2016-03-23T12:11:07.112-07:00Live Blog: 3-23-2016
2013-10-28T23:19:22.406-07:00Populist Libertarianism – The Quest to Disarm the Morality of the CitizenThe political dialogue in the United States is getting ever more polarized. The rise of the “tea party” republicans in 2010 was a response to many factors one certainly being a deep mistrust of the power of the state. This libertarian, populist impulse opposes any expansion of the use of state power. After arguing extensively for the use of the state to meet the needs of people for both security and welfare, Michael Walzer, in Spheres of Justice, makes a parenthetical statement, which I would like to reflect and build upon. Walzer states, “[this] point [regarding the use of state power] would hardly have to be made were it not for contemporary advances of a minimal or libertarian state, who argue that all such matters (except for defense) should be left to the voluntary efforts of individuals” (SOJ, kindle 1542)Since 1983, when Walzer made this observation, the forward march “of the minimal state” has been steady and drastic. What we have seen in the subsequent decades, in the United States, is an “advancement” based on the maxim that “government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem” (Pres. Ronald Reagan First Inaugural Address, January 20th, 1981). This idea has captured the political mind over a large segment of the American political landscape and, in many ways, has infected the entire body politic. My thesis is that this populist, libertarian ideology has resulted in great confusion with respect to the state’s moral obligation to its citizens. The effect of this ideology has been that the political process has been denied entry into many spheres where the state through political discussion is the appropriate instrument to undertake projects to meet the general and particular needs of the citizenry. Furthermore, if distribution mechanisms, other than the market, are ideologically weakened then those who monopolize money are empowered to dominate these other spheres. Using the model developed by Michael Walzer in “Spheres of Justice”, I will attempt to investigate the effects of this populist, libertarian impulse in American political life and suggest alternative distribution criterion, which are more appropriate to each given good. My aim is to convince the libertarian in all of us that the state is often the necessary instrument with which to more justly distribute key primary goods.Applying the Walzer’s Model to a Critique of LibertarianismTo begin this analysis, I must first define libertarianism as it is being utilized in the American political discussion by its proponents. I do not think I will get much disagreement by saying libertarianism is a philosophy of government that limits government’s role to its minimum. Often this minimum is limited to the defense of the citizens from enemies within and without. Secondly, I define libertarianism as populist. By populist, I mean that it caters to the self-interests of an idealized definition of ordinary people. In its populist guise, this ideology maintains an anti-elitist stance. But because it is libertarian, this ideology serves the interests of the wealthiest Americans by undermining the power of the state to limit the dominance of money in various spheres. In this sense, populist libertarianism is a type of false-consciousness in which ordinary people champion an ideology which does not align with their own self-interests. Why the State Comes into BeingWalzer’s depiction of the function of the state seems somewhat irrefutable. Human beings find strength in numbers. Security is the first need of the population. The state arises in order to meet this security need. Because the security needs of the population are so great and ever present, the state is granted the right to compel able-bodied men to fight. This is the fundamental social contract. Like the Hobbesian calculus, we give the state coercive power in exchange for the security of the population. For the libertarian, this lim[...]
2012-11-28T17:08:18.718-08:00John Rawls - Between Two Enlightenments
2012-11-27T20:19:36.082-08:00Admittedly, I am late to the table concerning John Rawls, but I am becoming quite the fan. I am currently reading "A Theory of Justice" having read, earlier this year, "The Law of Peoples". What I will be doing is journaling my thoughts as I read this monumental work of moral philosophy. My audience for much of what I write is the American evangelical but also more broadly the American electorate. Having studied a bit of Rawls this year, I am coming to the conclusion that Rawls should be mandatory reading for all Americans, probably best as college freshmen. Of course, such a suggestion is merely wishful thinking, but one can hope that the American electorate could become well informed and thoughtful in light of the irrationality that marked the 2012 election cycle. Rawls is a Newtonian figure in the realm of political philosophy. What Newton was to modern physics I believe Rawls is to moral and political philosophy. Rawls makes all things clear when considering how political life ought to work, which brings me to my first point. Johns Rawls is a pillar in the endless line of splendor that is the enlightenment tradition. The enlightenment is based on the idea that through reason mankind can discover the path to ever increasing peace and prosperity. The works of John Rawls and especially "A Theory of Justice" lays forth a methodology by which men and women of reason may discover a conception of justice upon which they can agree. Such a conception of justice becomes the foundation of a well ordered society and, thus, such a program becomes a step forward in the enlightenment experiment. I find such an appeal to reason glorious and dignifying. The vision of the enlightenment can be quite motivational, but likewise, to lose the vision and quest of the enlightenment can be quite disheartening. Such a cynicism rooted in a rejection of the enlightenment principles that assume solutions to fundamental problems can be solved at least partially leads to political and social apathy. The study of Rawls can be a means to overcome such apathy, but it seems that to find inspiration from Rawls, we must first address two obstacles. First, the enlightenment experiment involves faith in reason. There then is the problem of man's political nature. In our current political and social environment, partisanism appears to be undermining the role of reason in the decisions of the various political actors. Would a reading of the likes of Rawls by the American electorate tip the scales from purely political considerations in the decisions of political actors to a more principle-based problem solving founded on a common conception of justice. Needless to say, a more principled and thoughtful politics would be welcomed. A reading of Rawls can help us embrace such a quest for public reasoning based on a common conception of justice. While the obstacle of our political tendencies poses a threat to a more enlightened approach to our political life, our cultures post-modern tendencies likewise poses an obstacle. By post-modern, I mean the belief that all opinions are equal. Ought not an opinion which is based in fantasy as opposed to fact be discredited in the marketplace of ideas, yet it appears of late that such a naive proposition is not a given. In fact, the reality that a fantasy based opinion can survive public discourse is a threat to the enlightenment experiment that is liberal democracy. But maybe just maybe, an appeal to education, indeed an education in the writings of John Rawls and the like, might just give a shot in the arm to our ailing experiment. [...]
2012-11-12T15:26:16.691-08:00Last night, I heard a theologian teach at our church. He started by saying he was very depressed because we are losing the war for evangelical Christianity in America. Needless to say, his depression had to have something to do with the election. He tried to hide his partisanship but it leaked through.
2012-10-04T11:51:28.872-07:00I am a firm believer that democratic ideas are the solution to the current economic problems. That democrats have the solution to economic problems is certainly not always the case. To articulate the democratic ideas on the economy, this is what President Obama should have said.
2012-10-02T05:48:02.627-07:00SPIRITUAL REVOLUTIONWhen I first started writing publically about the church, I started this blog, “21st Century Reformation”. That was 2003 or about 10 years ago. In those years, the emphasis was simply to take seriously the teachings of Jesus and to apply them in a practical way. I was pastoring a church and later participated in a church plant. Both communities evolved into something that, in light of my reading of the scripture, did not look like the early church. Many of my friends encouraged me to meet people half way and to be more “realistic”. The last few years I have tried that half-measured approach for myself, and I have found this road does not make me happy. Therefore, today I return to my first love and am beginning a new quest to walk a road of continual spiritual revolution. Personally, my heart will only find its home in the midst of a community committed to this spiritual revolution. Let the journey and the struggle begin anew. God Plan for Human Community Remains the Same42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed]were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.And again in Acts chapter 4, the church is described as “32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.The biblical description of the early church depicts a community that is both spiritual and revolutionary. Can this be said of the church today? Is the church spiritual? Martin Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of the 20th Century, described the church’s greatest problem as “superficiality”. Is not superficiality in opposition to spirituality? Spirituality seeks to heal what really ails us. A healthy spiritual community develops a spiritual program that helps others find this healing, this freedom, this truly happy and heavenly quality of life. Are today’s Christians distinctly more spiritually healthy and beautiful than the non-Christian? Are our behaviors and attitudes distinct? Would the on-looker describe the peace and endurance of the modern Christian as stunning and awesome? If not, then, we are not yet spiritual. Likewise, would anyone describe the church of today as revolutionary? The early church lived communally, “had all things in common”. “There was not a needy person among them, for all who had lands or houses would sell them…and they would distribute to each as any had need”. Does this describe the church today? Is not the church a staunch defender of the status quo? Is the church meeting the material needs of the world in a revolutionary way? Is materialism a problem in the church as it is in the world? Is simplicity the norm? Is our generosity extravagant? Is the church revolutionary like the early church was? By revolutionary, I mean a community that i[...]
2012-09-24T15:10:00.162-07:00After compiling all the elements of the future perfect storm leading to potential global depression, Roubini states the cause:
2012-03-15T05:30:01.294-07:00Ugandans react with anger to Kony video | Al Jazeera Blogs
2011-12-22T05:52:23.082-08:00Wave of attacks kills dozens amid Iraq's upheaval
2011-12-10T18:45:49.893-08:00Mercedes-Benz executive arrested under Alabama immigration law
2011-12-03T10:30:54.676-08:00US lawmaker blocking Obama’s pick for ambassador
2011-12-03T10:01:42.451-08:00Is Modern Capitalism Sustainable?
2011-12-03T10:35:58.034-08:00It is hard to resist posting an article like this one. Justice compels me.
2011-12-03T10:36:18.535-08:00Discussion of Greece proposing the possibility of 50 percent haircut on debt is a very important news item. For a Christian blogger to speak so much about economics might seem strange to some but consider 20th Century Europe's history of financial meltdowns.
2011-09-02T12:45:19.386-07:00With National Database, India Tries to Reach the Poor - NYTimes.com
2011-08-28T19:06:47.604-07:00The Christian Obligation to Be Generous to the PoorOf all the teachings of Jesus certainly laboring for the well being of the poor is of the most central. Any student of Jesus has to be struck by the ethic of sacrificial love and extravagant giving. Consider this teaching recorded in Luke 12:29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.In my own contemplation of Jesus, one of the most compelling aspects of Jesus is that more than anyone else Jesus challenges me to serve the poor. Many other passages of the New Testament challenge the follower of Jesus concerning our obligation to generosity. 1 John 3:16-18 commands the Christians, 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.Clearly, the Christian is to live by different set of values than those who are not followers of Jesus. As Christians, we are to use any discretionary resources to alleviate the suffering of others as opposed to our own luxury and pleasure. While we are called to serve the poor and suffering of the world, the question remains how ought we to go about doing this. Many churches have food pantries. Many churches give to emergency relief funds. Is this the limit of our obligation? Are we merely to give charity and supply for the destitute emergency needs.While we are commanded as followers of Jesus to demonstrate our faith in the love of God by being generous, we are often troubled by the observation that often charity in the form of aid is ineffective. This observation that often charity might actually do harm is quite demotivating. The question of how we are to help and serve the destitute can be answered if we consider the difference between development and charity. To help understand the difference between development and charity or aid, I will make a few definitions. These definitions are not meant as being necessarily technically accurate but simply to be used as tools to help focus our efforts. By charity, I mean giving materially to meet the immediate needs of people. The food pantry is a great example of charity. Currently, the world is seeing a famine in the Horn of Africa which may be the worst of our generation. Certainly, in these situations charity is absolutely necessary. These people need emergency aid and to stand by and watch such suffering is cold and inhumane. Nonetheless, wisdom compels us to think deeper about what we can do to help poor communities. Wisdom compels us to consider the idea of development. Development is the process of growing a person or a community’s capability to provide freedom from suffering for themselves. Development respects the agency of the individual. For example, about one billion people on the planet lack the cap[...]
2011-08-15T12:31:22.435-07:00Is Capitalism Doomed? - Nouriel Roubini - Project Syndicate:
"The right balance today requires creating jobs partly through additional fiscal stimulus aimed at productive infrastructure investment. It also requires more progressive taxation; more short-term fiscal stimulus with medium- and long-term fiscal discipline; lender-of-last-resort support by monetary authorities to prevent ruinous runs on banks; reduction of the debt burden for insolvent households and other distressed economic agents; and stricter supervision and regulation of a financial system run amok; breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and oligopolistic trusts.
Over time, advanced economies will need to invest in human capital, skills and social safety nets to increase productivity and enable workers to compete, be flexible and thrive in a globalized economy. The alternative is – like in the 1930s - unending stagnation, depression, currency and trade wars, capital controls, financial crisis, sovereign insolvencies, and massive social and political instability."
2011-08-01T19:44:29.817-07:00(image) Famine and Hope in the Horn of Africa - Jeffrey D. Sachs
2011-07-14T18:41:24.718-07:00(image) Ban Ki-moon and the Age of Sustainable Development
2011-07-10T17:36:30.417-07:00In the last Discipleship 101 post, The Kingdom Solves the Human Problem - Intro, I introduced the revolutionary concept that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The human problem is met with the immediate availability of the Kingdom of heaven. The motto of Christianity that “Jesus is the Christ” means precisely that a new heavenly quality of life, which was previously unavailable to human beings, is now “at hand”. The kingdom is available. This is a revolutionary claim, and, to understand the true revolutionary content of this promise, this gospel, we must see with the human problem with God’s eyes. From God’s perspective, what is wrong with human life?To understand God’s perspective on humanity, to see with God’s eyes, we must must accept one preeminent truth: God is a God of compassion. The living God is the defender of the weak. The second truth we must accept is like the first. This God of compassion has a global perspective. The living God sees the oppression and suffering of the world’s poor, and He hears their cry. To understand the kingdom of heaven and its promise, we must see with the eyes of God and feel with the love of God or we will miss the proper application of the kingdom of God. How can we live in the solution if we do not understand the problem? Only if we know the compassion of God will our perspective look at a world of incomprehensible suffering and define the human problem as God defines the human problem. The human problem is suffering. This suffering is the result of man’s inhumanity to man and this violence and oppression is the result of man’s sinfulness. Looking deeper, we find that this violence and oppression is the result of man’s alienation from God. But before we dig into solutions, solutions that include a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we must look at the problem and, indeed, the problem is oppression and suffering. A Word on Problems and SolutionsWhen I speak of the term “problem”, I am using this word in an almost technical sense. By "problem", I mean the observable concrete circumstance that people find themselves in. By problem, I specifically do not mean the causes or the root causes of these objective problems. For example, war and violence is part of the human problem. I make this distinction between problems and causes because unless our theology solves these ultimate outcomes and observable problems, our theology is worthless and irrelevant. If our "solution" does not solve the "problem" how can we call our solution an actual solution. Our so-called solutions are mere theory. Human existence has very concrete problems which prophets and philosophers have attempted to solve for centuries. The Christian faith is that the solution to the human problem is Jesus Christ. The promise of the bible is that God will bring salvation to solve the human problem that is ever before the eyes of all reflective human beings. We are all aware that humanity has a problem. We are cruel and heartless to one another. If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that something is profoundly wrong with humanity. To say that Jesus is the Christ is to say that Jesus has the solution to these self-evident problems. A Quick Look at the Root Cause of the Human ProblemIn the paragraphs ahead, I will look at the details of the human problem by looking at the first chapters of genesis, but for n[...]