Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Baby Born Alive Is a Human Being

As a people, we’re polarized. In the Spherical Model, that means some of us prefer freedom, prosperity, and civilization, while others surprisingly prefer tyranny, poverty, and savagery. This is not an exaggeration.

This week Democrats in the Senate voted against protecting the life of babies after they are born. 

Ben Sasse, screen shot from here

There’s a history here for Democrats. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act has been law since 2002. It had been debated since 1999 or earlier. It says what law and most people already agreed on: a baby born alive is a human being, with all the rights and dignity of any other human—regardless of an intention to kill that baby before it was born. It didn't change existing law; it just defined "born alive" to mean a human person.

In 2002 it was a bi-partisan bill. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, called it unnecessary, but would support it anyway. He said, “The courts have been clear. There is no such thing as a right to a live-birth abortion. A baby born alive is a baby, a human being under the terms of the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This bill merely restates that, so we have no problem with it.”

The term “live-birth abortion,” referred to by Nadler, was a term used for a procedure in which labor was induced, typically before viability, to cause the birth and subsequent inevitable death of the infant. Because this involved an actual born-alive infant, the preferred procedure became “partial-birth abortion.”

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, 2000 version, describes the history and necessity of the bill in the “Purpose and Summary” section:

It has long been an accepted legal principle that infants who are born alive, at any stage of development, are persons who are entitled to the protections of the law. But recent changes in the legal and cultural landscape have brought this well-settled principle into question.
In Stenberg v. Carhart,[i] for example, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which an abortionist delivers an unborn child’s body until only the head remains inside of the womb, punctures the back of the child’s skull with scissors, and sucks the child’s brains out before completing the delivery. What was described in Roe v. Wade as a right to abort ‘‘unborn children’’ has thus been extended by the Court to include the violent destruction of partially born children just inches from complete birth.
The Carhart Court considered the location of an infant’s body at the moment of death during a partial-birth abortion—delivered partly outside the body of the mother—to be of no legal significance in ruling on the constitutionality of the Nebraska law. Instead, implicit in the Carhart decision was the pernicious notion that a partially born infant’s entitlement to the protections of the law is dependent upon whether or not the partially born child’s mother wants the child.
Following Stenberg v. Carhart, on July 26, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit made that point explicit in Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer,[ii] in the course of striking down New Jersey’s partial-birth abortion ban. According to the Third Circuit, under Roe and Carhart, it is ‘‘nonsensical’’ and ‘‘based on semantic machinations’’ and ‘‘irrational line-drawing’’ for a legislature to conclude that an infant’s location in relation to his or her mother’s body has any relevance in determining whether that infant may be killed. Instead, the Farmer Court repudiated New Jersey’s classification of the prohibited procedure as being a ‘‘partial birth,’’ and concluded that a child’s status under the law, regardless of the child’s location, is dependent upon whether the mother intends to abort the child or to give birth. The Farmer Court stated that, in contrast to an infant whose mother intends to give birth, an infant who is killed during a partial-birth abortion is not entitled to the protections of the law because ‘‘[a] woman seeking an abortion is plainly not seeking to give birth.’’[iii]
The logical implications of Carhart and Farmer are both obvious and disturbing. Under the logic of these decisions, once a child is marked for abortion, it is wholly irrelevant whether that child emerges from the womb as a live baby. That child may still be treated as a non-entity, and would have not the slightest rights under the law—no right to receive medical care, to be sustained in life, or to receive any care at all. And if a child who survives an abortion and is born alive would have no claim to the protections of the law, there would, then, be no basis upon which the government may prohibit an abortionist from completely delivering an infant before killing the infant or leaving the infant to die. The ‘‘right to abortion,’’ under this logic, means nothing less than the right to a dead baby, no matter where the killing takes place.
Back when this was being debated, the arguments were little different from today. Even though this Act concerns only babies born alive, opponents argued either that it was irrelevant, because nobody wanted to kill live babies, and/or the bill was intended to curtail women’s rights by limiting Roe v. Wade.

Roe never concerned itself with viable fetuses. At the time, that was roughly considered the third trimester of pregnancy. So, according to Roe, states were always allowed to set restrictions on third-trimester abortions. The third trimester begins around 28 weeks. However, with improved technology and treatments, babies born at 24-25 weeks survive at much higher rates than they used to. And there’s a story of a baby born at 21 weeks who is now doing well at age 4.

That means states often base their abortion restrictions not on the strict date given in Roe, but on the general principle of viability. And further, many have recognized that the growing fetus experiences pain by 20 weeks, so that is a frequent line used in state abortion laws.

Roe was never intended to deal with live-born infants who survive abortions, so it has nothing to say about that.

The other argument, that it was irrelevant, wasn’t so then, and it isn’t so now.

There’s an exchange in the Senate, back in 1999, between Republican Senator Rick Santorum, who had sponsored the bill that year, and Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer. He is trying to get her to define “born,” and where that line is. What about if there’s still a foot inside the birth canal? She refuses to define, saying it’s obvious when a baby is born or not. After stonewalling multiple times and repeating that she supports Roe v. Wade, which was irrelevant, she finally claims to support a born-alive baby’s right to life:

Santorum: Good! All I am asking you is, once the baby leaves the mother’s birth canal and is through the vaginal orifice and is in the hands of the obstetrician, you would agree that you cannot abort, kill the baby?
Boxer: I would say when the baby is born, the baby is born, and would then have every right of every other human being living in this country. And I don’t know why this would even be a question, to be honest with you.
It was a question, and continues to be a question, because abortionists, regardless of the law, go ahead and kill born-alive babies. That was brought to our attention with Virginia Governor Northam’s description last month. While he has attempted to clarify, his clarifications do nothing to convince listeners that he wasn’t talking about infanticide; he seems tone deaf to the idea that people might object to killing a baby after birth that was intended to be killed before birth.

Senator Sasse referenced Governor Northam’s statement when proposing the new version of the law. His bill proposed rules and penalties, to define what care should be given and what penalties should ensue if care is not given. Because, how can a doctor who was moments before trying to kill a baby be trusted to give the newborn the utmost care?

As it was two decades ago, opponents insistently repeat that they support Roe v. Wade, which is still irrelevant to born babies. And they claim this is a non-issue that never comes up.

Except that testimony comes from actual survivors. One survivor, Melissa Ohden, now age 41, survived a saline abortion—in which there’s an injection of saline intended to burn the unborn baby inside and out, to kill it within 24 hours, after which the dead fetus is to be expelled from the body. Ohden survived that attempt to kill her. She is the founder of Abortion Survivors Network. There are many.

Melissa Ohden, abortion survivor
screen shot from here

If Northam is any clue, there would be many more, if they weren’t killed.

In a Fox News interview with Ben Sasse, interviewer Martha MacCallum referenced a young man she had interviewed a week or so earlier. He was born without arms. The doctor turned to the parents and said, “What do you want us to do?” meaning, should they go ahead and put him down, like you would a dog. The parents wanted him alive, and he lives a productive life today.

The question is, how much has this killing of live babies been done behind closed doors, without anyone speaking up? The Gosnell case was supposed to be an anomaly; Northam speaks about the things Gosnell was prosecuted for as simply a day’s work.

Senator Sasse said those who argued against the bill claimed it eroded a woman’s “right” to abortion and stood between her and the doctor. But, as with the 2002 Born-Alive Protection Act, it did nothing to touch abortion, because it was about born babies. The original 2002 bill defined “born alive,” and this bill defined penalties for failing to care for babies born alive.

While this was a pro-life bill, it was not an anti-abortion bill. But pro-abortionists are the ones who fear it. Everyone can see that the moment of birth doesn’t actually change the fetus into a baby, except by legal definition. That means the pro-abortionists have been pro-baby-killing all along.

The bill was defeated in the Senate in a 53-44 vote against cloture, which was short of the 60 votes needed to move the bill along.

Whatever the excuses, those voting against it were voting in favor of infanticide. They want a woman and her doctor to have the power to put to death an infant that has already been born and is alive. That idea was horrifying to both Democrats and Republicans back in 2002. Now the Democrats openly fight protecting infants who are born, alive, and breathing.

If there is something about the Democrat party philosophy that insists on baby killing as a basic tenet, then it is not possible to be a good person and be a Democrat. If any good people are still voting Democrat, they’d better step up and change their party, or leave it for good.

[i] 120 S. Ct. 2597 (2000).
[ii] 220 F.3d 127 (3rd Cir. 2000).
[iii] Id. at 143.

Monday, February 25, 2019

What Is Property?

What is property? And why does it rank up there in importance with life and liberty?

image from here

First, we start with the premise that we value life. If there’s one entitlement we can agree on, it should be that we are each entitled to our right to life. The only way to forfeit that is voluntarily, as in war, or stepping in to protect someone being harmed. Or, if we take some other innocent person’s life, then the law can allow society to take our life. So we start with valuing life.

If we can’t agree to the right to life, then it’s hard to find any common ground. As I write, there’s a bill in Congress to protect the life of children born alive—particularly in a failed abortion procedure (failure to kill the infant before birth). [The bill failed. All Democrat presidential candidates and other likely candidates just voted that murdering newborns is fine with them. Remember that when it’s time to vote and someone tries to tell you Trump is the worst president ever.] The anti-life people, who like to euphemistically call themselves pro-choice, are finally admitting that there’s no difference between a baby just before birth and just after—and if they’re willing to kill just before birth, then they have no reason not to extend that willingness to kill a child after birth. What ought to go without saying—that an innocent baby is a life worth protecting from murder—is something we now have to spell out.

If we were to exemplify savagery, killing innocent babies would be on the poster.

So, let’s start with valuing life.

And then we can move on to how we spend our life. Freedom, or liberty, means we get to choose how we go about living, which will include doing work to sustain ourselves. Because we’re all born naked, shelterless, and ignorant—so much so that we really need a family to provide the necessities until we grow and learn to provide them for ourselves, which can take close to a couple of decades. Once we’ve become capable, liberty is how we pursue overcoming our original state of poverty and ignorance, and then enjoy the fruits of those endeavors.

In short, liberty is freedom to spend our lives, portion by portion. We may exchange our time and energy in exchange for money, which is a symbol for exchange of labor—or for a portion of our lives. Money makes it easier to exchange a piece of our labor that results in, say, a chair we built, with a person who fished for some food for dinner, if we have a common rate of exchange. Then you can get fish for dinner—or the several dinners a chair would be worth—from someone who doesn’t need another chair, but who does want something someone else produced, who does need a new chair. It’s just an easier means of exchanging our work for what we could use beyond simply the fruits of our own labors.

It’s a free exchange.

What is it when your work is required, but it’s not a free exchange? That’s slavery. Someone uses your time and energy—a portion of your life—and takes the fruits of your labor, instead of leaving you those fruits for your use. If you value life, you can see that stealing a portion of a person’s life is also wrong.

image from here
That covers life and liberty. Then, what is property? It is the result of your labor, above and beyond what you need to survive, that you can continue using. It’s another word for wealth, which simply means the accumulation of the results of your labor beyond what you need to subsist.

There’s another word for that: capital. It means that you have acquired wealth—results of labor beyond subsistence, that you can then use to invest in tools or other ways of creating more wealth. Or just keep it on hand until such an opportunity arises. It’s not evil; it exists only from successful work—or successful spending of a portion of your life.

Capital isn’t bad. Property isn’t bad. In fact, your property is just a way to enjoy the fruits of your labor over time—and possibly to help produce more fruits of labor. It’s evidence of a life well spent.
What happens when someone acquires far more property than someone else? That’s evidence that the person has offered something other people value enough to exchange the fruits of their work for. That person has benefited a lot of people. He then has an opportunity to spend that money, to the benefit of other workers. Or he might invest it in ways that provide work—and income wealth—to multiple workers. Or he might stuff a mattress with it so it benefits no one. But it’s his choice, because it’s his property.

Owning more property than someone else, then, isn’t wrong; it’s just evidence of serving society in a way that society appreciates.

What about those whose work doesn’t result in enough to subsist? That’s a social issue we can choose to care about, and do something about. It might be that we have enough surplus to offer a portion to the needy. That’s called charity. On a larger scale we might call it philanthropy. It’s a voluntary gift. Or, you could say it’s the exchange of the results of our labor—or wealth—for the sense of well being that comes from helping out another human being.

A righteous, caring people will want to do enough for a needy person to meet their needs without discouraging them from trying to get themselves to a more self-reliant state. You don’t want to create dependence. You don’t want to discourage someone from trying. You’ll want a person to feel valued and encouraged to contribute as much as they can to society. That takes actual caring, and often close acquaintance with a person’s situation, such as in a church community.

As long as a person in need is helped out by caring people, it simply doesn’t matter that there are large differences in property ownership.

If you think you’re entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor, you’re a thief at heart. And let’s spell that out even more clearly: you’re a slaver. To take the fruits of someone else’s labor is to take the portion of their life that went to producing that wealth.

When government takes the fruits of your labor to “redistribute” it to someone who didn’t work for it, then government is the slaveholder and you’re the slave. This is true of anything government does beyond the proper role of government: protection of life, liberty, and property.

The way things are right now, government enslaves us for a pretty large chunk of the year. 

Entitlements—the euphemism for redistributing wealth, or pretending to do charity by coercive theft—make up a larger part of the federal budget, and most state and local budgets, than the necessities of protection.

And, as we know here at the Spherical Model,

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
We make better use of our money—our property—than government can.

If there’s any person thinking about leaning toward socialism, ask, sincerely, who has the right to enslave you by taking away the fruits of your labor? It doesn’t matter if other countries, or other states, do it. Taking property away from those who paid for it with the fruits of their labor is taking a portion of their life. It isn’t fair. It’s wrong. As wrong as slavery has always been.

Friday, February 22, 2019

SOGI Laws Discriminate Against Religious People

The acronym SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. There’s a movement—going on now for over a decade—making its way through international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and into societies.

Yogyakarta Principles logo
Back in 2006, November, there was a four-day conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The purpose was to draft a set of statements connecting human rights concepts with new ideas concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. A few months later their 29 statements were revealed at a UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

If it seems like these ideas have rather suddenly appeared practically everywhere you look, that’s been intentional. They put their fingers into education, religion, health, housing, business—practically everywhere. If your ideas have changed since 2007—or, more likely, you’re noticing changes in the views of people around you, maybe especially millennials and younger—that has been the purposeful manipulation of language and society from these Yogyakarta Principles, which have, as Daniel Moody put it in a 2017 piece,

throbbed away in the background, shaping the terms of legal debate more by association and insinuation than by formal adoption, with the ideas therein gradually becoming the loudest voice in the conversation.
In short, the change in views isn’t organic; it’s been inculcated. It’s not about research or enlightenment; it’s about indoctrination. And it isn’t about changing hearts to lead to greater equity, but binding laws coercing behavior regardless of sovereignty; it’s about power.

Without the infiltration of these ideas into our society, would the US Supreme Court have ruled to redefine marriage in 2015 in Obergefell? Probably not. The questions brought up at that time—about the harm to religious people who would still hold to the millennia-old definition of marriage—were acknowledged by Justice Kennedy, but were ignored with no more than a shrug of the shoulders.

Since then, people are literally persecuted—bullied, publicly shamed, prosecuted, put out of business—for holding to the fact that marriage is about the permanent commitment of a man and a woman for the sake of possible offspring.

As Ryan Anderson, author of Truth Overruled, says, “SOGI laws imperil religious liberty, privacy, economic freedom, and child welfare, creating more problems than they aim to resolve. They are a solution in search of a problem.”

Texas Legislature Online home page
We’re not immune, even here in the free state of Texas. During this legislative session we’re facing a number of SOGI bills, attempting to codify discrimination against religious people, but disguised as “anti-discrimination” bills. If you’re in Texas, these are bills to oppose; outside of Texas, watch for these ideas to show up in your laws:

·         SB 153 (and companion bill HB 978) requires gender-neutral language in marriage licensing.

·         SB 151 (and companion bill HB 244, as well as similar bill HB 254) is a general SOGI bill; it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. It includes a $100 per day fine for any violation.
·         HB 850 prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, without regard to what the employer does and what image that employer wants to present to the public, and it includes Christian-owned or other religiously led businesses.
·         HB 188 prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. That means that religious colleges and universities can be forced to allow biological males to sleep next to women in dormitories. Same for religious homeless shelters for abused women.
·         HB 517 (and duplicate HB 1190) prohibits counseling related to sexual orientation or gender identity of a child—unless it is to encourage homosexuality or transitioning as the treatment for gender dysphoria. In other words, it allows only the SOGI-preferred type of counseling and criminalizes anything else—even when the patient wants other counsel. Even providing overwhelming science and research that refutes the pro-LGBT views would be illegal to provide.
·         SB 154 (and companion HB 1835) forces doctors to change vital records, against conscience, concerning name and sex changes.
·         SJR 9 (and companion HJR 64) attempts to repeal the Texas Code definition of marriage as one man and one woman—ignoring the will of the people of Texas to align with the five Supreme Court justices who extra-constitutionally imposed a new definition on us.

It’s still early in the legislative session, but so far these SOGI bills are not progressing. Senate bills have been assigned to committees (to State Affairs), but only a few House bills have been assigned to their various committees.

Meanwhile, there are some bills intended to prevent damage to religion freedom. If you believe in the God-given First Amendment right of freedom of religion, these are bills to support:

·         HB 1035, the “Free to Believe Act,” is intended to protect freedom of conscience from government discrimination. This would protect from most of the bills we’re against, because all those try to wield government power against religious believers.

·         SB 85 is intended to protect counselors who refuse to provide services against their beliefs.
·         HB 2109 grants the right of recusal from performing marriage ceremonies that go against the official’s religious beliefs.

Only the Senate bill has been assigned to committee. Committee assignment is done mostly in order filed, so higher numbers will take longer. That means we don’t know how they’ll do once they get debated.

At any point, it’s worth contacting your state representative and state senator, to let them know your views on these issues, and to encourage them to sign on as co-authors or co-sponsors to bills you support. Once the bills are in committee, then contacting committee members is worth doing. You can follow all of these bills on the Texas Legislature Online site. I’ve linked the bills to that site. You can also go there directly:

If having the freedom to believe what you believe is important to you, and you don’t want that taken from you because of some international NGO agenda, then this is a time to stand up and use your voice.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Can Atheists Be Good People?

Can atheists be good people?

The short answer is yes. Of course.

There’s also a longer answer.

Ten Commandments Monument
at the Texas State Capitol
Civilization requires a critical mass of people honoring—or valuing—God, life, family, property, and truth. (An astute reader will see this as the condensed version of the Ten Commandments.)

If you’re an atheist, maybe that first one bothers you. But the reason it’s necessary is that God defines Good—and valuing life, family, property, and truth are Good. Without God as the definer of ultimate Good, then everyone is subject to their own personal definition of good, based on nothing but some combination of their reason and gut feeling. And they’re all different, and ever changing. So why should anyone see what you value as more important than what they value?

As Jordan Peterson explains it, you’re way too complex to know what you believe, but what you act on is what you value most. Indeed, what you act on—what you value most—that is how you’re intrapersonally defining god (or God). This is from a Q&A after a lecture[i]:

Everything you act out is predicated on your implicit axioms. The system of implicit axioms that you hold as primary is your religious belief system. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an atheist or not. That’s just surface noise….
It doesn’t necessarily have to do with your voluntarily articulated statements about whether or not you believe in something like a transcendent deity. So, what you act out is much more what you are than what you say about yourself. And what the hell do you know about what you believe, anyways? You’re complicated.
What you act on, then, affects civilization.

If you, as an atheist, indeed value life—as in the “Thou shalt not take innocent life” kind of value—then you are contributing to civilization.

If you also value family—by loving your family and being committed to them, rather than randomly having sex with whomever, or by abandoning, neglecting, or harming your family members—then you’re further contributing to civilization.

Property might not be as obvious. But property is the result of our labor, so it’s a physical representative of our life and its contributions. So you not only require others to respect what you own; you must respect the result of the labor of others—their property. You don’t steal or expect something for nothing. You don’t destroy other people’s property. You don’t cheat someone in an exchange or contract. If you’re honoring property ownership, then you’re contributing to civilization. Next to the failure to value family, the most damage caused to society is probably by people who don’t value the right to property.

If you value truth, you tell the truth. You’re honest in your dealings. You’re honest in your relationships. You seek to understand what is important, valuable, meaningful, and beautiful about life. If that’s true of you, then you are definitely contributing to civilization.

If you’re not acting out valuing life, family, property, and truth, then you’re contributing to the decay of civilization, creating its opposite, which is savagery.

On the other hand, if you’re a religious person who claims to honor God but does not live a life that honors life, family, property, and truth, then you’re decaying civilization and pulling society toward savagery.

It’s about what you do with your life more than what you say you believe.

So, yes, a person who claims to not believe in God can be a good person, contributing positively to civilization.

But there’s another question: why does an atheist live a good life?

A person who believes in God and is striving to please a loving Heavenly Father will have motivation to be the kind of person who values life, family, property, and truth—both for a better life here and now and hope of a heavenly eternity. A person who is an atheist has no obvious motivation, because he sees an effort to please God as meaningless.

Most of the religion/atheism debates I’ve seen or read are with what I would call “moral” atheists; they’re mostly doing the things that contribute to civilization. They claim they do this because it’s rational.[ii]

But, when atheists claim it is only rational to live a good life, they are able to make the comparison—between good and evil, between civilization and savagery—because they have seen enough of the good around them.

I believe if they were not surrounded by people trying to live good and honorable and ethical lives, the likelihood that such a choice would be rational is infinitesimally small.

If they were surrounded by liars, thieves, whoremongers, and power mongers, they would most likely find rationale to strive to be the fittest survivor in those circumstances. (We’ll save the discussion of harm done by amoral atheists for a different discussion.)

A few months ago, I wrote, in a piece called "Good Is Real,"

If you live in a society where masters have their slaves serve them, and that is all you’ve known, it is logically reasonable to see that as the right way, and perfectly moral—which most of the societies on earth have done. That reasoning doesn’t make it morally true. But true religion—which tells us humans are created by God and have a divine nature—tells us that enslaving a human being is morally wrong.
A person whose view is toward ultimate good recognizes that there is something beyond the surroundings, something more elevated, transcendent. Something worth striving for, regardless of the savage environment.

Andrew Klavan, screenshot from February 21, 2018 podcast

There’s an Andrew Klavan podcast in which he talks about this, from a year ago, right after Billy Graham died. [Listen to 17:00 to 31:00 for this segment.] Klavan talks about the conversion of Louis Zamperini—the change of heart. He also talks about his own conversion.[iii] He says,

When the anger and the rage fell from Louis Zamperini’s heart, when the tendency to depression fell from my heart, I was experiencing something real that nobody can do. They can give you a pill that stops you feeling your depression, but they cannot give you a pill that improves your life and suddenly gives you an understanding of who you are, why you were made, and where you come from.
And he adds,

The evidence of what God does in people’s life is evidence. It lasts over time. Just like my love for my wife; it lasts over time. And it can be experienced.
I’m a believer. And I try to live in integrity with that belief. We’ll see how I do over a lifetime.
I’m not concerned about atheists who are seeking the good. I’ll let a loving God sort that out in the final judgment, when all truth is known and a person can make a clear choice. I tend to think those who are seeking the good, living honorable lives that positively contribute to civilization, will want to choose ultimate good for their eternity.

But I also think life can be happier here and now, and over time—and especially through hard times—when we recognize God’s love and intentionally seek ultimate good out of love for that goodness that we religious people call God. My experience trying to do that decade after decade is evidence to me; it’s meaningful.

Compare that to what the atheist offers. Again, the debate about God’s existence or not we can save for another day. The outcome of that always is, it takes a lot less leap into the unknown to believe in God than to believe we have an ordered, predictable nature with complex life that just showed up randomly. But beyond that, there’s the despair that comes from a life without meaning.

In that podcast by Andrew Klavan, he comes back around to where he began the segment, where he noted that things are relatively good; poverty is down, horrible plagues are abated, hunger is much less a problem than overeating. And yet people are miserable. Why? He asserts that it’s a lack of hope, of meaning. And these well-meaning atheists are not helping:

These guys, without meaning to, without being bad guys, are contributing to this crisis in America. When you tell people that they’re just a bunch of chemicals, and they can solve their problems by opiates, they’re going to die of opiate overdoses. When you tell them that there’s no purpose to their life, that nobody made them, that nobody loves them, their sense of right and wrong comes—it’s just a kind of random, relative idea, you take away from them every single thing they have of value. Everything they have of value. Their house is not valuable. Their love is not valuable. Nothing is valuable if they themselves are not there; if you tell them they have no free will, they have no soul, they have no spirit. These guys, with all the best wishes in the world, thinking that they’re saving us, are really starting a crisis.
Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, offers an awareness of good and evil—a religious viewpoint—as a necessity in treating trauma, such as PTSD:

If you have PTSD, it’s because you’ve been touched by malevolence in one way or another. You need to reorganize your thinking along lines that are fundamentally religious. You need to start seeing the world as a battleground between good and evil—which is what it is, in the most real sense.
That’s what we experience in today’s world. We see it in clear battle terms, clearer every day. Meaningless mind efforts, or reason, aren’t the right tools. Meaningful, purposeful choosing good over evil—that offers the world healing.

Moral atheists are welcome among us. Keep choosing the good, and we’ll just draw the circle big enough to count you in. But don’t expect us to stop praying that you’ll also be able to experience an even more abundant life.

[i] I’m unable to locate which lecture this is from. I transcribed it from a YouTube video.
[ii] Some of these include Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris, published September 2018; Jordan Peterson and Susan Blackmore; Dinesh D’Souza and Peter Singer “God: Yes or No” debate at Biola University, 2008; Christopher Hitchens vs. Dinesh D’Souza , “Is Religion the Problem,” 2010; Talking with Pagans: The Great God Debates from the Hugh Hewitt Show, by Hugh Hewitt, 2013.
[iii] Klavan's memoir about his conversion is The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ.    

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What I Love about Economics

I’m not an expert in economics, but the subject comes up here at the Spherical Model pretty regularly, since the Economic Sphere is one of the three overlaying spheres. I did take basic econ in college, and I read a fair amount. That seems to have done me more good that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s degree in the field. One thing I know is that economics is inextricably connected to politics and culture.

As economist Ludwig von Mises said,

One of the indispensable prerequisites of a master of economics is a perfect knowledge of history, the history of ideas and of civilization, and of social, economic, and political history. To know one field well, one must also know other fields.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed. The Mises Reader, p. 22 , quoted from John Chamberlain, “My Years with Ludwig von Mises,” The Freeman 27, no. 2 (February 1977): 126–27.
Looks like we even agree on the three spheres: political, economic, and social.

I’ve been a follower of Mises economics, usually called Austrian economics, for a while. [ is a good source.] I’m also a follower of the Chicago school, of Milton Friedman—and eventually bringing around Thomas Sowell. To an expert there’s probably a lot of difference, but to me they’re both about free-market economic principles. I think Mises is possibly more theoretical—the philosophy behind the policy—while Friedman is more about implementation: based on these free-market principles, what policy will work best in this situation?
The Mises Reader cover

Anyway, I’ve just started reading The Mises Reader, a collection of Mises’s shorter and more accessible works, as well as excerpts from his major works, edited by Shawn Ritenour. Even the introduction has been rich with quotes. I thought I’d share a few, to offer a taste of how Mises thought—making us wish there were more thinkers like him today. The first several are quotes about him, by Ritenour. Then there are some of Mises’s own words.

This may not seem like much of a Valentine’s Day post, but, being who I am, a truth seeker, I love words like these. Enjoy.

The work of Ludwig von Mises is an important guide for thoughtful citizens because he strongly, yet matter-of-factly sets forth economics as the pursuit of truth. Not the truth of the passing fancy, nor the so-called “small t-truth” that is always in danger of being refuted by the latest bit of empirical data; but economic truth that will stand for all ages.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, Introduction, p. 15.

This is what happens when intellectuals, teachers, and college professors see themselves as destroyers instead of cultivators. If we want to preserve our noble cultural inheritance, we cannot think that it will happen automatically. It is always easier to destroy than to maintain and build up. If civilization is not to descend into barbarism, we must teach each generation the importance of truth, liberty, and private property. It is not called culture for nothing. We must cultivate civilization.—Shawn Ritenour, ed. The Mises Reader,  p. 12-13, Introduction

Today people are increasingly urged to support this or that political program advertised as solving a vexing social problem with no understanding of economics and hence no frame of reference from which to evaluate different policies. All that is mustered in justification for interventionism are feelings that make people want to “do something.” The economics of Mises is the crucial antidote for the current interventionist ideology supporting the progressive march to economic fascism. Citizens acquainted with Mises quickly understand that any sort of middle-of-the-road economic policy does indeed lead to socialism.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, Introduction, p. 21.

An economy that has taken advantage of an extensive division of labor is very complex and yet, decentralized. Such an economy features a multitude of different markets in which the participants must coordinate their activities if we want to avoid recessions and depressions. The biggest problem for this decentralized economy to work is that all of the various producers have to know what to produce, how much to produce, and how to produce it. This can only be done if some method of calculation exists. No other economist of his day stressed this point more than Mises. Indeed in the 1920s Mises demonstrated that the lack of economic calculation is the Achilles heel of socialism.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 18.

Mises recognizes that what makes such comparisons even harder is that we all value goods subjectively, according to our personal preferences. We cannot, therefore, measure value because there are no objective units of value measurement. Again it was Mises who demonstrated that voluntary exchange in a monetary economy opens the door to a solution. In a monetary economy, every good is exchanged against money, so every price is expressed in terms of the monetary unit—in our case dollars and cents. Even though value is subjective, in a free market, people manifest their values by voluntarily deciding what they will pay for particular products and services. These objective prices, therefore, are reflections of subjective values. Entrepreneurs are able to use these objective prices to calculate expected profit and loss and act accordingly. In a free market, Mises shows, entrepreneurs are able to plan for the future and consumers will receive what they most want.
Socialism, on the other hand, is doomed because there is no way for the central planner to efficiently allocate factors of production because there is no way to calculate profit and loss. In a completely socialistic economy all of the means of production are owned by the state. There is, therefore, no actual exchange of goods, and hence no actual prices that reflect the actual subjective values of human beings. Producers, then, have no way to calculate whether their actions are productive or wasteful from the point of view of society. What is called a planned economy is, instead, as Mises so eloquently put it, “groping about in the dark.”—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, pp. 18-19.
Ludwig von Mises
image from Wikipedia
A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings. To stress this point is the task of economics as it is the task of biology and chemistry to teach that potassium cyanide is not a nutriment but a deadly poison.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 20, quoted from Mises, Human Action, p. 676.

One may try to justify [social security] by declaring that the wage earners lack the insight and the moral strength to provide spontaneously for their own future. But then it is not easy to silence the voices of those who ask whether it is not paradoxical to entrust the nation’s welfare to the decisions of voters whom the law itself considers incapable of managing their own affairs.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 21, quoted from Mises, Human Action, p. 613.

I was sometimes accused of representing my viewpoint in a manner too abrupt and intransigent. It was also claimed that I could have accomplished more had I displayed a greater willingness to compromise.... When I look back at my work… my only regret is my willingness to compromise, and not my intransigence.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, pp. 22-23, quoted from Mises, Memoirs, p. 60.

Monday, February 11, 2019

America Will Never Be Socialist

Short quiz. Who said this?

This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.
This is our future—our fate—and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness.
How about this?

We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America's destiny—that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!
Soaring rhetoric, but it’s pretty good. Ronald Reagan, maybe? JFK? George H. W. Bush?

Nope. That was Donald Trump last Tuesday at the State of the Union. I’ve waited a few days, to see how the words settled. There were actually quite a lot of words that I liked in the speech. Unlike a Facebook friend (who is due again for me to snooze his posts for 30 days) who heard only racism and hatred; I didn’t hear those words. At all. You’d think maybe those being offended are seeking and finding something that isn’t even there.

President Trump at State of the Union
image from Wikipedia
There was a section of the State of the Union Address I particularly appreciated. After mentioning Venezuela, the president said:

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
A certain half of the audience failed to stand or even applaud. Hmm.

The unusual thing is that it needed to be said at all. We have a significant portion of the population—and elected officials among them—who think it would be a good idea to “fundamentally transform,” as Obama used to say, the United States of America from a free country to a totalitarian regime.

They don’t call it that; they used to bristle at those of us who called it socialism. Now they proudly call it socialism. But socialism is tyranny. And everywhere it’s been tried, it has been about controlling people’s actions, along with their words and thoughts. That’s total control. Beyond economic meddling or social engineering. It’s totalitarian.

When socialist failures are pointed out, these people say, “But that’s not what we mean. We wouldn’t do it like them; we won’t fail. Because we’re just better people, and we know so much more now.”

Now being ten minutes past Venezuela, not just decades past Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

How do we know these current “democratic” socialists wouldn’t be any different from their socialist predecessors? Because of what they already do and say.

They believe in killing the innocent—the unborn. And beyond that, Democrats this past week showed they were not even willing to protect the already born, if a mother suddenly decided she didn’t want the child. So—they believe in killing based on their own selfish purposes. That isn’t really different from the past socialists, who killed millions of Jews and others they deemed genetically or mentally inferior (such homosexuals, the disabled, or anyone who protected any of those categories), or who disagreed with them (such as Bonhoeffer or Hubener), or who simply didn’t matter to them (such as the thousands who starved to death in the Soviet Union during WWII).

These new socialists have already shown they will target those who disagree—as they did to Tea Party and patriot groups during the Obama administration. They target bakers and florists and photographers, and nuns and doctors and therapists who don’t go along with their sexually irresponsible agenda.

They work tirelessly to disarm citizens, so that coercion of no-longer-free people will be simplified.

They typically lie about what they want to do, because the people wouldn’t stand for their actual purposes. For example, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” and it will cost less. None of that was true; all of it was a step toward greater coercive control.

Sometimes we do get the truth, though. For example, the Green New Deal proposed this past week by media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who didn’t get the memo about not revealing their nasty plots. She didn’t invent the idea of a Green New Deal; it has been around for several years. Her forte is getting stuff out in today’s media environment. This is all proposal, and not yet legislation. But it’s informative.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announcing Green New Deal
screenshot from CNN

In the name of saving the world from climate change—which she says will bring on the end of the world within twelve years if we don’t take drastic action—she insists that we in the US, but not the rest of the world, should have our government do the following over the next decade:

·         Get rid of all cars currently on the roads, except electric ones (so, about 99% of all cars, all trucks, all heavy equipment).
·         Get rid of all energy sources except wind, solar, and coal plants. So, no oil, no natural gas, no nuclear—all of which are cleaner than coal. These entire segments of the market would be shut down. But somehow magically we would have plenty of electricity.
·         All buildings would be either razed and rebuilt or stripped and retrofitted to meet some undefined level of energy efficiency. It’s unclear whether the government (i.e., taxpayers) would pay for every home, apartment complex, store, warehouse, office building, church, hospital, school, or cabin—all regardless of architectural value—to be built anew. Details, details. I am wondering, though, how that massive amount of building could go on without trucks or heavy machinery. And how can new wealth be created if this huge undertaking is just to retrofit what we now use.
·         Shut down air travel—the entire industry. But not to worry: there will be high-speed rail everywhere, except of course from the terminal to wherever in a city you may want to go, because…no cars, except for the 1% still allowed. Sorry, Hawaii. And Alaska. Maybe you can still do shipping—except, not fueled by internal combustion engines, or nuclear (as submarines are). Just electrical. Good luck plugging them in in the middle of the ocean.
·         Shut down, or sharply curtail, the cattle industry, because those animals produce gases, you know, in their flatulence. Also, get rid of large production farms in favor of small family farms, which of course won’t need trucks or tractors or anything gas powered.
·         And, since we’re on the subject of saving the planet from climate change, we’ll throw in a totally unrelated living family wage for everyone—even for those unable or unwilling to work. Because, what with shutting down most of the oil and gas and nuclear energy, automobile, air travel, and farming and ranching  sectors of the economy, and having torn down all buildings so that all other production is disrupted—this is a great time to assume we’ll have many many trillions of extra tax revenue dollars to just pay people who don’t want to work.
Seriously, where will the money come from for government to do all these things? Or any of them, really?

Some of the proposals have been walked back—awkwardly, as if walking backward in Gucci heels through the mud. Ocasio-Cortez decided to take down the FAQs she and her staff put up, and blame the confusion on some fake site that had added “recycling urine” onto the list. But no one was talking about that; they were talking about the real things she had put up, like paying people who don’t want to work.

How would we pay for it? By incurring debt at rates heretofore never seen. Or maybe she means grow it on trees, or start using fairy dust. Because real economists would tell you, you can’t take down multiple major industries and infrastructure, and expect the economy to just charge right along.
So, what we have is evidence that the new socialists do not know more than previous socialists.
And the new socialists are not more moral than the previous socialists.

socialists   image from here
But the new socialists are indeed every bit as into acquiring power and using “government coercion, domination, and control” tactics to beat down anyone who might want to stand up to them.

We’ve seen these “new” socialists before. They’re tyrants, just like all their predecessors.

But we are born free. I pray that we have the resolve to stand up to the tyrants so that America will never be a socialist tyranny—with all the misery, slavery, death, poverty, and decay into savagery that inevitably come with that type of government.