Search powered by Google



Covetousness as national policy

It dismays me how often I hear Christians appealing to covetousness as a basis for laws and regulations. How often have you gotten email forwards appealing to you to try to punish gasoline companies for high prices? Usually these emails propose some kind of boycotting scheme which honestly is not rooted in rational economic thought -- the proposed plan would usually alter but not diminish demand for gasoline, and so prices would not be affected. Or how often do you hear people, often Christians, complaining about Wal-Mart or other large companies, basically for having too much money, for being too successful?

All of these appeals have their base in covetousness -- wanting that which is not ours, and being upset that somebody has something which we do not. With these attitudes, we are prey for politicians who want to expand government power in our name, at the expense of the economic prosperity of our nation, our neighbors, and ourselves, and as well as at the expense of doing what is right and Godly.

God's word couldn't be more clear about covetousness. "Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17). "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Deuteronomy 5:21). "I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be covetous" (I Corinthians 5:11 -- wow!). "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). I encourage you to go look for the word "covetousness" in your New Testament yourself, because there are some other very shocking and damning things God has to say about it.

In the Old Testament, covetousness was not to be used as the basis of policy, or as the basis for the decisions of the judges. We're encouraged today to try to use the sword of the government as a weapon to make those who have (we're led to believe that they have because they stole ... this may sometimes be the case, but usually if they did steal it was government doing the stealing for them) share with those who have not (often they have not because government stole from them, too ... or because government stole from those who would've employed them, or made laws against trading with them). While we are supposed to be compassionate to the poor with our own money, we are not to violate the principles of justice and private property to do it. "You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute." (Exodus 23:2-3) God anticipated this urge to favor the poor and steal from the rich to "help." This is prohibited. If you want to help the poor, do so with what God has given you and use the power of the Gospel to preach that others should do the same.

Finally, check out Acts 5:4. This is the case of somebody who had property that could've been used to help the poor. Acts 5:4 teaches us God's inviolable principle of private property: "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?" You'll want to read the context of this yourself in order to fully understand the story. The church didn't get to vote on making members sell property and give to the poor. The church didn't get to use the government to get around this restriction, either.


Do Christians have the right to govern?

God states in Romans 13 that all governments which exist have been established by Him. He did not say that He established only democracies, or only monarchies, or only good governments, or only those that are established on the principles of His word. In fact, He says this about the Roman empire -- a government which practiced nearly every form of depravity and oppression imaginable.

Clearly when God says He established governments, He was not saying that He sanctions all of their actions. Instead, God declares throughout Scripture that He uses governments, just as He uses the actions of all men, good and evil, to bring about His will. The Lord causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). God raised up Pharaoh of the hard heart and established him as an oppressive ruler of His own people in order to display His glory and majesty (Exodus 9:13-17). God used arrogant Nebuchadnezzar to discipline His people, Judah. (In fact, even though He tried desperately in the book of Daniel to call Nebuchadnezzar unto Himself, He also declared in Isaiah 14 that He would punish Babylon for this sin of rising up against His people. The action was wicked. The result was used by God for good. But those who took the wicked action bore their guilt.) God used Judas to betray the Lamb of God for crucifixion.

So God commands Christians to submit to government, and declares that He uses government and has established it Himself, but does not sanction everything governments do or declare them to be perfect.

Are Christians permitted to govern other people?

To ask this is to ask the question: are Christians permitted to engage in the actions that governments engage in?

We have already seen that Christians may not engage in taxation because Christians are not permitted to take what does not belong to them.

God has placed a sword in the hand of government in order to punish evil (Romans 13:4). May Christians punish those who practice evil?

What is a Christian supposed to do to someone who practices evil in the church? The most famous passage about this is found in Matthew 18:14-20: Christians are to reprove other Christians when they practice evil, first privately, then with witnesses, with the intent of restoring the wayward Christian so that he will not be lost. Ultimately if a Christian will not repent of practicing evil, he is to be put out of the church. This practice may also be seen in I Corinthians 5 and I Timothy 1:20, where it is referred to as "delivering a person to Satan," and again in these passages the idea is that the person is put out of the church, back into the world tormented by Satan, with the hope that he will repent after such a consequence and be restored to fellowship. (You might also see I John 5:16-17.)

What about a person outside of the church? Christians are absolutely forbidden to judge those outside of the church. I Corinthians 5:9-13 declares: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges." Persons outside of the church cannot be "delivered to Satan" (put out of the church), because they are already in the grasp of Satan.

So, for those inside of the church, the maximum penalty that Christians may oppose is to put them out of the church, and for those out of the church, no penalty may be imposed.

Therefore, it is wrong for Christians to take upon themselves the role of government, to attempt to punish evildoers. Within the church, Christians are under the government of God, the kingship of Jesus, and the administration that He has set up (with accountability to fellow Christians, to elders, etc.). Outside of the church, I Corinthians 5:13 states, people are judged not by us, but by God. One means God uses to judge people and punish evil is government, as we have seen from Romans 13. So, if God is judging them and we are not, then government is clearly not our domain.

Remember this the next time someone tells you that Christians need to vote on a measure outlawing sin.


Funding controversial causes

Is it right to take tax money and use it to fund abortions? Of course not. Of course, we know that the abortions are wrong, but unfortunately about half of society disagrees. But thankfully we can sometimes come to the agreement (though not often enough) that it is wrong to take "other people's tax money" and use it to fund causes that they find reprehensible and immoral.

In our society, a significant number of people oppose the war in Iraq. Is it right to take the money of these people and use it to fund the war? I submit that it is not. These people are being forced to fund an act that they find immoral and reprehensible. Sadly, people of faith are often at the forefront of justifying this coercive funding, which I demonstrated to be stealing in an earlier post.

Now I'm not saying everybody ought to agree with the opinion of the war protestors. I am personally a Christian pacifist, but I have to confess that a) the war against Iraq sounded pretty rational to me, as long as you accept the idea that we may use force to defend ourselves, which most people accept, and b) the people trying to make a case against the Iraq war honestly have yet to make a case that sounds rational to me. (And I've honestly tried to look. I even checked to see what Pat Buchanan said, because I assumed an honored Republican who opposed the war had to have some good reasons. But he couldn't get away from the same "Bush lied" nonsense I hear from complete non-thinkers. I was disappointed.)

But what I am saying is that we do not have the right to force our opinions on other people. Not in any way, and certainly not through forcing people to fund our causes. It would be wrong to forcibly take the money of other people to teach Christianity, to teach evolution, to fund abortions, to fund charities, to fund peace activists, or to fund wars, assuming the victims -- I mean taxpayers -- didn't agree with the cause and/or were not willing for their money to be spent in this way.

Here's a little fact that seems to be a big surprise to many on the Left and the Right: embryonic stem-cell research is not illegal in America. What is prohibited by George W. Bush's decision of 2001 is the use of federal funds for this research. The main reason is the justification I'm using in this essay: it is wrong to take money from people to use it for something that they are not sure is right, or are certain is not right. Private (and even state) funding of this research is still allowed.

So sometimes we recognize this principle. But violations occur all the time. The public school system might be the biggest example: we take money from "all of society" in order to educate "all of society" the way "all of society" wants. This means that our democratic institutions get to vote as to exactly what shall be taught: we can vote to teach evolution, or creationism; we can vote to teach homosexuality as abomination, or as alternate lifestyle. We can vote to teach history as leading inexorably toward liberty, toward democracy, or toward Marxism. We can vote to teach sexual abstinence and chastity, or fund contraceptives for children. Possibly every single identifiable group in society has their money stolen from them and used against them in our school system.

Want a more principled way to accomplish your goals? Do it with your own money. Honor what God said: "Thou shalt not steal." If you want something to succeed, donate your own time, money, and resources, and attempt to persuade others to do the same. If you do not have the resources to accomplish it, perhaps God does not want it done, or wants you working on something else. Concerned about underprivileged, uneducated children? Start a charitable work to help. Concerned about the lack some people have of health care? Start a charitable work to help. Concerned that some children who are existing with inadequate supervision (basically emancipated by default, which turns them into adults in my mind) don't have birth control and need it? Use your own money to provide it, not mine. (And stay away from my kids, while you're at it. They are not grown up yet, and I'm not turning them loose until they are.)

In so doing, you'll manage to accomplish whatever God wants to permit you to accomplish without committing the sin of stealing. You'll have a society where nobody is forced to fund something that they object to on principle. Moreover, you'll also eliminate the economic waste that taxation and socialism accomplishes: when we socialize an aspect of our existence, when we fund it collectively and coercively, we find that we always, always misallocate resources: some issues are overaddressed (meaning we spent too much to accomplish something that could've been accomplished for less), while other issues are underaddressed (meaning something we want done doesn't get funded). A collective, centralized system where decisions are made for everybody as a whole (rather than individually, as decentralized individuals pursuing the ends we believe in, independently) cannot possibly accurately calculate the relative worth of the needs that need to be addressed. But when we allow ourselves to function as God's ordained free market, we function as a gigantic distributed supercomputer that can and does do so, that outperforms any collectivists wildest utopian fantasy.

Are you worried that this won't work? Then let me ask you to do something: please support banning and terminating these annoying Susan Komen breast cancer marathons. Obviously private funding to cure cancer will never work, and these things are a major annoyance and inconvenience to me.

Obviously the Susan Komen foundation believes that something worthwhile can be achieved through voluntary funding. And since God commanded that we not steal, commanded that we respect private property even if we think we might be able to use it to do good like helping the poor (Acts 5:4), and promised to make sure that we always had an abundance (not that we could always obtain an abundance by taking what doesn't belong to us) in order to be able to perform every good deed He wants us to do (II Corinthians 9:6-12), God obviously believes this as well. Christians should never support funding "good works" of any sort through taxation.

But didn't God command us to pay our taxes? Of course He did. Pay them. Just don't tax other people. And once the money is taken, recognize it as Caesar's, not yours. Caesar was not one of God's people, and he certainly didn't use the money that he took from God's people for God's purposes. In fact, he used it to oppress God's people and fund immorality such as drunken orgies and idol worship. If somebody wants to take what is yours, do not resist them. But never pretend that God has authorized you to do the same.


Why Christians cannot tax

Imagine you meet a man in an alley and demand his money. You tell him that if he does not give you his money, you will kill him.

Obviously, this is theft. It is a violation of God's command "Thou shalt not steal." You are also threatening to violate God's command "Thou shalt not kill." No Christian would justify such an action.

Suppose the man weighs the situation and decides to comply with your threat: he gives you his money. Has he done so willingly? Have you therefore not committed theft? Can you just say that the man made a gift? Of course not! The man only gave you his money because you gave him no choice. (Or, at least no choice other than death.) If you do this, God will judge you.

Now, suppose you and one other person meet a third person and demand his money. If the third person doesn't comply, you will tie him up and leave him. Again, whether he gives you his money or chooses to resist, you are committing theft. You are committing sin, and God will judge you.

Suppose you and ten other people meet two people and demand their money. You threaten them, and whether they comply or resist, you are committing theft.

Suppose you and fifty people decide to take the money of ten people. You tell the ten that the sixty of you are going to take a vote as to who should own the money. The ten lose the vote. You take their money. Did this theft become right because you pretended to give the ten a say in where their money should go? Of course not. You have stolen that which is not yours.

Suppose the ten resist. They see through the sham of the vote and realize they have no chance to keep their money and that it is being stolen. You tell them that if they do not make their voice known that this means they are willingly letting you decide who will keep the money, that they have no cause to complain when the vote does not go their way. You tell yourself that you are justified in taking their money. But of course you are lying to yourself. You have stolen other people's money.

Suppose you and fifty-one percent of the population of America meet the other forty-nine percent of the population of America. You tell them that you are going to hold a vote as to who gets the privilege of taking money. You call this privilege "taxation." You tell the forty-nine percent that they must participate in the vote and that they must abide by its outcome. You tell them that if they do not participate that they are bad people and that they will have no cause to complain if the vote does not go the way they want it to. Most of the forty-nine percent participate, they of course lose the vote, and the rest of you get your leaders in place with the privilege of taking as much money as they want. Even though you've voted to give these people the privilege of taking money, does that mean that they now have the right to do so? Of course not. You can call it what you want, but it is still theft.

You may rightfully hire someone to do anything that it is right for you to do. You are rightfully permitted to drive your car, so you may hire a chauffeur to drive it. You are rightfully permitted to defend yourself against a thief, so you may hire a security guard. You are rightfully permitted to preach the Gospel, so you may hire a preacher to do so.

You do not have the right to hire somebody to take money that is not yours though, do you? So if you hire somebody to do so, you are hiring them to commit theft. You are responsible for the actions of people acting on your behalf, just as surely as if you hired a hit man to kill for you.

Back to our series of "supposes": suppose you and eighty-percent of the population vote for leaders with the right to "tax" people. Does that mean they may now rightfully take money, on your behalf? That anyone who wants to keep his money away from your hired goons is selfish? Of course not. You are empowering people to steal on your behalf.

It doesn't matter how many people become involved, they never have the right to take what isn't theirs, because none of the people in the group have that right. You can call it taxation and pretend it's justified because of democracy, but you're still stealing.

Christians are not allowed to steal, not even for noble purposes. Therefore, Christians may not tax, and may not empower people to tax on their behalf. Doing so would be stealing.

And again, let me remind you of this marvelous fact: economists of the Austrian school have proved that a society without the interference of taxation runs the best and reaches the maximum satisfaction that can be reached in a world of scarcity. Taxation turns out to be waste (even when the tax money is spent). This shouldn't surprise us. If a band of raiders rode into a town every year and took twenty percent of the town's property, we'd recognize that as a twenty percent loss to the town, and a horrible economic inefficiency.

It also shouldn't surprise us because God told us not to. We should have enough faith in God to do what He says even when it hasn't been proved to us like this.

But didn't God command us to pay our taxes? Yes, He certainly did. He also commanded us to give up when we are sued, to let people take things from us when they want to, to allow ourselves to be defrauded, and not to resist if someone wants to steal from us. God can and does use the actions of wicked men to accomplish good, and therefore He may accomplish good through those who practice taxation. But this does not mean that we are permitted to do this. Let us leave it up to wicked men and let God use them as He will.


The Philosophy of Liberty

Here's a short little movie you must see, entitled the Philosophy of Liberty.

You can view it directly here. Or you can view it in its original webpage here. Finally, you can install it as a screensaver to educate others. :)

This little film explains what is right and wrong, politically, in a very simple manner, from basic concepts with which we should all agree. (If you believe in the right to enslave others you might disagree with its basic concepts.) It explains why we are required, morally, to support liberty, and why exercising power over other people is immoral.

The presentation contains no reference to religious concepts. However, its fundamental principles are things that are taught in the Christian religion. Everything else it says is proved from those fundamental concepts. Thus, we should recognize that this is not just someone's political fantasy: it is binding on Christians.

Moreover, the truly wonderful thing is that Austrian economics has proved that if we would respect liberty, as taught by this presentation and on this site, we would see maximum economic prosperity. All attempts to interfere with liberty result in a suboptimum result: we tamper with things to make them "better" and make them worse, overall. This should not surprise us. If we would just have faith in what God teaches us, which means being willing to trust and obey Him and do what He says simply because He says it, we would not need to have mathematical proof that His way is best. Nevertheless, it seems that God has written His laws into the very fabric of the universe, in such a way that nations and groups that disregard them find themselves penalized for it. Want prosperity for your nation? Then practice the liberty that God decrees.


Sports are socialized

Have you ever noticed that in America, even sports are socialized?

Are high school sports paid for by private enterprise and the free market, or by money collected from all of society? Is the new Dallas Cowboys stadium being paid for by private enterprise and the free market, or by money collected from society?

How much free market competition is there to government football at the high school level? A tiny little bit in homeschooling and private schools. From whom are pro-football players selected? A free market system, or a government-run system paid for by society?

You do have your Little Leagues, but that's a perfect example of a free market springing up to address a need that government hasn't, in its infinite wisdom, attempted to address. Just think of the business in high school sports there could be if government wasn't monopolizing it all.

High school sports teams do engage in some private funding. But it's still primarily funded by taxpayers, and woe to those who suggest that taxes should not be spent in this manner. College sports do have some funding from admission tickets, concessions, etc. But since a lot of those colleges are state colleges, I'm sure there's some state funding there, so even though some of it's free market (just as some of pro sports is free market), it's mixed and polluted with ... socialism.

In fact, for state colleges, think of this: the state subsidizes the colleges, so more students go there than would otherwise go to private school. Then the students or the school administration vote to increase funding for their sports programs, extracting additional fees of the students, even those who don't like sports and voted no. So it's a roundabout way of the state encouraging, but not quite compelling, funding, merely by virtue of the fact that they interfered in a free market.

Sports are socialized. Especially in North Texas. Bet you never noticed that!

Now, why is it we quibble over socializing health care again?


Global warming

The conservative and libertarian response to global warming seems to consist primarily of questioning the science behind it. I've had a small problem with this approach: what if they're wrong? I'm not in a position to accurately appraise the science behind global warming. The fact is, most Americans aren't either, but everybody who sat through an Earth Day celebration in public school sixth grade science class and is literate enough to watch television thinks they are qualified to give an expert opinion, and they all "know" that global warming is occurring, and is man-made. The only difference between myself and them is that I'm willing to admit that I am as ignorant as they are.

Since I'm not qualified to appraise the science of global warming, all I've got is an uninformed gut feeling. My gut feeling is that global warming is probably occurring, and that there's a good chance it might be manmade. This sets me at odds with most conservatives and libertarians, who are quick to point out a number of scientists and studies that do not support either of these conclusions.

Of course, I'm even more at odds with liberals.

Liberals (and liberals who call themselves moderates) violently deny that any of the scientists or studies presented by the conservative side are valid. Among other objections, they say we need to follow the money. If you just look at who funds these scientists and studies, they say, you will see that they are all funded by big evil oil companies, or right-wing think tanks, or other organizations that allegedly have a vested interest in denying global warming. The sin of "global warming denial" is now being likened to Holocaust denial, and at least one person has suggested that a future mankind ravaged and dying by the effects of global warming should waste what precious little time and survival effort it has left holding "Nuremburg-style war crimes tribunals" for such criminals.

Well, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. How about we follow the money for the conventional "consensus" expressed by mainstream science. Who does most of the funding for the scientists and studies that are now claiming mankind is headed toward oblivion? The fact is that the vast majority of this is done through government grants. Academic institutions are heavily government funded, and these people are the ones arrogantly claiming that since they know the science, they know the way out of the problem.

What this means is that we have chosen to fund this scientific research through socialism: rather than leaving it up to a free market, "society" (a bunch of lucky elected government officials and appointed bureacrats claiming to act for everybody) has taken money from "society" (follow me closely, here, because this time when I say society I mean everybody else, the people who actually work for a living) in order to fund all of this studying collectively. This is socialism, and it is collectivism. It's the always wrong-headed idea that there is some big, amorphous "we" (all of us) that "we" (some of us) have to act on behalf of. Your money is being taken by other people to fund this. And if you support government funded research, then you are supporting taking money that doesn't belong to you in order to fund it. My father taught me that if I wanted something I should work for it and pay for it myself. So did my God.

I've often argued that if you socialize the education of your children, you get kids who are educated into socialism. The founders of this country believed in children being educated on the free market, what we today call private education (which encompasses education privately through institutions as well as education privately at home). For one hundred years this system was the vanguard of liberty, and a spectacularly free populace turned out to be spectacularly well educated, as well as spectacularly in love with liberty. Then a bunch of meddling Puritans in New England who called themselves Christians decided that they needed to save the world through force rather than through the Gospel of Christ. They engaged in stealing: taking money that did not belong to them to forcibly fund schools. And they engaged in enslavement: taking children who were not theirs, sons and daughters of free Americans, and compelling them to be in their schools rather than the educational environment chosen by their parents. Education was socialized. The rest of the nation followed this great idea, and today not only do we think this is normal, but we also think socialism is a great way to address most of the rest of society's great needs. That freedom-loving populace? Gone. Today we think socialism is freedom. The highly-educated populace disappeared as well.

So, follow the money on the mainstream global warming "consensus." Government funds the studies (socialism), and what do we get? We get a bunch of "scientists" playing politics and telling us that there is a severe problem from which we can only be saved through -- guess what? -- socialism! That's right; the only clear and obvious solution to global warming is to eradicate several more chunks of the free market. People's liberty to use what they own must be taken away, because we have conclusively proved (through government funded studies) that free people are destroying the earth.

And this is why even though I might be at minor odds with the right for thinking that global warming might be true, I'm at far greater odds with the left. I can spot an excuse for socialism a mile away. It's not the science that's coming out of these studies that bugs me, although I certainly think that should be questioned. (That is, after all, what science is all about.) It's the socialism. It's the arrogance that a bunch of people who are highly educated in one field should set "policy" for all of us. It's the arrogance that there should even be "policy." It's the audacity of a people who do not understand history, who do not understand economics, who do not understand the free market, to think that by virtue of their education in one field of human experience -- science -- that they are therefore the most educated and have become qualified to assume the role of kings and tyrants. Not only is this not freedom, it's probably not the way to solve the global warming problem.