Floor It To The Next Stop Light

Impatience never got anything done faster, just wronger.

The name of this category comes from the observation of people every day on the way to work: I’ve noticed that the things that are beyond a driver’s control have a much greater impact on their commute time than how hard they can push down the gas pedal. Traffic jams, accidents, stop lights, slow drivers, bad weather, Amish buggies… any of these things will completely negate all efforts to outrun other drivers. We all know this is true, but we don’t admit it to ourselves… and even if we do admit it, we still don’t change our behavior, and we floor it to the next stop light. It’s cognitive dissonance.

So these posts are about exploring the ways we contradict ourselves, and trying to move closer to an understanding of what’s actually true in the process.

I hate politics with a passion, but I realized a few years ago that if the politically apathetic don’t start thinking, caring, and voting, then those who wish to gain power over others — especially over the apathetic — through our crooked political process will only succeed in doing so. Previously, I attempted to logically and rationally ground my belief in the central teachings of Christianity, now I’ll try a similar thing and flesh out the reasons behind my political “leanings”.

Ideas have Consequences

While chatting online a couple years ago, A friend inadvertently gave me a good starting point for this post. In reference to a conversation he had with a mutual friend, he said: “i told him that his faith in the free market was about as strong as his faith in Jesus, and that it was borderline idolatry… ;)”. At first, I was struck that what he said might be true, that such faith was borderline idolatry. However, as I thought about it throughout the day, I wondered “why is it borderline idolatry?” What is wrong with believing in something almost as much as you believe in Christ? If you’ve had obsessions, as I have, with getting to the roots of both Christian theology and Austrian economic theory, you’ll realize that they have something in common: they are both rational, warranted philosophies. In both schools of thought, faith is not blind, it is justified. Both thought systems (worldviews) can be built on the unshakable foundation of axioms we all already accept, coupled with reason, logic, a careful investigation of history, and even the support of science when appropriate. In fact, I think it’s fairly easy to show that market freedom and other libertarian principles are derivable from core Christian principles… not only that, but Christian principles may form the only valid libertarian foundation, or at least the best one.

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Re: What Would Jesus Cut?

Posted March 15, 2011 @ 7:53 am | Filed under: Floor It To The Next Stop Light

This is a hastily-written response to this article in the Huffington Post.
Gah.  While I tend to get just as angry about the actions of Republicans as those of Democrats, articles like this annoy me.  I agree that the Republicans are leaving too much in the budget for defense and the propagation of endless undeclared wars (the “American Empire” as the libertarians call it).  But Jim Wallis says: “And I don’t believe, as the Republicans keep saying, that the best way to help everybody is to keep helping the super-rich. That’s not smart economics and, as we say in the evangelical community, it’s not biblical.”  I’m going to take for granted and set aside the fact that asking “What Would Jesus Do” in regard to our Federal budget is a completely ridiculous question, because as God, He is not limited by our concept of economic scarcity.  (Remember the loaves and fish?)
It is smart economics, actually Jim… tax cuts for the rich benefit the poor much more than taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor.  Go ahead and read that again if you want.  It’s not intuitive, perhaps, but think about it:  Who controls production of most of the food and other goods that the poor have to purchase?  The rich.  If they’re not directly producing the food, rich people and corporations are heavily involved in the production chain– e.g., they produce farm equipment, vehicles, fuels, construction materials and all sorts of other supplies that are part of the cost of doing business.  So if you increase taxes for the rich, all they’re going to do is pass the tax burden on to the other classes by increasing the prices of the goods they produce (or they’ll just go out of business, which is no good for anyone).  It won’t make them any less rich, trust me – except for not being able to sell as many goods to the people who need them. But if we reduce taxes on the rich and the big suppliers and food producers, not only will they produce food, housing, and other goods more cheaply (especially if there is adequate competition), but more jobs will be created here on our own soil because producers have less of a reason to buy labor overseas!  It’s a win-win for rich and poor alike.
And on top of the economic reasons, it is Biblical:  what always gets left out of these discussions is that there is no such thing as “public money” because the government HAS no money, it only has the funds it has taken forcibly (“taxed”) from the private sector.  We wouldn’t be “helping” the rich by taxing them less, we would simply be allowing them to keep what they have rightfully earned through doing business or through inheritance.  So if we are to honor the commandment “you shall not steal”, or even the golden rule for that matter, the concept of “public money” derived from taxation is off the table and must be replaced with voluntary donations.  I believe that helping the poor is an extremely noble pursuit and is a vital (perhaps necessary) part of all Christians’ callings.  However I refuse to do it with money that has been stolen from its rightful owners and laundered via the government (though don’t construe this to mean I don’t pay my taxes :).  I am only within my rights to use my own time and resources, or time and resources that have been freely given to the cause via, for example, a church or other charitable organization.  And if we weren’t taxed, we’d have a lot more money to give to our churches! One practical step in the right direction might be to make charitable donations tax-creditable, not just tax-deductable (i.e. every penny you donate to a church or charity would be deducted from your total tax burden, not just from your reported taxable income).
So reducing or eliminating the tax burden on all people is not only a practical solution because it would help rich and poor alike, but it is the only ethically responsible option!  As usual, following the law God has given us has practical benefits in addition to being the right thing to do. To understand the impact of economic policies, you always have to look at the whole picture… from now on, any time you want the government to support a worthy public cause (and I don’t doubt for a second that there are truly worthy public causes), replace the word “government” with “money that has been taken from someone else”.  If you don’t read anything else on the subject of economics, read this … and specifically for Christians, here’s a textbook written by my eccentric Econ 101 professor from GCC.
And now back to your regularly scheduled internet time-wasting… :)

Quick-ish Christian Logic Lesson

Posted March 1, 2011 @ 12:13 pm | Filed under: Floor It To The Next Stop Light

One thing that irks me is when people think that religion, specifically Christianity, is illogical or unwarranted. Here are some thoughts on that notion, take them or leave them.

To start off, I think we should all be capable of expressing our opinions in classical syllogisms. A syllogism is a set of statements constructed using the rules of logic, and the idea is that a conclusion is reached by following premises to their logical end in a totally obvious way, like so:

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Posted June 18, 2010 @ 2:13 pm | Filed under: Floor It To The Next Stop Light

“Social justice” is a misnomer, for what is “just” about giving the poor more than they have earned? What we really mean is “social mercy”: in this world, all men are not created equal, and they are certainly not given equal means– rather, they are made equal by the application of mercy. “Social justice” would mean letting nature run its course; letting humanity evolve by the survival of the fittest, giving people exactly what they deserve: nothing. But we don’t do that: we heal the sick, build homes for the poor, and help those who can’t help themselves, because we believe all human lives have equal value. But how do we justify our longing for social mercy when we do not trust in the God who first showed mercy to us? For if we believe in an impotent or nonexistent god, we are forced by the rules of logic (i.e., you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”, short of appealing to divine mandate) to conclude that our convictions for uplifting the downtrodden are merely vestiges of our meandering, directionless evolutionary past, and thus the value we give life is nothing but an illusion or a by-product: a tumor on humanity’s side. But we all live as though dignity is real; indeed it is not possible to deny its reality without either lying to one’s self or becoming a sociopath. So from there we are only a “modus ponens” away from concluding one of two things: that either our quest for equality is wholly invalid, such a quest only holds back the evolution of our species, and the only correct option is to let the cold hand of “social justice” run its course — leaving the poor with nothing, and the greedy with whatever they can envelop — or, that a merciful God exists, and that He mandates our quest for equality by creating us all in His image; and that He gives us greater dignity through the valuation of our souls than we are capable of arbitrarily giving each other.

Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?”

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