Here’s an article from The Stream about the second Thanksgiving, by Dante Witt. I like this article because it tells us so much about the character of the United States of America. Why are we so conservative about economics?
She briefly retells the story of how the pilgrims were helped by Squanto, which I blogged about in a previous Thanksgiving Day post, then she talks about the troubles they had next.
Although Squanto’s farming techniques worked better than their old ones, the pilgrims still could not produce enough food. Was it bad luck? Bad soil? No. The Mayflower pilgrims were part of a joint stock company which stipulated that the pilgrims would pool their resources, and receive a share of the profit.
The strategy turned out to be deeply misguided, working about as well as various communist economic schemes hundreds of years later. The sad state of the colony after two years of communism, wrote William Bradford, “may well evidence the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and the other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and the bringing of community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God” (p. 121).
So the pilgrims amended their contract so that each family was now responsible for its own provision. The difference was stark. Bradford explained:
This had good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so that more corn was planted than could have been by any other means the Governor could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
In fact, it’s estimated the colonists planted about six times the crops they would have planted otherwise.
That shows where Americans get their views of economics, but what about the praying and the gratitude?
With new farming techniques and an amended government, the pilgrims did all they humanly could to ward off starvation. But they could not control the weather. A drought settled on the colony and threatened to kill the corn before the harvest. Recognizing with the Psalmist that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it,” the colonists turned to God. According to Bradford, they “set apart a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble& fervent prayer, in this great distress.” What was the outcome?
And he was pleased to give them a gracious& speedy answer, both to their own& the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather & very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen, yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing, & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance, as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken the decayed corn& other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. (p. 131)
Seeing the speedy results of the Puritans’ prayers, an Indian named Hobanak said, “Now I see that the Englishman’s God is a good God, for he hath heard you, and sent you rain, and that without storms and tempests and thunder, which usually we have with our rain, which breaks down our corn, but yours stands whole and good still; surely your God is a good God.” (pp. 64-5)
Then William Bradford again proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to God, the forerunner of the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
So, this story explains why the United States has this character that values the free enterprise system, hard work, individual achievement, prayer, and gratitude. These are the values that make us American, that made us into such a great nation.
The author, Tad Hopp is graduating a PCUSA seminary – an extremely liberal, left-wing denomination.
I graduated college in 2007.
[…] I majored in English, not exactly what most people consider a ‘marketable’ or ‘practical’ degree…
[…]I went to a somewhat expensive private school…
[…]I did what many students in their last year of high school do: I went to the school where I felt I was being called…
[…]I do not regret my four years at my undergraduate institution one bit.
[….]When I graduated college, I owed nearly $50,000 in student loan debt and was unemployed for almost six months before I finally found a low-paying office job.
[…]“Can’t find a job? Well, you should have majored in something more ‘practical’, like economics or business or medicine.” Yeah, that would be great…if those were the subjects where my skills and passions lie. They’re not.
[…]I felt called to go to seminary.
[…]I will graduate seminary with close to six figures worth of student loan debt.
Let’s take stock of what he’s said so far:
he studied English, a language that he already spoke, which has one of the lowest employment rates
he was warned by people who knew something about earning and saving money not to study English
he went to a school he couldn’t afford to go to, and he graduated with $50,000 in debt
he went to seminary, another subject that doesn’t pay, and added another $50,000 or so of debt
he says that he doesn’t have to study subjects that lead to a career because he isn’t “passionate” about them
he “followed his heart” by going to the school that he had mystical, emotional, intuitions about = “calling”
My advice to Tad at this point would be for him to take the Bible seriously when it says this:
2 Thessalonians 3:10:
10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
And 1 Timothy 5:8:
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The Bible is giving us the goal of working. So what should we do to be able to reach that goal? Why should anyone hire us? What is working really about? It’s those kinds of questions that should guide what we study in school, and what jobs we pursue.
We know what careers have the highest starting salaries and mid-career salaries:
Why do some people get paid more than others? The answer is supply and demand. Prices are a way of determining what is most valued by your fellow man. Business owners pay more to people who offer their customers more value. If you really want to serve your neighbor, you have to learn something they really want, but can’t easily obtain. And then you will be paid more. You can’t do what makes you happy. You have to do what makes customers happy. That’s how the free market works – you make money when you provide something of value to others. You make money when you serve others. This is something that is very hard for self-centered, feelings-driven young progressives to grasp. But it’s something older Americans all know.
Is the PCUSA doing anything to address this crisis?
[…]What has our government done to address this issue?
[…]I, like so many in my generation, voted for Obama…
[…]It seems to me that we’ve bought into the lie that student loan debt is brought on by the individual person…
[…]You know what I think might stimulate the economy? Automatically cancelling every single outstanding student loan!
He insists that the results of his own choices aren’t his fault. But didn’t he make the choices about what to study? Didn’t he make the choice to follow his heart? Didn’t he disregard the advice of people who urged him to be practical? Who is to blame, if not he, himself?
Tad needs to push away all his friends who told him to “follow his heart” and stick close by his friends who told him to focus on providing value to others. Don’t look for advice from dreamers, look for advice from doers. Dreamers talk. But doers have demonstrated the ability to create plans that work to achieve results.
By the way, some of you might be wondering how serious this person was about his Christianity. Well, in another post, he comes out as gay. So clearly the Bible is being interpreted in a way where feelings are overturning the plain meanings of words. People who read the Bible closely never come away with the message that they should follow their hearts.
In this post, I have the video of a debate on the topic of what Christians should think about economics and economic policies. In addition to the video, I summarized the two opening speeches and the two rebuttals, for those who prefer to read rather than watch. We’ll start with a short biography about each of the debaters.
The video recording:
Jay Richards, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute where he directs the Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, and is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Most recently he is the co-author with James Robison of the best-selling Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late”.
In addition to writing many academic articles, books, and popular essays on a wide variety of subjects, he recently edited the new award winning anthology, God & Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin’s Challenge to Faith . His previous book was Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, May 2009), for which he received a Templeton Enterprise Award in 2010.
[…]In recent years, he has been a Contributing Editor of The American at the American Enterprise Institute, a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute. Richards has a B.A. with majors in Political Science and Religion, an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) and a Th.M. (Master of Theology), and a Ph.D. (with honors) in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Jim Wallis (born June 4, 1948) is a Christian writer and political activist. He is best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine and as the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community of the same name. Wallis is well known for his advocacy on issues of peace and social justice. […]He works as a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama.
[…]In 2010, Wallis admitted to accepting money for Sojourners from philanthropist George Soros after initially denying having done so. […]In 2011, Wallis acknowledged that Sojourners had received another $150,000.00 from Soros’ Open Society Foundation.
Wallis just came out this month in favor of gay marriage. He is also a strong supporter of Barack Obama, who is radically pro-abortion. Some pro-lifers have argued that Barack Obama has the same views on abortion as Kermit Gosnell, because Obama voted twice to allow abortions on babies who were already born alive.
The format of the debate
20 minute opening speeches
10 minute rebuttals
10 minutes of discussion
Q&A for the remainder
I use italics below to denote my own observations.
Jim Wallis’ opening speech:
My goal is to spark a national conversation on the “common good”.
A story about my son who plays baseball.
The central goal of Christianity is to promote the “common good”.
Quotes “Catholic social teaching” which values “human flourishing”.
The “common good” is “human flourishing”.
Is the purpose of Christianity is to make sure that everyone has enough material stuff or to preach the gospel?
When Christians go on mission trips, it’s good that they focus on things like human trafficking.
Democrat John Lewis is the “conscience of the U.S. Congress”.
John Lewis gets a 0% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012.
John Lewis gets a 8% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2011.
John Lewis gets a 2.29% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.
Nothing is going well in Washington right now except comprehensive immigration reform.
Does he think that Christianity means giving 20-30 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, while skilled engineers cannot even get green cards, even though there is a shortage of them? Does he think that the other people in society who earn more than they receive from the government ought to be taxed more in order to provide more services and benefits to those who earn less than they take from the government?
Jay Richards’ opening speech:
Two topics: 1) what is the common good? 2) what should Christians do to promote the common good?
Catholicism defines the “common good” as “Indeed, the common good embraces the sum of those conditions of the social life whereby men, families and associations more adequately and readily may attain their own perfection.”
We have natural ends that we are supposed to be achieving and some places, like South Korea, are better for allowing that to happen.
The common good is broader and prior to any sort of political specification.
It’s not the political good or what the state is supposed to do.
It’s not about the communal good, as in Soviet Russia, where the communal good was above individual and familial good.
The common good is the social conditions that promote the things that we humans have in common as individuals and members of family.
The common good takes account of who we are as individuals and in associations with other individuals, e.g. – families.
Christians don’t have to be doing the same things to promote the common good, e.g. – pastors, entrepreneurs, etc.
The church, as the church, has as its primary goal making disciples of all nations.
But even in that capacity, the church should be interested in more than just conversions and saving souls.
We also have to care about God’s created reality including things like physics, education, etc.
How should Christians promote the common good in politics?
Question: when is coercion warranted?
In Romans 13, Paul says that the state does have power to coerce to achieve certain ends, like justice.
Most Christians think that there are some things where the state can use coercion, for example, to prevent/punish murder.
It is OK for the police to use coercive force to maintain public order and the rule of law.
But we need to ask whether other things are legitimate areas for the state to use coercive force.
We should only give the state power to coerce when there is no other way to achieve a goal.
We need to leverage the science of economics in order to know how to achieve the common good.
Henry Hazlitt: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
For example, what happens if we raise the federal minimum wage to $50. What happens next for all groups? That’s what we need to ask in order to know which policies achieve the common good.
When it comes to economics a lot of things have been tried in other places and times.
We can know what works and doesn’t work by studying what was tried before and in other places.
Many things are counter-intuitive – things that sound good don’t work, things that sound bad do work.
Principle: “We are our brother’s keeper”. Christians have an obligation to care for their neighbors.
We all agree on the goal. But how do we do things that will achieve that goal?
We have to distinguish aspirations from principles and prudential judgment.
Principle: We should provide for the material needs of the poor.
Prudence: Seeing the world as it is, and acting accordingly.
Example policies: which minimum wage is best? None? $10? $20?
We decide based on seeing how different economic policies achieve the goal of helping the poor.
Jim Wallis’ first rebuttal:
Jesus commanded us to “care for the poor and help to end poverty”.
Actually, Jesus thought that acknowledging him and giving him sacrificial worship was more important than giving money to the poor, see Matthew 26:6-13:
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper,
7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked.
9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
It’s not clear to me whether Jim Wallis thinks that preaching is more important than redistributing wealth to address material inequality.
I like what Jesus said in a TV series, even though it’s not in the Bible when an actor playing Jesus said to “change the world”.
Jesus never said to “change the world” in the Bible. Should we be concerned that he is quoting a TV actor playing Jesus instead of Jesus.
Here is a terrific story about Bill Bright.
I love Catholic social teaching.
Quote: “All are responsible for all”.
I go to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland every year. I spoke once at 7 AM on the 4th floor.
It’s a funny place for a Christian to be if they care about the poor – rubbing shoulders with leftist elites. He must have named a dozen high-profile people that he spoke with during the debate, as if he could win the debate by some sort of argument from name-dropping. He mentioned the Davos thing several times!
The greatest beneficiary of government actions to deal with the economic crisis was Wall Street banks.
I’m going to tell you a story about what a Washington lawyer says to Jesus.
I’ve had conversations with business leaders where I tell them to integrate moral truths.
I talk about the Good Samaritan parable.
Quote: “Do you love your undocumented neighbor?”
Quote: “Do you love your Muslim neighbor?”
Jay Richards’ first rebuttal:
Who is responsible for your own children? Who knows the most about them?
Parents should have more discretion over their children because they have more knowledge about their child and what’s best for them.
The Good Samaritan doesn’t show that government should confiscate wealth through taxation and redistribute it.
The Good Samaritan emphasizes voluntarily charity to help people who are not necessarily your immediate neighbor.
Some of the things we do should be for the good of other people in other countries.
But then we are back to leveraging economics to know what policies are good for those other people in other countries.
The principle of subsidiarity: if a problem can be addressed by a lower level of society (family) then we shouldn’t make higher levels (government) address it.
The best place to take care of children is within the family.
Only if the family fails should wider and wider spheres get involved.
Although we want to think of the common good in a global sense, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact
The financial crisis: we need to integrate moral truths, but also economic truths.
We don’t want to assume policies based on intuitions, we want to check our intuitions using economic principles.
Why did we have a financial crisis in mortgages, but not in commodities futures or technology, etc.?
Greed is a contributing factor in all areas of business.
Something more was going on in the mortgage markets than just greed.
There were specific policies that caused the mortgage lending crisis.
The root cause of the problem were “affordable housing policies” that lowered lending restrictions on low income people.
The policy ended up degrading the underwriting standards on loans.
Government intruded into the market and undermined the normal ways of
People were getting massive loans with no income, no jobs, no assets and no down payment.
The federal government created a market for risk loans by guaranteeing
There was a government imposed quota on mortgage lenders such that 50% of their loans had to be given to high-risk borrowers.
That is what led to the financial crisis. Not the free market, but intrusions into the free market.
These policies were well-meaning and implemented by people from both parties. But they had bad effects.
I noticed that the Democrats are trying to focus on health care in the 2018 mid-terms, so I thought I would re-post a debate on health care between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. I think debates are always a good idea, because you have to listen to both sides. If you can’t watch the full debate, there’s a good article summarizing the main points further down.
Here is the full video:
It’s 90 minutes long. No commercials. This was basically a debate of similar substance to the William Lane Craig debates, where actual economic evidence was continuously produced in order to show who was telling the truth, and who was just trying to be popular by saying what people who are uneducated at economics want to hear. In short: there was a clear winner and loser in this debate, and it was clear all the way through, and was reinforced over and over every time evidence was produced. The person producing the evidence would turn his back on the camera, and return to his podium to get the evidence. That person won the debate by being grounded in reality.
Also, the questions were excellent, especially from the small business owners who were impacted by Obamacare. The moderators were biased towards Sanders, but not excessively.
For those who cannot watch, there is an article at the Daily Signal.
In a prime-time debate on CNN this week, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, discussed “The Future of Obamacare” in America. Cruz, a leading critic of the law, used the moment to outline the law’s failures.
Here are four things Cruz said about Obamacare:
1) “Now, nobody thinks we’re done once Obamacare is repealed. Once Obamacare is repealed, we need commonsense reform that increases competition, that empowers patients, that gives you more choices, that puts you in charge of your health care, rather than empowering government bureaucrats to get in the way. And these have been commonsense ideas.”
2) “Indeed, I don’t know if the cameras can see this, but in 70 percent of the counties in America, on Obamacare exchanges, you have a choice of one or two health insurance plans, that’s it … It’s interesting. You look at this map, this also very much looks like the electoral map that elected Donald Trump. It’s really quite striking that the communities that have been hammered by this disaster of a law said enough already.”
During one of the more powerful moments in the debate, Cruz held up aHeritage Foundation chart showing viewers how many counties in the U.S. have access to only one or two insurers under Obamacare. Additionally, only 11 percent of counties have access to four or more insurance providers.
3) “Whenever you put government in charge of health care, what it means is they ration. They decide you get care and you don’t. I don’t think the government has any business telling you you’re not entitled to receive health care.”
The U.S. should not envy other health care systems, especially Canada and the United Kingdom, Cruz said. He referred to a governor from Canada who came to the U.S. specifically to have heart surgery.
4) “That’s why I think the answer is not more of Obamacare, more government control, more of what got us in this mess. Rather, the answer is empower you. Give you choices. Lower prices. Lower premiums. Lower deductibles. Empower you and put you back in charge of your health care.”
Obamacare is burdening Americans. The average deductible for a family on a bronze plan is $12,393, according to a HealthPocket analysis. According to aneHealth report, the average nationwide premium increase for individuals is 99 percent and 140 percent for families from 2013-2017.
I really recommend you watch this debate, because it these things were done on a weekly or monthly basis, then people would be able to think critically about what they are presented with from the mainstream media, Hollywood elites and liberal academics.
Young people seem to think that implementing socialism in the United States won’t cost them a thing. The truth is, the rich don’t have enough money to cover all the spending that socialists want to do. It’s going to be young people who are stuck with the bill, and they’ll have to scale their lives down to third world levels to pay for what they voted for.
Here’s a socialist (former bartender) to explain how she would pay for $40 trillion in new spending, over 10 years:
TAPPER: “Right. I get that. But the price tag for everything that you laid out in your campaign is $40 trillion over the next 10 years. I understand that Medicare for all would cost more to some wealthier people and to the government and to taxpayers, while also reducing individual health care expenditures. But I am talking about the overall package. You say it’s not pie in the sky but $40 trillion is quite a bit of money. And the taxes that you talked about raising to pay for this, to pay for your agenda, only count for two [trillion dollars]. We’re going by left-leaning analysts.”
OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Right. When you look again at how our health care works, currently we pay — much of these costs go into the private sector. So, what we see, for example, is, you know, a year ago I was working downtown in a restaurant. I went around and I asked how many of you folks have health insurance? Not a single person did. They’re paying — they would have had to pay $200 a month for a payment for insurance that had an $8,000 deductible. What these represent are lower cost overall for these programs. Additionally, what this is, it’s a broader agenda. We do know and acknowledge that there are political realities. They don’t always happen with just a wave of a wand but we can work to make these things happen. In fact, when you look at the economic activity that it spurs — for example, if you look at my generation, millennials, the amount of economic activity that we do not engage in. The fact that we delay purchasing homes, that we don’t participate in the economy as purchasing cars as fully as fully as possible is a cost. It is an externality, if you will, of unprecedented amount of student loan debt.”
TAPPER: “I am assuming I won’t get an answer for the other $38 trillion. We’ll have you back and go over that.”
Some people are going to vote for her just because she’s young, female, and sounds so passionate. But let’s take a look at some numbers so we can understand how feasible her plans are.
First, the rich don’t earn enough money to be able to pay for trillions of dollars in spending.
If the IRS grabbed 100 percent of income over $1 million, the take would be just $616 billion.
In 2011, the Tax Foundation explained that even if you taxed ALL THE DISPOSABLE INCOME from all the people who make $200,000 or more, you would only raise $1.53 trillion dollars:
There’s simply not enough wealth in the community of the rich to erase this country’s problems by waving some magic tax wand.
[…]After everyone making more than $200,000/year has paid taxes, the IRS would need to take every single penny of disposable income they have left. Such an act would raise approximately $1.53 trillion. It may be economically ruinous, but at least this proposal would actually solve the problem.
Socialists want to spend $40 trillion more over 10 years, or about $4 trillion per year. Taking most of what the wealthy earn would make up less than half of that spending.
Anyway, we’re not in a position to be doing any spending, because the costs of our existing socialist programs will be increasing going forward.
After averaging 35 percent of national income from the mid-1950s through 2008, the national debt has surged to 78 percent today and is projected to reach 100 percent within a decade, and 200 percent by 2050. Even these scary estimates rest on rosy assumptions — no new military or economic crises and creditors willing to accept record-low interest rates from a government heading towards a debt crisis.
Just to be clear, he’s talking about the debt-to-gdp ratio. When ours gets too high, interest on the debt will rise, be ause lenders aren’t sure they’ll be getting their money back. This will put us into a debt death spiral.
The cause of this coming debt deluge is no mystery: Social Security and Medicare are projected to run a staggering $82 trillion cash deficit over the next 30 years. We are adding 74 million retiring baby boomers to a system that provides Medicare recipients with benefits three times as large as their lifetime contributions and pays Social Security benefits typically exceeding lifetime contributions (even accounting for inflation and interest on the contributions).
We can’t afford the spending we’re already committed to right now:
Politicians promise changes to avoid cuts in Social Security and Medicare, but their alternatives are plainly insufficient. Democrats favor tax hikes on the rich, but even doubling the highest two tax brackets to 70 and 74 percent would close just one-fifth of these programs’ shortfalls — and even that assumes people keep working at 90 percent tax rates when including state and payroll taxes. Slashing defense spending to European levels would close just one-seventh of the gap. Single-payer healthcare proposals are projected by even liberal economists to increase the debt. Republicans favor cuts in antipoverty and social spending, but even the unimaginable elimination of all anti-poverty spending would close barely half of the shortfall.
So, who’s going to pay for all this? It will be the people who have to work and pay income taxes for the next 30 years. The very same young Americans who are voting for socialists today. They’re the ones who are going to have to survive on a fraction of what their parents earned.
But there’s more. The truth is that raising taxes on the wealthy will cause enormous damage to job creators. If you look at socialist countries, the unemployment rate among young people is astronomical compared to the USA today. Why? Because these other countries have taxed and regulated businesses so much that they simply don’t have money to hire people, and if they do hire people, they pay them less than what they can earn for the same work in America.
Last December, the most recent full figures available, 25 million of the EU’s workforce of 240 million were unemployed and actively looking for jobs, producing an unemployment rate of 11 percent.
An additional 11 million were unemployed but had stopped looking or were not immediately available to start work, and were therefore not classified as unemployed. Adding them to the total would bump the jobless rate up to 15 percent.
Then there were more than 9 million part-time workers who wanted to work more hours but had no opportunity to do so – they were counted as employed but felt underemployed.
And finally there were those who were overqualified for their jobs and might well have been making more money elsewhere if they had found the right match for their skills.
European socialism is a kind of hybrid of socialism and capitalism, so it’s not too bad. In places like Cuba, and Venezuela, you get the real thing. I doubt that most young people really understand what is going on right now on the streets of Cuba and Venezuela. If they did, maybe they wouldn’t be voting for socialism here.