Monday, October 31, 2011

Love the Ideas of Freedom

I eventually got to the fifth and final segment of the Uncommon Knowledge interview with Larry Arnn, that I referred to on October 24th. Peter Robinson begins the segment with a quote from Arnn, that has stayed with me. 

There is only one way to return to living under the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the institutions of the Constitution: we must come to love these things again.

When asked how we are to come to love them, Arnn said that first we have to know about them. 

This used to be easier. It used to be understood that when students went to school, any public or private school in the US, they would be taught to love the country and the genius of the founders. For the founders themselves, their educations were surprisingly homogeneous and complete. They had all read the classics—mostly in their original languages. They studied the great thinkers: Cicero, John Locke, Adam Smith, and others. They shared their studies and thoughts with one another. George Wythe tutored Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson passed books along to James Madison.  

George Washington Prayer at Valley Forge
painting by Arnold Friberg
But learning about these ideas is not so easy anymore. Back a couple of decades ago I was working as a curriculum writer of special ed textbooks (junior high and high school subject matter with second grade reading level). One of my co-workers had the assignment to write a short novel for that audience about George Washington. I remember being puzzled at his approach (which I don’t think ever got to print), that Washington wasn’t all that admirable. He was rich because of his wife. He had a lot of luck, really, but wasn’t that outstanding. He thought it was his job to disillusion young students, rather than to inform them of Washington’s well-documented outstanding character and benevolence.  

I think that attitude is not atypical. I think there is a misconception that cynicism and disillusionment are signs of open-mindedness and higher intelligence. Not so. Being able to identify and love truth requires both better character and a better mind. The truth is that our founders, and particularly Washington, were great men, drawn from a much smaller pool than we have to draw from today. 

It’s amazing that there would be, in the world’s frontier, a set of learned, decent, thinking men—who loved the ideas so much that they would pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to bring about the United States of America. The odds in the history of the world are so against such an alignment of circumstances that I conclude it was God’s will to make it happen. 

When I study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I find beauty. The more I study, the more I love them. The more I learn about the ideas behind these documents, and the men who thought them through, the more I marvel. 

One of the reasons I write here is to help readers come to know a little more about the ideas of freedom, that when combined with righteous living will yield the peace and beauty of civilization.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Rich Are Getting Poorer

The other evening my son Political Sphere was sharing with me Greg Mankiw's latest blog post. Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard; a textbook he authored is probably the most widely used for college freshman economics. He’s a free market guy, former advisor to Pres. Bush and advisor to Mitt Romney. And he has the skill of posting skillfully short blogs, with links to all the harder stuff.

Here’s the main paragraph:

According to the most recent IRS data, between 2007 and 2009, the 99th percentile income (AGI, not inflation-adjusted) fell from $410,096 to $343,927. The 99.9th percentile income fell from $2,155,365 to $1,432,890. During the same period, median income fell from $32,879 to $32,396.

Clearly the wealthy had a greater fall in income than the median (median means as many individuals earning more as earning less). But, then, the wealthy have so much more to lose, maybe they can afford it. So I asked what the percentage losses were. Political Sphere crunched the numbers and made me some charts.

This first one shows the simple amounts of loss for the different groups.


A median income earner loses the ability to make a car payment or two, or to buy a new computer, or to pay a dentist bill. It will be felt, but as long as this doesn’t continue year after year, it will probably be recoverable, and it looks like only the median earner and immediate family are affected. The overall economy might be more sluggish, but no jobs will be directly lost.

The top percentile earner loses enough to need to downsize by a couple of median employees, or sell a high end automobile. Or a mortgage payment would have to be $5500 lower per month, so a high end home would have to be sold, or would not be built at all. Even for one year, that amount has a significant impact on the top percentile, and on some lower earners as well.

As for the really high earner, the top 10th of a percentile (best earner out of a thousand), the loss is almost three quarters of a million in income per year. That means that a business will not get startup capital, or an existing business will not expand. It means 22 employees that will get laid off and not rehired until the income returns with certainty. It means a high end home will not be built, or maybe three median homes that could have been rental property. The loss to the top earner is significant, and a sizable number of lower and median earners will be affected.

This second chart shows the percentage of loss to each of the groups.


So that means that for every $100 a median earner used to make, he/she has $99 to spend. Someone in the top percentile gets only $84 to spend out of every $100 he/she used to make. And the top 10th percentile gets only $66 to spend out of every $100 he/she used to make. Mankiw’s point is that “high-income households have riskier-than-average incomes.” The more you make, the more you are likely to lose during economic downturns.

If you’re into class warfare, maybe seeing the rich get poorer makes you smile. But if you’re into a healthy economy, you’ll see that this isn’t about leveling the playing field; it’s about lowering the standard of living overall. More wealth created by those who know how to create wealth means more wealth in the economy as a whole, which affects everyone. Less wealth means less capital, less spending, less spreading it around. Maybe there’s wisdom in the commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome One Billionth

I just learned that right about now the world population has reached the 7 Billion mark. Estimates don’t identify the day, or the particular child. So I have decided to designate my new niece, born just last week, as the welcome one billionth. She just happens to be beautiful, on par with my daughter Social Sphere as a newborn, and granddaughter Baby Political Sphere. You will be happy to know that this one billionth human is truly cherished and valued. 

But one billion is a big number. Should we worry? No. Here’s why. 

  • More people = good
  • Fewer people = bad
  • There is plenty of food, land, and resources for all
If you’ve been told otherwise, it’s time to get more facts.  

A fun source to get the facts is a series of cartoon videos by Population Research Institute. The latest is “7 Billion People: Everbody Relax.”

While I was checking that out, I came across a few others by the same group:

Each of these is a minute or two long, and has links to the research. They make the information easily accessible. For example, they show that typical causes of food poverty (starving from lack of food) include poverty, war, natural disasters, over-exploitation of natural resources, and poor infrastructure. But overpopulation is not a cause. Lowering population because of fear there won’t be enough food will not solve any of the lack-of-food causes.   

Take the few minutes needed to watch and learn. It will ease some fears and help you welcome that next newborn with even more joy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parental Rights

A right doesn’t have to be spelled out in the Bill of Rights in order to be a God-given natural right. I believe that we have the God-given fundamental right to see to the care, control, and upbringing of children. With that right comes the responsibility to do so. Only in severe failure to care for children should society (and possibly the local government) step in for the protection of the child. 

You’re probably thinking that this is so obvious, there’s hardly reason to mention it—which is probably what the founders thought when this wasn’t listed in the Bill of Rights: how could anyone think otherwise? 

Unfortunately, this basic fundamental right is under assault around the world. Sweden is what we usually think of as benign socialism. But in June 2009 Swedish officials extracted 7-year-old Domenic Johansson from a plane bound for India, his mother’s homeland—because the family homeschooled. His family has been denied all contact with him since that day. Currently Swedish officials are attempting to permanently terminate parental rights of Christer and Annie Johansson. You can read more here.  

Romeike family,
photo by Mike Bellemy, NYT
In February 2010, the Romeikes, a German family were granted political asylum in the United States to prevent the benignly socialist state of Germany from severely fining the parents for homeschooling—and depriving them of their children. This Christian family had faced conditions in the schools that they didn’t want for their children. The word rowdiness was used; I don’t know what that entailed. But they had also looked into the local private school options and found them worse than the public schools. No amount of proof that their children were succeeding academically would satisfy; they had to leave their homeland in order to provide for the upbringing of their children as they saw fit. Here’s more on that story:  

David Parker in handcuffs,
from article linked
But infringement of parental rights could never be a problem in the US, right? Unfortunately, wrong. In April 2005 a family in Massachusetts questioned the pro-homosexual curriculum being given to their kindergartener. The father calmly went to school officials and asked for the ability to opt out, and to be notified ahead of time when such things were going to be presented. He was told that his parental rights were forfeit when he allowed his children to attend public school. That was not satisfactory. He said he would wait until the higher up official in the district could talk with him. The district sent for the police and had him arrested. You can read the details here:  

Closer to home, in Texas, for the past several biannual legislative sessions efforts have been made to enact the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act. The purpose of this legislation is to close a loophole in the law that allows judges to illegally terminate parental rights for fit parents (a problem that likely exists in whatever state you’re in). Sometimes this is referred to as Grandparent rights. What happens is that grandparents disapprove of the way their grandchildren are being raised—often because of homeschooling or choice of a different religion from the grandparents. The grandparents sue for visitation, claiming that they are being denied access to their precious grandchildren—something that judges tend to be sympathetic to. So, even though there is no question that the parents are fit (no neglect, no abuse, no question of appropriate parenting), the grandparents get a judge to require visitation, or sometimes shared custody. Sometimes judges have actually stepped in and said, until all is settled, he’ll just grant custody to the grandparents—denying a fit parent’s rights to live with and see to the upbringing of a child, until the judge’s decision is overturned, sometimes taking years.  

Always in these cases, by the time they reach the state Supreme Court level, the parent wins. But in the meantime, that could have taken years of family turmoil and loss of custody, and easily upwards of a million dollars in legal costs. If a family simply cannot pay the legal fees (or gain access to donations that will pay), the family may lose to grandparents with deeper pockets. If a case is dismissed somewhere along the way, there is nothing to stop the grandparents from filing an entirely new suit. As long as they have money, they can keep persecuting the fit parents until the parents’ resources are drained, so the grandparents can essentially buy their grandchildren through legal system corruption. 

One case involved a young woman whose soldier husband was killed in Iraq. She had never had previous problems with her in-laws, but they suddenly feared they would lose access to their grandchildren, and instead of talking with her to work something out (which she would have been open to), they sued her—knowing as a widow with small children, her resources were small.  

In another case the grandparents had to be refused access because they couldn’t be trusted to keep the children safe. The grandfather was frequently drunk. The grandmother took grandchildren along on her “dates” with other men. This battle went on for years, and drained the family of over a million in legal fees. 

There’s a case that went to jury trial this summer. If I recall the details, a father was widowed, and was then going to make the choice to homeschool his daughter. The maternal grandparents disapproved and obtained arranged visitation. There was only one visit the father missed; it was during a move. A judge stepped in, took the daughter from the father—for three years—awarding custody to the grandparents, with no accusation against the father except that he had failed to notify the grandparents of the move and had missed one visit. You would think—if you could even grant that such a thing could be required of the father, which I don’t—that the severest penalty would be a small fine and an order to make up the visit. Loss of custody is essentially the equivalent of the death penalty in a custody decision—and he had never even been accused of being an unfit parent. 

He had his daughter returned to him, after three years, this past summer, because he insisted on a jury trial to lessen the judge’s power. But efforts to recoup court costs from the grandparents are being thwarted by the very judge who interfered in the first place. Tim Lambert’s blog, Right in Texas, has covered this case pretty thoroughly over the past several months; I hope you’ll go there for more details. The legislative effort got closer to being passed this session than in the past, but still failed, so it will be put forward again in 2012.

I feel rather strongly about parental rights. That is why I was rather disturbed last week, at a forum to meet the candidates for the local school board. There are two positions on this November’s ballot. One of the questions asked was, “Do you support waivers, or vouchers, to pay for private schools?” One of the incumbents said he absolutely would not support waivers or vouchers. All the money should be kept in the public schools. His reason? That this is an exceptional school district, and no one has a need to get an education elsewhere. This is the school district that caused us to homeschool—so bad that, after two years here, with a child in high school, middle school, and grade school, we could see that it didn’t meet our needs at any level.  

We paid our own way as homeschoolers for a decade—all along paying the full tax with no vouchers. We didn’t even complain about that, since we were free from interference to homeschool in Texas. Vouchers—which really mean you are using your own paid tax money that is assigned to education, to educate your children in the manner you choose—are sometimes construed to give government the claim that they must regulate. So I’m not out their screaming for vouchers for myself.  

But philosophically, being against any tax money for education going anywhere but failing public schools goes against the God-given right for parents to see to the care, control, and upbringing of their children. Even in a tiny off-year election, in a free state with Constitutional protections, we have to be vigilant to keep these rights from being infringed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Three-Legged Stool

Yesterday in the car I had the radio on. Rush was responding to an email accusing him of being anti-Romney. He used a clip from his show four years ago to claim otherwise. One thing he said caught my attention—because it relates to the Spherical Model.
I want to take you back to the archives of this program, February 4th of 2008. From my website, “One candidate now stands for all three legs of conservatism.” February 4th, 2008. You people have forgotten. I supported Romney in 2008. I was defending Romney against the fact that Huckabee and McCain were ganging up on him in the West Virginia primaries. I did everything but endorse Romney in 2008….
From this program, February 4, 2008: “I think now, based on the way the campaign has shaken out, that there probably is a candidate on our side who does embody all three legs of the conservative stool, and that’s Romney. The three legs of the stool are national security/foreign policy, the social conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives. The social conservatives are the cultural people; fiscal conservatives, the economic crowd, low taxes, smaller government, get out of the way.”… Back in 2008 Romney was the guy. There weren’t too many alternatives.
In Spherical Model language, we have three overlaying spheres: the political sphere (freedom vs. tyranny), the economic sphere (free enterprise vs. controlled economy), and the social sphere (civilization vs. savagery). The things we as conservatives intend to conserve are freedom, free enterprise, and civilization. They interrelate; you can’t get freedom and prosperity without living the rules of civilization. And it’s hard to get to civilization when freedom and prosperity are hindered. At this point it’s not so much about “conserving” those things as getting back to them—reinstituting. But when we say “conservative ideology,” we mean the principles the bring about freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

Rush went to say:

Conservatism is the solution, proud, unabashed, cheerful conservatism. I believe the campaign ought to be run on ideology. I know there are a lot of people, “No, no, we can’t go ideological, Rush; it’s too limiting. It thwarts, it scares off the independents.” I think ideology is what sells conservatism….
I know the effort is intense to force conservative ideologues to tamp it down. I fully understand that. I see the evidence of it each and every day. But who is it, name a name. When you get excited about a candidate or an elected official, public figure, who says something that really rallies you, why has that happened? That person’s engaged in ideology. And what I mean by that is principles. The person has supported, can explain, optimistically advance principles.
Conservative principles, I believe, are the principles that founded this country. They work.
Then he points out Bobby Jindal’s reelection as governor of Louisiana—as a principled conservative. In a landslide—in liberal (and historically corrupt) Louisiana! The press doesn’t want to mention it, because that whole principled conservative thing wins elections. It’s what worked in November 2010. It will work again in 2012—even more.

He’s not endorsing Romney—not yet anyway. He agrees with me:

I think any of our candidates could beat Obama, especially if the election were tomorrow, any of our candidates could beat Obama. Well, maybe two exceptions. I’m not sure that Huntsman could, and I’m not sure that Ron Paul could. But the rest of them up there….
Why not those two? Rush didn’t say, but if there must be three legs of the stool, Paul says things that make us not trust him to keep us safe. He’s very good, however, on economic and social issues (except for a few libertarian issues, for example, drug legalization). When Huntsman has a good day, he sounds pretty conservative, but there’s often indefiniteness, a hint of not being firmly there on principle on all three legs of the conservative stool—more policy than ideology. He’s comfortable dwelling near the equator, maybe even a little south of the equator, in the political, economic, and social spheres. And that won’t do when what we want is an anti-Obama. Clarity on principles the lead to freedom, economic prosperity, and civilization—that’s what we need.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Evolution Is Slower than That

I’ve been hearing a lot lately from Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College. I’ve been taking advantage of the free class on the Constitution from Hillsdale, through the Heritage Foundation, with the several classes and last night’s final discussion, presented by Larry Arnn. And then, in addition, Uncommon Knowledge is doing their five-part interview this week with Larry Arnn. 

Part 2 was especially interesting to me. There’s something I have thought to myself for a long time that he articulated, which made me sense I have been right about that all along. 

Larry Arnn (right) interviewed on Uncommon Knowledge
This post isn’t really about evolution so much as it is about the philosophical vacancy of progressivism. When you look at what Woodrow Wilson and other progressives of a century ago, believed about human nature, it is out of synch with the reality we can easily observe. There is a belief like this: Now that we know about evolution, and that we continue to progress, we have therefore evolved beyond where we need to worry about moral laws, because we can make wise decisions based on science. 

I don’t want to deal with the validity of evolution here. I don’t personally know how God went about creating us; it is enough for me that I know He did it. But those who do believe in evolution deal with eons of time. A tiny change happens in, say year one, another tiny change century or two later. These tiny changes build up so that in a few million years you might start to notice change. 

So here are the progressives making the assumption that so much “progress” has happened in the century or two since our founding that the same rules no longer apply to us; we are beyond the need for limited government as is built into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And evolution contains the idea that the direction is always positive, so you might as well engineer more change, since it can’t be wrong. 

So, they believe evolution is slow—except for humans, and except for now. They believe humans have always been progressing forward, so they miss the possibility of decay that is evident in the failure of every past civilization. And they think they know enough science now that they no longer need morality as a guide. Let me just say, someone who thinks that way is so far behind the bell curve of human thinking that we don’t want them anywhere near power. 

Larry Arnn points out two specific errors Wilson was making: condescension toward the founders, and ignoring human nature. He says this on the first point:  

They [the founders] had to declare an entirely new set of principles by which to govern, and make war on the biggest force on earth. And they named it—the Congress was called the Continental Congress. They hadn’t seen the continent, didn’t until Lewis and Clark came back to report to now President Jefferson in 1805…. So vast acts of imagination. And then they had to figure out a way for the first free government in history to grow across the continent. In other words, they faced enormous complications. And the idea that the complications of the 19th Century are larger is bunkum. 

I love that a university president is comfortable using the word “bunkum.” Professor Arnn appears unassuming, a little provincial, and talks like he came from maybe a southern middle state instead of an east or left coastal state. It could be easy to underestimate him; I’m sure Woodrow Wilson would. 

The second point, about human nature, is better done in context, but I’ll try to pull out enough. Arnn says that the core thing is what Madison says is written in this fact:  

“We require to be governed because we are not angels, but government must be limited because angels do not govern men.” And so… just as we outside the government require to be governed, those inside the government also require to be governed. And that has to be strictly arranged, because they need and they will have a lot of power. 

He points out that Madison and Jefferson, the founders, set up a government that they could have controlled with all the power they wanted. But they didn’t. Madison “was the maker of the institution that kept the president from being all powerful. So he’s not saying anything against the characters of people who are alive today, except the simple thing that they are human and not angels.”  

There’s a section where Arnn describes what the nature of man is. And it leads beautifully back to the error about evolution. 

Nature… means the thing itself.... It means the cup is a cup; it has cupness about it that makes it a cup, and there’s lots of different cups, but you can see the cupness in all of them. So the nature of a thing is whatever it is specifically. The nature of the human being is to reason, which is the animal that can reason. Now the second thing nature means is beginning growth by which living things come to be. The word nature actually comes from the Latin word for birth…. 

So, when you look at people, it doesn’t actually matter from the point of view of nature whether human beings used to be monkeys. What we know is, when you look at the things in nature that are before us now, this human thing is a very distinctive thing.  

He gives a historic example from the Alabama slave code, about humanness, as opposed to other property, such as hogs: 

There were restrictions on how many slaves could get together, and how long they could stay together, and how long they could be indoors together. And those were generally waived in the case of meeting with a qualified minister. Now they put all kinds of fences around their hogs, and they didn’t make exemptions for the hogs to go meet the minister. But they did the slaves, ‘cause they know what they are. That’s the nature of the man. And the rights of the man are written in the nature of the man, and you cannot mistake it. 

Now here’s Arnn's point about the speed of evolution: 

Remember Woodrow Wilson thinks that things are evolving very fast. You know, ‘cause he’s writing... in about 1880 or about 1890, and the founding is about a hundred years before. And he thinks that all of the fundamental conditions have been repealed by time—in a hundred years. But have they? You can see that they have not. So if you think that evolution is supplying some standard that permits people to do whatever they want to do, that’s only a good idea if they’re not still people. But what if they are? What if the nature of the man persists? What if it’s true that you and I, people of good will who’ve known each other a while, and would be ashamed if we knew about each other that we did something wrong—what if it’s true that neither of us is quite the man that George Washington was? Nature! Something made him really great. Doesn’t happen very often. 

We could sure use another Washington, Jefferson or Madison. Or a Lincoln. Or a Ronald Reagan. Woodrow Wilson, perhaps through arrogance, put decay, not progress, into codified government. We definitely don’t need a weak reincarnation of him in leadership. If there’s a certain evidence that we haven’t “evolved” far enough yet, it is that as a human people we were duped into placing such a person in office in 2008. The founders two centuries ago knew better.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In the Interest of Brevity

Earlier this week I wrote about Ezra Taft Benson’s piece “The Case for the Free Market” from 1977. My son Economic Sphere came to me chuckling after reading it. Well written, he said, but after already reading a couple of pages he gets to the phrase, “In the interest of brevity….” He often tells me my posts are too long. He’s probably right. 

In my defense, the piece I was summarizing was 5500 words (13 pages), and I was just picking out a few things. All I had done up to that point was to introduce the piece and quote an illustrative story. And then I was going to simply include two lists: the elements of the free-market system, and the principles for success in the American free-market. I didn’t include his many pages of explanation (all worth reading).  

So, anyway, I’ll be brief today, just including a few additional quotes from that piece. Persuading you to read the whole is my intention.

The ethic of today seems calculated to indoctrinate our citizenry toward a dependency on the state. Our Founding Fathers recognized that certain rights were inalienable, that is, God-given; today, the state is being looked to as the guarantor of human rights—life, liberty, and property.

Many view the idea of the free-enterprise or free-market system as only an alternative economic system to other systems. This is a serious oversight and causes many to miss the most crucial elements in the free-market system.

No people can maintain freedom unless their political institutions are founded on faith in God and belief in the existence of moral law.


Once a person awakens to the truth of his divine identity, he demands his rights: the right to property, the right to make his own decisions, the right to plan his own welfare, and the right to improve himself materially, intellectually, and spiritually.


Utopian and communitarian schemes that eliminate property rights are not only unworkable, they also deny to man his inherent desire to improve his station. They are therefore contrary to the pursuit of happiness.


Charity, that greatest of godly virtues, would never be possible without property rights, for one cannot give what one does not own.

No liberty is possible unless a man is protected in his title to his legal holdings and property and can be indemnified, by the law, for its loss or destruction. Remove this right and man is reduced to serfdom.

When government presumes to demand more and more of the fruits of man’s labors through taxation, and reduces more and more his actual income by printing money and furthering debt, the wage earner is left with less and less with which to buy food and to provide housing, medical care, education, and private welfare. Individuals are then left without a choice and must look to the state as the benevolent supporter of these services. When that happens, liberty is gone.

How do our cities and towns each day obtain the quantity of food products they demand? Of all agencies engaged in supplying cities with food, almost none knows how much the city consumes or how much is being produced. Despite this ignorance, the cities receive about the right amount of food needed without great surplus or shortage. How is this accomplished without a central directing body telling each producer what it should produce? The answer, of course, is the operation of the free market—free enterprise in action.

Economic literacy among our people has not been one of the bright spots in our 200-year-old history. Yet it is apparent that when ignorance prevails, the people eventually suffer.

When will we resolve as Americans that a dollar cannot make the trip to Washington, D.C., and back without a bureaucratic bite being taken out of it?

Freedom is an eternal principle. Heaven disapproves of force, coercion, and intimidation. Only a free people can be truly a happy people. Of all sad things in the world, the saddest is to see a people who have once known liberty and freedom and then lost it.

Some words never grow old—maybe because truth continues to be true.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

After Another Debate

Several presidential debates have gone by without my commenting on them. So here’s what’s been happening: questions are asked of candidates who agree almost entirely that Obamacare must be repealed, economic policies must return to free market, government needs to be smaller, spending and the deficit need real cuts, and faith and integrity are essential. There is no point in debating those ideas; we can save that for debates with the sitting president who disagrees on every point.  

So the debates tend to concentrate on separating these very good alternatives to the status quo from one another. Where there are differences in specifics, I find that I always understand better when the candidate has a forum where he/she can express the thought process more fully. The sound bites that come in short debate answers offer this differentiation very poorly. People who agree that we need to protect our sovereign border shouldn’t be accused of being against that idea because of a specific that requires further explanation. People who all agree that nationalizing health care is an abomination (“Obamanation”) should not be accused by their colleagues, again and again, of lying about their views. Having a colleague turn to you and say, “No, that’s not what you believe; you believe this and this” is not only a ridiculous waste of time, it’s offensive.  

In just about every debate, Newt Gingrich has reminded us that we don’t really disagree with each other; we disagree with the current administration and its direction. If he’s in the race for no other reason, I appreciate that. 

Nevertheless, there were a few gems from last night’s debate that I’d like to share. Some for entertainment; some for enlightenment. 

This first is an exchange between Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Some day maybe I’ll take a closer look at Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. I have many reservations, but I also like the idea of simplifying and flattening the tax system. (Michelle Bachman pointed out that that concept was something all agreed on.) So the exchange here is only entertaining. Cain is talking about only changing the federal tax system, doing nothing to individual state plans. And Romney is pointing out that the complaint is the discomfort people have adding 9% sales tax on top of something like an 8% state and/or local sales tax. They don’t really disagree. But the apples and oranges thing is funny.  

Romney (to Cain): Are you saying that the state sales tax will also go away?
Cain: No. That’s an apple. We’re replacing a bunch of oranges.
Romney: So, then, Governor Perry was right.
Cain: No, he wasn’t. He was mixing apples and oranges.
Romney: Well, but, will the people in Nevada not have to pay Nevada sales tax, and in addition pay the 9% sales tax?
Cain: Governor Romney, you’re doing the same thing that they’re doing; you’re mixing apples and oranges. You’re gonna pay the state sales tax no matter what.
Romney: Right.
Cain: Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still gonna pay that. That’s apples and oranges.
Romney: Fine. And I’m gonna be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it, ‘cause I’m gonna pay both taxes. And the people of Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes. 

If there ever were a national sales tax on top of state and local sales tax, I think the item should be marked to show the retail cost, plust the cost with each of the taxes, so there's an awareness of the taxes being paid, and no sudden shock at checkout.

Newt Gingrich followed up with a concern I have about Cain’s plan. He credits Cain with opening up the conversation on a major reworking of the tax system. But he says there are a lot of details that need to be handled; it’s not as simple as Cain describes. And something that complex takes time. 

Gingrich: I favor very narrow, focused tax cuts such as zero capital gains, 100% expensing, because, I think, as Governor Romney said, jobs are the number one challenge over the next two or three years. Get something you can do very fast. Change on this scale takes years to think through, if you’re gonna do it right. 

Rick Perry made a good case for using our own resources for energy independence, and since he’s from Texas, where energy is a major industry, I believe he could do it. 

Perry: We’ve got 300 years of resources right under our feet. Yet we’ve got an administration blockading our ability to bring that to the surface, whether it’s our petroleum or our natural gas or our coal. And 1.2 million jobs could be put to work, Americans who are sitting out there listening to this conversation tonight, somebody wants someone on this stage to say, “Listen, we’ve got an idea here how to get you to work and take care of your family and have the dignity of a job.” And that’s exactly what I did with my plan—laid it out where Americans understand, we don’t have to wait on OPEC anymore. We don’t have to let them hold us hostage. America’s got the energy. Let’s have American energy independence. 

Romney didn’t disagree, but extended energy policy to the larger economy, in a way that, if you don’t see them as rivals, but as allies on the same side, would be very positive. 

Romney: He’s absolutely right about getting energy independence and taking advantage of our natural resources here. We’re an energy rich nation that’s acting like an energy poor nation…. But there are also a lot of good jobs we need in manufacturing and high tech jobs, and good service jobs, and technology of all kinds. America produces an economy that’s very very broad, and that’s why our policy to get America the most attractive place in the world for investment and job growth encompasses more than just energy. It includes that, but also tax policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, education, training, and balancing the federal budget. And that starts with repealing Obamacare, which is a huge burden on this economy. 

Ron Paul is generally good on economic issues—and just about as out of the mainstream on foreign policy. But I liked his discussion about getting medicine back to free market choices. 

Paul: There’s been a lot of discussion about medicine, but it seems to be which kind of government management is best. But our problem is we have too much. We’ve had it for 30, 40 years. We have Medicare. We have prescription drug programs. We have Medicaid. And what we need, I mean, there’s pretty good support up here for getting rid of Obamacare because it’s a Democratic proposal, and we want to opt out. I think we’d all agree on this. But if you want better competition and better health care, you should allow the American people to opt out of government medicine…. Let people opt out, pay their bills, get back to the doctor-patient relationship…. When the government gets involved in an industry, prices always go up. We have tort laws to deal with. And we need more competition in medicine. But the most important thing is letting the people have control of their money and get it out of the hands of the third party. 

The issue of attracting Latino voters came up. I liked Gingrich’s comments, and I think this is yet another idea all of the candidates agree on. 

Gingrich: There are hundreds of different groups that come to America. As Governor Romney said, I think anybody who understands America has to be proud of our record as the country which has been the most open in history to legal immigration. But the truth is most Latinos in the United States aren’t immigrants. Most Latinos in the United States now have been born in the United States. And the fact is they want virtually exactly what everyone else wants. They want an economy that’s growing…. And they want to have a chance that their country is going to work to give their children and their grandchildren a better future. I think we have to have the same message for every American of every ethnic background—that we want to make America work again. And you’ll know it’s working because you will have a job, and you’ll have a chance to take care of your family. 

I want to like Rick Santorum. I think he’s at a disadvantage in this strong field, but he often speaks well on the values that contribute to civilization. He tends to try to make it a contrast between himself and the others, and I think that’s a mistake, because there is so little actual disagreement; it makes him look petty. But when he actually speaks on family and faith, he says it well. This comment was following up about attracting the Latino community, which he pointed out is very interested in strong families. 

Santorum: The basic building block of society is not the individual; it’s the family. That’s the basic unit of society. And the Latino community understands. They understand the importance of faith and marriage. They understand that bond that builds that solid foundation, and that inculcation of faith and religious freedom. And I think the Latino community knows what’s at stake in this country. There’s a lot going on right now that’s eroding our religious freedom, that’s eroding the traditional values of marriage and family. And there’s one candidate up here that consistently sounds that theme. Look, I’m for jobs too. I’ve got an economic plan; I agree with everything that’s been said. But we keep running roughshod over the fact that family in America, and faith in America, is being crushed by the courts and by our government, and someone has to stand up and fight for those institutions. 

Have the debates convinced me yet who to vote for? No. I’m not fully decided. But I’m getting closer, I think. I’ve written off Paul and Huntsman (didn’t miss him last night). And I don’t think there’s much hope for Santorum or Bachman this time around, or Gingrich ever again (although I’m still glad he’s there saying what he’s saying). I think I could live with any of the top three as a candidate. But doing the research away from the debates is a better way to find out who they really are and who is worth getting behind.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Christian Adams on Injustice

Last night I got to hear Christian Adams speak about his new book Injustice (which I talked about here). I know it’s getting more and more difficult to be surprised at anything this administration does. And yet it is still shocking to know things really are as bad (or worse) as we imagine. 

Christian Adams was a lawyer in the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, for a number of years, through the Bush years at least and until summer 2010. He said that what you expect from the Department of Justice is legal fairness, and with most of the DOJ that is true. But not with the Civil Rights Division—one of the most powerful agencies in Washington. All it deals with is race. It was founded in 1957 in response to racial discrimination. The DOJ Civil Rights Division has power over voting, economy, and culture, including a great amount of interference into state sovereignty. 

The first two chapters of his book tell the story of the case US vs. Ike Brown, about infested voter fraud in Mississippi. Ike Brown was the black chairman who ran elections in his county. People in the DOJ were against working on the case. One said, “I didn’t join the DOJ to bring cases against black people.” 

Ike Brown is an egregious example. When asked what would improve race relations in the country, his answer was, “More funerals of white people.” When poll watchers tried to put a stop to illegal ballots being put in the machine that counted valid votes, Brown said, “You’re not dealing with Mississippi law here; you’re dealing with Ike’s law.” There were some illegal ballots that were put in a bank vault for safe keeping, so they could look at fingerprints later—the bank was burned down overnight. [This got our attention in the audience, because a suspicious fire took out our county voting machines in 2010, just weeks before the election.] Officials tried to claim the bank must have burned its own building down. 

This is the kind of voter fraud the DOJ refuses to prosecute—because their goal is to allow black voter fraud and only prosecute white (or actually only GOP) perpetrators. 

It was only by luck that Fox News caught on video the New Black Panthers committing voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008. That was the exception. Endemic corruption is much more widespread than we see—especially in areas where officials have gotten away with it for some time. That case was filed immediately, and was essentially won when Eric Holder’s DOJ dismissed it.  

The Bush administration was willing to prosecute regardless of color of the perpetrators. But elections have consequences. Those who were previously fighting prosecutions during the last administration—from within the ACLU, SEIU, the organization that wants to return California to Mexico, and other radical organizations—are now working in the DOJ. They are unwilling to enforce voter law, and will only prosecute traditional civil rights cases. 

Adams explained a little about Sections 7 and 8 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 7 is known as the Motor Voter law—anyone going to get a driver’s license is given the opportunity to register to vote. But this law also required voter registration to be made available at any social service agency—any time anyone signed up for food stamps, welfare, or any other social service. Long-time radical Francis Fox Piven was behind this. 

There was a compromise in 1993, essentially saying, “If you’re going to do that, then only eligible voters can be registered.” So Section 8 is for voter roll cleanup. Currently John Fernandez at the DOJ says they aren’t interested in enforcing Section 8—“It has nothing to do with getting out Hispanic votes.” 

Christopher Coates, former DOJ Civil Rights Voting Chief (Adams’ boss at the time), recommended investigations of eight states where certain counties had more registered voters than population. Opening an investigation meant simply a phonecall to ask for an explanation. But this DOJ nixed those investigations. 

They are at least open about it. On the walls of these very civil servants in charge of enforcing voter election laws, they display Obama campaign posters. So what you can expect in 2012 is that pro-Obama cheaters will be free to break the law at will—whatever it takes to keep their radical-in-chief in office. The only way to prevent them from winning by fraud is by having a landslide election against Obama, with a margin so large it can’t be overcome by the usual fraudulent practices. 

The Texas legislature passed a voter ID bill this year; it goes into effect January 1st. But Texas is forced to submit any changes in voting law to the federal government for approval. Sixteen states are so required. This is because of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965—a powerful intrusion into state sovereignty. It is based on the 15th Amendment, to prevent denial of citizens to vote on account of race or color. Originally the law took effect on those states that had less than 50% voter turnout and also a voting test (a literacy test, for example) in the 1964 election. (Essentially, this took in the Goldwater states.) In 1975 the rule added language as a test—in other words, expecting a voter to speak English was considered a violation. Texas was added to the list at this point. So now voting procedure laws and redistricting are subject to federal oversight. 

Oversight can be either through the DOJ or through a judge. Unfortunately, the Texas Secretary of State submitted the Voter ID law to the DOJ. Adams said the only reason he can imagine for Texas to do that is that state officials are ignorant of what is going on at this DOJ. There is a 90% chance that Voter ID will be objected to—in other words, no matter how carefully the law was written, no matter how freely the people of Texas supported the law, the DOJ can call it discriminatory at will. So in the 2012 Election, despite all our efforts to work toward free and fair elections, Obama’s administration is working to allow as much fraud as they are used to. 

Redistricting at least was submitted to a judge, instead of the DOJ. But there are very strict rules to make sure that gerrymandering to get minority representatives elected are not infringed. (Liberal minorities only—minority conservatives get no representation in those districts.) 

Adams mentioned that, besides control of voting law, the DOJ also has a lot of power over the economy and culture. One example of culture interference was a case in the New York Mohawk Unified School District. There were two 15-year-old boys who decided to cross-dress. They wore stilettos, miniskirts, and pink wigs—apparel not acceptable by any gender. They were told this was disruptive. Attorney General Eric Holder stepped in to sue the school district, forcing accommodation of these child transvestites. In addition Mohawk USD is forced to spend $50,000 a year to hire gender identity counselors. 

The DOJ alters school discipline. They claim it is racially discriminatory that blacks are 9% of the population but account for 30% of expulsions. They do not look at individual behavior; they assume discrimination if there is discipline against blacks. Even the threat of lawsuits makes it difficult to discipline the chosen minorities. Those not of that color get disciplined more to level the field. In other words, the DOJ gives incentive for more bad behavior from those who are already committing bad behavior. 

As Adams says, “Ideological fervor in this DOJ is against the values of the country.” He has a photo in the book of the voting rights museum in Selma, Alabama. The famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence has the caption: “1776 The Declaration of Independence signed by wealthy white people.” Even though they weren’t all wealthy, and even though they were risking their lives to sign that document in order to bring about freedom. The radicals are corroding what we have revered. And they are doing it successfully. 

Adams was asked whether Eric Holder would survive, and his answer was discouraging: it doesn’t matter. “From root to branch, it’s a philosophy that has been building for 40 years and is finally now in charge.” They are radicals. They weren’t in charge during the Clinton era. “Oh to have Janet Reno back!” he said. 

It doesn’t matter if Eric Holder survives. “It’s like whack-a-mole; take one down, and another pops up.” Radical philosophy has completely taken hold of this DOJ. “Don’t expect a big change if he goes.” 

I still believe that the radicals are only a small portion of the population. If they spoke openly about their plans to toss out the Constitution and replace it with their socialist tyranny, they couldn’t get a foothold. So sunlight is the disinfectant we need. Thanks to Christian Adams for doing his part to bring the corruption to light. 

In a few days you will be able to see the discussion I’ve summarized here online here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Case for the Free Market

Ezra Taft Benson
Yesterday a friend put up a link to one of those pieces that I read and think, “Why hasn’t this been in my files all along?” This time the piece is “The Case for the Free Market,” a chapter from the book This Nation Shall Endure, ©1977, by Ezra Taft Benson. I reference his “The Proper Role of Government” several times in my Spherical Model writings, and keep it filed with Bastiat’s The Law, which it cites several times. 

The article is worth spending a day summarizing. He teaches us with a parable of two fathers of sons:

Two fathers lived side by side as neighbors. Each had two sons. Each had a good job, a roomy house, and material means to provide the best of life’s luxuries. The essential difference between the two fathers was one of philosophy.
Mr. A’s objective with his sons was to instill principles that would bring about self-respect, personal responsibility, and independence. His method merits our scrutiny.
When his boys were young, he taught them how to work at simple tasks by his side. When they became more mature, he developed a work-incentive program. The pay scale was commensurate with the quality of the work performed. An “average job,” for example, paid fifty cents; “above average,” sixty cents’ “exceptional,” seventy-five cents. A “one-dollar job” was the impossible task, a goal that he soon observed the boys were striving after. [Mr. Spherical Model is convinced his grandfather used this same scale on lawn care and other duties he and his brothers were hired to do.] He impressed on them that the only limitations to their earnings were their own personal initiative and desire. He emphasized the necessity of postponing wants so they could save for the future. The lessons were well learned over a period of time.
There was an undergirding moral element to Mr. A’s philosophy, a principle more “caught” than taught. A simple example will suffice. One day the boys, now young men, were working in his plant. Mr. A observed some sloppy work being done on one of the products. He asked to see the product, and removed the label. One of the boys resisted. “Why are you doing that, Dad?” he asked. Mr. A replied, “I’ll not have my name attached to a shoddy product. When my name goes on, my customers must know I’ve given them my best workmanship. Would you want to own this product?” It was an answer that provided a lesson that would last a lifetime. How could the Golden Rule be emphasized more effectively in business!
“Mr. B also had a philosophy, albeit one that was reactionary to the early struggles of youth. “I’ll not have my kids go through what I did.” His philosophy was designed to remove the struggle from life. His method also merits our consideration.
Regularly his sons were provided with generous allowances. Little work was expected in their formative years. In later years the boys were encouraged to work, but now they were too comfortable in their security. After all, they had all their material wants satisfied. At this juncture Mr. B made a profound discovery: wants always exceed needs and are never satisfied unless disciplined. To counteract the lack of self-discipline, Mr. B embarked on a routine of imposed restraints. To his chagrin, he found his sons embittered toward him, ungrateful, and frequently disobedient to rules imposed on them.
The story is timeless. It is also instructive on a larger level, mainly the increasing expectation that government is there to provide for us, which is impossible—since government produces nothing—until government takes from a producer who earned his wealth and gives it to someone who didn’t earn it. Ironically, people sneeringly deride the free market as unfair and immoral.

In the interest of brevity, I’m going to include just a couple of lists. First, Benson gives the following crucial elements of the free market system (along with some explication that I’m not including here):

·         First: The free-market system rests on a moral base.
·         Second: The free market is based on the right to property.
·         Third: The free market is based on the right to enjoy private enterprise for profit.
·         Fourth: The free market is the right to voluntary exchange of goods and services, free from restraints and controls.
·         Fifth: A free market survives with competition. 

This next list is a logic equation, step-by-step showing why logically these principles apply to the free market, reduced to this formula: 

  1. Economic security for all is impossible without widespread abundance.
  2. Abundance is impossible without industrious and efficient production.
  3. Such production is impossible without energetic, willing, and eager labor.
  4. Such labor is not possible without incentive.
  5. Of all forms of incentive, the freedom to attain a reward for one’s labors is the most sustaining for most people. Sometimes called the profit motive, it is simply the right to plan and to earn and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
  6. This profit motive diminishes as government controls, regulations, and taxes increase to deny the fruits of success to those who produce.
  7. Therefore, any attempt through government intervention to redistribute the material rewards of labor can only result in the eventual destruction of the productive base of society, without which real abundance and security for more than the ruling elite are quite impossible.
Ezra Taft Benson was an outspoken opponent of socialism. He was appointed US Secretary of Agriculture in 1953, serving all eight years of the Eisenhower administration, all the while opposing the price supports and aid to farmers that came under his jurisdiction. He consistently encouraged adherence to the Constitution, and in people performing their civic duties with diligence and attention. 

If you aren’t aware of this brilliant man, you may not be aware that he served as president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death in 1994. It was noteworthy that, while he was an outspoken political conservative all through his life, once he became the prophet, he spoke almost not at all on political issues. People had been worried (particularly those who disagreed with him, or those who feared those who disagreed with him) that he would use his worldwide position toward some political agenda. That simply didn’t happen.  

For anyone needlessly worrying that a Romney presidency would put the country at the mercy of the political desires of Mormon leaders, note that even a man as right, articulate, and motivated to protect our freedoms as Ezra Taft Benson was nevertheless maintained strict political neutrality as the worldwide leader. Not only would a Latter-day Saint prophet not press a US president or other elected official to act in a certain political way, a prophet would not even allow himself to speak politically. 

After four or five decades since these words were written, one surprising thing is seeing how much more they apply today. Maybe that is evidence of the truth of the principles of our founders. We don’t need to “progress” to some newer design for society; we need to live the principles that are most moral and therefore most liberating.

You can read "The Case for the Free Market" in its entirety here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

To Believe In

I’m reading Children of the Mind, yet another in the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card. As with the last one or two, I haven’t loved the story, but I’m captured by the occasional interesting idea. 

There’s a moment early in the book when Ender/Andrew is talking with his wife, Novinha, at a time when she has withdrawn following the death of an adult son. Ender, I have to say, has been very committed to staying married, no matter how hard she makes it. At this point she has joined a convent of sorts, and he has gone there to join her. 

She shook her head. “You don’t believe in God, how’s that for starters?”

“I certainly do too believe in God,” said Ender, annoyed.

“Oh, you’re willing to concede God’s existence, but that’s not what I meant. I mean believe in him the way a mother means it when she says to her son, I believe in you. She’s not saying she believes that he exists—what is that worth?—she’s saying she believes in his future, she trusts that he’ll do all the good that is in him to do. She puts the future in his hands, that’s how she believes in him. You don’t believe in Christ that way, Andrew. You still believe in yourself. In other people…. You aren’t leaving anything up to God. You don’t believe in him.”

…“Maybe I don’t believe in Christ the way that you do,” said Ender. “But isn’t it enough that I believe in you, and you believe in him?” (pp. 29-30)

The argument between them isn’t as important as this description of believing in God. I think it’s a way of describing faith—believing so much that you act on the belief, trusting in the outcome. Not just believing in God’s existence, but believing God, trusting Him. And for those who can’t yet do that, but can trust someone else who does trust God, that is at least a step in the direction God is suggesting. 

It might not be possible to know, for example, that being honest in your business dealings will lead to financial success. A high level of financial success might not even happen. But being willing to act honestly in business may be the path to a more fully lived life, a happier life. And if not in this life, then in the life to come—God’s choice. But acting on that trust opens the way for God to offer blessings of abundant life that won’t come, with or without financial success, when the honest path isn’t followed. 

People who do not believe in God—do not trust Him—look for some other entity to trust. That makes them vulnerable to tyrants in a way that God-trusting people are not. If we know, as our founders did, that our rights come from God, we don’t give in to a power-hungry dictator who steps up and says, “Trust me; I’ll give you everything; just let me make all the decisions.”

I am reminded of these orchestrated protests exemplifying lack of civilization in cities around the country. These people do not trust God, to begin with. But in addition, they do not believe in themselves. They trust some super-entity, some government, to coerce outcomes that they want. They are sacrificing their time and work opportunities—real living, or making a living—trusting that some benevolent dictator will step in and meet their demands. From my point of view, believing in God is much more rational. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

It is a nearly a week since the Values Voter Summit, in which a Dallas pastor introduced Rick Perry with a hint at maligning Mitt Romney’s religion—which was followed up with media afterward and verified by said pastor. I don’t know what else happened at that summit, or who else spoke. That pastor’s bigoted comments (and in my opinion, they were bigoted) were what came out. 

Perry’s campaign has tried to do damage control, not totally effectively. Should they have known the risk that came with allowing this man to take the microphone? I think so. As we try to make decisions about who to vote for, this can be a big black mark. 

What was the offensive remark? Pastor Jeffress insists that it is better to vote for a Christian (even a marginally moral one, he verified later, without implying that Perry was less than morally committed) than to vote for a moral person who isn’t Christian. He verified afterward that indeed he views Mitt Romney’s (and John Huntsman’s) religion as a cult. He says it matter-of-factly, as if that is the standard belief. 

Huckabee did this to Romney last time around; we’ve had plenty of time to deal with this kind of attack. Romney has spent plenty of time dealing with it. You might want to review his "Faith in America” speech from December 2007. 

This sort of drive-by media hit probably doesn’t deserve any further attention. But I’d like to look at some underlying truth related to civilization. 

The official statement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in response to this particular attack is:  

We really don’t want to comment on a statement made at a political event, but those who want to understand the centrality of Christ to our faith can learn more about us and what we believe by going to 

They noted at today that they are getting a lot of media questions since last week, adding this statement:

Over the past several days, the Church has received a flood of inquiries from media asking about the Church’s belief in Christ and other tenets of our faith. As part of the ensuing conversations, Church representatives have referred media to pages on that explain clearly our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of mankind, and to the following scripture from the Book of Mormon:

“…we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26)

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in, study and seek to live by the teachings found in the Old and New Testaments. We also believe in the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. As the verse above plainly teaches, Christ is at the center of our worship, study, service and faith, and we believe this is clearly demonstrated in the lives of more than 14 million members in over 130 countries around the globe.

You should know something about the definition Pastor Jeffress uses for “cult.” You probably picture (and he may want you to picture) a charismatic Jim Jones style leader, people pulling themselves out of society and behaving in weird, incomprehensible ways. But his actual definition more or less distills to “had a founder and started small,” and differs from the 4th Century Nicene Creed definition of "homoousios," a Gnostic word meaning technically that God the Father and Jesus Christ are one in substance. You can look it up in Wikipedia, but you can’t look it up in the Bible; it isn’t there. On this point Mormon theology does indeed differ from Catholics and Protestants. But this definition puts absolutely every other world religion in the “cult” circle as well—all of Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Taoism—all cults.  

Another point Jeffress probably has in mind is the Protestant belief that a literal belief in the infallibility of the Bible is all the authority needed. Latter-day Saints believe authority comes from someone in authority, tracing back to Jesus Christ himself. This is also the Catholic view of authority, that they trace it back to Peter, the first pope, who got his authority from Christ. So Jeffress apparently includes even Catholics as a “cult.”  

And since every church and even every individual has a different view of what the Bible means, it may be that Jeffress includes as a “cult” anyone who interprets the Bible differently from him. It’s probably true that any religion looks strange to an outsider, but I look at Jeffress’s religious views, and I see strangeness. No offense intended. 

So, what if we go by the Bible’s suggestion that “ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16)? I’d like to do that. 

A couple of years ago I went to a statewide homeschool conference and attended a lecture by Pastor Voddie Baucham, of Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, on taking a multigeneration view—about passing on our virtues and values to subsequent generations—thinking not just about teaching our children but thinking of how to influence our children so that they will pass the values on to our grandchildren and beyond. Pastor Bacham is fun to listen to, and most of what he said that day resonated with me, so I have kept my notes. He told us some surprising statements and statistics. 

First, he defined having a Biblical worldview as believing in Jesus who lived a perfect life, died for us and suffered for our sins as our Savior. I don’t know what this Baptist’s views are specifically on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but that matches the church’s official statement above. 

Baucham said that less than 10% of professed Christians have this Biblical worldview, and only 51% of pastors have it. Yet all professed Mormons believe this, and all of their lay pastors teach it. There are a few more Mormons worldwide than the number of Jews, and a little under half live in the US. I haven’t done the math, but it might be there are more US Mormons with this Biblical worldview than there are other Christians with it. I’m not sure what the 49% of Christian pastors teach, if they do not teach of the divinity of Christ and his atonement for our sins. 

Pastor Baucham pointed out that only 5% of professed evangelical teens are doctrinally literate enough to be called Christians. I do not know how he measured that. But in Mitt Romney’s religion, children from age 3-18 receive weekly Sunday lessons, with additional mid-week supporting activities from age 8-18. (This includes but is not limited to Boy Scouts; the LDS Church sponsors more Boy Scout troops in the US than any other organization.) During 9th-12th grades students get daily religious instruction, often at 6:00 AM—every school day. It is unusual to find a committed LDS youth without a pretty good religious education. This might explain why LDS youth are more likely to score high on social markers like education, celibacy before marriage, and abstaining from alcohol and illegal drugs. In today’s world, even in the best of families, sometimes youth succumb to the influence of the worldly culture that surrounds them, but Mormons have a very good track record. 

One of Pastor Baucham’s purposes in this lecture was to persuade us that it is up to parents to educate their own children in religion; the churches are there only as support. In a standing-room-only crowd of over 500 people, he asked us to raise our hands if we were raised in a family that regularly worshipped at home (which he said should include a song, prayer, scripture study, and doctrinal discussion). Three of us raised our hands—yes, I was one of these, and we have done it with our children. Romney and Huntsman, had they been there, would have raised their hands. And so would any of their children. Family Home Evening, a weekly worship service provided by parents to their own children in their own homes, has been a worldwide practice for Latter-day Saints since about a century ago—to make sure parents understood how to pass along their values to multiple generations. 

Romney pays 10% of all his gross income (yes, gross, not net), plus additional offerings to the poor, as a typical practicing Mormon. As a wealthy man, he probably gives much in addition to various charities. He declined a paycheck when he ran the 2002 Olympics and also when he served as governor of Massachusetts. He has served as a lay minister, giving on average probably 15-20 hours weekly of personal time for zero pay. At age 19 he spent two years as a full-time missionary—not just without wages, but even paying his own way. 

There is a large body of testimony from those who have actually worked with him that he is honest and trustworthy in his business dealings. He has a beautiful family, a strong marriage. No one even suggests the possibility of infidelity, because he has so consistently lived his religion for so long. In other words, the fruits of living his religion are good. 

Mitt’s religion may be different from most of the other candidates’, but it looks like it has been good for him. If there are still concerns, maybe it’s a better idea to find out from Mormons what they believe, instead of depending on rumors of “cultism” spread by someone with a stake in doing damage to Mitt Romney or his religion. 

We can look at his policies and politics another day. But, for the love of God and country, when we do it, it should be untainted by religious prejudice.