Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What I Mean by Will Hunting Smart

I have adopted the phrase "Will Hunting Smart." You should too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Bad news, I've moved.

You can now read me here.
Or type in

I hope you'll add me to your list server there.

Jeff and I have started a radio show called "Failure to Refrain," as in President George Bush has failed to refrain from comparing Iraq to Vietnam.

Anyway, I continue to do battle at God's Politics as jurisnaturalist. We're still on immigration...

And school has started again. This semester I'm reading... a lot... no, really, a LOT.

So, come on over and read what's new.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Assymetric Voting

Megan has a post explaining why NYC will always get Republican mayors.

The gist is that the Democrats, having such a majority in NYC, will always nominate a candidate too liberal to win the general election. Instead a liberal Republican will get the job. This would be interesting to test. If it is true, then Democracy is an effective check on extremist groups, but not against moderate statists.

Maybe this book will have something to say about it.

Add this to my list

Patronization Kills

Monday, August 20, 2007

'Nuff Said

go duke!

Hat tip,
Struttin' Wolf

Obfuscation is the Mother of Invention

As a member of the next generation of economists, I was glad to receive a short education in econometrics earlier today, which previous generations will certainly be familiar with, to the point of it being a cliche.

Now the problem reveals itself to be related directly to the quantity of upper extreme appendages normally attached to upright biped inspectors of dismal occurances.

Gavel bang to Mankiw.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


This article at Christianity Today gives some of the history of the principle of sanctuary, and perhaps hints at a legitimate role for the church against statism. But it falls short of understanding fundamental subtleties on law.

"As a product of a time when justice was rough and crude," law professor Wayne Logan summarized in a 2003 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, "sanctuary served the vital purpose of staving off immediate blood revenge." If the church could be convinced that the sanctuary seeker's life was not in danger, it would turn him over. "The church, in short, played a foremost role as intercessor," Logan writes. Fugitives in medieval English sanctuaries, about 1,000 a year, were able to negotiate financial compensation or a punishment like scourging or exile.

So the church plays the role of the judiciary by providing a recourse to violence. Justice would be served through a trial process instead of through violence. This is only possible through the Church.

Well, today many churches are choosing to play a similar role in providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants. Christianity Today denounces this action, claiming that the immigrant's life is not in jeopardy, so the church should not intervene. And the Acton Institute seems to agree.

I say nonsense.

It is imperative that we recognize the difference between natural law and legislated arbitrary law.

The natural law protects life liberty and property and enforces contracts.
Arbitrary law is primarily a vehicle for privilege. Laws restricting immigration are no different from laws restricting trade in that they are anti-competitive protectionist measures which award a privilege to incumbant citizens. Such laws are unjust due to their arbitrary and pre-judicial nature. They are pagan, and there exists no justification, moral or consequentialist for such evils.

Therefore, these churches are exercising precisely the correct action in accord with the Christian Ethic. They are protecting the innocent from violence and loss of liberty and property.

The New Sanctuary Movement is one group mobilizing to protect and encourage this action by churches. I am all for it so long as the pendulum doesn't swing so far as to advocate state support for impoverished immigrants.

Opportunity Cost and Immigration

I have little or no pity for the roofers, drywallers, textile workers, etc., who have lost their jobs to immigrants.
Why should they be protected from competition? According to what principle?
Let's say two individuals make widgets. Joe and Larry. Who should you buy a widget from? Let's assume they are of equal quality. Then you buy from whomever sells for less, let's say Joe.

Why? Because it shows that Joe's next best alternative is worse than Larry's next best alternative. He has a lower opportunity cost.

If Larry can make widgets at a cost of $4 or whatsits at a cost of $5, these are his two options.
If Joe can make widgets for $4 or whatsits at a cost of $6, these are his two options.

Who should do what? Let's say we want ten of each. If Larry makes whatsits and Joe makes widgets our economy uses $90.
If they switch roles the economy uses $100.

Everyone is better off if they allocate their energies according to what their next best alternative would be. This would be revealed in the price that each would be willing to sell their widgets for. Joe would be to sell for less because his next best alternative has a higher cost than Larry's next best alternative.

What this shows us is that competition forces people to use their resources in such a way that the entire economy benefits, instead of just concentrated groups.

We might like to protect our buddy's job, because he's our buddy. But we are hurting ourself, and others in the long run, by choosing a less efficient allocation than would have resulted through competition.

No one should ever feel like their job is secure, or that they have an entitlement to anything. Competition forces everyone to always work to improve themselves, to innovate better processes, to invent better machines, to work better, smarter, faster, more efficiently. It is through this competitive process that America has risen to a position of affluence such that it can afford to be concerned about environmental issues and such other luxuries.

Those who fall behind in the competition won't be excluded from participation, they just won't be paid as much. Their services have fallen in relative value.

Immigration is ultimately either about protection of privileged status under the law - classism, or about abuse of public programs - statism.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Africa IS Growing!

and fast in some places.

This table shows growth rates which are very positive. Why the benefits now? What has changed?

No Seatbelts for Student Drivers

This story got me thinking.

If taxi drivers in Russia and the Ukraine don't wear seatbelts as way of signaling (a la Cowen) to passengers that they are safe drivers, perhaps we ought to make teenagers drive without seatbelts for a while. Or maybe all drivers should go without seatbelts.

I've got it! Give them each a dune buggy, minus seat belts, and let 'em loose!

Or maybe this only applies in places where you have to be somewhat insane to be driving at all.

Hat tip: Casnocha

Anarcho-Capitalism and Christianity

What is central to the question of Anarcho-Capitalism and Christianity is the role, source, and execution of law.

Christianity is wholly consistent with a Natural Rights understanding of the scope of law. It is also especially consistent with a Common Law process for derivation of law. Finally, Christianity is peculiarly inconsistent with a legislative process for derivation of law.

The only legitimate role of government from the Christian perspective is Judicial. The Judges were to read, interpret and, rule using the revealed law as delivered to Moses. The book of Deuteronomy consists primarily of the case law up to the time of Joshua.

The courts were to try cases, and anyone not willing to come under the ruling of the Judges was considered an outlaw, outside the protection of the law. The costs incurred in the judicial process were to be born by the individuals involved in the case.

Insomuch as anarcho-capitalism attempts to make the judicial a private function it may or may not be consistent with Christian thought.

Any other role of government beyond the judicial is wholly outside the scriptural mandate for the state.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just a Bad Dream

Some people really are scared of militant Muslims. They think that there are tens of millions of these enemies out there whose ultimate desire is world domination under Islam. They want to build giant walls around America, but with only a fraction of the military force behind those walls, with the rest parading about the world. They want to close off whatever trade they can and regulate the rest.

They are afraid.

But what has actually happened to these individuals personally to make them so frightful?

Many of them were in NY or DC on 9-11. Many more knew people killed or directly impacted by this event. Many have lost their jobs to outsorcing. Others have been underbid by immigrant workers.

These people have legitimate concerns. They are reasonable concerns.

But I think they are wrong to be afraid, and I think their reactions to those things which frighten them merely cause more problems.

Protectionism slows trade down, increasing the likelihood that jobs in export industries or in complemental industries will be hurt. And the United States are still net exporters.

Militarism attempts to impose artificial order and rule of law upon people who do not recognize the authority of force over them. The rules put in place are arbitrary and do not make sense. They are subject to change at the whim of the rulers. The people have no ability to plan for tomorrow or next year. Work and production grinds down. The people are slaves.

Finally, there are not that many militants out there. Of the insurgents in Iraq I'd have to say that most of them are just Freedom Fighters, spiteful of foreign occupation.

And there hasn't been a united Islamic entity in over a thousand years. There is no way such divided groups of people would ever allow one or the other of them to ascend anywhere near to world dominance.

I sympathize with the fearful as much as I do one of my daughters who wakes up with a nightmare, but I must assure you, it is not a real think which you are afraid of. It's just a dream.

Of Capitalism and Christianity

Unregenerate humans are self-interested. Capitalism attempts to channel this aspect of human nature most productively by offering compelling incentives for action.

Christians can overcome self-interest by responding to the call of Christ and obeying His commands.

The response to Christ does not guarantee positive social or personal outcomes! Rather, we are promised persecution and trials, in short the cross of Christ, for our decision.

The enemy of both systems is power, or the use of force. The use of force removes the restraint on self-interest which permits individuals from realizing mutual gains from exchange. The use of force likewise corrupts the message of the cross.

Christians ought to work first to eliminate force from their own habits. Second they should work to protect the victims of the use of force. Third they ought to work to restrain the use of force.

Only Christians are capable of acting out of conscious virtue in imitation of Christ in the renunciation of, protection from, and resistance of force unselfishly. In other words, most people can take care of themselves fine so long as they allowed to defend themselves and care for themselves out of self interest. But for the defenseless and incapable God has provided the Church as a means for overcoming this world.

Capitalism works up to a point, but it neglects the least of these. It does tend to raise the welfare of all participants albeit disproportionately. Christianity has as its unique mandate to care for those who are stuck outside of the Capitalist system.

See See You

I attended Colorado Christian University from Fall of '94 to Spring of '95. Just one year. Long enough to get drunk for the first time in my life, start and break off three romantic relationships, smell my first pot, and get my first full time job. Long enough to rack up a lot of student loans and to discover I didn't belong there.

I got into a fight with then University President over tuition increases of 13% and turned my back to him in protest in front of the entire student body.

Two Presidents later, we get this story, which is not too different from a scandal while I was there involving the dismissal of an ancient languages scholar for being too liberal. I was mad about that, too.

And, if my memory is right CCU is also home to our beloved K-Love. You know: positive, encouraging, sappy-enough-to-make-you-vomit K-Love. Where they play 20 different versions of "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever..."

But the new issue here is interesting to me for different reasons.

I read Jim Wallis' book. I've heard of Singer. I read a lot of atheists and liberals who I disagree with, and plenty of Conservatives I disagree with. And I think I'm smart enough to come up with my own educated opinion about these things. And I think college students are smart enough, too.

Shall we protect our children until they are in the grave, or do we expose them to all the ideas of the real world and challenge them to synthesize what they read with what they observe for themselves?

Then again, if CCU wants to let a guy with just a Master's degree and only two years experience go, there should not be a big baruhaha about it.

Finally, there is the issue of capitalism through this incident. If the Prof wants to better reconcile Jesus' mandate with the effectiveness of capitalism he needs to consider renouncing the state, and discerning between the church and society.

Nathanael Snow

Youth hate church, too. Not just men.

Acton Institute is a liberty and Catholicism thinktank that welcomes all Christians into their discussion about Religion and Liberty.

Today they quote Bonhoeffer, "Do not try to make the church relevant."

Ouch. What do these guys make of that quote?

The point is that most young adults quit church by the time they are 25.


And what about the churches and Christian organizations on campus?

Maybe they all ought to read some Bonhoeffer. Especially Grace Church (whom I support) might want to read this book, which states
"Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace."

Russia's Putin-Youth

The NY Times does something like news reporting here, with a great video about the Nashi movement in Russia: Putin-Youth.

They make some good points, these youths. Russia's economy has improved, the standard of living is better.

But some scary ideas are involved also, especially the make-babies-for-Putin and Russia thinking.

Give teenagers a free camp, with lots of coeds, tell them to make babies, and hate America, and we get what is known by every state as mere good education.

How are American schools any different?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why Greyhound Sucks

Gareth Higgens manages to make a movie review for Once into a screed about Greyhound. He rightly identifies the problem, but fails to understand the solution. (If a government program isn't working, all we need is more government programs, right?)

The problem with Greyhound is its monopoly.

But how did they get a monopoly and what is holding it up?

A firm can only get monopoly power if they charge a low enough price that new competitors can't make a profit by entering the market. This should be good for the consumer because they are enjoying the lowest possible prices. This situation would be called a natural monopoly, but there are few instances of these, and none of them represent an economic injustice.

Greyhound is the other kind of monopoly, the kind subsidized by the state.

Some portion of every greyhound ticket is already paid for before a customer walks up to the counter. These subsidies artificially create the availability of low-ish prices. Also, they provide service to locations which otherwise would not receive service at all.

Because Greyhound does not face competition and is promised funding for routes (even if nobody rides) in these subsidized markets they have no incentive to provide good service, or even to run their busses on time. Also, they have to run their busses through every rinky-dink town along the way making the trip especially long. As a result, middle class and upper class Americans chose not to take the bus. They'll fly or drive themselves, in a rental car if they must, instead. Indeed the last time I rode Greyhound was 9 years ago, NC to California on a 2-week student pass. On and off wherever I wanted to go. But I would never take my wife and kids on such a bus. I was a shady character myself, then...

Remove the subsidy and competition will renew. Instead of the huge, wasteful, aging busses, smaller busses would serve the rinky-dinks off of spur lines, and the main lines would become more efficient, inviting use by more time-conscious individuals. As more people ride, the average cost per customer would go down and in the long run prices would become less expensive for everyone.

Where there is heavy enough traffic, competitors have risen up anyway. I have heard some interesting stories about the Chinatown bus out of NYC, and I have seen some of the migrant worker busses here in NC.

Artificially low prices that confuse incentives result in inefficiencies and almost always lower quality service. The same thing is happening in the airline industry lately (anyone lost a bag in the last few months?).

Stop trying to solve problems by manipulating coercive power, the state. Search for voluntary mechanisms which allow for free exchange and contract, the market.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is Irrelevant?

Randal Holcombe has an essay at Cato Unbound for the Anarchists to take it easy.
I met Dr. Holcombe at the epicenter of anarcho-capitalism at the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Austrian Scholar's Conference last March, and he is at least 1/2 the reason I'm applying to FSU for grad school. (Bruce Benson is the other half.)

His most important point is,

"there are a number of libertarian anarchists who argue for the complete elimination of government. Their arguments are based on two complementary lines of reasoning. One is that anarchy would work better than government (Leeson’s essay is along those lines, although he doesn’t make claims quite that strong), and the other is that the coercion that underlies all government activity is immoral. I have no quarrel with people who make those arguments, but from a policy perspective they are irrelevant."

Now this centers down on what economics is, and reveals the importance of the discussion concerning methodology.

If economics is only relevant when it produces policy recommendation which are politically feasable, then the academy has a responsibility to produce a certain kind of research. Most importantly, it is completely the servant of the state.

If, however, economics is relevant even when it recommends policies which are politically impossible, then it acts more like a true science - such as physics, or biology. It follows the evidence and the logic to every rational conclusion.

The question seems more focussed on whether economists want to be heard, or whether they want their ideas to be purchased.

As an idealist, I can afford to throw public opinion to the wind. If I ever get tenure, I can likewise throw opinion to the wind. In order to get tenure, ah! we must appease. We must produce something useful. We are forced into a Pareto Paradigm (which might be a good name for a blog or radio show..., but not a rock band) where we are restrained from following every though to its rational conclusion, because to do so would be to accept Mankiw's judgment on Hayek: It's just a slippery slope argument, and its not true.

Most economists need to want to be heard. I may or may not be one of them.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who's Your Daddy?

The state is not my daddy.

Who's your daddy?

Should thinking about breaking the law be illegal?
If a father disciplines for foolish rules then he is provoking his children to anger. We call that child abuse. The state has extended its sphere of influence too far. I'm angry, and I know you are too.

What does "backing it up with force" represent?

Under a rule of law all participants agree not to encroach on others' rights. If anyone violates this non-aggression principle, they step out from under the protection of the law and they are outlaws. They enjoy neither protection of their life their property or their liberty.

The criminal in this case may make an appeal to the court to come back under the protection of the law by paying restitution to the injured party. Thus they are restored.

This and the enforcement of voluntarily agreed upon contracts is the full extent of the law.

If once the law has been perverted in such a way that it allows one person, or agency, to take from another and give to whom they please, the protections of natural law are nullified and the law has done that which it was designed to prevent.

Redistribution of wealth falls into this category, as does awarding privilege to large corporations, etc.. In any way that the law goes beyond protection of rights and enforcement of contracts it is perverted, and then who can know it?

The lack of predictability in regards to the law disturbs the transactions made voluntarily amongst individuals. How can they agree upon a contract if they do not know it will be enforced? How can they agree upon a price if they do not know whether the state will impose a price control on one of the factors of their production?

Backing the law up with force actually means the restraint on force - lawful behavior - is forgone by the perpetrator, and he brings the violence upon himself. The state wields this sword for us collectively so as to prevent abuse or misunderstandings by individuals - to give the accused the benefit of the doubt and a way of being restored. It is actually a manifestation of grace.

But if the law be perverted, the grace becomes absent, and all that it represents is violence to all, on the behalf of the state itself instead of on behalf of the individuals supposedly under the protection of the law.

For a much more eloquent discussion of these principles see Bastiat's The Law, available at The Library of Economics and Liberty.

Nathanael Snow

Monday, August 06, 2007

On the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict

Okay, so the zero-state solution won't happen. Ever.

But what position should Christians take?

If we are dealing with two nation-states fighting over territory to the detriment of individuals on both sides, where should our allegiance lie?

Dispensationalists, per the previous thread, have eschatological reasons for favoring the nation-state of Israel, and for supporting nation-states in general. This perspective is ultimately manichean, and must be rejected.

While searching for historical consistency is to be highly regarded, when ethical consistency is sacrificed in order to make things work out right, we must reject these conclusions.

If we give ethics a higher priority, we must place individual sovereignty first and accept a principle of non-aggression. This disallows support for a state which imposes arbitrary standards on non-aggressive innocents. Instead we are guided by Christ’s example to minister to individuals with both the physical substances which meet their immediate needs, and with the gospel message which meets their eternal needs.

But there is no mandate for action through the state. If anyone can direct me to a passage which contradicts this point, I would be most grateful.

Instead we are called to renounce political manipulation as evil, and to operate on voluntary grounds alone.

Every perversion of the gospel involves a Gnostic adoption of pagan means for achieving monotheistic ends at some point. Let us not fall into that trap.

We must not support the state of Israel or the Palestinian state (or the United States Government for that matter.) We must support a limitation of all government for the sake of the liberty of all individuals. We must work to make our own laws more closely parallel natural law, and to eliminate privilege wherever it occurs, whether in the corporate sphere or on an individual level. We must encourage adoption of similar limitations on government among all peoples in all places. We must not allow our voices to be put to work for the purposes of those few who would have the state grow ever larger.

Nathanael Snow

Friday, August 03, 2007

Some thoughts on the state and war

Japan did thus and such to China, Germany did so and so to Russia, Russia did you know what to Japan, and China did the same to the Manchurians.

This is the way the world works under statism. All the different centralized governments fight and scrape like wolves over the sheep. Only a few nations with limited governments were able to restrain themselves from this empire-building tendency. America was one of them, for a while.

What one nation does to another is no justification for a third to intervene. Doing so requires alliance with one of the evils. Better to let the wolves fight each other than to send our labrador in to mitigate.

The innocents are the final concern. I believe we should be rescuing innocents and relocating them into our homes, as Christians. This requires extending our necks a little individually, and personal sacrifice in the the face of others who will do nothing for the innocents. Doing so is the loudest proclamation of the gospel and demonstration of our peculiarity.

We ought never to choose sides among all of the pagan states. We ought to maintain a higher ethic and steadfast monotheistic dedication to natural law.


If the allies really wanted to prevent the Axis from advancing they would have established a strong and effective assassination unit, like Switzerland did. Either that or arm the citizenry.

The Swiss were not attacked because their few assassination attempts failed, deliberately.
First of all, a Swiss sniper doesn't miss. Ever.
These attempts were warning shots to the German officers saying: we can hit you any time, any where. And we are all armed. We won't waste time shooting your infantry. We will find your officers, those issuing the orders, and shoot them. So stay out.
They did.

The reason most politicians are opposed to assassination as an effective tool is that they have a gentleman's agreement. (Remember that a gentleman was an individual who had brown-nosed the king into granting him some special privileges.) Their agreement was that they would not kill each other, but instead let their toy soldiers die instead. It was so much more fun to manipulate the lives of others like pieces on a chess board than to get bloody and dirty oneself.

And the fun is in the playing. That's why the USG got involved in WWI and WWII. Europe was throwing a war-party and America hadn't been invited. We weren't part of the Tyrants-R-Us club yet, so we crashed the gig to show that we belonged.

But we didn't belong. The strength of America was in its people and in its liberty, not in its government or military. We were on our way toward increasing wealth and liberty the world over through trade and production alone. But the Roman disease was caught by our politicians, and they decided it would be a good idea to control the money and to tax people's income. So the stage was set for the great depression 20 years later, for involvement in global wars for domination, and for greater concentration of power.

But the state will always act this way. As believers we must set ourselves apart from these methods, and find ways to relieve the suffering of innocents that don't involve violence, or that restricts violence to halting the encroachment of perpetrators.

I have said before that rescue campaigns into places like Rwanda, Darfur, and Nazi Germany to deliver innocents are likely to face less armed resistance than military action that is determined to extract absolute surrender from the opponent. We must look for options such as this one, and resist the urge to manipulate the state into doing the gospel for us. The state is a wolf which will not be tamed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Building Bridges

Whilst contractors and engineers and politicians have many incentives to cut corners when producing public works which will not be consumed at any kind of margin, but "freely", private entities have the incentive to make their infrastructure double strong and of higher quality in order to produce a superior product, while meeting costs precisely at the margin.

That said, my physics professor waxed eloquent on the marvels of science, engineering, and the human mind in a way that would make Ayn Rand gush.

Bridges and buildings are a wondrous thing, and the more I travel and stare at them the more I marvel. Oh, what things man hath wrong out of rock and sand! What a reflection of the mind of the creator in man's creations.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

There are three types of people in this world:

Those who can do math and those who can't.

Hat tip to Political Calculations.

The List

I look forward to someday having my name on a list like this one.

Oh, wait, I'm already on there. Who is this Nathaniel Baum-Snow guy at Brown and why doesn't he spell his name wrong like I do?

Athlete's Incentives to Dope - Paper ideas

This is old hat. I had the thought and then looked it up and there are plenty of papers explaining why athletes would dope even given anti-doping rules. Here's one.

1. The number of individuals capable of winning an event are small.
2. If Joe wants to be competitive he either has to be one of these people, or dope.
3. If Joe does not dope he will not even be competitive, and he will not gain sponsorship (the importance of this element might be a new paper) and will not be able to afford to compete.
4. Even if Joe does not win, he still gets to compete when he dopes.
5. If Joe does not win he is less likely to be scrutinized for doping.
6. Because Joe is doping, the capable athletes face greater competition.
7. Some of these athletes may feel threatened enough to fool around with doping.
8. These are the guys who get caught. (This also might be a paper. How many of the athletes caught doping, really are the best at what they do - like Barry Bonds -and they only dope because of the artificial pressure they face from mediocre dopers.)
9. There are obvious game theory implications to these questions.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

IHS Seminars are good for something, another song

I went to an IHS seminar earlier this summer, where Tom Bell wrote a nifty little ditty, and I played along on guitar.

But Sasha Volok has outdone us a bit:

(To the tune of Surfing USA)

We're doing battle with statists
Across the USA,
'Cause everybody's reading Hayek,
The man from Austri-ay --
In spontaneous order
We let the market play,
With the writer Fred Hayek,

We use the signals of prices
And then we'll be O.K.,
'Cause no one knows what's efficient
Unless they have to pay;
If we replace that with planning
Like once in Russ-i-ay, [pronounced "Rush-Eye-Ay"]
We'll take the road to serfdom --
Serfdom USA.

[Backup singers should at this point start singing, "Serfdom, serfdom USA, Friedrich H-A-Y-E-K."]

We still have government bureaus,
Just like the FDA, [replace with three-letter agency of your choice ending in A]
But the welfare state mindset
Will soon become passe.
Ayn Rand said he was evil,
Which makes him A-O.K. --
Friedrich August von Hayek, H-A-Y-E-K.

Quick, someone get this over to Bruce Caldwell ASAP!

(Hat tip to Mungowitz)

Sam's Show

Are you going to be in West Virginia this weekend? If so, go see Sam's Show in Morgantown. Here's a preview.

A response to a christian zionist

  1. Dr. Hocking,
    I have been receiving your newsletter for some time, and was happy to get your latest in the mail today.

    I believe God has a special place for the people of Israel, as He always had. I believe He will fulfill all of His promises to that people, and even is doing so now.

    But I must contend with your support of the state of Israel. God never gives support to this centralized government in scripture. Indeed He laments Israel’s desire for the establishment of centralized government from the start, rightly identifying this form of tyranny as pagan in origin.

    God established his higher law and Judges over Israel, not an arbitrary human law-giver. Jesus demonstrated the proper ethic in regards to the state, admonishing His disciples to care for the least of these. The role of the state in Romans 13 is strictly Judicial, and has nothing to do with foreign diplomacy, or social welfare.

    Israel was to be a loose federation of tribes, where each man was free to do “what was right in his own eyes,” rather than having to serve a king. His own conscience was to rule him, and he was to bear full responsibility and sovereignty over himself and his family before God. So each man was also responsible to defend his land with his tribe. Only with the advent of kings do we observe illegitimate aggressive warfare. Once the Israelites had a king to fight for them, the Lord no longer did their fighting for them, as he had through Joshua and Judges. Exceptions were made, but only when the King emptied himself of his position and submitted to God.

    The present nation state of Israel was founded by illegitimate means, with the use of force not specifically decreed by God. Innocents, even believers, were murdered, and continue to die in vain.

    It is wrong for the church to support the nation-state of Israel, or any other nation state. Centralized government is a pagan institution. If there is any good to be done in this world it is the full and exclusive responsibility of the church to do it. Indeed, lest a man be regenerate, all his good works are as filthy rags.

    Please reconsider your position. I recognize it will be a difficult thing for you to do, because it will affect much of your eschatology. But we ought to allow scripture to interpret scripture. And the message we receive from the Torah, from the historical books, from I Samuel, that is both the law, and the prophets, and from the gospels is that manipulation of the political mechanism and the unprovoked use of force are illegitimate means for achieving the gospel.
    The only other acknowledged office in the law was that of the priest, whom was supported by the voluntary sacrifices of the people. In this, the church and the state were kept separate.

  2. Sincerely,

  3. Nathanael Snow

Monday, July 30, 2007

Say there is no God. Would you...?

The list of questions alerted to me by The Friendly Atheist, who lifts them in preparation for the first Great American God-Out.

My responses:

1. Say there is no god, would you no longer love your family, friends, children, pets or significant others? Why or why not?

I would love them much more selfishly. Right now I love my wife and am committed to her unconditionally. If she were hurt so that I had to care for her the rest of her life with no return, or if she cheated on me, I would stay with her and continue to love her. If there were no God, I would only be capable of loving her for what she does for me.

2. Say there is no god, would you stop hoping for a cure for cancer? Why or why not?

No, I would not, but I wouldn't contribute to cancer research charities (my current favorites are AFLAC's Children's cancer and the Jimmy V foundation) unless I thought I would benefit from them. Since I have no history of cancer in 3 generations of my family, I don't smoke and drink only in moderation I am not at risk. I'd probably contribute more to heart disease charities.

3. Say there is no god, would you stop caring about the health of the environment? Why or why not?

I don't care much about the health of the environment now. At least not religiously like many others do. I don't recycle, other than cans sometimes, because most recycling processes are more expensive, wasteful,, and sometimes harmful to human existence than just trashing them.

I do take care of my own property, because I have an interest in it, and if people really cared about the environment they would buy up endangered properties and restore them on their own.

4. Say there is no god, would you want orphaned children to find loving homes? Why or why not?

I would want orphans to do the best that they could. But would I have an interest in adopting a child if I did not believe in God? Only if they would take care of me in my old age, and work for me while they lived with me. Right now I support two children in Africa, and I spent 8 years working with at-risk kids in the inner city because I believe in Christ's mandate for Christians to care for the least of these.

5. Say there is no god, would you want auto-engineers to design a safe car that gets great gas mileage? Why or why not?

I would want them to design a car that is of excellent quality and pleases me. If it has great safety features, I would place a premium on those features based on how much it would cost me.

6. Say there is no god, would you want Osama Bin Laden to be captured? Why or why not?

(I'm not sure what this one is getting at, so I'll have to come back to it.)

7. Say there is no god, would you want child-abusers to be punished by law? Why or why not?

8. Say there is no god, would you teach children to be selfish? Why or why not?

9. Say there is no god, would you steal money from an unattended purse? Why or why not?

10. Say there is no god, would you steal an item from a large department store? Why or why not?

FINALLY: Say there is no god, identify at least one reason you would still have to keep on living, be happy and that would bring meaning to your life. (Think hard–you can do this!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

United Statesians?

Some people apparently take offense at the way citizens of the(se) United States call themselves Americans as opposed to United Statesians.

My response to the Latin Americans among these would be to say, "You had your chance, but decided to act French, instead."

Also, Americans had a strong tradition in identifying themselves with the particular State they lived in, often calling themselves Carolinian, or Virginian, or New Mexican, or Texan. This attachment was nostalgic, and focused on smaller communities with more peculiar cultures. Only now, some 4 or 5 generation after the Civil War, are these notions beginning to subside, along with ease and frequency of emigration.

I, personally, prefer to identify myself as a New Mexican, though I was born in New England and have lived in North Carolina for 10 years now.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No wonder Men Hate Church pt. 2

Gareth at God's Politics gave a bad review of Die Hard. What was he thinking?

Geez, somebody buy Gareth a copy of Wild at Heart, please!
Look, I'm anti-statist, and a strong advocate of the non-aggression principle, but I LOVE Die Hard! I went to see Hostage a few years ago hoping it would be Die Hard 4 and was sore disappointed. But Live Free or Die Hard was exactly what I wanted to see. I almost stood up in my seat cheering when that fire hydrant blew.

A couple of points on principal though:
1. This was an attack on individuals, and private property, on American soil. If you can't defend that we are in trouble.
2. The attack was unprovoked, and completely malicious.
3. The US Government did everything wrong they possibly could have. Perfectly in line with the truth, eh, Katrina?
4. McClaine is attacked first. He is actively defending not just an innocent, but a criminal, trying to bring him to justice. Guantanamo?
5. Wall Street. This was the scariest scene in the film to me. And I don't have any money invested anywhere. I'm a broke student. But the thought of a major sell on Wall Street, of any kind of damage to our financial institutions, is outright horrifying. Buy Garreth a copy of Economics In One Lesson to go along with Wild At Heart. That's a great pairing any day.
6. Violence. God uses it. He encourages strength. We must think more deeply about these things. No wonder men hate church!

Yippie ki yay!

Nathanael Snow

What to do about Iraq

This issue simply does not work out unless the innocents are considered. I have proposed volunteers evacuating them to the United States and assuming responsibility for helping them get started here. Most people dismiss this solution outright. They say it isn’t practical. It’s too expensive.

I say nonsense. Today the cost of the war stands at $442 billion according to costofwar.com. There are 27 million Iraqis. That’s $16,370 per Iraqi. Easily enough to move them here and provide some high density housing. And that’s if ALL of them move. I doubt it would take more than half of the population emigrating to communicate to powerseekers that the current mode was not working.

Fearmongers will gripe that the Muslims will murder us all if we do this. That the terrorists will come, too, and start blowing us up. Especially if volunteers demonstrate the love of Christ so compassionately as to welcome strangers into our homes…

Especially if we leave their homeland and stop trying to dictate their politics…

Especially if we stop financing their natural enemies…

Especially if we bring 200,000 well trained military personnel home to live among them…

We certainly ought to be afraid. We also ought to allow our fear to dictate what is feasible and even more so what is right.

I’m snarking now, so you’ll have to excuse me, but the fact is that Christians must assume the responsibility or else quit griping. We have to be risky. We have to be courageous. And we must not put our hope in the state. No wonder men hate church.

My baby’s daddy (or mama) & Other terms that didn't get burried

The NAACP had a funeral for the word "Nigger." Which is fine. But, as my friend Anthony Bradley has it, they should have made a bigger hole.

My favorites from the list:
(1) “Bitch”
(2) “Ho” and “pimp”
(3) “My baby’s daddy (or mama)” or “I take care of all my kids, I buy them what they need”
***(10) “The government will save us”
(11) “All blacks must think like white, liberal elitist democrats”
(13) “I don’t need a man, I can take care of myself”
(14) “Sports (and Entertainment) is my only way out”
(17) “My car needs rims now”
(20) “Open up ya mouth, ya grill gleamin”

And, for those of us from Durham: (21) “What’s wrong with strippin’?”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Radical Islam vs. Statism

We are all evil people. Even Western culture, despite our Constantinian heritage. What makes Radical Islam a threat is its marriage of religion to the state. It sanctions the use of force as a means for achieving religious solidarity. The Western tradition finally rid itself of this same fault in the adoption of constitutional limited governments with reliable sensible laws. The pinnacle was reached in Blackstone’s Commentary on the English Common Law which was read by enough Americans that de Toqueville would say later, “The Americans are all lawyers.” The Anabaptist and Leveller traditions brought over from Europe separated Church from State in such a way that liberty reigned.

Radical Islam is not capable of conquering the world. It imposes economic structures which limit the capacity for growth and sustenance. There is a reason many societies governed by Sharia law have low productivity and concentrated wealth.

The rest of the world also lives according to a pagan concept of time and law. Many see their lives as static and fatalistic. They don’t think there is anything they can do to improve their lot, indeed the law frequently prohibits it. They look to those who hold power over them in fear but also for their sustenance. This is worship.

We should not be surprised then, that there are frequent wars among these peoples who do not believe in expansion of wealth, but only in its redistribution by power. The varying packs of wolves will always fight for a greater portion of the sheep.

A mistake is made when we ally ourselves to one pack of wolves or another. We often do so in the name of the sheep, but it is really to the detriment of another flock. When we fought Hitler we doomed Stalin’s sheep. When we fought Japan we left many more to the whims of Chaiman Mao. Better to let the wolves fight each other, and if possible to rescue some of the sheep away from the dogfight.

But we must keep our own dogs leashed lest they go wild. When we encourage warmongering we pit our Labradors against Mastiffs. We ought not to be surprised when they become more violent and occasionally bite our children’s hands. When we let them tug too hard at the leash and pull us around by regulating our industries we should not be surprised when we fall down for trying to hold on to them. When they eat too much of our taxes in the name of social welfare we ought not to be surprised when the make messes and vomit on the rug, leaving the poor with little dignity and the taxpayer in regret.

We ought to work to limit the role of the state in every way. But first we must take up the responsibility for the least of these ourselves. It is the unique and exclusive role of the church. If we fail in it we ought not be surprised when the state assumes our responsibilities.

Again, Islamic power is no worse than the potential of pluralistic secular power. We must work to keep our own dogs tame.

Nathanael Snow

What Is Israel?

Israel” can mean many different things. It can mean the Jewish people, wherever they might live. It can mean Jewish Christians and gentile Christians, in an allegorical sense. It can mean the political Nation-State currently exercising jurisdiction over Palestine, or Caanan, or whatever you want to call it. It might also refer to the Jewish people living in said land, not necessarily its government.

Of these the only one I can’t support is the political entity. God never intended for Israel to have a centralized government, let alone a secular one with the power to write arbitrary laws. God intended for Israel to be a loose federation of cooperating tribes, welcoming to strangers, and united under a single rule of law interpreted and enforced by judges.

If your eschatology is dependent upon a political entity utilizing force to harm innocents I have to question whether you can mesh it neatly with the non – aggression principle implicit in the Christian ethic. I don’t like to get into eschatology too much, but adoption of non – aggression led me away from statism and simultaneously away from dispensationalism, premillenialism, and Zionism. It was frustrating to me because I had to discover the common bond among these outside the Church, and many churches teach a statism alongside non – aggression and amillenialism. Indeed, Sojourner’s seems to adopt such a position.

Again, I support the right of Jews to voluntarily purchase property anywhere in the world they choose to do so. I believe it is a good idea for them to do so in Palestine. I believe there is a mystical purpose in Jews, but only believing Jews, occupying that land. But I oppose the use of force first and foremost. This is the single most important ethic, to love one’s neighbor as one self in order to demonstrate one’s love of God. Justification for breaking this code results in myriad convoluted theologies and political philosophies. It is just so difficult to give up the pagan worship of the state. The cry always goes out, “Give us a king.” Or, as Derek Webb has put it, “I want a new law!”

Nathanael Snow

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Call of the Entrepreneur

This promises to be worthwhile:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

P and I continue

I’d rather the church were stuck in the issues of theology, practice, and practice than out and out paganism and Gnosticism, which is where we are today.

Salvation is a union between God and man, the church is a covenant relationship among believers under the blood of Christ. It gives every believer a claim on his brother via their personal relationships with Christ.

I believe you know a great deal about the Scriptures, I , too, am a student of the Book, and a seeker of truth.

I also believe in faith and practice, lave and trust, but I ‘m not sure what you mean by these terms, or what your point is.

It is about the end result: that Christ be glorified, not that we love and are loved. The love is mercy, and adds to His glory. I could go all-out Piper here, but I’ll stop.

It’s not so much that I “trust” the private sphere. I recognize the self-interestedness of man, and that the market system best takes advantage of this quality and turns it to the most efficient allocation of goods. However, in such a system, the truly poor and helpless are neglected. Thus, the church is necessary to care for the least of these. I don’t understand why anyone outside of the church would give a damn about the least of these, although I know that many of them do. If they choose to help the poor it is a reflection of the common grace upon them, but not an imitation of Christ. God alone knows in each case, but the question is about whether it is right to FORCE anyone to do good by caring for the poor. I do not see how this can be justified. The need does not justify the means.

Serfdoms were forms of statism, on a micro level. The private sphere ought to be brutal and competitive. In this manner it engages in creative destruction and finds new sources for expanded wealth which is shared by all. Of course the wealthy enjoy more of the expanded wealth, but inequality is not important to me at all except in terms of equality under the law.

I believe that God’s love is effectual for changing my behavior. I believe that my life has a different quality now that I have accepted His love. I am a different person. If I were not, what would that say about the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection? Do I continue to sin, of course. The difference is now I have the ability through the power of the Holy Spirit to choose to do good. I can do as Christ did, seeing the things that the Father is doing, and participate in doing them.

Your examples are of foreign states, not of the people God intended Israel to be. Does God manipulate states? Indeed. These foreign powers were based on pagan laws. Israel was unique in that it had been given the natural law upon which to live. It did not need an arbitrary law giver. Israel also had courts and appeals courts for refining the law. The case law which grew out of this process is the book of Deuteronomy. All necessary law can be discovered and refined through the judicial process. There is no need for a legislature if the law is confined to its sphere.

You call me naïve, but perhaps I am just young and optimistic. I really believe this message, and the potential of the church to accomplish it. What is required is assumption by the church of full responsibility for the least of these. This message is consistent with the scriptures and the Christian ethic. Engrandizement of the state is not.

I don’t trust people to be the hands which feed, either. I trust the power and decree of God. He has given this responsibility to the Church. He trusted us. He did not give this responsibility to the state. Christ did not trust the state.

I would rather be free and starving than enslaved and fed. I hope you can agree with me here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on Church and State

P and I go back and forth on the God's Politics blog:

Him: (In this P is "Me" and I am "You", a little hard to follow, but you get it.

Nathan(a)el said:
I have no quarrel with this form of government. I don't believe it requires central organization, but it is clearly Biblical. It does not, however, assign to the state the responsibility of caring for the least of these. Rather than calling this a "good" which the state performs, I prefer to look at it as a "harm" which it prevents.

You can call it whatever you like because you are still ignoring other aspects of the old testament law where the state was assigned the duty to feed the people. Take for instance the laying aside of parts of land, they were untilled so that strangers could pick their share and eat. That came from God to a centralized unified Israelite government where each tribe was called to set aside land for food usage. That's still governmental welfare for a semi pagan state. (Israel could only stay committed to God for small amounts of time.)

Not to mention each tribe was called by God and their respective leadership (government for lack of a better term) to set aside food for the priests (levites) so that they could focus on the spiritual aspects of the nation of Israel. That's welfare too. So if you have a problem w/ that I don't know what to tell you.

There are other examples where the Israelite kings showed mercy and protected an enemies camp and a host of other interesting and complex things.

You said:
True, except the state does its harm in the name of the law, whereas individuals do their harm in contradiction to the law.

This is simply not true. Not be rude but do you live in a dream world. Individuals and the state work together thru law to cause harm just easily as one or the other does alone. I can site many historic examples of this.

2. Feeding a family is not diluted work. True, but it ought to be done by the Church. To be clear, I don't advocate removal of welfare programs until the Church has risen up to meet the need on its own. If it never does, then the Church is to blame for the further loss of liberty and dignity we all will endure.

I don't care who does it as long as it gets done. What is your definition of liberty? Having the church not feed people does not take liberty from me. If you talk about taxes being used to help the less fortunate I have no problem w/ my money being used for the betterment of the country. I see feeding people in the same vein as building highways. They are both equally important.

4. Am I being arrogant about the church?

Yes you are. The church has a special mandate but if you think it's somehow better or more equipped to carry it out than any other institution then you are deluding yourself.

Is Christ arrogant or is He God?

Arrogant and God so both.

Did He establish the Church or did He not?

Ofcourse he established it.

If He did establish the Church and assign it a peculiar ethic and a social mandate, then it is a special institution, not to be compared to other human institutions, just as Christians are peculiar people since we believe we have God living inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do good works which our flesh cannot perform. I suppose this is an exclusive, and perhaps an arrogant position if it is not borne with much humility by acknowledging that it is Christ which lives in me, not I myself who deserves the glory for the good which I am now able to perform. To be able to do good IS the blessing.

I agree that from a spiritual perspective it is a very special institution but when humans get involved it becomes a very human institution. You can see this clearly in every church, in every denomination and in the larger history of the Catholic, Protestant, Coptic, Orthodox and other Christian churches. These holy set apart pieces of the body committed genocide, encouraged it, created forced labor, slavery and any number of social ills. Sorry but that's a human problem. It's a human thing and God had nothing to do w/ that. If anything it was those things that led him to judge it for all the evil it did and continues to do.

For all this talk about the beauty and union of the Holy spirit w/n us we have not erradicated any of the major social issues of the day and the church is far more affluent then it was 2000 years ago. So my point is that we as a church are indeed a very unique spiritual blessing to this world but when we have flesh and use it we are just like everyone else, no better or worse just united w/ God. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can actually work on changing this world for the better.

5. I don't hate law. I do hate pagan centralized government. Whenever it feeds someone it does so with strings attached. If the state were restricted to protecting rights and enforcing contracts it would do well. God rebuked the Israelites for desiring a king. Arbitrary centralized leadership is pagan in its root. It demonstrates a rejection of God and His law in favor of a law giver who can be manipulated by various special interests.

You can't be this naive. You really think the church is immune to that type of coercion and manipulation? You really believe the church doesn't engage in this now? Cmon now. We are just as broken as the world but we just like to pretend we are not. Even though Israel was rebuked for desiring a king God still gave it to them. He gave it to them and redeemed it thru Christ. So in the end your point is a mute one. If Christ is King and he is then this whole thing looks a lot different.

6. I believe that the church can feed the hungry, and those it cannot are covered by God's sovereignty. I believe it is a sin to coerce others into doing what we think is good. It is patronizing and legalistic. It places a perceived good above the command of God.

I don't. God doesn't all the time and he calls the state, individuals and the church to force people to do the right thing all the time and he will continue to. If I waited for people to do the right thing I would still be a slave. We may not be able to change a person's heart and cause them to care about another but we can make sure their belly is fed. That's more important then whether or not the feelings get hurt because you are doing something you disagree w/.



“Ignoring aspects of the OT Law where the state was assigned the duty to feed the people.”
But, there WAS no state. There were courts, and there were individuals. The people were to feed the people. Voluntarily. Show me the law where the state was to punish the stingy.
Welfare was written into their moral code and their institutions, I will grant you. I remain optimistic that the church can be that institution which performs social good.

Again, the food brought to the priests was brought voluntarily. It is the element of force which I am so adamantly opposed to.

“Individuals and the state work together thru law to cause harm” if the law were limited to its two primary laws, protection of rights and enforcement of contracts, then ther would not be opportunity to manipulate it.

“I don't care who does it as long as it gets done.”
Then you are just as deluded as I am. For the poor will always be with you. Pursuit of an ends by any means is a dangerous way to live. All kinds of behavior becomes justifiable. I say, behave justly in your use of means, and leave the ends to God.

My definition of liberty is to do whatever I want to do, and for everyone else to do the same, with the one condition of not encroaching on other’s person or property.

You might have no problem with tax money being used to help the less fortunate. I agree that feeding people has parallels with building highways. I would have those built privately as well. I remain consistent here. Both are important enough that they ought to be performed privately.

It’s not that I trust individuals, but that I trust God, and recognize the spontaneous order which emerges when individuals are left alone.

Your separation of the spiritual significance from the physical relevance of the church is a form of Gnosticism. Most of the history of the church is tainted by its marriage to the state. I submit to you that absent the influence of the state the chuch performs its mandate, and does so quite well.

Maybe the point isn’t to eradicate any major social issues. Maybe it’s to live righteously, and to leave the results up to God.

If you don’t believe you are a better person since coming to know Jesus, then why do you bother to believe in Him? If the Holy Spirit is not effectual, then why bother? I for one know that I am infinitely better now than I was before. I know that the good which I do I do through the spirit in the same power and authority as Christ. This is exciting, and worthwhile.

God never calls the church to force individuals to do anything. He calls the state to punish evildoers. If you waited for people to do the right thing you would be free now, perhaps a generation later than you were, and without a civil war which ruined the economy and helped perpetuate Jim Crow in the South longer than necessary.

I disagree that full bellies is an end justifiable in itself for which any means necessary are legitimate.

Nathanael Snow

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On the Public Service Academy

There's a bitty discussion between Payshun and I over at God's Politics.

Chris Meyers Asch advocates the liberal Christan support of a new Service Academy.

I think its a bad idea:

I also doubt the usefulness of a PSA.

1. Many public universities already offer similar programs.
2. It is unclear to me what the specific set of skills necessary for effective public administration and service are. If I were to take a guess, they would include: Follow orders. Follow regulations. Cover yourself. Blackmail. Evade feedback.

Courtesianship and confucianism are not modes of behavior we want to encourage in our institutions.

3. The Christian element here is fuzzy. Why should Christians support the creation of an institution which absolves individuals of more responsibility by creating a new "priestly" class of bureaucrats to handle the "least of these" for us? I should think that Christians would further strengthen their support for Christian universities which have strong track records in developing servant-minded individuals.

4. Why should Christians be interested in emulating institutions which were designed to train for war? The service academies are excellent at preparing men and women to serve the United States Government (certainly NOT our country) by breaking things and blowing them up.

"Chris Myers Asch is an incumbant of the unionized unaccountable Teach for America/AmeriCorps programs established by the United States Government to make good statist pagans of all of us, and the co-founder of the U.S. Public Service Academy which will teach us all the right regulations and political behaviors which will insulate young bureaucrats from the feedback inherent in the market. It will further instruct them to make decisions based on what will advance their career, expand their program's budget, and undermine liberty."

Nathanael Snow is a student of Bonhoeffer, Hauerwas, Hayek and Mises. He believes that all social good is to be done by Christians and that responsibility for the least of these must be assumed by individuals. He blogs at http://jurisnaturalist.blogspot.com


What Biblical justification do you offer as evidence that the state can make things better? I observe several instances where the scriptures warn us about the influence of the state. I also observe the scriptures admonishing the Church to be the effective force for good in the world despite any actions of the state.

What, specifically, can the state do to make the world better that the church couldn't do more efficiently and without invoking force? Nothing.

Good done by compulsion or utilizing means extorted involuntarily is devoid of virtue. Any reward for such action is temporal and diminished. As believers we seek eternal rewards and to the fullest, not only for ourselves but also for those we serve. To strip the "good" which is to be done of the conditions which generate its virtue is also to strip the administrators and recipients of such aid of their dignity, making them wards of the state - so much less than image-bearers of Christ.

To be sure, while they remain unserved they are much worse off. Which is why well - intentioned strong efforts such as Chris' disturb me so greatly as they are misdirected. If all that energy were expended on and through the Church, so much greater the work, as all glory would be given to Christ, instead of being diluted on the state!

Dare to think outside the box which ascribes divinity and ultimate responsibility to a human institution, and to seek for solutions which do not begin with, "There ought to be a law."

Nathanael Snow

Then Payshun:

Umm Nowhere is his post saying that his ideas are the solution. They are place where solutions can be created and grown. You all on the right and folks like juris believe that the government can do no real good. I know that's not true. There are plenty of examples in the old testament that speak to that. Anyone remember sanctuary cities...? The government like individual efforts can be used for good or ill. It really does depend.


Please do not be naive enough to think that individuals will always make things better if anything they can make it worse just as much as the state. I am sorry but feeding a family is not diluted work. Christ gets the glory regardless if people convert and the overt level of arrogance about the majesty of the church is disturbing. The church is flawed just like every human institution. Yes I called it a human institution as it was made for man and not man for it. It's about community and for some really odd reason you seem to deify it as a cureall. Just to bring this discussion down to earth a little we really need to examine the church and actually let it do what it can do and let the state do what it can. Instead of hating government which is what folks on right and you do please try to use it as a tool to feed people because when it's all said and done the church can't do it alone. That's a fact.


Most recently me:

I will address your example of the sanctuary cities.
These were cities appointed for anyone accused of wrongful death. The accused could run there for sanctuary until the case was brought to a judge. Once the case was heard the judge's verdict, according to the law, was followed.

I have no quarrel with this form of government. I don't believe it requires central organization, but it is clearly Biblical. It does not, however, assign to the state the responsibility of caring for the least of these. Rather than calling this a "good" which the state performs, I prefer to look at it as a "harm" which it prevents.

In regards to the rest of your comments:

1. Individuals and the state have equivalent potential for doing harm.

True, except the state does its harm in the name of the law, whereas individuals do their harm in contradiction to the law.

2. Feeding a family is not diluted work. True, but it ought to be done by the Church. To be clear, I don't advocate removal of welfare programs until the Church has risen up to meet the need on its own. If it never does, then the Church is to blame for the further loss of liberty and dignity we all will endure.

3. I don't advocate the use of social programs by the church to cloak evangelistic agendas. We are to feed the hungry regardless of whether they convert.

4. Am I being arrogant about the church? Is Christ arrogant or is He God? Did He establish the Church or did He not? If He did establish the Church and assign it a peculiar ethic and a social mandate, then it is a special institution, not to be compared to other human institutions, just as Christians are peculiar people since we believe we have God living inside of us in the person of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do good works which our flesh cannot perform. I suppose this is an exclusive, and perhaps an arrogant position if it is not borne with much humility by acknowledging that it is Christ which lives in me, not I myself who deserves the glory for the good which I am now able to perform. To be able to do good IS the blessing.

5. I don't hate law. I do hate pagan centralized government. Whenever it feeds someone it does so with strings attached. If the state were restricted to protecting rights and enforcing contracts it would do well. God rebuked the Israelites for desiring a king. Arbitrary centralized leadership is pagan in its root. It demonstrates a rejection of God and His law in favor of a law giver who can be manipulated by various special interests.

6. I believe that the church can feed the hungry, and those it cannot are covered by God's sovereignty. I believe it is a sin to coerce others into doing what we think is good. It is patronizing and legalistic. It places a perceived good above the command of God.

Nathanael Snow

Sunday, June 24, 2007

thoughts on immigrration

Why has immigration become more of a problem in the last few decades?

I would argue that some of it, at least, has to do with increased wealth among those who would emigrate. It is not easy to drop the few possessions and relationships you have to embark on a journey to an unknown land far away in hopes of a better life. The least mobile are always the most poor. We see this to be the case at all levels. Within our cities, the middle class are infinitely better placed for upward mobility than anyone on welfare. In accord with my thesis, they are also more likely to take a new job in another locale. Often new employers help to pay for such a move. A potential employee has to promise a marginal productivity equivalent to the combined compensation of wages and moving costs. The more productive the individual the more sought after they become in the jobs market, and the more likely they will move.

Mexican immigrants promise a high level of marginal productivity to those that employ them, especially since they do not enjoy the protections of citizen enfranchisement.

Which leads me to another tangent. I’ve often noted that open immigration is a preferred policy, but that it would require an end to welfare. The same is true about other state protections. Citizens enjoy unemployment insurance. This, too ought to be done away with. OSHA protections must be eliminated. Social Security is a hindrance.

Free labor is what is really is being debated. Unfortunately for many citizen-workers, they will be more defensive of their privileges, their inherited “Labor-friendly” laws because they intuitively see the world as a zero-sum game. This is the case for most non-economists. If the creation of wealth could be demonstrated, if we could show that each new immigrant adds more productive wealth to the economy than they could ever possibly consume, if we could convince people that it is in their own best interests to take ownership and responsibility for their own labor, life, and livelihood, if we could do these things, and finally, miraculously, change the mentalities of so many who prefer security to liberty, then we might be able to get the laws which are best for us. This is unlikely.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Howard Rourke?

Check out this dude. He's CEO of his own company at 19, and very successful. Tell me kids shouldn't be working...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fun with numbers

I was looking at this map, when I decided to play with some numbers. If you placed 40 people per acre (an acre is a little smaller than an American football field) then you could fit the entire population of the world inside of Texas. Malthus was wrong.

Myth of The Rational Voter

Russ Roberts, author of The Choice, a story which helps readers to understand Comparative Advantage has an online radio show, EconTalk. Today he interviews Bryan Caplan, author of Myth of The Rational Voter, and recent speaker at an IHS conference I attended. Bryan, having a great exposure to and understanding of the Austrian School of Economics I have great sympathies towards, persuaded me to reconsider buying into the Austrian story wholesale.
Here's Robert's blog plug with link to the interview due to broadcast June 25.

Pigouvian Externalities, aka Grey Car Silver Car...

Greg Mankiw discusses The Limits of Pigou.
What consists of a nuisance which can be considered encroachment, and what is merely bad taste to be ignored?
or as he put it:
"When does correcting externalities start to offend principles of liberty?"
My response:
A line seems clearly to be drawn at whether the externality is ignorable or not. But how to deal with the nuisance is a more interesting question. Why employ the state and empower it when individuals can assume responsibility themselves? If your neighbor presents a nuisance, they should be confronted, personally, and tactfully. Allow the Coase proposition to work. Make a deal. Initiate a transaction whereby gains from trade might be captured, and contracts might be established so that property rights are reinforced.
By introducing coercion and employing the state we make the assumption that the state ultimately owns all the property and we forfeit our sovereignty. Bad idea.
Apply the golden rule.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Love, Rudi,

I got a letter today from Rudi Gulianni. Came through the Jerusalem Post. He wants me to send him money since he's such a good friend of Israel.
I like the J-Post. They have some good columnists, and I'm interested in Rabbinical teaching, which they link to. But I gave up Zionism a few years ago.

It was a gradual process, but it is inextricable tied to my beliefs about the state.
You see, I ardently believe the Scripture where God tells Abraham, "I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you," regarding the Jews. I believe the Holocaust was a heinous crime, and that it did occur. But I don't believe God ever intended for there to be a strong centralized state called "Israel." I don't believe Jews were justified in taking land from Palestinians by force in the war which created the nation-State. I think Christians are wrong to support the state of Israel, just as they are wrong to support the United States Government. We have a different allegiance, and belong to a different nation.

Centralized governments employ force, and Jesus' taught an ethic where force is rejected except for the protection of innocents, and the purification of the church (re:Jesus cleansing the temple.)

Airline woes

I have heard many recent stories about poor service on airlines lately. I was just at the IHS conference and there was a whole list of horror stories resulting from participant's travel problems. If 10% of travelers are having nightmarish experiences there must be some explanation.
Here's the one I offered to my fellow IHS friends:

The airlines have appealed more and more to the Federal Government for assistance over the last few years, and this is the kind of service we get. They are insulated from customers because they have artificially low prices due to subsidies. So they poo-poo on us, and we take it, along with the cheap rates. Question: do we prefer the cheap rates, or would we rather have higher quality service? In other words: How much more would you pay to insure a seat on the flight you planned to take with a guarantee that your luggage and belongings will be there waiting for you when you get to your destination unharmed?
Does the state have a responsibility to insure cheap airfare to all at the cost of quality to those who are willing to pay for it?

IHS Seminar, Tom's Song

Hello, Jonah

Well, hello, Jonah! And - whaddya' know? -
I see Geppetto and Pinnochio!
It's gettin' crowded, from head to tail.
Guess we're all livin' in the belly of the whale.

At least it's cozy, and nice and warm.
And it gives us shelter from the ragin' storm,
N' though I smell trouble, I can say at least,
I'm not deeper in the belly of the beast.

We stumble through this world of darkness, pain and doubt
We suffer in this prison, we struggle to get out.
With strivin' strength, and study, we might finally find a way.
To flee this night and reach the light of day.

Verse 2:
Hey, now, Gepetto, what's that you've got?
As ideas go - hah! - I'd say that's hot.
Count me in! I like you're plan,
To burn the belly of leviathan

Thank you, Jonah, I liked your prayer.
But will you now please get over here.
You've got to labor, and not just wish.
To get out of the belly of the fish.

Verse 3:
Hurray, brothers! We're finally out!
Hallelujah sisters! Raise a joyful shout!
From hell bellow we've gotten hurled,
But we're still livin' in the belly of the world.

Anyone care to disseminate this for us?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Imitate Christ

"if we all accept that, then we have to allow that a competent pragmatism might look very different from National Socialism."
Exactly, but Mises proved long ago that central planning is always inept. It can never be practical to everyone, it can only be practical to the one making the decision, who is operating without the necessary information. No one can have all the necessary information because it is always changing and it is tied up in all of the various individuals in the society. This is Hayek's argument in The Use of Knowledge in Society. (I'm actually NOT that big a fan of Hayek's, I've just been reading him lately for a conference...)

"It has always been understood that applying natural law leads toward a harmonious and prosperous society. That is to say, natural law is pragmatic."
Agreed, but the argument presented to me had the direction of causality reversed. It does not flow both ways in the short run. It might in the long run, if change to the law is slow and difficult.

The law in Romans 2 I will also acknowledge. But this law DOES NOT include the Christian Ethic. The Christian Ethic of caring for the least of these is peculiar and belongs only to the believer.
Indeed, the various permutations of Natural Law systems by the academy often reject caring for the least of these as absurd.
Objectivism in particular rejects concern for the poor. Since I move in those circles a great deal, I must constantly be reminded of the peculiarity of the calling, and how absurd it appears to worldly wisdom.

I believe that a natural spontaneous order can evolve which reflects human nature and relies on natural rights. This is a slow and gradual process, which conservatives often claim as their own through tradition. While there is an element of truth to this, I deny tradition for tradition sake. I recognize the scientific process which has handed us our tradition, and the direction in which it ultimately points. It does not include concern for the poor.

Meanwhile I recognize the sovereignty of God, and a peculiar eschatology which calls for the ultimate end to this earth, and the recognition of the One True Lawgiver. He called me, I responded. He gave me an example and an ethic to follow, regardless what other people might do. He demonstrated a rejection of political mechanisms for achieving His ends. I believe I am to imitate Him in this, too.

Fascism = Pragmatism

Pragmatism, aka fascism, has as its philosophy "Do whatever seems necessary." Hitler did this, and kept doing it, and kept doing it, until he was a totalitarian dictator, democratically elected.

If we do not step outside of what seems necessary and focus on natural rights and incentives, theory, we will make the same mistakes. This was Hayek's argument in The Road To Serfdom, and he was right.

As believers we do not practice our ethic because it is practical. We do not abstain from fornication or adultery because it is practical. It is anything but. We do so because we have adopted a peculiar ethic in imitation of Christ. No other reason. Sometimes there are fair consequences for following Christ, sometimes there are dire consequences, according to His decree. We do not look at the consequences, we look at the command to follow Him.

The world has no rational ethical imperative for caring for the poor. Some people are altruistic, but this is merely a residual of the imago dei in them. They are under no compulsion of duty to care for the least of these. Christ does not impose such an ethic upon them, because apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to do so with pure motives is inconsistent with fallen human nature.

By calling for statist programs compelling individuals to care for the poor we impose an irrational law on top of the natural law which is part of the common grace. This natural law is able to be deduced logically and scientifically via case law, or common law. Inconsistencies are rooted out and expelled.

We ought to stand up for the common law, and limited government under common grace, and assume for ourselves all the responsibilities inherent to the peculiar ethic we adopt under specific grace.

Any attempt by Christians to impose responsibility for care for the least of these onto those under only common grace is to insist that they reject their minds and reason as a tool for making decisions, and instead to adopt an irrational, unrewarding form of servitude to an arbitrary law.

It is also an attempt by Christians to shirk the responsibility Christ laid upon them as a condition of discipleship, and thus to reject their Lord.

To think about these issues in terms of the neediness of the least of these is to say that Christ is not sovereign, or that He is uncaring in His admonition to the Church to assume full responsibility, or to lack faith that Christ can achieve His decrees through the Church.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On Judges

“Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

“neither place saying whether or not God saw this as a good thing. Seems a stretch to assume He did.”

Seems a stretch to assume He didn’t. The entire context of Judges has the Israelites chasing after pagan gods. Statism was the ultimate form of paganism. Most of the time they WERE following the Lord’s law, living peacefully and doing well. It was the exception when they turned aside to worship idols. If you count the years, of the 400 covered in Judges, only about 25% of the time is there trouble. I agree that human nature is evil, but I believe that during the peaceful times the Israelites were following God’s law and doing well with no other government than the judges.

Jesus doesn’t condemn governments? He rejects the political mechanism at every turn. He refuses to become a secular king. He demonstrates the wickedness of government. He insists that his disciples follow him in another way.

All government is corrupt.

I do appreciate the freedoms we have, and I am concerned that those freedoms are being eroded away by a mentality that recuses itself of responsibility and foists it upon the state. If we continue in this vein, we will have no freedoms. c.f. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Unbelievers act according to incentives. When there are good laws, they respond to the legal structure in such a way as to maximize their own interests. Self-interestedness is not evil, it actually has many beneficial outcomes.

The Natural Rights have Biblical foundations and are true insights into human nature. They are internally consistent and non-contradictory. Are there any rights you would add to or subtract from this list? You do so at the peril of the others.

I do not advocate vigilante justice, I recognize an appeal to justice for what it actually is, a surrogate for violence, and as such I have a greater appreciation for it. Someone is considered innocent until proven guilty only by the courts, by an impartial third party. God recognized the need for judges, and that’s what He gave them. He recognized the trouble of kings, and withheld them.

Again, the Christian ethic is peculiar and ultimately unworkable amongst unredeemed individuals. The strong would merely slaughter the weak. So, we need a political system that will work for those who are merely under common grace and not specific grace. The system of the Judges was just such a system, and the only workable one humankind has ever observed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Me on Capital Punishment from God's Politics Blog

I, also, am opposed to Capital Punishment, but on different grounds. With Capital Punishment there is no opportunity for retribution.

Say Joe kills Tom. Tom’s wife, Mary, is now destitute and has no support for her and her children. If we execute Joe, Mary remains in her current condition. If, however, we make Joe pay retribution to Mary, she is relieved, Joe’s dignity is improved, and there more productive individuals participating in society.

Now, as Christians, we are in the unique and peculiar position to be able to offer forgiveness, even unconditionally, but this is a new law only for those whom have experienced regeneration, and we ought not to expect or demand this ethic of the world.


True forgiveness does not have to be asked for, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Indeed the perpetrator is unable to ask for forgiveness until they are already forgiven. The act of forgiveness is done as self-sacrifice in imitation of Christ, with no conditions whatsoever.

I am also opposed to Capital Punishment on legal grounds. Today’s laws are written arbitrarily, and make no investigation of the natural law. We have lost our Common Law foundation in many cases. If it can be shown that a criminal is guilty on precedent according to scientifically discovered natural law, then I am willing for the public court to pass judgment on him. Otherwise, I refuse to recognize laws which are not in accordance with the natural law, and which have no history of discovery.

Romans 13 says that the state exists to punish the evildoer, and no more. This passage is complicated only if you desire for the state to do more or less than this. There is Biblical support for such a system. The book of Judges records over 400 years of time where there was no centralized government in Israel, only a loose federation, and Judges, whom decided cases by applying the Mosaic codified precedtial law. When Judges says, “And every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” this is a good thing. It means there was no central government making arbitrary decrees and demands upon the people, and they were free.

Now, the Israelites sometimes fell into state-worship, or paganism. They were cleansed of this repeatedly through the judges. Eventually, God lets them have their way, in I Samuel 13, and gives them a pagan government... a King. This was never God's best for them, and it established an arbitrary ruler which led them repeatedly into pagan idol worship. They were not cleansed of this until after Babylon, when they returned and wrote Chronicles.