Monday, August 31, 2009

Wealth Disparity and Envy

"How can we accept great disparities in wealth? Largely because in the absence of force or the threat of force personal property reflects the worth of the goods and services an individual has given up for it; in a free economy value is received in return for value given... There is, moreover, no way that an optimum distribution of wealth can be obtained except by giving some people the power to expropriate what others have, and this is not a power that can be given legitimately nor discharged responsibly." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 318

"The current revulsion against capitalism, the widespread assumption that profit is tainted, is based on false reasoning and the deep immorality of envy, unable to tolerate that another should have more or be perceived as being in any way superior."Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 318

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Capital

"If we understand capital, in the broadest sense, to be any asset--material or non-material--that produces continuing benefits of any kind, then its importance becomes clearer. With the biblical norms increasingly spurned by an idolatrous society, the family structure, the intellectual competence, the legal foundations, and the economic base--in other words, the capital--are all decaying. Therefore, the stability, peace, and prosperity they should be producing will increasingly be lacking." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 317

"...we ought to explore once again the meaning of the expression Jesus used in describing the function of Christians in their society: "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). When Roman civilization finally collapsed, it was the Christians who preserved what was best in it, and their descendants centuries later were able to build a new civilization using the building blocks they had saved. Capital of all kinds must be preserved to provide spiritual, psychic, and material income in a failing society. It is not only legitimate but imperative that Christians exercise stewardship in preserving the material, as well as the moral capital with which they are entrusted. They should ensure that it produces income, but primarily that it is preserved so that it can be used in the service of its true owner." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destructionpage 317

"One of the main uses of capital in a decaying society is to buffer its holders against the forces of disintegration. It makes it possible, for example, to resist the pressures for conformity that complete dependence on the economic system requires. It makes it possible to rescue children from the chief medium of state indoctrination by sending them to the right kind of Christian school. In general, it serves as a tool for the accomplishment of the preservation function that is the province of the worldwide body of Christians. It is essential, therefore, to resist the semi-Manichaean tendency that calls property evidence of injustice." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 318

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Stewardship of Capital

"The good steward husbands the property and causes it to produce its proper income. The bad steward mismanages the property so that it yields poorly, or he squanders it, or worse yet, regards it as his own. In the biblical view, God is the real owner of all that the earth contains (Lev. 25:23), and the putative owners are really the stewards whose job it is to manage the property in the interest of their creator. Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 316

"Anyone who regards capital, in whatever form it is held, as a trust to be exercised in faithful stewardship for God has to conduct his affairs in a manner that is fundamentally at odds with that of contemporary society. This is because society, as we argued earlier, is in the proces of destroying its capital. Government levies and inflation convert capital into consumption and so dissipate it. In an effort to protect resources from the tax collector and from inflation, as well as to maintain their standard of living in a declining economy, people begin dipping into capital. This has always been folly, and the wisdom literature of the Old Testament branded it so: "Precious treasure remains in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it" (Prov. 21:20). Capital, therefore, in contrast to income, should not be converted to consumption, should not be kept in forms that make it vulnerable to currency depreciation, and should be shielded from government confiscation, using all legal means. The innocence of doves must make way here for the wisdom of serpents." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 317

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Christians Must Renounce Socialism

"Christians need to renounce the systems by which their fellow citizens plunder each other, either within or outside the law. They should earn their livings by providing goods and services to people who find them valuable enough to pay for them willingly." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 312

"To oppress the poor, in the biblical sense, does not mean to maintain a social system of inequality, but to despoil people and reduce them to poverty by means of false measures, oppressive laws, and corrupt judges. On this showing, poverty is not a permanent condition, defining the essence of a person, but a circumstance to be assuaged by the restoration of justice or by charitable help until the poor person can resume his normal status in society, one in which he contributes rather than being the recipient of contributions." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 313

"Distributory justice...occurs when people redistribute their own propery, not that of others." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 316

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Materialism

"Materialism, coupled with the productivity of machinery and electronics, has brought us to the universal expectation of more, first rising expectations and then rising entitlements. This is what the Bible refers to as covetousness, which is condemned from the original Ten Commandments through the whole biblical literature. The common observation that prosperity tends to bring spiritual complacency, pride, and moral decline goes back at least as far as the Pentateuch (Deut. 8:11-14). The wicked are identified as those who trust in riches rather than in God (Ps. 52:7)." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 311

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Civil Disobedience

"There is no official edict that cannot be abrogated by the refusal of people to obey it. This choice was faced and stated starkly by the early leaders of the church: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 311

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Christian Culture and Education

"The repeated New Testament call for separation demands that we refuse to think and act like those around us. Mass media have turned what otherwise would be a vast heterogeneous collection of subcultures into a homogeneous unity. Just as life in a small village squeezes its inhabitants into a common mold, so the pressures of the global village require a similar conformity. The drive for respectability, the concern not to be thought odd, makes us vulnerable to the errors of fashion, of snobbery, of servility, of hypocrisy." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destructionpage 310

"Society's most important institutions serve the socializing function, making people better balanced and adjusted to the way things are. And that is why they are so dangerous. All education is of necessity value-laden, and the public school is the most powerful of these instruments of conformity. Its goal is to instill society' norms and to discredit deviant ideas... The biblical norm requires that we renounce this kind of socialization." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 310

"Christians, thus, are able to be subversives refusing to conform to the norms of their surroundings. Far from allying themselves with the "best" of the dominant culture, they must recognize that what is thought to be best is so only by comparison with a set of standards that is unacceptable. The appropriate response to the dominant culture, then, is to refuse subservience to it, to reject the domination of its norms, activities on the idolatries that control American life. In short, to rebel." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction pages 310-311

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The U.S. Government is EVIL

The United States Government is a wicked, criminal enterprise that has enslaved our nation by the threat of or use of force. Watch this video for yet another example of the manner in which our government enforces compliance.



You may also read more about this story here. The government wants its tax receipts, and will point a gun at you if you don't give it to them. This is slavery, is it not?

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Christians Must Resist Idols Disguised as Virtues

"...Christians must learn to recognize when idolatry dons the guise of the Christian virtues. They must stop lauding the evil impulses of envy and hatred that often lurk behind such benign phrases as "social justice." Inevitably, this raises thorny issues that cause practical people to doubt whether stopping idolatry is feasible. There are always practical reasons to stay with whatever idols seem to bring results. If we no longer sacrifice children to Molech, what will that do to the unemployment rate in a few years? If we stop worshiping Marduk, who will protect us against the Babylonians? Paul found himself persecuted because of the economic dislocations that occurred when people turned away from idolatry to worship the true God (Acts 16, 19). Once it is accepted that idolatry can be defended on practical grounds, there is no hope. It leads not to heaven on earth but to judgment." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 308

"One major function of the church is to unmask the idols and expose them for what they are. There is no basis for this to be done except the authority of the biblical witness. Unmasking the idols destroys their effectiveness, stripping from the false teachers their guise as angels of light. As Gabriel Vahanian puts it, Christian faith can be true to itself only if it is iconoclastic. If it is to have any effectiveness, it must be actively engaged in breaking idols." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 308

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Zombie Nation

"...the remnant of health can remain for a time after the necessary conditions to sustain it have been removed. Before the capital stock of the old faith is completely exhausted, it still produces a little of its social income. A Faustian bargain has its attractions in the promise of short term benefits, while the diabolic aspects lose some of their terror for their deferment to a distant future. The indian summer of the Roman Empire, as Toynbee called it, was mistaken by Gibbon for the golden age. Toynbee used the term "breakdown" in a specialized sense to mean the termination of the growth period of a civilization, prior to its disintegration. During this phase, some of the most showy accomplishments appear, belying the fact that the end is approaching. That is why the breakdown is marked by verbal clashes between optimists and pessimists, both drawing on the surface phenomenon that give conflicting indications but fail to penetrate to the underlying pathology." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 297

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You Are What You Worship

"Bloodthirsty gods produce bloodthirsty people. If someone thinks that chance rules the universe, his actions are likely to appear random. If people increasingly think that malevolence rules, as do the growing legion of Satan-worshipers, we can expect more human sacrifice. If there is a decline in the number of people who believe that God is love, we can expect fewer who think that actions of love are moral imperatives. For any individual or society, therefore, the religious questions are the ultimate ones that govern human conduct, whether they believe it or not. That is what lies behind Butterfield's conclusion that for two thousand years ordinary Christian piety has made an enormous difference in Western society, one that the historians, by and large, have missed entirely. The daily preaching of love and humility as virtues have made the moral landscape immeasurably different than it would have been otherwise, and we are now beginning to find out what life would have been like without it." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 295-296

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Judgment

"Another aspect to judgment, found throughout the Old Testament was the disastrous punishment God would visit on those who defied him. People who should deign to despise the covenant with God were told that "the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions" (Deut. 28:58f.). Those disasters were then enumerated. They embraced almost every branch of human affairs: economic, medical, military, psychological, domestic, political, religious. This connection between idolatry and disaster was the constant message of the prophets as well. When the two kingdoms were successively carried off into captivity by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, that was said to be the retribution that God had promised through Moses. It was judgment." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 294

"It is only to be expected, therefore, that an idolatrous society should suffer the pain of judgment. Whether judgment is the virtually automatic consequence of contravening the naturally perceived realities of the world, or whether it is the divine wrath executed with purpose on those who persist in idolatry, there can be no escape from the consequences. That is why Herbert Butterfield warned against Christians' attaching too much value to the remnants of nineteenth century liberal culture in which Western society was still organized. The ruins of such systems have littered the halls of history, and to value them too highly is to make a profound mistake. The nation, the political and economic systems, the culture, all are transitory and must not be absolutized." Idols For Destruction page 294-295

"There is a sense in which judgment that issues in catastrophe is the only way for good to come, inasmuch as it entails the erasure of evil. Niebuhr referred to the coming of catastrophe as the time when the idols fall, when human constructs are recognized for what they are in place of giving them the divine status their makers crave for them. That is squarely in the biblical tradition. Only when judgment falls, said the prophet, will people "cast forth their idols of silver and their idols of gold." (Is. 2:20). Idols For Destruction page 295

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Indulgence in Idolatry Brings Destruction

"In the prophetic works of the Old Testament, which provide the model for the present day, judgment is inseparable from idolatry. Human actions have moral consequences. There is a principle of moral accountability in the universe. Idolatry destroys those who indulge themselves in it."Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 293

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The Conscience of the Citizenry

"The biblical mores that so incense our professor of ethics constitute the dam behind which the most destructive of humanitarian acts are chained. If the dam is breached there are no limits to what might be done." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 290

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A Modern Example of Idolatry

I've been blogging a lot about idolatry recently. Idolatry is a difficult thing for us to discern in many ways, since the expressions of idolatry in the Bible are so foreign to our modern sensibilities. But here is an excellent example of modern idolatry, and it comes from a professing Christian, no less.

Brian McLaren writes, "This year, I, along with a few Christian friends (and perhaps others currently unknown to us will want to join in) will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them."

I care not what McLaren thinks he is doing in partaking in a Muslim ritual, this is idolatry, pure and simple. Observing a pagan religious ritual for any reason whatsoever, even a seemingly good one, is idolatry. Recall Samuel's words to Saul after Saul chose to disobey God by sacrificing captured animals to God rather than destroying them in battle, as he had been commanded:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”


Also read the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Observing or partaking in a ritual that opposes the kingdom of God is practicing in idolatry, even if in the name of coming "close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them." Do not be deceived by those who would tempt you into believing that one may casually partake in such practices.

For another take, read Doug Wilson on the matter.

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Contempt for the Law

"The contemptuous attitude of many private citizens toward the statutes therefore mirrors that of the state officials toward the higher law they should be reflecting." Idols For Destruction page 286

"Lacking the protection of law, the citizen is encompassed by the statutory constructions of lawless people who wield power. "When you break the big laws," Chesterton warned, "you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws." Herbert Schlossberg Idols For Destruction page 286-287

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Beginning of the End

"When professionals, union members, civil servants, and businessman go on a rampage, the manifestations are different from when slum people do it, but they may not be preferable. One of Rostovtzeff's major theses was that the collapse of Roman society in the third century occurred when the imperial policies of inflation and punitive taxation destroyed the economy and set the stage for class warfare. That was the beginning of the end." Idols For Destruction page page 285

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Redistributionary Reality

"Those who think that distribution can be separated from production lead us to the same place. "We produce plenty for everyone. We only need to redistribute it so that there is more equality." But redistribution changes production. People do not willingly produce goods they know will be seized for the benefit of others. The redistributors will find that there is less to redistribute., for a redistributionary economy is less than zero sum. It is a negative sum. Armed robberies are zero sum because their adventitious nature does not induce people to modify their behavior in anticipation of such an unlikely event. But the predictability of redistribution makes it sensible to reduce both investment and production in order to provide less for the tax collector. People consume more and hoard more, work less, save less, and invest less. Thus, redistribution is literally destructive of the nation's wealth, dismantling capital resources and providing disincentives to replace them."

As the social democracies sink into economic decrepitude, the neo-Malthusian laments seem to gain greater influence. We are becoming poor, they say, not because of what we are doing, but because the earth is becoming depleted, because there are too many people, because production cannot be increased without increasing pollution. Thus, we will need more state controls to save us. Since this mistakes the agent of decline for its remedy, it can only hasten the deterioration. The energy crisis of the 1970s almost wholly caused by federal price controls and allocation blunders, will likely be the paradigm of the entire economy for the remainder of the century." pages Idols For Destruction pages 282-283

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Death Panels

The so-called "Death Panels" that critics of socialized medicine are afraid of are in fact a logical outcome of not only socialized medicine, but of the Social Security System. Herbert Schlossberg, author of Idols For Destruction anticipated these death panels more than twenty-five years ago. Ezekiel Emmanuel, brother of Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama's Chief of Staff has even written on the topic.

Here is Schlossberg on what is to come:

"When there are too many people for the resources, an obvious solution is to reduce the number of people. As one British physician put it, when describing the deliberate withholding of care from newly born infants: "The death costs nothing; the life costs not only money but the preemption of precious medical, nursing, social, and educational resources." Since the neo-Malthusian movement that has been gaining strength in recent years considers economic decline to be inescapable, it can be expected to join the call for the eradication of surplus persons. As the famous report to the Club of Rome explained it, the world's situation will worsen progressively with the rising population and will find relief only when the death rate increases."

"Death, then, is the answer to our economic problems. The elderly will be called selfish if they insist on living, and it will be humanitarian deed and moral duty to see that they do not continue to live and so deprive others of the quality of life to which they aspire. Some day, perhaps, Francis Crick's call for a new ethic that would insist on mandatory death for all persons over eighty years of age will seem like a first hesitant step toward the brave new world that humanism is bringing into realization."

"Once we agree that we have the right to end the lives of those who are not sufficiently useful, we shall have to devise a hierarchy of usefulness. The aged, the infirm, deformed infants, infants of unreliable parents--the list goes on until it becomes clear that the injections will be given to all those not pleasing to the authorities. For if it is accepted as a moral principle that some people should die for the benefit of others, the identity of those to be sacrificed will be determined by pragmatic considerations, which is to say, power politics. Pull will be used to secure the ultimate political favor: that of being kept alive or having one's children and parents kept alive. Under those circumstances, political opposition will atrophy regardless of what democratic forms remain." pages 289-290

Monday, August 24, 2009

Our Catch-22

"The mistaken assumption of zero-sum economics is self-fulfilling. If people believe that their gain must come from someone else's loss, they seize what they are able; and if they can do it under cover of the law, they do it with impunity. A society imbued with this vision of economic life finds taking what others have to be more rational than producing what others need in return for fair payment. Thus, stagnation and injustice are reinforced." page 282

"Those who think that distribution can be separated from production lead us to the same place. "We produce plenty for everyone. We only need to redistribute it so that there is more equality." But redistribution changes production. People do not willingly produce goods they know will be seized for the benefit of others. The redistributors will find that there is less to redistribute, for a redistributionary economy is less than zero sum. It is a negative sum. Armed robberies are zero sum because their adventitiuos nature does not induce people to modify their behavior in anticipation of such an unlikely event. But the predictability of redistribution makes it sensible to reduce both investment and production in order to provide less for the tax collector. People consume more and hoard more, work less, save less, and invest less. Thus, redistribution is literally destructive of the nation's wealth, dismantling capital resources and providing disincentives to replace them."

As the social democracies sink into economic decrepitude, the neo-Malthusian laments seem to gain greater influence. We are becoming poor, they say, not because of what we are doing, but because the earth is becoming depleted, because there are too many people, because production cannot be increased without increasing pollution. Thus, we will need more state controls to save us. Since this mistakes the agent of decline for its remedy, it can only hasten the deterioration. The energy crisis of the 1970s almost wholly caused by federal price controls and allocation blunders, will likely be the paradigm of the entire economy for the remainder of the century." pages Idols For Destruction 282-283

This is Cronyism, Not Capitalism

"It is a mistake to think that the struggle we are describing is between the state and wealthy plutocrats, the usual equalitarian contention. We are witnessing a battle against all holders of capital, those who have savings accounts, stocks and bonds, annuities, insurance policies, and pension fund rights. Punitive taxation and inflation wreak havoc on all these investments. Thus, the entire middle class as well as many in what used to be called the working class are in the process of being expropriated. Those who prosper are speculators who realize what is happening and can take advantage of it and those who can manipulate the political process in such a way as to make themselves the beneficiaries of subsidies, grants, monopolies, tariffs, and other forms of political payoff." Idols For Destruction page 282

Greed

"Consuming capital is perhaps the clearest sign that greed has come to dominate our economic life. That is the moral meaning of such phenomena as pollution and the transformation of farming into a mining operation through the depletion of the topsoil and the draining of the underground reservoirs. A decline in wealth ought to mean that consumption diminishes, but a moral failure prevents that from happening. Instead, a way is found to continue consumption at its former levels: living on capital. Thus the capital stock is raided. Roads, bridges, and buildings deteriorate, long-term borrowing finances current consumption, and the individual base falls into obsolescence. Paul McCracken of the University of Michigan calculates that the industrial capital stock is now falling instead of rising at its historic annual rate of 2.5 precent. We have hardly begun to pay for this in unemployment and reduced output. As more capital is destroyed by policies of taxation and inflation, people will remove it from uses that make it vulnerable. Saving will seem increasingly improvident, and more capital will either be consumed or placed into such unproductive forms as precious metals and collectibles. In any case, funds will not be available to build factories, schools, and barns. As the capital stock continues to be consumed, the pauperization process feeds upon itself. People persist in maintaining their standard of living through more capital consumption and currency depreciation. The system eventually collapses." Idols For Destruction pages 281-282

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reforming Government

"The growing list of government dependents makes it less likely that we can reverse the trend. There are too many who have allowed themselves to become dependent on the dole in an endless variety of reforms. Expenditure increases are built into federal legislation by formulas and are not subject to specific authorization. Thus the budgeting process is on automatic pilot and must accommodate itself continually to an ever higher base. Those "entitlements" are one reason that the budget is said to be out of control. If Congress approved now new programs, the future increases would still be forthcoming.

Should the redistributionary phenomenon continue, then the inflationary one will also persist. For in the absence of moral restraint, which would insist on paying for what one receives, the sums required to supply the wards of the state will not be covered by taxes and the balance will be provided by printing money. The debtor class, which has benefited from inflation, is so enormous and so influential that it is difficult to see how the political will could ever be summoned to stop the currency depreciation. Every time the recessionary part of the business cycle begins, the cries for more monetary expansion overwhelm the political system, as bankruptcies, defaults, foreclosures, and other evidences of overborrowing increase. People do not want to repay their debts in currency of the same value as they borrowed." Idols For Destruction page 281

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Left and the Right Are The SAME

"One of the fondest delusions of the moralists of the American right is that if only conservatives are elected to power the slide can be reversed. But the unities of American political life are far more fundamental than the divisions. Economists Robert Bacon and Walter Eltis have highlighted the fact that in Britain governments of the right and those of the left purpose policies that are almost indistinguishable. In times of crisis especially (which means almost all the time in the social democracies), "the Left and Right positions can become so mixed up that it is difficult to tell which is which. The same is true in the United States where ideological statements obscure the realities. Congressman Jack Kemp, one of the conservative hopes, bases his economic plan on the same redistributionary assumptions as his opponents, differing with them mainly on practical grounds. He recognizes the futility of killing the golden goose by taxation and regulation, preferring to keep it alive so that it can still deliver in the redistributionary system. Conservatives like Kemp can be expected to keep intact the system that their opponents caused to flourish over the last few decades. But they will change the beneficiaries and the victims. Both sides will continue to make redistribution pay for themselves through the vote-buying process. That is the explanation for Ronald Reagan's discovery during the 1980 presidential campaign that New York City and Chrysler Corporation were worthy additions to the welfare economy. It is also the reason that the Thatcher government in Britain, despite its popular image, presided over enormous increases in taxation, government expenditure, and the money supply.

As early as its first year in office, the Reagan administration had continued the ignominious policies of its predecessors, although this was disguised by the rhetoric of both parties. A tax increase disguised as a tax cut, a budget increase disguised as a budget cut, and the continued policy of rewarding political friends from the public purse showed that there was no fundamental change. The much-vaunted balanced budget of 1984 became a joke after only a few months. Moral government does not come from an immoral people." Idols For Destruction pages 279-280

Friday, August 21, 2009

Education and the Intellect

"When college students are unable to identify Socrates, Hamlet, and Elijah, it is clear that the common understanding has been fragmented. This is the failure, not of intelligence, but of its communal manifestation. Barzun belives that one reason intellect is collapsing is that it is hated, and hated because it is envied as a sign of superiority. Therefore, he expects that anti-intellectualism will increase apace with equalitarian sentiment. The fortunes of the common culture will fare poorly." Idols For Destruction page 270

"But now rot is what is taught in many college classrooms: religious propaganda such as naturalism, historicism, and statism, covered in scientific garb. Students are left defenseless because they are untrained in discerning the religious assumptions that underlie what they are taught. They hear in lectures and read in history or economic books that it is inevitable that the excruciating problems we face be countered increasingly by state power to which we must give allegiance, and they see no alternative to accepting it. Then they graduate and teach it to children in the schools." Idols For Destruction page 272

Signs of Decline

"For as the proletariat in Western societies has become affluent, so the middle and upper classes have become proletarianized. Their attitudes toward time, work, and leisure have come to exhibit characteristics of the lower classes."

"...Toynbee endorsed Christopher Dawson's observation that the mark of a culture's last stage is not decay but syncretism. The advance into the established culture of the West of pagan and primitive modes of music and art should therefore not be regarded, as it so often is, as progress, but rather as a sign of decline. What is sometimes interpreted as the conversion of the whole world to the ways of the West is, on this showing, something quite different. It is, in Toynbee's words, a mass conscription "into the Western society's swollen internal proletariat.

As the dominant society continues its breakdown, the once-admiring external proletariat not only turn away their mimetic activity and admiration but also become hostile to the metropolitan center. At the same time, the disintegrating civilization turns against its own traditions and in its admiration of the more primitive society, burns in self-hatred. In the past this process has often been accompanied by a Voekerwanderung, the physical entry into the declining civilization o the peoples of the external proletariat. It may be a modern manifestation of this that we see in the migration of people from the Third World to the West." Idols For Destruction pages 269-270

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Idols of The Church

"The contemporary church, in contrast, for the most part has made its peace with this society's "best." In a society in which idolatry runs rampant, a church that is not iconoclastic is a travesty. If it is not against the idols it is with them." Idols For Destruction page 254

Is even the "best" of television, movies, music worthy of Christian admiration?

"Alexander Schmemann, writing of the schizophrenia that characterizes American Christianity, says that people tend to be unaware that their Sunday worship service, from beginning to end, repudiates the culture that they daily uphold as their "way of life." Idols For Destruction page 254-255 as quoted in "The East and the West May Yet Meet"

Rethinking Churchill

"In a way, Churchill as Man of the Century will be appropriate. This has been the century of the State of the rise and hyper-trophic growth of the welfare-warfare state and Churchill was from first to last a Man of the State, of the welfare state and of the warfare state. War, of course, was his lifelong passion; and, as an admiring historian has written: "Among his other claims to fame, Winston Churchill ranks as one of the founders of the welfare state." Thus, while Churchill never had a principle he did not in the end betray, this does not mean that there was no slant to his actions, no systematic bias. There was, and that bias was towards lowering the barriers to state power."

Read the rest of the article.

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Any Government Control Over the Economy is Doomed to Fail

"The economic results of central direction must, by reason of the central direction alone, be unfavorable, because the system is formally irrational. It substitutes preferences of central planners for the estimations based on a price system that reflects both supply and demand. The system based on a price system that reflects both supply and demand. The system ignores the information contained in billions of decisions throughout the economy--information that finally is made available to everyone in the form of price--because the planner's will replaces the action of the market, eradicating from the economy the rational use of supply and demand information provided by price fluctuations. Idols For Destruction pages 227-228

Americans: Serfs Ruled by Oligarchs

Paul Craig Roberts has it right, America is a nation of serfs ruled by oligarchs.

"Americans think that they have "freedom and democracy" and that politicians are held accountable by elections. The fact of the matter is that the US is ruled by powerful interest groups who control politicians with campaign contributions. Our real rulers are an oligarchy of financial and military/security interests and AIPAC, which influences US foreign policy for the benefit of Israel.

The great American superpower and its 300 million people are being driven straight into the ground by the narrow interest of the big banks and the munitions industry. People, and not only Americans, are losing their sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers for no other reason than the profits of US armaments corporations, and the gullible American people seem proud of it. Those ribbon decals on their cars, SUVs and monster trucks proclaim their naïve loyalty to the armaments industries and to the whores in Washington who promote wars."

Read the rest of the article.

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Lack of Civil Government Does Not Lead to Anarchy

"In his study of Puritan ideas, R. J. Rushdoony found that the Puritans considered the state (which they called "civil government") to be only one form of government. The individual exercising self-restraint is conducting governance, and so is the family, the church, the school, the guild, the profession, a rich variety of private associations, and finally civil government. All of them tend to limit the idolization and atomization of the self, and all act to prevent any single institution from exercising tyranny. Therefore, the contention that to limit state power invites anarchy or individualism cannot be sustained." Idols For Destruction, page 213

Civil government is only one form of government, to argue that without it society will fall apart is a myth perpetrated upon us by Statists who seek to control our lives.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

State Education = Statist Indoctrination

"Although many of the most vociferous objections to any confusion of religion and state come from supporters of the public schools, no school of any kind can maintain such separation. Value-free education is a contradiction in terms, and any hierarchy of values constitutes a religious system. Hence, all education is fundamentally religious. Idols For Destruction, page 210

Some Staggering Thoughts on Future Gold Prices

This video is absolutely fascinating. If this theory is correct, anyone who buys gold at current prices stands to make a fortune (150%!!). The theory seems too good to be true, but the theory does seem plausible.

Don't "Leave it to the Experts"

"In a press conference in May 1962, President Kennedy explained that the viewpoints to which we assign the common political labels no longer conform to modern realities. Rather than becoming impassioned partisans of the liberal, conservative, Democratic, or Republican positions, he said, we must recognize that the problems we face are technical ones. This means that they are "beyond the comprehension of most men." Galbraith could have written that himself. The ordinary citizen who accepts it understands that there is no point trying to fathom the intricacies of correlating the growth of the monetary base with that of M1, but fails to understand that if he accepts passively Galbraith's expertise he is also accepting his values. There is no value-free expertise." Idols For Destruction, page 194

If governmental economic policy is too complex for the average man on the street to understand, the chances are that the enterprise is of dubious morality.

Fatherhood and The State

"The state that acts as a wise parent instead of a vindictive judge has been an attractive image to many people. They include ecclesiastical authorities who have completely missed the point of the gospel warning to "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). The father is symbol not only of authority but provision. "Our Father who art in heaven... Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:9, 11). Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision." Idols For Destruction, page 183

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Contemporary Conservatives are Statists

I've expressed my own criticisms of contemporary conservatives, and I find that men such as Herbert Schlossberg long ago expressed the same kind of criticisms:

"Conservatives of practically all types, like [Garry] Wills and [George] Will, fall all over each other exalting the prerogatives of the idol state. That is why when they take power from avowed social democratic parties—as in Sweden, Britain and the United States—there are no fundamental changes. They go with the tide; an electorate that demands the property of other people will get it from their government no matter what party in power calls itself. (Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 220).

Schlossberg knew over twenty-five years ago that conservatives were shills for the state, just as they are today. It is time to stop voting for these statists--they are just as responsible for our massive government and indebtedness as are the statists in the Democratic party.

The Wonders of Socialized Medicine

The headline says it all, "Thousands of surgeries may be cut in Metro Vancouver due to government underfunding..."

"According to the leaked document, Vancouver Coastal — which oversees the budget for Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals, among other health-care facilities — is looking to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting in September and to cut 6,250 surgeries, including 24 per cent of cases scheduled from September to March and 10 per cent of all medically necessary elective procedures this fiscal year."

The Consequences of Inflation

"Inflation has both moral and economic consequences. It discredits whatever economic system it is part of because it removes any perception of justice that might otherwise be present. Instead of rewarding enterprise and punishing indolence, it "bestows affluence here and embarrassment there," as Keynes put it, "and redistributes Fortune's favors so as to frustrate design and disappoint expectations." Since it permits the accumulation of profit without the need for productive effort, inflation discredits enterprise. Wealth is obtained by plunging into debt, using borrowed money to buy commodities of real value that tend to rise in value at a rate faster than the currency is depreciating. People thus receive wealth without producing anything of value." page 99

"Thus saving and investing are proved to be foolish in an inflationary environment. Gambling and speculating seem more sensible. And spending before prices rise, preferably on credit, is a way to beat inflation. Observing all this during the massive Chinese inflation, Theodore White called it "the haunting pestilence of the middle classes," ruining those "who try to plan, to save, to be prudent," obliterating all loyalties, "denying all effort except to survive." page 101

"A society that inflates its currency tampers with a moral value. If the economic system lacks the basic honesty that permits economic transactions to reward both seller and buyer, lender and borrower, there can be no sense of justice. It seems right then to seek advantage at the expense of others. Henry Wallich, a member of the Federal Reserve Board, which has proved itself incapable of providing honest money, recently said that prices expressed in dollars no longer mean what they say. "Inflation is like a country where nobody speaks the truth." He compared the use of the inflating dollar with the making of contracts in which the measures of quantity frequently shrink. The Hebrew prophets denounced those changeable weights and measures as a form of oppression that merited judgment. Yet the Federal Reserve Act reads, in part, "to furnish an elastic currency." page 101

"Inflation is both a cause and effect of moral decline. The citizens like it because they perceive that it gives them something for nothing. Like many of the policies of the modern social democracies, it transfers wealth from some people to others. People will tolerate increasing prices because their paychecks seem to increase apace. The value of their houses and other hard assets goes up, while their load of debt becomes less burdensome. The benefits they receive are visible--the state makes certain of that, since if they were not visible nobody in the state apparatus could profit by providing them--while the costs are as invisible as political and bureaucratic genius can make them. As long as people think they are advancing economically, the pressure to continue inflating outweigh those for stopping. When a society becomes pragmatic, the moral considerations seem less important than the economic ones. page 102

Why Inflate?

"John Maynard Keynes is usually thought of as the architect of modern inflationary policies designed to prevent economic deflations, but before his depression-era work he had made more clear than anybody else, perhaps, why governments embark on inflationary policies. They have discovered what the Roman emperors who debased the coinage knew: such policies are profitable to governments. Keynes asked us to imagine a government that increases the stock of money from nine million to twelve million currency notes without other conditions being changed. In taking this step, it has transferred from the public to itself an amount of resources equal to three million currency notes "just as successfully as if it had raised this sum in taxation." Who paid the inflation tax? Those who held the original nine million notes, because each of those notes will purchase 25 percent less than before the inflation. The inflation of currency means its depreciation in value. "The burden of the tax is well spread, cannot be evaded, costs nothing to collect, and falls, in a rough sort of way, in proportion to the wealth of the victim. No wonder its superficial advantages have attracted Ministers of Finance." That is why, said Keynes, the currency notes of a country that is inflating its money supply are the equivalent of income tax receipts of a country that has honest money."

--From Idols For Destruction, pages 96-97

The Bible and Inflation

Idols For Destruction is full of passages worth pondering and sharing. Here is another passage from Herbert Schlossberg on inflation:

"In the ancient world, before the invention of coinage, there were two ways in which purchasing power could be manufactured fraudulently, and the Old Testament prophets sharply denounced both of them. Gold and silver were the media of exchange, and people used them by weighing on scales the amount that buyer and seller had agreed upon. Isaiah denounced the Judeans for mixing impurities in their silver (and for watering their wine), defrauding the people with whom they dealt (Is. 1:22). The other monetary fraud was the use of either false weights or rigged scales to apportion the price. There was to be no acquittal, said the prophet, for "the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights." (Mic. 6:11; Prov. 20:23).

The reality of inflation is that it is the modern day equivalent of fraudulent scales and impure coinage. Those who practice, support, and enable inflationary policies are fit for judgment, just as those denounced by the prophets.

Reconsidering the Roth IRA and 401k

I have recently come to question the legitimacy of tax deferred investments for retirement. I have long held the belief that these were wonderful opportunities to escape taxes either now or during retirement. I loved the idea of not giving the government all the money it thought it deserved. But life situations have made me realize the heavy costs involved in the tax deferral bargain.

To begin, the money we earn from our employers is ours. Once we receive the check or the money is deposited in our bank account, that money is ours to use for whatever purposes we desire within the confines of the law. The same goes for any money invested in stocks, bonds, CDs, mutual funds, real estate, etc. Naturally there are certain restrictions to these investments, but the money is ours and once the sale or term is complete the money is again ours.

But tax deferred investments, particularly the most popular—the Roth IRA and the 401k have very exclusive restrictions on them, that admittedly, are widely known. For example, you may only receive qualified disbursements from a Roth IRA when you're 59 ½ years old, when you've died, after you've become disabled, or for first-time home purchase. You may only receive qualified disbursements from a 401k after you've died, when you've switched jobs, your company goes out of business, or you turn 59 ½ years old. You may receive unqualified disbursements, but you will be taxed and likely penalized for early withdrawal.

As R. Nelson Nash notes in a recent article, "these plans are a function of the IRS Code." This means that the money is only yours inasmuch as the IRS allows you to possess it. How many people have truly understood the kind of bargain they are making when they hand their money over to IRS regulated investments?

I urge you to read Nash's article and reconsider the legitimacy of government sponsored tax deferred investments. He writes:

"Consider then, this reasoning – when government creates a problem (onerous taxation) and then, turns around and grants you an exception (any tax-qualified plan) to the problem they created – aren't you just a little bit suspicious that you are being manipulated? All of these plans were introduced as a means of helping citizens out. If they really wanted to help, all they had to do is reduce the taxes! Do you really think they want to do that? The real object is to control your life!"

Nash also urges us to consider that the 401k and the typical IRA is based upon the premise that your future tax bracket will be lower than your current bracket. Think about this for a minute. Do you truly think that your tax bracket will be lower in the future when our nation is increasing its indebtedness every single year? Is it possible that taxes will remain this low for another decade, let alone multiple decades?

Early in his article, Nash writes, "In early October 2008 the incoming administration had personnel discussing confiscation of all such plans and combining them into a Guaranteed Retirement Account, or some name like that." This isn't just a scare tactic; these
proposals
are out there and were widely discussed during the market crash last fall. When the market crashes again these proposals will resurface. Perhaps it is time to reconsider tax deferred investing and time to consider saving in your own way with your own rules.

Tasers

Salon.com has an excellent article concerning the use of tasers by police officers. Here is an excerpt that will hopefully wet your appettite for the rest of the article:

"Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.

But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control."

Monday, August 17, 2009

A New American Revolution?

Gerald Celente predicted a new American Revolution a couple years ago and believes we are now witnessing the realization of his prediction. I hope he's right.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Conservative Fraud

The conservative party in the UK is the Tory party, and yes, they are just as fraudulent as their American counterparts. Here is an excerpt from the UK Daily Mail:

"David Cameron was fighting last night to prevent the Tories again being labelled the 'nasty party' after one of his Euro MPs denounced the National Health Service.

The Tory leader slapped down Daniel Hannan after he went on U.S. television to brand the NHS a '60-year failure' that he 'wouldn't wish on anybody'.

Mr Cameron has staked his election prospects on convincing voters that the Tories would protect the Health Service."

Replace "National Health Service" with any other large government program in the United States and you'll see that the Republican Party too, are a bunch of frauds. What Republican wouldn't say the same thing about Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, etc.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dishonesty in Education

"Education is a series of religious acts in part because the power of assumption is so great. Assumptions, in fact, are more powerful than assertions, because they bypass the critical faculty and thereby create prejudice. If someone argues the proposition that modern intellectual people do not believe in religious dogmas, I am able to judge whether his arguments are persuasive. The simple aft of listening to an argument is almost enough to engage it. But if I listen to someone discourse on a related subject in a way that only assumes that modern intellectual people do not believe in religious dogmas, my mind tends to accept the assumption and bypass it in order to engage the argument which, in fact, depends on it. That bypassed assumption is the pocket of enemy soldiers that was ignored in an effort to engage the main body of the adversary, and it lies in wait to strike from the rear. A false assumption can be combined with an unassailable argument, which then proves the truth of what is false. The false assumption is additionally beguiling because it often appeals to one of the worse instincts--the desire to be fashionable or at least to avoid being associated with the unfashionable or unpopular." Idols For Destruction, pages 210-211

The Evils of Inflationary Monetary Policy

I have bemoaned our government's monetary policies on this blog for months. Herbert Schlossberg has written an excellent critique of inflationary monetary policy in Idols For Destruction that I want to share with you:

"Counterfeiting is the modern equivalent of alchemy[Medieval attempts to turn lead into gold]. When gold and silver were the only money, technology could not meet the challenge of imitating it. But when paper was given the power to command economic goods, people could mimic the official press with the unofficial one. This modern form of theft, like all others, comes from envying the possessions of other people and the coveting that impels one to obtain them. To understand the modern American economic system, as well as that of other Western nations, we must consider how alchemy has been brought up to date. Whether in the form of changing base metal to precious metal, or of counterfeiting government banknotes on clandestine presses, this process, like all theft, transfers purchasing power from its real owners to other people. It does so simply by inflating the supply of money. This is the original economic meaning of "inflation" before it was distorted to signify a general increase in prices. When we understand that there is no economic difference between flooding the nation with money from counterfeiters' presses and doing the same thing with money from the official press, then we begin to comprehend the nature of modern inflations."

Schlossberg continues:

"This modern version of alchemy is what Ludwig von Mises used to call "the philosophy of stones into bread," referring to the temptation of Jesus. That is the alchemist's trick of creating something of value without work. Whether the wizard mutters incantations, mixes formulas, or runs printing presses, he attempts to produce bread without bothering to plow, sow, reap, grind, and bake. He tries to create value ex nihilo and imitate the creative power of God. What he really accomplishes is the taking of someone else's bread."

The state's attempts control the economy and the nation's willingness to let it happen is idolatry, plain and simple.

Some Musings on Decline and Judgment

I am currently reading a book entitled Idols For Destruction written by Herbert Schlossberg. The book was written in 1983, but is remarkably prescient and instructive today. In the introduction Schlossberg writes:

"It is a curious fact that the Old Testament, which describes the beginning, course, and end of a number of societies, never assesses them as being on the rise or decline, as progressing or regressing, as growing to maturity or falling to senescence... Spatial and biological analogies are incompatible with biblical thinking because they are both quantitatively oriented and deterministic. To say that a society is young is to imply that on a scale between birth and the expected three-score-and-ten, this society is, say, thirty, and when its time has run out it will die. Spatial analogies lead us to expect that what goes up must come down; they imply a trajectory that can be plotted and an apex that is determined by such numerical factors as velocity, weight, and angle. In place of these analogies the biblical explanation of the end of societies uses the concept of judgment. It depicts them as either having submitted themselves to God or else having rebelled against him."

I have not yet concluded the book, but one can imagine where Schlossberg is going--namely to argue that America is not so much in decline, as it is under judgment. Frankly, this is not at all comforting, nor should it be. Schlossberg wants us to see that the course of history is not something that can be measured, or even predicted because God is Lord of the past, present, and future. What is before us is unknown to all but God.

For a civilization or nation to be "in decline" implies a natural order, or historicity, as Schlossberg argues against. To be "under judgment" implies something much grimmer, and maybe even hopeless. Yet it isn't that simple. The Bible is full of stories of judgment upon cities and nations--some turned out very badly, while others turned out remarkably well--at least temporarily. We do not know our future, but we are clearly a nation adrift, having lost our moral bearings. We have not submitted to God, nor do we intend to do so. But it is not we who seek God, but God that seeks us. Let us pray for revival.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Atlas Shrugged Today

I recently posted a review of Atlas Shrugged, and thought this article was worthwhile reading for more information behind Atlas Shrugged. Check it out, and read the book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Get Out of the Stock Market NOW!

Robert Prechter, (video at the link) a highly respected financial analyst is urging people get out of stocks and into safe cash equivalent investments. I absolutely agree with him, and cannot urge strongly enough to get out of stocks and mutual funds. He believes, and I believe correctly, that we are soon going to see the March 2009 lows broken. That means that all the paper gains made in the market since then will be lost and more. This could be your last opportunity to salvage some value from your portfolio. Don't miss it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Organic Food Scam

Yeah, that's what it is, in case you ever doubted. According to this CNN article organic food is no more nutritious than non-organic food.

Our Criminal Government

Americans once believed that, "men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." We once believed, like St. Peter, that the law stands apart from government—that the legally authorized government can act lawlessly. We have lost this understanding of law and human rights. Instead, we have given up ground to the pagan notion that rights are instead given to people by the government. This idea turns the state into a god. This is idolatry and must be exposed and condemned by the Christian.

In surrendering this ground to the pagan statists, we have surrendered our rights. When rights are granted by the state and not God, they may be revoked at the will of the state. This is happening now and has been for a long time. What we are seeing now is the mad rush of pagan statists to grab new powers over its people all in the name of equality and rights. Healthcare they say is a right—but at what cost? A right, such as the right to affordable health care is only possible when the health provider is forced to treat a patient at the "just price." This is not freedom, it is slavery. This is not free trade, but coercion.

I contend that we are captive to a criminal government. While many will perceive this statement as inflammatory, I think most would be surprised that St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, may be my intellectual ally. St. Augustine writes in City of God,

"Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, "What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor."

Augustine begins this criticism of government with the caveat, "Justice being taken away…" This of course is an important condition for his statement, but one can easily see that our government is regularly in the position not only of denying justice but of practicing injustice. One may ask why American citizens have continued to grant the federal government its power. We all know that, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Our government is only able to persist because enough people allow it to persist. During the time of the Revolutionary War, a critical mass of people was reached that agreed that the British Government was guilty of enough oppression that it was time for a new government.

Americans have been naïve enough to believe that a new president or new majority in congress will restore justice and right government, but as it is said, "the more things change, the more they remain the same."

Most of us have seen enough mafia movies to be familiar with the scenes where the mafia thugs walk into the corner store and offer the owner a "deal that he can't refuse" offering protection for a fee. It is my contention that this scenario is not all that unlike the Faustian bargain that we make when we pay our taxes. Both are done with threat of violence, the mafia thug will punish you for not accepting their generous offer, and the government will imprison you for refusing their generous offer. Both of course will be pacified if you accept the deal, at least until they need more money, at which point you must choose to continue playing their game.

Reflect upon these things. Do not be deceived into thinking that the government is your friend. How much have you given to the government in time, money, or blood? What has it ever done for your benefit? What has it taken away in the name of remuneration? What has it done in your name? What is it about to do "for your good?"

This is a criminal government and ought to be treated as such. The men and women of our government ought to be treated with contempt. What are you going to do about it? Are you willing to cease paying tax dollars to this criminal enterprise? Have you thought about seceding from the union? Are you willing to shout down your congressman or senator for their complicity in oppressing us? The time for thinking about these matters is at hand. The time to act upon them may arrive in the near future.

If your answers are no to these questions, re-read the Declaration of Independence and ponder the long train of abuses listed and reflect upon the contemporary abuses of our government.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."


Friday, August 07, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

I finished reading Ayn Rand's epic novel, Atlas Shrugged, last evening. The book has a well earned reputation. Many love the book, though she has a large number of critics, who, in my opinion are nitpickers, sympathetic to her villains, or cynics. The book certainly has its faults, but the merits far outbalance its weaknesses.

The book is important for a variety of reasons. Rand is known as the founder of the Objectivist philosophy—a worldview, that according to Wikipedia,

"…holds that reality exists independent of consciousness; that individual persons are in contact with this reality through sensory perception; that human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive and deductive logic; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest; that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform man's widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and to which he can respond emotionally."

As a Christian there is much we can agree upon, but as John Piper has written, "the Christian cannot follow her consistently." He writes,

"If she was right in her atheism and naturalism, then I think her system was consistent at the point of demanding only justice… But if Ayn Rand was wrong about God, if he exists, and, as St. Paul said, "made the world and everything in it . . . and is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:24f), if such a God exists (and Ayn Rand offered no argument to the contrary, only the assertion), then a radically new dimension of reality must be reckoned with and a corresponding new value should guide man's behavior."

So Rand doesn't reckon with the idea that God may exist, and bases her philosophy on a world without god. I do not believe we ought to read Rand, or Atlas Shrugged, for her philosophical ideas, but for her insights into human nature and the wickedness of collectivism. We cannot ignore it because it is central to the novel and the heroes of the novel.

The novel begins in an American culture hostile to capitalism, corporate profits, man's creative power, industrial tycoons, and the human mind. While these things are held in contempt, the virtues of the culture are "the public good," the individual's "right to a job," everyone's "fair share," "equal access," a "level playing field," and so on. It is not all that unlike America today—just more black and white. The pervading fears are of monopoly power, massive corporate profits at the expense of labor, and the corrupting influence of money. The antagonists of the book are fearful throughout the book of other's perceiving that they desire their business to be profitable. Clearly these themes are taken to extremes, but Rand does this with purpose. She aims to expose the ugliness of these beliefs by making them appear in all their naked horror.

The collectivist culture of Atlas Shrugged has led to the government intervening strongly into the economic realm. Each successive intervention leads to unintended consequences which lead the government to further intervene. The interventions begin to stack up quickly and chaos is unleashed into America's industry.

As in our own world, most people have either already embraced the dominant cultural worldview or have accepted things as they are, and tried to make the best of the situation. But in Rand's America the government has accelerated the pace of its dominance over the economy far beyond what has occurred in our real world.

Without delving too deeply into the plot of the book, or uncovering any of the mystery around the book, I hope to reveal some of Rand's genius in the book. Her primary contribution in my opinion is in understanding and demonstrating the "looter" mentality. Rand and her literary heroes refer to the antagonists as "looters" because they take without earning, and believe they have a right to the benefits of those who work, create, and give life without giving anything in return. It is the looter mindset that Rand so brilliantly exposes.

The looter's ultimate aim is to gain without exertion. The looter has no understanding that having a job requires work, and that money is made by working. The looter desires no responsibility and seeks to contribute nothing. The looter believes that money is the economic engine, not labor. The looter does not recognize that food, clothing, cars, appliances, or anything else for that matter must be produced. To the looter they just are. They take for granted the work of others. The looter does not wish to think about the consequences of their own actions, but assumes that whatever they do has no negative bearing upon the producers. They believe that their altruism makes them better than the person who runs a business to make a profit. The looter's mantra is that feeling is what is important, not profit, not money.

The looter wishes to disregard the laws of nature—that life cannot be preserved without work, without labor, without private property, without profit. The looter is a destroyer, he hates life, he hates purpose, he hates the mind, and he hates people— all despite his compassion, his feeling, his rhetoric. It is the looter and his evil worldview that drive the collectivist government, the socialist agenda, and requires controlling the national economy to ensure fairness and equality.

While I believe Rand has unique insight into the antagonists in the book, her protagonists, or heroes are much too idealistic. The primary heroes in the book are far too perfect for reality. Yet what is important is that Rand portrays her heroes in their ideal form, as she hopes we can become. But of course we are human and much weaker than Rand allows for in her objectivist philosophy. She explicitly denies and opposes the doctrine of original sin in the book.

In conclusion Rand understands the motives of the looter, the collectivist, the socialist. She understands the logical consequences of living by their code. She recognizes that left to their own devices the collectivist dream would whither on the vine. We have all witnessed the collapse of the socialist utopias around the world. There can be no doubt that Rand is right. Yet watching what is happening around us one cannot ignore that looters run our government. We are living Atlas Shrugged right now. While reading this book is exciting and one knows that things will work out in the end, it is much more difficult to be optimistic about our own time and our own world. The pace of government control has quickened to be sure, but what forces are there to stop the momentum? When will America awaken to the criminal government over us? Our government is full, full, of criminals—if you cannot recognize this, you too are part of the problem. Until the majority of Americans realize that we are governed by a lawless government, things will only continue to get worse. We must unyoke ourselves of these looters and put them in prison where they belong. I conclude with a short passage from the book that encapsulates what I believe to be one of the most important things for all of us to learn:

"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self-defense, and as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against man who had forced no one the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man's deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Change You Can Believe In

If you are longing for political candidates that actually speak for you and I, look no further than Rand Paul and Peter Schiff. Rand Paul is running in Kentucky for Jim Bunning's senate seat. He announced his candidacy yesterday. Peter Schiff has begun an exploratory committee to run in the Republican primary to run against Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.

Peter Schiff has a "money bombs" tomorrow. And Rand Paul has a money bomb on August 20th.

I urge you to consider supporting one or both candidates.


Update: Here is an extended interview with Rand Paul if you're interested in learning more about him.