Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (11) - Ten Words

Christians frequently refer to the Ten Commandments. The problem is that there are not ten commands, but only nine. We have to do a fiddle to make the nine commands into ten. The Roman Catholic Church splits out coveting your neighbour’s wife, from other coveting to get an extra commandment (Ex 20:17). Protestants split off Exodus 20:4 and to make avoiding other gods from avoiding from crafting idols. This is dangerous, because it seems like physical idols are the only false gods. This is not true.

In the modern world, political powers and governments are the most serious false gods. From God’s point view, putting too much trust in the government is morally equivalent to carving a wooden idol to worship. Many Christians would not have a carving from Africa in their home, but they happily expect a new President or Prime Minister to transform their life situation.

A political rulers do not become false gods by the scope of their power, or expanding the size of their empire. The false god is created by the attitude of the people being governed. When people trust and worship political power, the government becomes and idol.

The Bible does refer to Ten Commandments, but uses the expression Ten Words in three different places to describe the words of the covenant written on the two tablets of stone.

Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Words (Ex 34:28).
My guess is that the reference is not to the number of commandments, but to the people who would use them most. Perhaps the statement should be translated as follows.
Moses wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Words for Tens.
God’s covenant was a covenant with the entire community, but the commandments written stone were most relevant to Tens and would be implemented by the Tens.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (10) - Structure of Society

The world need structures to prevent the strong and wicked bullies from seizing power and trampling over the weak and vulnerable. The powerful must be prevented from prospering at the expense of the weak.

Most Christians expect the state to provide this protection, but that hope has been illusory. At best, the state has distracted onto side issues neglects the weak and the poor. At worst the state becomes powerful and aggressive and plunders those who need its protection.

Libertarians suggest that protection could be provided by entrepreneurial businesses and insurance companies. Businesses can provide defence, and protection services for local communities, but if business is the only source of these things, there is nothing to stop businesses from dominating people and morphing into a pseudo state.

In Moses day, justice, defence, welfare and education were mostly managed in the local community by the Ten. Tens provide protection and defence and protection their members, without dominating or controlling them.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (9) - Chinese Counterfeit

During the imperial period, China was divided into eighteen provinces and 1,300 districts. These districts were too large for a magistrate or governor to control, so a system of surveillance was introduced.

Households were organised by the thousand and then subdivided into sub-groupings of hundred and then ten. Headmen kept a register of everybody in each group, recorded comings and goings, and reported offences to magistrates. Villagers were required to tell the headman of any illegal behaviour they encountered—failure to do sow was a crime (Jonathon Fenby, The Penguin History of Modern China, p.6).
The Chinese Tens and Hundreds were not voluntary associations that emerged in society, but were imposed from the top to achieve control over society. They are fulfilment of what Samuel prophesied would happen. These counterfeit Tens and Hundreds were not a source of cohesion, but a tool for control.

The devil is never orignal. He copies and distorts the real thing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (8) - Bodanis

David Bodanis who wrote “E=MC2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation” is now working on a history of the Ten Commandments. In a recent radio interview, he described their impact in a small area in the mountains of Israel.

Archaeologists found that very suddenly, around 1200 BC, this particular place went from about thirty or forty settlements to almost 600 or 7000 settlements. A lot of people were coming from outside, but they established a cohesive society with farming and roads going between settlements.

Every other place with population of that size would have signs of a big central government. There would be palaces, barracks for soldiers and houses for administrators. This place had an organised society, but there was no sign of any organised central state.

These people shared a code of agreed behaviour that allowed them to exist in harmony. These people did not have to live there, but who chose to live there had to abide by these guide lines.

Something unique was going on.
This suggests that Tens and Hundreds combined with God's Law did produce a stable society.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (7) - Justice Disappeared

The rise of kings destroyed the system of local judges that emerged during Moses time. By the time of David, the people of Judah were unable to get justice within their tens and hundreds. They had to go to Jerusalem and seek an audience with the king, who had usurped the judges’ role. Absalom gained popularity by courting people who had been unable to obtained justice from the King.

Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?"…. Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you." And Absalom would add, "If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice" (2 Sam 15:2-4).
When the administration of justice is centralised, justice disappears. David was a good man, but he could not provide justice for everyone. He simply did not have time to investigate every case. People had to travel to Jerusalem to get their case heard. This was costly because while they were waiting for their case to be heard, they would have to pay for accommodation in an expensive city. They would also be neglect their family and farm back home. Only those with power, privilege and money could gain access to a king’s justice.

Absalom gained respect by offering justice to people who could not obtain it. The justice provided by Tens and Hundreds had disappeared, by the time Israel had its second king.

Kingship required heavy taxation, and taxation soon became the main cause of injustice. A king would always side with the kings tax collectors on that issue.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (6) - Upside Down

Samuel warned of another serious consequence of the transition to kingship.

Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties (1 Sam 8:12).
The King will appoint some of the young people who have been conscripted into his service to be commanders over thousands and fifties. This was a radical change. Under the previous system, the leader of a Hundred was appointed by the members of the Ten who joined the Hundred. The leader of a Thousand was appointed by the leaders of the Hundreds, who agreed to participate in it during the season when it had a role. These leaders would have already established trust within their Ten and Hundred.

Membership of a hundred and a thousand was voluntary, so if the Tens did not like the decisions of a commander of their thousand, they could withdraw. In this structure, leadership emerged from the bottom and submission to leadership was voluntary.

This is the way that leadership functions in the Kingdom of God. Leaders are given authority by people who voluntarily submit to them. If this authority is abused, voluntary submission can be withdrawn and the authority will evaporate.

The emergence of kingship turned this model on its head. Instead of leaders emerging from within, they would be appointed from outside by the king. The members of a Fifty or Thousand had to submit to the King’s appointee, even if he was made foolish decisions, as refusal to obey would bring down the wrath of the king. Submission ceased to be voluntary.

The king would tend to appoint younger people who had recently been in his service, because they would be more loyal to him. Even if these leaders were foolish an inexperienced in battle, the army was forced to obey them.

Authority imposed from above fosters foolishness.

Membership of a Thousand had been temporary. When the threatening army was defeated, the Thousand would be disbanded and the people would return to their homes (Jos 22:6). The only social structures with a permanent function were the Tens and Hundreds, and participation in them was voluntary.

Under the kingship, the Thousand ceased to be a temporary and voluntary force that was called up to deal with a particular, external threat. They become a permanent method tool of imposing the king’s control over society. The members of Tens lost their freedom of action and came under the permanent control of the king. An authority that arose from the bottom of society through submission was replaced by control from the top.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (5) - Destroyed by Kings

1 Samuel 8 is a really important passage. God’s ideal government of judges and law came to an end, and was replaced with kingship, a model of government copied from the surrounding nations. This was a shocking change, as kingship is derived from Satan’s method of government.

Samuel warned of another effect, which is not well understood.

This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers (1 Sam 8 11,13).
The king will take young people to serve in his army and palace. For a critical period during their growth to maturity, when they would normally be developing into a role in their Ten and Hundred, the young person will be taken out for a period of service to the king. Loyalty to the King will replace loyalty to their Ten and Hundred. They will lose respect for leaders of their Ten and may never be fully grafted back in. Their relationships with other young people in the king’s service will grow stronger than their relationship with leaders of their Ten and Hundred. Taking young people out of their local communities during their formative years undermines the structure of society.

This full series can be found at Tens and Hundreds.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (4) - Role of the Hundred

The Hundred derives its functions and authority from the Ten. Hundreds can only act, if the leaders of a Ten gives permission. The Hundred can be used for four main purposes.

1. Defence – sometimes several Tens will come together to deal with an external threat to their society.

  • If an enemy army threatens to invade the country, the first Ten confronted would be easily overcome, if they resisted on their own.

  • The leaders of the first Ten to see the coming threat would send messages to other Tens asking for help (Judges 6:35).

  • Men from a number of Tens might come together in response to the call and form a Hundred to resist the invader. The members of each Ten would serve together. The leaders of the various Tens would appoint several officers to lead the Hundred (Judges 11:5).

  • Participation in the Hundred would be voluntary. The Hundred would be held together by the relationships between the leaders of the Tens and their willingness to work together for a common cause.

  • If a person chosen as leader of the Hundred proved to be foolish, unwise, harsh or arrogant, a number of Tens might withdraw their support and re-form as a Fifty.

  • If the enemy was particularly strong, several Hundreds might join together voluntarily to for a Thousand. Leaderships would rise in the same way as for the Hundreds.

  • In a really serious situation, all the Thousand in the nation might come together to repel a serious enemy. The leaders of the thousand would choose a military commander to lead them.

  • Authority emerges as groups of people submitting to trusted leaders, not through leaders seizing power and demanding obedience.

2. Welfare – Financial support might flow from one Ten to another.
  • Tens that are more wealthy might agree to help another Ten that is in financial trouble.

  • Good relationships between leaders would be important for making people aware of needs and ensuring help went to the right place.

3. Justice – The relationships between the Tens that made up a Hundred will be important for resolving issues of justice.
  • If someone from outside a Ten steals from someone within in it, the other Tens within their Hundred will take up the cause and assist with tracking down the thief. The leaders of the Hundred will ensure that restitution is made to foster the unity of their community.

4. Marriage – A young man will generally need to go outside his Ten to find a wife. He will have a better chance of finding a wife in one of the neighbouring Hundreds.
  • The leaders of the respective Tens will be able to advise the leaders of the other about the character of the prospective marriage partner.

  • The leadership of the two tens will have good relationships with each other. They will be able to organise the transfer of the dowry without risk of loss for either party.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (3) - Role of the Ten

The Ten has several important functions.

1. Defence – the Ten share responsibility for protecting their community.

  • They will watch out for each other and check on intruders. If someone dodgy comes close to any of their homes, some of the Ten will check them out.

  • If someone attacks any member of the Ten, the others will come to their assistance.

  • If a large army comes against the wider society, the men in the Ten will join together with other Tens to defend their society.

Modern people tend to look to their government for protection from evil. This is a false hope. Governments continually fail to protect their people from home. Protection does not come from the top. Sound defence and protection must begin at the lowest level of society in the Ten.

2. Justice – most legal disputes will be resolved within the Ten.
  • If one member of the Ten steals from another member, the men of the Ten will sort out the problem. They will ensure that the thief makes proper restitution. The thief will accept the authority of the Ten, because he would lose his protection, if he rejected it.

  • If a member of the Ten is accused of stealing by someone from the wider community, the Ten will act in his defence. If the case is proven, they will ensure that the thief makes restitution to protect the good name of the Ten.

  • If the thief cannot afford to make made restitution, the Ten will make restitution on the thief’s behalf. They will make arrangements for the thief to repay what they have lent over time. They will also keep an eye on the thief to ensure that he does not steal again. If he persists in stealing, he might lose his place in the Ten and have to leave the community. No other Ten would want him, so he might end up as an outlaw. The threat of this sanction should be enough to make most thieves shape up and change their behaviour.

  • If someone from outside the Ten steals from someone within in it, the Ten will take up the cause on their behalf. They will assist with tracking down the thief and ensuring that restitution is made.

  • Judges will learn their role and prove their credibility in their Ten.

3. Welfare – the Ten will provide support for members who fall into poverty.
  • A member of the Ten would make an interest free loan to another member of the Ten who is in financial trouble (Deut 23:19-20).

  • If a person is forced to sell their land, a senior member of the Ten will buy their land and hold it in trust until they next Jubilee.

    The land must not be sold permanently... you must provide for the redemption of the land. If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold (Lev 25:24,25).
  • If a person commits a crime and cannot afford to pay the required restitution, a member of the Ten will pay on his behalf. The criminal will be bonded to work for the member of the Ten until the debt has been repaid (Ex 22:3).

  • Some members of the Ten may provide employment for others who have a need.

  • The leaders of the Ten will teach financial management to those who are struggling.

4. Education – the Ten will assist families to educate their children.
  • Adults will pass their skills and knowledge on to all the children and young people in the Ten.

Participation in a Ten is voluntary for adults. If they do not like their Ten, they could move and join another. Children will nothave not choice.

Libertarians often assume that defence, education, welfare and justice will be provided by entrepreneurial businesses or insurance companies. Businesses can provide a service to support local communities, but if business is the only source of justice and defence, there is nothing to stop businesses from dominating people and morphing into a pseudo state. In Moses day, justice, defence, education and welfare were mostly managed in the local community by the Ten. Tens were the important and essential foundation for a just and caring society.

Christian Libertarian Blog Carnival

The first edition of the Christian Libertarian Blog Carnival has been published by Greg Heller at the Holy Cause. There there is some pretty great stuff in this edition. Check it out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (2) - Tens

Society is made up of individuals. Most individuals are part of a family. They are the building blocks of society, but the relationships between them determine the shape and strength of society.

The Ten refers to a group of families living in close proximity to each other. The number is not the number of people in the family, but the number of men in the group of families who are capable of contributing to their protection. Most families will have just one adult male, but some with grown up children may have several adult males who can share in the defence of their community. A Ten would be a group of five or six families that could produce ten adult men to serve their community. The numbers do not need to be precise.

In a rural situation, the families making up a Ten would all live side by side in the same village. Some would be related to each other as brothers or cousins.

In the city, the families would live in close proximity to each other with one on each side, and one on the north and one to the south. Some of the families making up the Ten might be linked by family ties, but often they would be bound together by a commitment to support and protect each other.

Membership of a Ten is voluntary, except for children who are stuck with their parents. If a person does not like what the Ten is doing, they can leave an join another group of people, or remain in isolation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tens and Hundreds (1) - Social Cohesion

A number of modern trends have undermined the social cohesion of society.

  • Increased nationalism
  • Growing government power
  • Expanding individualism
  • Weakened families
  • Urbanisation

Christians have focussed considerable energy on strengthening families, while being ambivalent about nationalism and government powers. Unfortunately, they have missed the piece in the middle. In the biblical model for a healthy society, the “tens, fifties and hundreds” are the glue that holds society together.

So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as heads of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials (Deut 1:15).
In this passage, Moses was setting aside men to be judges. These tens, hundreds and fifties and tens already existed among the tribes of Israel at the time of the Exodus. Tens, fifties and hundreds existed before Israel became a nation. They were important to the cohesion of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The full series can be found at Tens and Hundreds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

US Economy

Economists and political commentators seem to have three different views about the US economy.

  1. Things will be rough, but the government is doing enough to get us through. The economy will turn up later this year and we will see stronger growth in 2010.

  2. The worst is yet to come. The economy will go into a dive and take many years to recover.

  3. Same as number two, but with serious inflation. The money creation being undertaken by the Fed will eventually cause inflation to blow out.

Option One is probably the most popular. Many astute observers are backing option three. These are mostly the people who saw the housing collapse before anyone else, so they have some credibility.

I am interested in what economists and other observers are saying, but I also want to understand what God is doing. Most Christian commentators seem to be backing option one.

David Wilkerson is the only one who seems to be advocating Option Two. A few Christians seem to have moved into the third camp. As I noted above, that option has considerable credibility, but if that is where we are, I would expect many more prophetic people to be sounding a warning. So far I have not found many.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Families and Welfare

The traditional family managed inter-generational wealth transfers efficiently, without the intervention of the state. Parents cared for children when they were young, and children provided for their parents when they grew old. This worked well, because parents have their greatest earning power, when their children need expensive tertiary education. The children have their best earning power, when their parents are old and dependent on them.

The modern social welfare state has created problems by shifting wealth between generations without thought for the consequences. New retirement benefits are usually excessively generous to the current generation, while later generations are left to pay the bill. This problem is currently coming home to roost for many western nations, as they work their way through large unfunded pension liabilities.

At the same time a whole range of social changes have broken the bonds that held our wider families together. Often we do no know each other well, so we are not in a position to support each other. Christian community will have to be restored so that families can provide economic support for each other in times of need (Acts 11:27-29).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Interest and Culture

Storing wealth for a long time in a place where it will be safe is very difficult.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matt 6:19).
Most forms of wealth can be destroyed by moths and rust. Gold is quite safe, as it does not rust, but it is easily stolen buy thieves.
A person who stores his wealth in gold for several years gets back what he started with. No interest is earned.

Many people need to save for their future. Young people save to buy a house. Older people save for their old age. They will be more concerned about security than interest. Most savers will be happy, if they can get their savings back when they need them, with none being lost. These people do not need interest to make them save.

They will need insurance in some form, to deal with the risk of the bank failing or the borrower defaulting. This insurance could be paid for with a fixed fee, or by adding to a risk premium to the interest rate.

In a well functioning economy, inflation might fall to zero. A sound banking system would eliminate inflation, so savers would not need an inflation premium to compensate them for the rampages of rising prices. If investment in capital makes business more efficient, then prices should gradually fall over time. Money in a savings account will be worth more when it is withdrawn than it was when first saved. The real interest rate will be positive, even if the nominal interest rate is zero. Savings will bring a return without positive interest.

We should allow interest rates to be decided by the free market. If funding is scarce, interest rates will rise. If funds are abundant, interest rates will decline. If society has a positive attitude to the future, interest rates should decline to zero.

High interest rates are the sign of a sick culture.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Economic Stimulation

Economic stimulation projects do not always work, but often they do. The problem is that policies that work, but still be morally wrong. Bad policies can have good outcomes. When assessing any economic proposal, the most important issue to assess is its morality. Policies that are morally flawed may have short term benefits, but in the long term they will lead to further harm.

There are lots of things wrong in the US economy.

  • Households have taken on too much debt.
  • House prices have been pushed too high.
  • Too many houses have been built in many places
  • Many business have been poorly run (eg GM, Chrysler, AIG)
  • Banks made too many loans to too many people that could not afford them.
  • Banks have been too highly leveraged.
  • Bankers have depleted capital by creaming off large profits and bonuses.
  • Some banks have lost all their inadequate capital.
  • The banking system is seriously flawed (see Bank Loans and Deposits).
  • The Fed over stimulated the economy after the tech wreck in 2000.
  • The Fed over inflated during the IT boom.
  • The Fed exacerbated the housing boom.
  • Households consumed more they could afford.
  • Businesses have produced stuff that no one wants.
  • Rating companies under- estimated the value risk of default on some assets.
  • Banks and investment funds brought asset backed securities and collateralised debt obligations that were not back by solid assets.
Many of these actions were immoral. Most involved foolishness and folly, arising from arrogance and hubris. Government stimulation can cover the symptoms of these problems, but does not deal with the underlying moral issues. The only solution to these problems is a good does of repentance followed by and change in actions and behaviour.

Stimulating a stressed and distorted economy is like drinking whiskey to cure a hangover. It may bring temporary relief, but it does not deal with the short-term foolishness and long-term immorality.

The quantitative easing recently adopted by the Fed operates in the same way as criminal counterfeiting of currency. The difference is that the initial benefit under quantitative easing the initial benefit goes to businesses, whereas under counterfeiting the initial benefit goes to the crooks. Otherwise, the two methods are morally equivalent.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Changing Governments

The story of Abimelech in Judges 9 contrasts three different methods of bringing political change . The first two methods bring bad results.

  1. Abimelech was elected by a democratic process, but he did great harm to the people of Shechem. This incident is a timely reminder that democracy gives power to the wrong people. The skills needed to get ahead in politics are pragmatism, arrogance and a light hand on the truth. These are very different from the skills needed by a good judge.

  2. Rebelling against an evil leader will usually fail, because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator.
    Now Gaal son of Ebed moved with his brothers into Shechem, and its citizens put their confidence in him…. Then Gaal son of Ebed said, "Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should be subject to him? If only this people were under my command! Then I would get rid of him. I would say to Abimelech, 'Call out your whole army!' (Jud 9:26,28,29).

    Gaal led a rebellion, but the and those who followed him were destroyed (Jud 9:38-41).

  3. Prophetic proclamation is the best way to remove a bad government. When a prophet voice speaks God’s judgment against an evil ruler, God will honour that word and bring sanctions against the wicked person. Jothan, the youngest brother escaped and prophesied against Abimelech and the people of Shechem.
    If then you have acted honorably and in good faith … may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!" (Jud 9:19,20).
    God honoured this prophetic word.
    After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, who acted treacherously against Abimelech (Jud 9:22,23).
    Abimelech was removed by prophecy.
    Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done…. God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham… came on them (Jud 9:56,57).
Modern Christians place a lot of faith in democracy, even though it does not produce godly government. Others have tried rebellion, but this has failed too.
Prophetic proclamation is the best way to get rid of an evil government. Unfortunately, belief that God can bring governments down is rare. The missing element is a strong prophetic voice to release God’s power to bring political change.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Democracy cannot Last

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess (generous benefits) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship.

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back to bondage.
Alexander Frazer Tyler in "The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic," (1776).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

God and Law

Christians believe that God is the King of all Creation.

How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth (Ps 47:11)!

For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods (Ps 95:3).

The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all (Ps 103:19).
The fact that God is a king means that he is very interested in the principles of government. Governing is the main role of a king. God is the king above all kings, so he must be the world’s top authority on good government.

If God is an expert on government, we would expect that he has shared his wisdom about government in the scriptures. The only place in the scriptures where he gives a full system of government is in Exodus and Deuteronomy. If we want God’s wisdom about government, we have to go back there.

The essence of government is good law. Every culture recognises the need for good laws. If God is an expert on government he must be an expert on law. He wants good government on earth, so we would expect him have revealed a good system of law to us. He is perfectly wise, so his laws will be the best laws available.
I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame (Ps 119:46).

The law of the LORD is perfect (Ps 19:7).
God’s system of perfect law is revealed in Exodus and Deuteronomy, all ready for us to use.

Modern debates about government focus on the election of governments. The emphasis is on developing a good system for writing laws. If God has already provided the best laws available, this is a waste of effort. Human legislators will always produce sub-optimal laws, so arguments about how politicians should be appointed are irrelevant. God has already given us the perfect laws that are essential for good government.

Libertarians usually begin with a non-aggression axiom, and build on that foundation. Christian libertarians do not need to go there. They can begin with God's two non-aggression laws. This provides a more solid foundation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leaving the Best to Last

Most guys are a bit thick, so they leave the best girls to last. In their twenties they have their valuations all wrong and they put a high price on “blond” and “chatter”, so these are snapped up quickly.

It takes a long time for them to get their valuations sorted out and raise the price of intelligence, kindness, thoughtfulness and loyalty, but eventually they will. The value of these things will rise and they will be in demand.

The best guys are a bit slow off the mark. The ones who don’t think about their worth rush in, but those who value others right, put a low value on themselves, so they a bit slow in putting in their bids. They wait because they don’t want to be rejected, but they are thoughtful and loyal.

The best is often left to last.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jehu's Methods are Redundant

Elijah anointed Jehu as king, be he did not turn Israel around. He and his son continued in the sins of Jeroboam. In 2 Kings 17:16, Israel was still worshipping Baal. They eventually went into exile. Jehu’s killings did not bring blessing to Israel.

There are two reasons. Firstly, you cannot beat evil with evil; violence just produces more violence. Jesus rebuked those who wanted to use violence to advance his cause (Luke 9:54-55).

Secondly, guns and bullets kill people, but they cannot change the spirits that are at work in a place. Elijah and Jehu were unable to bind the spirits that controlled Israel.

Post Jesus, that has changed. Spiritual warfare is now more effective than physical warfare, unless you belong to a nation that trusts in war, and are weak in dealing with spirits of hatred and violence. Using Old Testament methods is pointless now we have the new covenant.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Economic Decline of Empires

In the long view of history, economic difficulties of mature empires apparently do not stem from insufficient consumption. Rather their economic problems stemmed from the side of supply. When needs outstrip production capability, a number of tensions are bound to appear in the society. Inflation, excessive taxation, balance of payments difficulties, etc. There is conflict between consumption and investment, between private and public sector, and within the private sector, between social groups. As the struggle grows in bitterness, cooperation among the people and social groups fades away. If public spirit is faltering and the spirit of cooperation is lacking, any programme of renovation has scant possibility of success.

In environments characterised by lack of cooperation among social groups, by emphasis on right rather than duties, by a strong leisure preference, all efforts towards renewal can only develop in the unpleasant direction of compulsion and further taxation. Feelings of frustration and pessimism are bound to spread, and in this gloomy atmosphere there is little room for innovation.
Carlo Cipolla wrote these words in 1970. They are still very relevant. Sounds just like our local empire.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Capital

Capital is an important issue. Economists refer to the plant and equipment that makes work more productive as Capital. There seems to be nothing inherently wrong with Capital. It is has actually allowed made our lives vastly better. I can write better with a computer than my fingers. Shares are just a record of ownership of capital.

The more important question is who should own capital. Most Americans think it should be privately owned. Marx thought it should be publicly owned. So Communism is really state capitalism. The Russian experience shows that state ownership of capital is inefficient. My view is that the scriptures do not explicitly forbid state ownership of capital or private ownership of capital or shared private ownership in companies. Capitalism is just free ownership of capital by whoever produced it.

The more important question is how capital is obtained. It is morally wrong to steal capital. This applies to the state or private individuals. Both have done plenty of steeling capital in their time. The morally correct way to obtain capital is to consume less and save to buy it.

The other important question is what is done with capital. The Bible warns that owning capital is risky, because we can easily slip into trusting it or worshipping it. Capital can be used to control other people. On the other hand, the Bible seems to respect good use of capital. It distinguishes between good and bad use of capital.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Greco on Money

I have just read a book called Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender by Thomas J Greco. I found it very interesting. He shows how alternative forms of money can emerge without any government intervention. The most common form is the LETS, or Local Employment and Trading Exchange. I did not realise how common these exchanges are. They work by recording what people owe to each other on a computer. This is very similar to the system that I describe in my parable called Beeble. It is nice to have the viability of this proposal confirmed.

The book does have a couple of serious limitations. He sees credit as something that someone must issue. This is not correct, as credit is something that emerges from our character, or something we gain by selling something we have produced. I have explained this in Money. He does not fully the grasp the problems that arises when banks treat their depositor’s money as an asset of the bank. I have described this problem in Bank Loans and Deposits.

One strength of this book is his view that new forms of money must emerge at a local level and spread out. They cannot be imposed from the top. This is an important principle.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Free Markets (28) - Generosity Everywhere

Caring for the poor is not just a virtue for Christians. God expects everyone who has prospered to share with those in need. This is even more urgent during tough times.

A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
People curse the man who hoards grain,
but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell (Prov 11:25,26).
During a famine, people who hoard grain might get a better price, but they will lose the blessing of God. Sellers of the basics of life must not take advantage of people in desperate straits.

The same applies when a poor person is looking for work.
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin (Deut 24:14-15).
In a free market, a poor and needy person will accept very low wages because they desperate. God warns employers not take advantage of people who are frantic for work.

People with economic resources must not abuse those who are in difficult circumstances. Those who ignore God’s concern for the poor place themselves under a curse. When people who have prospered stop being generous to the poor and needy, they bring a curse on their land, which harms everyone.

Christian should challenge everyone with plenty to be generous to those in need, but they will only have credibility, if Christians are leading the way in compassion. If Christian prophets are calling on kings and government to remedy poverty with force, they will be ignored.

Conclusion
Buying and selling in free markets is better than theft and force, but not as good love and compassion. Free markets are better than theft and force, but they will not produce a perfect world. More love and compassion is what the world really needs.

See this full series at

Markets and Morality
Markets and Evil
Markets and Efficiency
Markets Add Value
Markets and Equality

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Free Markets (27) - Deacons

God’s tool for dealing with poverty is the ministry of the deacon. If theologians were really concerned about equality and poverty, deacons would be the most important ministry in the church. Unfortunately, the modern church does not understand the role and has changed it to something different. In Baptist Churches, elders are often called deacons. In the Catholic Church, deacons are priests in training. In other churches, deacons are responsible for raising money and maintaining buildings.

The deacons in the New Testament cared for the poor. They were the social welfare arm of the church. The record of the appointment of the first deacons is in the book of Acts. When the number of disciples had increased, some of the disciples complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

So the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group so they appointed seven men who were full of the Spirit…. They presented these men to the apostles who laid hands on them (Acts 6:2-4).
These deacons used the offerings of the Church to provide for the needs of the poor and the sick. They were fulfilling the parable of the Good Samaritan. When he found a person in trouble, he took action to meet the immediate need. He then took further action to find a permanent solution, taking responsibility for the cost himself. This is a good pattern for the ministry of a deacon. The work of the first deacons had immediate effect.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly (Acts6:7).
Crucial Ministry
The ministry of the deacon is the second ministry to be mentioned in the New Testament. The twelve were appointed to be apostles by Jesus. Deacons were established in Acts 6. Evangelists are first mention in Acts 7 and 8, but Philip and Stephen had already served as deacons when they emerged as evangelists. Pastors are not mentioned until Acts 20, and they were elders not the CEO/Pastors we have today. The first prophets appeared in Acts 11. They were not interpreting biblical prophecy, but in encouraging the flow money to people suffer from a famine. This suggests that deacons are more essential for the fulfilment of the churches calling than pastors, prophets and evangelists.

The importance of deacons is confirmed in Paul’s letters. He devoted several chapters to teaching about their role. The fact that this ministry has disappeared suggests that something is drastically wrong in the church.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Free Markets (26) - Tithing Trumps Compassion

The modern church has not done well at compassion, because its own needs come first. Running the modern church is really expensive, so tithing to support the pastor-manager and maintain the church system has become the top priority.

Tithing to the church has become the accepted standard for giving. This is sad, because tithing is easy. Once the money has been given to the church, the believer’s responsibility is complete. Helping someone who is poor is more difficult. They will need training and guidance. The responsibility is not complete until they poor person has escaped from poverty.

Theologians worrying about the limitations of free markets should be teaching churches how to shift wealth from the rich to the poor, and how to help the poor escape from poverty. Unfortunately, most church leaders teach more about tithing than caring for the poor. Paul was different. He never mentions tithing to the church, but wrote incessantly about giving and sharing.

Bill Gates recently gave a large chunk of his wealth into a foundation that is committed to helping the poor people of Africa. I am glad that he is not a Christian. If he were a Christian, his pastor would be advising him to tithe, build a ten thousand seater auditorium and setup a Christian television station.

Great Wealth Transfer
Many church leaders are looking for a great wealth transfer. Most prophecies suggest that this wealth will be transferred from the world to the church. God is not interested in giving more wealth to the church. He does not need larger auditoriums, more professional pastors or, television ministries. God wants more “living letters” from which the world can read the gospel.

You yourselves are our letter….. known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ…. written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Cor 3:2-3).
Living letters do need huge tithes. They do not require large wealth transfers. The great wealth transfer that God is seeking is a transfer from the rich to the poor. This flood of wealth will not be complete until equality is achieved.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Free Markets (25) - Good News

The gospel is good news for the poor. What does that mean? One possibility is that Jesus wants people facing poverty to have “peace in their heart” while their belly is empty. I do not think so.

Jesus expected that the gospel to produce a great flood of wealth from the rich to the poor. This started, as soon as the Holy Spirit was poured out.

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).
The gospel was good news for the poor at the beginning. And the church carried on as it has started.
There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:34).
Two things were essential for the success of the gospel: caring for the poor and healing the sick. The gospel really was “good news to the poor” and “recovery of sight for the blind”.

The only good news the modern church has for the poor is God will multiply their seed if they tithe. The inequality that pervades the modern world is not a sign of market failure. Rampant inequality represents the failure of the church to proclaim and produce good news for the poor.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Free Markets (24) - Upset by Inequality

Christians should be upset by inequality of incomes, but they must be precise about their response. Concern about inequality can mean either of two things.

  1. I got too much income from market activity.
  2. Those people over there gained too much.
The first possibility is easy to deal with. People who think that they have earned too much can give some away. Many of them already do.

The second option is different. It usually has a corollary:
The government should force those with too much to give it others.
Many people just assume that governments should take from those who gained “too much” and give it to those who are poor. No justification is given.

If they people have used force or stolen from others, they should be forced to make restitution to their victims. If they have gained “too much” by honest trading, or by producing good quality products, or by producing services that many people want, it is hard to understand why they should be punished.

Those who expect the government to deal with inequality are really saying,
  • I do not like the state of the world
  • I want the state to force the world to change.
Church leaders and theologians assume that the state should be involved solving poverty and inequality, but they do not think about what this means. What they are really saying is:
  • Love cannot change this situation.
  • Compassion will fail.
  • We must use force.
  • Only coercion can deliver the required change.
I can understand Marxists being advocates of force and coercion, but Christians have a better way. Love and compassion should be our trademark.

God has a Solution
God is actually more concerned about poverty than most Christians. His gospel is “good news to the poor”. Paul was certain that He does not want inequality.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality (2 Cor 8:13-14).
God objective is equality, but his solution is unique as it does not require force or coercion. God’s solution to inequality is love and compassion.

God’s requires people with plenty to give generously to those who are hard pressed. He expects people who have prospered to demonstrate compassion for those who have not done so well. Compassion and sharing create equality.

Theologians who are concerned about inequality should be teaching Christians how to assist the poor. Paul did this all the time, because caring for the poor was the heart of his gospel. His letters are full of exhortations about giving.
Now about the collection for God's people…. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made (1 Cor 16:1-3).
Paul taught the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper, because he was concerned about their lack of sharing (1 Cor 11:20-22).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Free Markets (23) - Unequal Outcomes

The exchange of goods and services in a free market will often produce unequal outcomes. People will generally reject transactions that make them worse off, but a few will make mistakes that push them into poverty.

Some mistakes will be made when na├»ve or innocent people are “ripped off” by bad people (they should be forced to make restitution), but most poverty is not the result of evil actions, but flows from the vagaries of life. Trade in free markets can push people into poverty without any immoral action being taken.

  • A bad decision in a free market can produce a huge loss.
  • An unwise offer will sometimes be accepted.
  • A desperate seller may be forced to accept a very low price.
  • Some people are foolish buyers.
  • Others are foolish sellers.
  • Some people are not as clever as others.
  • People with rare skills can achieve higher pay than others.
  • People who do not use their skills and capital may find themselves in poverty.
    Lazy hands make a man poor (Prov 10:4).
  • The sick and handicapped will struggle to prosper by buying and selling.
  • Producing goods that no-one wants will leads to losses.
  • People with surplus goods can improve their situation.
  • Market only benefits those who participate.
  • People in desperate circumstances may have not surplus to sell.
  • People with nothing to sell gain nothing from free markets.
  • Many are harmed when the people they depend make mistakes.
  • Employees are harmed by the mistakes of their employers.
  • Economic power is really the power to harm other people.
  • People caught up in a war can lose everything they produced.
  • Droughts, tornadoes and floods push innocent people into poverty.
Markets provide opportunities, but some people will be unable to take them up. Some people will benefit more than others. Transactions in a free market can produce inequality, even when every participant is honest and good.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Warning Events

In Luke 12:55-56, Jesus rebuked the Jews, because they could read the weather signs, but they could not discern the times in which they were living. They knew that when the south wind blew, the weather would be hot, but they did not understand what was happening in their own city.

Jesus comments must have aroused their curiosity. Luke 13:1-5 records how they asked about two events that had happened recently. In the first, some Galileans had been killed by Pilate and their blood mingled with Roman sacrifice. In the second, eighteen people had been killed when the tower of Siloam had fallen on them. Jesus said that the sins of the people killed in these tragedies were no worse than those of other Galileans, or other people living in Jerusalem, but he said that unless they repented they would all perish.

Jesus explained that theses two events were signs to the city of Jerusalem. The city was placing itself under a curse by hardening its heart against Jesus, the Messiah whom God had sent to them. The two events they asked about were signs of the judgement that would come, if they did not change their attitude to Jesus. This is what did happen. The Jews hardened their hearts against Jesus; they crucified him and persecuted his followers. These actions placed them under the wrath of God. In A.D 70 the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, smashed down its walls and slaughtered those who survived. The blood of many people was used in Roman sacrifices.

The principle Jesus taught is that when a people are under judgement, God often gives a warning. Sometimes he speaks by his prophets. At other times he speaks by allowing unusual or spectacular events to occur. Because they are unusual, they will be noticed by most of the people. These warning events will be on a much smaller scale, but typical of the judgement which will come if the people do not turn back to God.

God is merciful, and even when a people are full of sin, he gives warning of his displeasure by advance judgements, to save his people from something worse. If the warning is heeded it will produce repentance and reformation, and the future will bring blessing. If the warning is not heeded, then judgement will take its course. These warning events are tokens or types of the approaching judgement.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine Flu and the Fourth Horseman

The Four Horsemen of Revelation represent ephochal events that mark the tranistion to a new season in God's plan for history. The first two horseman have already been released.

  • The first horseman is the Islamic Revolution that began in Iran 1978.
  • The second horseman is the Tribal Conflict that spread round the world at the same time.
I have been watching the world for a sign that another next horseman has been released.
  • The third horseman is a famine that spreads to the northern part of the world. It has not been released yet, but could be getting close.
  • The fourth horseman rode a pale horse.
I am wondering if the fourth horseman has been released. Here is what John saw.
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" 8I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth (Rev 6:7,8).
The opening of the four seal released the rider of a pale sickly horse. The horseman is called “Death”, but this is probably not a good translation. The Greek word is “Thanatos”. This word does mean death, but in the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint) it is used more than thirty times to translate the Hebrew word for “pestilence” (deber).

“Pestilence” is probably a better translation of “thanatos” in this context. This horseman was called Pestilence, and Hades followed him. This suggests that those who have rejected the gospel and are destined to Hades will be more vulnerable to his pestilence.

This horseman was given power to kill people with what appears to be four methods. The construction of the greek text is interesting.
en rhomphaia kai en limos kai en thanatos kai hupo ho therion ho ge
The literal translation of this expressons is:
in sword and in famine and in death and by the animals of the earth
The preposition used for the first three methods is “en”, which is usually translated as “in”, but sometimes as “by”. The preposition for the fourth noun is “upo” meaning “by”. The fourth noun is in the genitive form, whereas the first three are dative This suggests that the last two nouns are not a description of two different methods, but should be linked together. Combining these two nouns gives “pestilence by wild animals”.

The latest version of H1N1 influenza virus contains genetic material that is typically found in strains of the virus that affect pigs and birds, but has mutated into a pestilence that could affects many humans. “Pestilence by animals from the earth” could be a description of pandemic caused by a virus like H1N1.

Southern Man
According to Zechariah 6:6, the black horse travels north, with the white horse following. The red horse is not limited to one direction, but goes all over the earth.

The pale horse goes to the south. I was interested to see that H1N1 virus arrived in New Zealand almost as soon as the pandemic started. The southern hemisphere is going into winter, so the conditions will more conducive to the flu in the south.

John said that the horseman was given power over a third of the earth. This does not refer to the proportion of the world’s population that will die, as he was not given a quarter of the earth, not a quarter of the people. When put together with Zechariah’s message, this indicates that this deadly horseman will attack the southern quarter of the earth.

The fourth horseman is linked with a sword. The Greek word is “romphaia”. It was a large a sabre or broad sword designed for attack in an offensive war. This sword could be a symbol of death, but that seems to be superfluous in the context. The sword is also a symbol of “state power” and this one is large. John seems to be suggesting that the events released with this horseman will lead to an increase in state power. This is already happening. The NZ government has issued regulations giving it emergency powers to control the movements of people to prevent the spread of this disease.

John might also be suggesting that the pestilence might be exacerbated by state intervention. For example, inappropriate use of anti-viral drugs and quarantines might cause the swine flu to mutate to a more serious form that does greater harm.

The pale horse is also linked with famine. The Greek word is “limos”, which means “scarcity of food, dearth, hunger or famine”. A serious consequence of a flue pandemic would be a collapse of trade, particularly for food. If people are afraid to travel, transporting food from growers to local markets will be difficult. Shortages of food will be inevitable. At an international level, governments will be reluctant to import food from countries sickness is endemic. Several governments have already banned imports of Mexican pork.

I do not know if the current outbreak of H1N1 influenza is the fourth horseman, but what we have seen over the last week is a good illustration of what will happen when he is released. The current outbreak may just be a warning event. The real horseman may still belong in the future.