Sunday, July 25, 2004

Getting It Right.... 

While I have been very critical of John Whitehead in recent posts, his latest posting on Razormouth, is a good one for all serious Christians to read. He expresses his concern that churches will become associated with any one political party or too wrapped up in politics and lose focus on what's important, namely bringing the Gospel of Christ to all the earth. When talking about gay marriage, my pastor, Dan Clay put it like this, "What is the worst that can happen? Homosexuals will be allowed to marry and have full benefits that are currently reserved for heterosexuals. Does this mean that the kingdom of God will stop growing or that the Gospel will stop being preached?"

I am in full agreement with Mr. Whitehead on this issue the more I have thought about the nature of the church and its place in the world and society. The church ought to remain skeptical and distant from the state's power because that kind of power can, will and does corrupt. A stark example of this kind of corruption is what happened when the Christian Democratic Party under Helmut Kohl took a severe beating after it was learned that Kohl had accepted French campaign contributions in exchange for Germany joining the EU. The power that the state has is a temporary power, the power of the sword or chariot as the Scriptures would describe it. When the church becomes dialed in on political power and influence to the exclusion of other kinds of influence in the larger culture, everyone is impoverished. I believe that every facet of man's culture and society is to be brought under the lordship of Christ and this goes far beyond politics. On the issue of gay marriage, Christians would do well to seriously address their own marriages and to get serious about the issue. If my brothers and sisters in Christ want to undo the homosexual marriage movement, then we must get serious about preventing divorce and premarital sex. Men must be encouraged strongly to look for wives and women for their part must be taught to look for a husband.

I have only minor quibbles with the Whitehead piece. First, the Kerry/Edwards campaign is probably just as ideally aggressive in pursuing religious voters. Yes, the Bushies are aggressive about courting Christian voters, but then again, many Christians make up the heart and soul of the GOP base. If I remember rightly, evangelicals voted for Bush roughly 60-40 in 2000. Many Christian Coalition members are now part of the Republican Party leadership a Campaigns and Elections study found in either 2000 or 2002 (I don't remember exactly which year). Also, it is perfectly natural for Christians to flock to one party or another. One hundred years ago, it was the Democrats who were the home of many Christians and it was Republican William Blaine who helped put legislative and philosophical teeth into the contemporary doctrine of church/state separation.

The church is called by Christ to Himself to be a
...a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
I Peter 2:9 (KJV)
The job and purpose of the church is to preach the Gospel of salvation to all men in every tribe, nation and tongue and to administer the Sacraments and to trust that God will work through His appointed means to bring men, women and nations to faith and repentance. That isn't to say that Christians shouldn't be involved in the political process, because both Mr. Whitehead, Mr. Clay and myself will tell you that we should be involved, but we must keep things in their right perspective.

Political activism is good and right regardless which side of the political spectrum a person may find themselves. But the campaigns and the kings of this world are like the grass that withers and is blown away. Christians should instead focus their worship and their energies on worshipping Jesus Christ and redeeming the society to an eternal kingdom and reward. May God Almighty strengthen us to that end. Amen

Monday, July 12, 2004

Popping a Whitehead (again) 

If one follows National Review Online for any length of time, you will see articles from the "Krugman Truth Squad" on the site. The columns are posted by Donald Luskin and are also posted on his own blog. Donald Luskin coined "The Krugman Truth Squad" (KTS for short) to name a cadre of bloggers who dog New York Times "economics" columnist and Princeton professor. The group was formed to keep a track of the "nation's most dangerous liberal columnist" and to keep the truth shined on him.

Well, in the grand tradition of active bloggers who are dogging public figures, I have decided to become a one-man consistency squad to John Whitehead. Yep, widely printed Wall Street libertarian types catch a widely read economics professor writing lies and I catch a DC-based civil liberties trial lawyer with logical inconsistencies. It's not much of a life, but it allows me a chance to get things off my chest.

In my last post, Mr. Whitehead was caught by me in the grips of two contradictory desires: The desire to curb state search and seizure powers via the PATRIOT Act on one hand and a desire to ban cigarette production and consumption on the other. In his latest post, Mr. Whitehead is talking about prescription drug prices in Canada and the FDA's "Gestapo" tactics in trying to stop illegal practices.

Mr. Whitehead starts his column by referencing a USA Today story noting that the AARP (one of DC's most powerful lobbying groups according to Fortune) was yelling and screaming about drug prices going up at "three times the rate of inflation". He then sets up one of his typical rhetorical devices: The government agent dressed in black gear being firm and/or aggressive with harmless and helpless citizens. What I find incredulous with this device is that people are openly admitting to an ILLEGAL activity and then becoming huffy when agents conduct a 30 minute "search" "harassing" these poor, defenseless seniors. The search may have been "illegal", I don't know the jurisprudence of search and seizure case law to say one way or another, a simple question still stands in my mind: "What did these seniors really expect?" Engaging in ILLEGAL activities tends to get people roughed up by government agents simply upholding the law like they are supposed to do. The fun is just beginning....Why were these poor, defenseless seniors being compelled to go to Canada by the busload to get prescription drugs?

I will let Mr. Whitehead speak for himself:

Why Canadians are spared higher drug prices is due, in large part, to price controls. The Canadian government has wisely established a review board to ensure that drug prices are not so expensive that people cannot have access to them.
After listing some of the much cheaper prices Canadian citizens pay compared to what American consumers pay, Mr. Whitehead puts the above quote down and at this point in the column, he is being honest with the reader. However, it is his assertion that price controls are a wise maneuver that has me irritated. This just in: price controls are a massive expansion of the state's power first of all and second of all, they have undesired and unexpected consequences. Price controls are a market distortion of what the price of drugs should be. If Canadians had to pay more for their drugs, there would less economic pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to try make up their losses here in the U.S.

By the way, is anyone schooled in classical economics not surprised by the price increases here in the states. The drug companies were being forced to discount their wares by government fiat and the added cost of doing business is simply being passed on to the consumer through higher prices. It is infuriating to me that people think that increased taxes and regulations don't have any effect on people's behavior (This is the essence of the government's view of tax returns V. tax cuts otherwise known as Keynesian Economic Theory). Ludwig Von Mises and other classical economists have blown this theory out of the water time and again.

So, how does Mr. Whitehead solve this problem? Allow the reimportation of drugs from other countries with price controls of course. He dismisses concerns over drug quality with a wave of his hand
Unfortunately, the Bush administration and other politicians are opposing drug imports, mainly citing safety reasons. However, this is something that could easily be taken care of through the passage of prudent legislation.
Not only is he dismissive of the potential health risks associated with importing drugs from other countries with price controls, he does not inform his readers of two important facts to consider: 1. Many pharmaceutical companies ALREADY have discounts for seniors in place (just watch day time t.v. for one day to see all of the senior specific ads to see what I'm talking about). 2. The costs of researching and developing new drugs is around an estimated $800 million dollars per drug.

Finally, Mr. Whitehead doesn't consider for his own reasoning what drug reimportation would do to government powers. The Pacific Research Institute, among others has argued recently that reimportation would
EXPAND the FDA's regulatory authority. If Mr. Whitehead thinks the FDA is a bully now, just wait till they have to seriously police reimported drugs AND tobacco products. That 30 minute "search" he highlighted would just be the beginning. Mr. Whitehead needs to study human nature and economics more closely in the future to spare himself embarrassment in the future.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Johnny come lately 

Well, Well, Well . . . It seems that Mr. Kerry has picked John Edwards to be his running mate. I am not that impressed to be honest with you all, but the pick is the best on a thin bench. Of the names that had been tossed around, Mr. Edwards is probably the best one of all. I think that the only way Kerry could have done better would to have chosen Dick Gebhardt or Sam Nunn. Heading into this year's presidential contest, I truly feared John Edwards. He is young, wealthy, good looking and charismatic on the stump (except for the wealthy part, he is everything Mr. Kerry isn't). Basically, what I feared about Edwards was that he would be Bill Clinton Part II, namely, a white southern liberal who could cross dress as a "moderate" (as if there is a difference).

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the primary: Edwards opened his mouth. His "Two America's" speech went over well and allowed him to mount a late charge in the early Democratic primaries, but it is right out of Mario Cuomo's "Two Cities" speech from 20 years ago. If the GOP were smart allecky about things, they ought to play clips of Edward's speech followed by Cuomo's speech followed by a clip of Kerry at a rally followed by a clip of Walter Mondale at a rally. Something like that would help cement memories of Reagan's wipeout of Mondale in 1984 and would illustrate the fact that the Democrat Party seems to be intellectually bankrupt of new ideas or perspectives.

Other avenues to hit on: Edwards is inexperienced, relatively speaking to be Commander-In-Chief and more importantly, him and his trial lawyer buddies have driven the cost of healthcare higher with various liability suits and punitive damages. It's my understanding that people distrust the media and politicians, but they distrust trial lawyers even more than those two fallen estates. "Trial Lawyer" and "John Edwards" ought to be linked in press releases every other day to drive home the point that Edwards has made his monies by punishing doctors and insurance companies unnecessarily, driving insurance premiums up and many doctors out of business. Finally, I still do fear Edwards as a future candidate and he could moderate his stump speech this year to set himself up as another Bill Clinton, just simply biding his time to run for the White House.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Quick takes 

Quick Take #1

It is good to see one of my family's favorite websites come back from a five month hiatus. My wife and I usually enjoyed the commentary on Razormouth.com, a Reformed Christian website that was originally dedicated to commenting on culture and Christianity. According to the publishers of the site, they failed in their task because of petty differences and squabbles.

I can't say that I blame them for coming back with more focus and with a more consistent message than before. It is hard enough to comment on Christianity and politics, much less a whole culture. The squabbles did get out of hand at times and if this is a way to maintain order, then they have done the right thing. Still, I will miss some of the commentary that tends to go unnoticed on "political" websites. It's good to see the guys back and approaching politics from a Christian libertarian point of veiw. I am not entirely ready to embrace libertarianism as they define it just yet, but there are many areas of agreement between them and myself.

Not-So-Quick Take

One of the regular contributors to
Razormouth is John Whitehead, the president of the Rutherford Institute. He is an individual who has fought tenaciously for true religious freedom (not this "if-you-keep-it-private-you-can-believe-whatever-you-want" kind of religious freedom) and individual civil liberties. There are areas where we agree wholeheartedly (namely on fighting to maintain religious freedom). But there is one area in which we will disagree on quite strongly: the PATRIOT Act. He has written AGAIN about the potential dangers the act poses to everyone's freedoms and liberties. I agree that the definition of terrorism in the act probably could be tightened up, I think that any act that is hundreds of pages in length ought to be reviewed for balancing effectiveness, abuse or potential harm to our future liberties. I have two complaints about Mr. Whitehead's stance, though:

1. I realize that it is fine and dandy to be critical of laws that Congress has or hasn't passed. I can see raising alarm about POTENTIAL abuses that could come about from law enforcement agencies now that they have many more tools and powers that were off limits before Sept. 11. I get all of that schtick. But Mr. Whitehead has conviently ducked three key questions in regard to this act:

1. Before powers were expanded and granted with the signing of the act into law, what tools would Mr. Whitehead use to proactively apprehend those who would do us harm?

2. What specific changes would Mr. Whitehead make to the Patriot Act to achieve a balance between freedom for the masses and security from those who would do us harm? In other words, how does he plan to balance freedoms with security concerns?

3. You mean to tell me that in an act HUNDREDS of pages long that there isn't a SINGLE feature he might find attractive or worthy of endorsement? If there are objections to the act from "all across the political spectrum", then there are features that are praiseworthy as well. Why haven't I seen him feature these?

back to my original point...

The second objection I have really isn't an objection per se, it's just an observation of mine. In the article linked above, Mr. Whitehead sounds the usual omenious warnings about the spread of the "police state". While I agree that the state has taken too many freedoms away from people, I think Mr. Whitehead needs to think through what he is writing about when he says tobacco smoking should be illegal. If he thinks the state has too much power now, just let it try to catch cigarette runners and tobacco growers in this country. If he thinks the spectre of terrorism has expanded the state's powers, just wait till the state tries to eliminate smoking.....

wait a minute....it already IS trying that through monstrously high cigarette taxes and advertising regulations and the like. The effect of sudden massive increases in cigarette taxes has been an increase in dangerous and illegal behavior as documented by Jacob Sullum and others who have written on the subject. Mr. Whitehead needs to think more seriously about what he writes. He might find a few more allies and friends along the way.

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