I am busy with a special project for the next two weeks, so I will probably not have time to add any posts.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
The problem for the American economy is that business households have shut up shop and stopped spending. After a couple of decades of borrow and spend, they had far too much debt and need to get their balance sheets in order. This creates a problem for business that produce consumer goods.
In a free economy, this falling demand would not be a problem. When households stop spending, interest rates usually fall. If households are saving more, banks can offer lower interest rates and still get the funding they need. If households stop borrowing, banks have to lower interest rates to attract borrowers. Increasing supply and falling demand both push interest rates down.
When interest rates fall, numerous investments projects, which previously could not make a reasonable return, suddenly become viable. The result is increasing demand for investment goods. Some businesses will respond to that demand by shifting resources from the production of consumer goods to the production of investment goods. This adjustment may take a couple of quarters, but by shifting the mix of production away from consumption to investment, the slack in the economy is quickly taken up.
More important, the resulting build up of capital goods tends to make the economy even more productive in the future. Then when household start consuming again, the extra capital makes the economy more productive, so the demand for extra goods is easily met. There is no need to have a demand driven recession.
Unfortunately, America is not a free economy and interest rates are fixed by the Fed. Although households and businesses are saving more, the Fed has left interest rates unchanged, so the signal that declining interest rates should give to businesses has not gone through. Worse still, the Fed held interest too low during much of the decade. This sent the wrong signal to businesses, and may investment projects were undertaken that would not have been viable, if interest rates had been at an appropriate level. The housing boom was part of that.
Artificially low interest rates caused households to borrow too much and business to produce too many investment goods. Debt eventually catches up, and people and businesses realise that they need to reduce debt. Households stop buying consumer good to get out of debt. This is the cause of the current recession.
In a free market, business would switch to producing investment goods. The problem is that there is already a glut of capital goods, due to past overproduction in response to artificially low interest rates. Demand for investment is also goods declining, which exacerbates the recession.
The Fed has decided that Quantitative Easing is the solution. They are trying to solve the problems caused by too much debt, by encouraging households and businesses to take on more debt. They are trying to solve a problem of too much debt, by creating more debt. It may improve the economy in the short term, but it will store up problem for the future.
When a heroin addict goings into withdrawal, things get messy. One solution is to put them on methadone. It gets rid of the DTs, but it does not solve the underlying problem.
Quantative Easing is a methadone solution. It may provide temporary relief, but it will make the future worse.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Gene asked about advice for a prophetic person delivering bad news to a person who has asked for a prophetic word. Here are my thoughts. Micah seemed to use humour or hyperbole to give bad news to Ahab. Despite the funny way that Micah presented his word, Ahab got the message (1 Kings 22:15-23). Nathan told a parable to get David’s attention for a hard word. He told it in a way that sucked David into sympathy for the victim. This made it very difficult for David to reject the bad news (2 Sam 12:1-7). Jeremiah uses symbolic actions to bring bad news, and to give hope. This made people curious, which opened their hearts to the word (Jer 13:1-12).
Keep your heart right. I can remember a time when I took pleasure in giving hard words to groups of people whom I though deserved it. That attitude was detestable and I am now embarrassed by it. Something is seriously wrong with Christians who take pleasure in giving bad news.
If we find it harder to give bad news than good news, we should ponder the reason. Maybe we think that if bad news does not eventuate, we will look mean, whereas if we give good news and it does not happen, the person will not mind. Unfortunately giving good news that is not inspired by God can do serious harm to the person receiving it. We should check carefully that we are right, whether we have good news or bad news.
I believe that if God gives us a word for someone, he can also tell us how to give it. If he asks us to give bad news, we should ask him how he wants it presented.
Asking God how to give a hard word is really important. Obeying him is the best way.
Whether bring good news or bad news, we should present it in a humble way. It does not hurt to say, “This is not nice, but it is what I got from the Lord. You are welcome to test it”.
Love is most important of all. If someone knows that we love them, they will find it easier to accept bad news from us, but there are no guarantees, so love is always willing to suffer for the truth.
Micah seemed to use humour or hyperbole to give bad news to Ahab. Despite the funny way that Micah presented his word, Ahab got the message (1 Kings 22:15-23).
Nathan told a parable to get David’s attention for a hard word. He told it in a way that sucked David into sympathy for the victim. This made it very difficult for David to reject the bad news (2 Sam 12:1-7).
Jeremiah uses symbolic actions to bring bad news, and to give hope. This made people curious, which opened their hearts to the word (Jer 13:1-12).
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Douglas Carswell recently introduced a Banking Reform Bill into the UK Parliament. His bill establishes the distinction between lending intermediary services account and custodial deposit account. His speech introducing the bill is worth a listen, because he hits the nail on the head. He explains that the problem with banking is that when I put my money in the bank, I think that I still own it, but banking law says that the bank owns it. That legal twist means the money has two owners, which leads to problems with runs on banks.
I was excited when I read his bill because his diagnosis of the problem and his proposal solution is very similar to the one that I outline in Bank Deposits and Loans. The only difference is that I refer to a safe-keeping service whereas he refers to custodial deposits, but they are exactly the same.
I hope that Douglas’s Bill succeeds, but I presume the financial powers will fight against it. They will not let such an essential change take place
The only thing that this bill lacks is my second proposal for sound banking, which matching of loans. His prescription for the lending intermediary service should specify that banks can only lend out money for the same term as that for which it is deposted. This would prevent Banks from borrowing short and lending long, which is the other problem with modern banking.
More at Money System
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The root problem with one-man leadership is that those who get to the top often feel insecure, so they surround themselves with sycophants and “Yes Men”. Anyone who might challenge their authority is kept at a distance.
The other side of this problem is the platform or pedestal prophet. The senior pastor who does not have his own pet prophet brings one in from outside and puts him on a pedestal. From that platform, the prophet is allowed to give encouragement to the people and challenge those that need sorting out, but the senior pastor always stands behind the prophet, safe from his words.
The pedestal prophet has authority because the senior pastor testifies to his credibility. In return for this authentication, the platform prophet must submit to the authority of the pastor/manager and honour him. The prophet is kept on the pedestal where his ministry can be controlled. The platform prophet must go along with this charade, or be kept in silence.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I have just posted an article at Kingdom Watcher called Secular Capitalism. I explain how free market capitalism has been incredibly successful at solving the production problem and creating a prosperous society. Its serious weakness is that it leads to the accumulation of wealth by a few. Without the tempering effect of Christian faith and practice, it produces a distorted society that will eventually be torn apart.
Labels: Secular Capitalism
Saturday, November 13, 2010
All prophets experience rejection, if their words are not always accepted and obeyed. If this happens frequently, the prophet can become frustrated, and frustration can lead to bitterness. Words spoken out of frustration and bitterness will be contaminated by these things and will not come out pure. This is one of the most serious problems faced by prophets. They must learn to deal with rejection without going into frustration and bitterness.
More at Prophetic Pitfalls
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Jubilee laws of the Old Testament are really important. In Torah times, the main form was capital was land. When Israel entered the land, it was divided evenly between families. This means that capital was fairly evenly distributed. This is an important principle. God prefers capital to be evenly distributed, so everyone has a similar chance to succeed or fail.
The Jubilee laws allowed people to work hard and expand their capital. They rewarded productivity. The Jubilee laws also allowed people to make mistakes and recognised that some would fail. People were accountable for their decisions.
The huge benefit of the Jubilee system was that after every second generation, the distribution of capital was restored back to a rough equality again. This meant that the new generation got a fresh start, without being encumbered by their parents or grandparents mistakes. Jubilee provides for a second chance for the new generation.
The jubilee laws clearly led to a change in the distribution of capital. However, the Torah does not create any authority with power to enforce these laws. Nor does it specify penalties for people who ignore the Jubilee requirements. OT history suggests that they were mostly ignored. Certainly, by Jesus time, land was accumulated in the hands of a few.
The Jubilee was a voluntary requirement. It is not a justification for compulsory state redistribution.
The challenge for Christians is to find a way to make a voluntary jubilee principle work in our modern world where capital is most plant and equipment, rather than land. I have shown in Secular Capitalism that free market capitalism solves the production problem, but it leads to concentration of wealth, because it rewards the successful, and punishes those who fail. It needs to be complemented by a process that pushes capital out and down to those who do not have any. State redistribution does not work, because it kills incentives, creates corruption, rewards failure and consumes capital.
Christian Generosity is a better solution. The consequence of the gospel should be enhanced giving and sharing. Christians should be finding ways to voluntarily redistribute some of their capital, so that capital is more evenly distributed, and people whose parents lost their capital get an opportunity to be more productive. Unfortunately we have not been very imaginative in this area.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
From time to time Christians get concerned about the enormous salaries paid to the CEOs of some big businesses. We should be careful about making accusations of sin in these situations.
If the board of directors freely offer a CEO a mega salary (without blackmail, lying or coercion) it has not sinned, if the CEO represents value to their company. They are in the best position to decide what the company needs.
If the CEO accepts the offer, he has not sinned.
If the CEO is a Christian, he is accountable to God for what he does with it. Having control of such a large amount of money gives him enormous responsibility. Much is expected from those to whom much is given. The elders he submits to have a right to challenge him about what he does with his income. They should also pray for him that he has the wisdom to do the right thing.
The church does not have the right to declare particular salary levels immoral. When the church tried to set a just price for bread, it got it into all sorts of problem, often causing shortages of food. Efforts by the church to set a just wage are equally misguided.
The problem of mega salaries arises from the proliferation of huge businesses in America. Very few people have the capability, the experience and the energy needed to manage one of these businesses and many who take on the task fail. This means that when a mega business is search for a new CEO it is fishing in a very small pool. Since the demand outstrips demand, the price tends to go up. This is why CEO salaries are so high.
The root of the problem lies not with the salaries, but with the American business model. Limited liability laws and other federal laws that protect big corporates have encouraged the emergence of this mega business model, but this model is wrong. Controlling a large amount of resources with a hierarchy of power is the way of the world. The Christian model is many smaller businesses linked through networks of relationships.
If the laws that protect big business power were removed, the size of American business would shrink. Forming large conglomerates would be unnecessary and too risky. This would lead to a greater number of smaller businesses doing the same things more effectively. These smaller businesses would be much easier to manage, so the demand for superman-CEOS would disappear. Mega salaries would disappear with them.
Labels: CEO salaries
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
The gift of prophecy is not usually directive, so it is dangerous to make life changing decisions on the basis of a prophecy uttered by a person who has not been recognised as a prophet. Prophets will sometimes give direction, but generally this should come as a confirmation of something that God has already spoken to the person concerned. God wants to lead his people by his Spirit. He desires that every believer should learn to hear the Spirit’s voice. A message from a prophet should normally come as a confirmation of something that the Spirit has already spoken.
Getting confirmation from a prophet before we act can be really encouraging, but we need to be very careful. A personal prophecy can be misleading if we have let our own plans and desires control our thinking. Ezekiel gives a surprising warning about this.
When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry (Ezek 14:4).If a person has let something that they want to do become an idol of their heart, God may prophesy to them what they want to hear. If the person acts on the prophecy, it will lead to disaster. God does this to reveal the idol and recapture the person’s heart. This means that we must be careful with personal prophecy. If a prophecy confirms what we want to do, it may just be a sign that we have made our own plans into an "idol in our hearts".
More at Role of a Prophet
Monday, November 08, 2010
The place of watchmen is on the wall, looking out into the direction that he is pointing. The can be lonely, discouraging work. Jesus is pleading with his watchmen to stay on the walls where he needs them to be.
Many watchmen are down in the city chatting with friends, because they got lonely. Others are on the conference circuit, where the money us better. Some are busy trolling the internet, but that is not the same as listening to the Lord. Others grew tired and have gone to sleep. Others have given up, because they are weary of their warnings being rejected.
Jesus urgently needs his watchmen to get back up on the watchtower where he has appointed them.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
When I was a professional pastor, I was frustrated by people that expected me to be an expert every task that has done be done in the church. I soon realise that the body functions best, when every limb and joint is operating I its role. A leg is better at walking than a head. The mouth is better at talking then a foot.
The same principle applies in the Godhead. Jesus is not the best person to do everything that has be done. He was great at creation, when all things were made through him (John 1:3). He was great at earning salvation for humans, because he had bad been born in a human body, yet had not succumbed to the wiles of sin. However, he was not so good at many other tasks. That was why it was better that he went away, because then the Holy Spirit could come. The Holy Spirit would be able to do many things that Jesus could do.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).
It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you (John 16:7).Jesus wanted the Holy Spirit to come, because there were many things that he could do better than Jesus could.
Most Christians believe that Jesus would be better at establishing the Kingdom than the Holy Spirit is. They believe that the Kingdom will not come fully, until Jesus returns. That is why they want him to return soon.
The truth is that Jesus is not capable of establishing the Kingdom of God. He is severely limited by taking on a human body, so he can only be in one place at a time. He could get the angels to destroy all existing human governments, but that would be dangerous, if nothing was ready to go in its place. Jesus would have to create a hierarchy of Christian rulers to establish order, by threatening to destroy any person who refused to obey Jesus commands. This would not be a particularly nice kingdom, because Jesus would simply be replacing one control system with another.
The Holy Spirit is better at building the Kingdom, and can build a better Kingdom than Jesus.
The Holy Spirit can convict the people of the world of guilt and sin. He can speak the truth to those who are convicted of sin, so they can believe (John 16:8,13). He has the power to give those who believe a new heart. Once people are born again, the Holy Spirit can lead them into the truth.
The Spirit of truth… will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears… the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you (John 16:13,15).This means that a Christian can know God’s will by listening to the Holy Spirit. This makes a very different kingdom possible. No huge hierarchy is needed, because the Kingdom can come, by God’s will being done as every believer listens to the voice of the Spirit. This is much better than Jesus using the powers of the world to impose his will through hierarchical power.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Most economic problems are moral problems, not technical ones.
Money is a good example. Many economists treat money as a technical problem that needs a technical solution. For example, the big issue being debated at the moment is how effective the new round of Quantitative Easing will be in getting the American economy going. This debate about efficacy misses the point.
Monetary policy is always a moral issue, as it allows theft to creep into the money system. Quantitative Easing Problems is immoral, whether it works or not. In Biblical times, people cheated by using false scales. Later kings cheated, by debasing the metal in coins. When printed banknotes became the norm, governments really got into printing money. Now it can be done with digits on computers transactions on the central bank’s balance sheet.
The bible is clear about the morality of using false measures for weighing silver or gold, which were the early forms of money. Cheats would use heavy weights when they were buying and light weights when they were selling.
Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly (Deut 25:13-17).Quantitative Easing is just a different technique for achieving the same purpose, so it is morally wrong. God detests quantitative easing, so it will not bring blessing to the land.
Labels: Quantitative Easing
Thursday, November 04, 2010
At that time the young king of Babylon sent and envoy to King Hesitant letters and an agreement. Hesitant received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that King Hesitant did not show them.
Then the prophet went to King Hesitant and asked, “What did those people say, and where did they come from?”
“From a distant land,” Hesitant replied. “They came to me from the Great Babylon.”
The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace,” Hesitant said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
Then the prophet said to Hesitant, “Hear this word: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon the Great. Nothing will be left. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of the North.”
“The word you have spoken is good,” King Hesitant replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime,” and being a good politician that is what he loves.
A watchman was standing on a watchtower. He saw trouble coming and told the shepherds to get the sheep into the safety of the fold. The shepherd asked the watchman to get the sheep into the fold. However, when the watchman tried to round up the sheep, they just scattered. They did not know the voice of the watchman. Only when the shepherds heeded the watchman’s warning and called the sheep did the sheep come into the fold.Watchmen stand on the walls of the city of God so that they can see what God is doing and call the people to respond. Watchmen look out into the darkness and the distance to see what evil is coming and what God is doing. Good relationships between pastors and the watchman are essential. The watchman should communicate what they see to the pastors. The pastors can then prepare the sheep for what is going to happen. The sheep know their shepherds and they will respond to them. If they do not know the voice of the watchmen, they will not respond to them.
More at Watchmen
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
God establishes a prophet to the nation in his position by giving him the wisdom that the ruler needs. The King of Israel knew that Elisha was a prophet, because his words were correct. The King of Babylon trusted Daniel, because he correctly interpreted a dream that none or the Babylonian wise men understood.
This is a very important principle. Many people, including prophets, are willing to critice their government. Prophets to the nation are different. They start their career by assisting their government in tricky situations. Ahab trusted Miciah’s words, because he provided correct advice in the past (1 Kings 22:7,8). Rulers will be glad to have prophets in their court, even if they hate God, because they need their advice.
Prophets will give warning to the rulers of nation when they are taking the wrong direction or taking authority that God has not given them. The Old Testament prophets spent much of their time warning kings who had rejected God's way and were following the way of the world. Strong prophets are the best protection against the power of the state.
Good rulers will welcome correction. The prophet Nathan challenged David when he committed adultery and murder, but remained his friend. Nathan had established his credibility with David much earlier, when the King was planning the temple (1 Sam 7). Every ruler needs a prophet like Nathan who can hear the voice of God and challenge his sin. Rulers are usually surrounded by people trying to "grease up" to them. In this environment a prophetic friend is the best protection against the occupation hazard of hubris. All rulers need a friend to speak God’s word to them.
The prophet to the nation will pray for their government. Samuel prayed all night when his friend King Saul fell from grace (1 Sam 15:11). Every political leader needs a friend of God who will intercede for him in this way.
More at Prophet to the Nation
Labels: Prophet to Nations
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
The story of Abimelech contrasts three different methods of bringing political change (Judges 9). The first two methods bring bad results. 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. 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).
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.
Rebelling against an evil leader will usually fail, because violence produces violence. A person capable of rebellion is also capable of being a dictator.
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!" (Judges 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).
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.