Conservative Colloquium

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Archive for November, 2007

New oil refineries needed

Posted by Tony Listi on November 26, 2007

November 26, 2007
H. Sterling Burnett – Holiday travel season is now upon us, and as if just on cue, gas prices spike and hit the headlines. Consumers complain about the prices at the pump, while politicians complain about the increasing U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil.Obviously, there is a lot of pressure to do something. So what can and will Congress do? Apparently, faced with calls to reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut pump prices, Congress will do the opposite.

A recent report shows the energy bill being negotiated between the House and the Senate would dramatically increase energy (including gasoline) prices. Economic research firm CRA International found that congressional proposals would more than double the cost of petroleum products – if you don’t like oil at $100 per barrel you will really hate it at $200 per barrel.

It should come as no surprise that Congress would make matters worse. After all, they are partly to blame for our current situation. Building new oil refineries or expanding existing ones is among the most affordable, effective and reliable ways to increase supplies and lower prices. Yet emissions controls and mandates for specific gasoline blends have forced many refineries to close and made building new oil refineries very difficult. In fact, no new ones have been built in the U.S. for nearly 30 years.

For example throughout the 1990s, the oil industry spent nearly 25 percent of capital investment – more than $100 billion – to comply with environmental regulations. For some plants, compliance with ever-increasing standards was simply too costly. For instance, oil refiner Premcor shut two Illinois oil refineries because it could not afford required upgrades. Modifications in one refinery alone would have cost $70 million.

Clean air regulations have also discouraged building new facilities. For example, construction of a new refinery in Arizona has been delayed since 1997 over concerns of its impact on air quality and the proposed site, even though the plant received the required air permits. Now, even under the best circumstances, the plant will not be operational until 2011.

Gas prices are also affected by the government’s blender – in order to fulfill various air pollution reduction plans, gasoline sold in the U.S. has been fractionated into about 17 different boutique fuels. With three grades of gasoline, refiners produce more than 50 separate blends. This is expensive, as each blend must be transported separately, which limits pipeline and storage capacity. Moreover, it is difficult to replace supplies when there are disruptions and when refining capacity is taken off-line to clean tanks and pipelines when switching between winter and summer blends. Gas prices spike as a result.

Some argue that industry could increase capacity at existing plants, and that is being done. To help meet growing demand, the industry expanded capacity and improved operating efficiency at the remaining refineries. For example, refineries that operated at 78 percent of maximum capacity in the 1980s produce more than 90 percent of their potential output now. Yet demand still outpaces domestic supply.

To fill the gap, the United States has increased imports of refined gasoline. From 1992 to 2004, the U.S. annual average of weekly gasoline imports more than doubled from 4.7 percent to 9.7 percent of gasoline used.

In an effort to curb demand for gasoline, Congress is also considering mandating annual use of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2025. Refiners have responded to existing and proposed ethanol mandates by canceling 40 percent of planned expansions, reducing potential new output from 1.6 million barrels per day to less than 1 million barrels daily.

Yet since ethanol produces less energy per volume than gasoline, the new mandate would replace less than 16 percent of current gasoline demand – much less than the one third-increase in gasoline use estimated over the next 20 years.

The Energy Information Agency estimates energy use will rise 19.2 percent to 24.8 million barrels per day by 2020 while refinery capacity will rise only 9.4 percent. This means refining capacity will only be 100,000 barrels a day more in 2020 than it was in 1981.

The economic impacts of higher energy prices would be profound: a loss of $1 trillion in economic output and up to 5 million workers unemployed. Absent government intervention in the market, refinery capacity would be expected to expand, reducing consumer prices. More economical and secure energy supplies are available if government gets out of the way.

H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow and D. Sean Shurtleff is a student fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

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Democrats wake up to being the party of the rich

Posted by Tony Listi on November 25, 2007

November 6, 2007

by Michael Franc
A legislative proposal that was once on the fast track is suddenly dead. The Senate will not consider a plan to extract billions in extra taxes from megamillionaire hedge fund managers.

The decision by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, surprised many Washington insiders, who saw the plan as appealing to the spirit of class warfare that infuses the Democratic party. Liberal disappointment in Mr Reid was palpable at media outlets such as USA Today, where an editorial chastised: “The Democrats, who control Congress and claim to represent the middle and lower classes, ought to be embarrassed.”

Far from embarrassing, this episode may reflect a dawning Democratic awareness of whom they really represent. For the demographic reality is that, in America, the Democratic party is the new “party of the rich”. More and more Democrats represent areas with a high concentration of wealthy households. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Heritage Foundation identified two categories of taxpayers – single filers with incomes of more than $100,000 and married filers with incomes of more than $200,000 – and combined them to discern where the wealthiest Americans live and who represents them.

Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats control both Senate seats.

This new political demography holds true in the House of Representatives, where the leadership of each party hails from different worlds. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, represents one of America’s wealthiest regions. Her San Francisco district has more than 43,700 high-end households. Fewer than 7,000 households in the western Ohio district of House Republican leader John Boehner enjoy this level of affluence.

The next rung of House leadership shows the same pattern. Democratic majority leader Steny Hoyer’s district is home to the booming suburban communities between Washington, DC, and Annapolis. It boasts almost 19,000 wealthy households and a median income topping $62,000. Mr Hoyer’s counterpart, minority whip Roy Blunt, hails from a rural Missouri district that has only 5,200 wealthy households and whose median income is only $33,000.

Income disparity – to use the class warrior’s favourite term – is greatest among the districts of lawmakers that lead each party’s campaign arm. Maryland senator Chris Van Hollen chairs the Democratic congressional campaign committee. With more than 36,000 prosperous households and a median income of nearly $70,000, his suburban Washington district even out-sparkles Ms Pelosi’s. In contrast, fewer than 5,000 such wealthy households are found in the largely rural district of his Republican counterpart, Tom Cole from Oklahoma. The median income there is only $35,500.

Democratic politicians prosper in areas of concentrated wealth even in staunchly Republican states such as Georgia, Kansas and Utah. Liberal congressman John Lewis represents more than 27,500 high-income households in his Atlanta district. The trend achieves perfect symmetry in Iowa. There, the three wealthiest districts send Democrats to Washington; the two poorest are safe Republican seats.

Soon this new political demographic may give traditional purveyors of class warfare the yips. To comply with new budget rules, liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are readying a tax increase of at least $1,000bn over the next decade. Ms Pelosi says she wants to extract all of this from “the wealthy”. When has a party ever championed a policy that would inflict so much pain on its own constituency? At what point will affluent Democrats crack and mount a Blue State tax rebellion?

Will we see the emergence of a real-life Howard Beale, the television anchorman played by Peter Finch in the movie Network ? Beale was disgusted with America’s deteriorating 1970s economy and culture. One night he snapped and implored viewers to get out of their chairs. “Go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!’ ”

Or will Democratic voters follow a different cinematic lead, that of the fraternity pledge in Animal House? Perhaps they will accept these tax rises as a political and economic hazing and greet each new tax hike with: “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

Michael Franc is vice president of government relations for The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

First appeared in the Financial Times

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taking Science on Faith (NY Times)

Posted by Tony Listi on November 25, 2007

Here at least is an honest rationalist! Finally, somone from within the ranks of science will point out what is completely obvious to one who looks: science is not completely rational and devoid of faithful assumptions. But Davies is not perfect: he dismissively and unjustly underrates the power of “monotheistic religion” to explain the universe. He sees what epistemologists call the “infinite regress” associated with rationality and tries to stop it by creating a circle, a self-regulating universe, a universe which can explain the very laws that regulate itself. He strains to exclude “external agency” which is merely a euphemism for God. It is quite a sight: a stubborn scientist confronted with Design.   

—- 

By PAUL DAVIES
Published: November 24, 2007

SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion – all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” – imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth – and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are – they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality – the laws of physics – only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist.

A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe – one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.

The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith – namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.

This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.

And just as Christians claim that the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe.

It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.

In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.

Paul Davies is the director of Beyond, a research center at Arizona State University, and the author of “Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life.”

Posted in American Culture, Religion and Theology, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Founding Fathers on Charity, Wealth Redistribution, and Federal Govt.

Posted by Tony Listi on November 24, 2007

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
-Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
-Thomas Jefferson

“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
-Thomas Jefferson to Charles Hammond, 1821. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, ME 15:332

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to E. Carrington, May 27, 1788

“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
-John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, elaborated upon this limitation in a letter to James Robertson:
“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
-James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

“…[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
-James Madison

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,”
-James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia,1984).

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”
-James Madison, Federalist No. 58, February 20, 1788

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
-James Madison, speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788

See more at http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/quotes.html

Posted in American History, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Government and Politics, Quotes, The Constitution | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments »

Christianity and Personal Self-Defense/Gun Control

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GUN CONTROL?
By Larry Pratt – Executive Director of Gun Owners of America

The underlying argument for gun control seems to be that the availability of guns causes crime. By extension, the availability of any weapon would have to be viewed as a cause of crime. What does the Bible say about such a view? Perhaps we should start at the beginning, or at least very close to the beginning-in Genesis 4. In this chapter we read about the first murder. Cain had offered an unacceptable sacrifice, and Cain was upset that God insisted that he do the right thing. In other words, Cain was peeved that he could not do his own thing.
Cain decided to kill his brother rather than get right with God. There were no guns available, although there may well have been a knife. Whether it was a knife or a rock, the Bible does not say. The point is, the evil in Cain’s heart was the cause of the murder, not the availability of the murder weapon. God’s response was not to ban rocks or knives, or whatever, but to banish the murderer. Later (see Genesis 9:5-6) God instituted capital punishment, but said not a word about banning weapons.
Did Christ Teach Pacifism?
Many people, Christians included, assume that Christ taught pacifism. They cite Matthew 5:38-39 for their proof. In this verse Christ said: “You have heard not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

The Sermon on the Mount from which this passage is taken deals with righteous personal conduct. In our passage, Christ is clearing up a confusion that had led people to think that conduct proper for the civil government-that is, taking vengeance-was also proper for an individual.

Even the choice of words used by Christ indicates that He was addressing a confusion, or a distortion, that was commonplace. Several times in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount Christ used this same “you have heard it said” figure of speech to straighten out misunderstandings or falsehoods being taught by the religious leaders of the times.

Contrast this to Christ’s use of the phrase “it is written” when He was appealing to the Scriptures for authority (for example, see Matthew 4 where on three occasions during His temptation by the devil, Christ answered each one of the devil’s lies or misquotes from the Scripture with the words: “it is written”).

To further underscore the point that Christ was correcting the religious leaders on their teaching that “an eye for an eye” applies to private revenge, consider that in the same Sermon, Christ strongly condemned false teaching: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19). Clearly, then, Christ was not teaching something different about self defense than is taught elsewhere in the Bible. Otherwise, He would be contradicting Himself for He would now be teaching men to break one of the commandments.

The Bible distinguishes clearly between the duties of the civil magistrate (the government) and the duties of an individual. Namely, God has delegated to the civil magistrate the administration of justice. Individuals have the responsibility of protecting there lives from attackers. Christ was referring to this distinction in the Matthew 5 passage. Let us now examine in some detail what the Scriptures say about the roles of government and of individuals. Both the Old and New Testaments teach individual self defense, even if it means taking the assailant’s life in certain circumstances.
Self Defense in the Old Testament
Exodus 22:2-3 tells us “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”

One conclusion which can be drawn from this is that a threat to our life is to be met with lethal force. During the day, presumably because we can recognize and later apprehend the thief if he escapes, we are not to kill him in non life-threatening circumstances.

In Proverbs 25:26 we read that “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.” Certainly we would be faltering before the wicked if we chose to be unarmed and unable to resist an assailant who might be threatening our life.
Trusting God
Another question asked by Christians is “Doesn’t having a gun imply a lack of trust that God will take care of us?” Indeed, God will take care of us. He has also told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15) Those who trust God work for a living, knowing that 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse that an unbeliever.” For a man not to work, yet expect to eat because he was “trusting God” would actually be to defy God. King David wrote in Psalm 46:1 that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. This did not conflict with praising the God “Who trains my hand for war and my fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1). The doctrine of Scripture is that we prepare and work, but we trust the outcome to God.

Those who trust God should also make adequate provision for their own defense even as we are instructed in the passages above. For a man to refuse to provide adequately for his and his family’s defense would be to defy God. There is an additional concern to taking the position that “I don’t need to arm myself. God will protect me.”

At one point, when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he challenged Jesus to throw himself off the top of the temple. Satan reasoned that God’s angels would protect him. Jesus responded: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:7) It may seem pious to say that one is trusting in God for protection, and we all must, but it is tempting God if we do not take the measures that He has laid out for us in the Bible.
Role of Government
The Bible records the first murder in Genesis 4 when Cain killed his brother Abel. God’s response was not to register rocks or impose a background check on those getting a plough, or whatever it was that Cain used to kill his brother. Instead, God dealt with the criminal. Ever since Noah the penalty for murder has been death.

Nowhere in the Bible does God make any provision for dealing with the instruments of crime. He always focuses on the consequences for an individual of his actions. Heaven and hell only applies to people, not to things. Responsibility only pertains to people, not to things.

Resisting an attack is not to be confused with taking vengeance which is the exclusive domain of God (Romans 12:19). This has been delegated to the civil magistrate, who, as we read in Romans 13:4, “is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Private vengeance means one would stalk down a criminal after one’s life is no longer in danger as opposed to defending oneself during an attack. It is this very point that has been confused by Christian pacifists who would take the passage in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek (which prohibits private vengeance) into a command to falter before the wicked.

Let us consider also that the Sixth Commandment tells us “Thou shall not murder.” In the chapters following, God gave to Moses many of the situations which require a death penalty. God clearly has not told us never to kill. He has told us not to murder, which means we are not to take an innocent life. Consider also that the civil magistrate is to be a terror to those who practice evil. This passage does not in any way imply that the role of law enforcement is to prevent crimes or to protect individuals from criminals. The magistrate is a minister to serve as “an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)

This point is reflected in the legal doctrine of the United States. Repeatedly, courts have held that the government has no responsibility to provide individual security. One case (Bowers v. DeVito) put it this way: “there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered.”
Self Defense in the New Testament
The Christian pacifist may try to argue that God has changed His mind from the time that He gave Moses the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 or the provision for justifiably killing a thief in Exodus 22. But the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that this cannot be, because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi records God’s words this way: “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Paul was referring to the unchangeability of God’s Word when he wrote to Timothy that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Clearly, Paul viewed all Scripture, including the Old Testament, as useful for training Christians in every area of life.

We must also consider what Christ told his disciples in his last hours with them: “…But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a sack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:36, emphasis added). Keep in mind that the sword was the finest offensive weapon available to and individual soldier – the equivalent then of a military rifle today.

The Christian pacifist will likely object at this point that only a few hours later, Christ rebuked Peter who used a sword to cut off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest in the company of a detachment of troops. Let us read what Christ said to Peter in Matthew 26:52-54: Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more that twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?

It was not the first time that Christ had to explain to the disciples why He had come to earth. To fulfill the Scriptures, the Son of God had to die for the sin of man since man was incapable of paying for his own sin apart from going to hell. Christ could have saved His life, but then believers would have lost their lives forever in hell. These things only became clear to the disciples after Christ had died and been raised from the dead and the Spirit had come into the world at Pentecost (see John 14:26).

While Christ told Peter to “put your sword in its place” He clearly did not say get rid of it forever. That would have contradicted what he told the disciples only hours before. Peter’s sword was to protect his own mortal life from danger. His sword was not needed to protect the Creator of the universe and the King of kings.

Years after Pentecost, Paul wrote in a letter to Timothy “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). This passage applies to our subject because it would be absurd to buy a house, furnish it with food and facilities for one’s family, and then refuse to install locks and provide the means to protect the family and the property. Likewise it would be absurd not to take, if necessary, the life of a night-time thief to protect the members of the family (Exodus 22:2-3).

A related, and even broader concept, is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ had referred to the Old Testament summary of all the laws of the Bible into two great commandments: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27). When asked who was a neighbor, Christ related the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). It was the Good Samaritan who took care of the mugging victim who was a neighbor to the victim. The others who walked by and ignored the victim’s plight were not acting as neighbors to him.

In the light of all we have seen the Scriptures teach to this point, can we argue that if we were able to save another’s life from an attacker by shooting the attacker with our gun that we should “turn the other cheek instead?” The Bible speaks of no such right. It only speaks of our responsibilities in the face of an attack-as individual creatures made by God, as householders or as neighbors.
National Blessings and Cursings
The Old Testament also tells us a great deal about the positive relationship between righteousness, which exalts a nation, and self defense. (See footnote a.)

It makes clear that in times of national rebellion against the Lord God, the rulers of the nation will reflect the spiritual degradation of the people and the result is a denial of God’s commandments, an arrogance of officialdom, disarmament and oppression.

For example, the people of Israel were oppressed during the time of the rule of the Judges. This occurred every time the people apostatized. Judges 5:8 tells us that, “They chose new gods; then there was war in the gates; not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.”

Consider Israel under Saul: The first book of Samuel tells of the turning away of Israel from God. The people did not want to be governed by God; they wanted to be ruled by a king like the pagan, God-hating nations around them. Samuel warned the people what they were getting into-the curses that would be upon them ­p; if they persisted in raising up a king over themselves and their families. Included in those curses was the raising up of a standing, professional army which would take their sons and their daughters for aggressive wars (I Samuel 8:11).

This curse is not unknown in the United States. Saul carried out all the judgements that Samuel had warned the people about. His buildup of a standing army has been repeated in the U.S., and not just in terms of the military, but also the 650,000 full-time police officers from all levels of government. Saul was the king the Israelites wanted and got. He was beautiful in the eyes of the world but a disaster in the eyes of the Lord. Saul did not trust God. He rebelled against His form of sacrifice unto the Lord. Saul put himself above God. He was impatient. He refused to wait for Samuel because God’s way was taking too long. Saul went ahead and performed the sacrifice himself, thus violating God’s commandment (and, incidently, also violating the God-ordained separation of duties of church and state!)

Thus was the kingdom lost to Saul. And, it was under him that the Philistines were able to defeat the Jews and put them into bondage. So great was the bondage exerted by the Philistines that “Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears.’ But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle;…So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan…” (1 Samuel 13:19-20; 22-23).

Today, the same goals of the Philistines would be carried out by an oppressor who would ban gunsmiths from the land. The sword of today is the handgun, rifle or shotgun. The sword control of the Philistines is today’s gun control of those governments that do not trust their people with guns.

It is important to understand that what happened to the Jews at the time of Saul was not unexpected according to the sanctions spelled out by God in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. In the first verses of those chapters, blessing are promised to a nation that keeps God’s laws. In the long second parts of those chapters, the curses are spelled out for a nation that comes under judgement for is rebellion against God. Deuteronomy 28:47- 48 helps us understand the reason for Israel’s oppression by the Philistines during Saul’s reign:
Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of all things; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. The Bible provides examples of God’s blessing upon Israel for its faithfulness. These blessings included a strong national defense coupled with peace. A clear example occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 17 tells of how Jehoshaphat led Israel back to faithfulness to god which included a strong national defense. The result: ” And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 17:10).

The Israelite army was a militia army which came to battle with each man bearing his own weapons-from the time of Moses, through the Judges, and beyond. When threatened by the Midianites, for example, “So Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘Arm some of yourselves for the war, and let them go against the Midianites to take vengeance for the Lord on Midian'” (Numbers 31:3). Again, to demonstrate the Biblical heritage of individuals bearing and keeping arms, during David’s time in the wilderness avoiding capture by Saul, “David said to his men, ‘Every man gird on his sword.’ So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword” (Samuel 25:13).

Finally, consider Nehemiah and those who rebuilt the gates and walls of Jerusalem. They were both builders and defenders, each man-each servant-armed with his own weapon:
Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built (Nehemiah 4:17-18).
Conclusion
The wisdom of the framers of the Constitution is consistent with the lessons of the Bible. Instruments of defense should be dispersed throughout the nation, not concentrated in the hands of the central government. In a Godly country, righteousness governs each man through the Holy Spirit working within. The government has no cause to want a monopoly of force; the government that desires such a monopoly is a threat to the lives, liberty and property of its citizens. The assumption that only danger can result from people carrying guns is used to justify government monopoly of force. The notion that the people cannot be trusted to keep and bear their own arms informs us that ours, like the time of Solomon, may be one of great riches but is also a time of peril for free people. If Christ is not our King, we shall have a dictator to rule over us, just as Samuel warned.

For those who think that God treated Israel differently from the way He will treat us today, please consider what God told the prophet Malachi: “For I am the Lord, I do not change…” (Malachi 3:6).

[a]”When our forefathers wrote the constitution of the United States, consciously or unconsciously they followed the Israel system of the right of every man to keep and bear arms. [The Second Amendment] was patterned after the Israel method: when every able bodied man capable of bearing arms and who might be called upon by the nation for military duties to defend his country, his life, liberty and freedom was thus able and prepared to take his place in the ranks of the army.

“Tyranny, as a rule, arises from within a nation when the government has been captured by men who would use their acquired power to oppress the people. These facts were known to the framers of the constitution, hence they recognized the need and right of citizens to keep and bear arms in order to insure real liberty. God in His wisdom…made it a fundamental law in the land that every man should be a part of the military forces of the nation-keeping his arms and equipment in his own possession.

“Now the right of citizens to keep and bear arms is fundamental in preserving true freedom, so much so that subversive forces in sundry and subtle ways first move to disarm the citizens of a nation which they later plan to dominated. We have witnessed such move in the past while states which have already passed laws violating Article II of our constitution did so under the pretext of disarming the criminal. The states which have violated this fundamental principle of the protection of its citizens against armed violence have not only failed to reduce crime but have contributed to the increase in violence and crime. The criminal, who never disarms, knows he is dealing with law-abiding unarmed citizens. Honest men and leaders never fear an armed, law-abiding civilian population.”
Howard B. Rand, LL.B., Digest of the Divine Law, (Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, MA, 1943) PP. 163-164.

Editor’s note: Parts of this article first appeared in Plymouth Rock Foundation’s FAC-SHEET #62. The Right To Bear Arms. Plymouth Rock Foundation can be contacted by writing to them at P.O. Box 577, Marlborough, NH 03455

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Christianity and Self-Defense

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

Jesus is well known for His continued emphasis on love, forgiveness, and “turning the other cheek.” It is therefore surprising to find Jesus advising the disciples to buy a sword in Luke 22:36: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Did Jesus in this verse advocate the use of a sword for self-defense purposes?

This is an issue over which Christians have vehemently disagreed for many centuries.

“TURN THE OTHER CHEEK” ALWAYS? It is true that Jesus said to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-42. However, many scholars do not believe pacifism (or nonresistance) is the essential point of His teaching in this passage. These scholars do not believe Jesus was teaching to “turn the other cheek” in virtually all circumstances. Even Christ did not literally turn the other cheek when smitten by a member of the Sanhedrin (see John 18:22-23).

The backdrop to this teaching is that the Jews considered it an insult to be hit in the face, much in the same way that we would interpret someone spitting in our face. Bible scholar R. C. Sproul comments: “What’s interesting in the expression is that Jesus specifically mentions the right side of the face [Matthew 5:39]….If I hit you on your right cheek, the most normal way would be if I did it with the back of my right hand….To the best of our knowledge of the Hebrew language, that expression is a Jewish idiom that describes an insult, similar to the way challenges to duels in the days of King Arthur were made by a backhand slap to the right cheek of your opponent.”

The principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-42 would thus seem to be that Christians should not retaliate when insulted or slandered (see also Romans 12:17-21). Such insults do not threaten a Christian’s personal safety. The question of rendering insult for insult, however, is a far cry from defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist.

In terms of following Christ’s example, one must remember that His personal nonresistance at the cross was intertwined with His unique calling. He did not evade His arrest because it was God’s will for Him to fulfill His prophetic role as the redemptive Lamb of God (Matthew 26:52-56). During His ministry, however, He refused to be arrested because God’s timing for His death had not yet come (John 8:59). Thus, Christ’s unique nonresistance during the Passion does not mandate against self-protection.

THE BIBLICAL CASE FOR SELF-DEFENSE. It is noteworthy that the Bible records many accounts of fighting and warfare. The providence of God in war is exemplified by His name YHWH Sabaoth (“The LORD of hosts”–Exodus 12:41). God is portrayed as the omnipotent Warrior-Leader of the Israelites. God, the LORD of hosts, raised up warriors among the Israelites called the shophetim (savior-deliverers). Samson, Deborah, Gideon, and others were anointed by the Spirit of God to conduct war. The New Testament commends Old Testament warriors for their military acts of faith (Hebrews 11:30-40). Moreover, it is significant that although given the opportunity to do so, none of the New Testament saints–nor even Jesus–are ever seen informing a military convert that he needed to resign from his line of work (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 3:14).

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus revealed to His disciples the future hostility they would face and encouraged them to sell their outer garments in order to buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:26-27). Here the “sword” (Greek: maxairan) is a dagger or short sword that belonged to the Jewish traveler’s equipment as protection against robbers and wild animals. A plain reading of the passage indicates that Jesus approved of self-defense.

Self-defense may actually result in one of the greatest examples of human love. Christ Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:14). When protecting one’s family or neighbor, a Christian is unselfishly risking his or her life for the sake of others.

Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.”

See also:
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=25442 

http://www.gotquestions.org/self-defense.html

http://www.lawandliberty.org/defense.htm

Posted in Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Christianity, Peace, and War (Part 2)

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

Now, secondly, does God command Christians to be pacifists?

First of all, God himself is no pacifist and does not wish peace to come to all people:

“Peace, peace to the far and the near, says the LORD; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot be calmed, And its waters cast up mud and filth. No peace for the wicked! says my God” (Isaiah 57:21).

“He judges and wages war in righteousness” (Rev 19:11).

However, one might argue that war and violence is to be waged by God alone, not his people. After all, vengeance is his (Rom 12:19) and we are commanded to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. While the Israelites were commanded by God to wage war, Jesus gives no such command and seems to prohibit violence. The closest Jesus himself came to violence is whipping the money-changers (Jn 2:14-16; see also Mk 11:15-16, Mt 21:12-13, Lk 19:45-46).

What about national self-defense? There is much to support it in the Old Testament. With regard to the New Testament, according to St. Augustine, while Jesus tells each of us to personally to turn the other cheek and offer no resistance to one who is evil, the state rightfully holds the sword that can be used in defense against evil:

“But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer” (Rom 13:4).

Also, why does Jesus instruct his disciples to arm themselves if not to use them for some purpose? “[O]ne who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk 22:36).

(See also http://www.lawandliberty.org/defense.htm and http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/qselfdefense.html)

In addition to these Scriptural supports, there is just war theory that was developed by the Catholic Church. Also, biblically and as well as historically, soldiers were not told to leave the army when they became Christians.

Therefore, Christianity, at least, does not advocate state pacifism. And if the Iraq War was waged in self-defense, then it was not a violation of Christian teaching.

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Christianity, Peace, and War (Part 1)

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

“Conservative Christians abandon their Christian duty to be peacemakers when they support a warhawk president.”

There are two fundamental questions raised by this statement: What is peace for the Christian? Are Christians commanded to be pacifists? There is no distinction between just and unjust war in this statement, unless “warhawk” is clumsily meant to imply “unjust war.” 

First of all, peace for the Christian is something that comes from God, from the Prince of Peace more specifically:

“Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets’ control, since he is not the God of disorder but of peace (1 Cor 14:33).” 

“The way of peace have they [pagans/non-Christians] not known” (Rom 3:17). 

“Having made peace through the blood of his cross . . .” (Colossians 1: 20). 

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5: 1).

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Coloss 3:15). 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

But from the last verse especially, it is clear that the peace of Christ is something different from the peace of the world. It is the peace of being reconciled with God. Therefore, a verse like “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) should be viewed as spreading the peace of Christ. Christians should seek after and spread Christ’s peace first and foremost.

“If possible, on your part, live at peace with all” (Rom 12:18). We should strive, if possible, for peace with all nations. But Scripture tells us we will not be able to create world peace, the absence of violent conflict among nations:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6-7, emphasis mine).

In fact, at the end of times, the Lamb calls forth war for his own purposes: “Another horse came out, a red one. Its rider was given power to take peace away from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And he was given a huge sword” (Rev 6:4). 

Only when justice is established at the Last Judgment by Christ can peace, both Christ’s peace and world peace, reign. Why? Because then Christ will be our King and all nations will be subject to him:

“For you have assumed your great power and have established your reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come…” (Rev 11:17-18).

“Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod…” (Rev 19:15).

“The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7). 

Take notice that real peace on earth only comes after justice has been established. Justice takes precedent over peace, conceived of as the absence of conflict. In fact, God’s justice is established by war and violence first and then comes everlasting peace. Government also is given the sword to establish justice (Rom 13:3-4). Thus if the Iraq War was just (meant and able to establish justice), then it was not a violation of the command to be peacemakers. Indeed, where injustice reigns there can be no peace. There was no real peace under Saddam Hussein before the invasion.

Therefore, a verse like “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) should be viewed also as “Blessed are those who establish justice,” for there is no peace without justice.

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George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
George Washington
—-
So much for separation of church and state!

You want me to count the number of references to God? How about just the first line? “Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.” Let’s see. One, two, three, four references in just that first clause. What a fanatic, George Washington! Just wanted you to hear that. That’s the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. The real story of Thanksgiving — and by the way, the real story is continuing, what I just read to you. The thanks was given to God, not the Indians.

See also: http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/thanks/thanks.html , http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/thanks.htm , http://www.thanksgivingworld.com/thanksgiving-proclamations/thanksgiving-1981.html

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Real Story of Thanksgiving: Thankful for Capitalism

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

If you were like me, what we were taught in school was that the Pilgrims came over, and they were just overwhelmed; they were swamped; they had no clue where they were; they had no clue how to feed themselves; they had to clue how to protect themselves; they had no idea how to stay warm; they had no idea how to do anything.  They were just typical, dumb white people fleeing some other place they couldn’t manage to live in.  And then, out of the woods came the wonderful Indians, who had great compassion, they were at one with the land, they were at one with the spirits, and they saw these incompetent, dupe white people dressed up in these odd, stupid, black and white hats and suits, and they befriended us, and they taught us how to plant corn and how to catch beasts and how to skin beavers to stay warm, and Thanksgiving is where we give thanks to the Indians….

Of course the rest of the Thanksgiving story is that after the Indians saved the white people, who, after all, did what?  They brought syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases, gongorrhea, as had I high school health teacher pronounced it, racism, bigotry, homophobia, all these things.  Then what are we going to do to show our gratitude?  Then we had the guts to swindle ’em out of Manhattan for 24 bucks, and then we stole their land, and we stole their horses, and we moved ’em away from the various things that they had used religiously, peyote and so forth, and they got sick.  So then we put ’em in reservations, and after awhile we felt guilty and let ’em run all the casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.  Well, that is not the true story of Thanksgiving….

How many of you believe that we actually swindled Indians when we bought Manhattan from them?  I’ve always thought that ’til I read this book.  It’s called Commissioner Roosevelt: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt and the New York City Police, 1895 to 1897, by H. Paul Jeffers.  And here is the relevant paragraph:  “A persuasive case can be made that the city of New York began with a swindle. For generations school children have been taught that a slick trick was played on unsuspecting Indians by the director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit. In 1626 he purchased the island of ‘Manna-hatin’ for sixty gilders worth of trinkets, about twenty-four dollars. What Minuit did not know at the time, however, was that his masterful real estate deal had been struck with the Canarsie tribe, residents of Long Island; they held no title to the land they sold to the Dutch. In due course, the intruders from Amsterdam who thought they had pulled a sharp one on the locals were forced into negotiating a second, more costly deal with the true landlords.”  So it was the Indians that pulled the real estate scam when they sold Manhattan because the ones that sold it didn’t own it.  We got taken….

Now, the real story of Thanksgiving: “On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible,” and this is what’s not taught. This is what’s left out. “The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.

“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.” They were collectivists! Now, “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.

“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. … Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson,” every kid gets. “If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.” Here’s what he wrote: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.

“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” That was thought injustice. “Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?” ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? … In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. … So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.

“The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'” Now, aside from this program, have you heard this before? Is this “being taught to children — and if not, why not? I mean, is there a more important lesson one could derive from the Pilgrim experience than this?” What if Bill and Hillary Clinton had been exposed to these lessons in school? Do you realize what we face in next year’s election is the equivalent of people who want to set up these original collectivists communes that didn’t work, with nobody having incentive to do anything except get on the government dole somehow because the people running the government want that kind of power. So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of their good fortune. And that’s Thanksgiving. And read George Washington’s first Thanksgiving address and count the number of times God is mentioned and how many times he’s thanked. None of this is taught today. It should be. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. You deserve it. Do what you can to be happy, and especially do what you can to be thankful, because in this country you have more reasons than you’ve ever stopped to consider.

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