God is a Capitalist

Monday, October 16, 2017

Young people are socialist for a reason

Young people drove Bernie Sanders' campaign and near upset of the establishment Hillary Clinton in the latest election to the surprise of many.

An old saying goes, “If you’re not a socialist when you’re young you have no heart; if you’re still a socialist when you’re older you have no brain.”

Socialism comes naturally to humanity. Hayek thought that family life was partly to blame. Good moms and dads take care of the children, provide food and security, and distribute those equally among the children. Children get very upset when they think one sibling receives more of anything than the rest or enjoys special treatment.

Then we leave the safety of the home. venture into a more public sphere in school and we carry our family morality with us. We think school should function like a larger family with the teachers and principal substituting for mom and dad and it does that the most part. Eventually we get a job, but we still view the larger society and politics through the glasses of our family morality. The political elite, especially the President, becomes the “father” of the nation who should make certain that the benefits of his regime are evenly distributed and no one gets special treatment.

Hayek points out that the danger of such thinking lies in the fact that in the family we know everyone well. Even in larger groupings, such as school or a tribe, we are still familiar with most people and know their circumstances. But a nation is so large that citizens know only a tiny portion of the population and are dealing with strangers much of the time, especially in business. Transactions with strangers who don’t have your welfare in mind as mom and dad did require different rules of engagement. Treating family members as if they were strangers would destroy families just as using family values in dealing with strangers will destroy society.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The common good isn't so great!

A lot of ink is spilled in Christian publications promoting the concept of the common good. I’m not such a big fan and here is why.

The concept of the “common good” came from pagan Greek and Roman philosophy. As Peter Brown shows in several of his books on the history of the Church after Constantine, such as Through the Eye of the Needle, churches had a habit of making bishops out of recent converts from the Roman nobility. They did so for practical reasons: those converts had good educations, political power through family connections and wealth to contribute to the church and the poor. But those converts had been educated at the feet of pagan philosophers, especially Aristotle and Cicero, and were often babes in theology. So when they became bishops they preached what they knew, pagan philosophy that seemed agreeable to Christianity. Among the more prominent concepts carried over from paganism were the veneration of virginity (imitating the Vestal Virgins) and celibacy, contempt for business and wealth, and the common good.

What did the common good mean? Benjamin Constant wrote about the “freedom” and “common good” enjoyed by ancient Greeks and Romans in his essay “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns:”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Adam Smith doesn't explain the wealth of nations

Adam Smith wrote in his Wealth of Nations,
That security which the laws of Great Britain give to every man that he shall enjoy the fruits of his own labor, is alone sufficient to make any country flourish... The natural effort of every individual is to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, ... capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity. 
Smith missed two things that made Great Britain unique - individualism and admiration for commerce. He missed them in the same way that a fish might not think about water. Smith grasped that taxes punished farmers in France to the point that they refused to improve their plots. And he understood that rulers and nobility in the Ottoman Empire and China often confiscated the wealth of successful people and so discouraged them from investing.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The US rejected Obamacare in 1918

What a difference a mere hundred years makes! US voters rejected mandatory health insurance, or Obamacare, at the turn of the last century. It took supporters almost another century, but they finally won. 

For a quarter century before WWI, many of the nation’s young people had gone to Germany to complete their college education and had returned determined to recreate the US in the image of socialist Germany. Richard Ely was one. He founded the American Economic Association for that sole purpose. He and economist Irving Fisher would lead the drive for universal, mandatory healthcare insurance.

At the time, middle class and wealthier Americans paid a fee each time they visited a doctor. But the fees were too high for the working poor, so they had organized into mutual aid societies to help each other with medical costs. Known as lodges, such as the Elks, or secret societies such the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) or the Free Masons, or just fraternal organizations, mutual help societies had existed for centuries. They followed the ancient guild practices of mutual aid to craft members. David T. Beito beautifully writes their history in his book From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services 1890-1967, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2000.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The father of Nazism and ANTIFA violence and what it means for the future

The violence of the demonstration by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, West Virginia recently shocked the mainstream media because of the media’s ignorance of history. We have seen it before with the anarchists at the turn of the last century, in the clashes between Nazis and Communists in Germany before WWII and in the student riots of 1968 in the US and Europe. They all have the same ideological father in George Sorel according to Mises who wrote in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality in 1956:
The most pernicious ideology of the last sixty years was George Sorel's syndicalism and his enthusiasm for the action directe. Generated by a frustrated French intellectual, it soon captivated the literati of all European countries. It was a major factor in the radicalization of all subversive movements. It influenced French royalism, militarism and anti-Semitism. It played an important role in the evolution of Russian Bolshevism, Italian Fascism and the German youth movement which finally resulted in the development of Nazism. It transformed political parties intent upon winning through electoral campaigns into factions which relied upon the organization of armed bands. It brought into discredit representative government and "bourgeois security," and preached the gospel both of civil and of foreign war. Its main slogan was: violence and again violence. The present state of European affairs is to a great extent an outcome of the prevalence of Sorel's teachings.
The intellectuals were the first to hail the ideas of Sorel; they made them popular. But the tenor of Sorelism was obviously anti-intellectual. He was opposed to cool reasoning and sober deliberation. What counts for Sorel is solely the deed, viz., the act of violence for the sake of violence. Fight for a myth whatever this myth may mean, was his advice. "If you place yourself on this ground of myths, you are proof against any kind of critical refutation." What a marvelous philosophy, to destroy for the sake of destruction! Do not talk, do not reason, kill! Sorel rejects the "intellectual effort" even of the literary champions of revolution. The essential aim of the myth is "to prepare people to fight for the destruction of what exists."
According to the Wikipedia article on him,
Sorel denounced the war and in 1917 praised the Russian Revolution, which was later printed in an official Soviet Union publication, Russian Soviet Government Bureau, calling Lenin "the greatest theoretician of socialism since Marx and a statesman whose genius recalls that of Peter the Great.”[12] He wrote numerous small pieces for Italian newspapers defending the Bolsheviks. Less than one year later in March 1921, Sorel turned his praise towards a rising Fascist leader in Italy, writing that “Mussolini is a man no less extraordinary than Lenin. He, too, is a political genius, of a greater reach than all the statesmen of the day, with the only exception of Lenin…”[13]
Zeev Sternhell mentions frequently Sorel [33] as one of the men who led the way to the fusion of the left-wing revisionists and of the right-wing ultranationalists into what later became fascism....Thus, the workers must return to strikes and violence as their main political tool, so Sorel says. This gives the workers a sense of unity, a return to dignity, and weakens the dangerous and mediocre middle-class in their struggle for power, and their attack on capitalism.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Politics according to the Bible – Keynesian conservatism

Outside the Department of Commerce building in DC are two statues of giant draft horses with muscular men restraining them bearing the title "Man Controlling Trade." It's a great metaphor but the wrong object. The drafts horses should represent the state, not trade, because the best government is that which governs least.

Unfortunately, theologian Wayne Grudem shows that he does not appreciate the value of limited government in his Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Grudem holds a PhD from Cambridge and is author of Systematic Theology. Grudem intended his to guide readers to what the Bible has to say about politics. As everyone “knows” the Bible is difficult to interpret:
But who can understand the Bible rightly? And who is to decide what is a right interpretation? My response is that it is not impossible to understand the Bible rightly.... Among responsible evangelical interpreters of the Bible there are vastly more areas of widespread agreement than disagreement....

Thursday, August 31, 2017

How Baptists do economics

Baptists form the largest Protestant group of Christians in the US and so could have a large impact on how US voters understand political economy. But do Baptists have anything unique contributions to offer on economics? Chad Brand, professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, answers that in his 2012 book Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship.

The most important contribution Baptists make is their history of distrust of government resulting from centuries of persecution. Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican Protestants all formed close ties with the state from their births. They were supported by taxes and used the brutal power of the state to enforce their particular views, often against Baptists, whereas Baptists generally insisted on a separation of the two spheres.

Readers today might be confused about that historical antipathy toward the state because since the rise of the Moral Majority in the 1980s Baptists seem to have decided to take a shortcut to building the Kingdom of God by using the power of the state. Dr. Brand reminds us, “Scripture teaches that all humans are sinners. A PhD from Harvard does not diminish that, and might even make it worse if those elites believe that their education makes them morally better people.” Brand echoes the public choice political economy of James Buchanan that economists and politicians are not saints or angels and usually have some goal in mind besides the public good: