FREDERIC BASTIAT ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GOOD AND A BAD ECONOMIST

Mankind's Eternal Dilemma: The Choice Between Virtue and Vice by Frans Francken the Younger depicts three choices: heaven, earth, and hell (from here)
Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma: The Choice Between Virtue and Vice by Frans Francken the Younger depicts three choices: heaven, earth, and hell (from here)

The American news media has a good business model. Suffering, sex, violence, and so forth attracts viewers, but is the news media’s business model good for us? When they show us suffering, what is the first thought of the news media and its too often mindless admirers? It is a crisis! The government has to do something!

Why the government? Well, it makes for a good story. The reporters can point their cameras at somebody and tell us what he is doing or not doing.

Is our government always supposed to do something? Why? When there is a problem, how far ahead does the news media look? Doesn’t the news media always gravitate to the next crisis? Do they actually give much thought to anything?

Consider Frédéric Bastiat‘s observation on the importance of foresight.

In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause–it is seen. The others unfold in succession–they are not seen: it is well for us if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference–the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.

In fact, it is the same in the science of health, arts, and in that of morals. If often happens, that the sweeter the first fruit of a habit is, the more bitter are the consequences. Take, for example, debauchery, idleness, prodigality. When, therefore, a man, absorbed in the effect which is seen, has not yet learned to discern those which are not seen, he gives way to fatal habits, not only by inclination, but by calculation.

This explains the fatally grievous condition of mankind. Ignorance surrounds its cradle: then its actions are determined by their first consequences, the only ones which, in its first stage, it can see. It is only in the long run that it learns to take account of the others. It has to learn this lesson from two very different masters–experience and foresight. Experience teaches effectually, but brutally. It makes us acquainted with all the effects of an action, by causing us to feel them; and we cannot fail to finish by knowing that fire burns, if we have burned ourselves. For this rough teacher, I should like, if possible, to substitute a more gentle one. I mean Foresight. (from here)

Over the last couple of centuries, our nation has accumulated many unjust laws. In each instance a large segment of the population conspired together to make “other people do the right thing”. In others words, some busybodies insisted upon making everyone else do things their way.

What has been the result? Here are some examples.

  • We have a public education system that worked at first. Then our leaders slowly stripped it of any religious content. Our knowledge of civics is also abysmal. Man on the street interviews have become a national joke.
  • Some time back too many of us started letting our leaders ignore the Constitution whenever we wanted what they promised. Now our president routinely issues executive orders everyone knows are unconstitutional.
  • We created the Fed to prevent bank runs. Now we have a fiat currency that steadily loses value, and our banking system gives everyone the shivers.
  • We passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. The income taxes that that amendment allowed were only supposed to affect the top one percent.
  • To allow the direct election of senators, we passed the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.  Now the Federal Government has more raw power than all the state governments combined. Perhaps a Convention of the States could change that. Perhaps.
  • Social Security once looked like a humane way to save the elderly from poverty. Now that costly system threatens to go bankrupt.
  • More and more our healthcare system, responsible for prolonging so many lives, is government-run. Such a system will almost certainly lead to rationing. Then we will die waiting in line to be treated.
  • We created a great safety-net to prevent the effects of poverty. Who anticipated those generous welfare programs would encourage greater social ills such as unwed motherhood?
  • In the name of civil rights, our great and glorious leaders decided to protect everyone’s “rights”. Now many think their “rights” are something “the man” owes them.

Earlier this year I wrote PART 4 FOR BOTH “HOW A POOR WIDOW ANSWERED HER CALLING” AND “GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS VERSUS GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS”. That post included a section on The Seven Christian Virtues. That section describes how and why those who believe in government have worked to pervert the virtues of our people.

To have foresight is to be wise, and it is worth remembering that wisdom is something we each must learn. Our government cannot give us wisdom. It is also worth remembering that virtue is something we each must practice. Our government cannot be virtuous for us.

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO MAKE AMERICA AMERICA AGAIN?

When I started to write this post, it occurred to me that I would not likely be the first to call to make America America again. So I wondered what others might have said.

Perhaps the most recent call came in a speech at the Republican National Convention by Scott Baio.

Did Baio  say anything wonderfully profound? Not really, at least not apparently. Yet consider these words.

But for you first-time voters, it’s important for you to know what it means to be an American. It doesn’t mean getting free stuff.  It means sacrificing. Winning. Losing. Failing. Succeeding. And sometimes doing the things you don’t want to do — including the hard work — in order to get where you want to be. And that’s what it means to be an American. (from here)

Why would Baio say this is what it means to be an American? Well, America has never been what it promised to be and yet…

In his Essays on Political Economy, Frédéric Bastiat speaks of the Unites States (or America) as a good example. Nevertheless, even in his day Bastiat (1801 – 1850) had to admit that Americans perverted the Law and used it to engage in legal plunder. Continue reading “WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO MAKE AMERICA AMERICA AGAIN?”

WHY WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF OUR RIGHTS — PART 1

Jerusalem_Modell_BW_3
Model of Herod’s Temple (a renovation of the Second Temple) in the Israel Museum, created in 1966 as part of the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. The model was inspired by the writings of Josephus. (from here)

OF A POST TO COME promised to compare the governing approaches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with respect to two issues.

  • The growth of the power of government.
  • The protection of our rights.

Here we will consider the protection of our rights.

Why The Law Written In Our Hearts Is Not Enough

Why don’t we care about the protection of our rights? We are ignorant of our rights. Because we don’t properly educate our children, we don’t understand the concept of human rights and RESPONSIBILITIES. I suppose that sounds arrogant, but please bear with me and let me explain.

The notion that individuals have rights is a relatively new idea.  We tend to be more concerned about doing the right thing, and we equate what we think is the right thing with respecting human rights.

What do we think is the right thing? Consider this Bible passage.

Romans 2:12-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Without ever hearing about Jesus or the Bible we each know enough to do the right thing (see IS GOD EVIL OR HOLY?), but our pride and our instincts fight with this knowledge. Hence, we constantly find excuses to ignore it.

Consider when and where the Apostle Paul wrote the passage above.

  • The Roman republic was dead, subsumed by the empire its efficient and brutal legions had created. Slavery was common. How well a slave fared depended upon the decency of his or her master (see here, here, and here). Rome defended the institution of slavery mercilessly. The rebellion led by Spartacus provides the most famous example. Roman legions crucified 6,000 of the rebels (see here and here).
  • Even without slavery, Roman society was highly class conscious (see here, here, and here), and the prestige of the Rome depending upon the integrity of its empire. About a decade after Paul wrote the Book of Romans, the Jews  rebelled. Eventually, Roman legions descended upon Jerusalem. They slaughtered and enslaved the population and burned the city, including the temple (see here and here).

Do we live in a better place and time? Yes, but why? The Romans were civilized and in many ways quite virtuous. Yet they had little respect for human rights, particularly the rights of foreigners. The Romans were as savage as any barbarians, just better organized, trained, and equipped.

What is the difference between the Roman Empire and America? The Romans only had the law written in their hearts. They could see themselves and their conduct reflected in their own eyes and each others eyes, but they too often saw only what they wanted to see.

The Bible provides a better mirror. The Bible teaches that we are all children of God, made in his image. The Bible teaches that we must love our neighbor as our self. As Jesus explained in The Parable of the Good Samaritan, every man is our neighbor. Every man has rights we must respect.

When studied carefully, the Bible does what the law written in our hearts cannot do. Whereas the law written in our hearts is intertwined with our fleshly desires, the Bible is purely of the spirit. Thus, the Bible perfectly mirrors our life and conduct with respect to what God expects of His children.

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.

Yet the Bible only works if we read it and study it, and it works best when we insist our children read it and study it. Unfortunately, such Bible instruction is not common in America anymore.

To Be Continued

  • What Are God-Given Rights?
  • Where Do The Candidates Stand With Respect To God-Given Rights?

LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? — PART 2

fatter_disasterWe live in era when the world seems to be unraveling. Is it unraveling? If it is unraveling, why?

Here we continue with part 2 of LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? What is the subject?

How The Idolization of Love Corrupts Church and State

What Is Idol Worship?

Word Origin and History for idoln. mid-13c.,

“image of a deity as an object of (pagan) worship,” from Old French idole “idol, graven image, pagan god,” from Late Latin idolum “image (mental or physical), form,” used in Church Latin for “false god,” from Greek eidolon “appearance, reflection in water or a mirror,” later “mental image, apparition, phantom,” also “material image, statue,” from eidos “form” (see -oid ). Figurative sense of “something idolized” is first recorded 1560s (in Middle English the figurative sense was “someone who is false or untrustworthy”). Meaning “a person so adored” is from 1590s. (from here)

When we idolize something, we put that person, place, or thing before our Creator. We foolishly put our faith in a person, place, or thing that is not worthy of such trust (Note again the origin of the word “idol”.). For the sake of what we can get from our idol, we sacrifice our self (in service) to our idol, and we risk our soul. We don’t “love” our idol, but it does consume us when we try use it to get what we want.

At gotquestions.org, here is how the author begins his post on the differences between ancient and modern idolatry.

Question: “What are some modern forms of idolatry?”

Answer: All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms. (continued here)

The various forms he lists involve stuff (materialism), self (pride), state (mankind), and self-indulgence (various forms of gluttony).

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The Church?

Most Christians have memorized at least one passage in the Bible. We call it The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), but it is really a model prayer. This prayer puts the focus on God and obedience to Him. When we recite it — and mean what we say — we humble ourselves and beg forgiveness for our sins. But this is not the way prideful men want to imagine God, and we have a wonderful capacity for self-delusion.  So it is that once we take our eyes off God, we focus upon what we want. In Grammar Lesson – ‘AS’ and ‘AND’, irtfyblog provides an example of how that works. Here is an excerpt.

So, knowing how a word is defined and used in a specific language, a reader can develop a better understanding of what the writer is trying to convey. Hence, the command:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Since we know that ‘As’ is defined as a word used to compare and refer to the extent or degree of something, we can then see that the meaning of the command is really:  “Love your neighbor in comparison to or to the degree of which you love yourself.”

If God had said, “Love your neighbor AND love yourself,” that would have changed the meaning of the command entirely.

Since we very much like to love ourselves, so it is that many of us look for excuses to change the meaning of the Bible. When the folks at gotquestions.org addressed this question, “Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?”, they considered this matter.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making, however, is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.

I call this form of idolatry the idolization of “love”.

How do our churches support the idolization of “love”? So that we can focus on the God of Love, we ignore much of scripture. We ignore Hell. We ignore the condemnation of sin. Fearing we deserve the same, we ignore the stories of Israel’s sins and suffering. We also ignore the sins and the suffering of Israel’s enemies, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the peoples before Noah’s Flood, of Cain, and of Adam and Eve. Refusing to seriously consider the future, we set aside the coming Wrath of God in Revelation.

When was the last time your pastor warned of Hell and damnation? Does your pastor slyly step past the scary parts of the Bible? How many people do you know who read those parts? How many people do you know who have read the Bible?

Is there a Hell? Is there a punishment for sin? If not, then why did Jesus die upon that cross?

We have to study and revere the whole Word of God. Any church that refuses to do that will in time unravel.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 New King James Version (NKJV)

Beware of False Gods

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

For the sake of what they imagine they could get from a demon god called Molech, the Canaanites and their Hebrew imitators burned their children alive.  For the sake of distorted notions of love, we abort hundreds of thousands of children every year.

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The State?

Churches Don’t Provide Character Education

When churches begin preaching sloppy notions about love and ignore much of the Bible, the morals of a nation must suffer. Then the nation itself must suffer. Without a moral people, we cannot make a constitutional republic work. Neither the people nor their leaders will restrain themselves and abide by the law.

There is a certain irony in that. Consider all the rules, regulations and laws we suffer under now, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. In a highly technical society with potentially lethal hand-held power tools; big and even more dangerous cars, buses, and trunks; powerful chemicals; and so forth, we have to have lots of rules, regulations and laws. We cannot just point to a song and chant “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”. We have to understand that loving your neighbor means stopping at red lights. In fact, we have to teach our children and each other what real and sincere love looks like.

Yet too many Christian churches do not teach about the effort required to love. They should. Consider how Jesus summarized the Bible.

Matthew 22:36-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Did Jesus say that this passage is all we need to know? Didn’t Jesus spend three years teaching His apostles. Did not even the Apostle Paul, a brilliant scholar, have to spend 2 – 3 years in the desert before he began his work as an apostle (Galatians 1:11-18). For similar reasons, each of us needs to study the whole Bible. Just as the apostles could not teach others how to be good Christians without the instruction of Jesus, we cannot properly live as good Christians without studying the Bible.

An Example Of The Problem

The Bible is a book of wisdom that tells us how we should try to live with each other. Government is an institution we created to keep us from destroying each other. Because we must empower government to control us, government is an institution we can either use properly or abuse.

Here is a very simple, straightforward example. The Bible gives us a personal responsibility to love and help each other. The Bible speaks of voluntary giving, not government-run charity. Yet we have let legions of politicians persuade us that they have the right to take money some people and give it to other people. These politicians give us excuses. “It is for the children.” “It is for the disabled.” “It is for the old.” And so forth.

What at bottom is the excuse for government-run charity — welfare? The politicians defend the welfare state as modern man’s means for loving his neighbor. In fact, what has happened is that the conniving politicians who run these schemes just create large voting constituencies dependent on government handouts.

Government cannot love us. Government welfare is not about love; it is about votes. The Bible does not make exceptions for government handouts. Even when we use the government to do it, when we take the property of another person, that is stealing.

Government Cannot Provide Character Education

Since the time we turned the education of our children over to politicians, each succeeding generation has had less and less familiarity with the Bible. What have the politicians put in its place? It is a vague thing we call Secularism.

Why would our leaders choose to do such a thing? Why would they set aside the Bible, which contains invaluable wisdom, for Secularism. Well, there is nothing new in this. In fact, when Americans chose to prevent the government from establishing a state religion, that was new. Unfortunately, we risk losing what they won.

In the 1830’s Americans started sending their children to schools run by their local governments. Those public schools, ostensibly for the sake of religious freedom, gradually begin separating the religious content out of the curriculum. When state governments and the Federal Government sought to stick their noses into the government-run education racket, Federal and state officials accelerated the process of separating out religious education content. Hence, when the Supreme Court ruled against school prayer, the judges merely finished a process that was almost complete.

Unfortunately, a secular education cannot and does not instill virtue into children.  Therefore, everyone expected parents and churches to somehow make up for this deficit, but relatively few parents and churches ever taught children what was needful. In fact, as some have observed, the way the public schools teach subjects like sex education (handing out condoms to teenagers.) and history (religion starts wars) is often at odds with what churches and parents want children to learn.

Conclusion

If we want to save our republic, we have to focus on a more serious problem. We each have to repair the damage to our souls. We must study the Bible.

2 Chronicles 34 tells the story of a revival in Judah. The priests had lost the Book of the Law in the temple.  When the priests finally began looking towards God again, they then were able to find His Word again (in the Temple where they lost it). The question for today is whether we can do the same.


Continued: A Review Of What Others Have To Say