Lampstand Removed

Write to the angel of the evangelical church in America: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.1

Being an evangelical myself, I know how readily we blaze past the Revelation letter to the church in Ephesus to get to the letters to those in Thyatira and Pergamum, using Christ’s warnings in those letters as justification for angrily railing against the sexual immorality in American culture. But that’s mistaken—sexual immorality is wrong, no doubt, but the letters in Revelation aren’t written to Ephesus, Thyatira, or wherever; they are written to the churches of those places. The one that applies to us is not the one that best describes America, for America is not the church; the one that applies to us is the one that best describes the church. So, my evangelical brethren, do you “tolerate the woman Jezebel, who…deceives [Christ’s] slaves to commit sexual immorality”2? Do you “hold to the teaching of Balaam…to commit sexual immorality”3? Of course not—that is what you oppose so vociferously—so the warnings to Thyatira and Pergamum are no concern of yours.

I’ll tell you which church you are, and which warning you should heed—it’s the most terrifying of all, I think! You are the church of Ephesus: intolerant of evil, careful judges of truth and falsehood, longsuffering servants who have endured much ridicule, and, unfortunately, almost completely without love for others. Let me ask you: Is it loving to support and identify with a man whose rhetoric clearly demonstrates (regardless of whatever his true feelings may be) hatred of Mexicans, Muslims, and the poor? Even if Mexicans, Muslims, and the poor are your enemies, did not Jesus command you to love your enemies?

I get why you did it: You were afraid—afraid of what persecution the other candidate’s presidency might have meant for you, and reasonably so. But that’s no reason to hate, nor is it any reason to throw your lot in with a man who hates, even if you don’t. It doesn’t matter whether or not we say we love others or even think we love others, but only that we do loving things toward others; the message we evangelicals have sent with what we have done—giving overwhelming, record-setting support4 to a man who hates—is that we hate. In so doing, we have irrevocably damaged our witness. We have so deeply hurt and insulted so many of the lost who are Mexican, Muslim, poor, or identify with any of the many groups our president-elect has indicated that he hates, that we have hamstrung our chances of bringing them to Christ. Even those few of us who didn’t cast a vote of hate have been undermined by the multitude who did.

You have been afraid and you gave into your fear rather than trusting in God. It doesn’t matter how terrible the other candidate was—you could have trusted God, voting third party or abstaining altogether, and He would have delivered you, but you have placed your trust in the strength of men and forsaken your God. The Bible gives us a great story of someone else who could have been delivered by God had he trusted Him but instead gave into fear: King Asa. “Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD…and the kingdom experienced peace under him.”5 Asa was even once forced into battle where he was outnumbered over 3:1, but he trusted in God, cried out to Him for help, and acknowledged that God was the only One who could, and God answered by helping Asa’s army to wipe out every last enemy soldier. But then Asa became like us: fattened on success and afraid to lose it. Another army came up against him decades later, and this time Asa did not ask for God’s help. Instead he relied on his riches and the power of a wicked Gentile king, and when confronted about this sin by the prophet Hanani, he did not repent but imprisoned Hanani and began to oppress the people. He died of a severe disease a few years later, refusing to repent even unto the end, relying on the strength of human doctors over the strength of God.6

We have been warned, just as Asa was, and we have known that God’s judgement is coming against us for many years—we can see it all around as the attacks on us by secular culture grow stronger and more aggressive. Yet we continue to rely in the strength of men, not God, crying out to government saviors instead of trusting the only One who can actually save us. We have been given a chance to repent, to refrain from voting for a strong but wicked candidate and let the chips fall where they may, trusting God to deliver us from whatever may come, but, like Asa, we keep refusing to repent, all the while allowing our fear to disfigure us into creatures of hatred. And the terrible judgement of God is soon to come upon us for it if we don’t repent—assuming it’s not already too late. God will remove our lampstand from its place—He will remove the American evangelical church from His presence7, for our lack of love makes it clear that, regardless of our efforts with regard to His laws and His truth, we are no longer His church.

Maybe our new president is a temporary reprieve; maybe God will use him to delay our judgement long enough to give us another chance to repent, but I wouldn’t count on it. God can always use us—even amidst our failures—to accomplish His good purposes, but our failures are rapidly reaching the point where our best use to Him may be simply as another dreadful example of His righteous judgement. Judgement is coming upon us soon—upon the church, not upon America—and whether it comes at the hands of this wicked human king in whom we have placed our trust, abusing whatever extraordinary executive powers of surveillance or detainment or suppression of dissent that we eagerly allow him to usurp “for our protection”, or through events beyond his control that beset us during his reign, or at the hands of the tyrant sure to follow afterward, who will undoubtedly eventually turn any new executive powers against us, you can be certain of one thing: It will surely come if we don’t repent now and start loving others, not just in word, but also in deed.

  1. Revelation 2:1-5, (HCSB, v.1 modified for illustrative purposes)
  2. Revelation 2:20 (HCSB)
  3. Revelation 2:14 (HCSB)
  4. Pew Research reports that exit polls indicated that 81% of “white born-again evangelicals” voted for the president-elect—a larger percentage of this demographic than has ever gone to any candidate for as long as the statistic has been measured.
  5. 2 Chronicles 14:2, 5
  6. You can read Asa’s whole story in 2 Chronicles 14-16.
  7. Revelation 1:20 makes this clear: “…the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (emphasis added)

God’s Love Language

Today is Election Day, and since anyone who may be reading this right now is probably burnt out on political acrimony, I’ve decided not to come back from my long break from posting with a discussion of why I voted for Gary Johnson and why you should have also (I’ll save that for a later post). Instead I thought it might be a nice break to talk about something spiritual I have learned—it might be useful to you!

I mentioned in my previous post, which, I apologize, was six months ago, that my wife and I have been going through Blackaby’s Experiencing God study, and one thing that challenged me early on was the notion that God pursues a love relationship with me. From what I understand, since we always hear God referred to as “Father”, we subconsciously attribute our human father’s traits to God, myself included, so any time I’ve heard about “the Father’s love” or “God is love”, I’ve subconsciously assumed that God’s love relationship with me is identical to my dad’s.

Now, growing up (he seems better about it now), my dad’s love was very service oriented—Dr. Chapman would say that dad’s “love language” is “acts of service”1—and apparently conditional upon my cheerful obedience (normally to commands to serve him in some way). That is to say, dad tried to show me that he loved me by going to work in order to provide for my needs, rather than by giving me presents or spending lots of time with me, and he became very angry, and his words very unloving, whenever I didn’t reciprocate with my own acts of service, like voluntarily waking up early on a Saturday to mow the lawn with a smile on my face, but rather complained or looked dour when ordered to do so. I understand now that his negative reaction was because he felt unloved by me, but at the time it seemed like he only loved me when I was obediently sacrificing my time and energy to work for him. I still subconsciously feel like my value to others is wholly dependent upon the amount of service I do for them without asking—I have small panic attacks whenever I see my wife doing dishes that I haven’t had a chance to get to first, and less small panic attacks whenever she asks me to do something—when she has a need I haven’t anticipated.

I also subconsciously assume that I only have value to God insofar as I work for Him and obey His commands. No doubt there is a component of service and obedience to any healthy relationship with and love for God, but focusing only on this element has been very drudging and disheartening—it has seemed like God keeps demanding work and obedience but only occasionally reciprocates with an act of service for me, “Not that I deserve any,” says the guilt, “since He already committed the greatest possible act of service by sending His Son to die to save me from the eternal consequences of my sin.” During the course of Experiencing God, however, it occurred to me to ask, “What is God’s love language?” Is it really acts of service, or is it quality time (as I thought the study might have been suggesting at the time)?

After some prayer and time spent outside praising God for His good qualities (an exercise suggested by the study, one which I must confess was rather uncomfortable for me during the first several minutes), it occurred to me that if everyone is created in God’s image, then we are reflections of Him, and our attributes and emotions must also be derived from His attributes and emotions. Men are strong and functional because He is strong and functional; women are gentle and beautiful because He is gentle and beautiful. We can feel joy and pain because He can feel joy and pain. It occurred to me that, if God has attributes both “masculine” and “feminine”, if He possesses the fullness of all traits found in greater or lesser degreein each of His images, then this must be true of love languages also—God’s love language is all of them; there are five of them because God loves and feels loved in five different ways:

  • Gifts – in the Old Testament, God ordained the “tithe”—the giving to Him of the best 10% of the fruits of one’s labor; in the New Testament, that has been expanded to the giving of one’s entire self to Him
  • Quality Time – the Bible is full of exhortations to “meditate” on God’s words—to immerse oneself in prayer, reading the Bible (and other Christian books), learning about Him, etc.
  • Words of Affirmation – the book of Psalms is filled to the brim with prayers of praise of God, His character, His works
  • Acts of Service – God desires obedience to His commands, not just to live righteously, but to care for the poor, heal the sick, etc.
  • Physical Touch – I had to think about this one for a minute, but I’m pretty sure it’s fellowship with the body of believers—any time we go to church or small group, we see, shake hands with, and even hug fellow images of God, other members of His “body”

These are not mutually exclusive and are often connected—the service act of healing the sick or comforting those who mourn could also be considered physical touch, and the latter could also be words of affirmation and quality time. I’d even go so far as to say that any time we express love to others, in whatever way we do it, we are expressing it to God, and He is expressing it to them through us. The point is, though, that though each one of us may only feel and show love in one or two of these ways and not care less about the others, God feels and shows love in all of them, and desires to be loved in all of them. Loving Him through acts of service may come most naturally to me, but He also wants me to love Him through spending quality time with Him. This is a challenge for me, but hopefully having a wife whose primary love language is quality time is helping me to learn that language better.

So that will be my challenge to you this Election Day: Figure out how you normally love and feel loved by God, and today try to love Him in a different way and think about the other ways He has shown you that He loves you which you might not have noticed. Maybe it will encourage you as much as it has me.

  1. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Five Love Languages Theory states that everyone has a primary mode in which they feel, and consequently also express, love. The five languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. I’ve never actually read Dr. Chapman’s book myself (it’s thoroughly explained and widely discussed in evangelical circles), so I’m sorry if he already came up with and explained what I’m talking about here.

Evangelicals for Trump!

My wife and I have been doing Blackaby’s Experiencing God study recently, and I thought this week’s memory verse was particularly applicable to the current state of evangelical politics: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7). I wonder how many of us Christians really trust in God, and how many actually trust in our modern equivalent of chariots and horses—tanks and missiles and the omnipotent government who controls them. If we actually did trust God, would we really say things like “Hillary Clinton as president would be the worst thing for this country—she will destroy America” or “Not voting for Donald Trump is basically a vote for the enemy”? If we really trusted God, would it matter who controlled State power?

The answer, of course, is no, and yet so much evangelical vitriol has sprung up around the Trump candidacy that it seems clear that a large portion of us place more faith for salvation in getting the right guy—the right-wing guy—into office than we do in the God Who worked astounding miracles in Egypt to free His people, Who saves us from the enormous power of sin and death, and Who even created the entire universe and all who are in it—including presidential candidates. The good news is that we evangelicals are split on the Trump issue—many of us already understand that we can’t support him, even though he is the Republican. The bad news is that we evangelicals are split on the Trump issue—many of us are convinced that he is our only hope for salvation, just as we have been convinced of every presidential candidate from our party before him. But it does not matter who becomes president—whether Trump or Clinton or Johnson (although I’d personally prefer the latter, despite his imperfections)—God will still be God, and Christ will still be our only real hope for salvation, both from damnation in the next life and the troubles of this life.

My friends, you may not support Mr. Trump if you are a Christian. Certainly you can, but to do so is to compromise your own faith and principles. To do so is to say that God cannot work, cannot save or help you, cannot be glorified, if someone else controls the government. To do so is to create a false god—an idol—out of State power and of Mr. Trump himself, and we should all know how God feels about idols (hint: it’s the subject of the first and second commandments). Even such prominent evangelicals as Eric Metaxas, who for some reason frequently impinges upon my radar these days, fall victim to this sin, rationalizing away their idolatry by saying that the Trump candidacy (and, recently, Trump’s “feud” with Dr. Moore of the SBC1) is “complex” or “complicated”,2 but this is a lie. Idolatry is not complicated.

I don’t meant to pick on Mr. Metaxas exclusively—there’s plenty of rationalization to go around. “But Hillary is for abortion!” many cry. Are you sure Donald Trump isn’t? After all, he is very inconsistent and has even said that everything is negotiable. Are you sure he could even do anything about it if he were anti-abortion? Abortion isn’t a matter of legislation or executive order but rather a matter of constitutional (mis)interpretation—something quite beyond the purview of the president. Even if we were sure he was anti-abortion and could fix it with a snap of his finger, is being a single issue voter really becoming of a Christian? Osama bin Laden was openly anti-abortion and anti-gay, so would you have voted for him if he ran as a Republican? Wouldn’t it be better to vote for someone who, on average, favors the most life and liberty for all and religious freedom for all, not just us Christians, even if they’re misguided about this single issue? “But at least he’ll put a conservative on the Supreme Court!” many others cry out in obvious rationalization, “And that could move us closer to reversing the constitutional misinterpretations that have led to abortion, Obamacare, etc!” Are you sure, given Mr. Trump’s inconsistency and negotiability? Will God be any more or less able either way? “But God can still work through an evil man—even Trump—just like He did in the Bible over and over!” you may rationalize. But couldn’t the same be said of Mrs. Clinton and be just as justifiable?

“But if we don’t vote for him, we’ll split the vote and hand the presidency to Hillary!” First of all, “splitting the vote” is a load of hogwash designed to ensure that you do exactly what you end up doing—voting for a terrible two-party candidate out of mistaken loyalty to a party rather than voting for a better third-party candidate out of loyalty to God and to the principles which stem from your faith in Him. Thanks to the electoral college system, it would take far, far more than just you to vote third-party (or refrain from voting) before a state flips the other way and hands the victory to the other party. For example, in Texas, over one fourth of those who voted for Mr. Romney in 2012—over 1.25 million people—would have had to vote independent before the state would have flipped to Mr. Obama, and here in Tennessee, it would have had to have been over one third—500,000—of the people who voted for Mr. Romney.3 The possibility of support for an independent candidate causing a state to flip really only exists in Ohio and Florida, but even then, is God any less powerful if a (gasp!) Democrat wins the White House? Would Christ be any less mighty to save if Mrs. Clinton became president? Would He be any more mighty to save if Mr. Trump becomes president?

We have to give up this false belief that any Republican is better than any Democrat and that not voting for one is a vote for the other. It’s not left versus right anymore (if it ever even was); it’s State versus liberty: A State which will eventually use its omnipotence, which we gave it, to persecute and kill us for our beliefs when it finally falls into the wrong hands, versus a liberty that is added unto us for free if we seek first the kingdom of God by living as Christ—as servants and lovers of others, not as conquerors or oppressors. Supporting a right-wing tyrant, even if only to oppose a left-wing tyrant, is still to further the cause of tyranny and evil. Even the limited persecution we Christians face in America today under tyrannical left-wing rulers was only made possible by the expansion of government powers under their tyrannical right-wing predecessors—predecessors supported by us Christians! Besides, this Republican/Democrat anxiety is idolatry, for it fails to trust in God and instead places trust in State power and the human who controls it. God is not so impotent as to need Donald Trump or any Republican in order to bring about an end to abortion, homosexuality, or any other sinful practice.

Don’t be an idolater—don’t vote for Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton; don’t worship the power of the State. Vote for the Libertarian candidate who values your religious liberty or for someone else who more closely represents your beliefs, or don’t vote at all. Worship GOD, not GOP.

  1. Time has a pretty decent article with the details if you’re unfamiliar.
  2. For example, see hour two of his program from this past Friday.
  3. “But I don’t want to waste my vote!” is another rationalization for supporting evil along these same lines. If anything, based on these examples, your vote is wasted when you cast it for one of the two major parties, for it is simply lost in the noise of all the others voting for those parties. That is to say, why bother voting for a Republican who is guaranteed to win your state regardless of your vote? A third-party or independent vote, on the other hand, is more noticeable and will attract attention both to the cause of that party or candidate and to your disapproval of the failed system which brought you two terrible mainstream candidates in the first place. This is especially true if you can pick up substantial numbers in even one state.

The Semantics of “Capitalism”

I’ve written a bit recently about socialism—at least in the sense that is meant by Bernie Sanders and company—but I want to make it clear that as much as I’m opposed to socialism or social democracy, I’m also opposed to capitalism. Our modern socialists are very correct to note that our current system is disastrously broken and is destroying the vast majority of the people to enrich a tiny few.

Before I go on, I should clarify what is meant by the word “capitalism”. I’ve mentioned before in a recent post and in one of my earliest posts that getting common definitions nailed down is very important. If we have different conceptions of the same word, I may come across as extolling virtue in a concept you know to be villainous, or I may deceive you into supporting something villainous by deliberately mis-defining it as something virtuous you do support. So by “capitalism” I mean what it originally meant and still means to everyone but those deceived about its true nature: an ideology whose basis—whose axiom, if you will—is the accumulation of wealth.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the accumulation of wealth per se, but when an ideology sets that as its overriding foundational principle, then it becomes the goal to be achieved by any means necessary, and that is when things go wrong. That is why socialists easily see so many problems in our system—a healthy self-interest has turned into unhealthy greed. That is why there is a government—not to stem the tide of this greed, as socialists believe, but to act as an outlet for it, an avenue through which avarice can more effectively accomplish its goal. It is far easier to amass a fortune when people just give you their money than when you work for it, so why not deceive people into giving you mandatory “taxes” in exchange for “protection” from devastating wars, economic calamity, or oppressive employers, protection which never really materializes? It is far easier to eliminate smaller competitors by deceiving the people into accepting burdensome statutes and regulations than by producing a higher quality product or service that the people will prefer.

As I’ve said before, government has never existed to serve the people; it exists to serve the oligarchy, be they feudal kings and nobles or corporate executives and bankers. People in centuries past were ignorant enough to believe they needed the king’s government for protection; people today are smart enough to know they don’t need a king’s protection, but most are still gullible enough to believe they need a capitalist “free-market” government or a populist government “of the people” for protection, both of which exist, in reality, to serve their hidden masters. Our modern kings aren’t even all that hidden—they may be slightly obscured from view by the democratic process, which turns the people’s ire away from the kings and pits them instead against each other, but they don’t really make much other effort to hide their influence over government policy because we are too distracted fighting our imaginary Republican or Democratic enemies. In centuries past to speak against the king was treason, an offense for which the loyal people would ensure you were found out and punished, rather than opening their eyes to the truth of liberty. Although such free speech is no longer punishable by death, today is really no different—if you speak against the party or the American concept of government in general, the loyal people will see to it that you are punished with the full force of their vociferous wrath, rather than opening their eyes to the truth of liberty.

I believe we “anarcho-capitalists”, therefore, give ourselves a bad reputation by including the word “capitalist” in our ideology’s name. “Market anarchism” would be a better term, for we really are not capitalist; we believe in free markets. Capitalists, thanks to the confusion of terms, have been able to deceive most Americans, including ourselves, into believing that free markets and capitalism are the same thing—they’re not, as the above should make clear. Capitalism hates a truly free market because, without the ability to bring the force of government to bear against their customers and competitors, capitalists have tremendous roadblocks to feeding their greed. Through this deception, capitalists have convinced believers in the free market, Libertarians and Republicans, to defend a system whose markets are not actually free, to support capitalism to their own detriment because they believe it entails economic freedoms which it actually doesn’t. Through this deception, they have convinced opponents of capitalism, Democrats, to oppose a system which would actually free them from their current economic slavery to capitalists, to oppose the free market to their own detriment because they believe it entails economic oppressions which it actually doesn’t. Furthermore, this deception has convinced all of us that the other side is our enemy, because one side thinks it supports capitalism, the mortal enemy of the other side, when in fact it does not, and the other side thinks it opposes free markets, when in fact it does not.

Those of us who favor free markets have often tried to make a distinction between capitalism and what we call “crony capitalism”, but this is disingenuous, I think, because in reality capitalism is crony capitalism and always has been. I don’t mind continuing to use this new term of ours, but rather than getting bogged down in semantics, trying to persuade our modern socialist friends to support something we call “capitalism” because it’s different from what they call capitalism, we should recognize that their entire understanding of capitalism is actually quite accurate and instead try to gain their support by showing them how the free market is the true enemy of the capitalism they rightfully detest.

Taxation is Theft

Taxation is theft. Think about it—set aside your decades of programming, and imagine a situation in which someone comes to your door, gun in hand, and demands that you hand over thousands of dollars or else he will kidnap you or kill you if you resist the kidnapping. This is a robbery, right? Now imagine that this person has a shiny silver badge that says “police”—does his uniform really change what is happening here? Not in the least—you are being threatened with violence unless you surrender your rightful property—you are being stolen from, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if the thief euphemistically calls this theft “taxes”; it is still theft, and if you refuse to pay, your fate will be no better than if the police officer had been an armed robber.

It amazes me how difficult this is to grasp—how difficult it was for me to grasp—but our programming really has been thorough. Even a child would easily recognize the theft if two of her friends formed a government and voted to appropriate her bike as “taxes”, so why do we adults fail to recognize it? “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,” we were told. Oh yeah? So a “civilized” society is one in which police officers routinely and with impunity brutalize as-yet innocent citizens with body slams, choke holds, and pepper spray? —whose military, many times larger than every other military in the world, wages “preemptive war” (also known as invasion) all across the globe? —whose government defies its own constitution, spying on every email and phone call of every citizen, and which dictates what its citizens can and cannot put in their bodies, from raw milk to marijuana to Xanax, slapping felony charges and imprisonment on anyone who makes their own informed decision? Next they’ll be telling us that Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia or the Roman Empire were civilized—I mean, they paid taxes, too, you know!

“But taxation is different because we get services for our tax dollars,” we were told. So do the victims of a protection racket—that doesn’t mean it’s not theft. Would you seriously not purchase a subscription to an emergency services provider if the municipal government wasn’t there to force you to buy theirs? Would you seriously not be able to buy water and electricity if the state government wasn’t there to provide it? Would you seriously have no access to retirement savings plans if the Federal government wasn’t there to force you to contribute 6.2% of your paycheck to the plan they sponsor? Would you seriously not be able to get a lower rate for a higher quality of any service provided by a free and competitive market rather than by a monopoly with no obligation to please its customers?

And what about all of the other things the government does which don’t serve us at all? Is it really a service to provide multi-billion dollar bailouts to banks and automotive corporations whose management is so inept that they can’t stay in business? Is it really a service to us when “incentives” are provided to corporations to come to our state and “create jobs” when we, being taxpayers, obviously already have jobs or, worse, own small businesses which now find it harder to compete because we don’t receive the same favors? Is it really a service to mandate giving to “charities” which waste a huge portion of our “donation” on inefficient, gargantuan bureaucracies? Is it really a service to stir up anti-American hatred and even terrorism by meddling in the internal affairs of other nations, supporting this or that puppet dictator or this or that “moderate” rebel group?

Then again, maybe some of us are satisfied with all of these “services” and would happily pay the government for them. What gives us the right to force our less enthusiastic neighbor to pay for them also? Electing a representative who will vote for a statute which creates an agency to be funded with money taken from other taxpayers who don’t support such a program—money which, ultimately, will be stolen from them at gunpoint should they resist—makes us no less thieves than if we had held the gun to our neighbor’s head ourselves. All we accomplish in doing this is legitimizing it when our neighbor turns the tables and steals from us for something he supports and we don’t—we’ll have no room to complain when he wants to fund mandatory underwater basket-weaving classes or a “Manifest Destiny” invasion of Mexico and Canada with our money.

“But we consent to taxes by voting,” we were told. I’ve never voted to be taxed. Even someone who has never voted for anything or whose votes always fail still gets taxed, so what good is a vote if it can simply be overridden by the vote of another? What good is voting if robbers can simply outvote you? “But we all agreed to taxes as part of the social contract.” What social contract? I’ve certainly never been offered a contract to sign, yet there is nowhere in the world I could go to escape its terms. Who signed this contract on our behalf, and what right did they have to bind us to it without consulting us first?

When it comes down to it, taxation looks exactly the same as theft. You may be giving a portion of your tax bill willingly to purchase “services” you do like, but in a lot of cases that’s only because you have no choice—the government has “legally” arranged it so that its product is the only one available. The rest of your bill, though, and I’d dare say the majority of it, you’re only giving for the same reason you would give your wallet to a mugger or pay the mafia for “protection”—because you know that if you refuse to pay, they’ll eventually come to take your other property, your freedom, and, if push comes to shove, your life. No, no matter how you slice it, taxation is theft. Anyone who tells you otherwise is the thief.

“If taxation without consent is robbery, the United States government has never had, has not now, and is never likely to have, a single honest dollar in its treasury. If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized. If any man’s money can be taken by a so-called government, without his own personal consent, all his other rights are taken with it; for with his money the government can, and will, hire soldiers to stand over him, compel him to submit to its arbitrary will, and kill him if he resists.”

—Lysander Spooner

“Free” College – Who Really Wins?

Sometimes I find cognitive dissonance very amusing. Those among my friends who “feel the Bern” on the one hand rage against the rich and powerful corporate elite who manipulate our government (or, as I would contend, are the real government, but that’s a subject for another time), yet on the other hand are so enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders because his flagship youth vote–getting program is “free” college education. And yes, I did say “free”, because college will never actually be free until the professors and janitors work for free and get free groceries, clothing, transportation, and housing (so they can afford to work for free), until construction companies build college campuses for free using materials they got for free, until utility companies deliver free power and water, and so on. Just because you don’t pay for something doesn’t mean it’s free—in fact, odds are that means it’s expensive since, not paying for it, you don’t care what it costs.1, 2

These may not seem like contradictory positions at first glance, but I would pose the question, why do you want a college education? What specifically does a college education provide you that you can’t get in other ways? Certainly no information can be learned at college that can’t be learned through independent study at a library or on the internet. Certainly no expertise from experienced professionals can be gained at college that can’t be learned through networking and mentoring with the same types of professionals. Certainly no hands-on experience can be gained at college that couldn’t be gained in a home workshop.3 There is only one thing college education provides, and that is a piece of paper stating that what knowledge and experience you have, you gained at a college.

And there’s only one reason to have that piece of paper: in order to get a job, or more specifically, a better job than you could have gotten without it. You don’t need it to start or run a business—your clients will value the quality of your product or service, not the grade you got in art history. You don’t need it to care for your family, to grow your own food, to be an inspiring musician or actor or author or speaker, but if you want a “good” job—if you to spend your days working for someone other than yourself—you must have that piece of paper. And this is what makes the job-oriented focus of modern left-wing politics so incoherent—if you get a job with your college degree, you’ll almost inevitably be working directly for the same corporate elite you hate for manipulating the government. Why waste your time enriching them with your productivity when you could compete with them and sell your productivity to your own clients? Why waste four years in college for a degree that leaves you no more qualified to run your own restaurant or retail boutique, to design web sites or video games, to build houses, or to perform any other service that those around you find valuable?

But there’s a further cognitive dissonance here—if you give government the power to pay for college, you can’t just waste taxpayer dollars on any old college. It has to be one that’s providing a “good” education—but who decides that? It will be decided by the government to whom you gave the power when you told them to pay for college and, by extension, the corporate elite who manipulate the government. Is that really who you want deciding what constitutes a “good” education? Won’t they just end up pushing “education” that churns out highly skilled worker bees and downplaying—or even discriminating against4—education that doesn’t suit their needs? This should not seem farfetched when you consider, for example, that Boeing (part of the “military-industrial complex” and, therefore, of the corporate elite) has already been positioning itself this way in the education system of South Carolina, one of the most crony-capitalist states in the country.5

If you don’t like corporate elitism, big oil, Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, etc., you’re far better off opposing any growth in government—including in education—and not even bothering with college, for that matter, instead educating yourself with whatever you need to know to run your own business. It’s a truly incoherent position to oppose corporate control of government while simultaneously demanding that government pay for college, but from it you can get a good sense of how Republicans and Democrats in reality are merely two arms of the same monster. The right hand “taxes” the people and gives that money to corporations “to create jobs”, and now the left hand wants to “tax” the people and give that money to colleges “to educate the people”—a pretty euphemism for “training the masses to fill corporate jobs”. Either way, you’re taxed and corporations benefit. Heads they win, tails you lose.

1. This report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows clearly that rising tuition costs are already exactly what happens thanks to Federal student loan subsidy. If government-subsidized college is what has made college tuition unaffordable, how can even more subsidy make it affordable?

2. And—don’t be fooled—do you honestly think you won’t be paying for this “free” education? Nonsense! You may not be writing a check to a university or a student loan servicer under this plan, but you will eventually be writing a bigger check to Uncle Sam for all the extra debt he racked up in your name to pay for your “free” college.

3. Except, perhaps, surgery, but then again, medicine was most commonly learned through apprenticeship rather than medical school until little over a century ago.

4. Christians, for example, could find that since private religiously affiliated universities, by teaching creationism over evolution, fail to conform to mainstream standards of education, they could therefore end up likely targets for funding disqualification. Conversely, Christians could conceivably usurp this process, as they always try—often successfully—to do with government processes, and target secular institutions for failing to teach creationism.

5. See this article for some details.

Socialism: The Most Dangerous Optimism

I’ve noticed that my socialist1 friends who are “feeling the Bern”, of whom I have a few, have an overly—and dangerously—optimistic view of government. In truth, there is nothing wrong with an awareness of social responsibility or the desire to alert and encourage others to fulfill their share of the responsibility. There is, of course, harm in the socialist method of fulfilling that responsibility—namely, taking money from innocent third parties (“taxation” or, more accurately, theft) and giving it to those in need in the form of welfare payments, housing and healthcare subsidies, “free” education, etc.—but let’s set that aside for a moment, since government will “tax” some and give to others anyway, whether it’s socialist or capitalist. Assuming that plunder were morally justifiable, so long as the proceeds were given to those matching some reasonable definition of “poor”, socialists would still be foolishly optimistic to use government to accomplish this.

I say foolish and optimistic because, my socialist friends, you have bought into the lie that our government is “of the people, by the people, for the people” and can therefore be used to the people’s benefit. Governments have never been for the people, and ours is no different.2 Government is, always has been, and always will be, a tool for the rich and powerful to benefit at the expense of the people. It may have been more overt in centuries past, when kings or aristocrats or white land-owners openly oppressed the people, but just because it’s covert now doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly the same—politically connected corporate and banking elite are simply our new kings. On some level you know this, otherwise there wouldn’t have been such movements as Occupy Wall Street, yet you fail to understand that since they control the government, there is absolutely no way for you to ever use government against them.

There has never been one government victory of the people over this elite in our nation’s entire history. Our beloved founders, who “freed” us from the Crown, were nearly all elitists whose subsequent presidential administrations were nearly 100% managed by elite land- and business-owners and lawyers.3 Legendary Lincoln’s cabinet and other high-level appointments were 92.3% elite (and heavily railroad-oriented—the “big oil” of his day), and “Anti-monopoly” Teddy Roosevelt appointed 88.9% elites4. The only notable outliers are Andrew Johnson, who was impeached; Wilson, whose creation of the income tax and the Federal Reserve were quickly appropriated by (if not conceived outright by) the banking elite and have resulted in a miserably heavy tax and inflation burden upon the people; FDR/Truman, whose vast expansion of Federal power “for the people” and for the war effort provided much more power for subsequent administrations (*cough* Eisenhower) to abuse on behalf of their corporate sponsors, not to mention that FDR’s family background made him an elite in his own right; and Kennedy, who was assassinated. None of this is to mention the wealth and connectedness of Congress, whose “check and balance” against the president severely hinders any real pro-people reforms he may have in mind.

FDR’s legacy should give Sandersian socialists particular pause. Although his New Deal may be regarded as a victory for oppressed people, in reality it just continued a pattern of explosive growth of government which soon falls into the hands of the oppressors. Social Security, for example, created an enormous pot of wealth easily “borrowed against” (i.e. raided for irresponsible government largess) by future administrations and congresses, leaving future generations (i.e. us) left to pick up the pieces of a bankrupted system. Maybe Bernie Sanders is a great guy, maybe he means well, maybe “billionaires can’t buy Bernie”, and maybe “free” college could provide a helping hand to a few million kids over the next four or even eight years. But what happens after that? What happens when universities realize they can raise tuition boundlessly since Bernie’s taxpayers would now be legally required to foot the bill?5 What happens when whatever growth in government he causes falls firmly back into the hands of the corporate elite who will control the next administration (or the latter half of his)?

Government only exists by the consent of the governed, but that means very little when the governed believe they are dependent on government for survival. Do you honestly think the kings of old or the Hitlers of the last century maintained an iron grip on their people because they were simply that strong? Of course not—the people consented, and eagerly. “Without the king, who will protect us from other invading kings?” “Without Hitler, who will give us economic prosperity and low unemployment?” “Without social programs, who will provide for us during retirement and give us enough education to get a good job6?” Don’t be so optimistic as to consent to more government in the hopes that this time will finally be different, because it won’t be. If you create additional powers and revenue streams for the government, they will be co-opted and used against you by those who really run the government: not you, the people, but the rich and powerful. Your only real hope is less government—a lot less.

1. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that it’s important to understand what is meant by the terms to be used in any discussion. Without this understanding, it is easy for our opponents to sidestep a valid point by arguing against a straw man whose definition differs greatly from our own (as in the case of so-called “educated” individuals who will debate whether America is a democracy or a republic when you are trying to pros and cons of the democratic process). Worse still, it is easy for our manipulators to confuse us by giving something good (social responsibility) the same name (“socialism”) as something proven to be terrible (Marxism). That being said, here by socialism I more refer to social democracy (what Bernie Sanders calls “democratic socialism” and his supporters often call simply “socialism”).

2. Granted, with each “revolution” in form comes a little more apparent freedom and a slight broadening of the ruling class, but I put the word in quotes because there has never been a true revolution that turned the system on its head as we have been led to believe. The Magna Carta only allowed wealthy landowners to rule with the kings, the US Constitution only added the democratic process as a layer of abstraction to obfuscate the kings (now called bankers and corporate executives), and the Emancipation Proclamation and the Nineteenth Amendment only allowed blacks and women to participate in that ineffective token process. Nothing has ever actually eliminated kings because nothing has ever actually eliminated government—the tool by which kings maintain their existence.

3. This and subsequent statistics are taken from Philip H. Burch, Jr.’s Elites in American History (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981).

4. Mr. Roosevelt also regularly avoided going after monopolies affiliated with J.P. Morgan—it was, instead, the Rockefellers who were his primary target.

5. This report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that this is already exactly what happens thanks to Federal student loan subsidy. If government-subsidized college is what has made college tuition unaffordable, how can even more subsidy make it affordable?

6. Inevitably, a job for the corporate and banking elite!