Thursday, June 20

The Political Compass is an interesting idea. It was obviously designed by someone who possesses a fundamentally socialist economic worldview, but I think it is valuable in that it splits the political spectrum into both vertical and horizontal axes - the Liberty/Authority axis and the social Left/Right axis.

According to the test, I fall almost exactly in the middle of the Authority/Liberty spectrum, but I think those who know me will admit that I am actually strongly Libertarian in my views toward the state. Many of the questions belie the fundamental bias of the test-builders. For example, I strongly agreed with the statement that abortion should be outlawed. In the worldview of the test-makers, that is a strongly "Authoritarian" response, but in reality, it is exactly the opposite. The Libertarian view is that no person has the right to forcibly deprive another of his property, and nothing could more forcefully deprive another of his property than the abortionist who deprives a baby of its life.

That is a strongly libertarian view.

The libertarian view is consistent with the 6th commandment prohibiting murder.
Abortion is murder any way you slice it. Only those who wilfully delude themselves, only those who claim that a baby must experience birth to be a person can argue otherwise. These folks claim that no murder is committed because no human died.

Words fail me.

The libertarian view is consistent with the 8th commandment prohibiting stealing.
Abortion deprives another of his property - his life - without his consent.

The libertarian view is consistent with the 10th commandment prohibiting covetousness.
John Piper has made the point in Future Grace that the essence of covetousness is trusting in something other than God to satisfy us. Believing that murder and theft are necessary ingredients in your own satisfaction is the height of delusion, the zenith of unbelief.

This is where the abortion issue gets really difficult, because for those women facing an unwanted pregnancy, it requires nothing less than an act of faith to carry that baby to term. Yet living a life which is consistently honouring to our Creator sometimes requires us to do things that our modern "have-it-all-right-now" culture perceives as utterly archaic.

As our brother Jude reminds us, sometimes we have to contend for the faith which was once delivered to us. That means we gotta fight.

Friday, June 14

Poverty and Justice... and Basketball?
Cool article over at Chalcedon- not written by me incidentally - analysing the relationship between poverty and justice. Here's a key phrase:

The underlying assumption, usually left unstated, is that the distribution of wealth that arises from normal property transfers (especially market transactions and inheritances) is unjust because some people wind up with more than others. Inequality and injustice are equated.

I wish there were some way to write across the sky that "Unequal" is not the same thing as "Unjust".

To illustrate: I love basketball. Back before my knees finally gave out, I would rather play hoop than eat. I loved everything about the game. I'm a white guy who used to have just enough juice in his tanks to dunk the ball during pickup games - if the stars were aligned and I timed my jump just right. In other words, I think I have actually dunked once during a competitive game in my whole life. I regularly dream that I am playing basketball and that I am a leaping, flying, dunking machine - think Michael Jordan in his prime or Kobe Bryant now. That is my absolute favourite dream and I hate waking up from it.

Now the fact of the matter is, as much as I love basketball, I was never a very good player and I am even worse now that I'm on the dark side of 40. As much as I would give to be as good as Jordan or Bryant, no amount of wanting to will ever get me to that level. When it comes to hoop, I am not now, never was, and never will be equal to those guys. But does the fact of our unequal skills imply some injustice has been committed? Of course not.

Yet if you translate the exact same argument into the field of economics and wealth, you will hear apparently sane people arguing that inequality equals injustice.


Here's the last sentence from the article, which I think summarises it nicely:

Welfare programs... enrich and empower the state to the detriment of all other institutions in society.

Tuesday, June 11

More Thoughts on Freedom

Today I am pondering the implications of God's Absolute Freedom. As one who holds firmly to the conviction that it is God alone who chooses whom to save from eternal damnation, God alone who effectively executes that salvation, and God alone who perfectly carries out that salvation, I must also acknowledge that until a man is regenerated by God, that man's will is utterly in bondage to sin. He is not free to do anything except please the dictates of sin.

On the other hand, every man regenerated through the work of the Sovereign God is free to obey God. And the character of this freedom is different from the slavery of the unregenerate man. For while the unregenerate man is not free to obey God, the regenerate man is free to disobey God.

And this causes me stop and shudder - what a horror to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then use that marvelous freedom as an opportunity to indulge my flesh.

This would be like a man miraculously cured of emphysema using his new-found health to smoke as many cigarettes as quickly as possible. It would be like an alcoholic miraculously delivered from liver failure using his new-found health to drink even more booze. It would be like a convicted murderer miraculously pardoned using his new-found freedom to become a serial killer. This is not why God saved us!

Galatians 5:13 tells us that You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Another way of viewing this is to recognise that until God saves us, we are not free to serve one another. Rather, we are enslaved to our own desires and must work to serve our own desires. It is only the free man, only the man whom God has foreknown, predestined, called and justified who can serve his fellow-believers. And this is one reason that we were set free.

Monday, June 10

In the shower this morning I began pondering the nature of freedom. One of the things that smacks you in the face moving from the US to England is the difference in how we perceive freedom. In my mind, the Brits are far less free where it really matters, and far more free where it doesn't. I could elaborate at great length I suppose, but it ultimately boils down to this: the US still seems to harbour some reverence for private property whereas the UK does not, (this matters), and the average Brit is not subjected to the huge volume of politically correct behaviour restrictions that the the average American has come to accept as normal, (this matters little).

But I digress.

What does it mean to be free?

To be free means I can do whatever I want to do and that I choose to do the right thing. Most folks stop with the first half of that sentence, but without the second half the first half is impossible. To the extent that people choose to do the wrong thing, to that same extent or greater they limit the ability of other people to do what they want. To illustrate, consider the following:

The 8th commandment tells us not to steal and the 10th tells us not to covet. These are the two sides of private property rights and responsibilities.

"Do not steal" is pretty clear, but to help my children understand it a little better, I have explained to them that anytime you use someone else's property without their permission, you are stealing. This includes not only those acts of outright physical theft, but also activities such as graffitti, plagiarism, and claiming that you are acting upon authority you have not been granted. "Do not covet" covers whatever "Do not steal" fails to cover as far as private property is concerned. Whereas stealing involves using someone else's property without their permission, coveting means depriving someone else of the use of their property without their permission, whether you gain use of it or not. In some ways, coveting is more reprehensible than stealing. We can have pity on the thief who takes from someone else to use for himself when he has need, but who is more contemptible than the person who destroys someone else's property just for the sheer thrill of destruction? Is this not the sin that so pricked the heart of St. Augustine? Some commentators have expressed wonder at Augustine's remorse for stealing and destroying his neighbour's fruit, but I think his horror at his actions was entirely justified.

Conduct a little thought experiment with me now and consider how much freer you would be if everyone in your community chose to obey those two commandments - "Do not steal" and "Do not covet".

If everyone in my community chose to obey these two laws, I would have no locks on my doors and no alarm on my house or car. I would therefore be free from worry about accidentally locking myself out of my own house. I would have more money to use as I saw fit rather than paying for expensive alarms and locks. I would have greater use of my own house, since things which I am now forced to store indoors or in the back garden could be safely left in the front garden. I could reduce my monthly insurance costs, since I wouldn't have to protect myself and my property from theft. It is possible that the amount of money saved by some people would enable them to spend more time with family and less time working wage jobs. And that could have a very beneficial ripple-through effect in the community.

Furthermore, my community would be much cleaner and much more attractive, since graffitti are litter and both forms of stealing/coveting. If these no longer existed, then my council tax could be lower as there would be far less need for public monies to be spent on clean-up. The police would be free to pursue other matters. Therefore police protection could be more thorough, if needed at all, or if not, general taxation levels could be reduced. Merchants would no longer have to devote a portion of their profits to security and expect a portion of their profits to be lost to employee theft. In other words, the only losers in such an environment are those who are determined to break the 8th and 10th commandments. Otherwise, everyone wins with such an arrangement.

Question: Am I missing something, or is this really as simple as it sounds?