Schoolin’ the kidz in economix

January 26, 2010

Most people have no idea what ideas inform our economy, or even that certain schools of thought do inform our economy. For most of the last century, American policy makers have largely followed one of two men, either John Maynard Keynes or Friedrich August von Hayek, and yet most people have never heard of either man, nor could they articulate in cohesive manner what either believed. In my humble yet persistent effort to bring such information to the masses, particularly to the yutes’ that are hardly schooled in such concepts at all even through college, I present a brief primer produced by director John Papola and creative economist Russ Roberts on modern economics in an approachable and popular form – the rap:

For those who can’t follow rap, lyrics are here, and the an interesting story of how the video was produced here. Obviously I tend to agree with Hayek when it comes to policy proscriptions – and our current economic disaster has only re-enforced my reasons for that.

*Warning: The above video is contains graphic content of early 20th century economists dancing and rapping – this video is not for small children, please use discretion*

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Stories of Despair and Defection

January 22, 2010

I won’t add too much to this story other than one of the surest way to measure the evil of an action is by the way it changes those who perpetuate it. From the Weekly Standard:

Mugged by Ultrasound

…Another study, published in the October 1989 issue of Social Science and Medicine noted that abortion providers were pained by encounters with the fetus regardless of how committed they were to abortion rights. It seems that no amount of ideological conviction can inoculate providers against negative emotional reactions to abortion.

Such studies are few. In general, abortion providers have censored their own emotional trauma out of concern to protect abortion rights. In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps:

Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life.

Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.” Indeed, it often insists that images used by the pro-life movement are faked.

Tragic and horrific.

Lessons from Haiti

January 22, 2010

As is typical when disasters and great human suffering occur, any number of armchair theologians and anti-theologians come out of the woodwork to pronounce how this particular disaster reflects on our understanding of God, or our need to abandon belief in Him. Simplistic formulas are devised and discussed in attempt to prove God is either good or evil or non-existent all together. Great questions are posed – do disasters occur because of human evil? Because of human negligence? To encourage compassion and eternal reflection? Or perhaps, the cynical and skeptical claim, it is reflective of God’s impotence, or even malevolence.

Of course this isn’t the first time such questions have been asked, or answered. Often overlooked is the fact that Christ Himself was asked such questions, and responded to them definitively:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

While on the face of it this statement seems somewhat cryptic, parsing it is rather straightforward. The first consideration is that we can’t merely attribute earthly suffering to a karmic formula where certain kinds of suffering are directly connected to certain evil actions. There isn’t in our earthly experience a one-to-one relationship between sin and suffering. The reason this is so isn’t because evil doesn’t exist or deserve punishment; rather the reason we can’t reliably connect the two is because everyone has sinned sufficiently to deserve punishment. The people who are suffering aren’t exceptionally bad, they are in fact experiencing the in a small part what we will all eventually experience as the result of our sins. Those who aren’t suffering are the exception in this world, if only for a brief time.

Understanding this rather flips our notion (and the beliefs of the Jews who were questioning Jesus) about reality on its head. We have a tendency to look around the world and suppose that on a scale of things we measure up pretty well when it comes to being good persons, and thus deserve to be free from suffering. As a result we come up with convoluted explanations and twisted theologies to explain away others suffering in light of our ‘goodness’ and their ‘evil’.

But this isn’t the reality Christ speaks about – Christ talks about a world that is perishing, one that is literally dying beneath our feet, falling into decay. The disasters that occur, both human caused and ‘natural’ are only symptoms of this coming death, and the inevitable suffering it will bring to all who can’t escape. The human suffering we view in Haiti, and many other places in the world, are merely previews of what will eventually consume all of us. It’s not a cheery picture, but it is the reality into which we are born and live.

Many will reject this picture of the world not because there is no evidence that is accurate, but because it destroys all alternative metaphysical views. An atheistic materialist needs to see the world as salvageable by the advancement of human knowledge and technology because to think otherwise leads to complete hopelessness and a finality of one’s existence. Many Christians will reject it, or attempt to ignore it, because acknowledging this reality would mean surrendering a life devoted to leisure and accumulation of wealth, which mean little in a perishing world.

So then the question becomes, as Jesus properly framed it, not “What did the Haitians do to deserve such suffering?” but rather, “Where do we find hope in a world where such suffering is a fact of existence?” Perhaps the disciples put it more succinctly by simply asking Jesus, “Who then can be saved?”

The answer comes, perhaps inadvertently, from Laura Wagner, a UNC student studying the people of Haiti in Port-O-Prince. She recalls in an interview on NPRs The Story how she was rescued by a local handyman, Frenell, who dug through the rubble to pull her out. As he burrowed down to her, she cried out, “You’re saving me, you’re saving me!” to which he calmly replied, “No, it’s not me, Its Jesus”.

No theological formula or materialistic proscription is going to save us from the rubble of this world – only one Person can, and it is only in accepting His aid that prevents our fate from being the same as thousands who just perished in Haiti.


Proudly Obstructionist

January 21, 2010

It strikes me that calling the Republicans obstructionists because they have perhaps stopped the current healthcare bill from passing is a little like calling an airbag ‘obstructionist’ because it kept one’s head from going through a windshield.

Coakley loses, everyone else wins

January 19, 2010

I will resist gloating or making too much of the results of tonight’s election in Massachusetts – I have been on the losing side of an election to many times to do that. Suffice it to say, that whatever ‘realignment’ the Democrats imagined last fall, it seems to be over. And whatever policies the electorate wants, what it certainly doesn’t want is a one party solutions jammed down their throats.

If the Democrats have gained any wisdom from this, they will understand this message, and embrace opportunities to work together with the Republicans for pragmatic, centrist solutions to the very significant difficulties our country faces. If they fail to grasp this obvious truth, there are other Scott Brown’s waiting in the wings. We will know in the next few days whether they will choose political suicide or survival.

Cliff gets the last word

January 17, 2010

I don’t only think Scott Brown should be the next Senator from Massachusetts, I think for the good of the country he needs to be the next Senator from Massachusetts. But even if he loses, the fact that his campaign allowed John Ratzenberger to say this at one of his rallies would make it all worth it:

“This isn’t the Democratic party of our fathers and grandfathers. This is the party of Woodstock hippies.  I was at Woodstock — I built the stage. And when everything fell apart, and people were fighting for peanut-butter sandwiches, it was the National Guard who came in and saved the same people who were protesting them. So when Hillary Clinton a few years ago wanted to build a Woodstock memorial, I said it should be a statue of a National Guardsman feeding a crying hippie.”


Time to Give

January 13, 2010


I have been blessed in my life to be associated with some of the most generous people imaginable, people, for whom the love of Christ is a habit of life, that don’t hesitate to give self-sacrificially when the need arises. Sadly that need has arisen again, in the form of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, the toll of which is just beginning to be counted. We are called to be Samaritans, and not one, but thousands lie next to the road needing our help – here are a few good places to start.