What is truth?

This is Michael Bloomberg’s recent “apology” for overseeing the so-called “stop and frisk” policing policy during his time as mayor of New York City: I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized—and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities…. [As] president of the United States, I will work to dismantle systems that are plagued by bias and discrimination. I will invest in the communities that bore the brunt of those systems for generations. And I’ll put this work at the very top of our agenda.I intend to address two questions today: what is the nature of truth, and what is truly an apology? In a way, that is one question. An “ apology” is only valid if it’s true.

Was he telling THE truth, or HIS truth? Let’s visit through Wikipedia what he said back in 2012-2015 when he defended the policy. In response to allegations that the program unfairly targets African-American and Hispanic-American individuals, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stated that it is because African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are more likely to be violent criminals and victims of violent crime. On June 17, 2012, several thousand people marched silently down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue from lower Harlem to Bloomberg’s Upper East Side townhouse in protest of the stop-question-and-frisk policy. The mayor refused to end the program, contending that the program reduces crime and saves lives. Truths: he did say that, he probably did believe it, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be victims of crimes and it was probably true that the policy helped reduce crimes.

In June 2013, in an interview with WOR Radio, Michael Bloomberg responded to claims that the program disproportionately targeted minorities. Bloomberg argued that the data should be assessed based on murder suspects’ descriptions and not the population as a whole. Bloomberg explained: “One newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying ‘oh it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.’ That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the [crime]. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” Truths: the majority of individual criminal acts (not counting actions by groups), not just proportional to population but numerically, are committed by……who? Not minorities per se, but young American blacks. Ask the law abiding blacks and other minorities in their neighborhood.

In February 2020, an audio recording surfaced of Michael Bloomberg defending the program at a February 2015 Aspen Institute event. In the speech, Bloomberg said: “Ninety-five percent of murders-murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16-25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city (inaudible). And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of people that are getting killed. So you want to spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets. Put those cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods. So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them… And then they start… ‘Oh I don’t want to get caught.’ So they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.Truths: almost all of it, though it isn’t accurate to say “all” the crime is in minority neighborhoods. You could excuse away the truth by saying it isn’t the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood but the poverty that is responsible for most of the crime. Then why was there less crime in the United States during the Great Depression, when more people were poor than before or since?

WHAT IS TRUTH? Almost everything that Bloomberg was saying above (I believe and he believed) was true. Can those words be true in 2015 and then those same words false 5 years later? Of course, the Bible has a lot to say on the subject. Don’t get hung up here on racism, I am willing to debate my comments, let’s focus on truth first, not the narrative.

Rosaria Butterfield, in her post Are We Living Out Romans 1?, cites the A.W. Pink book Profiting from the Word, which insightfully commented that the word of God, when read the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, issues “no spiritual profit,” but instead provides “a curse rather than a blessing.” What is the right way to “profit” from God’s word, so that it serves as a blessing rather than a curse? Pink says that you can only profit from God’s word if it:

  1. convicts you of your sin,
  2. leads you to sorrow over your sin,
  3. draws you to confess your sin,
  4. develops in you a deeper hatred of your indwelling sins,
  5. causes you to forsake your sins,
  6. fortifies you against sin, and
  7. compels you to practice the opposite of your sin.

She applies this lesson to her former LGBTQ “allies” and their defenders. “Because the word of God is divine revelation and a groundswell of supernatural power, it can conquer your sin. Instead of using the Bible to anchor our fickle hearts in Christ, the Bible is bent and twisted in the hands of gay-activist ‘Christians’ to serve our wicked hearts. In the hands of gay-rights activists who call themselves progressive Christians, the Bible becomes a curse. But there is no lasting peace in sin, even for the unbeliever.

Listening to the challenges of people who identify as LGBTQ (as well as the praying parents that stand behind them) can be helpful if it allows you to meet them where they are with the gospel that changes minds, wills, affections, and allegiances. Biblical counseling and faithful preaching that breaks our hearts on the Rock of Christ is crucial to this conversation, as is kindness and genuine care for the well-being of others. But Romans 1 is the true Christian’s guide as we seek to live for Christ in this post-Obergefell world. A person’s well-being is never disconnected from truth, because truth is not only true, it is better, it is beautiful, it is ethical, and it is lovely.

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend
. Psalm 15.

I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right. Isaiah 45:19.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:37.

Swiss stake: Their healthcare vs. ours.

The proxy for praxctical

I have taken all my information from Forbes.com, Economics21.org and Lawliberty.org:

Why has the mantra “Medicare for all” become so popular? An unavoidable lesson from other high-income countries is that voters like government-run health care. Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, fresh off of securing a substantial majority in the U.K’s December election, has stated that his number one priority is securing more funding for the National Health Service (NHS). Voters see personal autonomy and responsibility as non-negotiable on most matters, but when it comes to their health needs, they want others—mainly their physicians—to make the majority of decisions for them, and the government to take care of the bills. It’s not an irrational point of view. Consumers grasp that, when it comes to medical care, they don’t know what they don’t know. Even in the internet era, most lay patients are not in a position to second guess what their doctors recommend. Further, health care consumers have little faith that “the market” will offer them acceptable low-cost options, as it does in other sectors of the economy.

Why not make the best of government-run health care, as other rich countries have been trying to do for decades? The reason is that the market, despite the political difficulties, offers something that the government cannot deliver: productivity improvement. Productivity growth is what allows enterprises to generate more value each year at the same cost, or the same value at less cost. The added value from productivity improvement goes to higher wages for workers, improved products and services, and rising standards of living. With productivity improvement, cost discipline in health care is possible while maintaining or improving the quality of services provided to patients. Without productivity improvement, cost control, imposed either by the government or private payers, will, by definition, lead to diminishing quality, likely in the form of waiting lists for care, undercapitalized facilities, and more restricted access to beneficial treatments, all of which are present in Canada, the U.K., and other “socialized medicine” countries. In Canada, the U.K., Germany, and many other countries, costs are lower than in the U.S. because the central governments have imposed price limits on what can be charged for the services provided to patients (in the U.K.’s case, the government essentially owns the hospitals and employs the physicians, which allows for an even stricter level of control).

Switzerland is considered to have one of the most effective healthcare systems in the world. Swiss citizens buy insurance for themselves; there are no employer-sponsored or government-run insurance programs. This is a crucial difference between their system and ours. Hence, insurance prices are transparent to the beneficiary. The government defines the minimum benefit package that qualifies for the mandate. Critically, all packages require beneficiaries to pick up a portion of the costs of their care (deductibles and coinsurance) in order to incentivize their frugality. That’s another thing that Americans hate, fomented by Democrat rhetoric.

The Swiss government subsidizes health care for the poor (of which there are much fewer than here) on a graduated basis, with the goal of preventing individuals from spending more than 10 percent of their income on insurance. But because people are still on the hook for a significant component of the costs, they often opt for cheaper packages; in 2003, 42% of Swiss citizens chose high-deductible plans (i.e., plans with significant cost-sharing features). Those who wish to acquire supplemental coverage are free to do so on their own. 99.5% of Swiss citizens have health insurance. Because they can choose between plans from nearly 100 different private insurance companies, insurers must compete on price and service, helping to curb health care inflation. Most beneficiaries have complete freedom to choose their doctor, and appointment waiting times are almost as low as those in the U.S., the world leader. Get that? That’s the biggest draw of U.S. healthcare!

The Swiss have an individual mandate. The government defines the minimum benefit package, which has been subject to expansion from special-interest lobbying, and is more comprehensive and less consumer-driven than it could be. The government has enacted Medicare-style price controls for hospital and physician reimbursement. Insurers must charge similar rates to the young and old (“community rating”), must cover pre-existing conditions, and must operate as non-profit entities. Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt describes Switzerland as “a de facto cartel of insurers and health care practitioners who transact with one another in a tight web of government regulations.”

The most significant difference between the Swiss and American systems is in the ability of individuals to consume healthcare in value- and cost-conscious ways. Only one tenth of Americans buy insurance for themselves (at a ridiculous cost, because they are INVOLUNTARILY helping to subsidize group insurance) the rest getting coverage through their employers or the government. In Switzerland, everyone buys insurance for himself. The fundamental problem in American health care is that the federal government is providing open-ended financial support for health insurance coverage. Most Americans get their insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, or employer-sponsored insurance. And in each case, the federal government’s support for that coverage increases commensurately with costs. So when costs or premiums rise by an extra dollar, the federal treasury is picking up a sizeable portion of the added expense, thus substantially undermining the incentive for economizing by those enrolled in the coverage or those providing the services.

A good starting point would be to make it much easier for patients to compare prices for services that are amenable to such comparisons. These would be routine services and procedures that are self-contained and can be scheduled, like necessary but non-emergency surgeries. The federal government could strengthen the consumer role by forcing all providers of these services to disclose “walk-up prices” for a standardized list of interventions. Standardization will allow consumers to compare pricing on an apples to apples basis, which will intensify competition among those providing the services. The pricing should include all of the needed services to fully complete the interventions successfully.

The government also should require insurers to make available to consumers fixed dollar payments for the services covered in the standardized pricing list. The payments would equal the amounts the insurers would make for the same services to in-network providers.These two changes would allow consumers to easily see if they might save money by going to low-cost providers. And it would encourage providers to set their prices low to attract patients.

Regardless of the details, what is needed is a fundamental shift in thinking, from defined benefit TO defined contribution. Traditional “pension plans” are defined benefit=you receive a known income at payout time. 401(k) plans and most other modern retirement accounts are defined contribution=you contribute a known amount and your account grows based on your contributions and the investments in them. You decide how much income your account can sustain, once you are retired. Defined benefit retirement plans were popular with large corporations but have been scrapped by most. Why? Primarily, they were underfunded, because the assumptions about investment growth didn’t pan out. Defined benefit plan, social security and Medicare are all “hope and a prayer” schemes based on wishful thinking about investment returns AND utilization.

In Medicare, the Ryan-Rivlin proposal picks up on a key feature of Rep. Ryan’s “Roadmap” budget plan, which is that new enrollees in Medicare after 2020 would receive their entitlement in the form of a fixed contribution from the federal government rather than today’s defined benefit program structure. These Medicare enrollees would then apply their entitlement against the cost of health insurance. The value of the defined-contribution payment from the government would grow at a rate of GDP per capita plus one percentage point. The plan would also restructure Medicare for current beneficiaries by rationalizing the cost-sharing with a single, higher deductible and more uniform coinsurance across care settings, as well as an out-of-pocket cost limit. Secondary insurance plans would be prohibited from covering the first $500 of the deductible or more than half of the cost-sharing for services.

We have to change our thinking FROM “government or my employer is responsible for taking care of me” TOI am responsible for taking care of me and my family through systematic investment and savings.” Do I realistically expect to see that change in my lifetime? One can hope, but wishful thinking was never a part of my makeup.

The false shibboleth of inequality.

Some pigs are more equal….

Those who argue that only the rich have gotten richer, and blame “capitalism”, do not consider the facts. The stock market has made nearly everyone richer, not only in terms of income but also in terms of the overall quality of life and the products that they own. If Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world–because of the value of his Amazon stock (he owned 17% of all shares in 2017)–what about the tens of thousands of people who also own that and other growth stocks, in their mutual funds, 401(k)’s, pension plans or as individual investors? Have they not also gotten richer?

The Mises Institute points out that the “capitalism blamers” (my term, they call them “leftists”) also ignore income mobility in market economies, when studies show that in fact most people born to the richest fifth of Americans fall out of that bracket within twenty years while most of those born to the poorest fifth climb to a higher quintile and even to the top. Why? As Ludwig von Mises pointed out in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, the businessman owes his wealth to his customers, and this wealth is inevitably lost or diminished when others enter the market who can better satisfy the consumer through lower prices and/or a better quality of goods and services.

The problem with income inequality today is that it isn’t entirely a byproduct of the free market but instead is the result of a market crippled by interventionist policies, such as (often) inappropriate or overly restrictive regulations, expensive licenses, and the most complicated tax system in the history of this country. Such restrictions have limited competition and made wealth creation more difficult, leading to the stagnation of the middle and lower classes. Though “regulation lovers” (leftists again) contend that these restrictions protect people from the “dangers” of the free market, they actually protect the corporate interests that progressives claim to stand against.

Colossal businesses like Amazon and Walmart favor higher minimum wages and increased regulations, because they have the funds to implement them with ease, and such regulations end up acting as a protective barrier, keeping startups and potential competitors from entering the market. With competition blocked, such businesses can grow artificially large and don’t have to work as hard to earn people’s business. Instead they can spend money on lawyers and DC lobbyists to fence small businesses out of the market. Ironically, efforts to regulate businesses in the name of protecting laborers and consumers harms small businesses and makes everyone less equal than they could be in a free market.as I remind everyone of my recent post, The Beauty of Unintended Consequences.

Voluntary exchanges in capitalism are mutually advantageous. If they weren’t, the exchange would never take place. People who live in countries with more economic and social freedom enjoy greater incomes and a higher standard of living. Free trade has contributed more to the alleviation of poverty than have all the government-run programs. Socialist intervention in the market can only distance man from eradicating poverty and from happiness, as history has demonstrated over and over. Only free enterprise competition driven by profit can bring about the expansion of choice, the fall in prices, and the increased satisfaction that make us wealthier.

“The wrath to come.”

From Charles Spurgeon: “It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon his Saviour’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distill from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction. But how terrible is it to witness the approach of a tempest: to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it groweth black, and look to the sun which shineth not, and the heavens which are angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane, to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind shall rush forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man! And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have as yet fallen, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. As yet the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the flood-gates shall soon be opened: the thunderbolts of God are yet in his storehouse, but lo! the tempest hastens, and how awful shall that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury! Where, where, where, O sinner, wilt thou hide thy head, or whither wilt thou flee? O that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ! He is freely set before you in the gospel: his riven side is the rock of shelter. Thou knowest thy need of him; believe in him, cast thyself upon him, and then the fury shall be overpast forever.”

In our arrogance, or our wishful thinking, or the comfort we take in our sins covered with a patina of self righteousness, we say, “no, that’s not MY god, MY god is not capable of such anger against me, MY god is nothing but love…..I don’t care what the Bible says, all that anger stuff is an invention of the patriarchy to keep people in line. I am throwing off my chains…” Jonah was directed by the Lord to go preach to Nineveh, the largest, most powerful city of his time, the capital of the dreaded Assyria. Jonah decided to throw off his chains too. But in his case, it wasn’t the wrath of the Lord he feared, but His mercy. He hated the Assyrians, and didn’t want them to repent from the preaching, so he ran away from his duty.

Spurgeon has something to say about that too: “Jonah lost everything upon which he might have drawn for comfort in any other case. He could not plead the promise of divine protection, for he was not in God’s ways; he could not say, ‘Lord, I meet with these difficulties in the discharge of my duty, therefore help me through them.’ He was reaping his own deeds; he was filled with his own ways. Christian, do not play the Jonah, unless you wish to have all the waves and the billows rolling over your head. You will find in the long run that it is far harder to shun the work and will of God than to at once yield yourself to it. Jonah lost his time, for he had to go to Nineveh after all. It is hard to contend with God; let us yield ourselves at once.” Are you confident in divine protection while filled with your own ways? Jesus says, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30.

The beauty of unintended consequences.

Rarely, an article is published that’s so insightful, true and consequential, that it’s worth reprinting entirely. The following appeared in FEE.ORG, the Foundation for Economic Education, called Cobra Consequences.

“It seems every human decision brings with it unintended consequences. Often, they are inconsequential, even funny. When Airbus, for example, wanted to make its planes quieter to improve the flying experience for travelers, it made its A380 so quiet that passengers could hear, with far too much clarity, what was happening in the plane’s bathrooms. Other times unintended consequences have far-reaching, dramatic effects.

“The US health care system is a case in point. It emerged in its present form in no small part because of two governmental decisions. First, wage and price controls during World War II caused employers to add health insurance as an employee benefit. Why? The law prohibited employers from raising wages, so to attract workers, they offered to provide health insurance. Then, in 1951, Congress declared that employer-provided health insurance benefits would not count as taxable income. This made it cheaper for employees to take raises in the form of increased tax-free insurance benefits rather than in the form of increased taxable wages. Consequently, not only do workers now receive health insurance through their employers (unlike, for example, their car and home insurance), but those insurance plans also tend to be more luxurious than what they would have been had Congress never given them special tax treatment. These two political decisions helped to create the health care system we now have, a system that nearly everyone agrees is broken.

“No one set out to create a broken system, no more than anyone ever set out to make bathroom noises more conspicuous on airplanes. These were unintended consequences. And you can see them everywhere when you know to look. Unintended consequences happen so often that economists call them “Cobra Problems,” after one of the most interesting examples. In colonial India, Delhi suffered a proliferation of cobras, which was a problem very clearly in need of a solution given the sorts of things that cobras bring, like death. To cut the number of cobras slithering through the city, the local government (British) placed a bounty on them. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. The bounty was generous enough that many people took up cobra hunting, which led exactly to the desired outcome: The cobra population decreased. And that’s where things get interesting.”

I posed the question to friends, “what do you think happened next?” No one said, “the number of cobras increased.” But they did. How? Think of it this way: Someone offers you $50 for a dead cobra; people then start hunting cobras; cobras decline; since it costs $5 to raise a cobra from an egg, some entrepreneurial “snake charmers” begin cobra breeding farms; at a profit of $45/each, gradually…….You get the picture; if not, the cartoon should help you figure it out. I don’t know how much the bounty was nor the cost to raise a cobra, but the profit must have been considerable!

Continuing the FEE.ORG article: “These examples of unintended consequences aren’t aberrations. Unintended consequences arise every time an authority imposes its will on people. Seat belt and airbag laws make it less safe to be a pedestrian or cyclist by making it safer for drivers to be less cautious. Payday lending laws, intended to protect low-income borrowers from high lending rates, make it more expensive for low-income borrowers to borrow by forcing them into even more expensive alternatives.

“Requirements that corporations publicize how much they pay their CEOs in order to encourage stockholders to reduce CEO pay resulted in lesser-paid CEOs demanding more pay. Three-strikes laws, intended to reduce crime, increase police fatalities by giving two-time criminals a greater incentive to evade or even fight the police. The Americans With Disabilities Act gives employers an incentive to discriminate against the disabled by not hiring them in the first place so as to avoid potential ADA claims. Electrician licensing requirements can increase the incidence of injury due to faulty electrical work by reducing the supply of electricians, thereby encouraging homeowners to do their own electrical work.

“The same sort of thing happened in the late 1980s in Mexico City, which was at the time suffering from extreme air pollution caused by cars driven by its 18 million residents. The city government responded with Hoy No Circula, a law designed to reduce car pollution by removing 20 percent of the cars (determined by the last digits of license plates) from the roads every day during the winter when air pollution was at its worst. Oddly, though, removing those cars from the roads did not improve air quality in Mexico City. In fact, it made it worse.

“Come to find out, people’s needs do not change as a result of a simple government decree. The residents of Mexico City might well have wanted better air for their city, but they also needed to get to work and school. They reacted to the ban in ways the rule-makers neither intended nor foresaw. Some people carpooled or took public transportation, which was the actual intent of the law. Others, however, took taxis, and the average taxi at the time gave off more pollution than the average car. Another group of people ended up undermining the law’s intent more significantly. That group bought second cars, which of course came with different license plate numbers, and drove those cars on the one day a week they were prohibited from driving their regular cars. What kind of cars did they buy? The cheapest running vehicles they could find, vehicles that belched pollution into the city at a rate far higher than the cars they were not permitted to drive. The people released their cobras into the streets, except this time the cobras were cars.

“But perhaps nothing illustrates the scope of the potential problems arising from unintended consequences better than Venezuela’s terrible game of whack-a-mole that began with the 1976 nationalization of its oil industry. The government’s intent was to keep oil profits in the country. And that’s how it went—for a while. But when the government takes over a once-private industry, the profit incentive to maintain physical capital is lost, and physical capital deteriorates. The deterioration plays out over a decade or so, and that’s what made it appear—at least for a while—that unlike everywhere else socialism had been tried, Venezuela’s socialism was working. But as the oil industry’s physical capital broke down, oil production fell. Coincidentally, it was around this time that oil prices fell also—a fact socialism’s supporters point to as the real culprit.

“That is without question incorrect given that no other oil-producing nation suffered what Venezuela was to suffer. As oil revenues and production plummeted, Venezuela’s government acted the way governments inevitably do when revenues disappear. It borrowed and taxed as much as it could, and then it started printing money. The printing led to the unintended consequence of inflation, then prices rose so high that people could no longer afford food. To respond to this unintended consequence, the government imposed price controls on food. But this created a new unintended consequence wherein farmers could no longer afford to grow food. And so the farmers stopped growing food. Finally, the government forced people to work on farms in order to assure food production. The ultimate unintended consequence of Venezuela’s nationalizing its oil industry was slavery.

“What it does mean is that lawmakers should be keenly aware that every human action has both intended and unintended consequences. Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended. So while there is a place for legislation, that place should be one defined by both great caution and tremendous humility. Sadly, these are character traits not often found in those who become legislators, which is why examples of the cobra problem are so easy to find.”

Someone should make sure that Bernie Sanderscampaign workers read this, because “democratic socialism” involves lots of central planning, which leads to unintended consequences, which creates a vicious circle, because people with the I know best mentality don’t learn from their mistakes, they double down on them, in the end repressing dissent. Any kind of collectivism has always led to dictatorship. If there ever was any “democratic socialism”, it either went to or back to capitalism (like the Scandinavian countries), or devolved into dictatorship (Cuba, Venezuela).

KIVA–Do a lot of good with very little of your $.

At Kiva.org, you can see how their microloan process works. I have been contributing $25/month for a long time to make “microloans” to entrepreneurs in impoverished countries. There are profiles of the businesses, entrepreneurs, their products and stories of success. Kiva emails frequent updates and makes the whole process painless.

A child, or a culprit?

Confess as a child, not a culprit

“Father, I have sinned.”
Luke 15:18

This meditation by Charles Spurgeon is one of the most compelling, and universally applicable: “It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character? Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon. For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence? If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord. There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.”

Simply, we believers should approach the mercy seat as children….not as culprits. We WILL sin again, and our Father WILL forgive again, BECAUSE nothing is hidden from Him: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6.

AND: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:11-13.

the Fabulous White People competition

courtesy of bigstock.

Ann Coulter, writing in Takimag.com: “these ‘racism’ orgies never have anything to do with black people. It’s part of the Fabulous White People competition, where black people are the chips. If anything, the urge to call other people ‘racist’ has only gotten stronger since then, so I’ll quote myself: ‘Sad people with meaningless lives [are] suddenly empowered to condemn other people. I beat you in blacks yesterday; I’m going to beat you in women today. This is what makes them feel superior to other people, especially other white people. It’s not about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.; it’s just a self-actualization movement for people with emotional issues’.”

She takes no prisoners. The “racism orgies” she referred to are the proliferation of accusations of racism, and, I will add, often by people who don’t even try to define the word. Many can’t, but in a perfect simulation of totalitarianism, many race hustlers and grievance mongers levy the charge that asking for a definition of the accusation is itself racism. How handy, how convenient, and how intimidating it can be….except for people like me, who thrive on clarification, even at the cost of confrontation, conflict or unpopularity. Actually, perhaps I thrive on unpopularity itself…..with the right people. Who are the right people? Those who tell me, “don’t try to define racism, that proves you’re a racist.”

What’s really going on? I suggest you refer to my previous post, Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s….You see, racism isn’t the core issue, it’s just a big, sticky label over the mouth of those who question the orthodoxy of what I call radical equality, or it’s modern guise, equity. Proportional to their numbers, far more politically connected and wealthy white folks throw the racist label around at other white folk, than do black folk or people of color. I assert that they are coveting: the illusion of superior intellect; self congratulation for their sensitivity and wokeness; relief from their guilty feelings for having so much; approval from their peer group, which produces rewards both tangible (political office, tenure) and intangible (Ann Coulter’s self-actualization). When people of color accuse whites of racism, sometimes it’s true, but often it’s for prizes of the grievance sweepstakes. Equality used to mean equal opportunity to succeed; equity, equality of outcomes or proportion of body count (affirmative action), has become the new orthodoxy.

Most unquestioned orthodoxies, historically, have resulted in a different kind of body count—off to the gulag or lined up in front of the gun. Will the Fabulous White People Competition give us that here? Stay tuned, one hand on your wallet, the other on your gun.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s……

Covet? What the heck does that mean? Why does that admonition begin the 10th Commandment? Speaking of which, don’t you just hate that word, commandment? It implies that someone has the power to compel you. We can’t have that in the year of our overlord—the ego—2020. Coveting = envying = I want what you have and if I can’t achieve it then my satisfaction comes from you losing it. Coveting is not driven by the desire for equality, but rather by the spirit of to bring others down to your own level; it’s not so much a desire for more as a desire for no one else to have more. Here are some great examples of metaphors for coveting as well as the satirizing of coveting.

First, the satire, since I love it. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel The Sirens of Titan dealt with coveting by portraying the Space Wanderer, a guy who left earth in search of adventure. When the Space Wanderer returns to Earth he finds a society in which handicaps are used to make all people equal, eradicating the supposedly ruinous effects of luck on human society. The narrator claims that now “the weakest and the meekest were bound to admit, at last, that the race of life was fair”. The strong are burdened with “handicaps” (consisting of “bags of lead shot” hung from various parts of the body) and the beautiful hide their advantageous appearance through “frumpish clothes, bad posture, chewing gum and a ghoulish use of cosmetics”. The citizens in The Sirens of Titan choose to wear these handicaps voluntarily as an act of faith towards the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, although it is suggested that not to do so would invite social condemnation. Mr. Vonnegut also wrote a short story in 1961, Harrison Bergeron, on the same equality theme, but in that story the illusion of equality was compelled by the law, and any attempts to remove the artificial handicaps required by law were punished severely. I find it interesting that there are also lots of metaphors for envy, or coerced equality: crab mentality, dumbing down, the law of Jante, Procrustes’ bed and tall poppy syndrome.

Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a bucket mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. The metaphor is derived from a pattern of behavior noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While any one crab could easily escape, its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group’s collective demise. Dumbing down is the deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content. The term “dumbing down” originated in 1933, as movie-business slang used by screenplay writers, meaning: “to revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence”. Dumbing-down is the deliberate undermining of intellectual standards, thus trivializing meaningful information, culture, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture. The Law of Jante is a code of conduct known in Nordic countries that characterizes not conforming, doing things out of the ordinary, or being overtly personally ambitious as unworthy and inappropriate. Used generally in colloquial speech in the Nordic countries as a sociological term to denote a social attitude of disapproval towards expressions of individuality and personal success, it emphasizes adherence to the collective. Procrustes’ bed: In the Greek myth, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus. There he had a bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night. If they were too short for the bed, he used his smith’s hammer to stretch them to fit. If the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fitted the bed exactly, and all the “guests” died as a result of Procrustes’ efforts. The tall poppy syndrome describes aspects of a culture where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down, strung up or criticized because they have been classified as superior to their peers. This metaphor refers to a tale whereby a prince asked his father how he should rule his kingdom. The father did not reply, rather he took his son out to a field of poppies, and had a servant ride through the field cutting every poppy to the same height. That last one describes collectivist philosophies like communism and socialism. The “killing fields” of Cambodia under the despotism of Pol Pot was the perfect example.

Wikipedia describes Pol Pot as one of the most secretive of national leaders. His bland face and unthreatening manner, his self-effacement, his rare and turgid public statements and his life in hiding — even during his years of absolute power — were some of his chief tactics in keeping his rivals off balance and his hold over his followers. There was little evident in Pol Pot’s background to suggest any personal drama. Since his childhood, the phrases used to describe him were uninspiring: polite, mediocre, soft-spoken, patient, even shy. Still, people who knew him described him as warm and reassuring, especially in small groups. His smiling face and quiet manner belied his brutality. He and his inner circle of revolutionaries adopted a Communism based on Maoism and Stalinism, then carried it to extremes: They and their Khmer Rouge movement tore apart Cambodia in an attempt to ”purify” the country’s agrarian society and turn people into revolutionary worker-peasants. Pol Pot conducted a rule of terror that led to the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s seven million people, by the most widely accepted estimates, through execution, torture, starvation and disease. Beginning on the day in 1975 when his guerrilla army marched silently into the capital, Phnom Penh, Pol Pot emptied the cities, pulled families apart,abolished religion and closed schools. Everyone was ordered to work, even children. The Khmer Rouge outlawed money and closed all markets. Doctors were killed, as were most people with skills and education that threatened the regime.

That’s leveling folks, envy writ large in death and misery, the only means by which collectivism can be imposed on an otherwise free society. In 2020, it appears from surveys that most high school students and college undergrads in the United States, as well as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren think socialism is the way to go. I wonder if their indoctrination education has anything to do with their ignorance. Nah, can’t be……? Perhaps it’s time to teach the 10th Commandment in schools……except that commandment implies a superior being with the authority to compel. So the 10th, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s”, means nothing without the first Commandment, “I am the Lord thy God, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Least of all the god of equality (envy).

Economics as freedom.

Last night I watched 911-Lonestar, about a fire/rescue crew operating in Austin, Tx., led by a transplanted Fire Dept. of New York captain, suffering from lung cancer as a result of his heroics during the collapse of the Twin Towers. Every week, 911 calls are conveyed to this FD Austin house, and one of them provided a superb lesson in basic economics. A breeder of prize bulls had sold his most prized bull to a distributor, whose business was extracting, storing and selling the “issue” (sperm) of the bulls. The breeder wanted to raise another prize bull, so he went to the distributor with $10,000, expecting to buy a single “tube” (apparently enough to inseminate a brood cow), based on previous prices. However, the distributor had raised the price to $15,000 due to the demand for this particular issue. In their argument over price, the distributor asked, “if all my other buyers are willing to pay $15,000, why would I sell the same amount of the same substance for $10,000? There’s only so much of the stuff for all the buyers that want it. I run a business, not a charity.” This is the simplest example of the dynamics of supply and demand, since the substance in question has a known and limited supply (one canister only), and only one potential use, and more buyers than supply.

The breeder/buyer begged, then threatened, but still he was rebuffed, so he decided to steal the entire canister by setting a fire and sneaking in while the distributor and his employees were busy with the fire. Of course, the fire rapidly got out of control and the breeder/thief had to be rescued. I recently read an article on fee.org which explained how the free market mechanisms of price, supply and demand help allocate resources efficiently. My example above was perhaps too simple, mainly because of how limited the uses and supply were. Here is what the article says about it: “The key question when analyzing the efficacy of economic systems is how they deal with the issue of scarcity. All economic goods are, by definition, scarce. By this, economists mean that resources such as raw materials, capital goods, and labor have many alternative possible uses but can only fulfill a very finite number of ends. For instance, a single steel beam can be used in a skyscraper or a bridge, but not both. How scarce resources are arranged and for what purpose will largely determine the living standards of society. If producers utilize the resources in a manner that satisfies the most urgent needs of society, human flourishing will follow. If resources are instead squandered on less urgent needs, poverty and squalor will result. The values of inputs used to create finished products are derived from the demand for the finished product for which they are used. And because scarce economic goods have alternative uses, manufacturers of various finished products are in competition with each other for these inputs.

Take the example of wood—a nonspecific good that can be used for many different purposes—and just two potential finished products: housing and books. How are manufacturers to determine which combination of these two options will best satisfy society’s demand for shelter and reading? Only prices that emerge from the voluntary exchange of privately-owned resources can tell us where nonspecific, scarce goods are most urgently needed. Many different bidders for wood will cause price movements that convey vital information about the relative scarcity of wood and the relative value of the alternative final goods for which the wood could potentially be used. Without prices, scarce resources like wood could be employed in such a way as to leave more urgent needs unsatisfied. For instance, the market would be flooded with books, while many would-be home buyers remain without shelter.

Speaking of homes, when I bought my home in Spokane, Washington in December, 2015, I had to bid more than the asking price, because there were two other buyers who wanted it. I didn’t want to risk losing it, so I offered $3,000 over asking price; the other buyers made lower offers, so I got the house. During the three years I lived in the home, Seattle home prices shot way up, resulting in a significant migration of Seattle residents to Spokane. What do you guess happened to home prices in Spokane? I decided to sell in March of 2019, three years and three months after buying it. I wanted to list above the appraisal, but my realtor suggested that we list with a price slightly less than we thought we could get. My house was a 4 bedroom two bath house, with detached two car garage. The neighbor across the street listed at the same time, asking more than we were asking for one bedroom and one bath less, and no garage. We got 11 offers the same day we listed, and chose the second best rather than the first. Why? The second best was putting 50% down, the best 5% down. We ended up getting $51,000 over what we paid, a selling price of $227,000. Yes, Spokane is still a bargain housing market. Once again, this is a great lesson in how economics works. The definition of market price is: What a buyer is willing to pay a seller for a commodity in the absence of coercion.

Central planning by a government involves coercion at every level. The government has no profit/loss calculation. Its bidding power comes from its coercive advantage to collect taxes by force. Because government does not rely on selling products to willing consumers, there is no check on how high it will be willing to bid. Consequently, government’s arrangement of resources cannot reflect the most urgent needs of society. In a system run by the government, inputs do not derive their value from consumer demand on the finished product in which the input will be utilized, but rather, value is derived by political calculations. In such cases, the economy proceeds down a path chosen by the political class instead of one chosen by the voluntary choices of the individuals in society. The process of entrepreneurs taking risks to fulfill a future need that perhaps only they can envision becomes overwhelmed by the narrow, backward-looking resource allocation of a central planning board. With so much power focused in the hands of the small ruling elite that results from central planning, more will look to curry favor with government officials for economic advantage rather than create value for consumers.

Pay-to-play politics—and outright bribery—will become the norm. And even if the halls of Congress become filled with angels exempt from the temptation of corruption, the fact still remains central planners would be powerless to orchestrate a well-functioning economy. The problem is not that people will be insufficiently motivated to do the right things but, more fundamentally, that they will not know what the right things to do are, even if they passionately wanted to do them.