Aug 14, 2013

Do You Know Why Economics Is a Moral Issue?

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Summit Ministries 
August 7, 2013

Every liberal economic policy is predicated on the assumption that coercive governments are morally superior to free markets. But how would progressives react if they realized the exact opposite is true?
Bad economic ideas lead to bad — and immoral — economic decisions. As the Acton Institute’s Dr. Samuel Gregg puts it in Becoming Europe, quoting economist Arthur Brooks, the goal of a free market system of economics is not “the endless acquisition of wealth.” Rather, it is human flourishing1 — our ability to, inasmuch as we can after the fall, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and rule over creation (Genesis 1:28).

The Bible doesn’t instruct us on specific tax policies. Nowhere does it prescribe what percentage of gross domestic product the federal government ought to be spending. But it does give us a framework from which to orient our economic thinking: people are made in the image of God and carry inherent dignity and the ability to produce good things. Economic systems that affirm these truths lead to human flourishing. It’s for that reason that the free market system, when coupled with personal virtue and community responsibility, better aligns with a biblical worldview than any other economic system. Christians ought to learn to articulate this: what is immoral is not the free market system, but the diminishment of opportunity and dignity when it is corrupted by greed or destroyed by power.
As New York Times bestselling author and Summit faculty member Jay W. Richards recently said in an interview with Summit, “If we, as Christians, care about people, economic reality is something that impinges on people in a thousand different ways. We need to learn something about it.”

Our Economic Responsibility Includes Learning Basic Principles

Aside from basic economic principles like the law of supply and demand or the function of price in a market, two key principles can help us rightly order our economic thinking.

1. Prudence
As Richards says in Money, Greed, and God, “Prudence means to ‘see reality as it is and to act accordingly’ to conform your mind, and then your actions, to reality.”2 Elsewhere in the book, Richards recounts the story of Bob Geldof, who helped organize movements in the 1980s to fight poverty in Africa, including Live Aid and Band Aid. Those movements have done little to lift struggling nations out of poverty, mostly because they misunderstand what creates prosperity. Geldof’s take: “Something must be done, even if it doesn’t work.”3

Well, his plan didn’t work. Unthinking aid creates lifelong dependence and stamps out the entrepreneurial spirit of whole nations. Though his intentions were good, the outcome was deeply immoral. “We spend too much time focusing on what we mean to do and what we like to do instead of putting serious empirical work into what’s actually going to work,” Richards said in an interview.

2. Subsidiarity
The principle of subsidiarity goes back to medieval thinker Thomas Aquinas. Subsidiarity claims that it is wrong for a “larger or higher association” to step in and try to fix a problem when an institution closer to the issue can act.4 So, for example, when a young family finds itself in trouble, it’s inappropriate — even unjust — for the state or federal government to provide aid when extended family members, a local church, or neighbors can help the family in need.

This principle has significant implications for fighting poverty. In the face of federal welfare, poverty rates in the U.S. have remained between 12 and 15 percent for the last fifty years. Prior to President Lyndon Johnson’s welfare programs, local communities were primarily responsible for taking care of the poor. Poverty was actually on the decline in the years leading up to Johnson’s War on Poverty; federal welfare halted that decline.5

Economic Responsibility Also Means Having the Right Cultural Values

In Becoming Europe Gregg pinpoints the differences between European economies and that of the U.S., demonstrating how the U.S. can avoid plunging into the sort of economic crises in which Europe currently finds itself. At the root of Gregg’s argument is a study of the cultural values that undergird economic realities. As Gregg puts it, “. . . any given economic setting . . . is influenced by a range of value commitments, ideas, and movements.”6 In other words, economies serve as cultural barometers for their respective countries:
A market economy, for example, relies on processes such as market prices and the exchange of goods and services, institutions such as private property and rule of law, as well as actions such as innovation and economic entrepreneurship. Note, however, how every single one of these economic processes, actions, and institutions assumes a commitment to freedom.7
As Gregg explains, top-down economies necessarily restrict freedom, ignoring prudence and subsidiarity and thus denying essential truths about humans and the imago Dei. Ignoring these realities, in turn, creates a negative view of entrepreneurship. A biblical view, on the other hand, begins with God as creator. Bearing his image, we too know how to create. God wants abundance; bearing his image, we are by nature equipped to produce more than we consume.

Thus, coercive economic policies have the effect of suffocating the entrepreneurial impulse. In the European Union 45 percent of citizens preferred to be self-employed, while 46 percent preferred to be an employee. What happens in a nation when a majority of the citizens expect others to take care of them instead of taking responsibility themselves? Interestingly, too much economic despotism may actually cause people to wake up to their servitude. In China, where citizens have lived under severe state planning, entrepreneurship is much more highly valued: 71 percent of Chinese citizens preferred to be self-employed, as opposed to 28 percent who said they wanted to be an employee.8

So is it possible to avoid Europe’s path? Gregg says yes, but only if we affirm five values that stave off an immoral economic despotism and create an environment for freedom and flourishing:
  1. Wealth Creation Over Wealth Redistribution. History — and the principle of subsidiarity — shows us that people benefit when they can work to improve their lots themselves. This value affirms the fact that God made people to be co-creators of culture, not passive consumers.
  2. Accountability and Transparency: Truth Over Falsehood. In a true market economy, people are held accountable for poor economic decisions by the outcomes of those decisions. A culture of bailouts and corporate welfare undermines this value.
  3. Justice: Rule of Law Over Rule of Men. None of these values will amount to much if the government fails to enforce just laws. In addition to protecting the innocent and punishing wrongdoers, securing justice provides a climate of stability in which wealth creators can reap the rewards of their risk and create greater abundance.
  4. Property Rights Over “Dirigisme.” Dirigisme is simply the government stepping into the private sector to directly manage wealth. Leaders who regularly threaten to diminish private property rights create uncertainty, diminish investment, and generate a climate of fear.
  5. Hope Over Fear: Openness vs. Defensiveness. Productive people are not the bad guys, and our government ought to stop portraying them as such.
So how do we reclaim the moral high ground from those advocating leftist policies? Bill Whittle thinks he knows. Bill is the “Virtual President” whose mock presidential addresses have gone viral on the Internet for articulating what our president should say. Whittle suggests using simple questions to communicate three central components of free market morality: freedom, private property, and virtue:
  1. On freedom: ask, “Are you the kind of person who wants to be left alone, or are you the kind of person who likes to tell other people what to do?” Leftists assume that they are so smart that they deserve to coerce the rest of us. But very few people will admit to wanting to be a busybody.
  2. On private property: ask, “If you believe in ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,’ are you willing to donate your smart phone and other possessions to charity? How can you justify eating every day when others are starving?” Why do they expect others to make their sacrifices for them?
  3. On virtue “Do you believe it is okay to hit someone and take their stuff if they have more stuff than you do?” If it is not okay on a personal level, it’s not okay for governments to do it either. Obviously we all must pay taxes. But to base tax policy on jealousy is to institutionalize theft.
People may not have a clear idea of what freedom, private property or virtue are, but when you put these simple questions to them, you’ll leave them thinking. You might even get them to see the moral basis of the free enterprise system.

Notes

  1. Samuel Gregg, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (New York: Encounter Books, 2013), 300.
  2. Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 46.
  3. Ibid, 45.
  4. Ibid, 51.
  5. Ibid, 47.
  6. Gregg, 41.
  7. Ibid, 8.
  8. Ibid, 19.

 
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Jul 27, 2013

Pulpits Are Silent

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Jeremiah 5:26-31

For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?


Despite what the political parties would like you to believe, the problem in America is not the politicians, it is the pulpits. I hate to break the news to you, but most of America’s pulpits are filled with cowardly men unwilling to address the issues that have swept over our country like a tidal wave.

I am about fed-up with what I see. How did we ever get such man-pleasing leaders? All that our fore-fathers held dear is being destroyed before our very eyes and hardly a peep from the pulpit. They don’t want to hear it. It's the pulpiteers that I am talking about. They are concerned with being too harsh, they tell me that “Jesus is in control,” that they are not “called” to fight evil and that "we should pray for our enemies.”

What we need is a return of the Voice of God thundering through the prophets standing in America’s pulpits. Not the prissy purpose driven therapeutic Christianity drivel passing as the Gospel today. Few of the feminized-preachers of the day can hold a candle to those who ushered in The Great Awakening which led to the American Revolution, and the abolition of slavery -- two world-changing events spearheaded by the pulpit.

·         Public schools are destroying the faith of Christian children and the pulpits are silent.

·         Legislation is introduced to remove the rights of parents and the pulpits are silent.

·         Children are taught they came from apes and the pulpits are silent.

·         Millions of children are “medicated” to control their behavior and the pulpits are silent.

·         Gambling is promoted to pay for schools and the pulpit is silent.

·         Precious babies are being murdered in the womb and the pulpits are silent.

·         Planned Parenthood kills babies with our tax dollars and the pulpits are silent.

·         Judges make laws and the pulpits are silent.

·         Tolerance trumps Truth and the pulpits are silent.

·         Sodomy is granted legal protection and the pulpits are silent.

·         The institution of marriage is crumbling and the pulpits are silent.

·         Obama says the Sermon on the Mount justifies gay marriage and the pulpits are silent.

·         Government has replaced God as defender and provider and the pulpits are silent.

·         Faith-based initiatives invite the government into the Church and the pulpits are silent.

·         The IRS muzzles the voice of the Church and the pulpits are silent.

·         Taxes are levied to do the work of the Church and the pulpits are silent.

·         The Church locks arms with compassionate-conservativism and the pulpits are silent.

·         Children’s service agencies separate family members and the pulpits are silent.

·         Self-help books replace the Bible and the pulpits are silent.

·         A Purpose Driven Life is elevated above dying to self and the pulpits are silent.

·         Leaders say Christians and Muslims worship the same God and the pulpits are silent.

·         The Constitution is ignored and the pulpits are silent.

·         Pagans pray to open a session of Congress and the pulpits are silent.

·         Our elected officials lie and steal and the pulpits are silent.

·         Private property is stolen by government and the pulpits are silent.

·         Mother Earth is protected more than Father God is defended and the pulpits are silent.

·         Illegal aliens over-run our borders and the pulpits are silent.

·         The entertainment industry celebrates debauchery and the pulpits are silent.

 
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Jul 1, 2013

Learning from Young Atheists

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Learning from Young Atheists
What Turned Them off Christianity

 
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Jun 7, 2013

My Apology to Mormon Readers

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Mike Adams | Jun 05, 2013


Dear Stacey:

You have written demanding an apology for my recent characterization of the Mormon religion as "non-Christian." I am happy to write a public letter of apology to you and to the countless Mormon readers who responded negatively to my characterization.

I am sorry that so many of my Mormon readers have brazenly accused me of ignorance of their religion and suggested that I read the Book of Mormon. I am sorry that they were unaware that I read the Book of Mormon back in 2006.

I am sorry that the science of genetics has refuted claims made in the Book of Mormon concerning the relationship between Native Americans and Semitic people. These refutations undermine the entire historical premise of the Book of Mormon.

I am also sorry that while archeological discovery supports the claims of the Bible it clearly does not support the claims of the Book of Mormon. Battles that were supposed to have occurred in specific locations in North America simply never took place. The archeological evidence just isn't there.

I am sorry about the plagiarism of the Holy Bible that runs through the Book of Mormon. I am sorry that Mormons cannot see that Joseph Smith's refusal to reveal the golden tablets is strong evidence of their nonexistence. The heavy plagiarism in the Book of Mormon puts the lie to the rest of the story of Smith, the former seeker of the lost treasures of Captain Kidd.

I am sorry that my Mormon readers have put all their eggs in one basket by constantly writing to me quoting Matthew 7:16. So I am sorry that I must now apply that verse to the very first Mormon.

I am sorry that among the 33 well-documented plural wives of Joseph Smith, there were close to a dozen unions in which the wife was already married to another man.

I am sorry that in his lifetime, Joseph Smith married four different pairs of sisters. I am sorry that Joseph Smith married a young woman and also married her mother.

I am sorry that some of Joseph Smith's marriages were the result of religious coercion secured only after he told the prospective bride that marrying him would ensure the bride’s place in heaven. I am sorry that Smith also coerced teenagers into marrying him by promising their families a place in heaven.

I am sorry that Joseph Smith kept fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball from marrying her sweetheart Horace Whitney because he wanted to marry the teenager instead. I am sorry that Joseph Smith also asked Helen’s father Heber C. Kimball to give him his wife.

I am sorry that before he eventually married Helen, Joseph Smith gave her a 24-hour deadline to give in to his offer of a place in heaven. I am sorry that two years after the death of Joseph Smith, Helen married her old sweetheart Horace Whitney. I am sorry that the marriage between Helen and Horace was only temporary because Helen was already "sealed" by marriage to Joseph Smith for eternity. I am sorry that Horace Whitney was "sealed" to an already dead Mormon woman before his “temporary” marriage to Helen.

I am sorry that after her mother died, Joseph Smith approached teenager Lucy Walker with a command that she marry Smith with the threat of eternal damnation as the punishment if she refused. I am sorry that the year before Joseph Smith died, he said the following to Lucy: “I will give you until tomorrow to decide (whether to marry me). If you reject this message the gate will be closed forever against you.”

I am sorry that the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claims to have transcribed from the golden plates given to him by the Angel Moroni, says the following: “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, Saith the Lord.” (Jacob 2:24).

I am sorry that Joseph Smith said the following shortly before his death: "(W)hen I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my father, so that he may obtain kingdom among kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.”

I am sorry that Smith’s polytheism is not consistent with John 14:6. I am also sorry that since these are the words of Christ, polytheism cannot be Christian. Moreover, I am sorry, my Mormon friends, but the the words of Christ trump the words of Joseph Smith who will never be God.

I am sorry that Mormonism teaches that Christ was not there in the beginning, that god was just a man who became God by following a moral code he did not create, and that we may all become gods by following the same moral code that predates the existence of Jesus. I am sorry that the theological mess caused by Joseph Smith is irreconcilable with the teachings of the Holy Bible.

Finally, I am sorry that my Mormon readers have unfairly accused me of criticizing Mormonism without doing my homework. But I am glad I did. Now I understand the significance of Galatians 1:6-9.

 
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Nov 30, 2012

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The Magician's Twin - The Case Against Scientism - C.S. Lewis


 
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