armed is a known deterrent to criminals. Violent crime is highest in unarmed cities, and is known to decrease when citizens of those cities arm themselves.
- When an assailant is shot, more is accomplished than stopping the immediate crime: his future crimes — primarily against people who “are not ready for heaven” — are prevented; and a societal atmosphere is created in which criminals are more likely to think twice before attacking.
- While you can be sure that an intruder in your home is “not ready for heaven,” neither are most of his past and future victims — and you can be sure that there are, or will be, others. Sacrificing yourself only leaves him free to move on to his next victim, who is most likely — say it with me, now — “not ready for heaven.”
Piper’s goal of saving the lives of those who “are not ready for heaven,” though noble, is myopic and misdirected. It would be better served by doing whatever is necessary to stop the violent criminals who kill them.
Postscript: That was to be the end of this post, but a couple of additional points have crossed my mind.
- I realize that John Piper’s children are all grown and it’s just he and his wife at home. But many of us have children at home, and I am not one who assumes my children are “ready for heaven” just because they say they believe in Jesus. Shall I not protect them? Shall I value the soul of a murderer above theirs?
- Can a Calvinist really believe that evil must be allowed to go unchecked because God hasn’t had a chance to save the evildoers yet? In other words, is this really a dilemma at all?
Addendum: James White addresses this issue in I Beg To Differ, Brother Piper. Dr. White takes a more wide-angle view than I did. Although the comments section of this post has taken in more, my intention was to focus on Dr. Piper’s single expressed reason for sparing the intruder, i.e., that he is “not ready for heaven.”
Election day is coming, and I will be voting. I will be voting for the candidates that best represent “liberty and justice for all.” More specifically, I will be voting for the candidates whose views most closely reflect an understanding of and commitment to the United States Constitution. I will vote for bills that are permitted by the Constitution, and against any that are not — no matter how much benefit they may promise.
I believe that involvement in the political process is a citizen’s duty, and that Christians are called to be good citizens.
However, my hope is not in the outcome of any election. Whether the winners are the blatantly ant-Christian candidates, or their opponents, the moral pretenders and the occasional righteous man, my hope is in God alone, and his gospel.
I must confess equally boldly that my own solid hopes for the well-being of my country depend, not so much on her navies and armies, nor on the wisdom of her rulers, nor on the spirit of her people, as on the persuasion that she still contains many who love and obey the Gospel of Christ. I believe that their prayers may yet prevail.
That’s supposed to be funny. Palin/Paladin — get it? No? Never mind, then. Since everyone seems to be excited — positively or negatively — over John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, I thought I might as well get excited, too. The trouble is, I can’t, either way. I am not distraught that a woman, wife, and mother is playing second fiddle on the Republican presidential ticket. I am also not thrilled that said fiddle is exceedingly pro-life. It’s not that I don’t care about those issues. It’s just that, in a way, the former point doesn’t matter at all, and in another way, it matters very much; and the latter point, while truly a wonderful thing, could surely have been found in someone less maternal. All this leaves me with mixed feelings; not the kind that upset my stomach, but the kind that balance out to a disinterested ambivalence.
Only under the most unfortunate circumstances do I approve of a married woman, with or without children, being employed outside her home. My reasons — which are not germane to this article, so won’t elaborate on them — are two-fold: 1) she ought not submit to the authority of anyone but her husband and 2) it is virtually impossible for her to do so without in some way, however small, neglecting her home. However, it would be hypocritical of me to object to Palin’s candidacy on those grounds as long as I continue to patronize businesses that employ married women, many of whom are mothers.
Marital status aside, the fact that she is a woman does not bother me. Just as I don’t mind paying a woman to pour my coffee at the café, I don’t mind paying a woman to be Vice President, or even President. Well, I suppose it bothers me a little. I am convinced that women, by design, are not ideal for such positions. But then there was Margaret Thatcher; and considering the performance of our last two male Presidents, I don’t think I’ll push that point at this time.
While the Bible does say a wife is to be a keeper at home, it does not say that a woman can’t have a job — and that’s what this is: a job. I know, many will say this is different. This is a really big job, much different from the average job that the average woman might have. Well, yes, it is; but that only presents a difference of degree, not kind. Others will point out that this is a position of authority. I would suggest that those people do two things: get a copy of the Constitution and learn what the job of President (since the Vice President could conceivably be thrust into that office) actually entails, and read the Bible and learn exactly what kind of authority a woman is forbidden.
First, the Bible: Scripture bars women from exercising authority over their husbands and in the church, nowhere else. Unless you believe the church should be joined to the state, there is no biblical impediment to women holding public office.
Second, the law: Presidents (or senators, etc.) are not authorities. This is a republic. We have, as John Adams said, “a government of laws, not men.” Elected officials are merely administrators of the law. The Constitution is King (Lex Rex). I have been disappointed to see some slandering Mr. Palin, implying, or stating outright, that he must not be the head of his home, and by allowing his wife to be Governor and now Vice President, he is subjecting himself further to her authority. That is an unfounded charge. We don’t know how things are in their home, and her public service has no bearing on that. There is no elected position that would place her in authority over him.
So, I’m not excited about this candidacy. I think it’s just a reflection of the sad state of the culture we live in, and no more than that. I’m sorry that the Palin’s have chosen to order their family as they have; but I’ll say the same for many of the ladies who work in the stores around town. I’m glad that Mrs. Palin is very pro-life, but I find it sadly ironic that a woman who has pursued a demanding career away from home is billed as pro-family.
There is a tendency for conservative Christians to become indignant and hit the outrage button when the world behaves worldly and insist that, if they can’t have things as they ought to be, they won’t have it at all. That’s foolish. Sometimes — often, actually — we have to take the cards we’re dealt and make the best of it.
I will vote for McCain-Palin in November. As I do, I will be sorry we can’t do better, but happy to be voting against Obama for a candidate that might actually defeat him. I will do that because there is a difference, and it does matter.
If you‘re not an informed voter after today, don‘t blame me. And don‘t blame the folks resonsible for the following links. (I will likely be updating this page over the next few days until the election.)
Guy Benson & Mary Katharine Ham
The comprehensive argument against Barack Obama — A huge, slow-loading page of YouTube videos and commentary; apologies to dial-up readers.
The Witherspoon Institute
Wall Street Journal
A Liberal Supermajority —the prospect of a Democratic victory may be more seriously threatening than you realize.
Obama’s Constitutional Theory —in which the Obamessiah expresses his desire to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution.” This is what makes Obama the most dangerous.
If you read none of the above, please read the following:
R. C. Sproul
And finally, although this election is very important and there is much at stake, let us keep it in perspective. Be sure to read Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting by John Piper.
|Today is election day in the United States. I will be spending much of the day in prayer for my country. If you have not yet voted, I invite you to peruse the links on this page. |
Please join me today, even if you are coming here from another country, in prayer for America.
Before retiring last night, I typed out my thoughts on the election. I had pretty much decided not to post them, but for better or worse, here they are.
Well, it’s over. Now that Obama has been President, here is what we have to look forward to.
Legal, unlimited abortion will now be the law of the land. Overturning Roe v. Wade is now meaningless. Obama has vowed to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. Justin Taylor explained what this means in a post I linked to last week:So to summarize this act--which again, Barack Obama has promised to sign as his first order of business in the White House--abortion on demand will become codified, all regulations and restrictions will be stripped away, Christian hospitals and physicians will not have a choice regarding the performance of abortion (since their accrediting agencies are approved by the federal government), teenagers will not have to tell their parents about an abortion, and prolife taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions at any stage of the pregnancy for any reason.
Many of us have long understood that the only way to end abortion is not to change the law (though we certainly favor that), but by changing hearts. Well, folks, now that’s all we’ve got. The legal battle is over, and we have lost.
We all know that Obama is a Marxist, pure and simple. There’s no denying it. He also knows that the Constitution denies the government the power to “redistribute wealth.” No problem, he says. We’ll just toss the Constitution. We need to “break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution.” This is the man who is now empowered to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States — the appointed guardians of the Constitution. He who has expressed his desire to deconstruct the constitution will take an oath to defend the Constitution, and immediately launch an attack against it.
The implications of this philosophy extend much further than economic freedom. This means that every liberty is up for grabs. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, everything. The day is swiftly approaching when we will have to choose to obey God rather than men, and pay the price for it.
We have elected a murderer and a thief, a man who despises the very principles on which this Republic was built. Indeed, he hates God. No, not the god in whom he professes faith. That god is alright with him. But that is not the God of the Bible.
What does that mean? What it means should cause us to fall on our faces and cry out to God for mercy; for it means that we are a nation of murderers and thieves.
God, have mercy!
In spite of the gloomy tone, I do know that God is still sovereign, that Jesus is Lord, and that I can still count on his promises. If the first century church could live under Caesar, I can live with an Obama Presidency. I can live even if the Republic crumbles entirely. Because my hope is not of this world.
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.No matter who is President.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
I promise this is not going to become a political blog. But since politics is a part of the life of every citizen, and it is a Christian’s duty to be a good citizen, politics will be addressed here from time to time. Especially now. I do promise, though, that I will get all this off my chest and out of my system very soon and get back to more pleasant things. But I warn you: this may not be pretty. Lovers of soft, gentle words may want to move on.
Everyone out who wants out? Okay, here we go: some more post-election lamentations.
- Voting your conscience.
As opposed to voting for John McCain of course; because McCain is [fill in the blank]. I know all too well that McCain was no great conservative hope; but seriously . . .
- “McCain or Obama, what’s the difference?”
What an ignorant question. What a willfully ignorant question, and in many cases, I believe, a dishonest question. So ignorant and/or dishonest that doesn’t even merit an answer. Go read the record for yourself. If you still can’t see it, my condolences on your lobotomy.
- The “lesser evil.”
Those of you who eschewed voting for “the lesser of evils” in favor of a third-party or independent candidate, I’ve got news for you. Unless you wrote in “Jesus Christ,” you voted for a lesser evil. A vote for any of the apostles would have been a vote for a lesser evil. Your best option in any election will always be a lesser evil. When your wife chose you over those other guys she (I hope) chose the lesser evil. (Will the ladies please invert that proposition.) So the difference between you and me is not that only one of us voted for a lesser evil, but that only one of us will admit it. Oh, there is one more difference. I voted for a candidate that could conceivably have defeated the greater evil. Which brings me to my next point: yes, I voted pragmatically.
- The pragmatic choice.
Pragmatism is not a dirty word. Read the Proverbs and take note that wisdom often seems very pragmatic. Yes, there are times when ethics trump pragmatic considerations, but simply charging “Pragmatism!” is a meaningless accusation. We ought always to be pragmatic. Consider the pragmatism of William Wilberforce in accepting incremental advances against slavery. If he had continually demanded immediate, total abolition, and had been willing to settle for nothing less, who knows when — or if — slavery would have been abolished in the British Empire? But as it happened, we credit abolition of British slavery to Wilberforce’s perseverance and willingness to take what he could get when he could get it. Yet, if he had been running for office today, you would have voted for the guy standing in the corner, ideally perfect, but with no audience, constituency, influence, or hope of ever having any; because a vote for Wilberforce would be “pragmatic.”
- I voted pragmatically and voted my conscience.
I am frankly sick of the pseudo-pious pontifications to the contrary. My conscience required that I vote to defeat Obama. It did not require that I “make a statement,” “send a message,” or make any other such token gesture. It required that I do something that was potentially effective, not merely symbolic. It did not require me to do something that would give me a warm feeling inside. I’m afraid many of you are confusing good feelings with a clear conscience. Many times a clear conscience comes with conflicting emotions, like those I had when I voted for John McCain, and George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H. W. Bush before him; but my conscience was clear. On the other hand, I could have voted for another candidate who I dearly wish could have had a chance, and gotten some personal satisfaction out of it; but my conscience would not have been clear, because I would have done nothing of substance at all.
- “McCain or Obama, what’s the difference?”
- I’m a racist, I suppose.
I am not the least bit excited that Obama is black. I couldn’t care less. I don’t think this is a wonderful day in American history because we have elected a black President. This in no way indicates any improvement in “race” relations. The very fact that people are making a big deal about it proves that. The fact that vast numbers of people, by their own admission, voted for Obama because of his color, and that others who could not vote for him wish that they could have because of his color tells me that color holds a place of significance that it should not. When the day comes when people no longer speak of “race” at all, especially as a factor in making choices between individuals, then I will recognize that something important has happened. I do not think of Obama as a black man. I think of him as an extraordinarily evil man. There’s nothing exciting about that.
- America may just have reached the point of no return.
If Obama is successful in instituting the draconian changes he has promised, this Republic is as good as dead. And why not? Perhaps God is sending his own message. Perhaps he is saying, “Alright, you cherish your right to sin? I’m going to take away your liberty to do righteously. You want a little bit of socialism? I’ll give you a Marxist President, with friendly majorities in both houses if Congress. You want to kill babies? You’re going to kill them until you’re sitting old and alone, with no one to teach in your schools, no one to do your scientific research, no one to staff your hospitals, no one to work in your factories, no one to farm the land, no one to man your military and defend your borders, no one to care for you, no one to pay the taxes to fund your socialist utopia. I’m going to give your once-great nation to whomever has the strength to take it; and you, and the few children you do have, will serve them. They will circumscribe the limits of your freedom. They will tell you what may do, what you may say, and how you may worship. You asked for it.”
- Finally, government is not the answer.
Maybe now Christians will take seriously this exhortation. It is way past time for those who call themselves conservatives to start playing the part and stop looking to government for salvation.
I will be praying for this new President, and I hope you will, too; but I will not simply be praying some vague prayer that God will bless him. I will be praying, as James White suggests in this YouTube video, for his salvation. I will be praying that God will remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh and grant him repentance. Until that happens, I will be praying for his failure. I will be praying that God will restrain him and prevent him from accomplishing any part of his evil agenda.
I will definitely be praying for long life for every Supreme Court Justice.
Yesterday was to be my last political post of the season. I intended to move on to something else today, but to tell the truth, I’ve hardly been thinking of anything else. But I’m not going to write about it any more. I’m not quite going to let it drop, though, either. I’m going to fire one more round, albeit vicariously. Here you go: read this, and pretend I wrote it.
On a lighter note, as of last evening, the ad on the right was still up on Technorati. And sometimes I think I get behind.
Next week: no politics at all, I promise, and as little as possible after that.
John Adams is quoted as saying, “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.”
In that spirit, I* offer my heartfelt congratulations to both John McCain and Barack Obama.†
*No, I’ve never been President. I’m just taking Adams’ word for it.
†I know. I said yesterday was my last political post. But you see, this one doesn’t count, as it’s kind of a joke.
Explaining the process that gave us President Obama (and every other President, as well) to my children (the youngest being eight years old):
First we have the primary elections. In the primaries, there are two groups: one bad (with rare exceptions), and the other pure evil. One segment of America chooses from the bad the candidate they believe is the least bad. Another segment chooses their favorite evil candidate. Then there is the general election, in which the bad candidate runs against the evil candidate. The winner becomes President for the next four years.
As we note the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, I want to draw attention to the strong pro-life stand he took during his career. The following is from a letter he wrote in response to a pro-choice constituent:
While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.
On the question of the individual’s freedom of choice there are easily available birth-control methods and information which women may employ to prevent or postpone pregnancy. But once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire. . . .
When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.
I would like to praise Senator Kennedy for his defense of human life, but, sadly, that was in 1971. His views changed a bit as time passed.
As Washington makes mad grabs for power, and as our state and local governments, at the urging of an infantile citizenry, seem increasingly eager to capitulate, consider these words of wisdom from Milton Friedman.
First, the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets. . . .
The second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington. If I do not like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, or zoning, or schools, I can move to another local community, and though few may take this step, the mere possibility acts as a check. If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 2–3.
It should be obvious to anyone with the slightest political savvy that, as a people shifts more responsibility onto government, the liberty enjoyed by that people decreases proportionally. Yet a good share of Americans apparently don’t know that, or, I suspect, don’t care. But for those of us who value liberty above the chimera of state-guaranteed provision, these words of Milton Friedman, originally published forty-seven years ago, are a timely reminder today, as increasingly more people are holding out their hands to a nanny state for an increasing list of needs, giving little thought to the economic costs, and no thought at all to the immensely greater cost in personal liberty.
It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of “democratic socialism” by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by “totalitarian socialism” in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. [My] thesis . . . is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible, and that in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.
Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements itself is a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 7–8.
To help us through the present Marxist siege (Come on, 2012!), I had designated Saturdays for posting readings from Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. However, as Friday enables catchy alliteration, I’ve shifted Friedman to Friday (smooth, eh?). So here is your weekly dose of political postulations from the eminent economist.
So long as effective freedom of exchange is maintained, the central feature of the market organization of economic activity is that it prevents one person from interfering with another in respect of most of his activities. The consumer is protected from coercion by the seller because of the presence of other sellers with whom he can deal. The seller is protected from coercion by the consumer because of the other consumers to whom he can sell. The employee is protected from coercion by the employer because of other employers for whom he can work, and so on. And the market does this impersonally and without centralized authority.
Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the “rules of the game” and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on. What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit.
It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power that cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.
Economic power can be widely dispersed. There is no law of conservation which forces the growth of new centers of economic strength to be at the expense of existing centers. Political power, on the other hand, is more difficult to decentralize. There can be numerous small independent governments. But it is far more difficult to maintain numerous equipotent centers small centers of political power in a single large government than it is to have numerous centers of economic strength in a single large economy. There can be many millionaires in one large economy. But can there be more than one really outstanding leader, one person on whom all the energies and enthusiasms of his countrymen are centered? If the central government gains power, it is likely to be at the expense of local governments. There seems to be something like a fixed total of political power to be distributed. Consequently, if economic power is joined to political power, concentration seems almost inevitable. On the other hand, if economic power is kept in separate hands from political power, it can serve as a check and a counter to political power.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 14–16.
Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic.
An incomplete list of “activities currently undertaken by government in the U.S., that cannot, so far as I can see, validly be justified”:
1. Parity price support programs for agriculture.
2. Tariffs on imports or restrictions on exports, such as current oil import quotas, sugar quotas, etc.
3. Governmental control of output, such as through the farm program, or through prorationing of oil as is done by the Texas Railroad Commission.
4. Rent control, such as is still practiced in New York, or more general price and wage controls such as were imposed during and just after World War II.
5. Legal minimum wage rates, or legal maximum prices, such as the legal maximum of zero in the rate of interest that can be paid on demands deposits by commercial banks, or the legally fixed maximum rates that can be paid on savings and time deposits.
6. Detailed regulation of industries, such as the regulation of transportation by the Interstate Commerce Commission. This had some justification on technical monopoly grounds when initially introduced for railroads; it has none now for any means if transport. another example is detailed regulation of banking.
7. A similar example, but one which deserves special mention because of implicit censorship and violation of free speech, is the control of radio and television by the Federal Communications Commission.
8. Present social security programs, especially the old-age and retirement program compelling people in effect (a) to spend a specified fraction of their income on the purchase of retirement annuity, (b) to but the annuity from a publicly operated enterprise.
9. Licensure provisions in various cities and states which restrict particular enterprises or occupations of professions to people who have a license, where the license is more than a receipt for a tax which anyone we who wishes to enter the activity may pay.
10. So-called “public housing” and the host of other subsidy programs directed at fostering residential construction such as F.H.A. and V.A. guarantee of mortgage, and the like.
11. Conscription to man the military services in peacetime. The appropriate free market arrangement is volunteer military forces; which is to say, hiring men to serve. There is no justification for not paying whatever price is necessary to attract the required number of men. Present arrangements are inequitable and arbitrary , seriously interfere with the freedom of young men to shape their lives, and probably even more costly than the market alternative. (Universal military training to provide a reserve for war time is a different problem and may be justified on liberal grounds.)
12. National parks, as noted above.
13. The legal prohibition on the carrying of mail for profit.
14. Publicly owned and operated toll roads, as noted above.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 35–36.
This list was compiled forty-seven years ago, but is certainly still relevant today. While some of the items listed are not in actual practice today (e.g. military conscription), the principle applies and bears reiteration.
Forget freedom of speech. What about freedom of thought? Did you ever think you would see the day, in the United States of America, when one could be prosecuted for his thoughts? One headline this Monday announced FBI cites thousands of hate crimes in ’08. “Thousands of hate crimes.” The FBI has, as empowered by the law, presumed to judge the thoughts of thousands. If you don’t find that disturbing, you might already be on the road to loving Big Brother.
Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic.
In Milton Friedman’s world, free trade agreements would be irrelevant. Friedman’s approach is not only economically expediant, but is, as I see it, the Christian — if I may use the term where it does not strictly apply — way of doing things.
Given that we should move to free trade, how should we do so? The method that we have tried to adopt is reciprocal negotiation of tariff reductions with other countries. This seems to me a wrong procedure. In the first place, it ensures a slow pace. He moves fastest who moves alone. In the second place, it fosters an erroneous view of the basic problem. It makes it appear as if tariffs help the country imposing them but hurt other countries, as if when we reduce a tariff we give up something good and should get something in return in the form of a reduction in tariffs imposed by other countries. In truth, the situation is quite different. Our tariffs hurt us as well as other countries. We would be benefited by dispensing with our tariffs even if other countries would not. We would of course be benefited even more if they reduced theirs but our benefiting does not require that they reduce theirs. Self interests coincide and do not conflict.
I believe it would be far benefits from better for us to move to free trade unilaterally, as Britain did in the nineteenth century when it repealed the corn laws. We, as they did, would experience an enormous accession of political and economic power. We are a great nation and it ill behooves us to require reciprocal benefits from Luxembourg before we reduce a tariff on Luxembourg products, or to throw thousands of Chinese refugees suddenly out of work by imposing import quotas on textiles from Hong Kong. Let us live up to our destiny and set the pace not be reluctant followers.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 73.
Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic.
Milton Friedman explains one reason that mediocrity is about the best we can expect from the public school system:
With respect to teachers’ salaries, the major problem is not they are too low on the average—they may well be too high on the average—but that they are too uniform and rigid. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority, degrees received, and teaching certificates acquired than by merit. This, too, is largely a result of the present system of governmental administration of schools and becomes more serious as the unit over which governmental control is exercised becomes larger. Indeed, this very fact is the major reason professional education organizations so strongly favor broadening the unit—from the local school district to the state, from the state to the federal government. In any bureaucratic, essentially civil-service organization, standard salary scales are almost inevitable; it is next to impossible to simulate competition capable of providing wide differences in salary according to merit. The educators, which means the teachers themselves, come to exercise primary control. The parent or local community comes to exercise little control. In any area, whether it be carpentry or plumbing or teaching, the majority of workers favor standard salary scales and oppose merit differentials, for the obvious reason that the specially talented are always few. This is a special case of the general tendency for people to seek to collude to fix prices, whether through unions or industrial monopolies. But collusive agreements will generally be destroyed by competition unless the government enforces them, or at least renders them considerable support.
If one were to seek to deliberately devise a system of recruiting and paying teachers calculated to repel the imaginative and daring and self-confident and to attract the dull and mediocre and uninspiring, he could hardly do better than imitate the system of requiring teaching certificates and enforcing standard salary structures that has developed in the larger city and state-wide systems. It is perhaps surprising that the level of ability in elementary and secondary school teaching is as high as it is under these circumstances.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 95–96.
Milton Friedman explains how economic liberty works against discrimination:
It is a striking historical fact that the development of capitalism has been accompanied by a major reduction in the extent to which popular religious, racial, or social groups have . . . been discriminated against. The substitution of contract arrangements for status arrangements was the first step towards freeing the serfs in the Middle Ages. The preservation of Jews through the Middle Ages was possible because of the existence of a market sector in which they could operate and maintain themselves despite official persecution. Puritans and Quakers were able to migrate to the New World because they could accumulate the funds to do so despite disabilities imposed on them in other aspects of their life. The Southern States after the Civil War took many measures to impose legal restrictions on Negroes*. One measure which was never taken on any scale was the establishment of barriers to the ownership of either real or personal property. The failure to impose such barriers clearly did not reflect any special concern to avoid restrictions on Negroes. It reflected rather, a basic belief in private property which was so strong that it overrode the desire to discriminate against Negroes. The maintenance of the general laws of private property and of capitalism have been a major source of opportunity for Negroes and have permitted them to make greater progress than they otherwise could have made. To take a more general example, the preserves of discrimination in any society are the areas that are most monopolistic in character, whereas discrimination against groups of particular color or religion is least in those areas where there is the greatest freedom of competition.
. . . one of the paradoxes of experience is that, in spite of this historical evidence, it is precisely the minority groups that have frequently furnished the most vocal and most numerous advocates of fundamental alterations in a capitalist society. They have tended to attribute to capitalism the residual restrictions they experience rather than to recognize that the free market has been a major factor enabling these restrictions to be as small as they are.
. . . a free market separates economic efficiency from irrelevant characteristics. . . . the purchaser of bread does not know whether it was made from wheat grown by a white man or a Negro, a Christian or a Jew. In consequence, the producer of the wheat is in a position to use resources as effectively as he can, regardless of what the attitudes of the community may be against the color, the religion, or other characteristics of the people he hires. Furthermore, and perhaps more important, there is an economic incentive in a free market to separate economic efficiency from other characteristics of the individual. A business man or an entrepreneur who expresses preferences in his business activities that are not related to economic efficiency is at a disadvantage compared to other individuals who do not. Such an individual is in effect imposing higher costs on himself than are other individuals who do not have such preferences. Hence, in a free market they will tend to drive him out.
This same phenomenon is of much wider scope. It is often taken for granted that the person who discriminates against others because of their race, religion, color, or whatever, incurs no cost by doing so but simply imposes costs on others. This view is on a par with a very similar fallacy that a country does not hurt itself by imposing tariffs on the products of other countries. Both are equally wrong. The man who objects to buying from or working alongside a Negro, for example, thereby limits his range of choice. He will generally have to pay a higher price for what he buys or receive a lower return for his work. Or, put the other way, those of us who regard color of skin or religion as irrelevant can buy some things more cheaply as a result.
As these comments perhaps suggest, there are real problems in defining and interpreting discrimination. The man who exercises discrimination pays a price for doing so. He is, as it were, “buying” what he regards as a “product”. It is hard to see that discrimination can have any meaning other than a “taste” of others that one does not share. We do not regard it a “discrimination”— or at least not in the same invidious sense — if an individual is willing to pay a higher price to listen to one singer than another, although we do if he is willing to pay a higher price to have services rendered to him by a person of one color than a person of another. The difference between the two cases is that in the one case we share the taste, and in the other case we do not. Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with one taste and may not with the other? I do not mean to say that all tastes are equally good. On the contrary, I believe strongly that the color of a man’s skin or the religion of his parents is, by itself, no reason to treat him differently; that a man should be judged by what he is and what he does and not by any f these external characteristics. I deplore what seem to me a prejudice and narrowness of outlook of those whose tastes differ from mine in this respect and I think the less of them for it. But in a society based on free discussion, the appropriate recourse is for me to seek to persuade them that their tastes are bad and that they should change their views and their behavior, not to use coercive power to enforce my tastes and my attitudes on others.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 108–111.
* I know this word may offend some. Realize, though, that these lectures were given in 1956, when “negro” was the vernacular term used by black and white alike.
In a chapter on monopolies, Milton Friedman devotes a section to labor unions and their attempt to monopolize labor. The following excerpt discusses the actual effect of unions on wages:
There is a . . . tendency to overestimate the importance of monopoly on the side of labor. Labor unions include roughly a quarter of the working population and this greatly overestimates the importance of unions in the structure of wages. Many unions are utterly ineffective. Even the strong and powerful unions have only a limited effect on the wage structure. It is even clearer for labor than for industry why there is a strong tendency to overestimate the importance of monopoly. Given a labor union, any wage increase will come through the union, even though it may not be a consequence of the union organization. The wages of domestic servants have risen very greatly in recent years.* Had there been a union of domestic servants, the increase would have come through the union and would have been attributed to it.
This is not to say that unions are unimportant. Like enterprise monopoly, they play a significant and meaningful role making many wage rates different from what the market alone would establish. It would be as much a mistake to underestimate as to overestimate their importance. I once made a rough estimate that because of unions something like 10 to 15 per cent of the working population has had its wage rates raised by something like 10 to 15 per cent. This means that something like 85 or 90 per cent of the working population has had its wage rates reduced by some 4 per cent. Since I made these estimates, much more detailed studies have been made by others. My impression is that they yield results of much the same order of magnitude.
If unions raise wage rates in a particular occupation or industry, they necessarily make the amount of employment available in that occupation or industry less than it otherwise would be — just as any higher price cuts down the amount purchased. The effect is an increased number of persons seeking other jobs, which force down wages in other occupations. Since unions have generally strongest among groups that would have been high-paid anyway, their effect has been to make high paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers. Unions have therefore not only harmed the public at large and workers as a whole by distorting the use of labor; they have also made the incomes of the working class more unequal by reducing the opportunities available to the most disadvantaged workers.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 123–124.
* “Recent” relative to 1956.
I love irony, especially when it proves the inconsistency of aberrant philosophies. For example:
Marx argued that labour was exploited. Why? Because labour produced the whole of the product but got only part of it; the rest is Marx’s “surplus value”. Even if the statements of fact implicit in this assertion were accepted, the value judgment follows only if one accepts the capitalist ethic. Labour is “exploited” only if labour is entitled to what it produces. If one accepts instead the socialist premise, “to each according to his own need, from each according to his ability.” — whatever that may mean — it is necessary to compare what labour produces, not what it gets but with its “ability”, and to compare what labour gets, not with what it produces but with its “need.”
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 167.
In the socialist ethic, the end justifies the means. But in reality, the socialist means are unable to bring about the intended end. For example:
Minimum wage laws are about as clear a case as one can find of a measure the effects of which are precisely the opposite of those intended by the men of good will who support it. Many proponents of minimum wage laws quite properly deplore extremely low rates; they regard them as a sign of poverty; and they hope, by outlawing wage rates below some specified level, to reduce poverty. In fact, insofar as minimum wage laws have any effect at all, their effect is clearly to increase poverty. The state can legislate a minimum wage rate. It can hardly require employers to hire at that minimum all who were former employed at wages below the minimum. It is clearly not in the interest of the employers to do so. The effect of the minimum wage is therefore to make unemployment higher than it otherwise would be. Insofar as the low wage rates are in fact a sign of poverty, the people who are rendered unemployed are precisely those who can least afford to give up the income they had been receiving, small as it may appear to those voting for the minimum wage.
This case is in one respect very much like public housing. In both, the people who are helped are visible—the people whose wages are raised; the people who occupy the publicly built units. The people who are hurt are anonymous and their problem is not clearly connected to its cause: the people who join the ranks of the unemployed or, more likely, are never employed in particular activities because of the existence of minimum wage and are driven to even less remunerative activities or the relief rolls; the people who are pressed ever closer together in the spreading slums that seem to be rather a sign of the need for more public housing than a consequence of the existing public housing.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 180–181.
May I make an observation?
When Congressmen obstruct legislation they oppose, they’re doing their job. That’s how the system works. So stop whining about it.
Oh, what the heck — I’ll make two observations. It can’t be just me who thinks it’s hilarious that this President, of all people, thinks it unfair to stick the Democrats with the “tax and spend” label.
Milton Friedman concluded his lectures on Capitalism and Freedom with a summary of the dual threats against a free society. While the external threats have changed, the principle applies just the same. The internal threat has not changed at all. It has only become more obvious.
The preservation and expansion of freedom are today threatened from two directions. The one threat is obvious and clear. It is the external threat coming from the evil men in Kremlin who promise to bury us. The other threat is far more subtle. It is the internal threat from men of good intentions and good will who wish to reform us. Impatient with the slowness of persuasion and example to achieve the great social changes they envision, they are anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and are confident of their own ability to do so. Yet if they gained the power, they would fail to achieve their immediate aims and, in addition, would produce a collective state from which they would recoil in horror and of which they would be among the first victims. Concentrated power is not rendered harmless because of the good intentions of those who create it.
The two threats unfortunately reinforce each other. Even if we avoid a nuclear holocaust, the threat from Kremlin requires us to devote a sizeable fraction of our resources to our military defense. The importance of the government as a buyer of so much of our output, and the sole buyer of the output of many firms and industries, already concentrates a dangerous amount of economic power in the hand of the political authorities, changes the environment in which business operates and the criteria relevant for business success, and in these and other ways endangers a free market. This danger we cannot avoid. But we needlessly intensify it by continuing the present widespread governmental intervention in areas unrelated to the military defense of the nation and by undertaking ever new governmental programs—from medical care for the aged to lunar exploration.
As Adam Smith once said, “There is much to ruin a nation”. Our basic structure of values and the interwoven network of free institutions will withstand much. I believe that we shall be able to preserve and extend freedom despite the size of the military programs and despite the economic powers already concentrated in Washington. But we shall be able to do so only if we awake to the threat we that face, only if we persuade our fellow men that free institutions offer a surer, if perhaps at times a slower, route to the ends they seek than the coercive power of the state.
—Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 201–202.
Our Fridays are dedicated to the defense and promotion of liberty.
Having completed Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, but wanting to continue the theme and retain the clever alliteration, our Friday posts are now titled Freedom Friday. Today’s quote is from one of the authors of our liberty, via Robert Bork.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.
—James Madison, quoted in Robert Bork, Coercing Virtue (American Enterprise Institute, 2003), 1.
Our Fridays are dedicated to the promotion of liberty. I am presently reading Coercing Virtue by Robert Bork.
That United States courts are becoming overrun with judicial activists is a contention I hardly need prove. Politicians and activist groups have discovered that, by appointing the right — and by right, I mean wrong — judges, they can accomplish societal changes that the law would never allow, nor would their constituents countenance. Many judges no longer feel limited by the law they represent, and this is exactly what liberal activists want. Our President has lamented the fact that the courts have not gotten beyond the limits placed on government in the Constitution, and you can bet he will take every opportunity to appoint judges who suffer from no such silly limitations.
One of the most frightening manifestations of judicial activism is the internationalization of law. Three United States Supreme Court justices (mention so far by Bork) have cited European law in their opinions. In one case, Justice Stephen Breyer cited the Privy Council of Jamaica, and the Supreme Courts of India and Zimbabwe! This sort of legal hanky-panky is much admired by the intellectual class (which Bork refers to as the “New Class,” and writes, “Individual members of the intellectual class are not necessarily, or even commonly, adept at intellectual work.”), who have always enthused over international tribunals and the like. It seems that the hope of lovers of centralized government is not national, but global. Of their motives and intentions, and the consequences if they succeed, Bork writes:
The internationalization is happening with phenomenal speed and comprehensiveness. With that development comes law’s seemingly inevitable accompaniment: judicial activism. For some, usually those on the Left, internationalism appears to be an almost unalloyed good. The use of armed forced between nations, it is said, must be tamed by the rule of law. The violation of human rights by nations against citizens of other nations or even their own citizens must be ended by holding the perpetrators responsible in international tribunals or, in some cases, in other national court systems that are willing to take jurisdiction. International codes of individual freedom, similar in intention to America’s Bill of Rights, are enacted to protect persons from majoritarian rule.
To many people these goals seem entirely laudable, and so would they be if the realities lived up to the abstractions but that outcome is impossible. Instead, internationalization will magnify many times over the defects to be identified in subsequent chapters in the constitutional law of the United States, Canada, and Israel: the loss of democratic government, the incursion of politics into law, and the coerced movement of cultures to the left. The New Class is an international class and it displays its socialist impulse everywhere while waging an international culture war. The internationalization of law is one way of transforming parallel struggles in the various nations of the West into a single struggle waged across national boundaries. The explanation for this internationalization of law may contain an even more sinister element. The New Class in the United States has failed to achieve its full liberal agenda in Congress, the state legislatures, and, to some extent, in federal state courts. By creating international law the New Class hopes to outflank American legislatures and courts by having liberal view adopted abroad and then imposed on the United States. History shows that the citizens of individual nations have been unable and unwilling to resist the depredations of their national courts. There is no reason to expect they will be able to resist courts that are sitting in foreign countries, composed of judges of several nationalities, and operating under vague humanistic standards to which their own nations have, however ambiguously, pledged allegiance.
—Robert Bork, Coercing Virtue (American Enterprise Institute, 2003), 15–16.
Our Fridays are dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
Just one sentence today, but perhaps the most vital sentence that this nation can consider today:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
—the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Our Fridays are dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
Accumulated error is what you get when you measure from anything but your original starting point. For example, let’s look at the walls in your house. Beneath the sheetrock (or other wall paneling) is the wood frame of the wall. That frame is made up of vertical studs connected at top and bottom by horizontal plates. The studs are positioned on sixteen inch centers. For a number of reasons, it is important that that spacing be maintained fairly accurately. Therefore, when laying out the wall, the carpenter marks the stud positions on the plates, measuring each from the same point at one end of the wall. What would happen if he didn’t do that? Suppose he marked the first stud position, and then measured sixteen inches from that point to mark the next, and sixteen inches from that point to mark the next, and so on. Suppose then, in his haste, his marks were off just a little (as is often the case). If each mark was off only one sixteenth of an inch, the inaccuracy would accumulate with each new measurement until the studs were completely out of place. If, however, the carpenter measures all from the same point, he can make even larger errors without throwing the whole wall out of whack.
Now consider the reference in law to precedent. When judges refer to precedent in their rulings, they are, as it were, measuring from the previous stud rather that the beginning of the wall. They are piling one possible error on top of another. When the Supreme Court — the guardians of the standard of measurement — does this, the consequences are much more serious than in the lower courts. The Supreme Court, more than any other, should ignore precedent. Hear Should-have-been-Justice Robert Bork on the subject:
Our Fridays are dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
It has been a sad week in American politics. Liberty has taken a beating unlike any I’ve seen in my lifetime. The Constitution has been wadded up and tossed in the trash, and it remains to be seen if it can be salvaged. It’s almost enough to make me lose my sense of humor. Almost, but not quite . . .
Our Fridays are dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
In a 1980 Presidential campaign debate against the second worst President in United States history, Ronald Reagan closed his remarks with the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” It was a masterful rhetorical stroke. The answer was obvious, and the opposition had no riposte. Americans were decidedly not better off after four years of bumbling socialist leadership, and Jimmy Carter went back to the farm.
As much as I understand the political expediency of Reagan’s question in a campaign event, and as much as I admire him for the great man and President he was, I deeply regret that one rhetorical, highly political, flourish has taken the place of the question that would have been asked two hundred years ago. At the birth of this nation, government was not looked to as a source of prosperity. Indeed, history has proven that government can never provide prosperity, and that all efforts to do so are miserable failures and only lead us farther along The Road to Serfdom.
“Are you better off now?” is a question we may rightly ask when assessing the results of our own efforts. When judging the effectiveness of government, however, there is only one question to ask, and one we should voice frequently in 2012:
Are you more, or less, free than you were four years ago?
Our Fridays are (usually) dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
Milton Friedman explains why we get so little value for the vast sums of money spent by governments:
Our Fridays are (usually) dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
I am thinking today about religion and politics. The following illustration represents the view of the religious right (the left would be very similar) as I see it. Please note that this is not necessarily accurate — I’m open to suggestions for improving or refining the illustration — and above all, that this is not my view.
Yet to come: I am working on a chart representing the Biblical view.
Our Fridays are (usually) dedicated to the promotion of liberty.
I wasn’t going to see Iron Man 2. I’m kind of fed up with the superabundance of comic book superhero movies which represent a supersized hunk of the proof that Hollywood has no original ideas. Back in the days of Reeve’s Superman and Keaton’s Batman, I thought they were cool. I even liked the three more recent Spiderman movies (although #3 had some pretty lame moments). These days, though, I find any more superhero movies to be superfluous.
Well, “standing strong” might be a bit grandiose, but standing, I am. I sent in my census form a several weeks ago, having answered question #1 only. That question, asking how many people live here is, for those of you in the unquestioning majority, the only one mandated by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2). And according to the Tenth Amendment, the “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution” are off-limits. Yes, I’m sure someone can send me dozens of articles (like this one) explaining why questions about who owns my house, and the names, sex, birthdays, and ethnicity of each of us, really are constitutional, but that won’t make it so, even if the Supreme Court says it is. The Constitution means what it says, and it doesn’t require a Juris Doctor to figure out what that is.
So I’ve been waiting for a census worker to stop by for a friendly chat about the Constitution, the difference between a Constitutional Republic and a fascist state, and why “live free or die” is not just a cute slogan on a license plate. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I learned that the census people — those who come around to collect data from folks who didn’t complete the census form correctly, or bother with it at all — have come and gone, totally ignoring my Patrick Henry moment.
Quick, someone say something to make me feel important.
Friday is (usually) dedicated to the promotion and defense of liberty.
Last weekend, I had a friendly, but very revealing, discussion about homeschooling with some folks I will leave unidentified. The conversation was at first very general, not at all polemic, talking about how the kids were doing, what subjects I liked best to teach, and so on. Then one of the other parties pointed out, as someone nearly always does, that they knew of homeschoolers who were doing a positively shameful job of it. I acknowledged that those people do, unfortunately, exist, but then, who can deny that there are public school teachers, and even entire school systems, that fail miserably as well, and that the average homeschool student excels beyond the average public school student? There was agreement, and the observation was made that several recent academic competitions — spelling and geography bees — that they knew of had been won by homeschoolers.
Still, it needed to be restated, some homeschoolers do a really lousy job. And then out came what really needed to be said: there should be some testing — by the government, of course (in Wisconsin, where we were, there is none) — to assure that the homeschool is up to snuff.
Now, a word about the parties involved: I have known them literally all my life; they are nice people, generally “good” people and pleasant to be around. In spite of very serious disagreements, I really like them. They are also yellow-dog Democrats and children of the state. That is, wherever the Democratic party goes is a priori right, and if anything is a good thing to do, the government has the responsibility and authority to do it. The corollary to that is that the Republicans are evil. Any political discussion inevitably leads to thinly veiled proletariat vs. bourgeois language. So I was not at all surprised that they favored government regulation of, well, anything. In fact, the moment they brought up homeschooling, I knew that was coming.
What I was not prepared for, though I really should have been, was what followed. Rather than argue about government regulation of homeschooling, I attempted to get down to the fundamental issue: liberty. Are we wards of the State, servants of the State, or are we a free people? Do we trade our liberty for perceived pragmatic benefits? Finally, I brought it back to the original topic. “What do you value more,” I asked, “education, or liberty?” The answer was stunning, and by now you know what it was: education, of course.
Now I’m trying to imagine Patrick Henry declaring, “Give me a taxpayer-funded government-regulated education, or give me death!”
Thanks loads to all who elected Obama and supported his takeover of the medical services industry* (although I can hardly blame you for the latter, as constituent support was obviously no concern of Obama & Accomplices). I hope the results give you great satisfaction. What, results already? Indeed. Witness the testimony of artist and fellow North Dakotan Julie Neidlinger, who also thanks you.
* I refuse to use the term “health care” for reasons not relevant today.
Is there a moral justification for the Afghan war? Ahmad Majidyar, writing for National Review Online, writes, “It is a shame that the Obama administration and its European allies no longer justify the war in Afghanistan on moral grounds, such as democracy and human rights.” He quotes a BBC account of a couple found guilty of adultery:
The video begins with Siddqa, a 25-year-old woman, standing waist-deep in a hole in the ground. She is entirely hidden in a blue burka. Hundreds of men from the village are gathered as two mullahs pass sentence. As Taliban fighters look on, the sentence is passed and she is found guilty of adultery. The stoning lasts two minutes. Hundreds of rocks — some larger than a man’s fist — are thrown at her head and body. She tries to crawl out of the hole, but is beaten back by the stones. A boulder is then thrown at her head, her burka is soaked in blood, and she collapses inside the hole. Incredibly Siddqa was still alive. The mullahs are heard saying she should be left alone. But a Taliban fighter steps forward with a rifle and she is shot three times. Then her lover, Khayyam, is brought to the crowd. His hands are tied behind his back. Before he is blindfolded he looks into the mobile phone camera. He appears defiant. The attack on him is even more ferocious. His body, lying face down, jerks as the rocks meet their target. He is heard to be crying, but is soon silent. . . .
This, he says, “is a grim reminder of what will happen to the 30 million Afghan people, especially women, if the United States and NATO forces leave the country prematurely.”
Now let me correct that statement: This is a grim reminder of what has been happening for centuries, and is what will continue to happen to the 30 million Afghan people, especially women, when the United States and NATO forces leave the country. This is how it is in Islamic nations. What are we to do about it? Shall we occupy the entire Middle East indefinitely? The fact must be faced: there is nothing we can do about this. Tragic as these stories are, they are a part of Islamic life. Until we admit that we are, in fact, at war with Islam, we won’t even begin to eliminate these tragedies. And if we consider such a war realistically, we must conclude that it can’t be won. We can, and must, police our own soil, but no one can seriously imagine eradicating Islam from the Middle East.
Majidyar also repeats the error of countless Americans before him: that democracy is a moral imperative. While a democratic constitutional republic such as ours (as it was originally designed, that is) is undeniably superior to all others, all cultures are not compatible with democracy. Islamic cultures are perfect examples of that. More importantly, there is no indication in Scripture that God wills all nations to be governed democratically. Furthermore, there is no biblical mandate for spreading democracy, especially by military force.
The founders of the United States of America were able to create and sustain a free society because of — and only because of — the pervasive influence of Christianity that existed at that time. Liberty cannot be sustained in the absence of the gospel. So if you really want to liberate the Afghan, or any other, people, trade the soldiers for missionaries. Send the gospel, which alone has the power to set captives free.
This has not been a commentary on the Afghan and Iraq wars in general. I have only meant to address the argument that the concerns of democracy and human rights require our military presence. Whether or not the wars are justified at all is another debate altogether, and will not take place here today.
A parable can’t be forced to make every point, of course. In this case, the real-world captain doesn’t get eaten by a shark.
How long can we expect to remain a superpower, having elected a President who says, “I’m like . . .”? If this is tolerated, can it be long before we are reduced to third-world status? When people say “America,” will they mean Canada or — God help us — Mexico?
Wake up, America!
In other news, we’ve got six inches of fresh snow this morning. I blame that on Congress.
How free is your state?
Freedom in the 50 States
The Star-Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, 1814
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Jobs are in the news. The lack of them actually. Unemployment is high and underemployment is higher. So tonight President Obama will address Congress and the nation and unveil a new jobs agenda. The Republicans will follow up with their plan next week.
I’m not interesting in commenting on the specifics of either party’s job plan. There are, no doubt, many good ideas that could help the economy and many bad ideas to avoid. I’ll let you decide which are which.
But I thought it might be worthwhile to think about where private sector jobs come from. Most basically, new jobs come from people with money to spend who want to spend their money on more people. This means . . . [continue reading]
For whom shall I vote? Come June 2012, I’ll need to know, and as it stands right this minute, I have no idea. So I ask you, my readers, to tell me who deserves my vote in the North Dakota primary six months hence.
Bear in mind that I’m looking for a particular kind of candidate. Consider me a consumer who requires a specific product, and tell me why candidate x is the best available to meet my demands.
What are those demands? My demands are simple and singular: Leave me alone! I don’t want anything done for me or to me. I don’t want any laws passed that limit my options, including the option to just lie down and die. I won’t be impressed by any efforts to legislate morality. By the grace of God, I will submit my morality to the Word of God, and leave it to the gospel to affect the morality of others, if God wills.
I want nothing from any candidate but the promise that he will defend liberty, as guaranteed by our Constitution. As much as I loved President Reagan and revere his memory, I will not, on election day, be asking, “[Am I] better off than [I was] four years ago?” I will be asking, “Am I more, or less, free than I was four years ago?” The answer to that is obvious, and the candidate I support against the current oppression will have to be intentional in reversing the damage done.
Seriously: I have no political concern but liberty. So, who is my man?
Addendum: Just in case I wasn’t clear on this, I’m asking whom I should support in the primary election. I’ve known exactly how I’ll vote in the general election since 2008: for The Only Real Candidate Who Is Not Obama, i.e., the Republican nominee. Sorry, idealists who live in fantasyland, I don’t like it either, but that’s how it is.
I have posted this video before, but I think it’s worth posting again in this election season. Bear in mind: this is a political philosophy. It is not theology. It is not about our relationship to God, but to our neighbors.
Obama and friends must go down. Here’s why:
In his book Politics According to the Bible, Wayne Grudem rejects “Five Wrong Views about Christians and Government,” favoring the view that Christians should exercise significant influence on government. In opposition to this view, many have cited the disaster of Prohibition as proof that such efforts are wrong-headed and doomed to fail. Grudem responds:
I think the example of Prohibition proves something else entirely and actually supports my position. The history is this: In 1919, the United States adopted the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution (effective Jan. 16, 1920), which prohibited “the manufacture , sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors . . . For beverage purposes.” But this law was widely disobeyed , and many people had their own breweries and distilleries. The law was impossible to enforce effectively. Finally, in 1933, the Twenty-first amendment to the Constitution was passed, which said “the 18th article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.” (However, it allowed for states to regulate alcohol usage and sale according to their own laws.)
What does this experience prove? It proves that it is impossible to enforce moral standards on a population when those moral standards are more strict than the standards found in the bible itself. Although the Bible contains frequent warnings against drunkenness (see Eph. 5:18), it does not prohibit moderate use of alcoholic beverages, and the apostle Paul even tells his associate Timothy, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). Therefore the absolute prohibition on alcoholic beverages was a law that did not find an echo in the hearts of people generally, because it did not reflect the moral standards of God that he has written on all people’s hearts (see Rom. 2:15).
I do not think, therefore, that Prohibition in the United States was an experiment in attempting to enforce biblical standards of conduct on the nation. I think it was an experiment that proved the impossibility of trying to enforce standards that were beyond what the Bible required. And I think Prohibition was rightly repealed.
—Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Zondervan, 2010), 63–64.