Friday, 30 April 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

Holy Spirit Markets Are Kind of Like CostCo

Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Friday, April 23, 2010

So let us begin this brief economic primer with these inspirational words from Dave Barry:

The question is: What can we, as citizens, do to reform our tax system? As you know, under our three-branch system of government, the tax laws are created by Satan. But he works through the Congress, so that's where we must focus our efforts.

When it comes to Congress and out of control spending, we don't need an election so much as we need an intervention. And when we get that intervention, we can count on a great deal of bluster and anger from those who occupy the cushy slots of the Republic. They just don't want to be sat down and told to knock it off already with the fiscal insanity.

But because this is about power, not money, they just keep going with the grasping. Milton's Satan would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, and the same kind of tiny hearts are performing the same sort of priority calculus now. This kind of character would rather be a dear-leader-commandante in a banana republic than a well-off nobody in a prosperous nation who had to be content with minding his own business.

Bossing around a bunch of miserable serfs is far to be preferred to letting them just go off . . . and do things on their own without permission. Managed misery is better, they stoutly maintain, than unmanaged happiness. And so the graspers are doing their level best to get their fingerprints on everything, regardless of whether it makes any sense or not. Watching the evening news out of Washington night after night leaves the intelligent observer agape. Lily Tomlin put it well. "No matter how cynical you get, you can never keep up."

But after a while, you begin to wonder if it is you. Maybe water does flow uphill. Maybe we can spend ourselves rich, and why didn't mankind discover this sooner?

So let's review some basics. Getting soaked is a disincentive for whatever it was that you were doing that got you soaked. What is the economic difference between a tax and a fine? Make that a tax debt of 10K and a fine of 10K. The fine is a tax for having done something wrong, and the tax is a fine for having done something right, but apart from that, what is economic difference?

When it comes to incentives and disincentives, there isn't one. If you fine somebody 10K for a safety infraction at the factory, it is because you want them to stop it with the safety infractions. If you tax that same factory 10K for making a profit, what is you want them to stop now? And why do all our smart johnnies with fifty pound heads feign surprise and astonishment when that starts to happen?

Ronald Reagan saw it right. Despite the handwaving chutzpah, the governmental mindset remains simplistic -- "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Given that the elementary economic principles here are something that you should be able to explain to a fifth grader, we also need to remember our biblical basics. Refusal to see these things, and the corresponding refusal to act on them, does not indicate an intelligence problem. It is a spiritual problem. Free markets cannot be owned and operated by slaves. If we have a nation dedicated to the service of false gods, and we do, it is neither possible nor desirable for us to have economic liberty.

Free markets are Holy Spirit markets. They are kind of like CostCo. You can't shop there unless you are a member. If a nation wants to be free of economic lunacy, then it will not be enough to read Hazlitt, Bastiat, or Smith. If a nation doesn't want economic chains, the text to read would be John 3. Ye must be born again.

Will NZ's ETS Survive?

A Week in Politics . . .

Two days ago, the Minister for the Environment seemed Gibraltar-like in his insistence that New Zealand would press ahead with its Emissions Trading Scheme. On Tuesday (27th April, 2010), the NZ Herald reported this:
Finance Minister Bill English told Parliament the issues around the emissions trading scheme were complex, and Radio New Zealand reported Environment Minister Nick Smith as saying there were no plans to change New Zealand's ETS implementation dates.
By Thursday, it was reporting this:
New Zealand's emissions trading scheme is still here. But the Government yesterday issued a "we hear what you are saying" message to an increasingly grumpy business sector whose mounting chorus is demanding a halt to be called to the phasing in of that scheme.

Until a couple of days ago, the Government had seemed somewhat immune to those cries which have been prompted by the growing reluctance of other trading partners to introduce matching schemes of their own. That apparent indifference evaporated yesterday after Australia - New Zealand's largest export market - announced its scheme will go on the back burner until after that country's election later in the year.

And in another article on Thursday, 29th:
Environment Minister Nick Smith said yesterday "New Zealand would be unlikely to proceed with the full obligations for the energy, transport and industrial sectors and to add additional sectors to the emissions trading scheme in New Zealand if there was not progress in other countries, particularly of trading partners like Australia, Japan and the United States." Dr Smith said it was never intended as a "one-off big bang" but a scheme that evolved. "International developments have to be a key part of decisions in that."

Prime Minister John Key was equivocal in his commitment to the ETS, saying "at this stage we are continuing with the rest of it".

There is absolutely nothing to be gained, and an awful lot to lose, if the Government were to proceed with this ETS nonsense. But the whole thing has become more than a joke, and it is now beyond laughter. The intent of the ETS was that all New Zealand, businesses and households, were to be taxed, so that we can send money offshore to buy "carbon-credits", legitimatising our own carbon-dioxide emissions. But now that all around the world ETS's are disappearing faster than the moa, and there will be no global credits to buy.

Might as well just send the money direct to the Chinese or Indian government. It would be more transparent. They will take it willingly, nodding piously, whilst they keep the grins off their faces.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

Boobquake and the Meaning of History

Engaging the Culture - Meaning of Judgment
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So there was this Muslim cleric who put his foot in it, clean up to the knee, by saying that women dressing immodestly is the cause of earthquakes. There was naturally a response in this country that called for women to show some principled cleavage in order to test that holy man's thesis. On Monday, many thousands of them did so, in what passes for political discourse these days. It would be fair to say that there were many incidents of déclassé décolletage -- unattractive feminist scientists flaunting what they thought was sexuality, attractive bimbo queens taking the opportunity, natch, aging beauties reliving the glory days, and all of them over the top, so to speak.

When an ignorant religious official, from any of the world's great religions, sets up shop to pronounce on how this causes that, simpliciter, it is not surprising that hilarity ensues. The problem with this is that the hilarity is every bit as ignorant as the cleric. The fact that someone reads something wrongly does not mean that there is nothing there to be read. The fact that someone is illiterate does not mean that the book he can't read doesn't exist.

One time when our oldest daughter was around two-years-old, she was sitting in the car with her uncle in the parking lot of Safeway. They were waiting for her mom to come out, and while they were sitting there, she carefully spelled out the name of the store, and her uncle was quite impressed, until right at the end. "S . . . A . . . F . . . E . . . W . . . A . . . Y . . . Rosauers!" But the fact that she read the sign wrongly did not mean that there was no sign there to be read.

The fact that someone offers up a simplistic thesis (cleavage → earthquakes) only means that he is a simpleton. When numerous other simpletons answer him in kind, this proves nothing except that we have more simpletons around here than we initially thought.

When God judges nations, He does so on the basis of billions of variables. This does not mean that His judgments cannot be read, but it does mean that they cannot be read simplistically.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:3-7).

My point is that jiggling your boobs for a YouTube clip is a response to an ignorant Muslim that works equally well as a response to the apostle Peter, which is to say, not at all.

On a related front, I am currently reading To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. This looks to be an edifying read, and he promises to nuance the heck out of everything, but I do want to register one fundamental concern up front. I have a lot more to read, and will have more to say on this anon, but here is an initial observation. When we talk about affecting the world, for good or ill, we have to recognize how big the world is, how expansive history is, and how small we are.

Any measurements we might take within the scope of a generation or two are going to be, of necessity, inadequate. They will be simplistic. And so, for example, if those who are training young people for "short term missions" promise returns too quickly, the result will be eventual disillusionment. It turns out that Africa was not transformed because you spent two weeks there hauling cinder blocks. But if those who believe that we cannot really change the world at all act on their belief, they will just slump down discouraged now.

We are like kindergarteners who, having planted their beans in the egg carton, dig it up every day to determine how it is doing. Not very well, the answer would be, because we are checking in too frequently. Daily check-ups are not what is called for -- but that doesn't mean that beans don't grow.

Take some boy scout who helps a little old lady across the street. Is civilization saved? Did he make a difference? Not in any appreciable way, not that we can see. But then if we spent some time in a culture where nobody ever helped any stranger across the street, we get a glimpse of something larger. Taking your place at the end of the line at your local bank seems insignificant until you go someplace where standing in line is an alien concept. When the first people starting standing in line, where they making a difference? Were they changing the world? Not that they could see.

When evaluating how cultures change, how they rise, and how they fall, we really need to look at it in 500 year chunks. If we use two week slices for our sample sizes, we are just going to get confused -- overconfident and confused, like the Muslim cleric, or full of scoffing, like the boobtubers.

Approach it from the other end. Is the world different than it was a thousand years ago? Doesn't that mean that it changed? And, if it changed, was anybody or anything responsible? Not that they could see, but what is it that overcomes the world? Is it not our faith?

Hell Hath No Fury Like an Elite Gamed

Thin Reeds, Flimflam, and Hissy Fits

The papers are reporting that the Lame Stream Media in Australia are expressing a profound sense of betrayal by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd's spectacular capitulation on his much vaunted Emissions Trading Scheme ("ETS"). We understand the dynamic. Rudd went to bat for his "essential to have" ETS hyperbolically and grandiloquently touting it as the most urgent and necessary thing since the creation of the first human breath.

The elites, the chattering classes, and the media proved enthusiastic, gyrating cheerleaders for the Prime Minister--ignorant, credulous, unsophisticated bimbos all. Now that Rudd has pulled the plug, to change metaphors, they have been left high and dry--cruelly exposed as swimming naked. They are throwing all kinds of hissy fits at their humiliation and public degradation. It turns out they leaned on a thin reed and it broke.

The New Zealand Herald provides a summary of the outrage of the jilted lovers:
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's decision to jam his proposed greenhouse emissions trading scheme into the back of the darkest cupboard he could find has unleashed his worst demons. The media that had once admired his resolve and energy have turned on him with a vengeance, attacking him as a weakling lacking the courage of his convictions and scrambling back in panic from the attacks of Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
The government spinmeisters have tried to defend the embarrassing volte-face by blaming it on the stubborn intransigence of Tony Abbott. It is not working.
It is not a defence that sits well with the nation's most influential commentators, especially not when climate change had earlier been at the vanguard of Rudd's policy agenda, and an issue on which his critics had been lambasted as cowards for refusing to face "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time".

"As retreats go they come no bigger than Kevin Rudd's delaying of his once-cherished emissions trading scheme, probably the most spectacular backdown by a Prime Minister in the past half-century," Paul Kelly, one of Australia's most distinguished political journalists, wrote in the Australian. "There will be many words written about Rudd's retreat but it is simply crystallised: he is a Prime Minister without the courage to champion the policy that defined him."

Political columnist Dennis Shanahan, writing in the same newspaper, was equally scathing, depicting Rudd's Government as an Administration spiralling into political and policy chaos. He said the public and the media were sensing an air of confusion and retreat, with the ETS decision the latest and most dramatic reversal in a slash-and-burn campaign ahead of next month's federal Budget.

But the most trenchant non-hypocritical criticism has comefrom Andrew Bolt, a correspondent for the HeraldSun, who has consistently skewered Rudd's extravagant and reckless stand. (Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media)
The great fraud has been found out, and his country saved - for now - from the greatest of his follies. Here’s the worst lie that Kevin Rudd, perhaps our most deceitful Prime Minister, once told about global warming and his Emissions Trading Scheme: “The biggest challenge the world faces in the decades ahead is climate change. “It is the great moral and economic challenge of our time.”

But on Tuesday Rudd decided “the great moral challenge” of our time wasn’t, after all. It was just “a” challenge, he said. And with public trust falling in his ETS “solution” - a great green tax on gases - he cut and ran. His ETS would be shelved until at least 2013. Two elections away. Yet only last year this same Government claimed “delay was denial”, and we could not wait to save “our jobs, our houses, our farms, our reefs, our economy and our future”. To stop “700,000 homes and businesses” on our coast from drowning. (Another lie.)

Now Bolt is aware that we may think him a bit extreme and intemperate--sort of like the Prime Minister himself, maybe. His final sally is telling, however:
You may think I’m harsh on Rudd, but I say little that he hasn’t said himself - and of delayers just like him. I remember his speech last November to the Lowy Institute in which he vilified me and a few other sceptics he named: “The third group of climate deniers are those who pretend to accept the science but then urge delay because they don’t want their country to be the first to act. What absolute political cowardice. What an absolute failure of leadership. What an absolute failure of logic.”

You said it, Prime Minister. Or were you just spinning then, too?

Finally--and here is where all New Zealanders need to sit up and take notice--Miranda Devine reports on how the Rudd backdown has immediately affected electricity prices in Australia, for the better.
Despite all the denials, we now see in black and white how the defunct - or in Kevin Rudd's language "extended" - emissions trading scheme already has an impact on electricity prices. No sooner had the Prime Minister announced he was scrapping - sorry, "extending" - the scheme, all the energy companies came out to say the extra cost factored in for a scheme that hadn't even passed the Senate was, miraculously, no longer necessary. So now they'll only increase our already inflated bills by 36 per cent instead of 60 per cent, in EnergyAustralia's case.

There you have it - a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg that was Rudd's dearest folly, that had him prancing around the world stage and which he pitched as the defining achievement of his first term. (Emphasis, ours)

But we have to say to Mr Rudd--full marks for facing reality, albeit it at the eleventh hour, and loving your country sufficiently to decide to put its interests above your own political vanity and grand-standing self-importance. We have yet to see such from our own Prime Minister, John Key and nouveau-ETS zealot, Minister of the Environment, Nick Smith, who eighteen months ago was fulminating against the evils of imposing an ETS upon vulnerable New Zealand.

One is reminded of the adage of John Maynard Keynes: "I, sir, base my opinions on the facts. When the facts change, I change my opinions. What do you do, sir?" Yes, indeed, Messrs Key and Smith--what do you do, sirs?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Tax Cheats
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When considering the subject of our duty to pay taxes, the Bible seems plain enough. But let's consider the difference a few italics can make.

"For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Romans 13:6-7).

Now try it this way:

"For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour" (Romans 13:6-7).

Now I am making a general point here, and am not giving you advice on your own personal taxes. I am not a tax attorney, and I do not play one on television.

We need to get the theology of this thing straight first. If governments can steal, then they can obviously do so through the tax code. Tax codes can be passed illegally and unjustly. Legislators can be bribed to get them to vote for it. The agents charged with enforcement can throw aside all biblical rules of evidence, and so on. If this can in fact happen, and it clearly can, then there are circumstances in which a tax dispute between the government and the citizenry is a dispute which exists because the government is cheating on taxes.

In other words, we should not assume that whenever the government says that money is owed, and blood-donating turnip says that it isn't, that it is the turnip who is cheating. In short, the biggest tax cheat in America today is the federal government.

Governments exist by covenant, and governments like ours explicitly claim to exist by covenant. The word federal comes from the Latin word foedus, which means covenant. Our founding documents say that the government draws its authority to govern from the consent of the governed. That consent can be withdrawn, and when it is, the process is frequently quite messy. But messy or not, it can be withdrawn. And, like it or not, I think that we are already into the process of it being withdrawn.

The problem is that whenever this obvious truth about governmental tax cheats is pointed out (and it is an obvious truth), certain independent-minded tax resisters charge off and stop paying their taxes all by their own selves. And while (in some cases) I admire the courage and tenacity involved, tactical wisdom is almost always entirely absent. Tactically, this kind of thing is actually a boon to the the organized tax cheats -- for whom it is child's play to make the disorganized tax cheats look like they are the real problem here.

Moreover, it makes resistance seem futile. Nothing is easier than for the feds to pick off this guy, who thinks taxes can't be paid with Federal Reserve Notes, and that guy, who thinks that the income tax is not really in the Constitution because Ohio never ratified it properly, and the other guy over there, who formed an independent republic with his buddies at a hunting cabin in Montana, and in their republic they don't have income taxes.

What is necessary here is for us to return to Calvin's doctrine of the lesser magistrates. Since the Enlightenment, we have been trained to think of the nation/state as a monolithic entity, indivisible, instead of thinking of magistrates holding office as individuals with personal and individual responsibilities to defend the law. When someone takes an oath of office to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic, is it possible for said enemy to be an office holder, and to be an office holder senior to the person who took the oath? If the answer is yes, then what is the oath-taker supposed to do?

Run this scenario. Suppose Obamacare is upheld in the federal courts, and they then move to implementation. Suppose at that point one of the states, Texas, let us say, resurrects the old doctrine of state nullification. Let us say that the governor and legislature of Texas together say that this bill is an unconstitutional monstrosity, which is true enough, and they declare it null and void within the state of Texas. That being the case, they call upon the citizens of Texas to refrain from filing their income taxes in the coming year. Now what?

My point is a very limited one here. If that were to happen, what would the duty of Christians be? No, I am not arguing that it would be our duty to move to Texas. I am talking about Christians who are living in Texas already. What does Romans 13 require of them? Taxes to whom taxes are due, and Texas to whom Texas is due.

When a magistrate tells you to disobey a magistrate, what then? It is too facile to say that must always obey the highest one in the hierarchy, the one named Yertle, because in the American system, the consent of the governed is the highest one in the hierarchy. One man in the grip of historical arcana about the Constitution is not obviously the voice of the people. But if this sentiment were expressed in an orderly way, by millions of people, through the existing magistrates, then the situation is entirely different.

What to do now? Well, it seems to me that this is a reasonable question to ask candidates for state and local office, in the next round of elections. "Do you believe that someone in the office you are aspiring to has the right and responsibility to protect the people he represents from an overweening, centralized government, and to provide them with a lawful avenue for resisting such encroachments? Why or why not?"

The Devolution of the Law Commission

Malignant Cancers

Democracies in the West have degenerated into soft-despotic smothering administrative regimes. The State, with the consent of the people, has expanded its tentacles into every field of human action to rule, regulate, control and administer. It has vastly overreached its God-ordained powers.

When governments play-at-being-deities bad consequences always follow. One is that the law quickly becomes an ass--a tangled web of arcane, contradictory, costly, ineffective, outmoded rules and regulations that that quickly pass their use-by date. In an attempt to deal with the inevitably asinine character of the law under soft-despotic states the device of the Law Commission was created.

The fundamental objective of a Law Commission is to "clean up" and rationalise redundant and irrelevant laws. As Wikipedia has it:
A Law Commission or Law Reform Commission is an independent body set up by a government to conduct law reform; that is, to consider the state of laws in a jurisdiction and make recommendations or proposals for legal changes or restructuring. Their functions include drafting revised versions of confusing laws, preparing consolidated versions of laws, making recommendations on updating outdated laws and making recommendations on repealing obsolete or spent laws.

All well and good. But the law of bureaucracies is that they are cancerous. That is, they grow and expand to where they take charge of their host governments and begin to control government itself. Law Commissions are no exception. The latest report on alcohol in New Zealand shows that the Law Commission has grown cancerous indeed.

Formed in 1986, it now employs 32 people, with an annual budget of $4.3m. It would argue that it is under-resourced (the complaint of all cancerous bureaucracies). It has a point--after all New Zealand is sinking in an ocean of laws and regulations, growing exponentially by the year. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, President of the Law Commission lamented in 2006
Massive amounts of law are made in New Zealand every year, of which primary legislation sometimes does not produce the greatest bulk. Today, New Zealand's primary laws comprise nearly 1100 statutes; 1096 to be precise. We had only 600 principal Acts in 1978. Under the authority of today's Acts there are 4292 instruments published in the statutory regulations series. There exist also, according to the Parliamentary Counsel Office website, 273 sets of "deemed regulations"; this last number, the site warns us, may be incomplete.

How many pages of law this amounts to I cannot say because it is too big a job to count. The largest statute we have – the Income Tax Act 2004 – covers 2088 pages and takes three volumes of the 2004 statutes. There were seven volumes that year. This proliferation of forms of lawmaking poses problems in itself. But it also poses significant problems for the system of government as a whole. It makes it much more difficult ever to see the body of law as a whole.
One would have thought there is so much helpful work the Law Commission could do in recommending rationalisations and repeals of legal irrationalities, redundancies, contradictions, and blind alleys. But the Labour Government in August 2008 decided to focus the Commission's attention upon the Sale of Liquor Act. This was something the Commission ought to have tried its utmost to avoid, but under President Palmer it could not help itself. It not only welcomed the Government's stipulation, but decided to conduct a "root and branch" review of alcohol in New Zealand. President Palmer also indicated that he had a personal interest in this matter, and that he would ensure that Commission pursued its task with vigour. It turns out he was not dissembling.

Now, consider the brief that the Law Commission was given included the following in the Terms of Reference:
To consider and formulate for the consideration of Government and Parliament a revised policy framework covering the principles that should regulate the sale, supply and consumption of liquor in New Zealand having regard to present and future social conditions and needs.
Question: since when is it the statutory duty and function of the Law Commission to have regard for the "present and future social conditions and needs" of New Zealand and New Zealanders? According to the Commission's website, the objectives of the Commission are:
to improve:
• the content of the law
• the law-making process
• the administration of the law
• access to justice
• dispute resolution between individuals
• dispute resolution between individuals and the State.
It would seem to us that the Commission's role is expanding way beyond the intent of the original act setting it up. Now, we probably cannot simply blame the progressive philosophies and proclivities of President Palmer. It will also be the fault of the (then Labour) Government. But a malignant cancer upon the body politic the Law Commission has undoubtedly become.

So now New Zealand has the benefit of a 500 page monstrosity reviewing one piece of legislation--a review that has taken the Commission into issues of future public policy and social needs of New Zealand. It aspires to regulate exhaustively alcohol in every sphere of human and national life. The "scope creep" of the Commission will consign it to ineffectiveness; it has simply become one more engine for the rampant proliferation of soft-despotic laws, rules and regulations.

As one blogger put it--the nanny state has come back with a vengeance. The Law Commission has now moved from amelioration of administrative constipation to compounding the problem many times over. Under President Palmer it has become a sad case of "if you cannot beat them, join them". But, more malignantly, the Law Commission is yet another example of a cancerous bureaucracy taking over.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Peter Hitchens--Part VII

The Prodigal Returns to a Ruin

Atheism and Apologetics - The Rage Against God
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, April 18, 2010

In chapter 7, Peter Hitchens, in his book The Rage Against God, describes his rediscovery of faith. But when he comes back to the Anglican church of his youth, he discovers the place greatly altered, and not for the better, because churchmen whose backbone had been carved out of a banana had been listening to the outside critics -- critics who had shared Peter's contempt for the ancient realities. They had drifted into that great scam of our age, the planned obsolesence of ecclesiastical relevance.

On this point, after he returned, Peter was greatly affected by Thomas Hart Benton's grim rendering of the story of the prodigal.

And it had been another work of art that affected him deeply, in such a way as to begin the return to faith. But before this jolt helped him recover faith, he had been busy losing faith in his adopted religion. The first thing is that the gods he had given himself to . . . failed him.

Now I was discovering that the secular faiths I held were false . . . But I was suppressing my loss of faith in a Godless universe, and my loss of faith in humanity's ability to achieve justice (p. 100).

Two realities had started to press in upon him. One was the raw fact of his inevitable death, and the other was the recognition that the medievals were by no means rude, unlettered people.

In this frame of mind, while on holiday with his future wife, he was undone by a painting that they went by to see while they were in Burgundy. He came as a tourist, guidebook in hand, and left a rattled soul, greatly in need of a . . . guide book. The painting was The Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden. In it, certain naked souls, one of them vomiting with terror, were being banished to Hell. Because they were naked, they could belong to any era, and their hair was in the style of Peter's contemporaries. And he suddenly saw himself as one who might very well need to be judged.
I had a sudden, strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. . . .I had simply no idea that an adult could be frightened in broad daylight and after a good lunch, by such a thing. (p. 103)
Like a cold engine sputtering to life, other things started to happen. He started to sneak into Christmas carol services. "I knew perfectly well that I was enjoying it" (p. 105).

It began to dawn on him that he knew what he was doing.

"I also knew perfectly well that I was losing my faith in politics and my trust in ambition" (p. 105).

Around the same time, he decided to marry his girlfriend, the delightful Eve, and this involved a very solemn commitment indeed, made in the presence of eternity. "It was the first properly grown-up thing that I had ever done" (p. 105).

"The swearing of great oaths concentrates the mind. So did the baptisms first of my daughter and then of my wife" (p. 106).

Having returned in penitence, he then came to the realization that he believed it to be true. And that is the biblical order -- repentance and faith. As others follow the path that Peter took back home, the first great reality that our generation must come to know is that of sin, righteousness and judgement. The second is that Christ came into the world to save sinners. As we consider the terms of the offer that God makes to us, the glorious thing is that we qualify. All of us qualify.

Money, Greed, and God--Part VIII

The Artsy Myth

In the seventh myth, which Richards calls the Artsy Myth, in his book Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem, the discussion is about personal preferences which some wish to see others similarly adopt or hold. Usually these preferences are aesthetic judgements (preferring rock to hip-hop, for example) and then the personal property rights economy gets blamed for “promoting” hip-hop and "making" it popular instead of rock or classical or country music--or whatever is one's particular preference.

Not only are arguments of this sort confusing aesthetic preferences with the pros and cons of different economic structures and ideologies—but the arguments are often implicitly elitist. Someone has view that a a certain policy, option, or good is superior (and better for mankind) than another, and wants to see it either adopted by others or imposed upon others. Because the free choices of the majority (as expressed through popular demand in the free market) go the other way, blame is placed upon the system that both allows and encourages people to choose that way—that is, the system of personal property rights and free trade. Usually, the next move by the disgruntled is to call for some rules or regulations to make people conform and behave the way they "ought to".

An example would be the “buy local” food movement. Some people hold the view that food grown locally is better (whether nutritionally or aesthetically or environmentally) than food grown offshore and transported internationally. Since free trade has resulted in mass produced, low-cost food being imported from around the world, and since the majority of people prefer this to locally grown food, free trade and the system of personal property rights gets blamed for doing great damage. But a basic principle of justice intrinsic in the personal property and free trade economic system is that each person has a sovereign right of choice about what is best for them. Adults do not have powers or prerogatives to restrict the choices and preferences of others without their consent.

The Artsy Myth presupposes that some (an enlightened elite) have a right to choose for others because they know better, or have a more enlightened set of values, than others.

An irony with respect to this myth is that it is the personal property rights and free trade economic system which can most effectively produce and deliver what the enlightened elite wants, provided it can persuade enough other people that they too should share its view. We read an analysis recently of supermarkets and their stocking of locally produced organic food in the United States. Ironically, Walmart (that big, evil "globalized" monster!) proved to have the widest range of locally produced food (that is, organic food produced within one hundred kilometers of the respective stores) at the lowest prices. The reason this has come about is that Walmart has recently worked out that there is a growing market demand for such food. Accordingly, they have promulgated a policy where each local Walmart store can contract with local growers and producers to supply organic foods in season, thus meeting the preferences, tastes, and demand of their customers. An upshot has been an unexpected revival of locally produced foods. Note a rule, law, regulation, tax or other minatory device in sight!

This is not to say that every economic system based on personal property and free trade will never produce tacky, wasteful, or less-than-aesthetically pleasing outcomes. Of course at times a personal property right system will and does—which is to say that people's tastes can be tacky, vulgar, and crude in the eyes of others—at least for a while, until the novelty has worn off and folk re-think and re-assess. But this is a human problem, not a fault with an economic system built upon personal property rights and free trade.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

Legalized Plunder
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Here it is, in a nutshell. The state is either under authority or it is not. If the state is not under authority, it has no authority -- only power. That means that prudence might dictate doing what they say, but conscience never could. So the only way conscience can direct the citizenry to obey the state's authority is if the state itself is under authority. No created entity has authority unless that created entity is under authority. But if the state is under authority, this means the state is under limits.

Being under limited authority means that it is possible to know the nature and extent of those limits. If they go past those limits, everybody knows about it.

If there is no God above the state, the state has no authority. If there is a God above the state, then the state has no authority outside the limits that have been set for it. And in either case, there is no reason grounded in conscience for putting up with legalized plunder.

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Providence: a Ministry of God's Love

For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice
Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 32: 3-4

There is no comfort like the fact of God's infinite, unchanging and eternal love for us. If we can but get this truth into our individual consciousness, it will sustain us in every trial. All the universe is under His personal sway, and He is our tenderest and dearest Friend carrying each of us close in His heart.

Providence is not merely the outworking of a mechanical system or the beneficent operation of wise and good laws. It is rather the thoughtful, sleepless, loving care of our Father. We put God too far off. There are laws of Nature, but He is the Law-maker, and these laws are but the methods of His kindness. They do not make any gulf between Him and His children. In every well-ordered household there are regulations, rules, habits, laws, but these do not make the home-providence any less due to the love and kindness of the parents. No more do Nature's established and uniform laws cut us off from the personal care of God.

He comes near to us perpetually in these methods of His providence. His own fingers touch the tints in the flower. With His own hand He feeds the birds, and in all second causes it is still His hand that works. The beautiful things we see are the pictures our Father has hung up in our chamber to give us pleasure. The good things we receive are the ever-fresh tokens of His thoughtful love for us.

And the same is true of the evil and painful things. Our Father sent them. They seem to mean harm. But He loves us with a love deep, tender and eternal. We cannot see how these things consist with love's plan, but we know that they must; and in this faith we may rest, not understanding, but yet undoubting, unquestioning and unfearing.

If we could push ajar the gates of life,
And stand within and all God's workings see,
We could interpret all this doubt and strife,
And for each mystery could find a key.

But this we cannot do. Hereafter we shall know. Yet even now, knowing what we do of God's wise and eternal love for us, we can believe and trust and be at peace. This is the truest comfort. It is the clasp of the tree's roots upon the immutable rock. It is the soul's clinging to God in the storm.

Dr J. R. Miller, Pennsylvania, 1897

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

A Cute Little Thing With Brown Eyes Named D516808
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, April 17, 2010

There are three basic approaches to religion that are possible. We may opt for escape, we may lust for power, or we may exercise dominion. (HT: Gary North)

The first doesn't want Christ to rule over us, but wants to evade the personal consequences of this decision. When Christ is not acknowledged as Lord, somebody else must be, and so our chances of being ruled by men with a black, little hearts increase dramatically. Escapists are lovers, not fighters, and so they just want to keep their heads down. They let others stride through the world like lords and masters, and they just want to keep out of the way.

"Keeping out of the way" can be done by means of various drugs, sex, living in unabomber cabins, or moving to Escondido. Some want to escape into hallucinations while others want to escape to Heaven. Some escapists are skunks and scoundrels, while others are more noble -- because there really is a Heaven. But when it comes to prophetically confronting the desire that Unbelief has to rule in its own name and on its own terms, all we can see around here are heels and elbows. In evangelical circles, this can result in some pretty funny admonitions -- like the one I saw once (in print) from a bestselling evangelical author, chiding John the Baptist for getting involved with politics n' Herod n' stuff. If he hadn't pulled that dumb stunt, who knows how many more years of fruitful ministry he might have had?

The second kind of religion is power religion. This one is a heady narcotic, and the weavers of these massive conceits propose enormous projects like -- you will scarcely credit this, but I have heard it from reliable sources -- running the health care of 300 million people from a central location. Whether we are talking about bombs or bureaucrats, the power religionist does not comprehend why he (and others like him) should not be allowed to make decisions about absolutely everything. They, and people just like them, want to get into the sock drawer of the American public, and tell us all where the white ones go and where the colored ones go.

There are two issues here, and most American conservatives just see one of them. The first is whether their proposed regulation is a dumb idea or not, or is based on junk science or not, whether the tax monies will be wasted, and so on. These are actually debates over the details. Now it happens that these proposals are almost always dumb, and so there is something for the shouting heads on television to talk about.

But the foundational issue is whether they have any right whatever to make a correct decision in any of these areas. They don't. If the federal government winds up bailing out E-Harmony sometime soon, and a young man of your acquaintance gets a letter from the appropriate agency about his forthcoming nuptials (a cute little thing with brown eyes named D516808), there are two issues, right? One is whether the young lady would be in fact a good fit. That is one issue, as in, the irrelevant one. Surely the more important issue is whether or not the government has gotten caught up in some kind of an overweening conceit . . . which, in case you were wondering, it has. And this second question is related to the one about whether a Christian under such circumstances can, with a clean conscience, respond with a disobedient horse laugh, which, I am happy to inform you, he can and should.

This is because the government has no authority to repeal or alter the eighth commandment or the seventh. And yet we are living under people whose maw is wide open, hungry to gulp down the powerless. These are people who think they can pass a law, and then bingo! homosexuals can marry. Even Caligula wasn't that far gone.

If the king commands the tide to stay put, will it do so? King Canute was trying to make a point with his flattering courtiers, but we have gotten to the point where our Canute has grown accustomed to the sound of his own voice, and he is getting angry about his wet feet. That's too bad, someone might say. Deal with it.

The last option is dominion. This is wielded through the service of worship -- love for God and love for neighbour. Those who preach this sort of dominion are often accused of trying to "take over" politically because power religionists don't understand anything but power. They don't have minds that bend in any other direction. They accuse others of trying to do what they are always trying to do.

Just as Sauron could not comprehend anyone coming in possession of the Ring, and then trying to destroy it, so these people don't understand actual sacrifice and service. They understand people trying to escape them, and they understand people who want to be just like them, but they don't understand, at all, people who want to exercise cultural influence without coercion. And in order to have cultural influence without coercion, the Spirit has to be involved -- and He is grieved and driven away by officious bureaucrats with pinched faces.

Teaching Children to be Neurotic

Warning to All NZ Parents

Every parent worthy of the name wants his or her children to grow up in a safe and secure environment. Moreover they want their children to be able to face the future with confidence. If our children grow up fearful, neurotic, and ridden with anxieties we would rightly shoulder the blame. We would have failed in some of the basic obligations of parenting. Right?

Well, then, what would you think of parents whose children at age eight were clearly phobic and neurotic, expressing fears such as the following:
Recently I've been worrying about some of the wars that are happening on the other side of the world, why are we just killing people, why can't we just kind of stop it? I kind of just think, I hope it doesn't get any worse.

I'm worried about the environment and the global warming, the ice and how it's going. I write it down in my little notebook ... I'm thinking people should actually stop the global warming before it's too late for their children.

The future, if we have children, would there be a future for them?

These attitudes and fears were expressed to a PhD researcher studying children aged eight to ten to find out what was causing stress in their lives. The researcher suggested that these kinds of fears partially explained why so many children are neurotic.
When children have those concerns it can be very distracting and I don't think it's surprising that we have increasing behaviour problems, increasing diagnosis of childhood anxiety disorders and childhood depression.
Then there is the case of nine year old Joanna Laxon, who is growing up in a world of fears, dreads, and neuroses:
Nine-year-old Joanna Laxon stresses about finishing school projects, "stuff outside of school", the environment and "what will happen later on in life".

It's a lot for the Auckland girl to worry about but she has plenty of ways of coping with it, from talking to her parents to writing it all down.

According to research into what many 8- to 12-year-olds stress about, Joanna seems to be typical of New Zealand children these days.

When asked what things outside of school caused her stress she said "things that just don't have to do with school". Some are things she's read in the paper or heard from friends.

She had plenty of environmental concerns, including global warming and Iceland's erupting volcano.

"I don't know much about it but I know it's not very good," she said about global warming.

Joanna said these environment issues stressed her out because they "could make a problem". She also worried how they could affect her and other people in the future and the potential harm from pollution.

"Sometimes I just kind of worry about how so many people are killing animals, like in Africa a lot of people are killing lions because their territory is being ruined and then they come to the farms and kill the cows and the farmers shoot them."

Where do children get this from? Well of course they get it from the media and from their parents.
Dr Peter Coleman, a developmental and educational psychologist, said many of the world stressors indicated by children were reflective of their surroundings.

"You'd expect it from the point of view that their parents are concerned about it, talk about it. They see it on the news so they would pick it up."

But is that the whole story. We fear not. Think of the lexicon here: wars, global warming, pollution, and looming destruction of the planet. We fully and confidently expect that these kids--along with most of their age--have been fed these phobias by their teachers. We know that these issues are relatively unimportant to adults, as expressed through surveys ranking the relative importance of issues of voters. It's highly unlikely these children are daily sitting around the evening table hearing their parents express doom and gloom about Icelandic volcanoes.

But the classroom is another matter. Now, we have completed no research into the matter, but we are confident school children (particularly intermediate school age pupils) are being fed a steady diet from their teachers of alarmism, global warming sirens, and a litany terrible things that are happening and about to happen. Just at random, here is a classic of the genre from Melville Intermediate School.
Our view is that it is neither parents nor the media that is to blame for NZ children growing up racked with fears and neuroses about the future. It is our state schools and the tripe they are feeding our children.

It's parents who should be alarmed--not at life in general, but over the damage government schools appear to be inflicting upon our children. Time to start asking the hard questions about a few sacred cows in the state education system.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Doug Wilson's Letter From America

An Armed Deacon of God
Expository - Romans
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, April 17, 2010

We are taking care to work through this passage of Scripture deliberately and slowly, and there are at least two reasons for this. First, the issues involved are complex and important, and are even more complex and important in our day than they usually are. Second, the misunderstandings that surround this portion of Scripture are legion. We have to be very careful here.

The Text
“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” (Rom. 13:4-5).

Summary of the Text
Contextually, we are talking about civil rule, civil power. Paul has called the magistrate the “powers that be.” The word here is the word for authority. All authorities whatever are from God (v. 1), and so it follows that civil authorities are from God (v. 1). The word is authority in vv. 1-2, and in verse 3, Paul calls those we are dealing with here “rulers.” What kind of rulers we are talking about becomes plain here in vv. 4-5, given their tools and what they do with them.

For he (the ruler) is a minister of God, a deacon of God, and his assigned task is to do the Christian citizen or subject good (v. 4). If a person is an evildoer, then he should be worried and afraid, because the ruler does not bear the sword in vain (v. 4). He is again called the deacon of God, and his job is to execute vengeance and wrath upon evildoers (v. 4). The Christian needs to be obedient to the law, not just because he is afraid of this wrath (v. 5), but also because he is being obedient to God—that is, for conscience sake (v. 5).

A Task and A Tool
God has given these rulers two things—a task and a tool. The assigned task is to administer avenging justice to those who do evil, and the tool for this task is the sword, an instrument of lethal violence. The word for sword here is machaira, and it was an instrument of warfare. It was not used for spanking bad boys with the flat of it. This was a double-edged sword, usually about 18 inches long, and commonly used by Roman soldiers. Peter used one to cut off an ear (Matt. 26:47); James the brother of John was executed with one (Acts 12:2); however sharp, it is incapable of separating us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35); it provides us with a figure for the Word of God (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). It was not a toy, and God gave it to His civil deacons to kill bad people with. However much our pacifist brothers might sweat over this passage, it says what it says, and it is not in the Old Testament.

Vengeance Is Still the Lord's
Remember that this book is written just a few years before a rebellion breaks out against the Romans. The Jews, who would erupt in rebellion, were under a prophetic statement as old as Moses that they would lose this battle, and that God would humiliate them through a people of strange language because vengeance for all their idolatries belonged to Him. The Christians were being instructed here that under no circumstances were they to join in with this revolt. If God is coming after a people with vengeance in His eye, don’t you jump in between them.

From this circumstance, we can and should render general by induction. After all the Romans and all the Jewish rebels were dead and gone, there were still evildoers in the world who needed to be restrained generally, and they need to be restrained by force. One of the three uses of the law is to give guidance to the magistrate as he considers what to do (1 Tim. 1:9-11). All we are doing here is distinguishing the first century application from our own (necessary) applications—to muggers, terrorists, rapists, and so on. We won’t need the sword anymore when we don’t have crime anymore.

What It Means to be a Deacon
So the state is God's deacon (Rom. 13:4), and God never leaves His deacons without instructions. A deacon is, by definition, under authority. In the biblical worldview, authorities are authorities only because they are under authority.

We should therefore measure his appropriations and expenditures over against what he was told to do. When servants use the master's resources for tasks unassigned by him (Luke 12:46-47), what is the result? When the Lord comes back to evaluate His deacons in the Congress, what will He do? He will not be indiscriminate; the punishments will fit the crimes. Some He will cut in sunder, and others will simply be beaten with many stripes. This will not happen because our rulers are not His deacons; rather, it will happen because they are.

By definition, the armed deacons in this passage of Romans are under authority. Their authority does not originate with them, as much as they would like it to. Whose authority are they under? God’s. We obey them because God tells us to (for conscience sake), and not simply because we fear their punishments for wrongdoing. And if they are levying punishments for righteousness, we are not to fear them at all—and conscience is still operative.

A Hermeneutic of Fun
The apostle Paul tells the believers of his day that he advises against marriage because of the “present distress” (1 Cor. 7:26). He also is telling believers here in our text to stand back and let the Romans do to Jerusalem what they are going to do to it (Rom. 12:19; 13:). And yet, many believers have abstracted his principle here in the latter instance, and applied it to every situation throughout all time, which they haven’t done to the first passage—which was just as contextually situated. And why is this? We grasp the importance of limiting context in 1 Corinthians because it is fun to get the girl. A lot more fun, say, than standing up to tyrants is.

Helen Clark at Work

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

On the 31st of March 2009, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark was appointed head of the UN Development Programme. She was made responsible for an annual budget of billions of dollars to spread around the world to help poor countries develop.

Along the way she has hit a few unfortunate speed bumps. One was in an impoverished Caribbean nation called Haiti. It came in the form of a devastating earthquake. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet is shares a border with the Dominican Republic which is considerably better off. Same location.  Same natural resources.  Same climate.  Only the one, however, is listed as one of the world's poorest nation.

What many may not be aware of is Haiti has already been the recipient of billions of dollars of international aid for over twenty years. Things have just got worse. How could this be?

Clark's PR machine has always framed her as fiercely intelligent, clever, smarter than the average bear. In other words her PR coterie and the Lame Stream Media saw a mirror image of themselves when they gazed upon her.

Now that Clark's legendary fierce intelligence would be put at the helm of the UN Development Programme which had already wasted billions in Haiti, maybe things would change. Or, not. The "nots" have it.

According to a recent report, two-thirds of peace-keeping aid in Haiti is going to UN personnel.
The United Nations has quietly upped this year's peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.

The world organization plans to spend the money on an expanded force of some 12,675 soldiers and police, plus some 479 international staffers, 669 international contract personnel, and 1,300 local workers, just for the 12 months ending June 30, 2010.

Some $495.8 million goes for salaries, benefits, hazard pay, mandatory R&R allowances and upkeep for the peacekeepers and their international staff support. Only about $33.9 million, or 4.6 percent, of that salary total is going to what the U.N. calls "national staff" attached to the peacekeeping effort.
Amongst the expenditure is a very necessary piece of equipment dubbed the Loveboat.
Presumably, the budget also includes at least part of some $10 million that the U.N. has spent on renting two passenger vessels, the Sea Voyager (known to some U.N. staffers as the "Love Boat") and the Ola Esmeralda, for a minimum of 90 days each, as highly subsidized housing for some of its peacekeepers and humanitarian staff. The tab for the two vessels, which offer catered food, linen service and comfortable staterooms and lounges, is about $112,500 per day.
Now, last time we checked Haiti had not been at war. Why a peacekeeping budget?
The Haitian peacekeeping budget is relatively unique among U.N. efforts, because there was no civil war or widespread bloodletting to inspire the original peacekeeping force, which arrived in 2004. Instead, the mission has mainly been intended to bolster political order in a society crushed by hurricanes, political turbulence, and grinding misery.
And just so we get the complete picture. The "peacekeeping" budget, most of which is circulating straight back to UN personnel, is only the tip of the iceberg of aid which is supposedly floating  Haiti's way.
The revised peacekeeping tab is over and above the roughly $15 billion in short- and long-term aid that the international community — led by the U.S. and European Union — pledged to Haiti at an international donor's conference last month.
Our expectation is that when all this money has been "dumped" on Haiti, it will be left worse off than it is now. Most of the money, which represents exaction of taxes upon ordinary human beings by their soft-despotic governments, will have been expended upon UN elites. The "beneficent" iceberg will have melted away.

Sitting astride it all will be the fearsomely intelligent Helen Clark. But at least we can acknowledge her consistency. All her life Clark has held the peculiar view that the ultimate and most profound solution to any human problem is more government and more government money. She will no doubt be convinced that wonderful and great things are being done in Haiti. There are no limits to the fearsome stupidity of Clark and her ilk.

To Clark, whose god is government, and who believes its worship requires never-ending illicit exactions of property from citizens, intelligence is indeed the stuff of myth and legend. She will go down in history as one of the human races most notorious wastrels.

Ease Up on Drunken Sailors

Show Some Respect for a Much Maligned Group

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Meum and Tuum
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So let's come at this from another angle. We are talking about whether governments can steal, and once that seemingly obvious point is settled, at what point their taking becomes pillage. And the brief answer is that it become indefensible when they can't defend what they are doing from the Word of God.

In City of God, Augustine tells the story of a pirate who was captured and brought before Alexander the Great, and boldly asked why he was called a pirate for doing with one ship to other ships what Alexander with great armies to other nations. We lose track of what happened to the witty pirate after that, but his question is manifestly a reasonable one.

"What would it be called if we did that?" is a reasonable way to begin the discussion.
If the directors the Ponzi-scheme Social Security program were in the private sector, they would all be down the hall from Bernie Madoff. This is not a radical anarchist question either. There are times when the magistrate can answer the question -- e.g. "you can't take personal vengeance on your enemies because God has given the sword of vengeance to us."

Someone might object that I intruded the Scriptures into the equation, making it impossible for us to determine what is right and wrong for the magistrate to do apart from God's Word to us. And that would be correct. We are sinners. We need Christ. We need Christ individually, and we need Christ collectively. We need Christ preached in our pulpits and offered on our communion tables, we need Christ remembered and honored around our family dinner tables, and we need Christ in the public square.

What is the American problem? What is the American dilemma?

"If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44: 20-21).

We have forgotten the name of our God, and that is why we don't even know what stealing is anymore.

There are three basic governments that God has established among men. The overweening state wants one government, overseeing atomistic individuals. Those individuals are all dumped into a statist sack, which has the structural integrity of a bean bag chair. Each individual can be isolated -- easily -- by the state if he becomes obstreperous. This is why the behavior of solitary tax protester types is so easy for the civil totalizers to deal with. It is the atom against the collective.

A biblical civilization rests upon Burke's little platoons, which in turn spin out of the three governments mentioned above. God created the family, God created civil order, and God created the church. When Paul says that no authority exists except what God has established, he did not say that all the authority was located in one spot, or that all of it had been invested in one man, parked on one throne. God has more than one deacon.

The family is His Ministry of Health, Education, and Welfare. The civil order is His Ministry of Justice. The church is His Ministry of Grace and Truth. That's the basic set-up. Dislocations begin to manifest themselves when any one of these established governments get above themselves and try to usurp functions that God assigned to the others. The church did this in the middle ages, the family has done it in times of tribal wars and feuds, and the state is doing it now.

When authority is decentralized, and located in small, interlocking entities (families, churches, townships, nations, volunary societies, etc.), then the strength of that society is molecular. This can happen in a healthy way only when Christ is the point of integration, when Christ is acknowledged as the one in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). When a secular state tries to hold us all together, the necessary results will be brittle, authoritarian, and oppressive. These men refuse to rule in the name of Jesus, and this is why they do not know what justice is. This is why they do not have even the most basic grasp of the differences between meum and tuum (between what belongs to me and what belongs to you).

Here We Go Again

Computer Models Have a Lot to Answer For

We have been reprised once again of the follies of relying upon computer models. Apparently it was the pesky models which led officials to shut down air traffic throughout Europe as a result of Iceland's volcanoes erupting. The disruption and the costs, of course, are prohibitive. Well worth paying, however, if the risks and dangers were genuine.

According to a recent report in the Financial Times, it was more a case of virtual reality, rather than genuine reality which has shut down air traffic.
The computer models that guided decisions to impose a no-fly zone across most of Europe in recent days are based on incomplete science and limited data, according to European officials. As a result, they may have over-stated the risks to the public, needlessly grounding flights and damaging businesses.

“It is a black box in certain areas,” Matthias Ruete, the EU’s director-general for mobility and transport, said on Monday, noting that many of the assumptions in the computer models were not backed by scientific evidence.

European authorities were not sure about scientific questions, such as what concentration of ash was hazardous for jet engines, or at what rate ash fell from the sky, Mr Ruete said. “It’s one of the elements where, as far as I know, we’re not quite clear about it,” he admitted.
Sound familiar? It's deja vu, all over again, as Yogi Berra would put it.

How can such complete faith be put in virtually nothing, or at least in the profoundly unsubstantiated? What happened to the so-called rigour of hard science? It never existed. But it's even worse when the age becomes deeply superstitious--as ours has become. In a recent article entitled This shutdown is about more than volcanic ash, sociologist Frank Furedi hits the nail on the head.
Whatever the risks posed by the eruption of a volcano in Iceland, it seems clear that the shutting down of much of Europe’s air space is not just about the threat posed by clouds of ash to flying passengers. We live in an era where problems of uncertainty and risk are continually amplified, and where our fearful imaginations can make these problems seem like existential threats. Consequently, unexpected natural events are rarely treated simply as unexpected natural events – instead they are swiftly dramatised and transformed into ‘threats to human survival’.
We have termed this phenomenon the Culture of Catastrophism. But it is important to realise that this is not just espoused by a few superstitious folk on the lunatic fringe. It is now mainstream. Furedi goes on to explain how it actually works.
I am not a natural scientist, and I claim no authority to say anything of value about the risks posed by volcanic ash clouds to flying aircraft. However, as a sociologist interested in the process of decision-making, it is evident to me that the reluctance to lift the ban on air traffic in Europe is motivated by worst-case thinking rather than rigorous risk assessment. Risk assessment is based on an attempt to calculate the probability of different outcomes. Worst-case thinking – these days known as ‘precautionary thinking’ – is based on an act of imagination. It imagines the worst-case scenario and then takes action on that basis. In the case of the Icelandic volcano, fears that particles in the ash cloud could cause aeroplane engines to shut down automatically mutated into a conclusion that this would happen. So it seems to me to be the fantasy of the worst-case scenario rather than risk assessment that underpins the current official ban on air traffic.
Risk assessment has become risk avoidance. The best way to avoid risks is to shut everything down and live in a cocoon. It is to retreat into the safety of the bunker or the cave.
Tragically, this failure of nerve in relation to the volcanic ash is the inevitable outcome of the institutionalisation of worst-case policymaking. This approach, based on the unprecedented sensitivity of contemporary Western society to uncertainty and unknown dangers, has led to a radically new way of perceiving and managing risks. As a result, the traditional association of risk with probabilities is now under fire from a growing body of opinion, which claims that humanity lacks the knowledge to calculate risks in any meaningful way. Sadly, critics of traditional probabilistic risk-assessments have more faith in speculative computer models than they do in science’s capacity to use knowledge to transform uncertainties into calculable risks. The emergence of a speculative approach towards risk is paralleled by the growing influence of ‘possibilistic thinking’ rather than probabilistic thinking, which actively invites speculation about what could possibly go wrong. In today’s culture of fear, frequently ‘what could possibly go wrong’ is confused with ‘what is likely to happen’.
When individuals turn against God they may succeed in going through life with brazen arrogance and ill-founded boldness, being protected by the lawfulness and security of the surrounding culture. When a whole culture turns away from God, fearful superstition is the inevitable outcome. Decisions have to be made about things way beyond control or knowledge. The result is fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown and the attempt to avoid bad outcomes is the essence of a superstitious mind. Fearful superstition has now become the dominant culture of the day.
Worst-case thinking encourages society to adopt fear as of one of the key principles around which the public, the government and various institutions should organise their lives. It institutionalises insecurity and fosters a mood of confusion and powerlessness. Through popularising the belief that worst cases are normal, it also encourages people to feel defenceless and vulnerable to a wide range of future threats. In all but name, it is an invitation to social paralysis. The eruption of a volcano in Iceland poses technical problems, for which responsible decision-makers should swiftly come up with sensible solutions. But instead, Europe has decided to turn a problem into a drama. In 50 years’ time, historians will be writing about our society’s reluctance to act when practical problems arose. It is no doubt difficult to face up to a natural disaster – but in this case it is the all-too-apparent manmade disaster brought on by indecision and a reluctance to engage with uncertainty that represents the real threat to our future.

Contrast this present condition of our culture of Unbelief with the reasoned calmness of Belief when faced with minatory uncertainty:
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

When Unbelief dominates a culture--as it does in the West--institutionalised fearful superstition is inevitable. It has always been the case. And so it has come to pass. This, too, will not change until we repent and return to the all wise, all governing God, Who has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture. Only then will our present fearful culture of  superstition dissipate.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

More on Government Thievery
Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, April 12, 2010

The discussion about what constitutes governmental theft is most important -- because an awful lot of it is going on these days, and an awful lot of Christians do not appear to have the principles straight on how to identify it. The Scriptures are clear -- qualification to rule must include a hatred of covetousness. This is obviously because the rulers have guns (part of their job, right?) and if they don't hate covetousness, then the natural tendency will be to use their power to feed their lusts. So much is self-evident.

If this is not recognized as a basic civic problem (rulers share in the depravity issues, remember), then it is time to return to basic Calvinism 101 stuff. If you can't see Calvin behind Madison, then you probably can't see Paul behind either one of them.

But what about the passage in Hebrews (Hebrews 10:34) that says Christians joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property? A basic distinction has to be made here. Accepting the confiscation of your property is not the same thing as accepting the lies that the confiscators tell about what is happening. Every Christian is responsible to rejoice at all times, and in all things (Philippians 4:4). Every Christian is to give thanks for all things (Ephesians 5:20). We are to be content in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11), even if that circumstance is that of having no food -- and this includes those occasions where we have no food because somebody stole it all. So, if the IRS comes in and takes all my stuff, I must thank the Lord. But, I might add, I am supposed to do the same thing if pirates take all my stuff also.

But rejoicing in God's sovereign control over all things does not mean that I have moral obligation to be blind to the existence of pirates. Nor does it mean that I cannot resist them, within the parameters that God has set for this kind of thing in His law. The same deal with thieving magistrates. I may resist them the way God says, and I may not resist them in ways contrary to His Word, and if my resistance is insufficient, and I lose, I must rejoice in God, He who does all things well.

Now what do we call it if the rulers are not godly, are not free from covetousness, and are running around the country with guns, taking people's stuff? What sin is it? It is not adultery. It is not making graven images. It is not dishonoring father and mother. To remove private property from someone's possession when you have no authorization from God to do so is theft. That is what theft is.

Murder is not taking a life. Murder is taking a life contrary to the revealed will of God. Rape is not defined as sexual intercourse. Rape is sexual intercourse that is contrary to the revealed will of God in a particular way. So theft is not the government removing property from someone who doesn't want them to. That is not the definition. Theft occurs when property is transferred from an unwilling "donor" without the express authorization of Scripture.

Put another way, I don't have to show that a sixty percent tax rate is theft, just like I don't have to show that the fire-bombing of Dresden was murder. The burden of proof lies elsewhere. If we understand the nature of man and the nature of coercion, and the subtlety of the serpent, and the greasy covetousness of rulers who do not fear God, the burden of proof is on the magistrate who supports such a proposal. He has to prove to us from the Bible that his exorbitant tax rates aren't theft. He is the one that God requires to hate covetousness, as a prerequisite of holding his office in justice.

And one quick comment about "redistribution." All tax monies that are gathered are redistributed to somebody. So in line with the principles above, that element is not what makes the process theft. The question is whether it is a scripturally authorized redistribution. If we are redistributing the money to the sheriff to catch bad guys, it is not theft. If it is so that some lazy bum with thirty-eight tattoos can cash in his Federal Plasma HD Television Voucher, it is theft. And in between those two clear examples, there is a line somewhere. At some point it has to become theft, right? If governments can steal, then there has to be a point where what they are doing would be stealing, right? That should be a simple point.

When we are close to the line, wherever that line is, the questions are more difficult, admittedly (which is why we need wise men as rulers, instead of our current cowards, thugs and punks). So let's have a civilized debate about things that are more problematic. But we are not going to be able to have a civilized debate about any of that unless we stop pretending that civil governments cannot break the tenets of the Decalogue, that they cannot legalize plunder. As we have done in this nation, some years back.

The Suborning of Politicians

Please Explain

We have seen it all before. Politicians come to power with a hiss and a roar, fresh from the hustings. They start out sensitive to the electorate, conscious of commitments they have made. Gradually, and ineluctably, they become intractable, distant, withdrawn. Myopic, bunkerish, and stubborn.

Now, we are not with those who hold with "direct democracy", where Prime Ministers must be held captive to the whims of plebiscites and referenda. We elect representatives to govern and exercise careful judgement. It is reasonable that they take on board realities and information which was not to hand whilst on the hustings. But it is also reasonable to require politicians to explain themselves clearly and justify their positions carefully when their positions changes on a particular issue.

Most don't. They simply hunker down into the Beehive bunkers, adopting a know-it-all mien when questioned or challenged. The arrogance of power quickly takes over. The responsible judgement of political leaders is suborned by the titillating hubris of wielding power.

The Emissions Trading Scheme ("ETS") is a perfect example of the syndrome. This disastrous piece of chicanery (at least to our minds) is set to inflict its damage on July 1st of this year. It will make every New Zealander worse off, taking more of their hard earned cash (we exclude the entitled classes from this description) in Government imposed charges and levies. More worryingly, it will strike a damaging blow at the productive sector of our economy upon which our economic lifeblood depends.

Read carefully a devastating criticism of the ETS levelled by a leading politician:
The appetite of . . . this Government for more taxes is legendary, 43 new and increased levies and taxes have been introduced. The latest is the carbon tax. It will add 6c per litre to the price of petrol, 7c per litre to diesel, 6% to all power bills and put the price of coal and gas up by 9%. . . . .

The madness of the Government’s new carbon tax is that New Zealanders will be the only people in the world paying it. It will drive up the costs of living and undermine the competitiveness of New Zealand business for negligible environmental gain.

. . . Ministers may take pride in being toasted at International Climate conferences for being so bold and brave, but there is no justification for New Zealand going out in the cold by itself on this issue.

New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions made up only 0.4% of the global total and on a per capita basis our emissions are half those of countries like Australia and the United States. We are the only Southern Hemisphere country with binding legal obligations under Kyoto and giants like China and India have got off scot free.

The carbon tax will cost the Nelson and Marlborough regions $25 million a year. We are particularly hard hit because industries like fishing, farming and forestry are big fuel consumers. The tax is particularly insulting to the forestry sector and those farmers who have woodlots because the Government has taken the carbon credits for themselves. . . .

A further concern of the carbon tax is its impact on inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate. It will add to the costs of fuel and power and these flow right through the economy to basics like food. This puts pressure on inflation, which in turn drives up interest rates and the kiwi dollar. The Government’s carbon tax is a classic example of the way the Government is making things tougher for the productive exporting sector.

Which politician has the insight and conviction to speak out like this? Nick Smith . . . in 2005. (HatTip, Gooner at No Minister) But now that he is in power, Smith has become a chief cheerleader for the same stupid self-flagellating madness. It appears as though he thinks it is somehow different when he is the protagonist as if folly is transformed to wisdom by virtue of his righteousness.

Now, no doubt Nick and his Prime Minister, John Key would retort that it is not Labour's ETS scheme that is going to come into effect, but National's. After all they amended it and made it "better". Wrong. The fundamental asinine idiocy remains, as exposed by the Employers and Manufacturers Association.
Business support for the Emissions Trading Scheme has slumped ahead of its July 1 introduction, and many are in the dark over their eligibility for carbon credits, a new survey shows.

The online survey, conducted by the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), found 86 percent of businesses did not support implantation of the scheme before comparable schemes were adopted by New Zealand's trading partners. It also found 90 percent of businesses did not know if they were eligible for carbon credits - a key provision in the scheme.

Of the 612 businesses surveyed, 44 percent said the scheme would have a serious or extremely serious impact on them, while 48 percent said the scheme would be an issue to manage, though not serious.

Half the respondents said they wanted New Zealand to adopt climate change measures at the same pace as trading partners, while 38 percent supported late adoption and 11 percent early adoption. Hat Tip: Fairfacts Media
Once again the hubris of our leaders is recklessly driving them to want to be a "world leader" at the expense of us and all our children.
The results showed businesses did not support New Zealand leading the world with climate change measures, Mr Thompson said. "No other country is adopting an 'all sectors, all gases' approach to reducing climate gas emissions. The only other scheme - in the EU - will cover just four per cent of output. Ours will cover 100 per cent of output." (Emphasis, ours.)
Now, maybe we have got this all wrong. Maybe there are compelling reasons for pursuing this self-damaging course. But to this point all that we have got from Key and Smith is evasive misdirections, like "our ETS is better than Labour's", or "it's less anti-business than it was". Rubbish. The issue to be explained is why New Zealand is pursuing a course that is more extreme, all encompassing, and governmentally intrusive than any other country in the world. It does not make much difference whether we take a cup of cyanide or a small capsule. The damage either way is terminal.

John Key committed himself during the election to making New Zealand more productive. He would strip away government regulations and red tape. He would free the economy up by "micro-reforms". None of this will be worth diddlely squat as the economy takes on another crushing government imposition. Unless he explains himself clearly, we are left with the only alternative of him being suborned by power.

Once again Lord Acton's dictum will be vindicated. Power will have corrupted those who subsequently exposed to be venal all along. Prime Minister--please explain!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Ten Principles on Redistributive Taxation as Theft

Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Quite a discussion broke out over the questions surrounding taxation, theft and redistribution, and so I thought it would be good to set down some basic principles on the subject. This is to prevent the "guiding principle" from becoming a charge of theft for any tax I might find distasteful.

1. The point is not that taxation is theft, but rather that taxation can be theft. Obviously, in Scripture, there is legitimate taxation (Rom. 13:7), which would not be theft, and illegitimate taxation, which is (Matt. 17:25-27). If that is the case, then there is a line that a state must not cross, and it is incumbent upon both rulers and citizens to know where that line is, and why it is there.

2. In biblical law, the fact that the civil rulers can steal is indisputable. Ahab stole Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21:7), and it would not alter the facts of the case if it had been done under cover of zoning regulations or land reform. How hard would it be for a Michael Moore kind of filmmaker to make Naboth out to be a greedy "landowner" who cared more about the "land of his fathers" than he did about "the good of the people." And by "people," we of course mean "Ahab." Ahab's a people.

3. If a state can steal, then the question becomes "how do we tell?" Anybody who wants to give the authorities an automatic pass because what they did was perfectly legal is a naif who ought to have his drivers licence revoked. Anybody who resents giving any portion of his income for legitimate civic purposes is a scofflaw. So, where is the line?

4. The line will of necessity have to be enforced by the rulers of the people, and this is why one of the first principles is that the rulers of the people are not qualified for their task unless they are men who hate covetousness.

"Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens"
(Ex. 18:21).

"The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days" (Prov. 28:16).

But we are currently governed by men who love covetousness.

5. Determining the line between legitimate taxation and illegitimate thieving taxation is not necessarily an easy task. It can be complicated. I acknowledge that it could be a challenging task for men who fear God. And so this is why we must be led by men who fear God. And it is also why I deny that it can be done by our current gaggle of miscreants, buffoons, knaves, poltroons, scoundrels, and then, of course, there's the Democrats.

6. One approach to answering the question would be Samuel's dire warning to the Israelites, when they asked for a king "like the other nations." He said that if they did that, the result would be an unthinkable level of taxation . . . at ten percent. And here we are, looking back longingly at ten percent levels like they were the leeks of Egypt or something. When the state takes more than ten percent, then the state is claiming more than God claims in the tithe. When this happens, if the state has not done something overweening or despotic, then wait ten minutes.

7. While the ten percent ceiling is a good rule of thumb, a better approach would be to measure by what God tells the civil government to do. The state is God's deacon (Rom. 13:4), and God never leaves His deacons without instructions. A deacon is, by definition, under authority. We should measure his appropriations and expenditures over against what he was told to do. When servants use the master's resources for tasks unassigned by him (Luke 12:46-47), what is the result? When the Lord comes back to evaluate His deacons in the Congress, what will He do? He will not be indiscriminate; the punishments will fit the crimes. Some He will cut in sunder, and others will simply be beaten with many stripes. This will not happen because our rulers are not His deacons; rather, it will happen because they are.

8. The assigned task that was given to the civil rulers was to punish the wrongdoers (Rom. 13:4). It most emphatically was not to level the economic playing field. Anybody who can read the New Testament and think that it is the under-deacons role to preemptively make sure that the servant with ten talents is left with only three, and the one who hid his one talent is given two more to hide, is radically out of touch with the spirit of the Bible.

9. The U.S. Constitution is an "express powers" document. With regard to the risks involved in letting sinful men rule over other sinful men, this is a wise and biblical approach. It means that those who rule can only do what was laid down for them beforehand to do. That which is not required of them is prohibited to them. This is in the spirit of the Bible -- civil rulers can rule, and they can tax us for that rule, and in exchange, they need to be able to show us from the Bible how that task they have undertaken is legitimate. If they need funds for the cops to chase down the murderers, this is easy to do, and no one who is biblically informed would begrudge it. If they need funds to send Charlie Rangel to the Bahamas, the authorization is a bit more murky.

10. In the Hebraic parallelism cited above (Prov. 28:16), a prince who does not hate covetousness, besides ruining himself, is also oppressing the people. And when it comes to understanding the nature of this oppression, trust the feedback you get from a welder who attends the academically-disreputable tea parties, and not the sycophantic musings of the prince's hired economic brains, who can write learnedly of this and that. Oppression is as oppression does.