Tag Archives: Redistribution

Donald Trump has done more than all of his rich critics to reduce carbon emissions

How much have countries cut carbon emissions?
How much have countries cut carbon emissions?

I wanted to look at who has been doing the most to cut carbon emissions. Then we’ll look at whether the secular left supports the technologies that achieved actual cuts in carbon emissions. Then we’ll look at the technologies that the secular left supports, to see whether they achieve similar success. Then we’ll draw a conclusion about the environmentalism of the secular left.

Let’s start with the data on carbon emissions. As you can see from the graph above, the biggest offenders are China and India. These countries make a show about caring for the environment to shame America, but the truth is that they are the biggest polluters of all, and getting worse.

Daily Wire reports:

The United States led the entire world in reducing CO2 emissions last year while also experiencing solid economic growth, according to a newly released report.

“The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt,” The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported on Tuesday. “US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”

[…]The IEA noted that 80% of the increase in CO2 emissions came from Asia and that China and India both contributed significantly to the increase.

So how was America able to do that? The answer is that they they adopted zero-emission technologies, specifically fracking and nuclear power:

[…][C]heap, natural gas, made available by fracking, has already made the U.S. the world leader in carbon emissions reduction. By allowing gas to displace coal as the leading fuel for domestic power generation, fracking has already done more to reduce emissions than the combined activity of all the environmental activists in human history. Renewables such as wind and solar, which still play only a minor role in generation, cannot operate without the flexible backup that gas provides for those times when the wind stops and the sun sets or goes behind a cloud.

Natural gas will help reduce carbon emissions in the short run. But nuclear is the only long-term answer if you’re worried about climate change.

It should be noted that the secular left opposes both fracking and nuclear power, and that’s because they’re either lying about their concern for the environment (possible) or they think that renewable energies like wind and solar can do the job. But can they?

Environmentalists burning helicopter fuel to de-ice wind turbines one at a time
Environmentalists burning helicopter fuel to de-ice wind turbines one at a time

Far-left NPR explains:

While most of a turbine can be recycled or find a second life on another wind farm, researchers estimate the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years, a figure that doesn’t include newer, taller higher-capacity versions.

There aren’t many options to recycle or trash turbine blades, and what options do exist are expensive, partly because the U.S. wind industry is so young. It’s a waste problem that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be: a perfect solution for environmentalists looking to combat climate change.

It’s difficult to transport the blades. There are few landfills big enough to accommodate them. And no one has the expensive equipment to cut them down to smaller sizes. But wait! There are more problems.

My problems with wind and solar power are simple. They are extremely expensive, which raises the cost of electricity to consumers and businesses. They are extremely unreliable, and require constant maintenance and backup-support from traditional high-pollution sources. And most importantly, they mass murder birds, including protected birds, by the millions. That last reason along is enough to make me oppose them. I love birds!

Forbes magazine points out problems with the wind and solar power favored by the secular left:

In reality, solar farms require hundreds of times more land, an order of magnitude more mining for materials, and create hundreds of times more waste, than do nuclear plants.

And wind farms kill hundreds of thousands of threatened and endangered birds, may make the hoary bat go extinct, and kill more people than nuclear plants.

We can find out what happens when the secular-leftists get their way on energy policy by looking at France and Germany, where it’s already been tried:

Just contrast Germany and France. Germany has done much of what the Green New Deal calls for. By 2025 it will have spent $580 billion on renewables and related accoutrement, while shutting down its nuclear plants.

All that Germany will have gotten for its “energy transition” is a 50% increase in electricity prices, flat emissions, and an electricity supply that is 10 times more carbon-intensive than France’s.

[…]France spent $30 billion on renewables and saw the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and electricity prices, rise.

France and Germany and every other real world situation prove that nuclear power is the only way to significantly, deeply, and cheaply decarbonize energy supplies, and thus address climate change.

The problem with nuclear is that it doesn’t demand the radical re-making of society, like renewables do, and it doesn’t require grand fantasies of humankind harmonizing with nature.

Nor does nuclear provide cover for funnelling billions to progressive interest groups in the name of “community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture, or transit systems.”

The secular left opposes zero-emission technologies like fracking and nuclear, and there’s a reason for that. Those technologies reduce the cost of electricity. Which means that people can use as much electricity as they like. But the secular left doesn’t want people to have low-cost electricity. They can only NATIONALIZE the energy industry (i.e. – COMMUNISM) because people complain about the high costs of electricity. The secular left has already been pursuing this policy of raising the cost of education and healthcare with government subsidies and regulations, in order to convince voters that the only solution to (artificially) inflated costs is for government to step in and take control. In countries like Canada, this is the exact model they adopted, (e.g. Ontario Hydro under Kathleen Wynne), in order to raise the prices of electricity. That is their real goal.

We do not want this, because the seizing of private property, redistribution of wealth, and nationalization of industry are precisely the policies that lead countries like Venezuela and Cuba into long-term poverty. The secular leftists don’t care if the quality of your utilities, education and health care drop precipitously because it is run by the government. Their goal is for the elites to fly around in private jets with armed security, while the little people wait in bread lines for food, wait for health care for months, and are indoctrinated to love communism in college.

What is masculinity, and why do leftists oppose it?

Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map
Air Force TACPs confirm target locations with their map and GPS

My friend Adina shared a splendid article from the American Thinker with me. People often ask me why I speak about policy and politics so much on a Christian apologetics blog. My usual answer is that things like money and religious liberty are central to how Christians run their lives. But this article made me think of a deeper reason, one that’s been the driving force in my life for a long time.

First, let’s see some of the article, then I’ll talk about why this article is a key to really understanding men like me.

Excerpt:

An ongoing mantra of the left is that everyone is a victim, with a singular carve-out for white men.  A large group of the female population has embraced this chant.

While there may be a number of grievances put forth by this movement, there also comes a theme that is particularly dangerous: the feminist attack on masculinity.  This is derived not only from feminists; it comes from the left in general.

There has emerged a war on masculinity.  Why?  Because masculine men are harder to control under tyrannical socialism.  The modern beta male, on the other hand, craves socialism.  This is why the left has branded masculinity as toxic: it stands as a roadblock to their endgame.

That’s the thesis of the article, and here is a snippet that I want to talk about:

The feminist hatred for masculinity is only another tool in the toolbox of communism.  Masculinity tends to make a man individualistic.  Individualistic men are capitalists, not communists.  They are men who cherish individual liberty, and they rely on themselves rather than on government.  Self-reliance is a four-letter word for leftists, and masculine men are generally self-reliant.  Beta males like Pajama Boy rely on government, and such modern men, devoid of any semblance of masculinity, are ideal for leftist indoctrination.

Were the frontiersmen communists or capitalists?  How about the cowboys?  How about the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers?  Sure, the press may find in the military a few Che Guevara t-shirt-wearing idiots and parade them all over the place, but I am willing to bet that the majority of SEAL Team 6 comprises masculine capitalists.

What games do young boys play?  They pretend to be cowboys.  They pretend to be soldiers.   They don’t pretend to be soviet textile workers slaving under Stalin’s system.  They don’t pretend to be entitled Millennial brats who congregate at Starbucks and talk about the wonders of socialism, either.  Most boys hit the ground embracing masculinity.  Some maintain it, but many have it berated out of them by the weak society they walk in or by their leftist parents.

Masculinity leads a man to seek to better himself in many regards, while collectivism thrives on mediocrity.  Collectivism in this country is sought by the lazy who don’t want to work but feel entitled to free handouts of all kinds.

I can confirm from my reading of SEAL and Ranger autobiographies that they are overwhelmingly conservative in their politics.

OK, so two points about this. First, I grew up in a very liberal environment where masculinity was already under attack starting from elementary school. It started in the public schools with the lazy public school teachers. In college, I saw lazy college students doing non-STEM degrees because they were easy. And then they wanted bailouts for their unpaid student loans.

I really noticed it when I worked for the government during a couple of summers. Most people in unionized jobs just don’t have the marketable skills to make it in the private sector, where people are paid based on performance and can easily be fired for failure to perform. Public schools and government are two places where people who can’t perform go in order to make money without having to perform. Even their raises are defined by collective bargaining, not individual merit. (My public school system even went on strike, and I would see the teachers holding signs in order to get paid more, instead of doing what normal people do, and producing more). Working in the public sector just not acceptable to people who want to work hard and advance by merit.

The more I experienced this, as a student and as a government employee, the more I realized that I wanted to get as far away as possible from laws and policies that reflect a desire to provide security for lazy people. I wanted these people out of my life. I didn’t want them getting my money. I did not want them making the rules that I had to live by. I wanted to cut government funding and enact right-to-work and school choice laws. Just to stop the forced funding of lazy people through mandatory taxes. I didn’t yet realize that there was any masculine-feminine distinction going on, I just knew that these were lazy people, they made poor choices because of their desire for fun and laziness, and they ought to be starving, not getting paid. And as the left started to crack down on free speech, guns, and other freedoms, I started a lifelong journey from blue states to red states. I just wanted nothing to do with these people interfering in my life, and leeching off of me. I wanted to post pictures of a Steyr Aug on Twitter and tag all my female public school teachers and their nanny state allies, who didn’t like guns because “they are loud and scary”. (Note: I do not yet own a Steyr Aug. Maybe some day.).

My second point is about how this denigration of masculinity works out in relationships.

I wanted to get married pretty much from high school. Since I didn’t have a stay at home mom, I decided early on that I wanted that for my children. I can remember thinking about this in my junior year of high school (grade 11). So, I talked to my Dad about it, and he suggested that I not follow my dream of becoming an English teacher, and instead focus on computer science. I was just as good at computer science as English literature in those days – good enough for the class awards every year in both subjects. So, I got the BS and the MS, and then moved to find work that would pay a lot. And I saved a lot of what I earned.

Fast forward to my relationships. What I found is that women who were influenced by leftism had zero respect for my ability to lead in areas like education, career and finance. Since they had been taught that masculinity was toxic, they would often prefer younger, penniless, unemployed students who were more easily manipulated. They resented that I would offer them advice about what to study, where to work, and how to save more, which – along with apologetics and raising parrots – is about the only stuff I’m qualified to give advice about! Basically, they had been trained to see male competence as toxic. Male leadership – even when it was clearly demonstrated from past success – was toxic. And the “best” men were the men who let them make decisions based on their feelings, which mostly involved pursuing fun and being irresponsible – and sometimes even immoral. Men exist to give women “feelings”, and for no other purpose than that.

Well, that’s what I wanted to say about how my experience with anti-masculinity in education, career and relationships has affected me. My masculinity came about naturally, as a result of encountering leftism in different areas of my life. And I think having to deal with it up close just pushed me further in the masculine direction. That is not to say that I am a promiscuous, risk-taking thug. I’m chaste, I’m a software engineer, I don’t drink, I have no tattoos or piercings, I’ve never been arrested, and I’ve saved most of what I earned. But if I could move to a place where government kept out of my business and out of my wallet, then I’d move. If I could find a woman who respected the strengths of men, then I’d marry her.

I basically want to be in a place where the government and the women around me are respectful of my different priorities and different life goals. Unfortunately, I’m living in a time of great foolishness, and much of that has been brought about by leftism. Much of my income is confiscated so that other people can spend it and call themselves “generous” with money they did not, and could not, earn themselves. My liberty is constrained, and the people who cost me money or do me harm – illegal immigrants, criminals, terrorists, etc. – are treated better than I am. All in the name of “compassion”. We are in a time and place where people in high places are at war with masculinity. I wish I could opt out of every nanny state policy, but there’s no opt-out.

Podcast: Was Jesus a socialist? Does Christianity teach socialism?

Let's take a deep dive into the Bible
Let’s take a deep dive into the Bible

I noticed that Christianity Today, which has turned hard left in recent years, is now openly endorsing socialism. So, I thought it might be a good idea to listen to this new episode of the Think Biblically podcast, which deals with the issue of Christianity and socialism. The hosts actually brought an economist on to define socialism, then they analyze the teachings of Jesus.

Here’s the description: (H/T Nathan)

It has not been uncommon for advocates of virtually every economic system to invoke Jesus in support of their views, though some of the most ardent advocates for both capitalism and socialism did not have any particular religious views themselves (Rand, Marx). Over the years, some of the more recent advocates of socialist type economic arrangements have appealed to Jesus and the gospels in support of such systems. Economist Lawrence Reed helps us sort out the application of the teaching of Jesus to economics and its relevance for economic life today. Join us for this provocative conversation as he tackles the question of Jesus and socialism.

Show notes, including a full transcript, are available at: biola.edu/thinkbiblically

Topics:

  • who plans the economy in socialism?
  • who should own the means of production in socialism?
  • how should wealth be distributed in socialism?
  • what tools does socialism use to provide people with health care, employment, security, etc.
  • which countries have adopted socialism? North Korea? Cuba? Venezuela? How about the Scandinavian countries?
  • what in the New Testament has caused people to think that Jesus was a socialist?
  • did Jesus ever advocate for concentrating power in the government in order to meet the material needs of people?
  • did Jesus ever advocate for voluntary charity in order to meet the material needs of people?
  • in our experience, is government seen to be more compassionate or less compassionate than individual people?
  • does voluntary charity have any advantages over forced redistribution by a powerful central government?
  • what about the example of common possessions among the earliest Christians?
  • what is the Bible’s view of wealth? is it always bad to be wealthy, or does it matter how you obtained it and how you use it?
  • what does the parable of the talents tell us about socialism vs capitalism?
  • what does the parable of the good Samaritan tell us about socialism vs capitalism?
  • what does the parable of the three different shifts of workers tell us about socialism vs capitalism?
  • what about socialist policies and higher tax rates in countries like Canada and Scandinavian countries?

I have to be honest. I think that some of the economics reasoning about the parables was a stretch, because those parables are talking mainly about other topics, not economics. But it’s true that the parables aren’t friendly to socialism even if they are interpreted as being about economics.

Jim Wallis debates Jay Richards on Christianity and economics

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:

The debaters

Jay Richards:

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:

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

SUMMARY

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.

Jay Richards' main point in the debate
Jay Richards’ main point in the debate

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:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 

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.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 

“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.

Jim Wallis debates Jay Richards on Christianity and economics

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:

The debaters

Jay Richards:

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:

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

SUMMARY

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.

Jay Richards' main point in the debate
Jay Richards’ main point in the debate

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:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 

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.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 

“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.