The War on Prosperity

Is there a war on against having any economic prosperity at all? I see article after article praising so many things that are so destructive to freedom and prosperity. My basic belief is that God is good and wants good things in the life of all humans. The bible says that God takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). And of course, everybody knows this one: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16,17) He loved the world, meaning, He loved all the people in the world, wanting to save each and every person that ever lived.

One of the ways God brings good into the world is through the principles that we see in scripture. You might say, He loves us via His commandments; His guidance to us; His word to us gives life. Why? Because through that instruction/ commandment/ guidance/ principle/ word we learn how life works and how to live. That's why, for the most part (some have other good reasons), those on the right are in favor of policies that increase liberty and reduce government regulation and involvement. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Gal 5:13,14)

God wants us to be free because liberty is mankind's best hope for peace on earth. When man is free he takes care of himself by taking care of his fellow man. When man is a slave, he has no incentive to do anything with excellence or to innovate or be creative or to in any way improve his lot in life or that of his neighbor. Just do what "master" tells you to. God hates that.

So if it looks like there is a war against prosperity going on out there - there probably is. The bible clearly states that we are a world at war. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) God's plan is opposed. He has an enemy. If God desires to bring good into the world via freedom and liberty - you can bet there will be a war on freedom and liberty by the spiritual forces that oppose God. That opposition can be seen everywhere in our society.

Here is just one example among thousands. This article which I just came across in the Washington Post finds a few people who are upset by the environmental impact of drilling for oil. This is such a common tactic and so sad. There are so many "tactics" of economic warfare on display here.

This article discusses the "terrible" damage oil drilling was doing in Canada to satisfy the "unquenched US thirst for fuel." Ugh, how about the whole world's thirst for fuel? It's not just the US - the whole world needs energy - life requires energy. People need to move, they do it with fuel. Basically all of the goods and services available in our markets today required the consumption of energy in their development and delivery. Its not the just lives we live here in America. I don't care who you are, your lifestyle depends on oil. You wants medicines in remote Africa to help the poor. It takes oil. You want an apple as a snack. It takes oil to get it to you. You want to turn the lights on, it took oil in about 1000 different ways to make the bulb available and to provide the electricity.

Drilling for oil is not destroying the world. Not drilling for oil would destroy the world! Can you image billions of people having no access to the products and services available to them right now. The world prior to the industrial revolution was not some pristine peaceful paradise. It was the industrial revolution that made man mobile, and the machine that freed his muscles so that his brain could start working to produce real prosperity. We live in a wonderful world compared to the one that existed 200 or 300 years ago. Oil made much of that possible. Oil is the current fuel for the ideas that make life great.

Oil is opposed because prosperity is opposed. The left in this country needs a permanent underclass - a permanent poor. It gives them their purpose and their voting base. As a result they oppose prosperity, they oppose economic freedom, they oppose liberty. Oh they give the appearance of being for freedom, but only in those areas that also destroy life, such as the destruction of the family, the celebration of easy sex, the advance of homosexuality, the destruction of the work ethic via welfare, etc. If, in general, it hurts people, the left is for it. But rest assured, they'll have a great sounding reason for being for it.

That's the case with oil. The reasons sound so legitimate: "Drilling for oil is damaging the environment, what kind of world are we going to leave our children?!" That is a tactic of a diabolical agenda to destroy liberty and destroy the blessings of life.

By the way, free markets are also solving the environmental impact problem in amazing ways. This article shows how garbage dumps are being turned into golf courses. Its happening all over the place (Palm Beach Post article). Land is valuable. If its in a place that people want to be, there will be an economic incentive to clean up those areas and somehow take advantage of the transformation of the land by the oil recovery. I've seen some mining sites turned into beautiful mountain lake communities. Just keep the government out of it and awesome things will happen.

Yes, there is a war on prosperity. Actually, its a war on everything that enhances life. Environmentalism isn't about the environment, its about shackling businesses, the engine of prosperity.

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New York State of Mind (i.e. Socialism)

Well, we got our first ticket in New York - for talking on the cell phone while driving. Wow, this one really bothers me. I was out of town on a business trip, my wife was driving home from work, and we were catching up on the day. She was pulled over by an unmarked police car who was saving the public from my dangerous wife.

I read recently that in terms of liberty, Kansas ranks first among the states. New York , not surprisingly, ranks last. I have not lived in New York before, but I can definitely see the practical reality a "low liberty" state.

Here are some of the other ways I've seen it. When you buy gas at a gas station, you can't check your oil. No, there is no law against checking your oil (well not that I know of), but there is a law against the catch that holds the dispenser and allows the gas to fill without you manually holding it. So I can't check my oil while my gas is filling. Oh, and forget about using the gas cap. There is actually a sign on the gas pumps that says, "It is illegal to use your gas cap to hold fuel dispenser."

Building permits and property taxes are another real New York State socialist fallout. We're looking for a house. In that search we've talked to sellers who have either made changes or tried to make changes to their home. They all describe the process as painful. We've also noticed that for a tiny, tiny two bedroom house, property taxes are about $6000-$8000 a year. Buy an average size home and you'll be spending more like $12,000 a year. Who's house is it? If I buy the house, its my land, my buildings, and my responsibility to maintain. But the local government can charge me huge amounts every year to live in my own house. It should be illegal. They have to do it because they've become so socialist already. The governments are doing so much more than they should be and they've got to pay for it.

What about seatbelt laws? Its my car, its my body. Leave me alone about my seat belt. All these laws are making constant suspects out of all of us. We're constantly under the threat of forgetting some law and getting caught. Now they are using night vision goggles in some places to catch those rotten people who forgot to put on their seatbelt. The justification is the "cost" on the medical system of people who were in accidents not wearing their seatbelts. Again, that's a problem of socialism, not liberty. If the government insists on making others pay for my medical bills, then they'll have an inappropriate interest in my health.

And of course, smoking. They are increasingly making it illegal to smoke anywhere. I'm not a smoker, so it doesn't affect me. But it sure as heck affects my liberty. Why? Because people are increasingly getting it in their heads that if they don't like the behaviors of their neighbors, they'll just make those behaviors illegal. Folks - that is not the way liberty is supposed to work!

Liberty is the only way mankind has ever been able to provide for any measure of "human perfectibility." Do you want peace on earth, harmony between individuals, high general prosperity, and an increase in human dignity? These come as people work on what they deem to be in their own best-interest, which can only result as they focus on the needs of others in a competitive marketplace. Except for envy, in a free society, people stop focusing on what is wrong with others and focus on doing their own job well. But when given the power to take from others through the hand of government, and the power to change another's behavior through the hand of government - we start to talk about what we'd like our neighbor to change rather than focus on what we need to change. We take on a victim mindset. "My happiness will come as others change." Freedom declares: "My happiness will come as I take care of the needs of others in the market." When we stand before government with our hand out, we stop producing, we stop innovating, and we start seeing all that's wrong with our neighbor.

So back to cell phones - over the last 10 years there has been an increasing effort to limit their use. Of course, this effort is made in the interest of "public safety." First of all, that is not a legitimate function of government. Its job is to ensure that the exercise of my rights does not interfere with the free exercise of the rights of my fellow man. I cannot be allowed to bring harm to my fellow man via my freedom. But the government has to be very careful in the exercise of this power because it is a slippery slope. Everything can become an interest of public safety.

I believe that limits on cell phone use are "lifestyle over liberty" issues. Not "preventing harm" issues. The science documenting cell phone use and accidents is not able to show cause, only association. They might say, lots of people were on their cell phone when involved in an accident last year. Their accident was associated with their cell phone use. But they can't say, the cell phone use caused the accident. Limiting the cell phone use may or may not decrease accidents.

Consider bluejeans - yeah, bluejeans. Studies would probably reveal that in a large number of accidents, people were wearing bluejeans. We should begin a public awareness campaign of the dangers of bluejean wearing drivers. It is important to save lives! The absurdity is obvious - but the analogy holds. If you can't show cause, don't regulate.

Lots of things cause car accidents. Are we going to regulate every one of them? Eating, drinking, talking, makeup, changing the radio station, fiddling with the kids, looking for an exit, looking for a certain store, looking at the hot girl in the next car. If you're going to make cell phone use illegal - you better start legislating - we're along way from safe "publics" as it stands now.

I suspect the cell phone bans began more with a slant toward "getting even with the rich" mentality. Early on, only wealthy people had cell phones. The sight of a "dirty rich bastard" talking on his cell phone pissed a lot of people off and they were going to do something about it. Now that everyone has cell phones (thank you free market) we had to find a better reason - public safety.

An article in the Washington Post discusses our need for political change. Wow, is that ever necessary. But I don't think it will happen until people stop looking to government for their livelihood and start realizing how much government destroys their opportunity for real freedom, real prosperity, and real happiness.

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Memorial Day

For ten years I was a member of the military. I flew the C-5 for several of those years. The picture at left was taken on a mission flying from Dover, Delaware westbound to Qatar in the middle east via Guam and Diego Garcia. The green thing is my headset ear muff and the picture was taken just behind my head. At that moment we were over Hawaii just about to make contact with a KC-135 from the Hawaii Air National Guard to take on the fuel we needed to make it to Guam, our first stop. That day we were carrying supplies needed to support the war effort in Afghanistan. Even though I consider my job while in the military painless compared to the jobs of some of those in our Armed Forces, it was not easy. We flew 18 hour flights on 26 hour duty days with minimal rest while staying in rotten locations throughout Europe and the middle east. Don't get me wrong, I loved the people I served with, I enjoyed the challenge of the mission, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve America and the experience it gave me that I now use in my civilian life - but it was no picnic.

Life in the military is a sacrifice. Plain and simple. It is hard work for little pay, but for me, and for most of the people I knew, it was worth it. We were making a difference, we were part of a cause, and as my father, a Vietnam era B-52 pilot reminds me, "we were making history."

The United States Military performs an essential role, and it does it very well. As a matter of fact, it may be one of the only jobs that the government is still doing well. When considering the role of government, namely, to safeguard the liberty of its citizens, the military is our collective means for protecting us from foreign invasion, or in the words of the Constitution - "provide for the common defense". Unfortunately, our government has completely disregarded the limitations of the Constitution and overstepped its authority in virtually every other arena, but in regards to the United States Military, government has done its job.

Our founders had a moral foundation that directed them when considering the tenets of the US Constitution. They understood that peace, harmony, prosperity, and human dignity were all a product of liberty. They were concerned principally with securing the blessings of liberty while recognizing that throughout history, the biggest threat to liberty has been a country's own government. The concept of limited government was created in order to protect liberty from the intrusion of government power. Unfortunately, government usually becomes the biggest threat because all people, without exception, seek that which is in their own best interest - including government officials. As a result, government naturally tries to grow in order to increase its influence and power.

As citizens forget the lessons of history and the threat of government, they instead see the government as a means of gain - the ability to take from others. As this happens, even the citizenry forget that its their job to limit the size of government and instead begin to vote for those who will increase their "take" from the pot. When this occurs, all the roles that the government should be involved in are set aside, and those it should not be involved in are taken up.

The Military is a legitimate role of government, specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and an important part of protecting liberty. As such, it is constantly under attack by "takers." The legitimate roles of government are in competition against the illegitimate roles of government for funding. Providing a military is an expensive proposition. Money that goes to support the military could be used to pay for universal health care, welfare, social security, education, finding alternative energy sources, building bridges in Alaska, whatever - the entire range of illegitimate government activity.

That is why I say, support the military. It is under attack by those who would love to get their hands on that money. Other's attack it because they understand at a moral level the purpose of the military and deliberately seek to undermine that purpose. This nation is at war; war against terror externally, and a war against liberty internally. It is up to true patriots to defend this nation against these attacks. One of the simplest ways of defending liberty is by supporting that which the government should be doing and opposing that which it should not be. The government should provide for the common defense, therefore, it is up to us to encourage the government to support and strengthen the United States Military.

In addition, this Memorial Day, say thanks to those who do the work - who pay the price on a day to day basis. Say thanks also to the veterans, men like my father, who left home and comfort to defend and secure for all of us that which is priceless.

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Evil Price Gouging

This is such a popular term right now. People just hate it when others make money. For the record - I don't think price gouging is really even possible, and if possible, I'd like to make the case that it is a good thing rather than an evil thing. I don't need to sum up the entire thing - John Stossel made the case well in this article: In Praise of Price Gouging.

In another post I wrote that prices that move freely in response to market demand allow for the movement of resources to where they are needed most.

I'd like to make another point now - most of us are evil price gougers. In news reports those that price gouge are considered the worst sort of human beings. Do you realize that belief makes the average home owner an evil price gouger when he sells his home?

When we list our home on the market, we check to see what houses are going for in our area and typically price our home based on what others are asking. However, if you've owned your home a few years and have some equity in the house, why not sell it for what you owe rather than what the market will bear? Maybe you owe $100,000 on the house and its worth $200,000 according to the market. Isn't it price gouging to ask for $200,000 when you only need $100,000 to break even. Why do you need to make so much profit? Isn't that greedy?

Aren't we asking the oil companies to stop making so much profit? They only owe $3.00 on that gallon of gas, yet they are charging $3.10. The public thinks its evil for them to make that extra ten cents per gallon. Why is that any different than the home owner who makes a large profit on the sale of their home.

It is a good thing for people to sell their homes for what the home is worth. First of all, if everyone charged what they owed, there would be a shortage of homes on the market. The price equalizes supply and demand ensuring that there are just enough homes on the market to meet the demand of the market. Taking the profit out of a home also allows the home owner to "buy up" into a better house next time, making lower priced housing available to new home buyers. The home becomes a store of wealth.

All the same things are true for any other business that charges market prices. They will sometimes make a great profit because their costs are less than market prices. A rise in market prices doesn't make a seller evil, whether they are selling corn, houses, cars, or even fuel. We all charge what the market will bear for whatever it is we have to sell. How could it work any other way?

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I just listened to the book "Blink!" by Malcolm Gladwell a few weeks ago. I downloaded the book from which is a great way to get through a book quickly.

The book itself was fascinating. Gladwell has made some amazing observations about the subconscious mind and its ability to key in on information and come to conclusions that the conscious mind may not identify for some time, if ever. He draws examples from many different arenas in life such as art, relationships, sports, medicine, and even finance. Gladwell doesn't necessarily try to come to concrete conclusions about the subconscious mind, he simply points out some of its capabilities and the way it is helping us make it through life despite our lack of awareness of its involvement.

I think this book helped me to see a couple of things more clearly. One is the way in which our mind disagrees with itself. Let me explain. One of the examples from the book looked into the concept of "speed dating" where dozens of people spend just a couple of minutes getting to know a person and then move on to another person when a bell rings. Kind of like musical chairs. At the end of the process people indicate who they liked most and if that person showed an interest in them as well, the organizers of the date will set up another meeting between them.

When "daters" were asked what they look for in a person, it never lined up with what they ended up choosing at the end of the "speed date". There is one level in our minds that thinks one way, but another level that wants something different.

One mind, I've noticed, is a short-term oriented, pleasure seeking, instant gratification, self-centered mind. The other is more long-term, delayed gratification, disciplined, other's oriented mind.

For me this concept manifests something like this: "we are going to stop spending more than our budget." But then my wife and I see something we like and suddenly the budget doesn't matter, only that we want something. Another manifestation goes like this: "I am not eating any more junk food!" But then, somebody offers that oh so beautiful chocolate chip cookie and I forget completely that I promised myself I wouldn't eat that junk. There is a disagreement between me and myself.

The bible describes this discrepancy as the war between the spirit and the flesh. Paul wonders, "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." (Romans 7:15) How many 12 steps groups are trying to help people align what they say they want with what they actually do? I've often thought that if I could just do what say I want to do, then there is no limit to what I could accomplish.

Blink points out that we act on our true beliefs, the ones held at the subconscious level. For example, a young girl may say she plans on saving herself until marriage, but if "wounds" she has received from her father in the form of, "you're ugly, no one will ever want you," fill her subconscious mind, she might act in a way that disagrees with her pronouncement that she plans on waiting until marriage.

I think much of our adult life is spent trying to align these two minds. We marvel at the bad choices people make. I bet in nearly every case, the person didn't think they would make such bad choices, such as cheating on their wives or regularly drinking too much. We do what we do not want to do. Well, kind of - we do at one moment what we do not want to do in another moment. At the moment we do the wrong thing, we want that "thing" more than anything else in the world. We trade a momentary pleasure for long term pain. Instant gratification rather than success in life. We throw away the real blessings of life in exchange for the pleasure of the moment. Ouch.

But we know what we're doing. And most of us are working on fixing it. As we age we start to see the damage we're doing by our lack of discipline and strive to improve it. As God helps us heal from the wounds we've gathered over the course of our lives, he does this by helping us to learn how to make good choices - and stick with those choices even when we don't feel like it.

Honestly, this is why freedom is so important, why each person must have the space to live their own lives. As we mature, we learn how to take dominion over the self-centered mind. How? By having the liberty to live self-centered for awhile. If you never got to eat junk food, you wouldn't really learn the value of eating well. If the government takes away your freedom to smoke cigarettes, you won't be able to come to your own conclusions about why you don't want to smoke anymore. Some people can learn without first trying something. Others can't. But if the government steps in and tells us how to live, it steals our dignity and forces us into living according to another's vision of the world - which may or may not suit us and may be wrong, or even evil.

Blink was a fascinating book. The insights you'll gain from it will go beyond what I noticed and will probably be geared toward those things you've gone through. It's a good book, and I recommend it.

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Spirit, Soul, and Body

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 5:23)

This scripture shows that we have three parts: spirit, soul, and body. Many scriptures also make reference to the mind and the heart. These, I believe, are found in the soul. I want to talk mainly about the spirit, but to do so, let me first say what I think the soul and the body consist of in this context.

Our body is the physical substance of our existence. It is made up of atoms and molecules that form increasingly complex structures that provide for our lives on this physical earth. Some say this is all we are and develop complex worldviews to explain how the body is the sum total of us. For example, Naturalism based on evolution teaches that the body is all there is and that our thoughts and feelings are a product of chemical reactions. Existentialism is a worldview that tried to resolve the problems that Naturalism is confronted with by saying that there is an objective reality - physical reality - and a subjective reality, the world of the mind and heart. I'm sure my generalizations will offend the naturalists and existentialists, but its just a generalization - not a complete summary of their worldviews. Regardless, I disagree with them both.

My worldview, Biblical Theism, recognizes something beyond the physical. The soul is part of this worldview's explanation of that which lies beyond the physical. The soul is the conglomeration of our personhood - our intellect, thoughts, desires, emotions. Within the soul lies the mind where we reason, calculate, contemplate, and conclude. Also within the soul lies the heart wherein we love and hate and experience all the range of human emotion. The mind thinks, the heart feels - but both make up who we are, the person, the personality - these are the soul.

The spirit is very different. The spirit is that part of us that relates to another. It is the part of us the gets connected to another when we have relationships. As people, I believe we were made primarily for relationship. The highest calling of man is to relate to another being. Every part of us is built to accomodate that calling - to have relationships with other people. If you look around you in the world, most human endeavors culminate in the search for companionship, love, and acceptance - the desire to be a part of something bigger than the self. It is the spirit that draws us in that direction.

When we have a relationship with another person, that relationship is a spiritual thing. Our spirits connect us to each other. You might think that a spiritual person is a "holy" person. Actually, the spirit isn't moral or immoral - it's amoral. It just connects - to whatever we decide to connect it to. The bible says, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." (Prov 16:32) It is up to us to rule our spirits well - to connect them approriately to that which does us good and not harm.

God has a Spirit - we call His Spirit the Holy Spirit. We were built to connect with the Holy Spirit. It is the connection above all connections. You may have heard people say, "We all have a God hole." Which is to say, there is an emptiness within each of us that can only be filled by God. Our spirit longs to connect with it's Creator. We need this connection - as a matter of fact, the bible says that we are sustained by this connection and broken without it: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" (Prov 18:14)

We crave connection beyond all cravings. We are like electical plugs in search of an outlet. This plug has many options however. While it was made, first and foremost, to connect with the Creator - it can connect nearly anywhere. There are many imposters. We can substitute human relationships in the place of this God relationship - and so many of us do. We can substitute a relationship with substances, such as drugs, to fill this vacuum. Some people "connect" with food, others with alcohol, some with sex. There are lots of ways to temporarily satisfy the spirit with an imposter - but all imposters will eventually leave us unsatisfied and in need of an ever greater "dose" of the imposter.

The Bible refers to these imposters as "idols." God says, "connect with Me - let Me make you whole." We often say, "but I can't see you." We fall for our idols because they are physical. Humanity craves that which is physical. We want to see it, touch it, feel it, experience it. So with our spirit we often connect to the idol rather than the Real Thing. Connecting with the Real Thing requires faith, a subject for another time.

A spirit that is properly connected to its creator, can then properly connect with other people. When I am properly "relating" to God, all my other relationships go well - especially with my wife. My marriage depends on my being properly connected to God. If I am not responding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, I tend to walk all over my wife, and I start to see her as a means to fill my wants rather than a person with whom I have a relationship.

I've said in another post that we have relationships that are of mutual benefit to each party. For a relationship to be beneficial, it must have terms. We formalize those terms when we get married via the wedding vows. A term might be: "forsaking all others". In other relationships, the terms are implied. In business relationships, terms are written in contracts. Regardless of the relationship, it is the terms that ensure that we receive the benefit of the relationship.

When terms are broken, the relationship is damaged - there is a severing that takes place in the spirit. When a married man looks at another woman, his spouse feels a spiritual assault. She senses that the terms of her relationship are at risk - the spiritual connection most important to her is about to be weakened. A woman gives her spirit, her soul, and her body to her husband when they marry. He enjoys those as benefits. She receives many benefits as well, but when he looks at another woman, she fears that she may have given that which is most precious away for nothing.

Sin is how the bible labels our breaking of the terms of the spiritual connection we have with God. When we sin, we deprive God of the benefit of our devotion, love, praise, etc. Instead we are focused on that which brings us pleasure (often to our detriment). We are connecting to an idol (relating to it) rather than to God. This is a spiritual assault against our connection with God. It hurts the relationship we have with Him. It is a spiritual disconnection. As a result, He withdraws from us. We lose the benefits for which we originally joined ourselves to Him. The Bible says that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) When we disconnect from God, we lose the benefits of the Kingdom of God - righteousness, peace, and joy.

Since our connection with others depends on our connection with God, sin is also an assault on all of our human relationships as well. God asks us not to sin not only for His sake, but also for our sake. First, He doesn't want to lose the benefits of our relationship with Him, but He also doesn't want us to damage our relationships with others. Our human relationships are very important. They are the vehicle by which all good things enter our lives, and also the vehicle by which good things enter the lives of others. Above all, our relationships are the vehicle through which God is introduced to non-believers.

The spirit is that part of us the connects, that has relationships. It is probably the most important part of us, considering that we were made for relationships. But being made in the image of God however, means that we are body, soul, and spirit just like He is (Jesus Christ, Father, Holy Spirit) and God values every part of us.

A Free Market Side Effect

Free markets allow for so many incredible things to be made available to the average person. The free market truly allows us to live life on our own terms. Eat the way you want, live where you want, work how you want, decorate the way you want, entertain yourself the way you want - sheesh, choices, choices, choices. What a beautiful thing!

I want to mention another incredible side effect to the free market system. Simply put - it makes each of us more effective at what we do.

Every time a person brings their ability to the market and another person purchases that ability, it makes the purchaser more effective in whatever it is that they do. Let's say one man has an ability to make a shovel. Another man, who has been digging holes with his hands, decides to buy that shovel. Now, instead of digging with his hands he is able to dig probably 10 times faster with the shovel.

One person's ability made the other more effective. Think of the consequences of that. Now the second person, the digger, can dig faster and make a better income digging than he was able to before the purchase of the shovel. Each of our abilities brought to the marketplace help the rest of society solve the common problems we face more and more effectively. Progress!

The implications of this one side effect are astounding. Lets trace through the human ability for just a minute that go into making me more effective. Like I've said before, I fly business jets. My abilities help business executives get to distant locations quickly and easily so that they can advance their business concerns more effectively. But without the business jet, how effective would I be? My ability to fly airplanes is effectively useless without the skills of those who build the planes I fly. And their ability to build airplanes rests on countless other technologies that other entrepreneurs brought to the market. How effective would Gulfstream be without Honeywell (making the avionics) and Rolls-Royce (making the jet engines)? How effective would they respectively be without the computers, the communications, the financial tools (banks, loans, credit cards) that provided what they needed to produce those avionics and engines.

The analysis of this cycle could continue nearly forever. We are ALL taking advantage of the abilities of others who were made more effective in their efforts by the abilities of others before them. It is an amazing gift that the free market gives to the world. The tools we have at our fingertips that increase our effectiveness are staggering to contemplate: the automobile, the computer, the telephone, the television, modern transportation, electricity, the internet. All of these make it possible to bring our product or service to those who we serve in our business.

This is why free markets are typically viewed by economists and libertarians (and some republicans) as such a good thing. We want to allow the abilities of as many people as possible to enter the market. Each additional person that brings their skill to the market makes the rest of us more effective. Sure, another person's ability might threaten your job security - but it will certainly motivate you to provide a better product and service to your customers. An upward spiral of excellence and effectiveness.

Why Write a Blog?

I think all of us want the world to be a great place to live. But as I look around I see a world that sometimes seems like it is falling apart. I know what the bible says about the world. It's fallen. It's subject to frustration. It groans. The bible even says that one day the earth will be shaken, then the sky will be rolled up like a scroll and everything will melt in a fervent heat - then there will be a new heavens and a new earth. The point being, God doesn't intend for this world to last forever.

But what about the world that I have to live in? I used to think, man I hope that this world I enjoy living in with its beautiful skies, oceans, mountains, forests and this country that I love with its people, churches, schools, airports, restaurants, great stores, etc. lasts until after I'm gone. Meaning - I want a good place to live while I'm on the earth, but afterward, it doesn't matter to me.

I realize now that I'm no longer satisfied with that. I don't have children yet, but one day I will. What about them? What about my friend's children? What about them? It's up to us to leave them with a world that they can live, love, grow, prosper, and raise their children in.

So why write a blog? Well, because I believe that God has revealed a thing or two to me about how to live in this world. As I live and grow, I gain wisdom. God says with all your getting get wisdom. I'm not sure that I've given it 100%, but I've certainly given it a lot. I've asked God for wisdom. I'm eager to understand His heart and His mind and His thoughts about things. And I believe He has helped me to understand a few things.

I've been married now 13 years. I've gained some wisdom about marriage and relationships. I was a military pilot for about 10 years. I've worked in the business world. I've been a follower and in leadership positions. I've been through many learning experiences in the military, in churches, in business, and in life. I've followed politics closely and considered the role of government, the military, the people - all in a biblical context. I'm certainly not any smarter than most of the people I know, but I've focused on these things with a desire to understand and grow. And I feel like I have something to say now.

As a pilot I have a limited forum. I have great conversations with the people I fly with and we exchange ideas and each grow from those discussions, but I didn't feel like I was doing enough with what I felt God has taught me over the years. One of the drawbacks to being a pilot is the loss of a scheduled life. I don't have the liberty to teach a Sunday school class because I don't know from one day to the next where I'll be.

So I decided to write. Write a book? Develop a webpage? A blog? I wasn't sure - but google helped out. Blogger made it easy to begin putting my ideas down "on paper".

I don't know if anyone will ever read what I write, but I believe that writing is my little part of helping to make the world a better place for my children to live. We live in a world of ideas. Ideas motivate people, and motivated people change the world. Our nation is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. Very few important things happen in this nation without a groundswell of public motivation.

So I put my energy into learning what principles can help make the world a great place to live. Who is God? What is His nature? What would He say about government, politics, economics, environmentalism, immigration, and every other major issue? What is His heart towards people?

I know that so, so many people associate the Christian perspective with judgmentalism, criticism, and self-righteousness. I think you'll find something different in my perspective. Sure I'm a Christian, and I believe in the bible, but the God I read about there wants us to have a great life and to spread a message of forgiveness and healing - a message about life, not condemnation. He gains nothing from condemnation - He gains greatly by His love. He is a God of liberty - A God of freedom. He made all people to be free. Free to choose Him, free to reject Him, and free to live the life that results from those choices and all the other choices that we make.

That message I believe forms an amazing foundation for every other social issue we face. I believe that the United States of America, in its original formation, reflected so much of the heart of God. I believe that America grew and prospered because of the principles of liberty upon which it was founded - principles revealed to the founders through the pages of the old and new testaments. The wisdom of God made manifest in our nation's founding documents - especially the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

When I see the world falling apart around me (as I mentioned earlier) it is in, what I believe, direct proportion to the degree to which we the people lose the intent of those founding documents.

So I write a blog. It is my little attempt to take the wisdom of God and put it in a form that may help a few people see what a great God we have and what a great nation His wisdom has given us. And in so doing, hopefully, this nation will remain a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people so that one day my children, and their children, for as many generations as the world remains, will be able to enjoy the liberty for which God made them.

Abilities, Needs, Self-Interest, and Excellence

Capitalism is a system that makes no promises, but offers profound opportunities for the creation of good in society. Socialism, on the other hand, makes grand promises of creating widespread good but can't deliver. Here's why.

It has to do with self-interest. It is not possible, nor is it desirable, to live life without paying attention to your own self-interest. Unfortunately, many people associate self-interest with selfishness. Instead, they should associate self-interest with responsibility. When somebody takes care of their own needs, they remove the burden for that care from the society at large. Self-interest is the basis for responsibility. It is also the crux of why capitalism works and why socialism fails.

I am not confusing service with self-interest. Service to others is important - as a matter of fact - few people will really be happy without spending a significant portion of their lives serving others. But here is the critical element. The beauty of the free market system is that it links service with self-interest. Service is the use of your abilities to meet the needs of someone else. In some cases it is paid for, in other cases it is offered for free; regardless of the price, service is about taking care of people.

In a free market system, the way a person advances is by taking care of others. People patronize a business because they have a need. Since free markets are what their name implies, "free", nobody is required to do business with any other person. Therefore, if you want to succeed at your business, you better take care of people better than anyone else (excellence). If you don't, your customers will go to someone else.

In both free and socialistic systems we are dealing with the way abilities and needs interrelate. We all have abilities; we all have needs. The free market is the world’s most effective way of linking the abilities of one person with the needs of another. That is where self-interest comes in - he who succeeds most takes care of others best. Those who have become the richest among us are those who satisfy the most human need. If you want to make it big in America, you better start thinking about what your fellow man needs and start developing your abilities to meet those needs.

We've all heard the famous Karl Marx quote, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Since that sentence is missing the verb and subject, let’s assume Marx is saying, "We'll take the money talented people make with their ability and give it to those people who have great needs." That means a socialistic government (Marx’s dream) will be in the business of taking stuff from the most productive people and giving it to the least productive people. However, since every person has an innate ability to protect their interests, in a socialistic system, the expression of needs is amplified and abilities are hidden. The opposite is true in the free market system - abilities are developed and the expression of needs is reduced.

In the socialistic system, since each is given to according to his needs, everyone will tell the government that they have great needs in order to get as much as possible out of the system. Conversely, since the government takes from each according to ability, the productive will be asked to produce more without a corresponding increase in pay - as a result, their abilities will only be developed by pressure from the government and existing ability will be hidden to avoid the extra work.

To characterize the free market system, let’s play with Marx's words, "Money flows from each according to his needs to each according to his ability." The exact reverse of Marx's statement is actually how it really works. Each person brings their need to the market and shops around for the person with the ability/resources to best meet that need. As a result, people develop excellence within their abilities so they can sell more. Also, since people must pay to have their needs met, they conserve. Some needs are more important than others. When you have to pay for it, maybe you don't need it as much as you think. That’s the underlying reason for government waste – people who are not paying for something consider and express needs differently than those who are paying for something themselves.

Another beautiful thing about the free market system is that it is immensely fair. All of us have wants and needs. We make money by meeting the wants and needs of others. We spend money to get others to meet our wants and needs. Therefore, we can only have our needs met (spending) in exact proportion to the needs we meet of others (earning). Having more needs met (spending) than we meet (earning) puts us in debt - meeting more needs (earning) than we have met (spending) gives us a surplus. The free market systems required us to take care of each other. It aligns self-interest with service. The more we take care of others, and the better we take of others (excellence), the better we do ourselves.

Free markets produce excellence, creativity, innovation, opportunity, abundance, and prosperity. Socialism produces mediocrity, selfishness, hoarding, lack and squalor. Both as people pursue that which is in their best interests. Free markets make the world a great place to live – socialism makes the world an awful place to live. The United States of America is the great country it is because our founders recognized the power of freedom and the beauty of free markets. They deliberately created a system by which the maximum amount of freedom could be had by all. They recognized that power should remain with the people, not with the government and created a system to restrict the growth of government as much as possible so as to allow the success of free markets.

To sum it all up – the free market system allows that natural urge within for success to be satisfied only when we orient our thinking toward the good of others. It properly aligns our own self-interest with the service of our fellow man. As we take responsibility for ourselves by going out and making a living, we do the work necessary to make our country a great place to live. Oh, and if you want to help other nations around the world enjoy the same quality of life that you do – spread freedom.

Gas, Interests, and Term Limits

This is a great article about fuel prices by a great economist, Alan Reynolds:

Mixing Gasoline and Moonshine

One of the points that I thought was really super was this: the amount of oil it takes to produce ethanol is nearly the same as the amount of ethanol produced. Add to that the increased costs of transporting ethanol and mixing it and producing cars for it to work on make it far less efficient than just using the oil. This is another example of governmental interference - which Alan is careful to point out.

I was reminded of another interesting point today: everyone works in their own best interest. This is axiomatic and cannot be avoided. Politicians work for their own interests. Essentially that means, that they will use their power to help whatever cause will bring them the most votes.

I'm thinking more these days about how to limit the damage a politician is likely to do by his need to focus on getting elected. I keep coming back to term limits.

The new guy on the job is typically the hardest worker and the most idealistic. A new politician is still acutely aware of the reasons he or she wanted to become a part of government and is likely to vote in accordance with their principles early on. As they "age" in their role as a government official they forget why they are really there and start focusing on how to stay there. It's a cush job with access to outrageous perks - like travel on government provided Gulfstreams - not to mention the parties thrown by lobbyists. Also, the term limited politician has to return to the world he helped create. If he runs a business, he'll have to go home and run that business under all the laws he passed. Indirectly, this forces him to act in his own best interests.

Ultimately, I believe the world works best when people are free to live according to their own best interest within the limits of the law. Government, beyond all others, is the human agency that advances its interests at the expense of those it serves. Businesses are only able to advance their own interests by meeting the needs of those they serve - primarily because those they serve must choose to buy from them. A business can be fired by its customers at any time. Government can't. We're stuck with it even when it does a terrible job at outrageous expense.

That's why I oppose government involvement in almost every area (we do need a government and it has several very important functions, but I'll get into those in another post) and am increasingly warming to the idea of term limits - they may be one method of more properly aligning our interests with that of the politician.

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Minimum Wage

In my last post I made the point that illegal immigrants are doing jobs that politicians have made illegal by the institution of the minimum wage. If there was no minimum wage then illegal immigrants would have to compete with Americans for those jobs that pay less than the minimum wage.

The minimum wage is just one example of where politicians willfully disregard the laws of economics to buy votes. Sure, their motivations are couched in terms such as "we should help those who are less fortunate," or "you can't support a family on so little income," etc. But none of those motivations can undo simple economic realities.

As mentioned earlier, prices are a result of something, not the cause - meaning, they react to market realities, they don't create them. Wages are no different. Wages are a price - the price of a person's labor. Each person has a product that they sell - that product being their energy, skill, time, and attitude - which we roughly call: labor. That product, like every other product on the market has a price that is determined by market conditions affecting supply and demand.

I'm a pilot. I fly charter business jets. My labor has a market price. It's a good job and I enjoy it. I make fairly good money, but not great, and I would like to make more. It's possible that I could find another job that pays a little more, but it's unlikely to be significantly different. Why? Because market conditions are such that the companies who need pilots with my ratings, skills, and experience are able to acquire the pilots they need at the wages that are currently being paid. If more airplanes are added to the corporate fleets across America and demand for pilots like me goes up, I'll be able to force my boss to compete with other companies needing my services. He'll either have to pay me more, or lose me and have to hire another pilot at the new higher wage. Either way, as demand goes up for pilots, wages will go up. The opposite is true if demand decreases, such as after 9/11 when many pilots were unemployed and willing to work for peanuts.

If a corporate pilot lobby was powerful enough, maybe they could convince congress to pass a pilot minimum wage. (I know, it's a silly idea, but I'm making a point here) Let's say it was $100,000 a year. I suspect most pilots who make less than that would be all in favor. Lots of pilots make around $20,000 a year. That's because they are inexperienced and using their cheap price tag to build experience. As they gain experience, they'll be able to earn more. But, if that minimum wage is enacted, employers won't suddenly have the finances to increase each pilot's pay by $80,000. They'll have to find other options. Maybe raise the pay on one of their pilots and lay off others. Maybe get rid of their airplanes and start using trucks. Unfortunately, this act by congress would drive up the costs of doing business while forcing the business owner to find less attractive means to accomplish his work - plus, many new pilots wouldn't be able to gain the experience they need to reach those higher paying jobs.

While this analogy may be a stretch - raising the minimum wage has the same effect regardless of the skills or wage levels. It always forces employers to restructure the way they do business to their disadvantage and makes it harder for workers to get entry level jobs.

Try looking at it another way - prices are the market's way of eliminating surpluses and shortages by finding a point of equilibrium between supply and demand. When price (remember, normally a result of market conditions) is artificially forced out of its place by governmental tampering, the equilibrium between supply and demand is lost. The result will always be surpluses or shortages depending upon which direction the price was manipulated. Force a price up, as in the case of minimum wage, and there will be surpluses of labor. Force a price down, as in rent controls, and there will be shortages of places to live.

Minimum wage hikes are really about vote buying at the expense of the low wage employee, the business owner, and the consumer. All three get hurt so the politician can get votes. The low wage employee finds it harder to find entry level positions and hence gain experience. The business owner finds it harder to find labor for low value work. The consumer has to pay higher prices. Personally, I'd rather see the politician get hurt and see the others freely engage in market activities to mutual benefit.

While we may not like the price we pay for things we need - we shouldn't complain about the price. If you have to complain (which I don't recommend), complain about things that can affect price - such as the factors that affect supply and demand. Please, please, please - don't call your congressman and ask him to do something about the price. If he thinks you'll vote for him, he'll do something alright, but it won't help. He can't do anything about the price. He can only hurt the business owner, the employee, and drive up costs - which ultimately drives up prices to the consumer.

For the most part, the only good your government official can do is get out of the way. America was not built on governmental involvement. It was built on American ingenuity as it tackled the problems we commonly faced. Government has a role, but it can do no good by trying to force a business owner to lower his prices or increase wages. The market will very effectively determine these levels and we should just get out of the way and let it happen.

Illegal Immigration and Minimum Wage

A couple of years ago I started hearing the phrase, "Illegal immigrants are doing the jobs that Americans won't do." At the time, I didn't realize it would become such a dogmatic statement that forms a foundation for action. Lies often work that way.

Over time a lie is slipped into the public consciousness and because it has a soundbite quality and appeals to all the right emotional chords, people don't realize that it is a conditioning statement. It is conditioning them for later concessions that haven't yet reared their ugly heads.

I remember thinking at the time, "hmmm, that doesn't sound quite right." But, it wasn't being said every day from every pundit so I didn't pay it much attention. Now, on the other hand, its being used to defend amnesty for illegal immigration - so we better deal with it.

First of all, I don't blame the illegal immigrants. They obviously want to improve their lives and the opportunities this country affords are their best hope for that. I don't have any problem with someone wanting to come to America to work and participate legally in our system as long as they contribute to the system rather than taking from it. Here is what I have a problem with - politicians who see an opportunity to cash in on a group of people who can swing elections. That is the real risk in this debate - that rather than enforcing the law or passing laws that protect America and its resources - politicians try to give our country away to get elected and gain favor. Sick!

So back to the question - Are illegal immigrants doing the work Americans won't do?

No - illegal immigrants are doing the work that Americans are not allowed to do. We have passed laws in this nation that make certain jobs illegal for Americans. I'm not talking about prostitution or gambling either. We have told American employers, you are not allowed to hire someone to do a job that earns less than the minimum wage.

There are certain tasks that are not worth the minimum wage and certain workers who do not produce enough value to earn the minimum wage. Simply requiring employers to pay more doesn't suddenly remove the economic realities. A business owner cannot pay someone $6 an hour when they only produce $3 an hour of value. To do so is asking the business owner to become a charity, which may be commendable, but won't keep the guy in business.

When we make it illegal for a business owner to pay an American what they and the job they do are worth, we create a market. The owner still has a job he needs done and he is willing to pay someone to do it. In steps the illegal immigrant. He is undocumented, so he doesn't have a social security number, won't be paying witholdings, and no one will be checking to make sure he makes the minimum wage. Perfect solution. Pay the illegal immigrant less than minimum wage and get the job you need completed by someone who won't complain.

Unfortunately, there are lots of Americans who would have loved to have that job, but we made it illegal for them to have it and at the same time created a market for the illegal immigrant. Another example of political pandering and the law of unintended consequences.