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News

Saturday Selections – June 18, 2022

Can our kids be salt and light in government schools? (2 min) Maybe... if they were trained. But in a government school who is training whom? A 4-year-old can run an errand This NPR article has a good dose of common sense but mixes it with evolutionary psychology so it isn't something to swallow whole. Its value lies in its counter-cultural pitch: giving our children more responsibility at younger ages. The world wants to selectively give children more responsibility but in reckless ways, leaving them unguided and unprotected when it comes to sexual activity, or whether they actually are the gender God made them. We aren't to abandon our children that way... but we also aren't to coddle them. This is an eye-opener on how our children may be able to embrace responsibility at younger ages than we might have considered. It can start small, like getting a small one to go track down the milk by themselves the next time you're in the grocery store. Most men don't have real friends (but need them) "One hundred years ago, men were far more comfortable showing each other everyday physical affection: draping arms over shoulders, sitting close to each other, even holding hands.... The typical ways men have shown each other affection for all of human history are so foreign to us that, when we see them, we don’t recognize them. That’s the exact phenomenon C.S. Lewis wrote about in The Four Loves, when he said that “those who cannot conceive friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” The continuing importance of Thomas Sowell (10-min read) Never heard of Thomas Sowell? This 91-year-old economist has continually made the case against public schools and does so again in his latest book Charter Schools and their enemies. "Schools exist for the education of children. Schools do not exist to provide iron-clad jobs for teachers, billions of dollars in union dues for teachers unions, monopolies for educational bureaucracies, a guaranteed market for teachers colleges, or a captive audience for indoctrinators." God has the Left fighting itself (30-min read) One of the ways God protects His Church is by having His enemies reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7, Prov. 22:8, Luke 6:38). This lengthy article provides example after example of the groups pushing the cancel agenda being sent into turmoil when their employees apply that same standard internally. The Saviour-less Left still believes in sin, but not forgiveness, leading to a constant state of dissatisfaction at what's being done. And that leads to ironies like the abortion-pushing Guttmacher Institute being criticized internally by its staff for being too abortion-focussed, and not caring enough about reproductive justice. We can only pray that they'll continue to distract themselves so. This is a long read, but for the many who are distraught at what seems to be an endless flow of bad news what an encouragement it will be to see how God is fighting for us. That said, this reporter isn't offering a Christian perspective – he's reporting here as a friend of the Left. But those with eyes to see will have something to celebrate. We aren't in these groups, so we can't take credit for any of their implosions – this is the Lord fighting for us; we need only be still. 5 cool things about fish Did you know some fish can: 1) regrow their teeth, 2) "see" with their skin, 3) out"run" Usain Bolt, "4) and incapacitate a horse? Paul Tripp with 5 questions parents should ask their kids (12 min) To discipline their children parents will often turn to fear, bribery, and shame. But these generally only work short-term. If we're going to be on "Team Little Johnny" to help him become a more godly man, we need to help him see what he's doing rightly. And we can help him do so, not so much by lecturing as by asking good questions. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books, Economics

Nobody knows how to make a pizza

by Julie Borowski 2019 / 30 pages The picture book's title makes a claim that my daughter just couldn't believe: "Come on Dad, you know how to make a pizza!" But do I really? Sure, I know how to combine a pizza crust with cheese and tomato sauce. I'm even very good at it. But the point this slim volume is trying to make is that there is a lot more to it. That flour I use started as grain that somebody had to grow, and I certainly don't know how to do that. That farmer who does, brings in his crop using  a wheat harvester, which he isn't able to make himself. He'll ship off his grain, perhaps via a train, which neither of us could ever manufacture. We also don't know how to turn wheat into flour, and the folks that do, don't know how to make the semi-trucks that ship their flour to grocery stores around the country. Making even the simple pizza crust requires a lot of different people all working together, with not one of them knowing how to get all the needed steps done. That's why the pizza narrator's claim – that "there's not a single person on Earth who knows how to make me" – isn't as outrageous as it first seem, And that doesn't even get into the tomato sauce and cheese! You might be wondering, okay, but so what? The point of this little book (and the 1958 essay, I, Pencil, which inspired it) is to expose the arrogance of any big government's central planners. Whether it's full-blown communists who want to plan everything, or a democracy where the elected leadership "merely" direct large chunks of the economy (gov't spending in Canada accounts for 45% of GDP, and their impact is extended further still via regulations), we have governments of all sorts all around the world that think they know how best to run things from the top down. However, if planning the production of a single cheese pizza is beyond the capabilities of any one man, or even a team of the very smartest people on earth, then why would we think the government could ever know enough to competently make the innumerable management decisions they make, from what minimum wage everyone should be paid, to how children should be educated in K-12 (and what they should learn), which companies should be bailed out or subsidized, or even how much milk should be produced? Of course, if no one knows how to make a pizza, that prompts an obvious question: how is it that countless cheese pizzas are made every day? Instead of someone at the top planning it all out, this miracle occurs without much planning at all. The author of this picture book makes more of a libertarian presentation than a Christian one, so I'm using the term "miracle" here for a wonder she doesn't really attempt to explain. But Christians do have an explanation. Now, we might take for granted what the free market can produce – cheaper computers, innovations like the smartphone, innumerable kinds of bagel – to the point it seems too ordinary to call all of that a miracle. But the free market is a miracle nonetheless, completely beyond anybody's ability to plan and create, making it all the easier to see God's fingerprints. His commandment "Do not steal" creates property rights, which is the basis for one person trading what they own to another for something they want more. If you can't steal from others, then the only way to provide for yourself and your family is by producing something other people will value. You get money from them to meet your needs by making something that meets theirs. So God's law is the basis for free trade and it is unplanned, unorganized free trade that has miraculously proven to be the most effective way of raising people out of poverty. The government still has a role here - to prevent theft, enforce contract laws, and generally ensure that property rights are respected – but not in picking the winners and losers. While that's deeper than this picture book goes, what Julie Borowski does highlight is the result: all sorts of strangers cooperating with one another, each looking out for their own interests, but together creating something that none of them could make on their own – innumerable voluntary exchanges and, eventually, violà a pizza! As noted, this book has a libertarian flavoring to it, and because libertarians can often be libertines on moral issues, their values can be at odds with what God knows is best. However, in this case the libertarian impulse for small government syncs up well with the Christian emphasis on humility and Man's fallibility – we have a hard enough time trying to plan out our own lives, so it's arrogant indeed for bureaucrats and politicians to think they can plan out everyone else's lives for them. Better then, to limit (though certainly not eliminate) the government and what it does, so as to leave people the responsibility and allow them the freedom to manage their own lives. This would be read to best effect with a parent along for the ride. Otherwise I could see kids enjoying it, even as they entirely miss the overall small government argument being made. You can watch the author read her book below. ...

Economics - Home Finances

Is gambling wrong? And if so, what about buying stocks?

Some Christians won’t invest in the stock market because they believe that investing in stocks is really no different than buying a lottery ticket. Both, they argue, are examples of gambling, which God forbids. But are they really so alike? Consider these two ways in which investing in stocks differs completely from gambling. 1. You can gain without causing pain While it could be argued that the Bible doesn't specifically forbid gambling, it does condemn the roots of it including covetousness (Ex. 20:17), love of money (1 Tim. 6:10, Hebr. 13:5, Matt. 6:24), and the lack of productivity (Matt. 25:14-30). Another significant problem with gambling is that a person can only win if others lose – there is no way for all the players to benefit. It is a zero-sum game, so for a gambler to walk away with more than he came with, he has to get it from the other players. God calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), but the gambler wants to benefit at his neighbor's expense – he wants to get something while giving nothing. With stocks, it is very different. While the stock market has its ups and downs, over time the trajectory is ever upward, as the economy expands, and as we continue to learn how, through automation and other efficiencies, to become ever more productive. That means it is possible for all investors – or at least all of the patient, cautious sort – to win. An investor’s gains need not come by making others lose; instead their increase can come from helping a good company grow. An investor’s return can come from supporting companies that are creating good products, or offering wanted services, or who are in some other way being productive in a way that paying customers appreciate. And then the return he gets will be in exchange for the help he provided: it will be something for something. Of course, someone could buy stock in all sorts of evil companies too, so we’re not trying to say here that buying stocks is always good. The point is more limited: whereas a gambler can only gain by other’s pain, it’s possible for an investor to gain by helping others. 2. You are likely to gain Another problem with gambling is that it is a waste of the resources God has entrusted to us (Matt. 25:14-30) because in gambling the odds are always stacked against the gambler. Slot machines, provincial and state lotteries, 50/50 raffles, casinos: all of them are a source of revenue for governments because they are designed to pay out less than they take in. Sure, a fellow might makes some short-term gains, but any gambler that keeps at it is sure to lose…and quite possibly everything he has. But in the stock market, the very opposite is true. If the economy is growing (as it is, at least over the long term) then the stock market will grow too, and see more gains than losses. If you have no other ideas as to what to do with your money, then placing it in a diversified portfolio is one of the safest places to put it. With minimal risk you can increase the resources God has entrusted to your care. Conclusion To sum up, whereas a gambler is always trying to win at others’ expense, stock market investors can gain by helping others do better too. And while the odds are stacked such that over time a gambler will lose all he has, stock market investments overall continue to grow over time. In these two significant ways, buying stocks is the very opposite of gambling....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics, Uncategorised

Christian Economics in One Lesson

by Gary North 2015 / 268 pages Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lessonis what its title suggests, just one economic lesson explained in the first chapter – that we focus on the obvious impact of a government program, and don’t consider what otherwise might have happened with those dollars. It’s the seen vs. the unseen. That one lesson is then repeatedly applied to different situations in the 24 chapters that followed. In chapter 4 it is applied to public work projects: when the government builds a new sports stadium we can see the job created by its construction. What’s unseen is all the jobs that might have been created by businesses if they hadn’t had to pay the taxes to build that stadium. Overall, Hazlitt is making a general argument for less government and more economic freedom, but is making it on the basis of practicality: that a free market approach will make us all, overall, more prosperous (download the book for free). Effectiveness is the fruit, not the goal In his Christian Economics in One Lesson, Gary North makes his argument for free market economics on a very different basis: obedience. He also thinks the free market is the most effective way of making us all richer, but he sees that, not as a goal, but as a side effect – the fruit – of being obedient to God’s commands do not covet, and do not to steal. As his title suggests, he is riffing off of Hazlitt, and his chapters are reworking of each of Hazlitt's. Economics is sometimes treated as a being simply about the math, about some sort of neutral accounting, pitting the different economics systems against each other to find out which creates the greatest benefit for society. Both socialists and capitalists could even agree that economics is about dealing with the problem of scarcity – there is only so much to go around, so how do we make the most of it? But North is arguing that economics is really a matter of ethics, and applying God's guidance on money, work, property, and covetousness to the real world. Then the better way is the way that obeys God’s commands. Now, like Hazlitt, North thinks the best system is the free market, and not the sort of so called capitalism that involves getting government contracts and special favors. None of that crony "capitalism." This is, instead, a free market where people make exchanges voluntarily, and consequently both sides benefit. No temptation to tweak But even as Hazlitt and North both hold to the free market system, it is significant that they got there very different ways. Hazlitt got there because the free market works – it is the most prosperous of all systems, doing more to raise people out of poverty than any other economics systems before it. North arrives there because the free market is what results when we are obedient to God, respecting our neighbors property and pushing back against our own covetousness. So, both support the free market. But those like Hazlitt who arrived there for practical reasons, there will always be the temptation to tweak, and in doing so, succumb to socialism. If capitalism works best, whose to say if capitalism plus just a smidge of socialism might not be better? Maybe just 5%? Or 10? How can we know unless we try? But there isn't the same temptation to tinker for Christians who choose the free market for its alignment with God's Word. We won't want to be 5% or 10% less obedient. And it is worth noting, it is no coincidence that the economics system that most aligns with God's Word is also the one that best raises people out of poverty. That's simply God's love – He knows what is best for us, and when we obey, especially when we do so on a societal level, it goes better for us. Conclusion North's insight – that economics is about ethics, not efficieny; it is about obedience, and not prosperity – is a brilliant insight, and worth the reinforcement that comes in the repeated applications that follow. If this isn’t the most important book I’ve read this year, it is certainly in contention… and it can be downloaded for free here....

Economics, Human Rights, Satire

On achieving equality...

I was recently confronted with the disturbing statistic that evidences the ultimate case of gender inequality: the life expectancy of males is 6.1 years lower than that of females. This phenomenon must be properly discussed. What is a more valuable commodity than life? Nothing, I would say. And yet females habitually possess over 8 percent more of it than men. It is clear that when it comes to life, there is no level playing field in our society between males and females. I, therefore, call upon the government to take measures to empower men to overcome this glaring inequality. What we need is legislation, programs, and lots of funding. First of all the government should enact human rights legislation which will unequivocally state that males have the right to the same life expectancy as females. This legislation will empower the government to make proactive adjustments in Health, Social, and Education programs. I would like to share with you the following suggestions for such adjustments. An immediate transfer of medical research dollars from female diseases to male diseases. The inclusion of a mandatory life expectancy rights component to be taught in all our schools starting at the kindergarten level. The appointment of kommissars (also call commissioners) for each federal and provincial ministry who are to scrutinize all proposed legislation for life expectancy bias. Mandatory sensitivity training for all our judges to ensure that crimes against women are not more discouraged than crimes against men. Mandatory affirmative low-stress jobs action for all businesses employing more than 10 people to ensure that men will be employed in at least 50 percent of such jobs. The creation of Men's Issues Department at both the federal and provincial levels. Thus far my suggestions. If we do not want to lose the image of Canada as a caring and nurturing society we had better implement these suggestions regardless of costs. Of course, some naive people may suggest that it would help if men changed their lifestyle by smoking, drinking, fighting, and fornicating less, and by being more spiritual and less macho. However, though in the past this might have been a solution, we now know that we can only lead fulfilling lives if we are true to ourselves. Since institutions of education and our public media zealously indoctrinate the populace with this new gospel, it would be futile to appeal to "the man kind" itself to heal the wound of life expectancy; the government is our only hope. This post first appeared way back in the May 1999 issue, but doesn't it seems like it was written for today? As Christians we believe God calls us not to be partial to rich or poor, black or white, young or old – He calls us to equality. But what kind of equality does God call us to? Is it an equality – as is called for in this article – of outcomes? Or is the equality meant to be in how we treat people? The world says the former, but God is calling us to the latter (Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-9, Acts 10:34)....

News

Saturday Selections – Dec. 18, 2021

The #Psalm124Project The #Psalm124Project is all sorts of churches and groups singing this same Psalm, separated by time and space, but united in praise for God. You can find their other videos at the link above. When crickets stop singing, that isn't evolution Hawaiian crickets have gone silent to avoid the notice of a parasitic fly. It’s been hailed as evolution. But losing an ability isn't an example of evolution, but devolution. The pro-choice case against IVF This pro-choice author calls out pro-lifers for not demonstrating outside IVF clinics, where many more children are killed, their bodies donated to medical science. While there is a way to use IVF that doesn't produce "excess embryos," or which even saves some of these frozen children ("snowflake adoption"), the way it is commonly done is monstrously evil.... and many Christians are unaware. The importance of the family dinner table This is a secular defense of the necessity of families to set aside time in their day to just be together, and the best time might be around the dinner table. Brave New World or 1984? Two books written within a couple decades of each other proposed two very different ways we could become enslaved. The one approach was likened by George Orwell to "a boot stomping on a human face – forever" and the other more akin to Netflix binging. It's slavery forcibly imposed, or slavery by default, accepted without resistance by those too apathetic to care. Which way are we heading? Might it be both directions at once? Is Capitalism only about greed? In the video below, Milton Friedman gets it wrong: "greed is not a good idea to run with." But he's right that all economic systems involve greed. The contrast is that in State-run economies like China and the former USSR, that greed involves those in power taking what they would by force. Meanwhile, under free markets, people can only get what they want by offering something of value in exchange – something the other person values more. What makes the free market remarkable is that it allows us to provide for our family while doing good for our neighbors. Joseph Sunde has more in the linked article above. ...

Economics

The hidden tax of inflation

Prices are on the rise in many countries around the world. Price increases are measured by a statistic called inflation, which expresses the percent prices have increased on average over some period of time. Canada saw its highest rate of inflation in over a decade in July when the annual pace of inflation hit 3.7%. Compared to the U.S., though, Canada is in a relatively good spot. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation by comparing a fixed group of goods over time, rose to 5.4% for the month of July. This ties with June’s numbers for being the largest rate of price increase since 2008. An alternative measure of inflation, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index, reached its highest rate in 30 years. Economists have mixed feelings about how long inflation will last, but one thing is clear. Prices are on the rise, and you’ve likely noticed your money isn’t stretching as far as it used to. So why is this happening now? Well, Nobel-price-winning economist Milton Friedman famously commented, “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” In other words, if you want to see why prices are rising, follow the money. Money-printing mania When a central bank prints more currency and puts it into circulation, those who get first access to the money are in for an unexpected payday. So, what will they do with this new money? Well, some of it will be saved, but some will be spent. Suddenly the newly printed money in your pocket might let you buy something you’ve had your eyes on for a while. The store then generates more revenue which can go to investors or paying new workers. So, spending increases, and this might not sound so bad so far. But this is when the problems began. As that new money goes into the pockets of new workers or investors, they spend some of it too. But, as demand increases while this new money circulates, prices begin to rise. There are more dollars in the economy, but the same amount of stuff. So, the value of dollars decreases relative to the value of goods and services. Money loses some of its value, and prices rise to reflect the money’s lower value. When the central bank prints money, it creates this process whereby money loses its value. This is exactly what’s happening around the world. In Canada, a common measure of the quantity of money in circulation shows an increase from $1.8 trillion at the beginning of 2020 to $2.2 trillion today. That’s approximately a 22% increase in the quantity of Canadian dollars in circulation in less than two years! As you might expect from the higher rate of inflation, the increase in the supply of US dollars has been even more alarming. The supply of US dollars has increased by 32% in the same period. Nearly one-fourth of all U.S. dollars in circulation today were printed since January 2020. This money printing, unprecedented in recent history, was in a large part to prop up economies being damaged by COVID-19 lockdowns. However, we’re beginning to feel the effects of this temporary solution, and Christians should recognize the consequences of money-printing. Inflation hurts savers… especially among the poor The problem isn’t simply that, after a period of having more money, consumers now have to face higher prices. Remember, the first person to receive new dollars is able to benefit from spending them. However, as the money circulates more, prices begin to rise. This means not everyone gets the benefit from this newly printed money. And this new money comes at a cost. As prices rise, the money in people’s savings account loses value too. In this way, inflation acts as a tax on savings. By taking future purchasing power from the thrifty, government can print money and give it to private banks to lend to businesses today. Inflation hurts savers. There are a few work-arounds to this problem. There are financial tools which help savers to shield the value of their money from the degradation to inflation, but, unfortunately, these tools and methods are costly to learn about and utilize. As such, we should expect inflation to be especially deleterious to poor and middle-class savers who don’t have time to focus on protecting their wealth since their weeks are consumed by making enough wealth to survive until the next paycheck. The problems don’t end there. While some have the luxury of a job where pay can be re-negotiated easily, this is not true for everyone. Many jobs involve contracts wherein workers agree to a specified wage rate for a definite period. In this case, not only is the savings account of these workers losing value due to inflation, but the weekly paycheck they receive will also be hurt. If you receive the same paycheck every two weeks, but the paycheck can buy you fewer goods and services due to price increases, you’re worse off. Economists call this a decline in the real wage. Why would the government inflate? So what is the benefit to government lowering the purchasing power of citizens? Well, there are a couple of benefits to government. First, a government can lower its debt burden. Governments often finance spending by selling government bonds. These bonds are promises to pay back the purchaser with interest. When inflation strikes, prices and nominal wages rise. As a result, the amount of tax revenue the government collects increases. This makes it easier to pay back debt which remains stagnant as prices and incomes rise. Second, remember that the “new” money maintains high value before it circulates widely. As a result, government can appease special interest groups in the financial industry by putting the newly printed money into banks first. The new money in banks provides access for large corporations to take the high-powered money out as loans for new projects. Be wary of the inflation tax Christians should be especially wary of the tax imposed via inflation for two major reasons. First, inflation disproportionately impacts the poor. When prices on everyday goods like groceries, energy, and transportation rise, this disproportionately hurts the poor. While 5% more expensive food is a relatively small increase for a millionaire, food can easily make up a huge percentage of monthly pay. Someone living paycheck-to-paycheck can’t afford a rise in prices. Further, the wealthy often receive income through financial assets like stocks. Stock prices also tend to increase during times of inflation, so the income of the rich stays relatively stable. The poor, often locked into prior wage agreements, don’t see their incomes rise immediately with inflation. Second, inflationary policies encourage behavior the Bible explicitly calls foolish. Proverbs 21:20 (ESV) tells us, “precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” This verse is descriptive. A fool consumes all of his wealth, whereas a wise man saves it in his dwelling. However, remember that inflation destroys the value of savings. If someone was keeping $1,000 in savings, and a grocery store trip costs $200 before inflation, and $250 after inflation, the saver goes from being able to afford five trips to being able to afford four. If instead, the consumer had used the $1,000 to buy a new flatscreen TV, inflation would not have had any effect. This example illustrates an important point. Because inflation taxes savers, it discourages frugality and encourages consumerism. Why save for tomorrow if money-printing is going to make savings worthless? Unfortunately, monetary policy is hardly, if ever, discussed on political debate stages let alone Christian churches. However, if we believe our role as Christians in democracy involves looking out for the poor among us, we should watch out for policies which seem tailor-made to harm their interests. Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics. References https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2SL https://ycharts.com/indicators/canada_m2_money_supply...

Economics

The $15 minimum wage - good intentions are not enough

In the US, the latest COVID-19 relief package has re-awoken the debate on minimum wage increases, and that policy conversation is spilling over into Canada, Australia, and much of the Western world too. Often policy proposals put Christians in difficult territory. The Bible was not written during a time where every person would be personally accountable for participating in the governing of a nation. There’s very little in the way of advice to voters on specific policies. However, this doesn’t mean Christians can’t form educated opinions about policies like the minimum wage. To do so, believers can evaluate the fruits of the policy.  Good intentions One way to evaluate whether the minimum wage increase would be a good thing is to see if the intended fruits of the policy are good and analyze whether the actual fruits will match the good intentions. Supporters of the minimum wage increase are ostensibly trying to help lower the level of poverty. Higher wages for the lowest wage workers could give them a chance at a better life. This intended fruit appears to be good. Lowering poverty seems to be unambiguously good. And a reasonable interpretation of Matthew 22:20-22 could claim it’s within the state’s right to take money from business profits and give it to workers. Combining this logic with verses like Psalm 41:1 could make a powerful case for this proposal. A Christian might be tempted to stop thinking here. Perhaps the increased cost to businesses is worth the poverty alleviation. However, even if someone does accept this trade-off, the biggest problem with increasing the minimum wage lies more in the results than intentions.  Bad results Good intentions are not enough to eliminate poverty, as evidenced by the American “war on poverty,” now entering its 58th year. The minimum wage law does not guarantee every person a job at $15/hour. In actuality, what the minimum wage law does is make it illegal to gainfully employ any worker whose skills don’t bring in $15 of hourly revenue. Economists refer to the revenue an additional worker brings in as “marginal revenue product.” For any worker with a marginal revenue product less than the minimum wage, employing them would either mean making a net loss on the hire or breaking the minimum wage law. Businesses must make a profit. If a business fails to do so, it will eventually have no option other than shutting its doors. If businesses fall behind competitors in making a profit, they also run the risk of being driven out of business. As such, hiring decisions in business are based on whether they generate profit. If a salesman, for example, sells $8 worth of products an hour, and he gets an offer for a wage of $7.50, the company finds hiring him to be worthwhile. However, a company that pays a salesman who sells $8 worth of products per hour a wage of $15 is losing $7/hour. Companies that hire this way will be outcompeted by those who don’t. So, what is the result of a minimum wage? Workers who don’t make their companies enough to warrant getting paid the minimum wage are fired. Economic theory suggests this, and a recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research surveys studies on the topic and shows the research overwhelmingly finds that unemployment results from the minimum wage. Not only do some workers not have their poverty alleviated, but the workers with the least opportunity are more impoverished. In fact, evidence suggests this unemployment is imposed on minority groups and women disproportionately. The problems don’t stop there. Unemployment increases, but some workers who previously made a minimum wage will keep their jobs. Aren’t these workers made better off? Not necessarily. If a worker was previously willing to work a job for $8 (as evidenced by the fact that they accepted the job), but now the same worker is being paid $15, this doesn’t mean they are $7 better off. Why? Well, since the employer is mandated to pay a higher wage, they are going to try to get the most work out of the worker possible. Workers might find that these new expectations and pressures make the job less enjoyable than if they were paid an $8 wage. Also, if you’re getting paid more than you would have needed to accept a job, and there are a lot of unemployed replacements waiting, you’re going to be willing to accept a less pleasant job to keep that high-paying job. A higher minimum wage gives workers less bargaining power and, as such, will lead to workers taking on jobs with bosses who don’t need to offer them as much dignity. This is not to say all bosses will take advantage of this position, but it seems unrealistic to assume none will. In sum, if we judge a policy by its fruits, a $15 minimum wage will increase the poverty of those with the lowest opportunity, and it carries the possibility of work becoming less dignified for those lucky enough to keep their jobs. Despite potentially good intentions, the results speak for themselves. Instead of giving more dignity to work and lifting people out of poverty, the minimum wage exacerbates both problems.  Bootleggers, Baptists, and bad intentions For argument’s sake, I’ve assumed good intentions on the part of minimum wage policy advocates to this point. However, it’s important to point out that the minimum wage is utilized as a tactic by racists and labor unions to cut out the competition. Stanford economist Thomas Sowell has chronicled how a Canadian minimum wage has racist roots. Sowell argues: “In 1925, a minimum-wage law was passed in the Canadian province of British Columbia, with the intent and effect of pricing Japanese immigrants out of jobs in the lumbering industry.” A largely automated company would love to increase the labor costs for its competitors. The results of the Australian minimum wage were similar. Sowell points out: “A Harvard professor of that era referred approvingly to Australia’s minimum wage law as a means to ‘protect the white Australian’s standard of living from the invidious competition of the colored races, particularly of the Chinese’ who were willing to work for less.” Whenever Christians support policy, they should take care to avoid contributing to the “Bootleggers and Baptists” phenomena. This phrase describes how, when the US passed alcohol prohibition, the two major groups who supported it were Baptists who opposed alcohol and illegal alcohol bootleggers who stood to profit if legal alcohol distributors were closed. In supporting prohibition, Baptists supported the profits of bootleggers with bad intentions. In the cases Sowell cited, the “bootleggers” were racist who wanted to eliminate minority labor competition. Today, bootleggers can come in the form of a business like Amazon, which, as a largely online company, doesn’t rely on laborers who make less than $15 per hour. Since Amazon already pays its warehouse workers $15/hour, an increase in the minimum wage would do little to impact their costs, but it would raise the costs to one of Amazon's biggest competitors – Walmart. Bootleggers could also be skilled labor unions that lobby for the minimum wage to limit the competition from unskilled, but lower cost, labor. In these cases, the special interest groups intend the policy to prevent less fortunate low-skill laborers from having jobs. To make a positive difference in the world, Christians must consider more than their intentions behind policies. Instead, it is part of our responsibility, given the form of government God has allowed us to participate in, to be educated about the results of policy. In the case of raising the minimum wage, the results are in. Christians need to do better if we want to help the suffering of “the least of these.” Peter Jacobsen is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ottawa University and the Gwartney Professor of Economic Education and Research at the Gwartney Institute. He has previously written for both the Foundation for Economic Education and the Institute for Faith, Works, and Economics....

News

Saturday Selections - February 27, 2021

Actors react to facts about the "wage gap" (3 min) These actors were asked to give a "cold read" – they hadn't previously had a chance to see their script – to a list of facts about the wage gap, and other male/female differences. The point of the video isn't explicitly stated though: that evidence of differences isn't evidence of victimization. Our modern culture largely treats the genders as interchangeable and if that were true, then if men make more on average, such a difference would have to be because of unfair discrimination against women. But if God made the two genders different, with different roles even, and equipped us to those roles, then there'd be another possible explanation – overall, men and women might have different priorities. Newspaper associates Free Reformed church's repentance message with shock therapy, so the pastor clarifies "To clarify, our church does not provide exorcisms, electroshock therapy, or aversion therapy. We only hold out the same hope God offers to all people:  forgiveness through Jesus Christ and grace to change.  Let me further clarify by quoting my submission to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute:  “…our church preaches and teaches what the Bible says, including what it says about sexual orientation and gender identity. We do this out of our ultimate commitment to God, our love for him, and out of love for the people around us. We counsel accordingly. We pray publicly and privately accordingly. According to the working definition the Issues Paper provides, we are involved in SOGI conversion practices." Covid absolutism and unintended consequences "...during public health emergencies, absolutism — the idea that people should cease any and all behavior that creates additional risk — is a tempting response. Times writer David Leonhardt gives various examples of this 'absolutism' on display in America today. 'People continue to scream at joggers, walkers and cyclists who are not wearing masks. The University of California, Berkeley, this week banned outdoor exercise, masked or not...'" What you should know about the arrest of Pastor James Coates James Coates, an Alberta pastor, has been arrested for defying Covid-related restrictions on public worship. "Christians can disagree in good conscience with this church’s specific contravention of public health orders. But those who support freedom of conscience and religion should oppose any disproportionate use of the law to criminalize Pastor Coates." Or, as someone else put it, it might be that Pastor Coates isn't being persecuted for your beliefs, but he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs. Do we need to agree with Pastor Coates, to defend his freedom to worship as he feels he is called by God to do? We condemn China for violating their Uighur population's religious convictions even though we don't share their Muslim convictions. We respect others' religious convictions, as far as we are able, because we know: we can't force people to believe anything. to try to force them to act contrary to their convictions is to try to force them to be hypocrites. So, are present circumstances so dire that they require the Alberta government to imprison this pastor for his beliefs? No. Alberta's stats aren't readily available, but one province over, in BC, just 0.25% of cases are traceable to religious settings. If you are a citizen of Alberta, the linked article above shows how you can send a letter to Premier Jason Kenney. 74 books I have read aloud to my children Lots of inspiration here for parents who are already, or want to start, reading to their kids each night. The porn playbook: deny, disinform, defame (12 minutes) Porn producers are taking a page from the old Tobacco Playbook to obscure the harm their "product" causes. These plays are also used by pro-choicers, by the transgender lobby, evolutionists, school choice opponents, and more. If this video has been a specifically Christian presentation they'd likely have realized that what they are talking about is actually the devil's playbook...although he has more plays than just these three. A caution: while nothing "adult" is shown, there is lots of adult material discussed, and in frank language, so this is not all ages viewing. ...

News

Saturday Selections - January 16, 2021

Sea shanties go viral (7 min) If you have boys who think singing is girly, there's a new viral trend of men singing manly. For more on this sea shanties trend, and the Nathan Evans performance that started things off, click on the link above. 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus Every day, 13 Christians are killed, 12 unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and 5 are abducted - so reports the 2021 World Watch List. Our politics are cracking under the weight of a thinning civil society "...agitators, after making their violent intentions clear on social media, successfully incited Trump supporters to mob the Capitol. Still, even the most-crafty agitator can only agitate a crowd that is agitate-able." This flower can "hear" bees Bees' buzzing can actually trigger a flower to increase its nectar output, and the flower's petals function as a type of "ear" to amplify the buzzing. Alternatives to Google Google makes its money by selling users' information. And it gathers that information a lot of different ways! Here's alternative services that can provide some of the same features. Annecdotally, it seems like MeWe is becoming an alternative to Facebook, at least for some Canadian Reformed folk. Is Capitalism all about greed? (5 min) This video is fantastic, even if it doesn't get to the root of the issue. Capitalism stands on property rights, which we find in the Bible as well, when God forbids us from stealing (Ex. 20:15). In contrast, socialism presents it as right, and even just, for me to look over my back fence and covet my rich neighbor's goods (Ex. 20:17). While capitalism has this spiritual benefit (that it can be practiced in a way that aligns with God's Law), this video highlights its material benefit. To give one more perspective, a quote from Walter E. Williams (1936-2020): "Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering, and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man." ...

Economics, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Love Gov: Breaking up with government is hard to do

Here's something new: an economic argument for small government presented as a comedic drama. And Love Gov is a romance too, sort of. Alexis was thinking of quitting college to start her own business, but then she meets the strangely charming Scott Govinsky (known as "Gov" to his friends). To compliment her ideas, ambitions, and drive, Gov is so very caring and supportive. And eager to help. And he never seems to runs out of advice. Perfect material for a boyfriend? Alexis thinks so...at first. The problem is, Gov's advice isn't nearly as helpful as it seems. If you haven't figured it out yet, Alexis' boyfriend Gov is a stand-in for our government, which wants to mind our business because it cares for us so deeply. But as much as the politicians and burecrats might mean well, that doesn't mean they are doing well...which is what Love Gov tries to show. CAUTIONS The series' producer, the Independent Institute, is not a Christian organization. So, even as they are for limited government, they might be for less moral restraint too, as evidenced by the little boy at the very beginning (who has only the briefest of roles) wearing a shirt with a transgender rainbow on it. A more notable quibble: because Love Gov is humorous, some of its serious points are made in an over-the-top manner, which could prompt the cynically-inclined to discount those points entirely. So it's important to pitch this to friends properly: introduce it to them as the light-hearted discussion-starter it is, and don't present it as any sort of weighty "final word" on the issues it raises. CONCLUSION The overall argument being pitched is for smaller government. While the group pitching it isn't Christian, there's a lot here for Christians to love, since we should also support limited, and thus smaller, government. Why? Because God has given different responsibilities to different types of "government." The "governments" we're talking about here are not of the municipal, provincial, or federal sort but rather family government, Church government, and yes, State government too. We can throw in self-government as well. These types of government are all appointed by God to take on different roles, and while who should have exactly what role can sometimes be difficult to discern, one type of government can only gain more power and influence at the expense of the others. Which type of government is the most expansionist? The State. Its influence in our family life, the education of our children, regulation of business, management of healthcare, direction of the economy – that reach is already enormous. And just as the State's expansion into education came by shrinking the parental role, so too its expansion into other areas comes at the expense of other levels of "government." That's why Christians should want a limited government; because we know that God didn't intend for us and the other types of government to abandon our roles and responsibilities to the State. Another reason for a limited government? When the State takes on jobs God never intended for it they will tend to mess things up. Good intentions simply aren't enough (Prov. 27:14); a good dose of humility about what the State can do, and shouldn't even try to do is also vital. Episode 1: An education in debt (6 minutes) Alexis wants to quit school to start up a business and start paying off her student debt. Then she meets Gov, who encourages her to stay in school "because there's nothing more important  than your education." What about that student debt? Gov assures her, "You are going to have a lifetime to pay off debt...a lifetime!" The Bible likens debt to slavery (Prov. 22:7) – it limits your ability and freedom to do what you otherwise might want to do. Episode 2: Protection from jobs (5 minutes) After Alexis graduates college she decides to pursue her small business idea. Gov is, once again, happy to help, though this time coming to the "aid" of employee Libby. Regulations are brought in with the intent of protecting workers. But regulations also make it harder and more expensive to hire workers: One estimate concerning Canada's tech industry had a 1% increase in regulations leading to a 5% decrease in business startups. The tradeoffs that come with government "protections" are often overlooked. Episode 3: A rememdy for healthcare choices (6 minutes) Alexis is looking for a new healthcare insurance plan, and Gov knows best. Meanwhile, Libby argues that choices and options and free market competition could produce healthcare for less. In his documentary Wait Til It's Free, Reformed filmmaker Colin Gunn makes that same argument. Episode 4: House poor (6 minutes)  Alexis goes house-hunting and mortgage-hunting too, only to discover that Gov has been spending her money, putting her tens of thousands in debt. In Canada accumulated provincial and national debts averages out to $40,000 CAN per citizens while in the US just the national debt works out to more than double that at $80,000 US per citizen. Episode 5: Keeping a close eye on privacy (5 minutes) While Alexis and Gov aren't together anymore, he's still keeping tabs on her – breaking up with "the Gov" proves very hard to do. This series came out soon after Edward Snowden revealed that the United States' National Security Agency (NSA) had been spying on its own citizens, though generally in aggregate – it viewed all the captured data as a whole, not tying it to specific people. But Snowden also shared that should the government want to look at your specific data it could do that too after getting a judge's approval...which was always given....

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Saturday Selections - Nov 7, 2020

What cobras can teach us about incentives Prov. 27:14  teaches that good intentions are not enough. And yet many a government policy is implemented, not because it has been shown to be effective – not because of evidence – but simply because the policy's drafters mean well. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions. Operation Manna - a story for Remembrance Day In the winter of 1944-1945, the northern Netherlands were facing starvation. And they were still occupied by the Nazis so the Allies couldn't reach them with relief supplies. In episode of the History.icu podcast we get to hear how "manna" of a sort was delivered from the skies. "Born this way" is old science During her US Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Amy Coney Barrett used the term "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation" and in what seemed a response (it happened the very next day) Merriam Webster changed their definition for that term to now describe it as an offensive term. Why the fuss? Well, as Senator Mazie Hirono declared at the confirmation hearing, “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term…used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice—it is not.” Except that newer science says preference is probably the better word choice after all. How an affair really begins "One of the great misconceptions about affairs is that they begin with sex. Affairs do not begin with sex.... Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions." A sensible and compassionate anti-COVID strategy What's most striking about this article is its calm tone. But calm doesn't mean insignifigant, as it highlight the importance of correcting a lockdown strategy that the UN estimates might lead to 130 million more deaths by starvation this year. Biblical vs. Christian counseling: What’s the difference? (3 minutes) Dr. Heath Lambert provides a brief, general overview of the difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling. ...

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Saturday Selections - August 15, 2020

Thomas Sowell on the benefit of the 10th Commandment While Thomas Sowell doesn't mention the Bible, the point he makes here is a biblical one. Correcting "income inequality" requires us to do as the 10th Commandment forbids - it makes a virtue out of looking over the back fence and making plans for what our neighbor has. It's only when we forget about redistributing his wealth that we are free to mind our own business, and use and invest and grow what God has entrusted to us for our own good, and the good of 4 principles for talking to your kids about sex (3-minute read) Talk positively, talk often, talk freely, and talk soon... Netherlands contemplating assisted suicide for any over 75 who are "tired of living" While there probably isn't enough time to pass the bill before the next election, it is significant that there is now a push for euthanasia of the healthy. And once it is allowable for those over 75 what reason would there be to refuse it to those under 75? What reason is there for any limits once we ignore that life is created by God, and is not ours take? Morally speaking, not all COVID vaccines will be alike Some of the perspective offered in the article is specifically Roman Catholic, but the problem it points out – that some vaccines are being developed using cells from aborted children – should concern us all. 3 questions to ask before we fill up the family schedule again The summer break, along with COVID craziness, have cut into family busyness: we aren't running from soccer practice to piano recital to playdate pickups like many a family is when the school season is on us. So before all the busyness arrives once again Lauren Miller has 3 questions for us to consider before we add an activity on to our weekly schedule. Even cell death is amazingly designed! (10-minute read) Over the course of 7-10 years, every cell in your body gets replaced. That's amazing, but it also presents a problem: what to do with all the dead cells that are being replaced? Well, it turns out, your body has an amazing recycling system! While this is a somewhat technical read, even just skimming it over will give you a deeper appreciation for God's brilliance. Upcoming documentary on the Red Sea crossing This looks like it will be really interesting. The team behind this film has made three others about Israel's time in Egypt, and in an interesting wrinkle, a secular expert they consulted in the first film, who thought the Bible a great archeological text, in this film thinks the Red Sea crossing must have happened somewhere shallow because he assumes it must have occurred via natural (even if unusual) circumstances. He rules out miracles because he has ruled out God...even as he knows the Bible to be validated by archeology time and again, and believes, therefore, that Israel's crossing did happen. But what happens when we go searching where only a miracle could have permitted the crossing? The trailer seems to show there is evidence of chariots on the seafloor.  ...

Economics

Thinking in terms of tradeoffs rather than solutions...

In a June 2 Facebook live discussion with fellow Conservative MP Garnett Genius, Arnold Viersen outlined two very different ways that politicians tend to approach problems. “One of my friends points out that the progressive vote thinks in terms of solutions, and the conservative thinks in terms of tradeoffs. And you can see that even in the COVID response. The progressives: ‘We have got to stop the spread of COVID!’ The conservative will much more think: ‘We have to trade off one health concern for another health concern.’ For example, in Alberta we’ve had, I think, just about 150 deaths from COVID. But in the same time period we’ve had 37 deaths from a lack of heart surgeries. And that’s a tradeoff that we’ve made. It’s not necessarily talked about. But that is the tradeoff.” That’s a fantastic point. And while Viersen framed it as a conservative vs. a progressive way of thinking, it might better be framed as a Christian vs. secular way of thinking. It is the Christian, after all, who knows why we should be acknowledging that our best efforts will always be trade-offs, rather than solutions for all. It comes down to our more accurate understanding of the world and of our own capabilities. For the secularist, G.K. Chesterton noted, “Once abolish God, and the government becomes God.” Refusing to turn upwards, the secularist is forced to look sideways for a savior, landing on the government because there is no more powerful human institution. But fallible, fallen, limited Man isn’t savior material, no matter what level of power he attains. So the secularist can only continue placing their hope in government by disregarding the limited nature of Man’s capabilities and character. Then they look for solutions rather than trade-offs because it has become their habit to overestimate what Man can do. The Christian, on the other hand, has no need to gloss over Man’s limitations. We also understand that time, money, and every other resource, are limited too, such that we need to count the cost before setting out on an endeavor (Luke 14:25-34). And, finally, we know that in this sin-stained world perfection is impossible. That’s why anything we do will always be a tradeoff, with one of the most common being that resources used for one purpose, can’t then be used to some other end. As Viersen pointed out, when most governments first proposed the lockdowns, we didn’t hear about the other health costs that would come along with doing so. Overall the situation was presented as being lives vs. money, and given that sort of tradeoff, then the choice was clear. And even as an economic tradeoff was noted, the government had their “solution” to that too – they were going to hand out money and lots of it, and we didn’t hear of any downside to doing that. However, it wasn’t just lives vs. money. The reality was that it was lives vs. other lives. There was a predictable, but overlooked cost that would come from heart surgeries, and other vital medical treatments, that were cancelled or delayed due to our COVID-19 response. There was also the physical and mental health concerns that come with unemployment on such a massive scale. Those weren’t widely acknowledged tradeoffs. Going forward, one hard-earned lesson we can take from this strange spring is to question whatever “solutions” we are offered (Prov. 18:17). As Christians, we can apply our God-given insights about the nature of Man, and our world, and help those around us by posing the important questions that spring from our better understanding. We can gently yet firmly ask: “What is the trade-off?” and “What are the costs you haven’t yet mentioned?” Because there will be such costs. In this finite, fallen world every proposal will always involve tradeoffs. ...

Economics, Watch for free

It's A Wonderful Loaf: why free enterprise makes bread in abundance

In the illustrated economic poem below, the author shows how the free enterprise system – with supposedly no one in control – can deliver bread in a great variety, and more cheaply than a socialist system. A socialist system would have some "bread czar" making decisions about what sort, and how much, bread would be made, but then he'd also have to decide how much rye or wheat would have to be planted, and also what other crops would have to be curtailed to make room for the wheat crops. To keep everyone happy, from the rye lover to the white bread aficionado, to the gluten intolerant chap, the number of decisions this bread czar would have to make would be beyond the ability of any single human being – or even a government department – to manage competently. The video is fantastic, but it's missing something vital – the author, Russ Roberts, doesn't see the Christian connection. He says that the ability of the free enterprise system to deliver hot, fresh, affordable bread in an abundance of varieties each and every day is something "no one intends" and "no one has to orchestrate it. It’s the product of our actions but no single mind’s designed it." The truth is different. No human mind designed it, but the foundational principles of the free market system – what makes it work – are Christian principles given by God. Do not worship other gods – Whereas the 1st Commandment (Ex. 20:3) teaches us not to turn to other gods, Socialism is dependent on someone at the top being near-omnipotent, knowing all the right moves to make for the betterment of everyone. Don't steal – The 8th Commandment (Ex. 20:15) make clear God's intent for us to be able to own property, while Socialism takes away property rights. Don't covet – Socialism wants to know what everyone makes while the 10th Commandment (Ex. 20:17) forbids us from looking over the fence to see what our neighbor has got. This commandment frees us to develop what God has given us (Matt 25:14-30) instead of minding our neighbor's business. Other biblical texts could be highlighted and explored but the point is, the reason the free market works as well as it does is that, in these commandments and more, it better lines up with what God commands. And when we obey these commands, then His is the "invisible hand" guiding farmers, mills, bakers, and consumers to arrive at this wonderful loaf. (h/t to Albert Van der Linden)...

Economics

Two tales of trade: how free trade creates wealth

As Christians we know that man is prone to all sorts of evil, but we often forget that man is also prone to all sorts of stupidity. Much damage is done by well meaning people who embrace a bad cause – they aren’t trying to do evil, just the opposite in fact, but evil is done because these “good” people are acting out of their ignorance. In Economics this well-meant ignorance often causes serious harm. One telling example involves child labor. We abhor child labor, especially when the alternative is sending these same kids to school instead. But some years back, when a compassionate campaign against child labor moved Nike and Reebok to close plants in Pakistan and lay off 50,000 child workers in Bangladesh, these children didn’t go to school instead. The reason they were working in the first place was because they needed the very basics of life, so when they were laid off, thousands of them turned to prostitution, crime or simply starved to death1. Compassion, coupled with ignorance, forced these children from a barely tolerable situation to one that was much, much worse. Youth are even more susceptible to doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Enthusiasm combined with inexperience results in an ardent teen who just wants to “Do something!” and off they go, in exactly the wrong direction. Christian youth might be even more inclined to this, since they know that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). That seems to leave them prone to a specific type of economic error – some are deeply suspicious of the rich and their own rich First World countries, convinced that when a rich country trades with a poor country, if the rich get a good deal, it must have been at the expense of the poor. This in turn leaves them leery of free trade. The truth is, it is not through trade, but through the lack of it that rich countries victimize the poor. Now, if there was only a fixed amount of wealth to go around, then any country that got more wealth could only have done so by taking wealth away from someone else. But wealth can be created – there can be more to go around. And trade is one important way to create more wealth. Create wealth via trade? How can that be done? Let me demonstrate by way of a couple of illustrations. How trade creates wealth One day, in his economics class, a university professor was trying to explain to his students the benefits of trade. After lecturing on the subject for an entire week he found his students were still unconvinced. Thinking about it over the weekend he had a flash of insight and headed down to the local dollar store where he bought a range of small inexpensive toys. He bought 20 different toys in all, ranging from a whoopee cushion to a bag of marbles. When the students entered their Economics 101 classroom that Monday they were each given one of the small toys. Most of the students thought their presents were kind of neat, all except for the girl who received the whoopee cushion. She wasn’t quite sure why, but she was offended. The professor then began the class by asking each student to rate their present on a scale of 0-5 with a 5 meaning they really liked it. The twenty students gave their presents a combined rating of 38. The whoopee cushion girl rated hers a zero. Then the professor allowed the students five minutes to trade their presents...but only with students immediately to the right or left of them. The unhappy whoopee cushion girl managed a trade with a frat boy to her right, for a pack of giant playing cards. She was much happier with the cards, and the frat boy was strangely ecstatic with his new possession. Five minutes later the students were asked to rate their presents again, and the combined rating improved to 56. The frat boy gave his whoopee cushion a five. Finally the professor allowed the students to trade with anyone in the room. Once again the overall score went up – the combined rating after this exchange was boosted to 72. From round one to three, no new products were created, and yet people rated their toy higher each round. To put it another way, after making trades they felt what they were left with was worth more than what they originally had. They were getting wealthier. And the freer the trade, the more students were able to obtain what they really wanted, by doing just as the whoopee girl did, offering in exchange something they didn't value as highly. With the trading completed, the professor was overjoyed – his students finally understood how trade could create wealth! He let out a contented sigh and dropped down into his chair…which then produced another, decidedly more rude, sound. The frat boy loved free trade. ****** When I first published this illustration in the Canadian Student Review some students responded by insisting that while trade might benefit First World countries, that didn't mean it was good for everyone. They argued it didn't help the poorest countries since they have absolutely nothing of value to offer in trade. This objection simply isn't true. Whether it is natural resources, or simply cheap labor (even cheap child labor), every country has something to offer. It is true that wars, and corrupt governments, may make it impossible for citizens of a particular country to engage in trade. But that doesn't underscore a shortcoming with free trade, but instead highlights the devastating impacts of wars and corruption. So, as a response, I ended up writing a second story to illustrate how free trade would help even when some countries have much less to offer than others. How trade helps even poor countries It was a regular lunch hour in Mrs. Embargo’s grade 6 classroom and the kids were trading their snacks behind the teacher’s back. One of the kids, Ulysses Sam Austin (USA for short) always had at least a hundred Oreo cookies. He had so many he didn’t value them like he once did when his mom only packed five or ten in his lunch. Canada’s mom (some kids have names like Dallas and Dakota, so why not Canada?) always stuck an entire banana bread loaf in his lunch. The other kids weren’t quite so well off, and had a variety of snacks ranging from a handful of chips to a couple of carrot sticks. The carrot stick kid desperately wanted some banana bread because his mom didn’t have an oven so she couldn’t make it. It took a bit of bartering but eventually he managed to trade one of his carrot sticks for a small slice. It wasn’t a lot, but it was more than he could have gotten any other way. USA was getting quite sick of Oreos and was practically giving them away. It wasn’t that he was softhearted – some even accused him of being the class bully – but he had a surplus of cookies, and they weren’t very useful to him. He traded ten of them to the carrot stick boy for his last carrot. The next day Mrs. Embargo decided to crack down, “You children are going to have to eat what your parents packed in your lunch!” That made all the children very sad: USA because he was now stuck with only Oreos, Canada because he had nothing orange to eat, and especially the carrot stick kid, because Mrs. Embargo’s protectionist stance prevented him from trading for the banana bread he loved so dearly. ****** The truth is, it is not through trade, but through restrictions on trade that rich countries victimize the poor. In this illustration, without trade the poor carrot stick kid/country would never have gotten a slice of banana bread, as he was completely incapable of manufacturing it at home. In the real world, poor countries in Africa can produce some agricultural goods at a lower cost than we can in the West, yet instead of allowing them to compete with us, we may well slap a tariffs on their goods, in addition to spending billions on subsidizing our farmers. As columnist Elizabeth Nickson puts it, “these barriers dramatically reduce what poor countries can earn from farming, which is what most of their people do." She went on to note that, back in 2004, it was "estimated that protecting our markets from African produce costs these countries $100 billion US a year, or twice what they receive in aid.”2 Free, fair trade is a win-win prospect for both sides – the poorer nations wouldn’t trade at all if they didn’t think they were getting a benefit. And if we as Christians want to help the developing world in a substantial manner – far in excess of any material good we can do through our charitable giving – one of the most compassionate things we can do is tell our government to reduce tariffs and agricultural subsidies that, while helping our own farmers, do so at the expense of the poor. End notes 1 “Green power, black death” by Elizabeth Nickson, National Post Jan. 9, 2004 2 “Green power, black death” This article was first published in Feb. 2004 in Reformed Perspective magazine...

News

Saturday Selections – April 4, 2020

3 things to remember when you're feeling anxious (3 min) "It's striking that the most frequent command in the entire Bible is to not be afraid. Don't fear. Don't be anxious. And it's a very unusual command because it doesn't say, 'Repent,' or 'Try harder.' It's a command, but then the next thing said is a promise: 'I will be with you. Don't be afraid.'" – David Powlison New free Christian streaming service Looking for some good Christian viewing? Vision Video and the Christian History Institute have just started a new, free (donor-supported) streaming service (H/T Tim Challies). You have to give your name and email, and then you are good to go. A lot of it is middling content, some is Roman Catholic, but there are some gems worth checking out including a great children's film... Storm and Luther's Forbidden Letter  ...5 biographical dramas (I've ordered them from best to not bad)... C.S. Lewis Onstage Martin Luther Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace  John Hus - A Journey of No Return God's Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale ... and, for the even more studious, a classic apologetics series from Schaeffer, and a series from James Kennedy... Francis Schaeffer's "How Should We Then Live" James Kennedy's "What if Jesus had never been born?" There's also the Torchlighter animated biographies, where some episodes are quite good (like the Martin Luther one). But despite being animated, these are not all-ages viewing - The Jim Elliot Story, for example, includes a brief depiction of his death by spearing. So, as always, parents should preview. We can't spend our way to prosperity This is not a Christian article but it makes a Christian point: it is not spending, but investment, that grows an economy. We see in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) the lazy servant is taken to task for not investing his talent, while the two others are congratulated for making more out of what their Master gave them. The idea of "stimulus spending" flips this on its head, calling on us not to create more, but to spend what we have. To be clear, this article isn't critiquing aid to those in need – that's a different discussion. What's being critiqued here is sending cheques out with the goal of getting people spending. As the author notes, this has been tried repeatedly, and it has failed repeatedly: "More spending is a consequence of economic growth, not the trigger for economic growth." Fear of dying There's nothing like a pandemic to bring our mortality close to home. Lou Priolo lists 6 common reasons we're afraid of dying and lays out a "brief biblical remedy for each of them. Christian Psychology: an introduction & biblical analysis (15-minute read) This is a helpful article, highlighting the differences between secular psychology and two types of Christian psychology. It's not a quick or easy read, but it is an informative one. A Christian and a feminist almost agree (5 min) The world can often be spot on about what the problem is, and still be completely wrong about what the solution is. And unless someone tells them God's answer, they aren't going to figure it out on their own. ...

Economics

5 things Christians should know about income inequality

Income inequality is still at the forefront of conversation for many people. Thankfully, there are biblical principles that help Christians understand whether income inequality is a problem, and if so, how we are to respond. At the Christian research organization I work for – the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics – we talk a lot about various aspects of income inequality and how to think about it. Today, I’d like to summarize this tough topic through these five points dealing with the best approach to bringing about flourishing, especially for the poor. 1. HOW INCOME INEQUALITY IS MEASURED Income inequality measures income differences across groups of people using a statistical tool called the Gini coefficient. It ranges between zero and one. A score of one indicates perfect inequality: one person makes all the income and everyone else makes zero. A score of zero indicates perfect equality: everyone earns exactly the same amount. The U.S. Gini coefficient is 0.45 according to the CIA World Fact Book. For the sake of context, the impoverished country of Bangladesh has less income inequality than the U.S. (Gini of 0.32). Meanwhile Hong Kong has slightly more income inequality than the U.S. (Gini of 0.54).  Alone, income inequality data doesn’t tell us that much about whether one country is “better” than another. 2. CRONYISM MAKES INCOME INEQUALITY WORSE, AND IT'S UNFAIR Cronyism occurs when corporations pursue the government for benefits, protections, or subsidies benefiting their business at the expense of competing firms and consumers. It is a growing trend evidenced by the hundreds of lobbying firms popping up on K Street. Politicians have responded quite favorably to these lobbying efforts and have created a culture in which the most well-connected win. This is inherently unfair. An unjust system is prevailing where ordinary businesses and entrepreneurs are failing because they lack the resources to buy off politicians. The unfortunate result is that they can’t succeed, and the well-connected rich get richer and stifle more opportunities for the poor. 3. DIVERSITY IS A BIBLICAL PREMISE OF CREATION. WE ARE BORN WITH DIFFERENT GIFTS, RESULTING IN DIFFERENT INCOMES. We are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and, while we bear many physical similarities, we are all distinct. That means that, by definition, we are unequal. God knew that our uniqueness makes our work and talents inherently dignifying and brings us into community with one another. Our interdependence makes us able to achieve things we never could on our own. We use our gifts and skills to provide goods and services that others need. We then trade for goods and services that we need but aren’t able to provide ourselves. The market return for our services is our income, and that income is based on the market supply of what we provide and the value people place on it. This means that our incomes will be different. However, because we do not operate in a vacuum, those who do earn high incomes tend to create lots of value for everyone, including lots of job opportunities. High incomes are not a sign that the rich have stolen from the poor. Quite the contrary, wealthy individuals have often innovated products and services that make us all richer and ease our way of life. 4. INCOME MOBILITY IS A BETTER MEASURE OF PROSPERITY Income mobility is quite different from income inequality. Income mobility tracks the lifetime income of a person. It’s a way of understanding if people are able to earn more income over their lives as a result of increases in their education, skills, and productivity. The trouble with the data on income inequality is that it doesn’t track individuals over time. If we look at the poorest income bracket in 1990 and again in 2014, we have no idea if the people who were poor in 1990 are still poor today simply by looking at the data. In fact, mobility data suggests that almost sixty percent of individuals who were in the lower income brackets moved into higher brackets in under a decade. 5. WE SHOULD FOCUS ON WHAT GOD HAS CALLED US TO DO, NOT ON WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING In a flourishing society, there are going to be lots of people who make high levels of income. Think how different the Congo or Vietnam would look if local entrepreneurs had the opportunity to create and innovate. The world would have a lot more people like Bill Gates and a lot more wealth and opportunity for all – not just the rich. It’s easy to want for ourselves what others have, but we can’t all be Bill Gates. God has gifted each of us to do something specific and special. We need to focus on our unique callings and do them with excellence rather than focusing on what others have. Unfortunately, some of the talk around income inequality is about coveting what others have rather than wanting more for the poor. I can tell you from living in a county with the highest per-capita income in the country that it is easy to want what others have: the newest car, the bigger house, the better wardrobe. It is a deceptive trap to believe that if we have these things, we will feel better or live better. WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT INCOME INEQUALITY? Be aware of the cronyism all around us that often shows up in seemingly benign programs like laws mandating certain light bulbs, sugar subsidies, and occupational licensing. Government is increasingly giving in to the entitlement culture of lobbying. We need businesses to stop asking for favors and political leaders who will stop the handouts. Furthermore, prayerfully discern the path to which God calls you and pursue it with integrity, hard work, and faith. No matter what income it brings, it gives you a chance to serve others in the here and now and achieve everlasting significance for God’s kingdom. This article is reprinted, with minor edits, with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). The original article appears here. IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Go here to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog. Dr. Anne Bradley "is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute, where she develops and commissions research toward a systematic biblical theology of economic freedom." RedPanel.com comic used with permission....

News

Saturday Selections – February 29, 2020

Could giraffes fit on the ark? Answers in Genesis has made a 30-second commercial for their Ark Encounter in Kentucky. It's based on all the children's bible storybooks that depict Noah's Ark with giraffes that have to stick their necks out a window. As the Giraffe family discovers, those pictures don't capture the true scale of things. If you've ever thought of visiting the Ark Encounter this might be the year to go – in 2020 kids 10 and under are free. Catholic mass to be offered to Protestants in Calvin's Cathedral today As Adam Ford noted, this is something that should not only get Protestants angry but even Catholics. There are real differences between us about who God is and what He has done for us. Rather than addressing those differences, this pretends that the truth of the matter is inconsequential. So this isn't Catholic theology sneaking into a Protestant church; this is relativism and apathy showing they already run the place. Christian atheists? Though they won't worship God, some prominent atheists still recognize that Christianity is good for the world. Is Transhumanism uncomfortably tempting? Is Transhumanism – the idea that we can use technology to reshape ourselves – the next thing coming? Transhumanism includes things as minimal as a pair of high-tech glasses that access the Internet. It can also be much more radical, involving the replacement of body parts with cybernetics. Artificial limbs designed to help those who have lost their own arms or legs via accident or disease might be grafted onto people who want to substitute their healthy arm for a bionic one. Inconceivable? Not in a world in which men are being told that they can become women, and vice versa. What is the Christian response? Denyse O'Leary provides a partial answer. Reformed sermon site has 1,500+ TheSeed.info has collected 1,679 sermons from pastors in the Canadian and American Reformed Churches and their sister denominations. It can be searched by biblical text (with at least one sermon available for every book of the bible except, somewhat mysteriously, 1 Chronicles) so it's a great study resource and quite the source of reading sermons. All Bob's money.... (3 min) Now that Bernie Sanders is the Democratic presidential front runner, this spoof of the Beatles' "All my loving" is making the rounds again. Sanders has spoken of banning billionaires, not for any specific evil they've done but simply because they have more money than he thinks they should have. This is what breaking the 1oth Commandment looks like at a governmental level – he's peeking over the back fence at what the billionaires have, and he's coveting. But is that the only Commandment that Sanders is breaking? If you have libertarian friends you may have heard one claim that "all taxation is theft." Libertarians believe the government derives its authority from the people, and thus only has the same powers that we as individuals have. And since we can't force people to give us money – that would be stealing – it's still theft even when the government does it. In contrast, Christians know that governments are put in place by God, and derive their authority from Him. They can tax us because, as Roman 13:6-7 shows, God has given them the authority to do so. So, no, not all taxation is theft. But where Christians can go wrong is in believing that since the government is allowed to tax that means taxation is never theft. However, when King Ahab wanted his neighbor Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21) he couldn't simply take it, even though he was the king – even though he was the government – because that would have been a violation of the 8th Commandment, Do not Steal. So he found a couple of men to bear false witness against Naboth, accusing him of blasphemy, and then had him stoned to death, and only afterward took his vineyard. Do we imagine, as Douglas Wilson recently asked, that "if Ahab has done what he did to Naboth via a program of land reform, or eminent domain, or zone redistricting Elijah would have nodded to himself saying, 'That's more like it'?" Whether we think Sanders' billionaire ban violates the 8th Commandment or not, it breaks the 10th. God made Abraham wealthy, and Jacob, and Solomon too. While Jesus warned that wealth comes with temptations (Matt. 19:24), being rich is a responsibility that God gives, and is not an injustice the government must correct. ...

Economics, Movie Reviews

Wait till it's free

Documentary 2014 / 82 minutes Rating: 9/10 Why would Canadians be interested in watching a Scotsman take a look at the American healthcare system? Because this examination, of how capitalism and socialism impact healthcare costs, is very relevant for us too. The film’s director and producer, Colin Gunn, is Presbyterian and consequently a capitalist. If that seems an abrupt connection, then consider that we Reformed folks know that the heart of man is wicked. So we are well aware that if an economic system needs men to be angels, laboring for no personal benefit, then that is an unworkable economic system. So we know better than to be socialists. But for some reason, we don’t seem to think that holds true for healthcare. This comes out most strongly when Canadians, even the Reformed ones, start talking about healthcare with their American cousins. Then we seem to be quite proud of the socialistic nature of our healthcare system, which “costs us nothing, and is free for everyone.” But, of course, that isn’t really so. It certainly isn’t free – the costs are simply not seen, paid out in taxes, so that Canadians have very little idea of how much their healthcare really does cost. And that everyone is covered doesn’t distinguish it all that much from American healthcare, where everyone can get emergency care, and where more and more of the population is covered by the government-run Medicare. As Gunn points out, the American system is almost as socialistic as the Canadian. Gunn’s main argument is that a good dose of capitalism would be good for what ails the American system. His most telling observation was that in the American system no one knows what the costs will be beforehand. There is no public pricing chart, and so no way of comparing what one hospital might charge versus another. And without an awareness of how much things might costs, there is only a pretense of competition. You won't have innovation if you don't have competition so if we want to reform healthcare, this might be the first place we need to start: make all the prices public! I highly recommend this documentary – it is a brilliant argument by a Christian filmmaker who has perfected his craft. The content is superb: Gunn has assembled an impressive cast of experts from around the world to make his case. And the presentation is even better: there are fun little animated bits, and great narration, and a wonderful story arc – this is packaged up nicely, and tied up at the end with a bow. Who should see this? Anyone who thinks socialism is the answer to our healthcare needs. You can watch the trailer below, and watch the rent the full film by clicking on the "$4.95" link in the trailer below. The Wait Till It's Free YouTube site has a lot of extras that are also worth checking out. ...

News

Saturday Selections – June 8, 2019

Dude Perfect's does more than bottle flips If you and your family don't already know about Dude Perfect, these guys provide some good clean and free fun with their creative videos. FREE COMMENTARY ON JAMES We haven’t read this commentary, but others in this commentary series have been well worth recommending. The ebook of Sam Allberry's James For You is free all June (but you do have to give them your email address). The theological legacy of Rachel Held Evans The popular blogger made it easier for people to express their doubts. But she didn't help them find answers. How to talk to your children about climate change This article highlights two important points we need to pass on to our children: wishing doesn't make it so, and the government does not have God-like expertise. Young people calling on the government to fix things need to understand that even the US's best-known proponent for government-directed environmental intervention, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, doesn't know what sort of change is needed, or possible, or at what costs. Eve was just like Adam, except completely different This is a fun short piece on the meaning of the Hebrew word kenegdo, translated as "suitable" in Genesis 2:18–21, but which more literally means "like" and "opposite." So, when this passage speaks of Eve as a "suitable" partner for Adam, we can understand it as saying she's a "similar" but "opposite" partner for him. And isn't that a great description of what spouses are in a good marriage: like-minded, yet completely different? Rent control is a feel-good policy that does bad (5 min) Christians will sometimes support rent control – the government legislating whether and how much rents can increase – thinking that it is a compassionate way to provide affordable housing for poor people. But rent control means that the government wrests control of these rental properties from their owners and decides for them what they are worth. If that's not what we'd like the government to do with our own property (our house, our car, our business, etc.), then, as Jesus instructs in Luke 6:31, we shouldn't ask the government to do that to others. And what this video shows is that "compassion" like this actually hurts the poor. That brings to mind another lesser known passage: "...but the mercy of the wicked is cruel" (Proverbs 12:10b) – politicians may continue to back it, even understanding the harm it does, because it makes them seem compassionate. ...

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