Sunday, February 21, 2016

Progressive Government Cannot Not Be Corrupt

Progressivism, whether liberal or conservative, is the idea that if we just put the right people in charge, they will be able to concoct the proper mixture of a fair and prudent tax code, expenditures on bread and circuses, and “regulation” of private and pubic life, and we will all live happily ever after. As the idea that if the godless are set free to make up their own rules the result will be anything approaching the justice, prosperity, and peacewe all hope for is thoroughly unbiblical, Christians should have rejected it out of hand. However, the church in the United States, having been taught to be properly grateful for a nation that has granted its residents freedoms undreamed of in most places and at most times in our history, has failed to notice that that nation no longer values the freedoms it once granted and has drunk as deeply of Progressivism as the population at large.

I hereby attempt to provide a remedy for this turn of events. Having demolished the idea that there is some ideal tax system in which “everyone pays their fair share, I now turn to the second leg of the Progressive stool, the possibility that funds garnered through taxation can be disbursed justly and prudently.

When Progressive governments fail, the charge is usually “corruption,” a catch-all term that encompasses incompetence, mismanagement, and various forms of embezzlement and theft. The solution proposed, usually around election time, never varies from the Progressive mantra of “We just need to put the right people in charge!” The fact that we put these crooks in charge to undo the damage done by the last group of crooks we put in charge doesn’t seem to register.

But to show you that even if there were some right people to put in charge the job would not be done correctly, I’ll put you in the driver’s seat and let you see for yourself that even the right person cannot not crash the car.

You’re the head of the education department in the state of Bruhaha. A good Progressive, you consider your job to be assuring a quality education for all the children in Bruhaha, especially the poor, and you are doing your best.

For a long time you have been wishing there were money to build a new school in Ton County, the poorest county in your state, and one day money does come up for just that purpose. After much serious consultation, the decision about where to build the school has boiled down to a choice between Upton and Downton. The communities are about the same size, but folks in Upton have more money than those in Downton because there is a factory in Upton run by a Mr. Jenrus.

Because Downtonian children do not have the advantageous home life of those in Upton, you are leaning toward locating the school in Downton so it can become a sort of community center for all Downtonians, as well as serving the Uptonians, who seem to be able to afford their own community amenities, from a distance.

One day you get a call from Mr. Jenrus, whom you know to be a man of his word. He also happens to have three children who will be attending the new school. He has heard that you want to locate the school in Downton and would like you to reconsider your decision. He offers to add at his own expense needed classroom space and equipment to the school, to add an extra twenty percent to the teachers’ salaries so better teachers can be recruited, to buy a bus, and to make sure the bus and the road between Downton and Upton are maintained for years to come so that the Downtonian children will be able to get to the school quickly whenever it is open – all this if only you will build the school in Upton. If you insist on building the school in Downton, then because he is concerned about the welfare of his children – who so far have been privately tutored and sent to boarding school and whom he does not want to spend the extra time on the bus – he will not only not put his money into the school, he will sell his factory to the highest bidder and move somewhere he can guarantee a good education for them.

So you have a choice between a better-financed school in Upton, one that would arguably serve the people of Downton better than a less-expensive school in Downton, or a lesser school in Downton that would be closer to those whose needs are greater than those in Upton and the possibility that the factory in Upton would close or be sold to someone with nothing close to a heart for the community.

If you figure that your idea of a community center is more important than the extra classroom space and higher-paid teachers, then you’ll go with Downton. And if you’re wrong about that – the community center never comes about – not only will the people in Upton have your hide, so will those in Downton who disagreed with you from the beginning.

If you go with Upton, you will be de facto and by definition following the money, which goes against the stated Progressive goal of slanting the playing field so the disadvantaged are less so. And, of course, Mr. Jenrus will probably want to show his appreciation to you. This appreciation might take the form of a thank-you note, an invitation to a dinner party, or a twenty-percent discount on all Jenrus Factory products, or two weeks for you and your family on the Riviera. Or it might be a generous contribution to your campaign when you decide to run for governor.

In any case, how do you know if Mr. Jenrus is being corrupt or properly grateful? After all, he didn’t say anything up front about feathering your nest if you decided to take him up on his offer. And many people besides Mr. Jenrus have benefited from your decision, so he would probably not be the only one showing his appreciation for you in tangible ways.

But now the precedent has been set. Given that the human heart is deceptive, desperately wicked, and therefore unknowable, how can you – let alone the population at large – know the next time a similar decision needs to be made whether you are deciding the issue on the merits of the case or “in the best interests of the community,” which just happens to benefit you and your friends? How much of the decision-making process will involve keeping people from thinking you are simply responding to bribes, whether explicit or implicit?

And remember – you’re spending other people’s tax money, presumably including some from New Upton and New Downton.

This lose-lose moral hazard faces every official in tax-funded institutions. But it doesn’t face leaders of voluntary institutions, as you’ll see if you climb into this car over here.

You’re C. Truitt Cathy. You want to build Chick Fil-A High School in New Ton County. For a site you have a choice between New Upton and New Downton. You’re leaning toward New Downton because you want to glorify God by helping those who are poorer, but Colonel Sanders has offered to give the school an appreciable boost only if it’s built in New Upton.

You’re spending your own money for subsidy either way, so it’s not a question of you making a profit or either community suffering a net loss. In fact, it’s a win-win situation, the only question being which way yields the better result over the long term.

But you know that the tangible gratitude of the New Uptonians if you build in New Upton will exceed that of the New Downtonians if you build in New Downton. You want to be a good steward before God so that he will receive the glory and the thanksgiving, but you also know you can’t please everyone no matter what you do. Will the New Downtonians benefit long-term more from a better-funded school or from a shorter commute? Is a better-funded school even necessarily a better school?

You scratch your head for a while and decide on ….

(I didn’t hear a crash. Did you?)

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Pope and The Donald

“The action is the reaction.” - Saul Alinsky

I wonder if the Pope was knowingly putting Alinsky’s law into practice when he told the crowd in Mexico that Donald Trump is not a Christian. He’s a liberation theologian, liberation theology being revolutionary leftism using Christian jargon, and Alinsky was a leftist, so I’m sure the Pope is familiar with Alinsky, at least second hand. He must have known that Trump’s reaction and the reaction of American evangelicalism would be much more important than his own words. If so, he was right.

Jerry Falwell Jr. jumped in to claim Trump is a Christian, and there’s even a picture of “the hedge fund priest” blessing Trump.

If Trump had just said, “So I’m not a Christian. So what? What’s it to ya?” life would be fine. But he didn’t, and I bet the Pope knew he wouldn’t. What a great way to drive a wedge right down the middle of US evangelicalism.

Donald Trump the serial polygamist a Christian? Really? What church is he a member of? What creed does he subscribe to? Could he become a member of your church?

So we have the warmongering evangelicals backing Cruz who, I gather, could pass muster with theologically fastidious churches, and those sick of the war overseas and the war on drugs rather reluctantly backing a nonbeliever, which is fine, but one who muddies the punch bowl by claiming to be a Christian.

I just saw the cover of a book called The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church. Add number seven: The Donald.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Quill Pig for President!

I’ve decided it’s time to announce my candidacy for president. I have a hard time believing that my failures could be any worse than Hillary’s, Bernie’s, Donald’s, Ted’s, or Marco’s successes.

I don’t plan to run. I’ll leave running to the guys with money. I’ll just stand and let God bring the office to me. The chances of that happening are infinitessimal but still greater than zero.

So it’s up to you, dear reader, to get me into the White House. It won’t cost you anything. All you need to do is Like this post, get two of your friends to Like it, and remember to write my name in in November. I figure after I’ve got 100 million Likes, I can think about a running mate, and with that many votes, the gatekeepers can’t not give me the election.

So, here’s my platform. This will not only make America great again, it will make living here great again!

  • On my first day in office, I will rescind all executive orders.

  • I will veto all legislation until the Federal Reserve is abolished.

  • I will veto any legislation that includes off-budget expenses. All government expenditures will be on budget.

  • I will veto any budget that exceeds 80% of the previous year’s tax revenue and taxes individuals more than 80% of their previous year’s tax assessment.

  • I will veto any spending for the War on Drugs.

  • As commander in chief I will withdraw the US military from foreign soil and authorize only operations that directly defend the territory within our borders.

There it is. Short. Sweet. Perfect.

But it might need some explanation. It is, after all, not what one would expect from an anarchist.

The president was never meant to be a king, and executive orders are easily abused. So I’ll scrap the whole institution by rescinding all previous executive orders, and of course I will use the power of the veto, not executive orders, to accomplish my own goals. If Congress overrides my vetoes, I will abide by the legislative process, but I will not strike deals that let them off easy.

Ever since the Federal Reserve has had control of the money supply, America has been involved in deficit spending that would have been impossible, spending that has financed needless, useless wars in Europe, Vietnam, and the Middle East, and foisted debt on three generations of the unborn, including the two Ponzi schemes of Medicare and Social Security. The moral hazard of fiat money is too strong for rational beings to resist. I will do everything in my power to put it out of existence.

Another symptom of the fiat money system is the ability of the government to fund secret and crony activities off the budget. And again, rational beings can be expected to be better at obtaining such funds than at discerning the “common good” (whatever that is). I will do everything I can to veto federally sanctioned fiat money.

The government has gone rogue because it has the money to go rogue. Even without deficit spending, it has too much spending power. As a result, social life begins at the federal level and trickles down to the local level. It’s time to end the failed experiment of top-down, command-and-control governance and return political power to the states. After eight years of 20% reductions in the budget, the federal budget will be one-sixth its present size, and total government expenditures will be even less than one-sixth what they are today.

As a result, the states will cease to be de facto provinces and become once again what the Declaration of Independence called “free and independent States” like “the State of Great Britain.” The eight-year transition period will allow the states to determine how or even whether they will replace the newly defunded federal programs, how they will handle immigration, how much water people may have in their toilet tanks, and countless other issues currently mishandled by the feds. Some states will become socialist paradises with their own fiat currencies; others may approximate free markets with private or other currencies.

The War on Drugs is a war on freedom, and it has spawned abominations like RICO asset forfeiture and laws against possession of cash, as well as providing fertile soil for the growth of criminal gangs far worse than those that grew up as a result of alcohol prohibition. I will veto all legislation with funding for the War on Drugs.

Finally, the purpose of the US military is to protect the United States, not Ukraine, Israel, Japan, or South Korea. This task does not require a military that costs as much as the rest of the world’s armed forces combined. Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto warned against invading the US because “there will be an armed American behind every blade of grass,” and things have not changed for the worse on that score. With the federal budget reduced, it will be up to the states to decide how they will defend their own interests alone and in bottom-up partnership with other states.

So there you have it.

Do you want your life back, or would you rather have Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Ted, or Marco run it for you? If you think you can do a better job than they can, you know what to do: Like this page on Facebook, and get your friends to follow suit.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

“The Kings of the Earth”: Mao versus Cathy

The Bible gives us an interesting story line regarding the future of government on earth. On the one hand, we have government-led rebellion against God:

The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. (Ps 2:2)

My loyal readers will recognize this as my default view of all government. But those whose default view is Romans 13 like to come back with another, equally biblical, assertion, that the future holds the prospect of government-led submission to Jesus:

The [new Jerusalem, the eternal city of God ruled by Jesus, the Lamb of God] has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations of the earth will walk in its light, and the rulers of the world will come and bring their glory to it. (Rev 21:24)

So how do we get from the former to the latter? Some folks say the only hope is for Jesus to come back bodily and blow those baddies to hell:

“You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Ps 2:9)

Those who hold any hope for human agency to play a part in the transformation would say that we pray that God will give us godly rulers who will lead our society in righteous ways that allow the church to carry out its mandate to disciple the nations. Such folks don’t seem to find “Um, how’s it working for you?” a question worth answering.

The Quill Pig model is to withdraw – ever so respectfully and politely, but firmly – our tangible and intangible loyalty from rulers who plot against the Lord and give it to those who bring their glory into Jesus’ kingdom. One reason for this is that it’s the only way for the kings of the earth to bring into Jesus’ kingdom glory that is worth having.

To look at what this means, let’s begin with the prototypical king of the earth, Mao Zedong. If anyone has ever prepared for battle against Jesus, it is Mao. He began as a local guerrilla, which is to say, a the run-of-the-mill thieving, murdering, lying, hypocritical politician on steroids.

For those of you who don’t understand guerrilla war, this is how it works: in the name of empowering the little guy with health, education, and welfare, guerrillas show up in a village and tell the little guys there, “Give us food [or whatever] or die.” Now the little guys may or may not believe that the guerrillas can bring them a better life, but they do want to see at least one more sunset, so they give the guerrillas what they ask for. Then, after the guerrillas leave, the government shows up and punishes the little guys for “aiding and abetting the enemy.”

There is every reason to believe that this, in addition to raids on government supply depots and outright aid from the Soviet Union, is how Mao got his start. He eventually killed off most of his opponents and drove the rest out of the country. Once he had established himself as “the powers that be … ordained of God,” he headed a regime that killed more innocent people than any on record and enforced atheism at gunpoint.

Even ISIS is probably more humane than Mao was. Today everyone who is not ISIS considers ISIS’s policy of “convert, leave, or die” (with “leave” and sometimes even “convert” not always an option) as the epitome of barbarity, but if Mao took his predecessor Stalin as a role model, he preferred the even greater barbarism of torturing his victims into forced confessions to killing them outright. (See the account of Stalin’s treatment of Kamenev near the bottom of this.)

Whether we like it or not, he did provide every child in China with a school, a hospital, and future job security, so he can justly claim to have delivered on his promises, thus fulfilling the definition of government given in Romans 13 at least as well as did the government Paul had in mind when he wrote the epistle. If we take the Romans 13 view of government as the default, it is kings like Mao who will bring their glory into the new Jerusalem.

One wonders, however, what would cause a man who hates God as much as Mao did to turn his hard-won booty over to his, shall we say, behated. Will he do it because Jesus comes with legions of angels who can’t be machine gunned or blown up and waterboards him until he hands over the goods? Is this what is meant by the knowledge of the glory of the Lord filling the earth like the waters cover the seas? Or will he chicken out before it gets that far the way we do at tax time, sending in the tax forms before the IRS sends out its SWAT teams to roust us at two in the morning and haul us off to the Big House?

Or is God less interested in physical treasures than in true appreciation of his goodness, an appreciation that will manifest itself in voluntary, heartfelt giving before the threat of heavenly retribution comes over the horizon?

If so, I think he can get it from another king, one unlike Mao: C. Truett Cathy, head of Chick Fil-A.

Before I continue, I may need to head off a couple of objections. One might be that he underpays his employees. I actually don’t know what he pays compared to Walmart or McDonald’s – I suspect he pays less than Goldman Sachs – but I do know that I have been to Chick Fil-A a dozen or so times, and the employees all seem to personify the old Boy Scout Law: trustworthy, loyal, honest, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. They look to me like they enjoy coming to work and consider making us customers glad we chose to spend our money there. I would expect them to be working to move on to more lucrative pursuits as soon as possible, of course, but my guess is that any HR person who sees a long tenure at a Chick Fil-A on a résumé expects the applicant to know how to make both the customers and his employer happy.

Another objection might be that fast food is a blight on the world’s landscape, the haunt of second-class people. That may be, but it is also true that fast food places provide a place for people of modest means to be served – “For once I get to tell someone else what I want and expect to get what I ask for” – and to get out from under the labor of preparing meals. They can turn their toddlers loose on a playground where there are no friendly strangers in black sedans and eat food designed to make them want to come back for more some other time. Places like Chick Fil-A are meeting the needs, if only the felt needs, of the little guy.

And finally, I don’t know how happy their chickens are. I would like all chicken to be free range and organic, but I can’t afford it at home, let alone at a fast food place. If you’re a Vegan or from PETA, give yourself a point.

For all his faults, perceived or otherwise, C. Truett Cathy is a king bringing his treasure into the new Jerusalem. His most overt attempt to do so is the well-known policy of not opening on Sunday. This is an attempt to honor God’s words: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:9-10a).

(I emphasize “attempt” because the degree of success is open to question. Sunday is the first day of the week, not the seventh, and unless he uses neither electricity nor items made with steel or other materials produced by factories open on the Sabbath, he violates a strict interpretation of Ex 20:10b: “neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.” But that the attempt is sincere is not open to question.)

I think Truett Cathy is trying to show the world what it means to be a Christian, and I would argue that it is the glory of the Truett Cathys of the world that God is after. It is that kind of glory that will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. If Jesus values the few coppers contributed by a poor widow more than the many shekels contributed by the rich, even if that money was earned honestly, how much more is he interested in treasures voluntarily given in exchange for high-quality service than in booty extorted by revenue agents?

Imagine a Truett Cathy paying his bills – and, infinitely more importantly, earning a hearing for the gospel – by educating disadvantaged children or providing health care or caring for the unemployed or the superannuated. Compare that with how Mao educated children and provided health care and cared for the unemployed and superannuated. Imagine how – and why – a Truett Cathy would protect homes from burglars and catch murderers and repair roads and deal with wannabe invaders. Compare that with our local police and highway departments and the diplomats who so arrogantly claim that they “serve and protect” us.

My prediction is that the fulfillment of the prophecy that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the new Jerusalem will be preceded by the withering away of the state as we know it and the emergence of “kings” who act more like Truett Cathy than like Mao or any US president.

Why would anyone want it to be otherwise?

And if it’s not otherwise, how is the best way to get from here to there? Is it by joining or even encouraging the armed forces of the Mao wannabes or the cadres of the Truett Cathys?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


LIBERTARIAN PARTY: PRO-CHOICE ON EVERYTHING proclaims the banner in the picture at the top of Bruce Ashford’s column on "The (Religious) Problem with Libertarianism. The site on which it appears is “a project of the ethics and religious liberty commission” of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ashford is a professor at an SBC seminary, so we’re talking major-league respectable here. His point is, of course, that that banner says all that needs to be said about libertarianism: the average evangelical equates “pro choice” with “anti-life,” so libertarianism is therefore anti life. His confusion, innocent or otherwise, is such that he never uses the word libertinism in the column, so it is obvious that does not know the difference between libertarianism and libertinism.
Embedded in the fine print is the note that it is only “some libertarians” who believe that “taking the life of unborn babies is wrong,” but by that point the damage has been done. In earlier sentences, Ashford strongly implies that libertarianism is the belief in “removing every possible restriction,” that “What I want must reign supreme,” and that it “deifies freedom, giving it a sort of autonomy that God alone should have.”
This follows another well-respected evangelical leader’s declaration in a public forum, “I am a libertarian at heart.” As I had only ever heard him call himself conservative, I was tempted to be pleasantly surprised until he went on to say, “I want what I want when I want it.”
Seriously? You know at least two libertarians who are in positions of responsibility in their respective churches, you attended a seminary founded by a libertarian, and this is what you think we believe?
(I have heard that Ashford has confessed to doing little research before writing his column, but I don’t expect ever to see anything resembling a public retraction or even correction or clarification. Nor would I expect any kind of public retraction or correction from the latter leader.)
Let’s get this straight (again), beginning with perhaps the best aspect of Ashford’s article, his quote from the conservative Karl Hess, who defines libertarianism as
the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit; that all social actions should be voluntary; and respect for every other man’s similar and equal ownership of life and, by extension, property and fruits of that life, is the ethical basis of a humane and open society. In this view, the only function of law or government is to provide the sort of self-defense against violence that an individual, if he were powerful enough, would provide for himself. (The Concise Conservative Encyclopedia)
To which I say, “And the problem is … ?”
Well, OK, Christians will have trouble with the first relative clause because we know that we and all we own ultimately belong to God. But since not every conservative would qualify for membership in an evangelical church and so evangelical conservatives have to make adjustments to their conservatism if they are to conform it to their faith (assuming that they are not actually conforming their faith to fit their conservatism), I have no problem saying that a libertarian evangelical is within his rights to swap out the idea of self-ownership, which is clearly not biblical, and swap in the idea of stewardship, which clearly is.
Further, if we are not to judge our fellow servants because that is God’s prerogative (“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” [Rom 14:4]), it follows that I am to treat those things over which God has made you steward as though they were your property. I am not to expropriate them even if I think I have some morally better use for them, whether I’m Donald Trump taking them to “make America great again” or Bernie Sanders taking them to be “compassionate.”
If words mean anything at all, the pledge of the same Libertarian Party that is “pro-choice on everything” – “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals” – is the exact opposite of “removing every possible restriction,” and “What I want must reign supreme.”
Evangelical libertarians have the same job of educating secularist libertarians that the unborn are human that libertarian evangelicals have of educating statist evangelicals that libertarianism is not libertinism.
Perhaps we can begin with the second-best part of Ashford’s article, a quote from Abraham Kuyper, the father of Progressive evangelicalism and no friend of libertarianism: “Can it be denied that the centralizing State grows more and more into a gigantic monster over against which every citizen is finally powerless?”
Those evangelicals never consider that maybe they are the libertines, taxing libertarian home educators to support godless public schools that have succeeded in wooing the young away from the church, taxing libertarians who save for their own retirement to support those who don’t, taxing peace-loving libertarians to fight useless wars abroad and at home that not only do not accomplish their stated military goals but kill, maim, and dispossess the innocent by the thousands and millions, shrugging off the carnage and denying responsibility because, after all, they didn’t make the laws.
Freedom to do as one sees fit to one’s neighbor without taking responsibility. If that isn’t libertinism, what is?