Fundamental Astuteness

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Great Quotes: Ludwig Von Mises

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The aforementioned individual was a widely acclaimed economist and political philsopher of his time. Born in 1881 in what is now Liviv, Ukraine, he became a great leader in the classical liberal movement and in advancing the Austrian School of Economic though (libertarianism and extremely laissez faire economics, respectively). Justifying his opinion that government ought not to be in the business of protecting people from their own foolishness, he opined in his great book Human Action, as follows:
Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous and habit forming drugs. But once a principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?

The passage struck a chord with for the same reason it did for the great skeptic and libertarian Michael Shermer, who said of the passage that it  “…resonated with me because his analogue from the physical to the ideological is so effective in conveying the central message of freedom and liberty[.]”


“Essential” government handouts

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My advocacy of abolishing government charity like welfare and international food aid has been quietly growing over the last few years. Authors like John Stossel and Fredric Bastiet have caused me to criticize government action on such matteres, prefering instead that the government content itself to national defense and basic matters of public peace.

My reasoning here is multifacted, ranging from  philosophical meditations on government theory to practical cause and effect studies that issue a rebuke to those who have endless faith in government policy to fix problems that are better and traditionally left to the volunatary action of private individuals.

Following up on that note, its interesting to note that in spite of what action-hungary politicians are likely to tell you, it may be that foreign aid, whether cash or commodity (food, etc) is not all that “essential” or “critical” so solving whatever “crisis” happens to be at hand. An observation by the Council on Foreign Relations seems particularly provoking to those who subscribe to this view:

“With the plight of the hungry so acute, the calls for additional food aid have grown. So far this year, the World Food Program spent $650 million—compared with the $400 million spent during the same period in 2007 to buy roughly the same amount of food (BusinessWeek). But some experts point out that the aid system keeps people hungry in the long run even as it feeds them in the short term. Alec van Gelder and Caroline Boin of the International Policy Network, a development think tank based in London, argue that aid has actually depressed development (Business Daily) in Africa. They note “70 [percent] of Africans who live off the land have falling incomes and life expectancy, while Asian countries that got little or no aid have prospered.”

Interesting point. African countries recieve lots of aid and fail. Asian countries recieved little or none and succeed. But politicians argue that such programs are essential anyway.

Written by Astuteness

January 21, 2009 at 8:50 pm

On Obama and Taxes

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My good friend Will Simpson over at Will’s Perspective wrote a fantastic article on Obama’s tax plans (note the plural) this morning. The excerpt below will lead you to his post:

A preface on tax cuts:  Congress writes them, not the president.  Anyone want to take a  wager on how likely Democrats in Congress are to cut taxes for anyone?  Major Garrett of FoxNews is beginning to refer to potential problems for John McCain from an unlikely issue: taxes.  Apparently, the American people are beginning to believe the propoganda from the Obama campaign about taxes, while is criticizing McCain claims and the new, post-partisan, positive Obama campaign perpetually calls McCain the “sleaziest, most dishonest campaign in American history.”  Yes, those are the words repeatedly used.

Here’s the facts:

1) Obama’s on his third tax plan….(continue reading here)

Written by Astuteness

September 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Clarification regarding commentary on liberty…

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Insightful questioning and commentary by my good friend Will at WillsPerspective has been well placed and has persuaded me that a clarification is order.

At some point during our exchange in commentary over my previous post, I proposed that “I don’t know exactly what parts of the bible to enforce. But I think that discussion [should] take place. My inclination right now is to say that the Government today cannot take any more power than the civil government of the Old Testament. Church issues should then be left to the church, and family issues to the family.”

And in response, Will made an appropriate observation and suggestion: “The Old Testament government was extremely powerful (stoning girls for fornication, etc) and I don’t think we would want to take our New Testament model of liberty that far, so I would encourage you to re-think that standard.”

Let me say here and now that I hate death and glory in its absence. Capital punishment is a serious matter,  and by no means do I propose we expand it to crimes other than murder. Nor do I propose that we follow every single statue of Levitical law to the letter. Especially when it comes to matters of capital crime. It seems to me (and I welcome any alternative view on this for consideration) that there is room for grace and mercy in light of New Testament principles. The story of Jesus forgiving the adulteress woman and saving her from stoning comes to mind.

What then did I mean by my statement reproduced above?

Aside from the fact that I never actually said or intended to imply that we should expand capital crimes to Old Testament levels but rather simply stated that the modern civil government should not expand its jurisdiction beyond Old Testament jurisdiction, my point was primarily not that we should necessarily re-install every single mandate from the Old Testament, but rather, we should view the seperation of powers and jurisdiction in the Bible as a foundation for government today.

Here are two examples of what this would look like:

Capital Punishment: Capital punishment should remain in the hands of civil government if it is to be practiced at all. Churches and families should not hold this power (the Catholic church tried to do this in the Dark Ages). Since the pattern from the Bible seems to hold that the civil magistrates should administer the death penalty, it should stay that way. What is a capital crime in today’s world is very much very much debatable. Personally, The farthest I would go in allowing capital punishment is only in cases of willful murder. Even so, serious discussion should be given to whether capital cases are tried correctly and in a consistent mannerl, in light of the recent spate of DNA exonerations. But this particular matter is for another discussion.

Welfare/Providing for the needy: Those who are in need in the absence of laziness should be cared for, as demonstrated by the Levitical law and by the pattern of the early church in the Book of Acts. There is no Biblically sanctioned pattern where civil magistrates are involved in the wholesale redistribution of wealth. Rather, this task was given to the individuals, churches, and, in the modern times, charitable/voluntary organizations. There are other reasons to oppose welfare as well, but for the purpose of biblical pattern, we see no precedent that endorses the civil government being involved in this matter.

Again, the goal here is to observe patterns and principles of the separation of powers and duties in the Old Testament, not necessarily adopt every statute to the “letter of the law”. There are separate and distinct roles that are best carried out by various entities in society, and I propose, that as Christians, we take our pattern of separated powers and jurisdiction from the Word of God.

Written by Astuteness

June 6, 2008 at 3:34 pm