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How our InfoSec Professionals stay one step ahead

CloudLinux - Fri, 04/01/2019 - 09:20

"'Know your enemy' is an overused cliche in the cybersecurity industry. We take a broader view: Know your world, and your place in it."

Oleg Boytsev, CloudLinux Security Researcher writes about how a recent remote code execution exploit was blocked, and gives a glimpse into the mindset and methods used in his team. You can read his blog post here.

Categories: Technology

From the Resolution Foundation - if you raise taxes then you've raised taxes

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 04/01/2019 - 07:01

We find that we’ve got to do that most unlikely thing here, agree with the Resolution Foundation. If you raise taxes then yes, you will indeed have raised taxes. Can’t really disagree with that point although whether it’s a good idea to increase taxes, whether these are the right ways to do so are more interesting questions we think. Possibly ones where the answer isn’t quite so obvious.

Hammond 'can raise £7bn a year by scrapping tax breaks'

Scrapping a break and raising taxes are the same thing.

Philip Hammond could raise an additional £7bn a year for the Treasury by scrapping tax breaks for the richest in society and tightening up existing wealth taxes, research from one of Britain’s leading thinktanks shows.

In a report prepared ahead of the chancellor’s government spending review, which is due later this year, the Resolution Foundation said that the additional funds could be raised to help finance the higher spending on public services needed to meet the demand of Britain’s ageing population.

Except, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. What they’re suggesting is that wealth taxes should pay for those desired services. Instead of ludicrous rates of income tax that is. And yet we do know something about taxes - all have deadweight costs. That is, the ill effects upon the economy from the simple existence of the tax. And wealth taxes have greater such effects than income.

What this tells us is that if spending would need to be financed by unsupportable levels of income tax then the financing of that spending is even more ludicrously damaging if done through wealth taxation.

The Resolution Foundation warned that, should the government opt to fund the increase through income taxes, the basic rate of income tax would need to rise from 20p in the £1 to 39p.

The very insistence that 39% is an insane starting rate is the proof we need that wealth taxation ain’t the way to do it either.

All of which underlines a point we’ve been making for decades now. We can’t afford the welfare state we’ve already promised ourselves. That’s exactly why they’re all shouting that taxes must rise to fund what we’ve already promised ourselves.

Categories: Current Affairs

The Morality of Fiat Money

Mises Institute - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 21:55

[Excerpted from chapter 13 of Guido Hülsmann's The Ethics of Money Production (2008).]

8. Some Spiritual Casualties of Fiat Inflation

Fiat inflation constantly reduces the purchasing power of money. To some extent, it is possible for people to protect their savings against this trend, but this requires thorough financial knowledge, the time to constantly supervise one’s investments, and a good dose of luck. People who lack one of these ingredients are likely to lose a substantial part of their assets. The savings of a lifetime often vanish into thin air during the last few years spent in retirement. The consequence is despair and the eradication of moral and social standards. But it would be wrong to infer that inflation produces this effect mainly among the elderly. As one writer observed:

These effects are “especially strong among the youth. They learn to live in the present and scorn those who try to teach them 'old-fashioned' morality and thrift” [emphasis added]. Inflation thereby encourages a mentality of immediate gratification that is plainly at variance with the discipline and eternal perspective required to exercise principles of biblical stewardship — such as long-term investment for the benefit of future generations.8

Even those citizens who are blessed with the knowledge, time, and luck to protect the substance of their savings cannot evade inflation’s harmful impact, because they have to adopt habits that are at odds with moral and spiritual health. Inflation forces them to spend much more time thinking about their money than they otherwise would. We have noticed already that the old way for ordinary citizens to make savings was the accumulation of cash. Under fiat inflation this strategy is suicidal. They must invest in assets the value of which grows during the inflation; the most practical way to do this is to buy stocks and bonds. But this entails many hours spent on comparing and selecting appropriate issues. And it compels them to be ever watchful and concerned about their money for the rest of their lives. They need to follow the financial news and monitor the price quotations on the financial markets.

Similarly, people will tend to prolong the phase of their life in which they strive to earn money. And they will place relatively greater emphasis on monetary returns than on any other criterion for choosing their profession. For example, some of those who would rather be inclined to gardening will nevertheless seek an industrial employment if the latter offers greater long-run monetary returns. And more people will accept employment far from home, if it allows them to earn a little additional money, than under a natural monetary system.

The spiritual dimension of these inflation-induced habits seems obvious. Money and financial questions come to play an exaggerated role in the life of man. Inflation makes society materialistic. More and more people strive for money income at the expense of other things important for personal happiness. Inflation-induced geographical mobility artificially weakens family bonds and patriotic loyalty. Many of those who tend to be greedy, envious, and niggardly anyway fall prey to sin. Even those who are not so inclined by their natures will be exposed to temptations they would not otherwise have felt. And because the vagaries of the financial markets also provide a ready excuse for an excessively parsimonious use of one’s money, donations for charitable institutions decline.

Then there is the fact that perennial inflation tends to deteriorate product quality. Every seller knows that it is difficult to sell the same physical product at higher prices than in previous years. But increasing money prices are unavoidable when the money supply is subject to relentless growth. So what do sellers do? In many cases the rescue comes through technological innovation, which allows a cheaper production of the product, thus neutralizing or even overcompensating the countervailing influence of inflation. This is for example the case with personal computers and other products made with large inputs of information technology. But in other industries, technological progress plays a much smaller role. Here the sellers confront the above-mentioned problem. They then fabricate an inferior product and sell it under the same name, along with the euphemisms that have become customary in commercial marketing. For example, they might offer their customers “light” coffee and “non-spicy” vegetables — which translates into thin coffee and vegetables that have lost any trace of flavor. Similar product deterioration can be observed in the construction business. Countries plagued by perennial inflation seem to have a greater share of houses and streets that are in constant need of repair than other countries.

In such an environment, people develop a more than sloppy attitude toward their language. If everything is whatever it is called, then it is difficult to explain the difference between truth and lie. Inflation tempts people to lie about their products, and perennial inflation encourages the habit of routine lying. We have already pointed out that routine lying plays a great role in fractional-reserve banking, the basic institution of the fiat money system. Fiat inflation seems to spread this habit like a cancer over the rest of the economy.9

9. Suffocating the Flame

In most countries, the growth of the welfare state has been financed through the accumulation of public debt on a scale that would have been unthinkable without fiat inflation. A cursory glance at the historical record shows that the exponential growth of the welfare state, which in Europe started in the early 1970s, went hand in hand with the explosion of public debt. It is widely known that this development has been a major factor in the decline of the family. But it is commonly overlooked that the ultimate cause of this decline is fiat inflation. Perennial inflation slowly but assuredly destroys the family, thus suffocating the earthly flame of morals. Indeed, the family is the most important “producer” of a certain type of morals.

Family life is possible only if all members endorse norms such as the legitimacy of authority, and the prohibition of incest. And Christian families are based on additional precepts such as the heterosexual union between man and woman, love of the spouses for one another and for their offspring, the respect of children for their parents, as well as belief in the reality of the Triune God and of the truth of the Christian faith, etc. Parents constantly repeat, emphasize, and live these norms and precepts. Thus all family members come to accept them as the normal state of affairs. In the wider social sphere, then, these persons act as advocates of the same norms in business associations, clubs, and politics.

Friends and foes of the traditional family agree on these facts. It is among other things because they recognize the family’s effectiveness in establishing social norms that Christians seek to protect it. And it is precisely for the same reason that advocates of moral license seek to undermine it. The welfare state has been their preferred tool in the past thirty years. Today, the welfare state provides a great number of services that in former times have been provided by families (and which would, we may assume, still be provided to a large extent by families if the welfare state ceased to exist). Education of the young, care for the elderly and the sick, assistance in times of emergencies — all of these services are today effectively “outsourced” to the state. The families have been degraded into small production units that share utility bills, cars, refrigerators, and of course the tax bill. The tax-financed welfare state then provides them with education and care.10

From an economic point of view, this arrangement is a pure waste of money. The fact is that the welfare state is inefficient; it provides comparatively lousy services at comparatively high costs. We need not dwell on the inability of government welfare agencies to provide the emotional and spiritual assistance that only springs from charity. Compassion cannot be bought. But the welfare state is also inefficient in purely economic terms. It operates through large bureaucracies and is therefore liable to lack incentives and economic criteria that would prevent wasting money. In the words of Pope John Paul II:

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need.11

Everyone knows this from first-hand experience, and a great number of scientific studies drive home the same point. It is precisely because the welfare state is an inefficient economic arrangement that it must rely on taxes. If it had to compete with families on equal terms, it could not stay in business for any length of time. It has driven the family and private charities out of the “welfare market” because people are forced to pay for it anyway. They are forced to pay taxes, and they cannot prevent the government from floating ever-new loans, which absorb the capital that otherwise would be used for the production of different goods and services.

The excessive welfare state of our day is an all-out direct attack on the producers of morals. But it weakens these morals also in indirect ways, most notably by subsidizing bad moral examples. The fact is that libertine “lifestyles” carry great economic risks. The welfare state socializes the costs of morally reckless behavior and therefore gives it far greater prominence than it would have in a free society. Rather than carrying an economic penalty, licentiousness might then actually go hand in hand with economic advantages, because it frees the protagonists from the costs of family life (for example, the costs associated with raising children). With the backing of the welfare state, these protagonists may mock conservative morals as some sort of superstition that has no real-life impact. The welfare state systematically exposes people to the temptation of believing that there are no time-tested moral precepts at all.

Let us emphasize that the point of the preceding observations was not to attack welfare services, which are in fact an essential component of society. Neither is it here our intention to attack the notion that welfare services should be provided through government. The point is, rather, that fiat inflation destroys the democratic control over the provision of these services; that this invariably leads to excessive growth of the aggregate welfare system and to excessive forms of welfare; and that this in turn is not without consequences for the moral and spiritual character of the population.

The considerations presented in this chapter are by no means an exhaustive account of the cultural and spiritual legacy of fiat inflation. But they should suffice to substantiate the main point: that fiat inflation is a juggernaut of social, economic, cultural, and spiritual destruction.12 Let us now turn to complement our analysis with a look at the historical evolution of monetary systems.

  • 8. Thomas Woods, “Money and Morality: The Christian Moral Tradition and the Best Monetary Regime,” Religion & Liberty 13, no. 5 (September/October 2003). The author quotes Ludwig von Mises. See also William Gouge, A Short History of Paper Money and Banking in the United States, to which is prefixed an Inquiry into the Principles of the System (Reprint, New York: Augustus M. Kelley, [1833] 1968), pp. 94–101.
  • 9. The relationship between fiat inflation on the one hand, and misperceptions and misrepresentations of reality on the other hand has been brilliantly discussed in Paul Cantor's case study on “Hyperinflation and Hyperreality: Thomas Mann in Light of Austrian Economics,” Review of Austrian Economics 7, no. 1 (1994).
  • 10. In many countries it is today possible for families to deduct expenses for private care and private education from the annual tax bill. But iron-ically (or maybe not quite so ironically) this trend has reinforced the ero-sion of the family. For example, recent provisions of the U.S. tax code allow family budgets to increase through such deductions — but only if the deductible services are not provided by family members, but bought from other people.
  • 11. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, §48.
  • 12. Our study seems to suggest that there is definitely something diabol-ical in fiat inflation. But we feel incompetent to deal with this question and leave its analysis for another time, or for other scholars. It is cer-tainly significant that a great poet such as Goethe would portray paper money as a creation of the devil. See Faust, part II, Lustgartenszene.
Categories: Current Affairs

Government Shutdown Shows Why We Need to Decentralize National Parks

Mises Institute - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 18:45

The federal government is in the midst of a partial "shutdown." Don't worry, there's still plenty of money flowing to a great many government departments. And even those workers who experience deferred salaries during the shutdown will almost certainly get their back pay paid in full.

But as always occurs during these so-called shutdowns, many of the most popular amenities offered by the federal government are being shut down. This includes the national parks such as Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National park.

Back during the 2013 shutdown, under the Obama administration, the federal government took an especially punitive position. The administration sent armed government agents to shut the parks. It sent in extra staff to erect barriers around some monuments — monuments funded by private trusts — such as the World War II memorial in Washington DC.

This time, the feds are being a little bit more laissez faire about it.

Rather than sending armed guards barking threats and orders at visiting taxpayers, the administration is simply closing down services. Most of these "services" of course, won't be missed by most people. But when the government closes off all the bathrooms and outhouses, things can start to get messy.

And this, apparently is what's happening at parks such as Joshua Tree National park, where the land along the roads is in danger of becoming one big outdoor latrine.

Some volunteers have attempted to address the issues :

"Once those port-a-potties fill up there's no amount of cleaning that will save them," said Sabra Purdy, who along with her husband, Seth, owns the rock-climbing guide service Cliffhanger Guides in the town of Joshua Tree.

The 40-year-old Purdy is among dozens of volunteers who have been collecting garbage, cleaning bathrooms and generally keep an eye on the park. Local business owners and park supporters are donating toiletries and cleaning supplies.

"People are doing it because we love this place and we know how trashed it'll get if we don't," she said.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Contrary to the myth that public lands would immediately be sold to rapacious developers and oil drillers were the lands to fall into the hands of state or local governments, the reality is that public lands such as those in national parks are usually viewed very favorably by surrounding communities and by the voters in the states in which they are located.

As tourist attractions, and as giant recreational areas for locals, public lands are quite valuable as indirect sources of revenue for both private- and government-sector institutions in the area.

The federal government, on the other hand, has no skin in the game when it comes to shutting down monuments and national parks thousands of miles from Capitol Hill. For the feds, it's all a political game in Washington DC. What happens in the communities bordering federal lands — many of them rural — is but a mere afterthought to people like Nancy Pelosi. But at the local level, access to local tourist attractions could mean a restaurant's ability to pay its staff with income from tourists.

In some cases, local have even attempted to work around federal shutdowns by paying for the parks themselves. In 2013, for example, the State of Colorado paid the Department of the Interior more than 360,000 dollars to open up Rocky Mountain National Park during that shutdown. This was only possible after an arduous process of negotiations with federal bureaucrats, who could have easily vetoed the whole deal.

The whole thing illustrates the danger of allowing the federal government to exercise control over vast swaths of the American landscape, while minimizing the influence of those who are impacted most by federal decisions. Besides, there's certainly no justification for having an entire national system of parks dependent on Washington DC. The very idea that access to an outhouse in rural California should depend on a backroom deal in Washington DC should strike every reasonable person as utterly absurd.

Maybe, just maybe, the use of a pit toilet in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona ought to be a decision of the people who live within 500 miles of it.

But how to pay for it?

Well, there's an easy way to deal with that too. If a "shutdown" is going to cut off the usual subsidies for a national park, then let the park collect a fee that covers the full cost of operation. After all, national parks already charge far too little for entry because they are subsidized by federal tax revenue. This means even people who have never set foot in a park pay so that the park's visitors can use the park's amenities at subsidized prices.

This also means that when things don't go as planned — i.e., when DC politicians don't rubber stamp all the usual paperwork in time — then everything closes down. sometimes private businesses within the parks are forced to shut down too.

Were the parks allowed to operate without subsidies, of course, we all know what would happen. Countless articles would be published at The Atlantic and Salon about how the national parks are now just for "the one percenters." When a fee increase was proposed in 2017, we were told an increase would "threaten access to nature." But at the same time, we're told to rend our garments over the fact that infrastructure in the parks is underfunded. In the end, it turns out, we're told that yet another tax increase and more government spending will fix everything. But don't you dare think about charging the actual users a fee that covers costs!

At the moment, though, all of this is moot since the feds can't get their act together enough to even empty a few dumpsters. Remember this the next time we're told that state or local governments — or even private conservation trusts — could never, ever be trusted with the delicate business of managing some rural lands.

Categories: Current Affairs

The Idolatry of Consent

Blog & Mablog - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 17:26
Introduction:

Conservative believers have been outmaneuvered in the culture wars so many times that you would think we would be able to anticipate by now when it is about to happen again. As I have said many times, this culture war is actually a lexical war, a battle over control of the dictionary. And so it is that when we hear of some new weird emphasis, we should not regard it as a simple descent into more silliness, but rather as an opening gambit in a play to make us descend into the silliness right along with them.

And this is why we should be very wary of the new emphasis on consent as the foundational sexual value. Excuse me. In order to speak the language of our adversaries, I think I must have meant core values. Core values is the preferred expression of those who don’t have any values.

An Orwellian Wet Dream:

As with other lexical distortions, we need to begin with the cheerful acknowledgement that consent in sexual affairs really is a good thing. Rape is an evil thing, and to rob someone of consent is a species of rape. So when I write against the idolatry of consent, as I am about to do, we need to make it clear at the outset that this is not the work of a rape apologist. I make this qualification because the rape apologists will most certainly accuse me of doing exactly that.

In Narnia, as Hwin told Aravis, “no maiden is forced to marry against her will.”

So what do I mean by an “idolatry” of consent? Idolatry occurs whenever we seek to have a finite thing occupy a space that should be reserved for the infinite God. And that is precisely what we are doing with consent.

For one prime example, I would point to the “yes means yes” regulations for campuses in California. These regulations require an enthusiastic yes from both parties before engaging in sex, and because the enthusiasm can be withdrawn at any time, and consent needs to be obtained at every stage of the proceedings, this makes every sexual encounter, at a minimum, a ménage à trois—the guy, the girl, and the notary public. I said “guy and girl” although we all know, in these endarkened times, that the girl is optional, as is the guy. We could have two guys or two girls. The notary public is not optional. But however we configure things, it is impossible to read the advocates of this kind of thing without seeing immediately that consent is so important to them.

Is it really? No, not really. They are magnifying consent because they are in the process of taking it away. Consent, as they are using it, means bondage. Bunyan knew how all this worked.

“Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his House, he would sell me for a Slave.”

Orwell knew how this worked also. Bunyan knew that language could be used in a lying fashion; he knew that liars could take ordinary words and propagate falsehoods with them. We really have known that since the Garden. But Orwell knew that lies, like termites, could burrow down into the language itself. If I tell someone that the check is in the mail when I know good and well that it is not in the mail, I am telling a lie. But it is an old school lie—one thing distorted in an otherwise normal world. But what if we started to redefine everything—check, mail, postal service, money, the lot?

Here are some words from Newspeak that Orwell gave us. Bellyfeel is a blind and enthusiastic embrace of a concept. Blackwhite is the capacity to believe down in your bones that black is white and that no one has ever believed anything different. Doubleplusungood represents something that is terrible. Goodsex is for the purpose of begetting children only, and is purely functional, excluding pleasure. Joycamp is the forced labor resort where you and I will be sent in order to learn all these new words. Pornosec is the unit in the Ministry of Truth that generates pornography. Prolefeed is mindless entertaining treacle generated to occupy the hoi polloi—what Huxley called the “feelies.” Sexcrime is any sexual activity that is not goodsex, see above.

And how is it that we do not recognize that these people will be able to make short work of consent?

So now we come back to California’s Ministry of Truth to find out just how important consent is to them. The fact that they are jiving just about everybody in this can be seen in the fact that they extended the “yes means yes” requirement to high school campuses—enthusiastic affirmation of a desire to have sex is now required at all high schools. This, even though the legal age of consent in California is 18, a fact that would include the vast majority of high school students. But do you see what has happened? Consent trumps the law.

So this new approach to enthusiastic consent trumps the previous legal definition of consent. Subjective, emotional and horny consent from a couple of fifteen-year-olds outranks judicious, thought-through, and well-defined consent, developed over centuries of jurisprudence. And anybody who says, “Hey, that’s doesn’t make sense” is probably a pharisaical Puritan anyway.  

Drag Kids

So that we might further consider our same planet/different worlds situation, I would invite you to peruse the article at the link. Get a load of the picture at the top. I would also like to ask you to ponder why it is that none of the adults involved in this are in jail.

Because the sexual revolution is driven by lust, this means there is no consistent stopping place. Whatever else we might say about the souped-up lustmobile we have all been driving, we should all be able to agree that the brakes are out.

Wisdom tells us that all who hate her love death (Prov. 8:36). And just as death and hell are never satisfied, so our lusts are never satisfied either.

“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Prov. 27:20, ESV).

Nevertheless, all of it is known to God. Nothing about our spiral downwards into madness and destruction is surprising to Him.

“Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (Prov. 15:11, ESV).

As the Daily Wire story makes plain, our culture currently has nothing in place to stop the great pedo-push when it comes. A few huffy customers? A bad yelp review? Fawning media can cover for all of that. And why will they be able to cover for it?

Because that willful 8-year-old boy, or 11-year-old boy, or whoever the victim is, has obviously given his consent. Consent! All rise.

In the older Christian order, consent was a creaturely good, and as a creaturely good, it was not an absolute. Consent was protected by the standard of God’s word, which is a very different thing than making it the standard itself. It was a creaturely good, and not an idol. Wise biblical thinking understands that consent is a limited, bounded, and finite thing. As such it can be impaired by alcohol or drugs. As such it can be something that has not yet grown to maturity. As such a number of the established boundaries for it needed to be societal and cultural. But when the culture has lost its mind . . .

In the world God made, a ten-year-old boy can consent to take over a friend’s paper route. He can consent to accompany his mother to the mall to buy new shoes. He cannot consent to hormone therapy. He cannot consent to a sexual relationship. He cannot consent gender reassignment. He cannot consent to participate in a drag show. He cannot.

Consent is a creaturely good which must be preserved and protected. But we have moved into an era—we are already well into it—where consent is automatically deemed to be the protection itself. And this is nothing but the yawning mouth of Hell.

But can a ten-year-old boy be willful? Could he insist that we take his consent seriously? Could he demand it? Absolutely, and if we are thinking rightly, we will ignore him. This is because we are living in God’s world, and not in his. We are living in God’s world, and not in the world of those who are committed to the grooming of young boys—or their media enablers.

We are living in a world governed by God, and not one governed by our lusts. However much lust wants to run the show . . . we do not give our consent.

The post The Idolatry of Consent appeared first on Blog & Mablog.

Categories: People I don't know

The Content Cluster Muster (1.03.19)

Blog & Mablog - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 17:00
Headlights and Stars

And naturally, more here.


A Song About How Sin is Bad Because I Thought You Should Know ‘Merica + Guns

The most profound 36 seconds of your day. You will not regret watching this. 2nd Amendment+USA

Categories: People I don't know

Happy 127th birthday JRR Tolkien! What can we learn from 'Lord of the Rings'?

God Gold and Generals - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 16:58

This is part 2 - my friend Tim Stackhouse wrote part 1 which you can read here and is about the usefulness of fantasy literature in general. https://jsjmarshall.blogspot.com/2018/09/guest-post-by-tim-stackhouse-is-fantasy.html

This one's by me. 

Tolkien was a convinced Christian and Catholic who heartily detested allegory - which ironically was the main fictional device deployed by his great friend CS Lewis. So unlike Lewis’s Narnia series  where you can easily point to Aslan being Christ and so on Tolkien deliberately does not employ any allegory or even parallels. This Is also a function of Tolkien (except in “The Hobbit”) writing for adults, while Lewis wrote the Narnia series for children. Lewis and Rowling write of the real world with magical overlays: Tolkien has a completely  imaginary world. 

This means that there is no direct connection between the characters in 'The Lord of the Rings' (LOTR) and the Christian faith. And in a way that’s good. I can see various of my readers eyebrows raised at this point. 
Perhaps it’s best to leave the explanation of what I mean to the man himself. “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed, only by myth-making, only by becoming a 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic "progress" leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”

In other words the LOTR is a story. A myth which contains signposts to truth but without bashing us over the head with it (as Lewis occasionally does). For the sceptic they may see truth in unlikely places which may point them to the ultimate truth. You can perfectly well read the LOTR as an atheist and enjoy it as a story.  But beware if you do for Tolkien is trying to instil some deep Christian beliefs. For it is a deeply Christian book grounded in Christian truth and if you follow it and imbibe it it may lead you to God (with apologies to my many atheistic friends who love it too!)

What truths does Tolkien seek to instil?

Most profound is his insight which he shared with Lewis about the nature of evil. This was garnered especially from their time serving in the trenches in WW1. His biographer Bradley Birzer notes “Though he spent less than a year in the war, if affected him deeply. Tolkien had lost several of his closest friends, and their loss, he believed, gave him an even greater duty to carry on their jointly conceived project, which was to do God’s will in the world.”This influence of the war threads throughout the book: for example in the “Dead marches” where swamps full of rotting dead bodies reflect the Somme and Passchendaele. However, Tolkien differed from Lewis in one respect: he disliked Lewis great book “The Screwtape Letters” as he thought it best not to delve too deeply into the devils tactics. 
What Tolkien shows is that nobody (even Sauron the “Satan” of LOTR) was evil in the beginning. God made everything good but evil (for reasons neither the bible or Tolkien explain) entered the world. Evil is derivative - it can’t make anything new so it twists and distorts all that is good. It seeks to take things that are God given and good in their right place like sex, power and intellect and destroy and corrupt them. The orcs are Sauron's attempt to imitate and thereby thwart the creative acts of God in making humans. We also see that in the destructive power of evil on the natural environment- especially the wanton felling of trees which is a recurrent motif of evil - the 'massacre' of the trees at Orthanc and its environs and the destruction of the Shire.

Evil is also pervasive - because it’s in each of us. The real enemy is within not without. The struggle between the good we want to do and the evil that overpowers us is most famously drawn in Gollum. LOTR does not portray “baddies and goodies” (although some of the latter are a little too good to be true in places!) but “human” nature as it is in a fallen world. 
The  ring is so dangerous because it draws out the inherent craving for power which lies within each of the people who wield it. Even ultimately Frodo is unable to resist it and has to be “helped” by Gollum. The ring is particularly dangerous because it appeals to those who think they can use evil for good purposes. Those who think the ends justify the means. 

On the other hand, Tolkien clearly teaches that there is a deep purpose for good at work in the world. Here is a famous passage between Frodo and Gandalf discussing Gollum - which of course is fulfilled when Frodo decides he will not destroy the ring. 

“What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!’‘Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.’‘I am sorry,’ said Frodo. ‘But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum.’‘You have not seen him,’ Gandalf broke in.‘No, and I don’t want to,’ said Frodo. I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many - yours not least.”My friend Tim notes "Tolkien's portrayal of providence or the "bigger picture" is credible because it has some level of nuance to it (and therefore resonates with people of all faiths and none). An example might be Boromir's fate. Here is one of the "goodies" who succumbs to evil and subsequently perishes (though not without a redemptive last stand). The fact that not all of the "goodies" survive to see the end of the tale adds a certain level of richness and complexity to the theme of providence. Without this, the tale might be robbed of some of its drama, if it's simply a foregone conclusion that good will triumph over evil without a struggle and without casualties. A parallel of providence being complex in Harry Potter are the deaths of Sirius Black, Fred Weasley and Lupin." 

Closely linked to the part of “fate” is that this providence or purpose (which Christians would call God and Calvinists would call divine sovereignty) works through the weak and insignificant things, not the powerful. The hobbits are us - they are small, insignificant, ignored: in fact they are basically foolish and even laughable. Yet they are the chosen instrument of “providence” to defeat evil. 1 Corinthians 1:27! The child like hobbits do something which the powerful such as Gandalf, Aragorn and Elrond cannot do. Not only does this reflect on the mysterious nature of Providence it also invites the reader, I suggest, to make similar choices to the hobbits. In the safety of the shire there appears to be a “broad way” of comfort and avoidance of difficult decisions or a “narrow way” which is passing perilous. Each of us must choose and each of our choices have moral consequences. Each of us finds ourselves in a strange and at times frightening place where we must confront the evil without and the evil within. We feel inadequate and that we can’t do what we should. Gollum like we want to do good but we can’t. Yet equally there is something much bigger and yes redemptive going on, in which we are summoned to play a small role. As Gandalf, at the end of The Hobbit, says to Bilbo, "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?I think ultimately this sense of something “bigger”’at work is the most profoundly Christian element in Tolkien. For we are all basically selfish. We think of ourselves and our own small interests and trivial preoccupations. The bible says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. It is this sense of something “other”, a bigger,  divine redemptive plan and a struggle against evil in which we are asked to serve, which calls to us, as to the hobbits. For the Christian I suggest this is to “take up our cross and follow me” daily. I leave the last word to Tolkien himself “the Gospels contain... a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. … But this story has (actually) entered history and ....has the inner consistency of reality. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true ...this story is supreme; and it is true. The (gospel) has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them. The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope and die, but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed.”

In summary, that Tolkien wrote LOTR in a way that shows his characters are all part of a bigger, more important story (even if like us they are small and insignificant). That's why it  triggers something important with within us. This story and stories like it remind us of something that is going on in this real world. The Christian faith shows us that we are too also part of this kind of story. There is something bigger going on that is about the fate of each of us the whole world. Each of us must write our part in that story.  
Categories: Friends

Christians arrested during Christmas worship in Laos

Anglican Ink - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 15:38

(Agenzia Fides) – Seven Christians were taken to prison for religious reasons. As reported by Agenzia Fides, on December 29, 2018, a group of nine police officers, led by the police chief of the district of Phin, stormed a Christmas church service in Nakanong Village in Savannakhet and arrested 3 leaders of the local evangelical Christian community: Akeo, Kert, and Somwang. The arrested were charged with illegal gathering for Christmas church service without permission.

As reported to Fides by the NGO “Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom” (HRWLRF), the three church leaders are detained in the Phin district police headquarters. Soon after, the police returned to the Nakanong church and detained four more Christian men (Boulai, Champee, Agàe and Ayoung). Security forces also demolished the stage, cut off the power line, destroyed the sound system, and seized three mobile phones.

The NGO HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009. The NGO also urges the Lao government to “release immediately and unconditionally the seven Lao Christians and pay for the damages to the physical properties of the church”. 

The post Christians arrested during Christmas worship in Laos appeared first on New Anglican Ink.

Are Gun Rights the Next Target of Corporate Censorship?

Mises Institute - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 15:35

Ever since Dick’s Sporting Goods and banks such as Citigroup made business decisions in line with the mainstream media’s push for gun control, some opponents of gun control have debated whether private companies pose a bigger threat to gun rights than government does. In the case of Dick’s Sporting Goods, the outdoor company decided to stop selling rifles like the AR-15 and banned the sale of firearms to individuals younger than 21. In response to the Parkland shooting in Florida, banks like Citigroup also crafted their own anti-gun policies as reported in The New York Times:

Citigroup is setting restrictions on the sale of firearms by its business customers, making it the first Wall Street bank to take a stance in the divisive nationwide gun control debate.

The new policy, announced Thursday, prohibits the sale of firearms to customers who have not passed a background check or who are younger than 21. It also bars the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

It’s not just gun owners who are experiencing limited shopping choices. Gun rights lobbies like the National Rifle Association have faced opposition from corporate America. Rental car companies like Avis and software companies like Symantec have severed their affiliate programs with the NRA in the wake of the Parkland shooting hysteria.

It appears the next fad in virtue signaling in the corporate world may be gun control gun.

Why More Laws are Not the Answer

US Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana recently filed the No Red and Blue Banks Act that would “prohibit the federal government from giving contracts to banks that discriminate against lawful businesses based solely on social policy considerations.” Kennedy does raise a valid point about how the government should put the brakes on business subsidization.

Unfortunately, Kennedy falls for the modern-day conservative trap of attacking government contracts because they benefit corporations who espouse leftist causes, rather than categorically opposing all forms of government intervention. For starters, all state contracts and privileges to businesses should be cut off, regardless of their stated goal or purpose. However, many well-intentioned conservatives are stuck on myopic thinking and fail to notice the implicit state coercion in the background. For them, ironically, more government is the answer.

Thinking Beyond Stage 1

Most people see the capitalistic façade of the US economy, but they don’t recognize the implicit threats of state force. Corporations these days are trying to beat the government to the punch when it comes to disassociating with politically maligned groups like gun owners.

If corporations continue to lag, they’ll receive veiled threats from the government to either ban these businesses or else have laws slapped on them. This was on display with the latest social de-platforming scandal.

Justin Raimondo detailed Senator Chris Murphy’s threats to social media companies during the de-platforming:

All this wasn’t good enough for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who demanded to know if the plan was to only take down “one website.” No doubt he has a whole list of sites he’d like to take down. Even more ominously, it was revealed that a direct threat had been made to these companies by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who sent out a memo listing all the ways the government could crack down on Big Data if they refuse to go along with cleansing the internet of “divisive” material.

In many regards, politically-connected corporation’s decisions to discontinue business with certain political organizations provide cover for control-freak politicians. Instead of having to pass laws themselves, of which they can be held accountable for during election time, politicians can just pressure and even extort a corporation into carrying out their agenda. No controversial laws or regulations necessary — at least for the time being.

It Goes Back to Culture

It would be naïve to believe that these forms of dissociation and censorship are going to be confined to the private sector. At the end of the day, politics is downstream from culture.

What we’re seeing now is a manifestation of this degenerative process — in real time.

No matter what the naysayers claim, political correctness and state-linguistic complex are tools of the political establishment in its campaign to legitimize political universalism. Once businesses embrace state-linguistic complex hook, line and sinker, this same behavior will then permeate to other parts of society. The political realm will eventually be one of the last sectors to embrace these trends. This has become apparent with the incoming Congress, which is already proposing a slew of gun control bills ranging from universal gun registration to red flag gun confiscation schemes.

America Needs De-Politicization

Yes, business decisions to disassociate with gun groups are not qualitatively the same as state-based gun control. In fact, state-imposed gun control is heavy-handed and much harder to repeal due to institutional inertia in government. Think about it: when was the last time we saw any meaningful legislation repealed at the federal level?

In the long-term, gun organizations can at least turn to other banks and service providers for their daily operations. In some cases, certain entities will emerge to serve the needs of niche organizations that find themselves ostracized by legacy institutions. The controversial social media outlet Gab comes to mind.

Other alternatives such as seeking legal remedies through the courts could be valid options for those affected by controversial business decisions. Plaintiffs could cite breach of contract actions such as violations of terms of service or defamation of character should they decide to take these companies to court. One thing is certain: adding more bureaucracy is not the answer in fighting corporate America’s political correctness agenda.

America desperately needs a political detox, and decentralization might just provide the cure.

Categories: Current Affairs

Therese May’s anti-Christian regime

Anglican Ink - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 15:04

You don’t need to be a fan of the vintage British political sitcom Yes Minister to understand how government reviews are instruments of inertia, damage control, public relations, virtue signaling, obfuscation and a surrogate for action. As the smooth-tongued civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister puts it: “The job of a professionally conducted internal inquiry is to unearth a great mass of no evidence.”

On Boxing Day, Britain’s Conservative in Name Only (CINO) government in cozy chumminess with the Church of England gave the nation a gift. The day was most certainly chosen for its significance: in British tradition postmen, errand boys, servants and the hoi polloi expect to receive a gift box from the high and mighty.

So as his Boxing Day 2018 gift, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP announced a review into the global persecution of Christians, which would be led by Philip Mounstephen, Anglican Bishop of Truro. The heralding of this great news of glad tidings was peppered with the standard British bureaucratic blather.

The Foreign Office said its independent review would consider “tough questions and offer ambitious policy recommendations.” It would provide “an objective view of Britain’s support for the most vulnerable Christians globally,” trumpeted Lord Tariq Ahmad, Britain’s special envoy on freedom of religion.

It looked like a docile beach donkey from C. S. Lewis’ Narnia had morphed into Rudyard Kipling’s Lion King. The media munchkins gobbled it down for brunch.

Britain has done little to help persecuted Christians since the 17th century, when it gave refuge to French Huguenots fleeing the terror unleashed by the Edict of Fontainebleau. The British saw this as a juicy opportunity to cock a snook at King Louis XIV, their frog-eating foe.

The present CINO regime under PM Theresa May has not only refused to rescue Christians, but has actively stepped up its Leftwing, anti-Christian foghorning.

In the first quarter of 2018, Britain refused to give asylum to a single Syrian Christian, but let in 1,112 Syrian Muslims. More shamefully, the Home Office refused to release this data until Barnabas Fund took the extreme step of obtaining an order from the Information Commissioner threatening the Home Office with contempt of court proceedings. Even then, the figures were only released kicking and screaming just before the deadline, when the charity demanded that the immigration minister personally order their disclosure.

Just before Christmas, Frontpage Mag reported how Prime Minister Theresa May and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby had washed their hands of persecuted Christian mother Asia Bibi, who has spent eight years on Pakistan’s death row on trumped-up charges of blasphemy.

“Were you disappointed and saddened that Britain didn’t offer her asylum?” BBC pundit Andrew Marr asked Welby. “A lot goes on behind the scenes that we don’t know about,” spluttered Welby. “I know there is great deal of work being done and we need to stop talking about her and listen to her—what does she want, where does she want to go; I hope that our government and other governments will make it possible either for her to come here if that’s what she wants (Welby’s emphasis) . . . or for her to go somewhere else if that’s what she prefers,” said the weasel-worded Welby, worming his way out of the accusation of doing nothing.

Is la-di-dah Leftist Welby so ginormously delusional that he believes a woman being hunted by Muslim mobs and refused asylum by a lineup of Western countries has a choice? This isn’t the FBI asking Don Corleone to choose between Lichtenstein and Luxembourg in their Witness Protection Program if he testifies against the Mafia!

In a Kafkaesque twist, radical cleric Hassan Haseeb, who led the pro-blasphemy law demonstrations in Pakistan and called for the execution of Asia Bibi, was a key speaker at an anti-terrorism conference in Manchester, in July 2018, even though the government was warned about him in 2016.

Britain’s lower rung of deplorables and the alt-media had heard enough of this sophistry and by Christmas were giving our snootocracy two kicks up the kidney for its reprehensible treatment of Asia Bibi. Announcing an independent review is one way to stop your privileged upper-class ass from getting whupped.

“Fie such cynicism!” I hear my reader say. Surely the government has the best intentions of Christians at heart? “God save us from people who mean well,” retorts Vikram Seth in A Suitable Boy. Especially when their actions don’t follow their intentions and independent reviews.

Remember how the Church of England rebuffed the review into the George Bell scandal? Bishop Bell, who stood against Hitler and supported Bonhoeffer, was exonerated by an independent review of molesting a child. Instead of apologizing for slandering the bishop’s impeccable reputation, Welby gave a bum salute to the Lord Carlile review and refused to rescind his statement that Bishop Bell still had a “significant cloud” over his name.

In the Yes Minister episode “The Hospital without Patients,” Minister Jim Hacker asks Sir Humphrey if he can “get an independent inquiry to find no evidence.” “Minister, in an independent inquiry everything depends on who the chairman is. He absolutely has to be sound,” quips Humphrey. In civil service lingo, someone who is “sound” is a safe pair of hands who will not rock the canoe.

That’s another reason to be cynical about the review. The effete duo heading it has “Church-State Damage Control SWAT team” stamped on their foreheads. Worse, the Foreign Secretary is as effective as an umbrella in a gale. “He has quite the history of gaffes, quirks and snafus,” notes the Guardian.

Jeremy Hunt, who’s net worth is around £14 million, ballsed up big-time on a state visit to Japan, when he referred to his Chinese wife as “Japanese.” Hunt accidentally pulled the emergency stop cord in a train bathroom; posed for a photo in front of a whiteboard of confidential patient records, which he then tweeted; and almost decapitated a woman when ringing a bell.

When he was Health Secretary, Channel 4 presented him with a giant, gold penis for being “Dick of the Year” and doctors gave him an eight-foot mockup of a “Statistics for Dummies.” A pro-European Remainer who transitioned into a Brexiteer, Hunt is angling to become the next resident of 10 Downing Street.

Bizarrely, in 2017, the same Foreign Office produced the Wilton Park report insisting that evangelical Christians in the Global South should be expected to ‘reinterpret’ the Bible to make it compatible with LGBT ideology.

Bishop Philip Mounstephen, who will lead the review, is said to be as limp as lettuce. A former low-impact director of Church Mission Society, the media are breathlessly reporting his recent appointment with the sensational headline: “Former teacher appointed as Bishop of Truro.” Mounstephen is as controversial as white paint on a picket fence (otherwise he wouldn’t be given his managerial mitre in Welby’s politburo).

Neither Hunt not Mounstephen have wheezed a word demanding that Britain open its doors to Asia Bibi, the world’s best-known persecuted Christian, but have the warped audacity to grandstand on behalf of persecuted Christians.

One person who could have lent authenticity to the review is Baroness Caroline Cox. A member of the House of Lords, Cox has spent decades campaigning for persecuted Christians—even daring to visit North Korea—the worst country on earth for human rights abuses against Christians.

In July 2017, she introduced a bill to prevent women from Shariah-sanctioned discrimination. She was president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide and became patron of Barnabas Fund in 2016. But Cox has savaged cultural Marxism with her book The Rape of Reason and her review might call the government and Church of England to account and miraculously result in action!

Cox might even draw attention to the persecution of Christians in Britain. We can’t have that, can we? Because when the review is published and heads are patted, the state-approved hostility against orthodox and evangelical Christians in Britain will continue as if nothing ever happened.

There are enough cases to merit publishing a Dictionary of Christian Persecution in the United Kingdom. My favorite is the arrest of street preachers Overd and Stockwell. At trial, the public prosecutor Ian Jackson said that publicly quoting parts of the King James Bible in modern Britain should “be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”

Britain’s highest-ranking legal eagles, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, removed Christian magistrate Richard Page from office in 2016 for saying that it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father. It could soon be illegal for Christians to pray for a homosexual who wants to be heterosexual; the Church of England General Synod has virtually banned “conversion therapy” and is pushing the government to make it a criminal offense.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams downplayed this oppression by saying that Christians in Britain who claim they are persecuted should “grow up” and not exaggerate what amounts to feeling “mildly uncomfortable.”

The radical leftist archbishop should tell this to father-of-six Nissar Hussain, who was nearly beaten to death by Muslims, after being persecuted for years in Bradford. Hussain converted from Islam to Christianity. Neither the police nor Anglican bishops lifted a finger to help him, Hussain said. He also said he wasn’t the only convert from Islam facing violent persecution in 21st century Britain.  

Williams should know that the dictionary definition of persecution is “hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs” and is not limited to violence.

Critics might contend that such persecution is on an individual level and not state-sponsored. Really? In 2017, following the arrest of a street preacher, Lord Pearson asked the government in the House of Lords: “My Lords, will the Government therefore confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only Son of the one true God cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offense, however much it may offend a Muslim or anyone of any other religion?” The government whip refused to comment.

Barnabas Fund then ran a campaign seeking a new Act of Parliament in the UK to guarantee seven fundamental aspects of freedom of religion. It demonstrated how these freedoms are under grave threat: freedom to read the Bible in public, freedom to interpret Scripture without government interference, freedom of worship, freedom to choose or change your religion, freedom to preach and try to convince others of the truth of your beliefs, freedom to establish churches, synagogues, etc., and freedom from being required to affirm a particular worldview or set of beliefs in order to hold a public sector job or stand for election, work in professions such as teaching and law, or study at university.

Not a single serving Church of England bishop, including the archbishops of Canterbury and York, was willing to support the campaign.

Biologically, there’s no such thing as being half-pregnant or somewhat pregnant. Politically, in the Byzantine circumlocution of British church-state doublespeak, a half-pregnancy isn’t just possible—it’s inevitable. Britain’s Foreign Office review into persecuted Christians is a half-pregnant woman. 

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes

The post Therese May’s anti-Christian regime appeared first on New Anglican Ink.

The Prayers of this Generation Matter to the Next

Children Desiring God - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 14:00

Over the years of our ministry, my wife Sally and I have taught various classes and seminars that offer vision and practical strategies for Christian parents who are committed to faithfully raising their children in the “instruction of the Lord.”1 There is a tension we often feel when teaching on the subject of faith and children. The tension is between the responsibility Christian parents have to give their children what matters most and the reality that, apart from Christ, parents have no power to ensure that their children embrace what ultimately matters most to them and to us. There is no way parents can escape responsibility for nurturing the faith of their children, and there is no way to escape the reality that their children will only be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.2

The most biblical vision, the best parenting strategies, and the most comprehensive Deuteronomy 6:7-9 instruction in the Christian faith does not guarantee that children will be born again and that parents will experience the joy of seeing them walk in the Truth. Saving faith for any child “is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one [no parent, no pastor, no grandparent, no Sunday school teacher] may boast.”3

We have encouraged parents to heed their biblical responsibility and offered tools and support to raise their children in the faith. We have also encouraged parents with the hope-giving assurance that God rules over the hearts of their children4 and can transform the most stubborn and spiritually resistant heart into a soul that pants for Christ “as a deer pants for flowing streams.”5

We challenge parents to work out the salvation of their children “with fear and trembling”6 and, at the same time, to hold fast to the assurance that God is at work in them and in their children “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”7

God’s unstoppable purposes for our children and our inescapable responsibility to raise them in the faith come together in prayer. The Apostle Paul stuns us at the beginning of Ephesians by assuring us that every true child of God was chosen in Christ to be “holy and blameless,” and this was “before the foundation of the world…predestined…for adoption…according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.”8 And yet, having just affirmed this reality for every believer, Paul still prayed that their hearts would be enlightened,9 and he bowed his knees so that (among other reasons) “Christ may dwell in [their] hearts through faith.”10

Even more stunning are Jesus’ words to Peter the night before He was crucified: “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”11 Isn’t that amazing? Jesus, the Son of God, who sustains the universe by the word of His power, felt compelled to pray that Peter’s faith would not fail after He had declared with absolute authority that this same man was the rock on which “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”12

In 2003, George Barna published the results of an extensive study that I have found useful for inspiring prayer for the next generation. In this book,13 Barna helps us assess the spiritual influence we are having on the next generations and makes an interesting observation. He notes that churches with the most effective and fruitful ministries to children were also churches that were the most serious about prayer.

He found the most productive children’s ministries have five areas of prayer focus. In summary, they are:

  1. Teachers praying for each of their students on a regular basis.
  2. Teachers praying as a team, usually on a weekly basis, along with other staff and church leaders in the children’s ministry.
  3. Intercessors volunteering to faithfully pray for the teachers and students.
  4. The entire congregation frequently praying for children’s ministry.
  5. Parents praying during prayer times organized by the church, and in connection with prayer partners.

Barna says, “These churches are unusually effective, I believe, because they constantly beg God to bless the work related to the moral and spiritual maturation of their congregation’s young people…Prayer works in these churches because the body of believers shares God’s heartbeat about the importance of children and believes that prayer makes a difference in people’s lives. The result is obvious…”14

Another source for prayer inspiration comes from Reverend William Scribner, an American pastor who, in 1873, published An Appeal to Parents to Pray Continually for the Welfare and Salvation of Their Children.15 The book is divided into two parts that offer practical and biblical reasons why we should pray for our children’s salvation and for their welfare. Just reviewing the headings for each of Scribner’s sections provides us with substantial encouragement to pray for the next generation:

Praying for Your Children’s Salvation

  1. Their salvation is so great a prize that it is worth all the pains which your prayer to secure it for them may cost you.
  2. Few will pray for them if you do not.
  3. No one else can pray for them as you do.
  4. Your omitting to do so will be perilous to them and to you.
  5. You will then find it easier to perform other parental duties, which God has ordained as a means to their salvation.
  6. Prayer alone can call into exercise that divine power on their behalf, which is absolutely necessary in order that the prayers which you may employ for their salvation may not be used in vain.
  7. By their salvation, granted in answer to your prayers, your Savior will be glorified.

Praying for Your Children’s Welfare

  1. You may then expect, as a result of your prayers, that the power of God will counteract in some measure the evil you have done them.
  2. There will be critical periods in their lives when, without your incessant prayers, they may be left to act most unwisely, if not disastrously.
  3. It will lead you to a better understanding of them.
  4. It will increase your holy desires for them.
  5. No other means will be so effectual in enabling you to overcome the difficulty you experience in talking with them on religious subjects.
  6. You will thereby secure for them God’s aid in the efforts they may make to yield to you in obedience.
  7. Other parents seeing your example, may be led to imitate you.
  8. They will often, should they continue in the world, have their times of need when the power of God alone can avail to help them.

Bottom line—prayer matters! It matters to us. It matters to our children. It matters to every generation until Jesus comes. It matters because God is pleased to accomplish His unstoppable purposes through the prayers of His people.

Join us in praying boldly for the next generation. Visit Truth78.org/prayer to download the book Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generation and to join a community committed to praying regularly.

If you’ve already committed to praying, will you help us spread the word and invite other parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, small group leaders, and more to join us in this prayer commitment?

1 Ephesians 6:4
2 Ephesians 2:8-9
3 Ibid.
4 Proverbs 21:1
5 Psalm 42:1
6 Philippians 2:12
7 Philippians 2:13
8 Ephesians 1:4-6
9 Ephesians 1:18
10 Ephesians 3:17
11 Luke 22:31-32
12 Matthew 16:18
13 George Barna. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church‘s #1 Priority. (Raleigh, NC: Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, 2003), 102-104.
14 Ibid, 102-104.
15 Rev. William Scribner. Pray for Your Children, or An Appeal to Parents to Pray Continually for the Welfare and Salvation of Their Children. (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1873), https://archive.org/details/prayforyourchild00scri/page/n0

Categories: Christian Resources

Foreign Secretary announces global review into persecution of Christians

Anglican Ink - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 13:04
[Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 26 December 2018].

Yesterday my family and I walked a short journey to our local church, and enjoyed an uplifting Christmas service. We attend as a simple matter of personal choice, but since being appointed Foreign Secretary, it has struck me how much we take that choice for granted: others around the world are facing death, torture and imprisonment for that very right.

It is distressingly poignant at Christmas to hear recent warnings that the persecution facing Christians across the globe is now most stark in the region of its birth.

A century ago, 20% of the people of the Middle East were Christian; today the figure is below 5%. It is not hard to see why. On Palm Sunday in 2017, a suicide bomber in Egypt attacked a Christian Cathedral that has existed since the inception of Christianity, brutally killing 17 of the congregation. This is an extreme example, but it is by no means isolated. Last week, I met an Iraqi doctor who told me how patients had threatened her and her family with beheading when they heard she was a Christian who refused to convert. Step by agonising step, we are witnessing the erosion of Christianity as a living religion in its heartland.

Elsewhere, the situation is also deeply perilous. Across the world, about 215 million Christians suffer persecution, according to the campaign group, Open Doors. The International Society for Human Rights has found that Christians are the victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination. Like the Christian family I met recently who were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan; they told me how extremists targeted them, attacked their young sons by ripping school uniforms off their bodies, and shot at the mother. There were striking parallels with the case of Asia Bibi – a Christian Pakistani woman who was beaten, imprisoned, and despite being acquitted still lives under constant guard because of the threat of mob justice – whose plight has moved the hearts of the British public.

Britain has long championed international religious freedom, and the Prime Minister underlined our global leadership on this issue when she appointed my excellent colleague Lord Ahmad as her Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. So often the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority.

But I am not convinced that our response to the threats facing this particular group has always matched the scale of the problem, nor taken account of the hard evidence that Christians often endure a disproportionate burden of persecution. Perhaps this is borne out of the very British sense of awkwardness at ‘doing God’. Perhaps it’s an awareness of our colonial history, or because Britain is a traditionally Christian country some are fearful of being seen to help Christians in desperate need.

Whatever the cause, we must never allow a misguided political correctness to inhibit our response to the persecution of any religious community.

So I have asked the Rev’d Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro, to lead an independent review of whether we are doing all we can. I would like this exercise to consider some tough questions and offer ambitious policy recommendations: Britain has – in my view – the best diplomatic network in the world, so how can we use that to encourage countries to provide proper security for minority groups under threat? Have we been generous enough in offering practical assistance, and does the level of UK support match the scale of the suffering? Have we always got our foreign policy priorities right in terms of advocating for and expressing solidarity with this group?

I am far from the most eloquent person to speak out about this problem – from Prince Charles, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to parliamentarians across the political spectrum, we have been warned many times – but with Christianity on the verge of extinction in its birthplace, it is time for concerted action that begins to turn the tide. I have asked Bishop Mounstephen to report back to me by Easter.

Britain has a strong history of standing up for the rights of all religious communities. I am proud of the way the UK has led the world in condemnation of the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya community in Burma; as well as our response of passionate anger to the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism in our own society.

It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk.

We should be willing to state that simple fact – and adjust our policies accordingly.

The Apostle Paul foretold of the suffering that Christians would face through the ages, but still saw reason to hope: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.’

It is time to echo that message of hope to the persecuted church around the world; with our deeds as well as our words.

The post Foreign Secretary announces global review into persecution of Christians appeared first on New Anglican Ink.

Why Epistemology Is Important (in Economics and Everything Else)

Mises Institute - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 12:25

Ketones are everywhere. And so are associated high fat, low carbohydrate diets, as well as eating patterns that include intermittent fasting — all championed as solutions to obesity, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc. While the diets have existed for some time, the addition of intermittent fasting is new, but ubiquitous. So much so that I took notice and considered modifying my eating patterns. Then it hit me ...

Thirty years ago, when I was racing bicycles, a new diet and book were the rage, at least for athletes. Robert Haas, the author of the book, Eat to Win, claimed his diet had rejuvenated the tennis career of Martina Navratilova, with Navratilova adamantly agreeing her stamina had improved immensely. The key to her enhanced performance was high-quality carbohydrates. Lots of them. Fats were the energy robbing evil and were eliminated as much as possible. So were simple sugars.

The diet made sense, at least to folks like me who had little grounding in the complex science of food, energy, and performance. It sure sounded better — more scientific — than trying to train and race on pancakes, pies, and Pepsi. So, for the most part, I lived it.

Then, a decade later, new "science" emerged saying that, for optimal recovery and muscle growth, athletes must replace the standard, three large meals with frequent, smaller meals. And I went along.

However, this article is not a history of diets and athletic performance. Nor is it a review of the science behind nutritional advice, or even a discussion of the efficacy of that advice. It is simply a reflection on how l, and masses of other folks, can seemingly change our views 180 degrees without any reflection on the process leading to that change. In other words, how is it that we adopt the latest fad, so to speak, without any pause as to why we now unwaveringly refute what we once claimed true?

Setting diets aside, since they are the personal choices of acting individuals, what I am interested in is how folks toss around in the sea of ideologies without any recognition that the policy they backed yesterday is anathema today. Some examples will help.

Sixty years ago, liberals were associated with interventions, domestic and international. Conservatives stood for the principle of no foreign entanglements. Even years later, the saying I heard as a youth was, "Democrats get us into wars, Republicans out of them." Then, over a short period of time, the liberals became antiwar, rightly protesting the conservative’s eternal wars for eternal peace.

Though there appears to be some support among conservatives for a withdrawal from Syria, and maybe even other countries, conservatives are still pro military and pro interventionism. Conversely, the antiwar left has abandoned its position and adopted the current progressive program of fomenting civil strife.

Today, folks proudly call themselves liberal or conservative, pretending those words evince eternal views. Yet, leading liberals lament the passing of the warmonger, Papa Bush, while leading conservatives believe we need another progressive Bush or a revitalized Romney to return to the good ol’ days of the good old right — even though such statements contradict the conservatism of our past.

Again, this article is not an attempt to understand how those views were changed or who changed them. It is an attempt to grasp how folks claiming to be on one side or the other found themselves changing their views as well — without even a moments reflection of how their thoughts from yesterday clashed with their thoughts of today.

I am not questioning the current beliefs — that is for a different article. I am questioning how liberals went from diet of high carbs to high fat, so to speak, and back again, with conservatives close behind, and neither side questioned the lineage of their views.

The answer is epistemology — or lack thereof. Just as I have no real background in nutritional science, and can seemingly follow the latest craze without looking back, most folks lack any background in economics — or, more aptly, political economy. This allows them to cling to a term (conservative or liberal, or whatever) even as its definition changes underneath them.

Before I discovered Mises and the Mises Institute, I bounced between the various "scientific" positions on political economy. Without a strong understanding of the truth, I was easily swayed by the latest position paper. Since I had a degree in mathematics with a concentration in economics, I was certain the issue was not the policies, it was the mathematical models that justified those policies and guided their implementation — the equations had some minor errors that simply needed to be fixed.

Once I read Mises, Rothbard, etc., I realized the issues were not the equations or even the policies, per se. The issues were the very foundation of my views. I now understand economics (though I am still learning), not just the various pieces and parts which can be reassembled in error, but the overarching foundation that serves to protect me from making critical mistakes and misjudgments.

I do not have anything near that understanding with regard to nutrition. But I should. Though nutrition is personal, it is essential to my life. So I need to read and research before allowing my views to be turned in obtuse angles.

Political economy also effects health. As views turn from freedom to control, our individual very existence is also at risk. So it is imperative to understand political economy as well.

lf you do not have a foundation in economics, mises.org has all you need. Take some time to strengthen your foundation. And, just as importantly, take opportunities to direct others here. At minimum, ask them to define what they believe and why they believe it is truth. And when they can't, direct them here with more than a little encouragement. It will be good for our freedom as well.

Categories: Current Affairs

5 Bad Reasons to Update Your Linux Kernel

CloudLinux - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 09:54

A Linux kernel update is not to be taken lightly—change means risk.

Whatever reasons you think you might have, there is really only one that matters.

I tell you what it is in this blog post.

Categories: Technology

The Epiphany (Matthew 2)

Sussex Parson - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 08:35
Further miscellaneous jottings:

The Magi: From Heretics to Heroes (a sermon title I saw somewhere)

The Magi from the East might seem rather unlike us, but we too were born East of Eden, in the realm of sin

Jesus in his coming and going from the world was attended by great men bringing valuable gifts of spices

It is clear that Jesus had come for all the world since he was born in an inn, a place for travellers from whatever place, when the whole world had come to be taxed and the star of his birth was clear to all. (After Lancelot Andrews)

3 manifest stars: (1) The star in heaven (2) the star of faith in the Magi's hearts (3) Christ, the bright morning star himself. Will you make it a 4 star Epiphany?!

The Magi - as the star had risen in heavens, so the morning star had risen in their hearts

The Wisdom of God is found by the wise men.

The star leads us to The Bright Morning Star

A star high in the heavens signifies a lowly baby in a manger


Contrast the Shepherds and the Wise Men
The revelation to the former was somewhat private, the revelation to the latter public.
Lowly / High born
Local / Distant


Stars are signs. Open the signature who can. (Lancelot Andrews)


Numbers 24


Natural revelation is helpful but insufficient. The heavens bring them some of the way, but they need the Bible. The star is gone, the Scriptures remain.


They have the light of the star in their eyes but they also need the word of God in their ears and the Spirit of life in their hearts.


Seeking Jesus is not enough.
It is possible to seek him for the wrong reasons, as Herod did.
Knowing about his coming, as the Scribes did, is not sufficient.
We must seek him in order to worship him.
And we must actually worship him.


The other Herod at his death will seek him and give him a mocking worship.


The whole world and the Scriptures and all our journeying and seeking are to this end: that we might worship Christ


What a great and necessary thing it is to come and worship, which was so hard for them and so easy for us


We are to worship him with soul and body (head, knee, feet, hands etc.) and goods. After all, he made us and gave us our goods.
Much of the above inspired by / stolen from:
http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/andrewes/lancebib.htm?fbclid=IwAR3tvbzhWfuxGvpDE7iIBOH17LYWRKA-cELRJCTAAl2xorYBuXOKznE7Fhk

https://marclloyd.blogspot.com/2019/01/matthew-21-2-some-headings.html

See further:

https://marclloyd.blogspot.com/2014/12/for-epiphany-wise-men-kings-magi-stuff.html

https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/is-the-story-of-epiphany-plausible/

Lee on the Lectionary and also videos from other years: https://vimeo.com/308897977/02327ab44c?fbclid=IwAR2hgsoB96gyUFj397lN4e_n8mOOCVioiCS1TbFF9ExEYe9fxwbgU54_kfwMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

It's not what The Guardian doesn't know, it's what it thinks is but ain't that's dangerous

Adam Smith Institute - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 07:01

As Mark Twain pointed out to us it’s not what we don’t know that poses the danger, it’s what we’re sure is but ain’t that causes the problems. So it is with The Guardian and their ideas about business. Here they manage to get one thing about right but then go completely off the edge in their second belief about how it all works:

Gadgets: the hardest thing to make now is a profit

Well, yes, that’s always been true. As many - near every perhaps - attempt at business proves, four out of five such attempts not surviving the first five years. Adding value, the same thing as making a profit, is difficult. They do get this part correct as well:

That’s the challenge for many consumer electronics firms. Not how to make things, or how to distribute them and get them in front of potential buyers. It’s how to make a profit.

The only correction we’d make is that this is difficult for all forms of organisation attempting to produce anything - it’s not limited to capitalist firms trying to make consumer electronics. Actually, 12% of British businesses fail this test every year for that’s the rate of business deaths.

But then what The Guardian believes goes off the rails:By contrast, in software, all the significant costs are in development; reproduction and distribution are trivial – a digital copy is perfect, and the internet will transport 0s and 1s anywhere, effectively for free. If your product is free and ad-supported, you don’t even need anti-piracy measures; you want people to copy it and use it. Software companies typically have gross margins of around 80%, and operating profits of 40% or so.

No. If this were true than absolutely all of the capital in the world would be in software in pursuit of those profits and none would be in hardware or anything else. They’re measuring the profit margins of successful software companies, not the universe of all software companies. This is the equivalent of observing Apple’s 40% margins and concluding that phone making’s a really great business to enter. Entirely missing that Samsung and Apple between them often enough account for more than 100% of the industry’s profits. Meaning that everyone else in the industry is, in aggregate, making a loss.

Yes, this is important, for we’ll never be able to make sense of capitalism itself unless we understand how difficult it is to make a profit and how few manage to do so. It’s only once we do grasp that that the system’s rewards to those who achieve that most difficult task make sense.

Categories: Current Affairs

Jesus did a regular job, just like you

The Good Book Company - Thu, 03/01/2019 - 06:00

‘Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last’. The famous words of CT Studd who gave up everything for overseas mission and headed off on the slow boat to China. But what if instead you’re on the train to the office or hospital or school staff room, or in the van going to the construction site or warehouse, or on the bus to the supermarket checkout job, or in the car dropping the kids off at school? You too have only one life. Do you ever feel you’re wasting it? Do you ever feel that if you were really keen as a Christian, you’d be working for a church or overseas as a missionary? Where does regular work fit into God’s purposes? 

When Jesus began his three year public teaching ministry at the age of about 30, people in his home town made a fascinating comment, recorded in Mark 6:3. They said, ‘Is not this the carpenter?’ We don’t know much about those first 30 years, but we do know this – Jesus did a regular job. He worked as a carpenter. For years. And that’s worth reflecting on. The following five points the Bible makes about work will be familiar, but we may not often think and imagine how they must have shaped Jesus’ experience of work.  

Work is a gift 

The concept of work first appears in the Bible in Genesis 2:15: ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it’. Work was part of the original good creation, before the Fall. Work is a good thing. A good gift. Work was part of how humanity was to rule the world under God. God had told humanity in Genesis 1:28 to rule over the world, and that rule was exercised in part through the work of having families, procreating, and working the ground. 

[inline_product:gwork]

The way God set up the world, work was required for things to function. God gives us our daily bread, but nothing is going to pop up in the toaster in the morning without the hard work of the farmer, the baker, the truck driver, and the team at the local supermarket. Work was part of what we were created to do – whether the work of the home, bringing up kids, or work outside the home; whether paid or unpaid. 

So as long as our work is not illegal or immoral, it can be part of how we serve God as his people, redeemed through Christ. It’s not as if your only service of the Lord is what you do on Sundays at church. Your daily work is service too. My grandmother had a sign over her kitchen which read, ‘Divine service is conducted here daily’. And it’s not as if you can only serve God in the ‘caring professions’. Society needs plumbers and bankers just as much as nurses and teachers. Colossians 3:24 tells Christian slaves ‘you are serving the Lord Christ’. 

And so when the Son of God became man, he got a regular job. That’s making quite a statement about the value and dignity of work. The first Adam was a gardener, the last Adam a carpenter. Both were manual labourers. Was Jesus just treading water for those 15 (or however many) years? Could his time have been better spent? No, he was fulfilling all righteousness. Living the perfect life. Serving the Lord. Working for him. 

And that will have meant he worked hard, was conscientious, didn’t do a shoddy job. You can bet his tables and chairs were well-made. Shame none of them survived. Would be quite something to have an original chair made in the Galilean workship, with the initials ‘JC’ engraved on the chair leg. 

Work is not God 

The first of the Ten Commandments says ‘You shall have no other gods besides me’. There’s only one God, and work is not it. The Lord alone is God. Anything else we put in that centre circle in our life will function as our god. We mustn’t do that. We mustn’t let a good thing become a God thing. That’s idolatry. ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ 1 John 5:21 says. 

Work is not meant to be what we look to for our ultimate security and identity and meaning and glory. And that is one reason a good work-life balance is so important. We need rest. And it’s a statement that there’s more to life than work.

Jesus did his job as a carpenter, served his Father in it, earned money to support himself and the wider family. But work was not his god. In his work he wasn’t driven by love of money, trying to get as rich as possible. Or by the desire for security, trying to prove himself or fulfil his potential. He wasn’t driven by envy and competitiveness, trying to be better than everyone else. He was driven by love of the Father and a desire to serve him. 

Work is a grind 

In Genesis 3, work falls under God’s judgement on sin. The work of the home, bearing and raising kids, and the work of the ground, both become painful. Death also enters the world, creating a sense of futility in work. 

"Imagine how he would have behaved in his carpenter’s workshop. Being kind, loving, patient, self-controlled."

In Genesis 4 we have the first example of envy, hatred, and violence at work. Cain kills Abel in the workplace – in the field. In Genesis 31 Jacob sums up his 20 year long work experience with Laban as ‘by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes…you have changed my wages ten times’. Harsh work conditions, and unfair treatment by his employer. 

In Genesis 39 we have the first case of sexual harassment in the workplace. The boss’ wife tries to seduce Joseph. He resists her. She makes a false accusation. He’s subject to unfair dismissal; and wrongfully imprisoned. No union or HR department to defend him. 
Work is really hard for many people today: poorly paid, boring, awful conditions. Think of the sewer workers in India, cleaning out sewers by hand, without protective gear; for a pittance; exploited; many fatalities. Many of them are Christian. And even in ‘good jobs’ you have pressure and frustration. And you have to deal with the sins of the heart spilling over into workplace relationships – coveting, envy, slander, gossip, pride, selfish ambition. It makes work a grind. 

That would have been true for Jesus as well. He would have had to deal with difficult customers, perhaps an unreasonable boss, or envious co-workers, long hours, tiredness, things going wrong, pressure of orders and too much work. He would have needed to rely on his heavenly Father in prayer, and to persevere – as do we. 

Work is a godliness challenge

Colossian 3:22-4:1 tells Christian slaves how to behave in their work: to obey the boss, work with integrity, be conscientious, put your heart into it. Galatians 5 famously lists the fruit of the Spirit. Being Christian at work means displaying this fruit in the workplace. That should be our ambition at work - to be godly. And repenting of our sin when we’re not. 

And so for Jesus. Imagine how he would have behaved in his carpenter’s workshop. Being kind, loving, patient, self-controlled. Not flying off the handle when things went wrong. Not blaming others. Not gossiping or grumbling. Not flirting.  

Work is a gospel opportunity 

And finally, work is a gospel opportunity – an opportunity to get the gospel out to others. Titus 2:10 tells slaves to be godly at work ‘so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’. Our lives at work will either support or undermine the gospel. But living the life and being known as a Christian is not enough. In the end people need to hear the message about Jesus. And if not through us, then through whom? And so in Colossians 4:3 Paul prays ‘that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ’. It is a good workplace prayer. That at appropriate times and places, God would open a door for the message, and we would walk through it. 

Don’t you think that Jesus would made the most of every opportunity to talk to colleagues and customers about his heavenly Father and their spiritual needs? Surely the sort of conversation he had with the woman at the well in John 4 didn’t just suddenly begin when he started his public ministry. Surely this was how he operated throughout his working life too, out of love for others. 

So if we want a model of being Christian at work, we could do a lot worse than look to Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour, the Lord - and the carpenter.

Marcus Nodder is the author of Making Work Work, eight studies for individuals or groups showing God's perspective on work, whether at home, at an office or in a factory.

Categories: Christian Resources

The Marxian Doctrine of "Ideology"

Mises Institute - Wed, 02/01/2019 - 20:45

Even Marx must dimly recognize that not "material productive forces," not even "classes," act in the real world, but only individual consciousness and individual choice. Even in the Marxian analysis, each class, or the individuals within it, must become conscious of its "true" class interests in order to act upon pursuing or achieving them. To Marx, each individual's thinking, his values and theories, are all determined, not by his personal self-interest, but by the interest of the class to which he supposedly belongs. This is the first fatal flaw in the argument; why in the world should each individual ever hold his class higher than himself? Second, according to Marx, this class interest determines his thoughts and viewpoints, and must do so, because each person is only capable of "ideology" or false consciousness in the interest of his class. He is not capable of a disinterested, objective search for truth, nor of pursuit of his own interest or of that of all mankind. But, as von Mises has pointed out, Marx's doctrine pretends to be pure, non-ideological science, and yet written expressly to advance the class interest of the proletariat. But, while all "bourgeois" economics and all other disciplines of thought were interpreted by Marx as false by definition, as "ideological" rationalizations of bourgeois class interest, the Marxists

were not consistent enough to assign to their own doctrines merely ideological character. The Marxian tenets, they implied, are not ideologies. They are a foretaste of the knowledge of the future classless society which, freed from the fetters of class conflicts, will be in a position to conceive pure knowledge, untainted by ideological blemishes.1

David Gordon has aptly summed up this point:

If all thought about social and economic matters is determined by class position, what about the Marxist system itself? If, as Marx proudly proclaimed, he aimed at providing a science for the working class, why should any of his views be accepted as true? Mises rightly notes that Marx's view is self-refuting: if all social thought is ideological, then this proposition is itself ideological and the grounds for believing it have been undercut. In his Theories of Surplus Value, Marx cannot contain his sneering at the "apologetics" of various bourgeois economists. He did not realize that in his constant jibes at the class bias of his fellow economists, he was but digging the grave of his own giant work of propaganda on behalf of the proletariat.2

Von Mises also raises the point that it is absurd to believe that the interests of any class, including the capitalists, could ever be served better by a false than by a correct doctrine.3To Marx, the point of philosophy was only the achievement of some practical goal. But if, as in pragmatism, truth is only "what works," then surely the interests of the bourgeoisie would not be served by clinging to a false theory of society. If the Marxian answer holds, as it has, that false theory is necessary to justify the existence of capitalist rule, then, as von Mises points out, from the Marxian point of view itself the theory should not be necessary. Since each class ruthlessly pursues its own interest, there is no need for the capitalists to justify their rule and their alleged exploitation to themselves. There is also no need to use these false doctrines to keep the proletariat subservient, since, to Marxists, the rule or the overthrow of a given social system depends on the material productive forces, and there is no way by which consciousness can delay this development or speed it up. Or, if there are such ways, and the Marxists often implicitly concede this fact, then there is a grave and self-defeating flaw in the heart of Marxian theory itself.

It is a well-known irony and another deep flaw in the Marxian system that, for all the Marxian exaltation of the proletariat and the "proletarian mind," all leading Marxists, beginning with Marx and Engels, were emphatically bourgeois themselves. Marx was the son of a wealthy lawyer, his wife was a member of the Prussian nobility, and his brother-in-law Prussian minister of the interior. Friedrich Engels, his lifelong benefactor and collaborator, was the son of a wealthy manufacturer, and himself a manufacturer. Why were not their views and doctrines also determined by bourgeois class interests? What permitted their consciousness to rise above a system so powerful that it determines the views of everyone else?

In this way, every determinist system attempts to provide an escape-hatch for its own believers, who are somehow able to escape the determinist laws that afflict everyone else. Unwittingly, these systems become in that way self-contradictory and self-refuting. In the 20th century, Marxists such as the German sociologist Karl Mannheim attempted to elevate this escape-hatch into High Theory: that somehow, "intellectuals" are able to "float free," to levitate above the laws that determine all other classes.

[This article is excerpted from volume 2, chapter 12 of An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (1995). An MP3 audio file of this chapter, narrated by Jeff Riggenbach, is available for download.]

  • 1. Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History (1957, Auburn, Ala.: Mises Institute, 1985), p. 126, n3.
  • 2. David Gordon, "Mises Contra Marx," Free Market, 5 (July 1987), pp. 2–3.
  • 3. For the refutation of another, allied, point in Marx's ideology doctrine, that each economic class has a different logical structure of mind ("polylogism"), see Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1949), pp. 72–91.
Categories: Current Affairs

Hard Work (Alone) Won't Get Your Country Out of Poverty

Mises Institute - Wed, 02/01/2019 - 20:45

Work is a determining factor for personal success and social development. Furthermore, there is a socially accepted mantra around work that surrounds it with an aura of mysticism. It is said that hard work is what drives a person, and therefore a whole country. Is this true? This article tries to explain why the idea of hard work as the only determinant for development is incomplete. Work alone does not achieve the economic development desired by all.

Hard Work?

When you start talking about hard work, it is hard to find the best way to explain it: do you explain it on the basis of strength or intelligence? An easy way to try to measure it is based on the work hours of each individual worker. Graph 1 shows the average hours worked per year. Graph 2 shows the average hours worked per week in different OECD countries.

Graph 1

garcia1.png

Source: OECD. Data from 2017

Graph 2

garcia2.png

Source: OECD.

On the surface you can see a simple pattern: richer countries work fewer hours. Does it make sense, then, to believe that people who work the most hours are the ones who live better? The primary data seems to indicate the contrary; yet this idea goes against common sense. In almost all societies and religions hard work and effort are welcome. But if they do not determine the development of a country, what does?

As Time Passes, We Work Less: A Comparison Between Generations

The previous questions require a more detailed analysis of the data. Why do richer countries work “less hard” than poorer ones? Why is the effort of those who work the most not rewarded by a better quality of life? To understand these questions we need to add variables to the analysis: an important variable to analyze is how the number of hours worked has changed over the years. Graph 3 shows the annual number of average working hours for three different generations, with an approximate gap of 20 years per observation.

Graph 3

garcia3.png

Source: OECD

After the 70s, there was a pronounced decrease in the number of hours dedicated to work in OECD countries; the trend is more evident in European countries. In the case of Japan, the decrease was more than a quarter in 40 years.

But time by itself does not explain anything. Therefore, it is important to remember that all OECD countries have grown economically in those 40 years. The resulting relationship is between economic development over time and the decrease in annual working hours. This is why the poorest countries work more hours. This can be seen more clearly in Graph 4, which shows the development of annual working hours over 40 years for three world economic powers. Even though the decrease is less pronounced in the United States than in other countries, the trend has been a downward one over the years.

Graph 4

garcia4.png

Source: OECD

Analyzing the data for annual working hours and comparing them against GDP per capita shows that the richness-quantity of hours worked ratio that we are assuming to is true (Graph 5). The higher the GDP per capita, the fewer hours worked per year. In societies, wealth causes less need for work. But this raises the question of "why."

Graph 5

garcia5.png

Source: OECD

Hard Work or More Productive Work?

The quick answer to the question of why workers in developed economies work less than in poorer countries is because the average productivity of workers in rich countries is higher. Having more access to technology and techniques that make work more efficient, requires less work hours to achieve the same result — perhaps even a better one. Graph 6 shows the relationship between productivity and average annual working hours for 2014. Productivity is measured as GDP per hour worked.

Graph 6

garcia6.png

Source: University of Groningen, Our World in Data, World Bank.

There is a strong relationship between productivity and annual working hours per worker. More work is not needed to produce more. However, to achieve greater productivity a second factor is necessary: capital. Worker productivity improves with technology or better production techniques. To have access to both, capital assistance — both physical and human — is necessary.

Hard Work, from our Grandparents

Developed countries spent decades and centuries of working and saving in order to reach the capital that they currently have. As we previously mentioned, work does not automatically bring economic development. However, work makes the way to the formation of capital through saving. As discussed in another Market Trends article, capital accumulation is the foundation of economic development, and the lack of capital is the most well-known poverty traps today. Yet many countries managed to get rid of their poverty traps in the last 200 years through hard work and saving. This means that many generations have decided not to consume all of their present production and decided to save in order to have a better future. These savings were then invested by disruptive entrepreneurs and innovators who created value. Finally, this capital increased the productivity of the following generations and gave way to the quality of life that we see in first world countries. This is why salaries in these countries are higher than in less developed countries and why less labor is needed in these countries. Since capital improved the marginal productivity of labor — the marginal contribution of each worker to the productive chain — his salary increases because his performance is better.

The Cultural Factor of Work and Saving

Something to take into account when analyzing the importance of work in economic development is culture. Culture in economics is a vital factor to understand social-economic dynamics. A culture dedicated to work and one that praises persistence and perseverance increases a country’s chances of emerging from underdevelopment. These characteristics are present in most of the countries of East Asia. The so-called “Asian tigers” are a good example of work culture, saving, and investment — values that have made these countries experience a great economic development in 70 years.

However, other cultures do not have the same culture of saving and, therefore, their work does not yield much fruit. Latin America lacks capital primarily because of its low levels of savings, barely surpassing the average for sub-Saharan Africa. The absence of a culture of saving in Latin American society is a constant that has condemned it to economic backwardness and underdevelopment.

There are many explanations for the lack of saving culture in Latin America. However, behavioral economists claim that a determining factor is the difficulty that people have when calculating future needs. It is not very intuitive for the average person (who also does not have proper education) to discount the value of their postponed consumption in order to receive more in the future. And to complicate things, their low incomes do not allow them to constantly save, since that money is needed to cover their most basic needs. This is why foreign investments are so important for developing countries: the need for capital can be met without the need to restrict consumption and the current standard of living. It’s a shame that certain groups fail to understand this logic and who, through their actions, keep millions of people in poverty.

Conclusion

Hard work is important, but it has to go hand-in-hand with capital formation in order to improve worker productivity and generate more returns with less effort. Capital, both physical and intellectual, allows workers to have better living standards, either through higher incomes or by needing less hours to complete their work. This is why savings and investment are the most important factors in the development of economies. Believing that work by itself will succeed in moving a country forward is to ignore the basic premises of economics. Even worse, this train of thought continues to condemn millions to live in poverty.

Originally published by UFM Trends.

Categories: Current Affairs

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