Thursday, April 30, 2009

It’s All A Matter of Words


plus:

‘Needless to say’

‘partnering’ and the general tendency toward ‘verbing’ everything!

And a few misused words and phrases that should be purged from the collective vocabulary:

1.  ‘I was like’ for ‘I said’ (the second is shorter anyway!)

2.  ‘She went’ for ‘she said’ (where, exactly, has she gone?)

3.  The companion, “And so I go . . .’ for ‘I said’

3.  ‘He was literally shouting at me’ (unless the context might allow ‘shouting’ to have some figurative meaning, ‘literally’ here is literally not needed – I mean, it’s not needed!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tyranny exercised in the name of the people


“Until our time it had been supposed that despotism was odious, under whatever form it appeared. But it is a discovery of modern days that there are such things as legitimate tyranny and holy injustice, provided they are exercised in the name of the people.” - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America

Kent comments:

Somehow, this sounds very much like, not just the 1830s, but the 2000s.  It sounds like the U.S. of A. today.  It sounds like the Obama administration!

Hugo Says . . .


Hugo Chavez Says Venezuelan Socialism Has Begun to Reach U.S. under Obama
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
By Edwin Mora

(CNSNews.com) - Inspired by his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Americas Summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared on Sunday that Venezuelan socialism has begun to reach the United States under the Obama administration.

Kent comments:

Hugo may be a commie thug dictator, but he does seem to recognize his own kind, doesn’t he?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eco-Cranks


D.C. Area Families Take Green to the Extreme

Eco-Enthusiasts Step on Some Toes in a Bid to Reduce Their Carbon Footprints

By David A. Fahrenthold

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 20, 2009

Near Leesburg, a woman parks her hybrid car and erases its computer memory. She doesn't want her husband to find out she's getting just 30-something miles per gallon.

In Takoma Park, a dirty plastic to-go container forces a woman to face down her brother. He thinks she should wash it out and reuse it at another restaurant. She thinks . . . no.

And in western Loudoun County, a family quietly defies a mother's rules. She likes locally raised bacon, whole-grain bread and raw milk. But somebody keeps smuggling in Chef Boyardee.

This is life on the dark -- or at least the cranky -- side of green.

Across the Washington region, a few residents have embraced eco-friendly living with a fervor that makes Al Gore look like an oil company lobbyist. They give up everything from furnace heat (too many emissions) to store-bought meat (too much factory farming) to plans for a second child (too much of everything, given the average American's environmental impact).

Kent comments:

Nutty? – yes.  But in a free society, people have a right to be nutty, so long as they don’t infringe on the equal rights of others.  Often these points of nuttiness have that religious tinge I have mentioned often lately.  For example, giving up plans for a second child indicates a distaste for God’s commandment to ‘fill the earth.’  Contrary to what some of these enviro-cranks like to spout, the earth is not nearly full.

But, again, crankiness is the prerogative of the free.

But there is, as we know, much more than the cranky side of ‘green.’  (A word which better describes Kermit the Frog.)  There is also a very dark side – unacknowledged in this article – which no free people can afford to ignore.

If you want to give up your furnace, that is your right.  But if you want to force others to give up their furnaces, you are very wrong.  And that is also the case if your attempt to force others into your environmental idiocy takes the form of manipulating energy policy.

There came a time when people who desired freedom had to wage a war against the British Crown.  Is there a time coming when those love freedom will have to wage a war – perhaps even a literal one, as undesirable as that would be – against the dark side of environmentalism?

Selling Environmentalism at Walmart


I usually like Walmart.  I also realize they are trying to sell stuff, and pandering to cultural craziness in the process sometime.  But a recent ad they sent me contained this little gem:

LoveHerEarth

This only confirms that, even in its watered-down, let’s-sell-some-stuff form, environmentalism is religious.

The personification of earth here as ‘her’ is much more than a literary device.  It is a religious view.  The Christian faith does not mistake the earth for a person.  The earth is an object (yes, that is exactly what I mean) that God created for the use of humanity.  (And, yes, I meant ‘use’ here.)

So, from the historic Christian perspective, if you want an more accurate reading on this shirt it should be something like this:

Earth
Use it to make life better


Now if you want to add the thought that we shouldn’t abuse our neighbors’ rights to their parts of the earth, that’s fine and sometimes needed.  But what the world needs right now is an pro-human perspective on the earth.  That perspective can be found in the historic Christian faith.

Meanwhile, back at the Walmart ad, we read a description of this shirt:  “Men's Organic Cotton Earth Day Tee.”  I find that part about it being ‘organic cotton’ rather amusing.  Could someone please show me the inorganic cotton?  That I would like to see!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fords, Frosted Flakes, and Your Favorite Megachurch


I just saw one of the stranger things I have come across on the net in a long time.

Today popped into my inbox the April 19, 2009 - Christian Standard eNewsletter.  Naturally, my perusal began.  Down among the teaser lines was this:

“Also this year, we're doing something different for fun. We've recruited 16 megachurches for a Sweet 16 online church-branding competition. Select your favorite church brands in each of 8 pairs this week. Next week you'll choose 4 of those, the next week 2, and finally you'll vote for the best brand of the bunch. It will be fun--especially if you participate! See the brands, vote today, and be sure to come back in the next weeks to see how the competition is going!”

I followed the ‘vote today’ link (it appears you can only use it once) and, as promised, various large Christian churches with their logos were paired up like basketball tournament brackets.

I wasn’t quite sure how to take this little gimmick.  Was it meant to be a joke?  Was it serious?  (Is there something wrong with me because that answers to those questions were not obvious to me??)

I must assume it is not all that serious, given the mention of ‘fun’ in the promo.  But I wasn’t quite sure how to vote or why, so I didn’t.  After all, I have never been to most of these churches.  Was I supposed to pick one in each ‘matchup’ randomly? – or based on how ‘cute’ the logo seemed to me?

And that matter of church ‘brands’ – I must admit that I still don’t understand that.  So are churches now like automobiles, soap, and breakfast cereal?  (I fear that to many confused people, they are.  I also fear that many people who should know better – perhaps some of those at the Christian Standard – are pandering to the confused people.)

Now, those who know me know I’m a guy who loves some fun.  But, if this little contest is meant to be fun, it fails because it comes across as a bit, well, stupid.  I’m just not sure what we are supposed to voting for – even if it is just for fun.

If you haven’t already used your ‘eligibility’ on this, try the link and see what you think.

Wrong and wrong again


"I sincerely believe... that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816.

"Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence. . ."

"The conclusion then, is, that neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time."

--Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

Kent Comments:

Jefferson must be correct, if you think about it.  What right could you possibly have to buy something and pass the bill along to your children?  There are, clearly, moral morons who think this is appropriate.

We have been doing this, of course, for some time now under the demands of a certain (warped) view of economics.  But ‘economics’ cannot trump right.

Now we are doing it on a scale that has begun to frighten some of us who did not worry about it much before.  (Remember, the Regan administration took the country further into debt.  I know his opponents in Congress had much to do with it, but the fact stands.)

But indebting our children and grandchildren did not just recently become wrong.  It has always been wrong.  But we became accustomed to this wrong-doing – which was yet another of our many collective sins.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Benefit of Juries

 

You have probably noticed that I have been reading Democracy in America as of late.  I came across a section (see it here) where Tocqueville is making observations on the jury system.  He remarks that it is especially important (even more than the judicial function of deciding criminal cases) as a political institution when trials involve suits of one citizen against another.

If you wanted to receive damages of some kind, or restrain someone from some activity that you claimed was harming you, it had to be done by convincing a group of your peers.  Tocqueville sees it as a great educational institution to keep citizens in touch with their society.

It occurred to me there is another great benefit implicit in all this – something that we have lost in recent history.  I say this because much, very much, of what once would have been handled by juries has been plucked out of their hands and delivered to the myriad regulations agencies.  When Tocqueville was writing, if you were to claim that your neighbor was polluting in some way that harmed you, you would bring the matter to a jury.

That must have tended to keep common sense and that complex interplay of factors that make up life in society in the mix of such decisions.  Does the smokestack in town really affect you in some damaging way?  Convince a jury and you can obtain relief.  But they will usually be practically-minded people who will probably not have any grand agenda in the matter.

Think of how such things proceed today for the most part.  Bureaucrats and their technicians are assigned the task of ‘cleaning up the air’ for example.  They have no concern for the real problems of ordinary people.  Their ‘business’ increases as they increase regulation.  The problems they supposedly address can never be ‘solved’ because to so admit would impair their fiefdoms.

Tocqueville could not foresee all of this, of course, but perhaps he was even more right than he knew.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Democracy (gone awry) in America

 

Alexis de Tocqueville (the elegant sound of who’s name I envy) once wrote:

“If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority, which may at some future time urge the minorities to desperation and oblige them to have recourse to physical force. Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism.” (see the context here)

He goes on to cite Madison and Jefferson on this matter.

These words – possibly prophetic – are horrible to contemplate because they hold a certain ring of plausibility about them.  Allow me to paraphrase Alexis here just a bit.

Suppose idiots who are suckers for almost any stupid idea in government become a majority in the United States.  Suppose then that these idiots put into place people and policies so bad that those outside the majority finally say, “Enough!” and decide to take whatever action is necessary.

That ‘whatever action is necessary’ is likely to lead not just to the overthrow of the majority, but to a general breakdown of good government, or perhaps anything much like government.  (It might well even lead to conditions that would make that kind of ‘rational anarchy’ advocated by some very unlikely even by their own reckoning.)

Of course, the only way out of this dilemma of the terrible is to convince the majority of the error of their ways.  What is disheartening is the difficulty of persuading majorities of almost anything that is reasonable.  What is even worse is the fact that there are many who know this, and who use this difficulty as a way of destroying liberty.  That is what demagoguery is all about, a fact well known to those like our demagogue-in-chief and his allies in Congress.

It is a case of hoping against hope that the man with the elegant name turns out to be – for reasons we cannot yet discern – wrong.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A ‘Christian nation’?


Recently a hot topic around the digital and print world has been the question “Is the United States a Christian nation?”  Like many such questions there are many details that need to be explored to answer it adequately (which I will not attempt here).
For example, what do we mean when we say that a nation is ‘Christian’?  The Christian faith is something, by its very nature, that people must follow individually.  So when we talk about anything else being ‘Christian’ there is necessarily some degree of metaphor involved.  You might rightly say that any group with a large number of its members being Christians is in some sense ‘Christian.’  Systems of thought can be ‘Christian’ in some sense if they are harmonious with the Christian faith.
So even asking a question about a nation being Christian is going to bring up all sorts of ambiguities that lend themselves to endless discussions and debates.  But it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that those who began the governments of the United States were highly influenced by the Christian faith.
We I read something like this:
“The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. ... The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may be abused by human depravity. ... It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors." --George Washington
it becomes difficult to deny the strength of the Christian influence among the people we often call ‘the Founders.’  In fact, examples of this sort of thing are so numerous that one begins to suspect that those who take great pains to avoid their force are either deceiving themselves or trying to deceive the rest of us.
To think that a group of people who tended to think along the lines of this quotation formed a government that was not highly influenced by their faith (and even the Deists among them thought very religiously) is very uncritical, to say the least.  And perhaps it reveals thinking that is so hostile to the Christian faith that it abandons reason in favor of prejudice.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Naive Historical Projection

 

Recently a little item from the Miami Student came to my attention.  In it, some poor little mixed-up soul named Aaron Turner writes:

“I would first like to start by saying thanks to the founding fathers. . . . the founding fathers were very liberal. Our founders were more liberal than Nancy Pelosi, Dennis Kucinich and Keith Olberman combined. They were rebels, for crying out loud! All too often Democrats quickly concede that conservative values are the same values in which our founding fathers believed. In fact, the principles of the founders-freedom of speech and worship, open government, freedom from injustice and the right to property-are all pillars of the Democratic Party.”

While you can’t blame a university for every student who is enrolled there, this has to be a bit embarrassing to some professor somewhere who had this poor child in his class!

The not-so-sharp Aaron does not seem to recognize the very different meanings of the term ‘liberal’ then and now.  And I don’t want to quibble, but ‘right to property’ pillar of the modern Democratic Party is more like a ‘right to what is left after hefty taxation’ view of property.  Isn’t there just a hint of injustice in taking what people have earned and handing it out to others?  (Not that any modern Democrats – or Republicans for that matter – want to do anything like that!)

Can you imagine what a Washington, Madison, or Jefferson would have said to the likes of Nancy Pelosi!  There is a conversation I would love to hear – think about it very carefully for a few moments.

Then our young under-educated Aaron goes on to tell us how Madison and Jefferson were in essence the founders of the modern Democratic Party.  Anyone who has even sampled the writings of either Madison or Jefferson would realize that many of their views would not be tolerated for a microsecond in today’s Democratic Party.

I can only guess, but I seriously doubt that Aaron has read Madison’s parts of the Federalist Papers, for example.  For that matter, I doubt if Aaron would even agree with much of what Madison says there.

Think of the views of Madison implied in this passage from Federalist No. 46:

“But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause. A correspondence would be opened. Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole. The same combinations, in short, would result from an apprehension of the federal, as was produced by the dread of a foreign, yoke; and unless the projected innovations should be voluntarily renounced, the same appeal to a trial of force would be made in the one case as was made in the other. But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.”

Plans of resistance against the feds, Aaron, or anyone?  They are very Madisonian.  And the modern Democratic Party has helped give us so very much that needs to be resisted!

What the Theologians SHOULD Be Saying


One of my old seminary professors comments on the opening chapters of Genesis:

“Man was to rule (radah) over fish, birds, cattle, creeping things, and all the earth (1:26, 28). The word means tread upon, subdue, rule over. It seems to connote absolute sovereignty. Man was to be fruitful (parah), multiply (radhah) and fill (malaŹ¼) the earth. God created the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18). Man was to subdue (kabhash) the earth. The verb means to bring under one’s control or take possession of a hostile country (Num. 32:22, 29), enemies or slaves (2 Chron 28:10; Jer 34:11; Neh 5:5); to assert one’s superiority of power or wisdom over another. Several of the twenty-four passages where this term is used in the Old Testament suggest that the dominion should be exercised with great care. The text suggests that it is through multiplication of his race that man is to carry out his command to subdue the earth (1:28). What are the implications of this creation mandate? Man is the crown of creation. Everything was made for him. God intended for man to develop all the potentialities of the earth.”

This is the theological data for deciding questions about the environment – at least for those who have not abandoned the historic Christian faith.  While it is not permission to destroy the earth, it is clearly a mandate to use the earth for the good of human beings.  It is permission, even an obligation, from the Creator, for humankind to make more of themselves and to develop the potential of the physical universe.

In the last post we reviewed the views of an Environmentalist.  That word is capitalized for a reason, which we will come back to later.

There is what has become almost a ‘standard view’ - even among some Christians - that humans should not use the planet, but keep it just the way it is.  Theologically speaking, this is heresy.  It is the revealed will of God that we use the planet, and change it in the process.  To re-work something Jesus once said about those who put the Sabbath before human welfare, “The planet was made for man, not man for the planet.”

No matter how non-religious some Environmentalist commentators might think they are, they reveal what is essentially a religious perspective when they worry about things like ‘carbon footprints’ and climate change.  That assumes that humans should not change the planet.  (I don’t think we in fact are changing it in the ways some of these people worry about.  But my point is that it wouldn’t matter if we were.)

For example, the so-called ‘Wilderness Society’ emails me constantly urging that we keep more and more land ‘pristine wilderness.’  As nice as that sounds, it means ‘untouched by human activity.’  From the theological data presented above, it is no stretch to conclude that in the eyes of God, ‘wilderness’ is NOT better than a house, or even a suburb.  People live there, and from what He has said, God likes people.

One suspects that, even for those Environmentalists who have not already declared themselves so, there is more than a hint of pantheism behind all this:  a view where God and nature are conflated and confused, and a view that has little relationship to the Christian faith.

In the end, Environmentalism is at odds with the Christian faith.  It is unfortunate that more Christians do not recognize this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

People Bad


My attention was recently brought to one Jonathan Porritt, who advertises himself as:

Programme Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.  Jonathon Porritt is a Founder Director of Forum for the Future, and an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development.”

I am in awe, and probably not worthy to comment, but I will anyway.

Jonathan caused quite a stir recently when he proposed that families should have only two children.  Children are people, and people are bad, according to Jonathan.  Why?  Because they have an ‘environmental impact.’

According to Jon’s blog there are ‘twelve easy steps’ by which you should see this:

1. The more human beings there are on the planet, the bigger our collective impact.

2. Our impact is felt in many different ways . . . Most particularly, it’s felt in terms of the rising emissions of C02 . . .

3. Each individual is responsible for their own carbon footprint.

[That’s bad grammar Jonathan - ‘each’ is singular while ‘their’ is plural.]

4. Population and environmental impact are therefore inextricably intertwined.

[5, 6, and 7 aren’t really ‘steps’ at all, so we can skip those']

8. . . . there are two things that have to happen here in the UK.

9. The first is to allow into our country no more people than leave it on an annual basis.

10. The second is to see if we might persuade (please note, persuade, not coerce!) the 26% of women in the UK who are currently expected to have more than two children to ‘stop at two’.

[and the last two ‘step's’ are just Jonathan blowing on and on]

Jonathan had proposed this back in February and had gotten quite a negative response.  It seems people in the UK don’t really like being told how many children they should have.  Notice how defensive old Jon is in ‘step’ number ten:  he just wants to ‘persuade’ people to have fewer children. There won’t be any coercion at all.

Of course, Jon doesn’t explain just how he plans to do this ‘persuading.’  If it’s just talk, go ahead Jonathan and see what you can do – though please don’t expect other people to pay you to talk about this.  But with people like Jonathan, when words don’t ‘work’ other kinds of actions often follow.

But this whole debate goes away if we examine an assumption that always lies behind this kind of environmental-mania.  The assumption is this:  changing the earth is bad.  From that it is easy to think:  people change the earth, therefore, people are bad.

I challenge the whole idea that changing the earth is bad.  Why should we accept this unstated proposition?  I – and lots of people much smarter than I – don’t think humans can do much to change the temperature of the earth.  But even if we could, why should we think that a warmer earth would be bad?  The earth has a long history of climate changes, and isn’t it a bit presumptuous of us to assume that, in the great variety of this history, we know that right now (or a few decades ago) is the best temperature for earth?

Even if – and this is doubtful – more people will warm the earth a bit, I think that might be a good thing.  Warmer could be better.  But when your convoluted reasoning brings you to the conclusion that people are a bad thing, you need to revise your convoluted reasoning.

People good.  Jonathan Porritt bad.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Leader-Gone-Awry


An item recently came to my attention.  (See the whole thing here.)  It is a very good study of the relationship of Christians to ‘the powers that be’ by David Berresford.  While I recommend you have a look, I want to use it to discuss something I have been considering for the last couple of years.

The author is concerned about how Christians should relate to governments – especially government which seem to have gone awry.  At one point he comments:

From a secular perspective, the Founding Fathers of this Nation, who, as a whole, were Godly men, had to wrestle with this matter of honoring the king who was in a position of delegated authority. Their appeal was to a higher authority. In the Declaration of Independence they noted that the rights of all men are unalienable. The Creator Himself was the source of these rights. Only the Creator had the authority to endow them and only the Creator has the authority to abrogate them. Their accurate assertion was that the king and the British government had usurped the authority of the Creator in the attempt to unlawfully subjugate them.

While there are several interesting things we could explore here, I will focus on only one.  The author is someone who sees that governments can come to be ‘out of control’ and he is trying to think through this matter from a Christian perspective.  He comments that

I never advocate doing wrong to accomplish right. The end does not justify the means. I cannot violate God’s law to facilitate a political goal, regardless of the correctness of that goal.

He takes a very circumspect route to his opposition to bad government by appealing to a higher authority:

Considering that civil authority in our Nation rests in the standard of the United States Constitution, my loyalty and obedience belong to that Constitution and those leaders who honor it in word and actions. To obey those who oppose that Constitution is to be disobedient to the very standard upon which this Nation is built.

While I take a very similar approach to this question, we must remember that constitutions are easily ignored by those who hold power.  If the immediate political authority of our governmental officials comes from the Constitution, it is possible that circumventions of the Constitution negate the authority of governing officials.  But the absence of authority does not mean an absence of power.  Governing officials without authority can and do still use (abuse) power to kill you, your family, and your friends.

I respect the genius of our Constitution and I deplore the fact that it is often ignored today.  But I have to admit that part of the reason this happens so easily is because our Constitution was framed with two important circumstances in the background:

1.  It was a quiet revolution against the government of the Articles of Confederation.  They were perceived to be ‘not working’ and, rather than revise them (which required the unanimous consent of the states) they were replaced.  It is an intriguing story which we can’t recount here.

2.  It was a compromise solution.  There were several, very different and conflicting, ideas about how to construct this new government.  Part of the solution to this problem was to make the Constitution somewhat ambiguous in some areas.  It was left for those who would implement it to ‘flesh out’ the details in many respects.

This means that, when implemented by good men who were in harmony with the compromise solution, we usually got good government.  (The epitome of these would have been Washington, and then Jefferson, in my opinion.)  But it also means that it is very easy for those elected under the provisions of the Constitution to ignore its requirements and do whatever they wish.

In short, appeals to the Constitution mean little to those who are not in sympathy with its spirit.

From this and other considerations I cannot recount here, I think Christians (and others, too, for that matter) need to think more about what authority is held by governing officials who have gone awry.

When the author of our article says (above) “the king and the British government had usurped the authority of the Creator in the attempt to unlawfully subjugate them” he doesn’t go on to say something that most if not all of those who signed the Declaration of Independence would have said:  since the king had usurped his authority, he has also abrogated it.

I think it is time for conservative Christians to admit this ‘out loud’ so to speak.  It solves what I call the ‘Hitler and Stalin’ problem:  what should Christians think of ‘leaders’ gone awry?  What we should think, stated very bluntly, is this – the leader gone awry has forfeited authority, even though he may retain power.  And this is important.

It means that we no longer owe such people respect.  Remember that, in Romans 13, those to whom we owe respect are those who ‘do good.’

It means that, whenever we have the power, such people should be removed from office.  Often we will not have that power, but when we do, we have a moral obligation to remove the ‘leader gone awry.’  (The ‘power’ of which I speak here is not necessarily physical power.  More often, it will be political, social, or perhaps economic power.)  We should speak out against and oppose the leader-gone-awry whenever we have the ability and opportunity.

But when Christians live under the regime of a ‘leader gone awry’ we have a moral duty to actively subvert, in any ways we can, the wrong-doing of such leaders.  Ministers should preach about this and  Christians should study it in Bible school classes – it is heavily theological!

We should all pray about it – we should pray that if the leader gone awry does not repent, that God will move against him in a mighty way.  (God is good at that, as my wife likes to remind me!)  We need to leave behind that syrupy idea of ‘praying for our officials’ as though that only means praying that all will go well with them.  For the leaders-gone-awry we need to pray that God will remove them, and the sooner the better.

It is long past time for silence and inaction on these matters by Christians and the church.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Sad Little Story


A friend sent me this recently.  I do not know its ultimate origin.

+ + +

The financial crisis explained in simple terms:

Wendy is the proprietor of a bar in Washington.  In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed in a ledger, thereby granting the customers loans.

Word gets around, and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into Wendy's bar.  Taking advantage of her customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Wendy increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Wendy's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral.
At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide. No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed; nevertheless, their prices continuously climb, and the securities become top-selling items.

One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager of the bank (subsequently fired due to his negativity) decides that the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at Wendy's bar.

But the drinkers cannot pay off their debts -- they're unemployed and they're alcoholics!  Wendy in turn can't fulfill her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy.

DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%.
The suppliers of Wendy's bar, having granted her generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities, are faced with a new situation: they must write off her accounts as uncollectable and suffer the loss of their investments. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor.

The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties. Wendy, her suppliers, and all the investors who bought DRINKBONDs, ALKBONDs and PUKEBONDs are left holding the bag.  The funds required for saving the bank - here's the good part! - are obtained by a tax levied on all non-drinkers.

Now do you understand?

+ + +

Kent comments:

It’s good as far as it goes.  But the story needs some additions.  The out-of-control-government needs to be mentioned, not just at the end of the story, but at the beginning and the middle also.  To make the allegory more complete and accurate, add these features:

First, government agencies decree that everyone has a right to come to Wendy’s place and get drunk.  They ‘lean’ on Wendy to ‘encourage’ her to run a tab with anyone who wants a drink.  Remember, according to the government, everyone has a right to a drink at Wendy’s bar.

Second, the government creates special agencies to ensure that bankers can and will float DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS, and PUKEBONDS.

Third, the government doesn’t just tax all current non-drinkers in order to ‘save the bank.’  The government borrows untold boatloads of money based on the government’s promise that many generations of future non-drinkers will pay, pay, and pay some more – plus interest.

Finally, add the little twist that two presidents from different parties are involved.  They both have somewhat unusual ears.  One can’t pronounce ‘nuclear.’  The other thinks he is a god.

This is becoming too complex for an allegory!