WHAT IS THE FIRST SIGN OF TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT?

What is the first sign of too much government? Is there a simple answer? No. Too many of us are quite willing to ignore the obvious, but we can still get close. First, however, we should consider a couple of other questions.

What empowers a citizen?

What empowers a citizen? What is a citizen? Here <= is a definition. Note that that definition just talks about rights and privileges. it says little about responsibilities. Yet what empowers us? Is it not the fact we have the capacity to be productive? If as citizens we are universally poor, of what significance are our rights and privileges? We can all starve together?

To properly exercise our rights and privileges, we must have knowledge, wisdom, and property. That is, we must be able to work productively and keep and use the fruits of our labors. Then we can exercise our right to property. Then we can educate ourselves and our children (prepare the next generation to be empowered citizens).

With a proper education, we can make intelligent and wise use of the fruits of our labors.

What empowers politicians?

What empowers politicians? In a republic a politician is a special kind of citizen. According to the definition (=> here), politicians are supposed to know something about the art of governing. Knowledge does give a politician power, but to know what to do with the power of his office, a politician must also have wisdom. Are our politicians wise?

Okay. Now that you have stopped laughing, let’s go back to our question. What empowers politicians? There are two things:

  • Control over government spending. The more money a politician can spend the more power he has. That is why it is so difficult to reduce government spending. Most of us enjoy the perks of power. Politicians are no exception.
  • Giving his constituents what they want (constituents consist of both donors and voters). What do we want from our politicians? Given what our leaders have been promising us, we want something for nothing. Hence most of the Federal Budget consists of Federal Giveaway Programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, freeways, school lunches, and so forth.

What is the first sign of too much government?

So now we are ready for title question. What is the first sign of too much government? It has to do with taxes and the collection of revenues. For some perspective, lets look at something called the Laffer Curve.

The curve above shows that as the tax rate (overall rate for all taxes put together) goes up, revenues go up until they reach a maximum. Then as the rate continues to climb revenue declines. Obviously, if the government is taking everything from us, that is a tax rate of 100 percent, there is soon nothing left to take. By the time we reach 100%, tax payers either starve or become slaves.

Of course, Liberal Democrats dispute the Laffer curve, but even they agree a 100% tax rate is not practical. They would rather see something that looks like this.

What percent of taxation is optimum? Are there multiple peaks? Do different types of taxes have different effects on the shape of the curve? Don’t know, but that is not the point of the Laffer curve. The point is that when tax rates are high enough raising taxes does not increase revenues. It becomes pointless and destructive.

So why is the Laffer curve significant to this post? The fact we are discussing this curve, that our nation considers this curve significant to our prosperity, unambiguously indicates we have too much government.

What does the Laffer curve allow Conservatives to do? The Laffer curve demonstrates that when tax rates are too high tax cuts will lead to an increase in revenues. Even a bonehead can see that. Therefore, in order to convince Liberal Democrats to vote for tax cuts, Conservatives point to the Laffer curve. Do Liberal Democrats listen? No.

Think about the significance of that.  It is our money! In order to convince people who lead us that we should be allowed to keep more of our own money, we have even started trying to convince them that letting us keep more of our money will allow our government to harvest more money from us.

What is the purpose of our government? What does The Declaration of Independence say?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (from here)

Is the objective of our leaders to harvest money from us or to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Are we voting for politicians whose goal is to empower themselves or their fellow citizens? Do our leaders serve us, or do we serve our leaders? If we have to justify tax cuts using the Laffer curve, isn’t the answer obvious? When politicians have to be convinced that the best reason to let us keep some of our money is that they will get more of it, they consider our money their money.

Additional References 

 

24 thoughts on “WHAT IS THE FIRST SIGN OF TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT?

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  1. “Can’t leave that work that Americans won’t do undone, can we? So it is that the illegal alien is the slave laborer of our era. Too many of our so-called elites do everything they can to get inexpensive labor. Instead of paying Americans enough to get them to do the work Americans won’t do, greedy people connive to make our border laws unenforceable.”

    You make a good point here. So, despite all of Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans, let’s assume that the real argument about Mexican migrants is not really about the fact that they are brown, or that they speak Spanish as their primary language, or that they are mainly catholic, or that they are culturally different or that, if they were allowed to become citizens, they might vote for the wrong party. No, let’s assume, as you have said here, that the real reason that ALL your Trump Republicans want to stop Mexicans from coming here to live and do honest work is not racist or xenophobic or religiously bigoted or out of some neofascist concept of our own cultural superiority, or any other raw tribal motivation, but instead only because the coercive power of government must be used to prevent the economic harms that an open borders market for labor would cause. After all, the only thing that actually makes Mexicans enslaved “victims” is their undocumented and legally unprotected status. So what you are actually saying is that you want to use the law and government to prevent employers and your brother and sister Mexicans from freely contracting to buy and sell the property of their labors because it is for their own good. How very Democratic and liberal of you to recognize that there is no such thing as a totally free market and that markets must be regulated for fairness against unequal bargaining power, externalities, artificialities and even, as you say, “greedy” employers. 😄

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    1. @tsalmon

      Are our border laws enforceable? I notice you did not deny what I said. How could you?

      Instead, you started raising the charge of bigotry. This is exactly what I was talking about when I said this.

      What is amazing about today’s Democratic Party is its unrestrained use of identity politics. I suspect the old Nazi and Communist propagandists would find this jaw-dropping, never suspecting we could be quite that stupid. How does a political party so obsessed with racial, class, religious, sexual, age, disability and so many other differences get away with defining its political enemies as bigots? I suppose the answer is in what Hitler called the “Big Lie”.

      Thanks for the immediate confirmation.

      You want open borders? Then get rid of our welfare state. There is not enough money to put all the world’s population on welfare. You want open borders? Then dig into your own pockets and educate the rest of the world and teach everyone English BEFORE you give everyone and his ignorant brothers and sisters the right to vote in our elections. You want open borders? Then please explain how we are suppose to assimilate tens of millions of people into our society who have no interest in being one of us. You want open borders? Then please explain how we are supposed to keep out criminals and terrorists. You want open borders? Then quit calling anyone who does not want open borders a bigot. Do a decent cost/benefit analysis. What is the benefit for our country? You want open borders? Then how do we protect our environment? Where are we going to put all these people without more urban sprawl?

      I like the United States. I don’t feel guilty about being an American, but lots of people do. Why? Both our schools and the news media promote guilt. Karl Marx started this crap when he accused the bourgeoisie of hoarding the wealth.

      When we were growing up, the public school system pushed a political agenda upon us. Because our schools are run by the government, every decision is a political decision. That includes what goes into the curriculum. The most noted example is the Supreme Court throwing out school prayer, but that’s just the tip of that iceberg. The two major labor unions representing teachers are major donors to the Democratic Party. To say that unionized teachers are apolitical is just nonsense.

      When we were growing up, the mass media pushed a political agenda upon us. Our government (state and local included) spends 35 percent of the GDP. Our government also intensely regulates businesses and heavily taxes them. Hence the CEOs of big companies have a huge interest in forming relationships with politicians. That’s what we call crony capitalism, and crony capitalism is what drives large companies to buy their own news media to influence public opinion and aid their favorite politicians. Democrats are into crony capitalism big time.

      Remember when Barack Obama told us he wanted to transform America. We don’t transform what we love. We try to understand it, protect it, and improve it. Obama did none of that. You are not doing that either. Otherwise, you too would be horrified at the prospect of bringing hordes of ignorant people into our country.

      Think of it this way. Do you leave the doors of your home open at night. Do put a sign out in your front yard inviting the homeless to spend the night and make their own breakfast? Why not? Are you selfish? Open borders would be just about as dumb and self-destructive.

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      1. Don’t take everything so seriously brother. Where did I ever say that I wanted open borders? My assumption was not an accusation of bigotry, but just the opposite. It was a compliment on your progressive use of government to save Mexicans and “greedy” employers from themselves. This was your argument, not mine, and a fine argument it is.😊

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        1. BTW. I agree with you said on the Democrat’s use of identity politics. On the other hand, although I trust that your motives are as pure as the driven snow, if you think that no racism, religious bigotry or xenophobia is behind the bashing of Mexicans and other South American immigrants, then don’t you think that you might be seeing the splinter in the Democrats eye while ignoring a pretty obvious log in the Republican vision?

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          1. @tsalmon

            The twisted words you tried to put into my mouth are your words, not mine. Your words. Your argument. And, of course, we are just suppose to ignore the fact that Democrats want to buy the votes of ignorant immigrants at any cost. We can’t even check people’s ID cards without being accused of bigotry? How stupid is that?

            Are there people who call themselves Republicans who are bigots? Yes. I suppose there are some, but I have never heard a Republican tell me that abortion was a good way of eliminating poverty.

            I brought up the subject of illegal immigrants because it illustrates the desire we all have to get something for nothing. National sovereignty requires us to control our borders. If we as a unique people want to control our destiny, then we cannot let everyone who wants to come into our nation. And look at what you did.

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          2. So you had me advocating for open borders when I have never said any such thing. You had me calling you a bigot when I never did any such thing. You had me in charge of identity politics when I actually agree with you that taken to the extreme Democrats have often taken it, it amounts to the same sort of tribalism that Republicans are often accused of. And now I’m supposed to defend the concept that abortion is a great way to end poverty. But I’m the one putting words in your mouth? 😏

            Businessmen want cheap illegal labor. The fact that they are illegal and not citizens relieves them of any bargaining rights. The traditional Republican view is toward free markets, including labor markets with no labor protection laws and no government interference in the right to make any sort of contact for goods and services of any kind from any place. Traditionally Republicans are in favor of FREE AND OPEN MARKETS. You, however, seemed to be making a government powers protectionist argument to prevent foriegn and native workers from being exploited by these “greedy” businesses. That’s what I read but, I could be wrong. Wouldn’t want to put words in your mouth. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it?🙃

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          3. @tsalmon

            Yeah! Let’s assume you don’t rob banks. Let’s assume you have not spent any time in a Federal pen. Don’t know why we need to assume any such thing, but let’s also assume you did not do a hit job on three LA businessmen who refused to pay protection money. What I really want to know is whether you now work for a mob boss in Chicago.

            Note that I did not say you did any of those things.

            If you are going to assume something is not true, then what is the point of mentioning it when no one would otherwise have considered the possibility of it being true?

            Have you ever heard the expression “too clever by half” (=> https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/too%20clever%20by%20half)? If we do not want to be misunderstood, we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. When I can’t even do that without putting my foot in my mouth, I have no idea how you expect to get by with all that needling sarcasm.

            The United States is a sovereign nation. By definition, a sovereign nation controls who and what crosses its borders. We don’t have, and we have never had completely free and open markets, not even within the United States. We strive for that, but some regulation is unavoidable.

            We regulate who and what crosses our borders for a variety of reasons (some good and some bad).

            Historically, we have controlled who immigrates into our country. As I said before:

            Think of it this way. Do you leave the doors of your home open at night. Do you put a sign out in your front yard inviting the homeless to spend the night and make their own breakfast? Why not? Are you selfish? Open borders would be just about as dumb and self-destructive.

            We trade with other nations to receive a benefit, not to relieve them of their poor and huddled masses. That sonnet by Emma Lazarus may sound noble, but it is largely sentimental tripe. No one except scheming demagogues would deliberately set out to import ignorant people into the United States.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. I’m wondering why brown people who are good at math don’t seem to count as brown people in the liberal’s estimation. Nor those who have a good command of the English language and dress nice, and are accomplished and stuff.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Tom,

            Immigration is a complex topic that includes a myriad of practical and moral implications, especially to the Christian who is told by Jesus to be welcoming of the stranger. I haven’t studied the economic data and lack the analytical knowledge of the costs and benefits. I distrust rash generalizations by armchair experts on either side. Balancing the practical verses the distressing moral implications is so mind boggling to me that I can’t really understand how people can have such sweeping opinions. And the attempts to dehumanize what are essentially mostly just refugees from poverty and violence by calling them all terrorists, rapists, criminals or “ignorant”, at best, just seems to me like a way to deny or assuage our own guilt because we must make practical choices about who and how many of these poor folks we can let in.

            I did not earn the privilege of being an American – it was an accident of birth. Let’s not pretend that we are actually superior to the immigrant man, woman or child simply because we were lucky enough to win the birth lottery and to be provided with educational and economic opportunities that they were not. We are all God’s children and equal in His eyes. We are all created in His image and thus should treat each other with the dignity and compassion that Jesus would have us show to the least of these. It may be scheming demagoguery to set about importing immigrants into this country, but it is also blind demagoguery to pretend that the practical and moral dilemma of the immigration problem is subject to platitudes and trite solutions.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. @tsalmon

            I have read the Bible. I don’t see where Jesus asks any nation to leave its borders unprotected.

            When we meet a foreigner, are we required to respect their person? Of course, we are. Does Jesus require us to be charitable. Yes. If we have a surplus, and see someone in need, we should help them.

            However, we still have priorities. We are still suppose to put family, friends, neighbors, and countrymen ahead of the cannibals in New Guinea. Any man who gives away food to strangers when he has hungry children at home is demented.

            What does the free exercise of religion involve? Personal decisions. Even dumb ones. If you want to practice your version of Christianity, no one has the right stop you. If you want to open the doors to your house and put up a sign in your yard offering the homeless free room and board, go ahead. Just don’t force others to participate. Practice your religion using your own resources.

            Is it a privilege to be an American? Yes, but why feel guilty about it? How does it help to throw open our nation’s borders to the poor and ignorant? If you were the only child of a billionaire and inherited fabulous wealth, would allowing strangers to create chaos in your home be the same as being generous? No. It would just be foolishness.

            No matter where we are born everything we have been given still belongs to God. We each are just stewards. Our personal challenge is to do the master’s will with what He has given us. See Luke 12:35-48 (=> https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+12%3A35-48&version=NKJV). That requires charity, intelligence, wisdom, and a firm commitment to generosity. I can’t hold myself up as example of any of those things, but even I can see that charity, intelligence, wisdom, and a firm commitment to generosity does not require self-destructive behavior.

            Instead of allowing hordes of uneducated people into our nation, we need to do our best to help those people where they are. Instead of wrecking our own nation, we need to help those people build up their own nations.

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          7. Tom,

            There is a good deal of truth in what you say. Perhaps it would be “demented” to give your food away to a starving child on the street if you had your own starving children at home, but it would be an even more demented lack of compassion not to feel guilty about it, or worse, to assuage that guilt by simply dehumanizing that starving child as an ignorant vermin. As I said, I am no expert on this, however, I find it inconceivable that the practical and incremental cost/benefit analysis of this issue is as stark as either they starve or we do. Don’t you think that both sides resort to a little too much nonsensical hyperbole in order to make something far more complex and nuanced seem more black and white than it really is?

            What if it could be shown that a certain amount of immigrant labor actually lowers food prices to the point where it is a net benefit to them and to our own native poor? What if it could be shown to you that immigrants actually produce far more for our economy than they take? Do you honestly know enough data to have an opinion about who and how many immigrants can be allowed in before it causes us any appreciable harm or sacrifice? I don’t.

            All of your assumptions are based on a pure zero sum analysis when you know that the wealth creating benefits of capitalism just does not work that way. I’m willing to see a good deal of truth in what you are saying, but if the pursuit of actual truth is what you are interested in, then you have to recognize that this issue is not so simple, either from a moral or practical standpoint, as you would have it be.

            Of course, we have to control our borders. Of course, we can’t responsibly let in everyone. No one is seriously arguing otherwise. However, you honestly must know that it is not as simple, morally or practically, as an all or nothing proposition. The moral and practical considerations about the DACA kids alone are beyond me.

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          8. @tsalmon

            Better is the enemy of good.

            We cannot make a perfect immigration system. The one we have right now, however, has been deliberately sabotaged. Catch and release is a joke. We cannot even stop unaccompanied children from crossing our border.

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          9. From Wikipedia”

            “A widely accepted interpretation of “The perfect is the enemy of the good” is that one might never complete a task if one has decided not to stop until it is perfect: completing the project well is made impossible by striving to complete it perfectly. Closely related is the Nirvana fallacy, in which people never even begin an important task because they feel reaching perfection is too hard.

            “The original meaning may have been that attempts to improve something may actually make it worse, similar to the sentiment expressed in the maxim “leave well enough alone”. Neither the Shakespeare nor the Voltaire construction suggests perfection, only improvement, lending support to this interpretation.

            “Earlier, Aristotle, Confucius and other classical philosophers propounded the related principle of the golden mean, which counsels against extremism in general.”

            Not arguing for perfection Tom. Humans at best are only capable of progress, not perfection in this finite world. However, if perfection were our only criteria for everything, we’d never do anything. With immigration policy, as with most complex moral and practical dilemma, we are often just weighing between the better of bad choices.

            Liked by 1 person

          10. @tsalmon

            We have enough trouble agreeing as to what constitutes progress.

            I think a merit based immigration system makes sense. Occasionally, when the alternative is letting evil men kill them, we will have to admit refugees, but the criteria for that has to be fairly stiff. Unfortunately, too many will take advantage of government “generosity”.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you sure Tom that you are really asking the correct questions?

    While I was driving across country and back to pace my daughter’s ultra-marathon, I listened to the Audible version of Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now” book. In his book, Pinker presents a data driven argument that average people all over the world are vastly better off today than any time in human history in most measurable areas of human flourishing from less poverty to greater individual freedom. According to Pinker, this tremendous “progress” in human flourishing came about through a balance of the wealth creating dynamic of capitalism and the redistributive properties of government regulation and social programs. Pinker credits the continuous march of Enlightenment rationalism with this sometimes faltering, but mostly steady, progress in all his measurements of human flourishing.

    Pinker simply does not see government verses human flourishing (including wealth and freedom) in the Manichaeistic either/or propositions that you present above. I think Pinker is right on this. The proof of the truth of this is that all the most successful governments in the world to date (in these measurable terms of human flourishing) are neither completely totalitarian nor are they feral markets completely lacking in government provided regulation and welfare services, but instead are fibrant and complex combinations of both.

    One problem that I have with Pinker’s analysis of human flourishing is that his concept of “flourishing” may not contain all the necessary hardships and intangible successes that actually make a life meaninful. I also don’t agree with the atheistic humanist philosophy that Pinker proposes. I think that Pinker’s “faith” in atheism is as evangelical as the faith in religion that he finds primitive and superstitious – in this Pinker is basically not very scientific or rational. However, if you want to know what the elite Left is actually arguing these days, then Pinker’s is the one that you have to deal with, not Communism or Socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @tsalmon

      Are you sure Tom that you are really asking the correct questions?

      I suppose I could be wrong, but I try to make up for my ignorance and stupidity. For example, unlike Liberal Democrats I try to avoid “solutions” that involve forcing my answers on others using the power of government.

      So you want to talk about the Age of Enlightenment? There is the French version and there is the British/American version. In 2007 I wrote a book review of The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenment by Gertrude Himmelfarb. Himmelfarb compared the different Enlightenments. One approach acknowledged the supremacy of God. The other approach insisted the reason man was supreme. Please read https://citizentom.com/2007/04/10/christianity-and-western-civilization/. Otherwise what follows won’t make as much sense.

      Many of the key French philosophes (philosophers) thought of themselves as deists or atheists. They thought man could perfect man. Even the deists in America were skeptical of giving the government the power it would require for such a scheme. They understood how easily men are tempted to sin. They admitted to themselves the allure of power. Still, they underestimated the problem. Because they so valued education, wanted to maximize the priority of education, the leaders of the British and the American governments started using government funds for education. Of course, they never dreamed we would secularize the education of our children. Unanticipated consequences are like that, unanticipated.

      So when you speak of the continuous march of Enlightenment rationalism, I just shake my head sadly. There is no such thing. Periodically, we get things too fouled up to make continuous improvement even a remote possibility.

      Pinker simply does not see government verses human flourishing (including wealth and freedom) in the Manichaeistic either/or propositions that you present above.

      Did I present a Manichaeistic (=> https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Manichaeism) either/or proposition? No. I just pointed to a passage from the Declaration of Independence.

      When we properly use the power of government, we try to protect each others rights. We elevate the individual’s right of self-determination over the desire of any faction to implement their Utopian schemes. When the people of a society refuse to respect each other’s right of self-determination, that indicates serious moral problems. In the extreme we are talking about moral problems like the French Reign of Terror, Communist purges, or the Holocaust.

      What do Utopian schemes all involve? Is Steven Pinker offering anything “new”? There is nothing new under the sun. What Pinker is looking for the perfect system, his version of Utopia. So he does a study, and he says he has found the perfect system, the right balance Socialism and Capitalism.

      There is no perfect system of government, not in this life. What matters is that we each strive to love and honor God’s image in our fellow men, and that is not something our government can do for us.

      Consider this passage from the Bible. What was John trying to tell us?

      John 21:20-22 New King James Version (NKJV)

      20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

      22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

      What is the context? Because he felt so guilty over his renunciation of Jesus — three times denying he knew Jesus — Peter was chewed up inside. So Jesus had spoken to him and reassured him. Jesus had restored Peter as the leader of the apostles. Jesus had also told Peter what the manner of his death would be.

      Yet Peter asked Jesus about John, a man who wanted nothing more than to be close to Jesus. What was Peter thinking? We don’t know for certain. We can only speculate. We just know Jesus said “You follow Me.”

      It is not our business to run each other’s lives, to force each other into molds of behavior. Each of us has only one job, to follow Jesus.

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      1. Very interesting view of the Enlightenment. I will study it further. However, although this historical view is relevant to the truth or falsity of Pinker’s progressive philosophy, it has little relevance as to his view that human “progress” (as he defines it) is possible and actually has been made, and that the Enlightenment originated the values and tools that are responsible for that “progress”.

        “What do Utopian schemes all involve? Is Steven Pinker offering anything “new”? There is nothing new under the sun. What Pinker is looking for the perfect system, his version of Utopia. So he does a study, and he says he has found the perfect system, the right balance Socialism and Capitalism.
        There is no perfect system of government, not in this life. What matters is that we each strive to love and honor God’s image in our fellow men, and that is not something our government can do for us.”

        I agree that there is no “perfect balance” between government and markets. Pinker’s philosophy is not any more Utopian than yours, although he does, as you allude, place man on, in my opinion, too high a pedestal. Even if one could actually achieve such a “perfect balance” between markets and government goods/services/regulations, then it would almost immediately get out of balance as the technology and economic systems continued to develop. However, since I assume from your history lesson above, that you wish to deal with reality and truth rather than propaganda, then the the imperfect reality that is “more perfect” does not exist at the extremes of totalitarian collectivism or anarchistic individualism, is indeed some sort of imperfect balance between our natural and altruistic incentives to work as a community and that respects the rights of the individual. No serious intellectual on the Left or the Right today, including Pinker, is actually arguing in favor of either extreme. Utopianism died in the West after two world wars and it died in the rest of the world after the fall of the Soviet Union. Like most of the Left these days, Pinker is an avowed capitalist. In fact, the only real Utopians around these days are Randian holdouts on the extreme Right. Pinker’s argument is not deterministic or Utopian, but it is about “progress”.

        Under the terms that Pinker uses to describe human flourishing (greater individual freedom, longer and more healthy lives, greater average individual wealth, less war and violence), Pinker’s data and evidence of vast improvement are hard to argue with. Just the eradication of viruses like small pox alone has saved hundreds of millions of human beings and their families from the terrible and wasteful suffering, deformity and deaths that those diseases used to cause. As a result, if one only looks at the rates of infant mortality and average life spans world wide over the last couple of centuries, much less back to the dawn of civilization, then it is obvious to even the most skeptical observer that there has been a dramatic improvement. Regardless of which of your wings of Enlightenment rationalism brought it about, Pinker credits humanity’s embrace of rationalism and science with this progress.

        Philosophers, theologians and poets can argue all day long about what actual “progress” is. However, for the poor mother who watched one child die in agony from some disease, not having to watch her others die because some faraway scientists invented a cure will be seen as priceless progress in her life, despite what all the armchair intellectuals like you and I may think about it’s motivation. And as a Christian, it is hard for me to imagine Jesus not approving of this “progress” just because it was a government agency or government money, rather than just pure profit or private altruism, that brought about that progress in eliminating this suffering of the poor.

        For better and for worse, big ideas, dramatically affect the progress of human history. Marxist Communism (Pinker vehemently argues) was a big idea that actually hurt progress. Adam Smith style capitalism (Pinker also vehemently argues) was a big idea that advanced and continues to advance human progress because of its wealth creating dynamic. Although Pinker would disagree, I think Enlightenment rationalism was the big idea that engendered both the bad big ideas of Communism and Fascism, as well as the good big idea of capitalism. However, what Pinker does not take into account, and indeed discredits, is that religion, particularly Christianity, is also a big idea that dramatically had an effect on progress in good ways rather than just the bad ones that Pinker points out. If nothing else, Christianity invented the actual yard stick by which even Pinker measures the very “progress” in human equality and dignity that Pinker argues has happened and that he promotes for the future.

        That is the real argument that is happening between Left and Right intellectualism right now Tom. All this nonsense over more or less government is actually just in the balance, or else it is just demagogic propaganda being used to spark a populist grievance mentality by lying promoters on both the Left and on the Right. No serious person on the Left or on the Right still believes in the old Leftist boogeyman of individualist Fascism or the Rightist boogeyman of totalitarian communism.

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        1. @tsalmon

          Because I am so tired of hearing the terms “Left” and “Right” used in a political context, I had already started to write a post. Your use of those words just confirmed the need. I will be doing a post on the terms “Left” and “Right”. Used in a political context, those words don’t mean anything. The Nazis were Socialists.

          What do I think you are missing? I think the problem is how you define progress. I don’t believe God defines progress in materialistic terms. I believe He is more concerned about our relationship with Him. Even a pagan like Aristotle understood virtue was more important than wealth. Why is the United States wealthy. Our people once pursued virtue.

          What people believe makes a difference. How would you answer these questions?

          There are four big questions in life.
          –Why am I here?
          –What is right and wrong?
          –What brings me meaning
          –What happens to a human being when I die?
          — List from Ravi Zacharias (an expert in Christian apologetics) who says there are Four Questions To Answer In Life.(=>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfb5-7mtC-8)

          The character of each civilization depends upon how people of that civilization answer those questions. What made the Christian West so different? Jesus changed the way the people of the West answered those questions. Check out => https://citizentom.com/2017/03/30/who-is-this-man-by-john-ortberg-part-7/.

          What we believe changes the way we define progress. If you define “progress” one way, and I define it another way, that is not necessarily a problem. In a republic, if you can pursue your definition of happiness, and I can pursue mine, we may both achieve progress towards our goals and be quite content. In a republic, that happens because people respect each other’s right of self-determination. They see each other as the children of God, not the property of the state.

          In an authoritarian society, progress is defined by what benefits the state, and that currently is what drives the people who tax us, getting as much money out of us as they can. Supposedly, our leaders harvest our wealth for our benefit, but it is foolishness to believe that. Most don’t. That’s why so many refer to the tax and spend crazy denizens of Washington as swamp creatures.

          Like

          1. I agree with what you said about labels. With Donald Trump as the leader of the Republican Party, denizens of cronyism and corruption rule the D.C. swamp these days. Is that what passes for the conservative Right these days? Is Bernie Sanders what defines the liberal Left? Jimmy Carter deregulated the airlines. Nixon started the EPA. Bill Clinton deregulated banking and negotiated NAFTA. G.W. Bush passed the the Medicare drug bill, one of the largest expansions of entitlements in decades. No, the Right in this country has not, perhaps ever, matched the tendency toward Fascism that the broader definition of Right historically implies, but neither has the Left really been defined by pure Communism or Bentham style Socialism. And that is kind of my point. It’s not the real argument and hasn’t really been the real issues between the broader political movements in my lifetime. I will, however, look forward to your post on the subject.

            As for “progress”, I have not actually defined it. I have provided some of the ways that Pinker defines it in his book. As I have said, I don’t completely agree with Pinker’s idea of “progress” either, mainly because of his failure to grasp just the spiritual forms of progress that you are taking about. However, to be fair to Pinker, even his definition of “human flourishing” is not just material progress. He also details historical progress in individual freedom
            of all kinds. And if we are completely fair, we have to admit that there is also a spiritual, moral quality to the general improvement in the material life of the mass of humanity. As I said, if rationalism and science heals the sick and feeds the starving, then it is hard for me to imagine that that is not a moral and spiritual good for those who benefit from it and for those who work for it.

            That said, I agree with you that there is more to a meaningful life than only the types of flourishing that Pinker details. Rationalism is a tool, not a foundation for meaning. It’s like worshiping a hammer because it efficiently pounds in nails. Without some underlying transcendent purpose and goal, then the tool of rationalism is undirected and meaningless. Without a God of love, selfishness is the most rational of pursuits and the “will to power”, as .Nietzsche explained, is what the strongest should rationally strive toward.

            Like I said earlier, it is hard to argue with Pinker’s evidence that “progress”, as Pinker defines it, has been made, but I find Pinker’s atheistic humanistic philosophy for why we have made that progress and why it should continue to be hollowed and foundationless.

            Conservatives these days are cynical and critical of the ability of humans to solve basic problems. . Liberals are basically optimistic and oddly spiritual, but most seem to lack any actual religious foundation for that optimism. The argument that I keep having with liberals is that their atheism defeats any foundation for their optimistic altruism. The argument that I keep having with conservatives is that, as a religion of joy, hope and love, Christianity is essentially optimistic and progressive by its very nature.

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          2. @tsalmon

            What is the difference between the Nazis and the Communists? There isn’t much difference. Yet one is supposedly on the extreme Left and the other is supposedly on the extreme Right.

            Why do we classify two ideologies that are so much alike as extremely different? Do not both ideologies promote totalitarian regimes that glorify the Leader? Are not both are Socialist? Did not both the Nazis and the Communists make use of Socialist ideas in their quest for power?

            What is the difference between the Nazis and the Communists? The Nazis justified making the People their property based upon race warfare, and the Communists used class warfare. That is, each used a different aspect of identity politics to promote hatred. In other words, the difference between the Nazis and the Communists is that they each used a different prejudice to appeal to our bigotry.

            What is amazing about today’s Democratic Party is its unrestrained use of identity politics. I suspect the old Nazi and Communist propagandists would find this jaw-dropping, never suspecting we could be quite that stupid. How does a political party so obsessed with racial, class, religious, sexual, age, disability and so many other differences get away with defining its political enemies as bigots? I suppose the answer is in what Hitler called the “Big Lie”.

            Anyway, I will get around to that post on “Left” and “Right” when I get around to it.

            Conservatives these days are cynical and critical of the ability of humans to solve basic problems. Liberals are basically optimistic and oddly spiritual, but most seem to lack any actual religious foundation for that optimism. The argument that I keep having with liberals is that their atheism defeats any foundation for their optimistic altruism. The argument that I keep having with conservatives is that, as a religion of joy, hope and love, Christianity is essentially optimistic and progressive by its very nature.

            What you have described are stereotypes that are half truths at best. Consider what James said.

            James 1:22-25 New King James Version (NKJV)

            22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

            When we read the Bible, we are holding up a mirror that shows us our self. The Bible shows us our own brokenness, not someone else’s brokenness. The Bible show us why we each need to allow Holy Spirit to work within us and perfect us.

            We don’t obey God by making other people become doers of the word. We obey God by becoming doers of the word.

            Still, it is tempting to focus our judgement upon others. That doesn’t work too well. Consider what the Southern slave owners thought of their Negro slaves. In order to justify their enslavement of the Negroes, in their own minds, the whites had to make the blacks their inferiors. That is, the slave owners patted themselves on the back as fine and upstanding citizens. They were doing the Lord’s work by making the Negros good Christians.

            Whenever we would exploit some group, we always make some sort of excuse. Here is my favorite from our time.

            There are jobs that just simply aren’t getting done because Americans won’t do them. — George W. Bush

            Of course, that quote was taken out of context.

            There are jobs that just simply aren’t getting done because Americans won’t do them. And yet, if you’re making 50 cents an hour in Mexico and you can make a lot more in America and you’ve got mouths to feed, you’re going come and try to find the work.

            It’s a big border across which people are coming to provide a living for their families. — George W. Bush (=> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/20/AR2006032000762.html)

            Can’t leave that work that Americans won’t do undone, can we? So it is that the illegal alien is the slave laborer of our era. Too many of our so-called elites do everything they can to get inexpensive labor. Instead of paying Americans enough to get them to do the work Americans won’t do, greedy people connive to make our border laws unenforceable.

            The bigger we make our government, the easier it is to create laws that don’t work as they should. Even if we could find enough politicians with the moral integrity to manage a government that provides health, education, and welfare safety nets, we the people don’t have the moral integrity to vote for those politicians. We vote instead for the politician who offers us the best bribe.

            Look into your own heart. See yourself in the mirror that is the Bible. Understand that our hope is in Jesus, not ourselves or in any government we might create.

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  3. Your comment “it is our money” reminded me of what I was told to do by my manager to use up whatever was left in our department budget that year in order to justify the same amount being allocated in the next years budget.

    As for taxation, perhaps this 1847 judge’s explanation might be helpful?

    Rightful taxation is the price of a social order. In other words, it is that portion of the citizen’s property which he yields up to the government in order to provide for the protection of all the rest. It is not to be wantonly levied on the citizen, nor levied at all except in return for benefits conferred. ~Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio: Being the First Session of the Forty-Sixth General Assembly, held in the city of Columbus, commencing on December 6, 1847, Vol. XLVI, reported by Mr. Archbold.

    Problem is in my opinion, we are spending a lot to achieve “social order” and our nation is what a judge states frequently in his or her courtroom.

    “You are out of order.”

    Regards and good will blogging.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Redistributing the wealth does not preserve social order; it subverts it. The more money our government gives to people because they have a “right” to it, the more our government undermines the morals of our People. In order to have a right to property, we must do something to earn that property. Otherwise, someone else must earn it and give it to us as a gift.

      We give someone a gift because we care about them. It is a way we show our love.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely!

      The Laffer curve goes back aways too. Just never heard anyone point out how absurdly high taxes have to be to justify using it. If we were at war,… but we are not.

      Anyway, if anyone else needs a government, we can afford to be charitable. We have plenty to give away.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Like

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