Big Government, Little People

I recently heard someone say the bigger and more controlling a government is the more little the people become in their ability to live, make choices and be fruitful in their lives. Of course the opposite is true then, the more little the government is in its scope of control, the bigger the ability for individuals to live, make choices and be fruitful.

The principles of capitalism and individual freedoms were instilled in the very fabric of Hebrew society. It was simply the way they thought and lived. This included the social values of caring for ones parents, orphans, widows and the poor. The government did not enforce these social values but they were cultural pressures placed on each individual to live accordingly.

In ancient Hebrew society everyone was required to live according to godly values. An especially high value was placed on the honoring of one’s parents. Someone who did not take care of their parents was ridiculed or shunned from the community. The Hebrew people believed God would bless them, only if the entire community lived by God’s laws. They kept each other accountable. This is not necessarily possible today.

Harold Eberle teaches that society is should be governed by individuals, families, Church and civil government. Does government have a role? Yes…absolutely! I am convinced that “no government” is worse even than bad government. That would be anarchy, which is not Biblical and leads to the total breakdown of society. Indeed I am greatly thankful for limited government that builds roads, assists in national catastrophes, defends against outsides threats and provides social programs that benefit us all. But Government must be limited so it will not limit people.

 

Source

Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Valueby Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing.

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It Takes Money to Do Things for God

We cannot separate money and ministry. Most of us have heard and love the story of the Good Samaritan. We would all like to be the Good Samaritan that Jesus described. Let’s read carefully the story:

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’’’ (Luke 10:30-35 NIV).

A study of the money of this time period reveals that the two coins the Good Samaritan gave to the Inn keeper were enough to pay for keeping him two months at the Inn.(1) Think about how much it would cost us today to keep someone at a hotel for two months with food costs. It would be thousands of dollars. The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of a man who had significant financial means available to him so he could take care of the robbery victim for two months. And it gets better, the Good Samaritan then continued on his journey while this man was cared for by someone he paid to do it. Because he had sufficient resources, he met this person’s need and still was not distracted from the primary purpose of his trip.

I find the Good Samaritan model attractive as I desire to multiply my efforts in expanding the kingdom of God. If I have the resources to pay or support others in ministry like the Good Samaritan did, then it means that my efforts are multiplied. I can accomplish more than just what I do with my personal time and energy.

Or how about when God asked Noah to build the ark? Noah had sufficient resources to obey. There are no scriptures indicating Noah awakened one day and the ark was miraculously finished. There is no record of ravens flying in with pre-cut gopher logs to be fitted into place. The ark was built with manual labor over a period of years, probably by his family or hired laborers. It took significant financial resources for Noah to obey God. Could it be that God wants to provide for us in a similar way? I believe He desires that we have the resources on hand to accomplish His purposes as He reveals them to us.

A similar example is that of Joseph from Arimathea. He was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin, who was a disciple of Jesus. Joseph was ready and available when called upon to take Jesus’ body and give it an appropriate burial in a rich man’s tomb that had never been used before. This was significant because in Bible times, tombs were used multiple times. His availability and his financial resources played an important role in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the unfolding of the kingdom of God.

(1) NIV Study Bible Notes, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985).

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Banking in Venezuela Requires a Backpack

Today in Venezuela the hungry locals have taken to scouring city streets for plastic garbage bags full of rubbish and emptying the contents so that they can resell the bags. Extreme poverty has spread like the plague. The garbage bag, imported with dollars, is a thing of value.

Most blame Hugo Chavez for this failure of socialism, but by the time Chávez was elected in 1999, Venezuela already had 40 years of socialism under its belt, dating back to 1958. Romulo Betancourt, an avowed socialist, was elected president that year. So Venezuela becomes a useful case study for the promises and reality of socialism. I am sourcing Mary Anastasia O’ Grady’s article which provides a great context for this study.

For 30 years a string of socialist governments employed price and exchange controls in counter productive, socialist attempts to raise living standards. Rent control in Venezuela dates to 1939. Since then, “not one apartment rental building has been built,” writes Vladimir Chelminski in his 2017 book, “Venezuelan Society Checkmated.” Mary Anastasia O’ Grady’s states: “The legendary slums that climb Caracas’s hillsides are a testament to this socialist stupidity.”

Carlos Andrés Pérez took the presidency in 1974. Perez mandated salary increases for the entire nation and implemented, for the first time, a minimum wage. All commercial buildings had to employ elevator operators, and all public restrooms had to have attendants. He forced foreigners to sell what they owned in Venezuela. He nationalized oil in 1976. The state expanded its role in iron, steel and aluminum and took control of coffee, cocoa and the previously independent central bank. Price controls applied to virtually everything, from cement, hotels and banking to parking lots, meat, milk and sugar. Socialism took its toll.

When Chávez was later inaugurated in February 1999 the Venezuelan Bolivar exchanged at 576 to the dollar. He increased the implementation of socialism and government control, worsening a long history of destroying free markets that would lead to today’s disaster. Today it takes 79,900 Bolivars to exchange for one dollar. Sadly, banking in Venezuela now requires a backpack.

Although I would say that at least some socialists are motivated by empathy and compassion for the needy, as an economic system it simply has not worked.

 

Source:

Venezuela’s Long Road to Ruin. Few countries have provided such a perfect example of socialist policies in practice.  Mary Anastasia O’Grady June 2018 Wall Street Journal

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Listen to Bono

Some 44% of millennials believe they do more to support social causes than the rest of their family, according to the 2017 Millennial Impact. Guess what…it is not just millennials who want to make a difference. Some of us boomers and busters do as well.

Do you want to end poverty, comfort the homeless and expand human dignity? You are right on target. All are created in the image of God so all should be valued in these ways. How we approach this makes a difference. Here are Andy Kessler’s well stated ideas:

  • If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. It may feel good to ladle soup to the hungry, but you might be wasting valuable brain waves that could be spent ushering in a future in which no one is hungry to begin with.
  • You can hoe and sickle and grow rutabagas to feed a few hungry folks, but maybe there is a better option: Find a way to revamp food distribution to lower prices. Or reinvent how food is grown and enriched to enable healthier diets.
  • Don’t spend all your time caring for the sick. Prevent disease. Gene therapy, early detection and immunotherapy can change the trajectory of disease because they scale.
  • Don’t only build temporary shelters. Figure out how to 3-D print real homes quickly and cheaply.
  • Why tutor a few students when you can capture lessons from best-of-breed teachers and deliver them electronically to millions?

God gives us technology to bring change. When productivity increases it creates wealth that helps everyone. Listen to Bono as he told Georgetown students a few years ago, “Entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid.”

Oh…and you can listen to Bono’s music too.

Source:

Advice to New Grads: Scale or Bail. Want to change the world? Don’t bother volunteering—get a real, ‘boring’ jobBy Andy Kessler. Wall Street Journal

May 20, 2018

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Entrepreneurs Create Alternatives

One challenge America faces is the generations-long failure to give an adequate education to children in the country’s poorest neighborhoods. Failure begets failure in many urban school systems.

Two wealthy Americans— John Walton of the Walmart fortuneand New York investor Ted Forstmann —each contributed $50 million to create a new idea called the Children’s Scholarship Fund. The CSF is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. The Fund has raised $741 million and provided scholarships to 166,000 students.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund subsidizes tuition at private schools or parochial schools run by the Catholic Church. It requires parents to contribute a few thousand dollars to the tuition cost, believing that commitment provides an incentive for active engagement in their children’s school life, a necessary element for student success.

Two wealthy entrepreneurs, one Protestant and one Catholic, saw it as their duty to create a solution that would help those less fortunate break out of the cycle of poverty. Their legacy includes having rescued tens of thousands of children from failing public schools that ruin so many lives year after depressing year. Both founders desired to take on the problem of underachieving inner-city kids by funding alternatives to the failing school system the government was making available to them.

In a day when some criticize the wealthy and demand that government force the redistribution of wealth, it is important to remember that those who have the ability to create wealth also have the ability create alternatives solutions.

Source: ‘I Don’t Believe That Anymore’…The Children’s Scholarship Fund has helped 166,000 poor kids in 20 years. The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal. May 18, 2018

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Bake Bread Everyday?

Although many Western nations have turned against Christianity, the foundation of their prosperity is built on the basic principles of Christianity, especially through the Reformation. Before the Reformation, even the medieval church had become a giant collective and salvation was attained by becoming a member of the church. This changed with the reformation.  

During the late sixteenth century the Dutch-speaking citizens of the Netherlands were the most commerce oriented people of Europe. Why? They embraced Calvinism with its strong emphasis on doing business and working hard. The Netherlands was also a haven for Jews who excelled in business. And the Dutch were sea-going merchants, eventually starting investment companies to finance their worldwide shipping industry. The rest of Europe watched and followed. Along with this robust capitalism came abundance.

 

Modern historians refer to this period as the age of commercialization. People began to produce products for others rather than just for their own family to consume or use. These products were sold and individuals made a profit and accumulated wealth. People were able to specialize in the production on one product, and hence produce increased quantities. So a person could by a loaf of bread every day from a baker, rather than taking hours to bake it themselves each day.

 

Before this time, about 80 percent of the entire population was required to work in agriculture to produce enough of food to feed all the people. Even with this great workforce, famines regularly followed unfavorable weather conditions. Better tools and new farming practices gradually transformed agricultural so that by 1900 less than 10 percent of the population was needed to produce all the necessary food. This released a workforce to serve in other areas. Abundance of food led to preserving and storing, thus eliminating the fear of future famines. This brought a new sense of security so people were more willing to invest their accumulated wealth (capital) in new products and businesses.

 

Capitalism catapulted the Western world ahead of other civilizations. The same principles that allowed the Jews to prosper allowed Europe to rise to the economic top of the world.

 

Sources: 

Compassionate Capitalism – A Judeo-Christian Valueby Harold Eberle, 2010, Worldcast Publishing.

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Who Owns The Mangos Anyway?

The true story is told about a family living in Venezuela, a socialist country. They did not have enough food to eat but there was a mango tree in their front yard. When the Mangos ripened it was their ethical dilemma of whether to pick them and feed them to their kids or not, because everything, including land and crops, belonged to the state. Not only was it a crime to eat the mangos, but their neighbors were encouraged to report them for such a crime. They did pick and eat the mangos, but hid the skins to hopefully avoid being arrested for such criminal activity.

Who is better at distributing resources? Government or individuals who earn income and are responsible for it? The history of socialist governments’ distribution is not very good. Forbes magazine reports that at his death, Fidel Castro had a net worth of $900 million dollars while the people were living on an average of $20/month.

Since Castro’s death though, salaries have gone up, especially for professionals. At the high end, doctors with two specialties saw their salary go from the equivalent of $26 a month to $67, while an entry-level nurse will make $25, up from $13. Salaries at government jobs in Cuba average about $20 a month, augmented by a range of free services and subsidies.And what about the family stealing mangos to feed their kids in Venezuela?  Forbes magazinereported the socialist dictator, Hugo Chavez worth $500 million at his death.

How and why do the Biblical principals of capitalism work to rescue people from their socialist government? When all the people in the republic, especially the able-bodied poor, see that their material conditions are actually improving from year to year, they are led to compare where they are today with where they would like to be tomorrow. They stop comparing themselves with their neighbors, because their personal goals are not the same as those of their neighbors. They seek their own goals, at their own pace, to their own satisfaction.

Once a capitalist system has generated a sufficiently large and successful middle class, the pressures for turning toward democracy become very strong. This is because successful entrepreneurs speedily recognize that they are smarter and more able than the generals and the commissars. They begin demanding self-government. Freedom breeds freedom. Democracy depends on a growing economy for its upward tide—for social mobility, opportunity, and the pursuit of personal accomplishment.

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