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Archive for July, 2008

Cynicism and limited government

Posted by Chance on July 30, 2008

I was watching a Simpson’s episode from the Season 2 DVD where Marge successfully bans violence from the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Her protests influence others to prevent Michelangelo’s David from visiting Springfield. Marge regrets her actions and concedes “I guess one person can make a difference, but most of the time, they probably shouldn’t.” This statement resonated with me somewhat, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

As someone who generally favors limited government, I actually prefer it when politicians do less. When people talk about how they want to change the world and make the world a better place, part of me cringes, because usually what they mean is that they want to pass more laws, raise taxes, and spend more government money.

When I think about the people I went to college with, I think of those who got involved in a lot of activities such as student council and the like, and those who simply went to class, did their homework, and tried to have a little fun along the way.

I know that it is better to be involved with things and try to impact other people’s lives, as opposed to being more self-absorbed and simply worrying about one’s grades. However, the “involved” people are the ones more likely to get involved in politics and do the aforementioned things. The ones that are less involved are more likely to mind their own business and leave me alone.

I guess it all depends on how someone gets involved. It seems that government is typically the first route people take when trying to change society. But I think if people put the same amount of effort in non-governmental avenues, it could make more of an impact while keeping the average person’s life free of rules and regulations. Also, when people talk about “changing society” and the like, I tend to associate it with liberal politics. And for some people, that’s not a bad thing, but for those on the other side of the political spectrum, it is. I don’t mean to bash Democrats or liberals, I am just saying how I feel. The idea of being compassionate and doing good is becoming less romanticized, as it is commonly associated with huge taxes and inefficient government programs. Doing good is losing its cool. Jesus has been replaced by a faceless bureaucrat. To explain how I feel to more liberal readers, think of how some self-righteous conservatives can turn people off from ideas such as “family values”.

When it comes to changing society, I do believe there are times that government should be involved, but even then it should not be the only focus. Look at racism. Passing laws will not change people’s heart, and it takes institutions such as the church to address the heart issue (unfortunately some of the church held people back). But just because it takes more than government doesn’t mean government shouldn’t be involved at all. People of all races should be treated equally by the government. The same thing with the abortion issue. Christians and others passionate about the issue should get involved in ministries that help out expecting mothers and help them to choose life. At the same time, I believe born and unborn people should be treated equally under the law.

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Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

Thoughts on capital punishment

Posted by Chance on July 17, 2008

Capital punishment is really an issue I’m not that passionate about, for whatever reason. Out of the things that keep me up at night, the thought that convicted killers get sentenced to death is not one of them. Maybe that makes me a bad person, at least in the eyes of those who are against capital punishment.

Probably the best argument against capital punishment is the fact that people are wrongly convicted. Libertarians for Life has the argument

If we imprison someone unjustly, we can repay our debt to that person to some extent and beg forgiveness. But how do we compensate the innocent dead? Given the fallibility of human beings, this is a fundamental ethical problem for capital punishment.

However, the Bible addresses this issue as pointed out at Neil’s blog.

The Bible requires that accused criminals be justly convicted, and our system doesn’t take perjury very seriously. God loves justice. Here’s just one of many verses one could point to: Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Keep in mind that when I say He loves justice that doesn’t just mean he loves it when the innocent aren’t punished. He also loves it when the guilty are held accountable. This can help rehabilitate the criminal, protect others from the criminal and deter others from becoming criminals.)

The Bible required two or more witnesses for the death penalty: Numbers 35:30 Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

So, if implemented correctly, this problem would be addressed, at least somewhat.

Neil addresses other possible Biblical arguments against capital punishment in the post.

The main issue I want to address, however, is the method of arguing by opponents of capital punishment, which views the death penalty as equivalent to murder. The saying goes “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”

There are a couple issues with this rhetorical question.

1) The government has authority that the individual does not. After all, many people support the right of the government to tax us and take our money, but that doesn’t mean we support stealing. The government has the right to hold us against our will should we commit a crime, yet that doesn’t give individuals the right to kidnap.

We see this distinction in the Bible. God said “thou shalt not murder”, yet God commanded the death penalty for certain crimes, and he supported war against other nations. To my recollection, God never commanded an individual to act separately from their government in taking life, or to be a vigilante and get revenge. Now granted, I don’t want us stoning people for worshiping other gods or committing adultery, or wiping out entire nations. The point I am making, however, is God obviously saw a distinction between one individual murdering another individual, vs. the government imposing the death penalty or going to war against another government. I am not advocating the extent of Israel’s power in domestic/foreign policy; Israel was a theocracy run by God through Moses. My point is that just because murder is wrong, doesn’t automatically mean the death penalty is.

2) There is a difference between killing an innocent person and a guilty person. Or, to say it another way, opponents of capital punishment need to work on establishing their argument that there is no difference. Again, opponents just take this as a given and run with it. Now, I will say the burden of proof is on those who are for capital punishment in this area. Like the abortion issue, the burden is on those who support death.

The point is, “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” is not an effective argument because it presumes a moral equivalence to murder and the death penalty, a presumption proponents of the death penalty do not share.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on capital punishment

Posted by Chance on July 17, 2008

Capital punishment is really an issue I’m not that passionate about, for whatever reason. Out of the things that keep me up at night, the thought that convicted killers get sentenced to death is not one of them. Maybe that makes me a bad person, at least in the eyes of those who are against capital punishment.

Probably the best argument against capital punishment is the fact that people are wrongly convicted. Libertarians for Life has the argument

If we imprison someone unjustly, we can repay our debt to that person to some extent and beg forgiveness. But how do we compensate the innocent dead? Given the fallibility of human beings, this is a fundamental ethical problem for capital punishment.

However, the Bible addresses this issue as pointed out at Neil’s blog.

The Bible requires that accused criminals be justly convicted, and our system doesn’t take perjury very seriously. God loves justice. Here’s just one of many verses one could point to: Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Keep in mind that when I say He loves justice that doesn’t just mean he loves it when the innocent aren’t punished. He also loves it when the guilty are held accountable. This can help rehabilitate the criminal, protect others from the criminal and deter others from becoming criminals.)

The Bible required two or more witnesses for the death penalty: Numbers 35:30 Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

So, if implemented correctly, this problem would be addressed, at least somewhat.

Neil addresses other possible Biblical arguments against capital punishment in the post.

The main issue I want to address, however, is the method of arguing by opponents of capital punishment, which views the death penalty as equivalent to murder. The saying goes “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?”

There are a couple issues with this rhetorical question.

1) The government has authority that the individual does not. After all, many people support the right of the government to tax us and take our money, but that doesn’t mean we support stealing. The government has the right to hold us against our will should we commit a crime, yet that doesn’t give individuals the right to kidnap.

We see this distinction in the Bible. God said “thou shalt not murder”, yet God commanded the death penalty for certain crimes, and he supported war against other nations. To my recollection, God never commanded an individual to act separately from their government in taking life, or to be a vigilante and get revenge. Now granted, I don’t want us stoning people for worshiping other gods or committing adultery, or wiping out entire nations. The point I am making, however, is God obviously saw a distinction between one individual murdering another individual, vs. the government imposing the death penalty or going to war against another government. I am not advocating the extent of Israel’s power in domestic/foreign policy; Israel was a theocracy run by God through Moses. My point is that just because murder is wrong, doesn’t automatically mean the death penalty is.

2) There is a difference between killing an innocent person and a guilty person. Or, to say it another way, opponents of capital punishment need to work on establishing their argument that there is no difference. Again, opponents just take this as a given and run with it. Now, I will say the burden of proof is on those who are for capital punishment in this area. Like the abortion issue, the burden is on those who support death.

The point is, “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” is not an effective argument because it presumes a moral equivalence to murder and the death penalty, a presumption proponents of the death penalty do not share.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Balancing various ideals when it comes to Christianity and economics

Posted by Chance on July 6, 2008

At times, it seems like liberalism coincides more closely with Christianity than say, conservatism, because of caring for the least of these, feeding the poor and hungry, don’t judge, etc… For a while, I myself was veering towards this idea, especially in my college years. However, when I saw how this ideal manifested itself in liberal politics, I got turned off of this. Basically, the idea that you wanted to help the poor automatically meant higher taxes and more government. If you even dared think that the top tax rate should be cut from 38% to 35%, then obviously you hated the poor. That, and my firm pro-life stance. I just couldn’t buy a philosophy that was all about helping the “least of these”, except when it came to abortion. It would be nice to adopt a philosophy that at least butted heads with the world’s values every once in a while. If I was to become a liberal, it would be more of the Catholic type, yes, big government, but they would support the Catholic doctrine even when it clashed with the world’s values.

The major obstacle for me embracing liberalism, Christian or any other, is that of the 10th commandment. “17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”” Now, when I talk to liberals, they say that they do not envy, they do not want to be rich, etc… and I believe them. But, the income redistribution system as a whole is envy, even if not everyone who supports the system is, in fact, coveting their neighbors stuff. The whole idea of progressivism/socialism is taking from the rich to give to the poor. Politicians appeal to the notion of class warfare, where he or she promises to tax the rich more and give more stuff to the poor. Folks, I cannot think of a more obvious instance of something that contradicts the 10th commandment.

So what does this mean? Have no welfare? Have no taxes? I realize the need for these programs. And I had the longest time trying to separate a system that has basic welfare vs. the system that we have now. I believe the the key to having an envy free society is a flat tax, a low income tax for everyone. By having a flax tax, there is no class warfare. There is no people voting to tax another group at no cost to themselves. By having a flat tax, we can still have democracy, where we choose how much to give, but we are all in it together. No more voting to raise our neighbors taxes and not our own.

I’m sure this idea sounds abhorrent to many, especially to those whose ideal government is much bigger than mine. But government spending needs some kind of check, and currently there is not much. There is no limit to how much government can spend when the majority choose what to do with the pockets of the minority.

So, when looking at Christianity and how it applies to economics and politics, I try to look at the entire Bible. Jesus advocated caring for the poor, but he never brought government into it (apparently Jesus’ silence only counts when it comes to abortion and (supposedly) homosexuality). Paul discussed methods to take care of the poor, and he told churches to focus on those who truly needed it. The 10th commandment said don’t try to take your neighbors’ stuff. Even with the Mosaic law and Israel, that society looked very little like what is advocated now among the Christian Left, with tax rates much lower than what we have today, among other things that I’d like to get into later. In other words, I don’t see a strong correlation between liberalism and what is taught in the Bible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Balancing various ideals when it comes to Christianity and economics

Posted by Chance on July 6, 2008

At times, it seems like liberalism coincides more closely with Christianity than say, conservatism, because of caring for the least of these, feeding the poor and hungry, don’t judge, etc… For a while, I myself was veering towards this idea, especially in my college years. However, when I saw how this ideal manifested itself in liberal politics, I got turned off of this. Basically, the idea that you wanted to help the poor automatically meant higher taxes and more government. If you even dared think that the top tax rate should be cut from 38% to 35%, then obviously you hated the poor. That, and my firm pro-life stance. I just couldn’t buy a philosophy that was all about helping the “least of these”, except when it came to abortion. It would be nice to adopt a philosophy that at least butted heads with the world’s values every once in a while. If I was to become a liberal, it would be more of the Catholic type, yes, big government, but they would support the Catholic doctrine even when it clashed with the world’s values.

The major obstacle for me embracing liberalism, Christian or any other, is that of the 10th commandment. “17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”” Now, when I talk to liberals, they say that they do not envy, they do not want to be rich, etc… and I believe them. But, the income redistribution system as a whole is envy, even if not everyone who supports the system is, in fact, coveting their neighbors stuff. The whole idea of progressivism/socialism is taking from the rich to give to the poor. Politicians appeal to the notion of class warfare, where he or she promises to tax the rich more and give more stuff to the poor. Folks, I cannot think of a more obvious instance of something that contradicts the 10th commandment.

So what does this mean? Have no welfare? Have no taxes? I realize the need for these programs. And I had the longest time trying to separate a system that has basic welfare vs. the system that we have now. I believe the the key to having an envy free society is a flat tax, a low income tax for everyone. By having a flax tax, there is no class warfare. There is no people voting to tax another group at no cost to themselves. By having a flat tax, we can still have democracy, where we choose how much to give, but we are all in it together. No more voting to raise our neighbors taxes and not our own.

I’m sure this idea sounds abhorrent to many, especially to those whose ideal government is much bigger than mine. But government spending needs some kind of check, and currently there is not much. There is no limit to how much government can spend when the majority choose what to do with the pockets of the minority.

So, when looking at Christianity and how it applies to economics and politics, I try to look at the entire Bible. Jesus advocated caring for the poor, but he never brought government into it (apparently Jesus’ silence only counts when it comes to abortion and (supposedly) homosexuality). Paul discussed methods to take care of the poor, and he told churches to focus on those who truly needed it. The 10th commandment said don’t try to take your neighbors’ stuff. Even with the Mosaic law and Israel, that society looked very little like what is advocated now among the Christian Left, with tax rates much lower than what we have today, among other things that I’d like to get into later. In other words, I don’t see a strong correlation between liberalism and what is taught in the Bible.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »