Will We Learn From History?

As a historian, I have this faith that people might actually learn something from history. What a quaint notion.

The first requisite, of course, is that people know some history. Those kinds of people are becoming a rare commodity.

Please excuse the seeming air of resignation in this post. It’s just that some lessons from history are so easy to find that it boggles the mind that mankind continues to repeat all the old errors.

Take socialism/communism, for instance. It’s never worked anywhere, yet it continues to beguile and beckon with its siren song of equality, fairness, and brotherhood.

You know, like in the Soviet Union where, under Stalin, everyone was so friendly.

It was such a wonderful success that they continued to promote those Five-Year Plans for 70 years. Don’t ask if they ever worked. Well, you could ask all those nations that adopted socialist economies; I’m sure they have a story to tell. Come along with me to one such country.

Britain went all agog for socialism after WWII. Rationing continued for years after the war, ensuring “equality.” Here’s how Winston Churchill described what he witnessed:

Yet the current generation is being wooed once again by this false philosophy. Take Bernie Sanders and his minions, openly advocating the policy. In fact, most Democrats are on this bandwagon; they just are more discreet by not calling it what it is. They couch it in the language of “caring.” And voters lap it up because they are rather ignorant:

Someone needs to write this book:

But would anyone read it who actually needs to read it?

G. K. Chesterton nailed it:

Forgive my cynicism today. If not for my steadfast faith that this world ultimately is not my home, cynicism would prevail. However, I can see past the blindness; I know where Truth resides. I want to live in that Truth today and continue to do what God has called me to do. I will be faithful and leave results up to Him.

Our Predictable President

Everything I predicted yesterday about the State of the Union speech came to pass. It’s not that I’m some kind of great predictor; it’s that this president is so predictable.

The speech was mostly recycled from previous speeches. The tone was the same as previous speeches as well—supremely arrogant. It takes a lot of hubris to declare you’re going to veto a bunch of bills while simultaneously lecturing Congress on how to work with others.

It takes equal hubris to claim that Obamacare is actually lowering costs and that the slight uptick in the economy is due to your policies when all you have done is obstruct the economy. The workforce is at its lowest ebb since the days of Jimmy Carter. The falling gas prices stem from private industry, not the government’s policies.

And his claim to be the champion of the middle class could easily be made into a comedy routine. He wishes to be perceived as a kind of hero who is taking from the privileged (who got there by oppressing others):

Obama Hood

Meanwhile, back on earth, the reality is somewhat different:

Sending Help

He tries to portray those who have succeeded as the enemies of the people. This is a typical class warfare tactic, able to fool the simple-minded in a single bound. But when he places the rich in the crosshairs, he has a loose definition of “rich”:

American Sniper

Economics 101:

Sorry

Economics, though, is something of which President Obama is woefully ignorant—or willfully ignorant.

If you didn’t approve of his speech, he might have a remedy for that, in keeping with how he currently conducts business in the Oval Office:

Peachy

Republicans to the rescue? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Obama Economics Primer

Primers are useful. They lay out the basics. Every once in a while, it’s important to explain the fundamentals of the Obama economic vision for America. It’s not a unique vision; it’s been tried throughout history with identical results. First, the mechanics of the art of redistribution:

I See

This is a technique that has kept citizens fooled for centuries, but it’s only now coming to maturity in the United States. The end result is the ability to have another issue on which one can demagogue:

Income Inequality

Another aspect of the Obama Economics Primer is to be constantly active, making people believe something of substance is occurring:

Create Jobs

Eventually, enough voters may catch on to this Ponzi scheme.

May Need Them

Yes, hope remains.

Economic Freedom & the Culture of Work

Those of us at Southeastern University had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to hear from Mr. David Azerrad, Associate Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, a research arm of Washington, D.C.’s Heritage Foundation, one of the key public policy think tanks in the nation. Mr. Azerrad spoke on the topic “Defending the Dream: Why Income Inequality Doesn’t Threaten Opportunity.”

It was an excellent presentation of the contrasting concepts of the American Dream as seen from both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum. Azerrad spoke eloquently on economic freedom and the culture of work that is a necessary complement to that freedom. He showed how the liberal worldview stresses statism and egalitarianism over liberty. He did so in a scholarly, civil manner that pointed out some of the foibles of the conservatives as well as the liberals. He particularly noted that conservatives sometimes promote business rather than economic freedom—the two are not necessarily identical. Capitalism, he said, is a word so loaded with misconceptions now that it is better to avoid the term and emphasize instead free enterprise. The reason capitalism has gotten a bad reputation is because big business has too often joined hands with statism to protect itself and stifle free enterprise. This is known as crony capitalism.

Azerrad is optimistic about America’s future because he still senses we have more of a culture of work than many other countries. We are not Greece or France. Individuals in America do not get nine weeks’ vacation in their entry-level jobs. So he sees hope. I “hope” he’s correct, but I admit to being more skeptical about it; the entitlement mentality, coupled with the destruction of the family, offers a bleaker picture to me. But I welcome his analysis. It was also good to spend more time talking with him at lunch and afterwards as we walked on campus.

I was especially pleased with the turnout for this event. The room was packed, and we had to find extra chairs to accommodate the overflow. Further, the audience was attentive and and seemed to appreciate his message and the manner in which he delivered it—just right for the type of audience he was addressing, relaxed and informal, yet direct and substantive.

We need more such days at SEU, where sharp public policy dialogue can be offered to the students.

Biblical Consistency & the Renewed Mind

Yesterday’s post singled out the most foundational problem in the church today—a weak/falsified salvation message. Today, I turn to the problem of the misapplication of the faith, either by lack of knowledge or the adoption of ideologies that contradict Biblical principles. I want to be clear that many of the people I am referring to today may actually be sincere Christians, but uninformed or led astray by ideas that sound good on the surface but are inconsistent with Biblical truth.

When we become Christians, we begin the process of getting our thoughts straightened out. That process doesn’t occur all at once. A key Scriptural passage with respect to this is found in Romans 12:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This passage reminds us that we must continually present ourselves for God’s service; it’s not a one-time thing. It then goes on to tell us not to think the way the world does, but to have renewed minds—in other words, we may have to, in certain areas, start again from scratch in our thinking, and make sure it lines up with God’s truth. The word translated “transformed” is the same Greek word used when Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the disciples see Him in all His glory for a few moments. That same kind of transformation must take place in our minds, and it’s only by way of this transformation that we’ll have any idea what God’s will may be. If we approach everything from our old way of thinking, we will miss God’s will and adopt practices contrary to what He wants.

Some of the most disturbing examples of this are found in the lives of those who claim the Christian faith yet are barely troubled by the moral trends in our society. For instance, how can a genuine Christian not stand firm against abortion? Yet there are voices in the church world who downplay the significance of this “legal” practice. It’s usually those same voices who see no problem with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. They have been swayed by the world’s logic in these areas; they accept the “discrimination” argument with respect to homosexuality, comparing it to discrimination based on race. They swallow the explanation that some people are just born that way, that God made them to be homosexual, so it cannot be a sin.

By taking these stances, one becomes allied with organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which are militantly anti-Christian. That, by itself, should give pause and lead to some rethinking.

When it comes to abortion, they may say they don’t like it, but that it’s not as important as helping the poor. Their gospel comes dangerously close to a purely social gospel that seeks to take care of material needs while relegating the salvation of the individual to a secondary status. If they have integrated a Marxist worldview into their theology, they see Jesus as more of a liberator in this life than the One who sets us free from our sins.

What I’ve discovered about those who hold to these views is their total lack of understanding of the Biblical principles of governance in civil society. They don’t grasp the importance of the rule of law, which puts everyone on the same plane before the law and guarantees the protection of God-given rights. To them, following documents such as the Constitution seems outmoded; guided more by their emotions than Biblical thinking, they just want the government to do whatever they deem necessary to take care of needs.

They also have little comprehension of the Biblical principles that undergird economics. Moved by emotion once again, they believe the government should just spend lavishly to meet every need and take whatever it needs from its citizens to accomplish the task. I’m not sure the national debt even enters their minds.

To top it off, they are unaware of the utter futility of all this government spending. Trillions upon trillions of dollars have never extinguished poverty; in fact, the only thing this spending orgy will ever achieve is the extension of poverty to millions more. Study after study has shown, over and over, that dependence on government largesse only worsens our problems, creating a culture of dependency and destroying initiative.

The Christian Left, as it is called in the media, is, in the name of Christ, transforming genuine Christianity into a statist ideal that ultimately undermines the very faith they say they believe. Government replaces God and becomes a new idol, to the extent that many of them are not even bothered by the trampling of religious liberty currently underway through Obamacare.

I began this post by asserting that many of the people I’m talking about are sincere Christians who are merely uninformed or misled. However, there is a segment that either have abandoned, or are on the verge of abandoning, the faith altogether. I’m glad God is the final judge of their salvation. Yet I, and all Christians, do have a responsibility to examine the fruit of the lives of those who claim they are Christians; we can make tentative judgments. That is what I have done today.

What do I hope to gain by sharing my concerns? First, I want to embolden those who are undergoing the renewal of the mind. Don’t shrink back. Stand for the truth as God opens it to you. Second, I hope to awaken some who currently consider themselves part of the so-called Christian Left. Please rethink your views. You are leading others into serious error. Don’t be molded by the world’s standards and the guidance it offers. It is deception. And please heed Jesus’ warning:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.

 

Legislating Morality Cannot Be Avoided

One of the arguments against Santorum is that he’s talking too much about social issues, and that’s going to spell doom for Republicans because they need to concentrate on the economy. We need to get something straight here: when people divide issues between “social” and “economic,” they are creating an artificial separation. As Santorum clearly explains, both in his book and his public appearances, the social traumas we face—family breakdown, abortion, a pleasure-for-me-first mentality—are at the root of our economic woes.

All the relevant statistics show that poverty abounds in single-parent homes, while the poverty rate in two-parent homes is something like 6%. Children growing up in broken homes are far more likely to end up on public assistance, either via welfare or the prison system, the latter being at taxpayer expense also. Government policies that serve to discourage marriage and penalize through taxation those who are responsibly raising children should be a primary concern for politicians.

Freedom of religion was important enough to the Founders to have it mentioned first in a list of freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Churches have always been exempted from taxation because they promote a public good. Now the Obama administration wants to throttle freedom of religion in the guise of providing healthcare. It’s not hyperbole to insist that the current occupant of the White House harbors a certain animosity toward those who hold to conservative/orthodox Christian views.

The old bugaboo that critics of social conservatives continue to repeat is the canard that “You can’t legislate morality.” They emit dire warnings about the “theocrats” who want to invade your bedroom and force an outdated morality on the nation. This criticism is essentially dishonest on all points.

The idea that you can’t legislate morality begs for a definition. What is morality? Well, it deals with the distinction between right and wrong. What are laws? They are statements of what is right and what is wrong. Murder, for instance, is against the law because it wrongly takes the life of the innocent. I would argue that abortion fits into that category as well. Theft is wrong because the thief purloins property that belongs to someone else. Fraud is wrong because it is deception and lying. Murder, theft, fraud. Does anyone really want us to stop enacting and enforcing such laws simply because they have a religious basis? After all, the Bible speaks out against all of these. So when we pass laws to punish those who do such things, are we stepping into an area where government is not supposed to enter? It would be completely foolish to believe so.

Bottom line: all laws are statements of morality. It’s not that we cannot legislate morality; it’s that we cannot avoid legislating morality. The only real question here is whose morality are we going to legislate?

When President Obama imposes mandates on religious organizations that run counter to their deeply held beliefs, isn’t he legislating morality? He’s saying, in effect, that withholding contraception is “wrong.” Soon, he will demand abortion services be provided as well because he believes it is “wrong” not to do so.

So let’s do away with the dishonesty. Morality is the basis for all laws. So-called social issues are at the heart of the spiritual, emotional, and mental health of a nation—and yes, of the economic health as well. The two should never be separated. Rick Santorum is correct to make the linkage.

Christians, the Government, & Welfare

Time to tread lightly. I don’t intend this post to be a diatribe against government welfare. Rather, I want to approach the subject Biblically, constitutionally, and practically. There’s an accusation floating around in the political arena that politically conservative Christians/Republicans-at-large [take your pick of descriptors] are uncaring individuals who don’t want to help those in poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From the Biblical angle, what can be said about our responsibility toward the poor? There is no question that God expects us to help those who are truly poor through no fault of their own. But a couple of caveats must be added: first, a distinction must be made between those in poverty who deserve to be helped and those who do not [the book of Proverbs is replete with examples]; second, none of the admonitions to help the poor are directed to civil government, but instead focus on individuals. No matter how hard you may look in Scripture, you will find no Biblical mandate for redistribution of wealth by civil government dictate.

God wants help for the poor to be a real help, not a fake solution that creates further problems. His goal is to work on the character of both the persons in poverty and the persons who come to their aid. He wants giving to be a highly personal type that engenders true compassion on the one side and a desire to be raised out of poverty on the other. No government system that depersonalizes aid can ever achieve those goals.

Then there’s the constitutional issue. Where did the Founders give authority to turn the federal government into the great provider for the citizenry? Even as you cannot find a Biblical command for the government to be that provider, neither can you find a constitutional provision that grants such a power. Of course we do it all the time. Money to help the poor and/or the infirm and the aged has become the largest portion of the federal budget. Those who say we need to spend less on defense and put it toward the poor don’t realize that the percentage of our budget that goes to defense, even during the War on Terror, has continually decreased.

What did the Founders believe about welfare? They relegated it back to private individuals, churches, other organizations apart from the government, and, as a last resort, to the local government. The only government that should ever be involved is the one closest to the need, so that it can be clearly analyzed to ensure that the need is genuine indeed. That goes back to the Biblical concept of distinguishing between those who should and should not be helped.

I’ve covered—in a cursory manner, to be sure—the Biblical and constitutional perspectives. It still remains to comment on the practical side. We’ve had a lot of time now to see how the federal welfare system has worked. Unbiased studies show it has not worked well at all. Those studies reveal a few key problems with the system: people develop an entitlement mentality that leads to resentment when they don’t receive what they believe they are “owed”; many are trapped in the welfare-recipient mode from one generation to the next; and there is no personal accountability or connection between the recipients and the nameless, faceless bureaucracy that hands out the checks.

That’s why both Republicans and Democrats, back in the mid-1990s, supported a welfare reform bill that sought to end welfare as a lifestyle. If we continue on the welfare-mentality path, we will become just like the European nations that are literally going up in flames right now. We have overspent and are on the verge of a financial meltdown. Cutting back is absolutely essential, and it can be done in such a way that we don’t throw people out on the streets or have them die from lack of support. And it’s really amazing what individuals can do if they are forced to take responsibility for their own well-being. If they don’t have to, they won’t. If they must, they can become quite entrepreneurial.

The conservative Christian/Republican model for helping the poor is to have a safety net at the local level along with empowering individuals, churches, and other organizations to step to the plate. The church as a whole must share some blame here when it concludes that since the government is “taking care of the poor,” the church doesn’t have to bother with it anymore.

The conservative Christian/Republican model also frees up the market to create prosperity and opportunity for all. The goal is to enable those who have become dependent on the government to enter the market themselves and succeed. One of the prerequisites for accomplishing this is to remove the impediments the government places on those who wish to start their own businesses or other creative endeavors. Some people think it is a cliché to declare that a rising tide lifts all boats, but it goes beyond any cliché—it is a reality.

For those who say that this approach will still leave many poor, I can only comment that there will be poor people in every society regardless of the economic system.When Mary, the friend of Jesus, anointed him with a costly oil, Judas Iscariot [someone with rather bad judgment, wouldn’t you say?] objected that the expensive perfume should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Interestingly, Jesus disagreed, and noted that there always would be poor people around to be helped. He didn’t have any naive notion that poverty would ever be eradicated on this earth. Only those who have unlimited faith in the power of government to solve all problems fantasize about that. Yet it certainly is a fantasy.

History has shown that the highest standard of living for the greatest number of people comes only from a society devoted to liberty. In such a society some do well, while others don’t. If someone is left behind because of fraud or other misdeeds, the government then has a proper role in prosecuting those who commit those misdeeds and compensating those who were unfairly hurt. But most failure stems from personal character flaws and/or mistakes in judgment. If people learn from their mistakes, they can try again and do better the next time.

History has also shown something else, if one is open to learning from history: the socialist worldview always—and I emphasize the word “always”—leads to economic collapse for the entire society in the end. Why follow that path when it so clearly violates the Biblical mandate, our constitutional authority, and the lessons learned from practice?