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In Exodus 5:1, Moses confronts Pharaoh, demanding that the Egyptian King should let the people of God go free. What's remarkable is the reason he gives:
“Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’”
There were lots of reasons why the LORD wanted his people to be free from slavery in Egypt. He wanted them to be able to hear his law and learn to walk in his ways; he wanted their daily lives to be set free from the burden of making bricks without straw; he wanted them to live in the Promised Land and enjoy his promised goodness.
But here a different reason is given. The LORD wanted his people to be free to celebrate and enjoy fellowship with one another and with him by eating and drinking together.
Right from the beginning of their existence as a distinct people, feasting has always been a way of life for God's people.
Next Sunday is Big Sunday Lunch at Emmanuel. Don’t miss out.
Now, strictly speaking, I'm not convinced.
(1) Prayer in the Bible always seems to be talking to God. (I would be interested to hear any counter examples). Jesus says, "When you pray, say..." and gives the Lord's Prayer as something to say and as a model for our praying. When we pray we talk to God. Simple.
(2) The Reformed consensus is that God's Word to us is final and sufficient in Scripture. The Bible is God speaking today. He does not give new extra words. Listening to God is engaging with the Scriptures.
it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church;c and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;d which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary;e those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.f The Westminster Confession of Faith (part of chapter 1, of the Holy Scripture)
We all know that prayer is not a vending machine and it is good if our prayers are not just shopping lists for ourselves but include Adoration of God, Confession of Sin, Thanksgiving and Supplication for others and ourselves (ACTS). We want to pray in the light of and in response to the Scriptures.
But we can go further.
Just because prayer is talking to God and reading the Bible is listening to God, it does not mean that either should be a speedy barrage of words. It might do us good to slow down and pause. We are not only to read and study the Bible but to think and meditate on it - to chew the cud, the murmur it over to ourselves. We do well to stock our minds with it. We have the blessing of printed Bibles we can read and of audio Bibles and so on, but what might our spirituality look like if we depended more on the Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel we had heard read and proclaimed on Sunday? Would there be gains as well as losses?
Maybe we could slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately remember God and his presence with us and consciously enjoy him. We could pause to think of his majesty and goodness and love and to praise him. We could pray the Psalms we know. Or dwell on a single line from the teaching of Jesus.
And maybe we could even simply be with him. We need not bring our agenda. If our thoughts are racing and distracted, fine. He wants to hear about all that. We can talk to him freely. But maybe we could also learn to be quiet and still and wait in his presence.
It's worth a go, anyway.
A sermon delivered to a Festive Service celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at the 36th German Protestant Kirchentag, at the Elbe Meadows, Wittenberg
The convoy which was on its way for peaceful pilgrimage for prayer and devotion was confronted with the evil of terrorism and horrors of death and destruction.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies is quite right here, the people who really pay stamp duty on shares are the pensioners:
Labour’s plans to raise taxes on businesses and financial transactions will hit pension funds, reducing returns for savers and harming living standards into old age, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned.
Jeremy Corbyn hopes to raise £5.6bn per year with a levy on bond and derivatives purchases, extending the stamp duty charge that already affects share transactions.
He said it would target banks and help repay the damage wrought by the financial crisis.
It is not, of course, the banks who buy and sell shares, but our pensions that do. And a charge on a transaction inside a pension will be paid by that pension.
This is all known as "tax incidence" of course, the thought that all taxes are paid by hte wallet of some live human being getting lighter - on the simple basis that there's only us folks here to pay taxes - and we need to walk through the effect of a tax on the economy in order to work out whose.
However the IFS said that, ultimately, all taxes are paid for by individuals.
This is not new news either. The IFS has issued a couple of papers on the subject in the past. There is also the EU's own investigation into the incidence of a financial transactions tax. Which shows that, yes, the incidence is largely upon investors - pensioners that is - plus lower wages for the workers across the economy.
Taking the fat cats this ain't. Which is why the Mirrlees Review so strenuously insists that we just should not be having transactions taxes at all, they're simply a bad form of taxation to begin with.
If you do want to try to tax the financial sector there are other and better ways. An extension of stamp duty is the wrong thing to do entirely, it's a tax which should be abolished in its entirety.
This can be related to different ways of hearing God's word. In many synagogues and churches today the reading and hearing of Scripture serves community cohesion, gathering people around a tradition. This is good but not the same as communities receiving life in the hearing of Scripture and so becoming a mighty force to be reckoned with.
Acts 1 tells us that during the forty days following his resurrection Jesus continued to speak with his disciples about the kingdom of God. His ministry prior to the ascension can be summed up as a re-constitution of the people of God, symbolised in the election of twelve disciples. This is completed by the replacement of Judas by Matthias. But the Gospels also show us that Jesus's disciples continually failed to "get it" and so they may remind us of bones coming together, bone to its bone, with flesh and sinews on them - but as yet without the breath of life.
The breath/Spirit is of course given at Pentecost which turns the disciples into a force to be reckoned with, no longer just gathered around Jesus but a people on fire with a mission. This time the major second step takes place within the same generation but similar to Ezekiel's, the ministry of Jesus can be divided in a first phase which focused on gathering and re-constituting God's people around the prophet and a second phase during which the wind/Spirit brings life to the people of God once the prophet has been taken out of sight.
Both movements, the gathering around Christ in word and sacrament, and the sending out to the ends of the earth, are still still important within the church. The second cannot truly happen without the first; the first is not enough without the second.
On Ascension Sunday, we mark the departure of the Lord Jesus into Heaven, where He was received in great glory, and where He was crowned with universal dominion. This is our celebration of His coronation proper. But there were a series of glorifications prior to this, each one building on the last—at each stage of the gospel. And so the Ascension, rightly understood, is the crown of the gospel.The Text:
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14).Summary of the Text:
The one place in the Old Testament where Son of Man was plainly a Messianic title was here in this place. Elsewhere it was commonly used to identify a human prophet, like Ezekiel for example. Here the one like the Son of Man is a figure of infinite dignity, and He is granted an everlasting kingdom.
When we read the phrase coming on the clouds, we think of the Second Coming, as though it were speaking of Jesus coming to earth. But the phrase refers to the Ascension—it speaks of Jesus coming into Heaven, coming into His crown. “Came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days . . .” The passage tells us where He comes. He comes into the throne room of Heaven, and there He is given universal dominion.
And this is the reality that Jesus self-consciously refers to when He was on trial before the Sanhedrin. Within a few months, He would be standing before the Ancient of Days, with everlasting honors bestowed on Him, but right then He was standing before the petit principalities, who were filled with malice and poured out every form of dishonor they could think of. And when the high priest asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of Blessed, Jesus said, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
And notice their reaction to this:
“Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14:63–64).
For Jesus to say that He would be seated on the right hand of power, and that He would come to that right hand of power on the clouds of Heaven, was reckoned by them as blasphemy, and was worthy—or so they thought—of death.Glory Stages:
What Jesus received at the Ascension is what we normally think of when we think of a coronation. It was glorious beyond anything any of us could imagine, but what we can imagine was a minuscule amount of the same kind of glory. But we arrived there in stages, and the earliest form of Christ’s glorification represented a different kind of glory.
Think of these elements of the gospel. Christ was crucified. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. Let us meditate on the gospel progress of those four words—crucified, buried, raised, and ascended.Building to the Ultimate Crescendo:
Crucified—we begin with the glory of His humiliation. “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt. 27:29). The Bible teaches that the cross was a moment of glory (John 12:27-28). The purest man who ever lived laid down His life for millions of the grimiest. Not only so, but God calls it a glory that He did so.
Buried—the Lord Jesus was glorified in His burial through the love of His forgiven followers. “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:12–13). So the preliminary ointment of burial is part of this stupendous story, not to mention what Nicodemus did after the fact (John 19:39). So another glory, another part of the wonder of this story is the fact that God gathers up the tears of the truly repentant (Luke 7:38), and stores them in His treasury (Ps. 56:8). This is yet another glory. But the tears that adorn His burial are only possible because of His burial.
Raised—why did the Lord Jesus tell the demons, and also tell His followers, not to proclaim His identity? I believe it was because He was jealous to have the first great proclamation be made by His Father. “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). We are starting to approach the threshold of unspeakable joy, and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8). The disciples staggered in their joy (Luke 24:41). They were as those who dreamed (Ps. 126:1-2).
Ascended—in the Ascension, the matter is settled. But telling the gospel story faithfully prevents us from trying to circumvent God’s pattern. Apart from the cross, no sinner should ever be trusted with a crown. Our tendency is to go straight to the triumph, by-passing the difficulties. But the Lord established a better pattern for us than this.
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Phil. 2:8–10).
As parents, teachers, elders, pastors, and as those in authority, we tend to fall into one of two errors as we seek to guide those who have been placed under our authority. One error is to be far too easily pleased. The other is to become impossible to please. For the former, not only is the glass always half full, but it is reckoned to be completely full because it is half full. For the latter, the glass is always considered to be completely empty because it is always half empty. Both of these approaches are destructive forms of leadership.
And apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives, we tend to fall into one of these two errors. But the work of grace sees what needs to be done, and also sees, in wisdom, what has been done. And the attitude that accompanies this wisdom is that of being extraordinarily easy to please, and extraordinarily difficult to satisfy. This is how our Father God is with us, and this is how we should be with one another. We don’t want to be easy to please and easy to satisfy. Neither do we want to be impossible to please and impossible to satisfy. The former type of parent produces well-boiled noodles. The latter gives us neurotic dry twigs, ready to snap.
To you as a congregation, how does this apply? God is extremely pleased with you, and with how far you have come. Is He satisfied? Not even close. We are still on pilgrimage, and are not yet conformed to the image of Christ.
As we approach this Table, we have to be careful. One the one hand, we are encouraged to come gladly, putting away all false scruples and morbid introspection. On the other hand, we know that coming to this Table is inconsistent with stark and unrepented sin.
How can we teach against one error without encouraging the other? If we charge you all to beware of approaching this Table with defiled hands, will not the sensitive among us shrink back when they ought not? And if we encourage you to come as you are, will not unrepentant people, filled with resentments, or those who are tyrants in their homes, or those who are secretly indulging their lusts, be emboldened to come?
What are we to do? We are charged to insist that you come. The sensitive must come; they may not refrain from coming. And when they come, God strengthens them. He builds them up. He receives them, and fills their hearts with gladness, as when grain and new wine abound.
But what of the hypocrite? Do we not have a responsibility to keep him away from the Table? When the hypocrisy is open and defiant, the answer to this is yes. That is what church discipline is for, that is the meaning of excommunication. But when the hypocrisy is hidden, there is great sin in approaching the Table, and, in a certain sense, it is a sin we encourage.
Come, we say, to the Lord who sees all. Come, to the Lord who weighs hearts. Come, to the Lord who inspects grimy hands. Come, to the Table of spotless righteousness. When we come in faith, the Lord deals with our sins and sinfulness. When we come in unbelief, the Lord deals with our unbelief, either by bringing us to repentance, or by hastening the day when we come to the precipice of judgment.
And again, you tender of heart, the Lord gives you the strength to hear such warnings rightly.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
The author really is to be commended for making the attempt. The topic of “swearing,” really is a complex one, and while he did well in taking the question down to the level of intent, about the only intent he attacked — for all forms of bad language — was the intent to be demeaning or condescending. But there were some good observations here and there.
The usual suspects are shouting about how the education system is to be starved of that funding vital to all that is good and holy:
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that school funding would fall by nearly 3% by 2021 even with the additional £1bn a year, after adjusting for inflation and a rise in students enrolled.
“Taking account of forecast growth in pupil [numbers], this equates to a real-terms cut in spending per pupil of 2.8% between 2017–18 and 2021–22. Adding this to past cuts makes for a total real-terms cut to per-pupil spending of around 7% over the six years between 2015–16 and 2021–22,” the IFS said.
And we're afraid that we don't quite see it.
Firstly, it isn't true that the marginal costs of another pupil are the same as the average costs of a pupil. Education spending is far more lumpy than that. One more pupil into an extant school might cost the number of pencils they'll chew in a year but not much more than that.
Secondly, and much more importantly, this isn't actually a big ask. The education system is being asked to improve productivity by 1% a year or so. That's very much less than any private sector organisation tries to manage. And anyone at all who thinks that there isn't 1% a year to be ground out of the cost base of a British public service just sin't dealing with reality.
It's entirely true that the recently departed William Baumol had his Cost Disease, that it's more difficult to increase productivity in services than in manufacturing. But do note that he said more difficult, not impossible.
1% a year improvement in productivity, 1% a year reduction in costs? Pah!
The Trump administration released its 2018 budget this week. Once again we saw the media try to play up decreases in proposed spending as a form of draconian cuts, ignoring the fact that Trump's plan still reflects a significant increase in federal programs. Rather than trying to decentralize America's bloated welfare state, the Trump budget would continue to pile up debt and the ever growing problem of unfunded liabilities.
While Washington will eventually have to face the consequences of ignoring the laws of economics, there is still reason for optimism. While there may not be political solutions to the problems facing the world, they can still be found in the market.
On Mises Weekends, Jeff is joined by Patrick Newman, a Mises Institute scholar, professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, and the editor of a Rothbard manuscript dating to the 1970s entitled Roots of the Modern State, which we will release as a book later this year. Jeff and Patrick discuss Rotbhard's views on the progressive era and how it shaped America, including the puritanical impulses of leaders such as Wilson, Taft, and the Roosevelts, as well as the self-interested motivations behind the then-burgeoning intellectual-business partnership. Tune in for a great conversation about Rothbard's unique analysis of this critical time in US history.
Dr. Newman will be speaking about the new Rothbard book at our 35th Anniversary Celebration! Other speakers include Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, David Stockman, Guido Hülsmann, Tom Woods, and many others.
You won't want to miss it! Register today.
And in case you missed them, here are this weeks Mises Wire articles, covering a wide array of topics including libertarianism, the cult of collectivism, what is the source of real wealth, the eye-care industry wants a monopoly, bitcoin, and the Trump budget.
- The Eye-Care Industry Wants Big Government to Crush the Competition by Jonathan Lee
- What Keeps James Bullard Up at Night by C.Jay Engel
- How Washington's Reaction to Trump's Budget Justifies the Rise of Bitcoin by Tho Bishop
- The Trump Budget: Real Cuts vs. the Media Version of "Cuts" by Ryan McMaken
- Audio/Video: Education: Free and Compulsory by Murray Rothbard
- Decentralize the Welfare State by Ryan McMaken
- Rothbard: These Are the Best Libertarian Educators by Joseph T. Salerno
- Wine, Art, and Ferraris: The Bubble in Luxury Goods by Mark Thornton
- Another Member of Mises Cuba is Now Missing by Tho Bishop
- ESPN and the Bursting of the Sports Bubble by William L. Anderson
- Can Libertarians Have Communal Property? by Ryan McMaken
- The Death Cult of Collectivism by Ludwig von Mises
- Is the Sky Falling? by Jeff Deist
- "Primping the Pump: Won't Create Real Wealth by Frank Shostak
- The Drug War: Will the Trump Administration OD on Authoritarianism? by Ron Paul
- How Economists Destroyed Pre-World War II Germany by Ludwig von Mises
- 3 Ways the Critics Get Praxeology Wrong by Jonathan Newman
My most memorable high school experience occurred on the first day of my senior year. I was sitting in an Advanced Placement US Government class when the teacher posed a simple question to the students. It was a question intended to set the course in motion, and get us fledgling statecraft scholars thinking.
The question was, “what is government?”
My hand was in the air before he completed the sentence. (I had prepared an answer in anticipation of the course.) Holding on to my holster full of knowledge garnered from my proudly self-described “intellectually avant-garde” internet musings, I said, “Governments (i.e., states in this case) are those organizations that have monopolized the use of force over any given geographical region.”
I then felt embarrassment as my passionate answer was struck down by laughter from the class. My teacher looked down at the floor, unsure how to respond. He had obviously never heard such an answer before, and recovered by reverting back to his conventional train of thought and answering the question as he had been conditioned to: “Governments” he said, “are simply those institutions that make policy.”
I do not remember what he said next. Though I do remember what I was thinking, or rather, what I was feeling.
And I was feeling frustrated and unsatisfied.
My teacher was wrong; the class was wrong. Indeed, I felt my answer was more than appropriate; or, at least more appropriate than the “correct” response — according to the teacher — which was simply: “Government makes policy.” This didn’t answer the underlying question about the nature of government, but specified a function of government. In fact, my teacher was failing to follow the traditional guidelines of credible civics educators around the world. My definition was not extrapolated from some strange corner of the internet, but from famous sociologist Max Weber’s book, Politics as a Vocation. In the book, Weber discussed the concept that states are no different than regular organizations — people coming together with a common goal. But what sets states apart is their assertion of a “monopoly on violence.”
RELATED: "Theories of the State" by Franz Oppenheimer
It is unclear whether that classroom incident was a failure on the part of the teacher or the course itself. However, upon examining the course syllabus (as well as the syllabus for the sister class, “AP Comparative Politics”) on the college board website, it becomes evident that there is no mention of the “definition of government” (only definitions of more basic topics such as the “study of government” and “democracy” and “federalism”), and the only mention of Max Weber is his views on bureaucracy.
In reality, the AP program was designed to give high school students a chance to earn college credits, and therefore, this was designed as a college course by college educators! Therefore, it is likely that this problem extends to entry level college civics courses. Additionally, most high school students will never take an AP government course, or any political science course for that matter. These factors contribute to a population that is ignorant about the nature of states, and their relationship to each person who is subject to the state’s monopoly power.
Thus, discussions concerning the fundamentals of governments are largely nonexistent. When the topic indeed arises among students who take a critical view, such views are stigmatized — labeled as “deviant thinking.” If we really want to allow our students to think critically about those who have authority over them, the intellectually lazy approach that is currently taken in government classes (namely, AP government courses) must end now.
Big Eye is watching you. For more than a decade, lobbyists from Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which controls over 40 percent of the contact lens market as a result of their cozy relationship with optometrists, and the American Optometric Association (AOA), which represents nearly 40,000 optometrists nationwide, have been fighting to create an artificial monopoly in the eye care industry. By inundating bureaucrats with large pieces of state and federal legislation, AOA and J&J hope to eliminate competition through regulatory capture.
Eye care professionals are unique in that they are some of the only professionals that sell what they also prescribe. In truth, optometry — unlike ophthalmology, which is composed of true medical doctors — is a dying industry. Most optometrists cannot do much other than measure prescription strength and fit lenses. They sell lenses in their shops and rely on those sales — and the kickbacks they receive from the big lens brands — as a means of keeping their shops open.
For years, J&J and the AOA have been trying to pass federal legislation called the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (CLCHPA), better known as “the Cassidy Bill,” which would essentially allow eye-care professionals to block contact lens sales from any third-party vendors that pose a market share risk. But this bill has failed miserably and has failed to be called for a roll call vote.
Now in their attempts to eliminate competition, Big Eye has moved on to target the fields of telehealth and telemedicine — online and digital forms of prescription-making that have radically changed how individuals access their doctors. Twenty-first century smartphone and tablet apps like Opternative allow consumers to measure their prescription strength from the comfort of their own homes, where a board-certified ophthalmologist then signs off on it to close the deal. Thanks to this technology, consumers now only have to go to the brick-and-mortar eye office once every two years for a comprehensive eye health exam rather than every single time a lens refill is needed.
Of course, Big Eye is afraid that this new technology will take away their customers, so they are doing everything in their power to get it outlawed.
Although these lobbyists have been fighting a losing battle thus far, they are certainly not giving up. Recently, Big Eye entered Connecticut and Rhode Island, trying to pass pieces of legislation that would corner the market by eliminating access to telemedicine. Led by Rep. Kevin Ryan in Connecticut and Sen. Frank Ciccone/Rep. Rob Jacquard in Rhode Island, the bills — one of which passed the House in Rhode Island — use tricky language. These bills argue that telehealth is a “dangerous” technology, and state governments should regulate the market in order to “protect” customers.
Yet there has been no evidence of telehealth’s danger. To say that apps like Opternative is not safe, is like saying that taxis are safer that Ubers. Big Eye is making an argument with smoke and mirrors, using the fear of “new” as the only reason to prevent innovative technology from entering the market.
Instead of fearing the new, legislators should look at telehealth with Uber in context. After Uber entered the market there was an incredible reduction of transportation costs and increase in the supply of available taxis and drivers. Additionally, Uber paved the way for competition in an industry where taxi companies controlled the market through federally created monopolies.
As Christopher Koopman, Matthew D. Mitchell, and Adam D. Thierer, of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, argue in their paper “The Sharing Economy and Consumer Protection Regulation: The Case for Policy Change,” “[e]ven well-intentioned policies must be judged against real world evidence. … Markets, competition, reputational systems, and ongoing innovation often solve problems better than regulation when we give them a chance to.” In their paper, these economists make a clear argument that regulation is often led by lobbyist groups, like AOA and J&J, in order to create artificial monopolies.
Thankfully, states like South Carolina, New Mexico, and Nevada, have made great steps to protecting the free market in this regard. After vetoing a bill that would prohibit the use of ocular telemedicine, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said that the bill “uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry … putting us on the leading edge of protectionism, not innovation.”
Similarly, governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, explained that HB 364, a bill that would impose jail time on physicians who tried to utilize consumer-based technology, was anti-competitive, and described that “we should explore new technologies and opportunities to expand the availability of services, not prohibit them.”
Even with these successes, governments and policymakers must be adamant in the defense of these fledgling industries. The healthcare lobby will not back down on its fight in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and any other state they may get their hands on. Spending nearly $2 million dollars a year, AOA and J&J have high hopes to control the industry.
Koopman, Mitchell, and Thierer describe this spending as socially costly because it “encourages firms to expend vast amounts of resources — time, money, and effort — to influence regulators…[r]ather than keeping a focus on devising new and innovative ways to create value, entrepreneurs turn their efforts toward devising new ways to acquire these regulatory privileges.” Companies should be focusing on creating good products instead of spending millions to make crony friends.
Legislators need to take note: not only to prevent Big Eye, AOA and J&J from getting their way, but to provide a precedent and standard for future legislation. Feckless legislation prevents innovation. Fearful policymakers feed government-created monopolies. The market has an incredible ability to solve problems, reduce prices, and benefit consumers.
Telehealth is the first step toward a revolutionized future of eye care and health. Big Eye is losing its fight, and will continue to lose its fight as long our representatives stand for the free market and innovation.
We celebrate our church as a Communion that always strives to work for and live in the Truth as revealed in Scripture, that honours a tradition which has been passed down since the Apostles; and understands that God reveals himself day-by-day in our lives and the lives of those whom we serve.
More than 20 years after his death, Murray Rothbard continues to publish new books! Our guest Patrick Newman is the editor of a Rothbard manuscript dating to the 1970s entitled Roots of the Modern State, which the Mises Institute will release as a book later this year.
Rothbard's topic is the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he doesn't disappoint. Murray exposes the puritanical impulses of the Roosevelts, Tafts, and Wilsons, along with the self-interested motivations behind the then-burgeoning intellectual-business partnership. Altar and throne, the power centers of previous ages, were replaced by a technocratic elite and the veneer of democracy. Scientism replaced religion, libertarian self-reliance fell to public schooling and labor unions, and statism replaced (relative) laissez-faire.
If you want to understand the roots of modern progressivism, and how the West went wrong, you need to read this book. Professor Patrick Newman, a Mises Institute scholar and assistant professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, joins us to discuss Rothbard's unique analysis of this critical time in US history.
States have always thrived on the fear of the taxpayers, and states have always justified their existence in part on the idea that without the state, we'd all be overrun by barbarians, or murdered by our neighbors. Charles Tilly, a historian of the state, frequently noted that the modern state as we know it, was born out of war, and was created to wage war. War and the state are inseparable.
Moreover, support for the state is so central to maintaining continued funding and deference to the state's monopoly power, that Randolph Bourne famously went so far as to say that "war is the health of the state."
By extension, agents of the state — whether elected officials or bureaucrats — fancy themselves as guardians of prosperity and civilization. Without them, they apparently believe, life would be barely worth living.
Thus, one should hardly be surprised when government bureaucrats spread fear as a means of self-promotion.
Keeping this tradition alive is Department of Homeland Security John Kelly who recently claimed that people would "never leave the house" if they "knew what I know about terrorism."
This, incidentally, introduces a new variation on the time-worn they're-coming-to-get-us propaganda that the state has relied on for centuries. Nowadays, we're not even allowed to know what the threat is.
"It's a secret, so just trust us." is the refrain. "They're coming to kill us. We swear it's true."
Kelly then punctuated his comments with an advertisement for the federal government, concluding
The good news is, for us in America, we have amazing people protecting us every day, DHS, obviously, FBI, fighting the away game is DOD Department of Defense, CIA, NSA, working with these incredible allies we have in Europe and around the world.
What counts as "protecting us every day," is apparently a bit different for Kelly than for more astute observers.
James Bovard recently described how the FBI has been doing such a great job keeping us safe:
Before the 9/11 attacks, the FBI dismally failed to connect the dots on suspicious foreigners engaged in domestic aviation training. Though Congress had deluged the FBI with $1.7 billion to upgrade its computers, many FBI agents had old machines incapable of searching the Web or emailing photos. One FBI agent observed that the bureau ethos is that "real men don’t type. ... The computer revolution just passed us by."
The FBI’s pre-9/11 blunders "contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists," according to a 2002 congressional investigation. (The FBI also lost track of a key informant at the heart of the cabal that detonated a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.)
"Everyone makes mistakes!" Might be what the FBI's-backers claim. True enough. But few organizations get paid 8 billion dollars per year of the taxpayers' money to not stop terrorists.
So, it's unclear what Kelly is referring to in how we'd all be dead were it not for federal agents.
Perhaps he's referring to the CIA. The same CIA that planned the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, and then spent decades paying spies to report on how the Soviet economy is growing impressively, estimating the Soviet economy to be three times the size of what it actually was. The implication, of course, was that the USSR was a powerhouse that could defeat the US in an arms race.
One can guess what CIA agents were saying at the time: "If you knew what we know about the Soviet economy, you'd never leave the house!"
RELATED: "The CIA Has Always Been Incompetent"
Kelly also refers to the NSA. This is the same NSA that allowed Edward Snowden to walk off with countless numbers of their own top-secret documents. And its lack of control over its own information enabled this month's malware attack that infected computers in 99 countries. The attack was not stopped by the NSA, of course.
These are those "amazing people" that keep us safe, according to Kelly.
And then there's the Department of Defense. The centerpiece of a military establishment that hasn't won a major conflict since 1945. The "victory" in Iraq in 1991 wasn't even complete enough to end the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, however. Those persisted until 2003. 12 years after the first "victory" the US then attacked Iraq again, thus promoting the spread of Islamic extremism and causing a civil war that led to the near-destruction of Iraq's few remaining Christian communities.
"Before the United States invaded Iraq, Al Qa’ida was on the ropes..." the Brookings institution concluded in 2007. "The invasion of Iraq breathed new life into the organization."
Fortunately for us, the US's most implacable enemy today is ISIS, which has no air force, no navy, and is composed largely of depressed outsiders whose deadliest weapons outside of Iraq and Syria are delivery trucks.
Of course, it doesn't take an army, or an FBI, or a CIA to stop crazies from driving trucks into crowds on Bastille day, as one did in 2016. It requires that police keep unauthorized trucks off pedestrian malls during festivals.
Nor are secret police required to keep people from carrying bombs into crowded theaters. Competent security guards can do the trick. The same might be said of maniacs carrying semi-automatic rifles into night clubs.
But of course Kelly would likely claim that the government is preventing far greater attacks than these. He just can't tell us what any of them might be, or give any details at all.
Nevermind, of course, that in situations like this, the burden of proof is always on the government agency that wants more tax dollars and more power to keep doing what they're doing. The claim of necessary secrecy offers a convenient excuse from having to provide an evidence at all.
But, there's always enough violence and mayhem in the world to try to convince people that the world is falling apart. Although the chances of being murdered in an American city are at a 50-year low (unless you're in certain neighborhoods of Chicago and Baltimore) many Americans believe crime is worse than ever. Pew has noted that at the homicide rate was cut in half over the past 20 years, Americans persist in the idea that crime is getting worse.
Moreover, under the Obama administration, the feds claimed that mass-shootings were sweeping the country. In fact, the odds of dying in a mass shooting are so low that they might as well be zero.
The hysteria over shootings, however, was a convenient justification for the federal government's ongoing attempts to regulate firearms.
"If you knew what I know about gun violence" Obama might have said. "you'd never leave the house!"
Creative arithmetic is also being used to justify public fear over terrorism. Kelly's comments invoked this week's massacre in Manchester where 22 people (not including the attacker) were killed. But, if you're worrying about homicides in England, you'd might want to look to street crime instead. After all, in England and Wales, homicides increased by 121 (21 percent) from 2015 to 2016, largely fueled by stabbings and shootings of the traditional variety.
Unfortunately, many Americans have been trained to believe whatever they're told by higher authorities. The specifics vary according to one's politics. Leftists appear ready to believe whatever some federal bureaucrat says about global warming — provided it fits into the leftwing narrative.
Rightwingers are primed to believe whatever some government agents says that confirms their narrative about national security.
To illustrate the skepticism one should bring to comments such as those made by Kelly, let's use the same format, and apply it to claims that might be made from across the ideological spectrum:
"If you knew what I know about the state of our lakes and rivers, you'd never drink any water!" said the director of the EPA...
"If you knew what I know about our economy, you'd never trust private industry!" said Senator Elizabeth Warren...
"If you knew what I know about kidnappings, you'd never let your children out of your sight!" said FBI director...
"If you knew what I know about global warming, you'd never drive a car again!" said President...
And so on.
When confronted with a blanket claim that it's obvious to those "in the know" that hysterical fear is warranted, we might be inclined to demand more convincing evidence. But, if what is said just supports our existing biases, then no evidence necessary. The self-serving opinion of a government bureaucrat is all that's required.
So the eyes of the nation gave Montana congressional elections their fifteen minutes of fame yesterday. The Democrats have been yearning for a “”sea change win” in the various special elections held to fill vacancies created by Trump appointments, and once again came up short. That is one thing. The other is that in the hours before the election, there was a physical altercation of some sort between the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, and a reporter for the Guardian, Ben Jacobs.
Not so surprisingly, I have a few things to say about all this.
First, I know Greg Gianforte, and he is a conscientious, generous, well-spoken Christian gentlemen. He will serve Montana well as a representative in Congress. Knowing him, I knew that if an apology was warranted, it would be forthcoming, and if he did not believe it was warranted, an explanation would be forthcoming. As it happened, he offered the apology here.
Secondly, one news report tried to claim that there was a contradiction between the campaign’s initial blaming of the reporter for his aggressiveness and Gianforte’s apology, but of course there is no contradiction. It is certainly possible honestly to apologize for a poor response to someone else’s bad behavior.
In the third place, observers should also understand that this campaign was already into the ninth inning of a game of Dirty Ball. Late last week, a project with People for the American Way ran this hit piece on Gianforte, referencing yours truly in the first paragraph. Perhaps some of you did not now that “the American way” was quite that sleazy. White nationalists in the first sentence, and then me in the second, building to quite a a crescendo. And then, they added breathlessly, Gianforte supports a return to Latin instruction in elementary schools.
Fourth, the article that followed was bad enough as a representation of my views, but as a representation of Gianforte’s record, it was a hatchet job using the blunt side of the hatchet. I know Greg from a shared stint on the board for the Association of Classical Christian Schools, an association with hundreds of schools in it. So he is somehow expected to answer for out-of-context quotes taken from someone he sees once a year at a national board meeting? And unlike the modern college campus, remember, conservative educators are not given to ideological purges.
Fifth, I believe that Gianforte was right to apologize, but the denizens of the Washington media bubble need to understand that in certain parts of the country punching a reporter and refusing to apologize would actually be the big vote-getter. I am not urging anything here, just noticing.
Nothing said here should be taken as cheer-leading for the deterioration of civility in our society generally. This is the case whether it is conservative > liberal or black > white or fascists > made up fascists. The restraints we have put in place over the centuries are not a decorative fence—they are a levee holding back a swollen river. Now in my view you have to be willfully blind not to see that this degradation of civility is being driven largely by the collectivist Left, not to mention that such corruption is largely rationalized and defended there. Now I believe that conservatives ought to do everything in their power to preserve the bonds of civility—and for the most part, I think conservatives have done a decent job of this. Expecting Gianforte to apologize as needed is part of that expectation. But it has to be noted, and marked, and noted again, that when the Left finally succeeds in blowing up the levee, they are going to miss it a lot more than others will. They should have done more measuring, and more thinking through who lives in the flood plain.
In the sixth place, it is all very well for me to say that I was “taken out of context.” Lots of people say that, including people who were not taken out of context. So for those just joining the party, and who know nothing more about my views on the South than what they read in attack pieces sponsored by People for the Sleazy Way, here are several places you may go for further edification. If you follow this link, and read the materials under #2 and #3, your concerns should be put to rest. In that section, there is also a link to purchase my book on the subject, a book entitled Black & Tan.
And last, Greg Gianforte will be another vote in Congress for a whole series of crucial votes, coming up soon. In my view, the most important of them all is the tax reform proposal, the looming tax cuts. All the ginned up hooey inside the Beltway (investigations, scandals, pretend corruption, real corruption, and whatnot) are attempts by the deep state to distract us from the fact that they have been standing on America’s oxygen hose for years now. They want to keep their cash flow coming, and they don’t want your money back in your pocket, doing things that you want it to do.
There are other issues that are more important morally (e.g. defunding the ghouls at Planned Parenthood). But the tax cuts must come first. And why? As Napoleon put it once, an army marches on its stomach.
What is the most important thing for Congress to do?, and what is the most important thing for Congress to do next? are two different questions. Tax cuts now. Get between the hogs and the bucket.