When Economists Are Enemies of Economic Growth | John Tamny   Leave a comment

The great investor and writer Andy Kessler frequently points out that the failure rate among Silicon Valley start-ups is 90 percent.  Every member of the economics profession would be wise to memorize the previous figure and repeat it daily. If so, economists might come closer to understanding why they’re mystified by what they deem slow economic growth. And mystified they are. So much so that they’ve apparently given up.

Source: When Economists Are Enemies of Economic Growth | John Tamny

 

Central bankers plainly don’t understand what drives economic growth.

Less Is More

Image result for image of federal reserve failureAccording to New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum, the theme that emerged from the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole confab is that economists have ceased offering growth proposals. Appelbaum indicates that they’re playing defense now; floating ideas to allegedly ensure things don’t get worse. Having tried everything since 2008 (more on this in a bit), they’ve given up arguing about what they plainly don’t understand, or recognize. It almost renders the credentialed sympathetic in some weird, pathetic way.

And it’s encouraging. While the role of central banks (the Federal Reserve the world’s #1 employer of economists) in the economy is vastly overstated either way, it’s good to see a routinely incorrect profession realize that it is nearly always incorrect. The first step to healing is recognition of the problem, or something like that.

While central bankers plainly don’t understand what drives economic growth, they need to realize that what they do has little to do with growth as is. Lest they or readers forget, central banks project their always overstated and rapidly shrinking economic influence through antiquated banks; banks arguably the least dynamic sources of credit in the world, and surely the least dynamic in the U.S. Going back to the Silicon Valley stat that begins this piece, does any sane person think banks have anything to do with the finance that drives this hotbed of innovation? This is a short way of saying that even if central bank economists actually had a clue, their doings would have little relevance to the economic sectors that actually power growth.

It’s also worth pointing out that Silicon Valley dynamism is likely not being captured by GDP, and other dopey numbers that central bankers follow.  To understand the previous point, readers might consider how the 19th-century introduction of coal as a source of fuel multiplied the productivity of workers twenty times over.  And this was coal. Imagine what technological advances like the computer, internet, smartphone, and the GPS that is standard in modern smartphones have meant for individual productivity.

Recessions Are a Source of Strength

Yet the economists in Jackson Hole were busy self-flagellating about sub-2% GDP. Ok, but GDP is backwards. It rises when governments take our wealth and consume it, it falls when our productivity rates voluminous imports and foreign investment, and it rises when governments bail out sub-optimal producers like General Motors.

Silicon Valley succeeds a lot precisely because it fails a lot.

GDP isn’t just backwards and wrong, it plainly can’t factor our enormous surges in productivity that spring from technological advancement. In short, the slow-growth laments of economists are the equivalent of one judging the quality of play in the NFL by solely watching games played by the New York Jets; the Jets the non-dynamic equivalent of the banks that central bankers still think relevant to economic progress.

Taking the above further, readers should never forget that the economics profession is near monolithic in its absurd belief that World War II ended the Great Depression. Oh yes, the horrid, sick-inducing process whereby armies in developed countries killed the customers of their countries’ top businesses around the world, whereby developed countries’ best and brightest were taken out of production so that they could be murdered and maimed around the world, whereby production of goods and services was halted to varying degrees so that it could be directed toward weaponry meant to destroy people and wealth around the world, whereby the division of labor that is the source of abundant production around the world was shredded in favor of murder and wealth destruction around the world, had an economic upside.

The extermination of people and wealth constitutes growth to economists. In that case, how can they possibly lament a lack of what they once again don’t understand, or recognize?

Back to reality, economists would be wise to memorize the stat about Silicon Valley because it might turn on a light where there’s presently darkness. The most prosperous region in the world, one where economic growth is abundant, is defined by near constant failure.

The extermination of people and wealth constitutes growth to economists.

Here’s the reason why economists don’t get growth. They don’t see that the quickest path to it is experimentation, realization of information (good and bad) through experimentation, and the release of precious resources back into the marketplace when experiments fail. Silicon Valley succeeds a lot precisely because it fails a lot. Its “recessions” are the source of its strength, yet economists think the path to growth involves fighting recessions. It’s not just GDP that’s backwards.

Despite economy-cleansing slowdowns being the source of strength in booming parts of the world, at Jackson Hole former Obama administration Council of Economic Advisors chairman Jason Furman talked up government spending to allegedly make sure things don’t get worse. Ok, but when governments spend they’re extracting precious resources from the private sector only to centrally plan their use in politicized fashion. When governments spend there’s less experimentation, less information, and less in the way of precious resources being released to new stewards by the failures simply because government experiments generally aren’t allowed to fail.

Fed Chairman Janet Yellen talked up the dangers of bank deregulation, but as Silicon Valley reminds us yet again, it’s the total lack of regulation there that ensures intrepid experimentation, abundant information, and quick failure if the experiments come up short.  Banks aren’t relevant to the U.S. economy for many reasons, but a major one has to do with the fact that they’re too regulated to die with the frequency that ensures the industry’s dynamism. Regulation is stagnation – for any industry – simply because industry sectors gain essential strength from the information-abundant failures.

Not only are economists incapable of recognizing what economic growth is (once again, they think war has a growth upside), they also propose policies that are inimical to the progress necessary for growth. The profession is near-monolithically confused.

But if it wants to matter, as in if it wants to stop retreating into defensive postures, it must realize that its problems are bigger than not being able to predict growth, or not being able to recognize policies conducive to same. Indeed, missed by economists is that the policies are the problem; meaning economists are the problem. “Economy” is just a word for people. People want things, but they can only fulfill their wants insofar as they supply first. Which means the answer to growth isn’t policy as much as it’s a reduction of the barriers to our natural desire to supply.  Basically an absence of policy.

Which should cause one to wonder if economists will ever move beyond admitting they have a problem. They would have to acknowledge that growth is the natural human state, and “policy” is the only barrier to growth. If economists can realize the latter they’ll see that we don’t need them, and better yet that we’ll thrive without them.  Economists need to recognize that the path to economic growth is an absence of economists.

Reprinted from Real Clear Markets. 

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Posted September 22, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Myth Busting – Hitler WAS a Socialist   Leave a comment

The National Socialist German Workers Party (Hitler’s party) were socialists. How do I make that claim? It’s right there in their title, for one, but also because Hitler’s henchman Goebbels never doubted that he was a socialist. He considered Nazism to be a better and more plausible form of socialism than that espoused by Lenin. Instead of spreading itself across different nations like dandelion seeds, it would operate just within German-speaking countries, thus assuring cultural victory.

Image result for image of hitler as a socialistFor the modern Left not to know this shows gross historical illiteracy. That they try to explain the connection away would be laughable if I believed most people in the US were educated enough to know the Left is stupid.

Hitler boasted that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx.” Hitler thought Marx had erred in fostering class division rather than national unity. By setting the workers against the industrialists Marx had, in Hitler’s view, missed an opportunity to unite them to the same goals. He meant to “convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists.” He thought the bankers and factory owners could serve socialism better by generating revenue for the state.

Yeah, the national socialists  and the international socialists loathed one another and rushed to put each other in prison camps or before firing squads, but that was merely a territorial food fight between two tribes that hated free-market individualists. They were brothers and brothers tend toward rivalry, but they were still brothers, more alike than not. Both were evil forms of statism … one attracting people who envied the wealthy and the other seeking recruits by demonizing non-Aryans.

Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten what Nazism really was and we’ve allowed leftists to define it as a more extreme form of conservatism. The myth revolves around the idea that left-wing means compassionate and right-wing means nasty and we all know fascists are nasty.

Does that sound silly worded like that?

That’s because it is. The media calls all sorts of groups “right-wing”. The Taliban, for example, is “right-wing” according to the media. Yet, the Taliban, while being conservative Muslims, want communal ownership of goods. The “right-wing” Iranian revolutionaries seized industries and destroyed the middle class.

So let’s step back and consider this. Both ideologists favored authoritarianism as a means to their ends. So do, for that matter, the Iranian revolutionaries and the Taliban. Authoritarianism is the believe that state (government) compulsion is justified in pursuit of a higher goal. That goal might be scientific progress or great equality or the protection of religion. It was traditionally a characteristic of social democrats and revolutionaries, as pointed out by the very progressive HG Wells, who in 1932, told the Young Liberals they must become “liberal fascists” and “englightened Nazis.”

Wells wasn’t not advocating for embracing Hitlerism, which didn’t actually exist in 1932. He was describing government interventionism. A lot of people in the United States at that time were pro-interventionism, having not yet recognized the racism and anti-Semitism that were part of the fascist program. They didn’t know what they didn’t know.

What is the excuse of modern people who excuse communism today? We know where it has always led and we should know that it will lead there again, but some of Americans romanticize an ideology that killed tens of millions of innocent people. Do you not realize that T-shirt of Che Guevara champions the vicious enforcing of Cuba’s totalitarian regime.

Interview with Sara O. Thompson   Leave a comment

Today’s interview is with Sara O. Thompson. Welcome to the blog.

 

Thank you so much for having me! I’m very happy to be here.

 

Tell us something about yourself. 

 

Sara Thompson author picI write, work, love, and play in Louisville, Kentucky. We ARE part of the South, so don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I have a day job, as does my husband (he’s a critical care nurse). We have twin sons who are almost 4. When I’m not working, writing, or wrangling toddlers, I perform improv comedy with my troupe, Project Improv. I also love cooking and baking, crafts, and movies.

 

 

I know a lot of folks from Louisville … so many that I even know how to pronounce the name of your town correctly. It’s one of those places I have missed in my travels, but hope to visit someday. At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 

I wrote the first twelve or so pages of a book when I was maybe eleven. It was a blatant rip off of Lord of the Flies and I spent most of those twelve pages talking about the various socio-economic classes and personalities of the school kids on board. I think I still have it up on my blog somewhere.

 

 

You put your first writing out on public display? Very brave! Tell us about your writing process.

 

I’m a hybrid plotter/pantser. This series is so big (10 books), I wrote a 70-something page outline. It gets vaguer and sparser the closer to the end, but it’s pretty much all there. I use a lot of improv techniques to outline and write.

 

 

Where did this myth come from that discovery writers can’t use an outline sort of as a roadmap that doesn’t constrain our creativity? I completely understand. What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

 

I try to read as much as I can in my genre and books like mine, which are urban fantasy with a female protagonist. I love science fiction, historical fiction, and steam punk. I especially love books that are a mashup of other genres and ideas.

 

 

What is something you cannot live without?

 

My husband, my kids, my laptop, pretty notebooks and pens, dresses, wine (because of the kids), my Kindle full of books, undereye concealer (because of the kids), cheese, lipstick, and wi-fi.

 

 

I used to babysit my twin cousins. They gang up on you. When you are not writing, what do you do?

 

I’ve been performing improv for about 6 years. I love it so much. It has helped me so much as a writer that I have developed a workshop on using improv skills as a writer. I perform with a really great group and it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

 

 

That sounds like an interesting project … a different way of approaching writing. Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

 

I steal like a crow with a basket of baubles. I collect ideas, tidbits of dialogue, character sketches. Then I make a book out of them. You must cast you net wide, for in the pond where you least expect it, there will be fish.

 

 

Nice concept. What sort of research do you do for your novels?

 

I’m guilty of falling into the Wikipedia hole more than anything. I read, listen to podcasts, get newsletters. I’m just always on the lookout.

 

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

 

I had a professor in grad school who said every writer has a holy trinity: the three things you always write about, even if you try not to. For me, I’d say my holy trinity is religion, food, and possession (think Exorcist). I was raised Roman Catholic, but I enjoy exploring and challenging the ideas I was brought up with. I also like to point out similarities between religions and ask what would happen if…. For instance, I answer the question, “What would happen to world religions if we learned the stories about fairies and demons were not fantasy, but fact?” As far as food, my characters always eat on a regular basis.

 

 

You wouldn’t want them to get low blood sugar. Fainted characters just aren’t all that interesting. So, I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

 

Does this cabin have wi-fi? That will make a difference. I’ll also have lots of notebooks, pens, markers, my laptop and power cord. Wine for the evenings. I’m bringing whatever book I’m reading at the time plus a Kindle full of others. Oh, and probably a gun, because…Alaska.

 

 

The gun and notebooks are practical ideas. Currently, the cabin doesn’t even have electricity. We’re way backwoods here … we even have a resident grizzly bear that saunters through occasionally.  But you are only 50 miles from the second largest city in the state. Talk about your books individually.

 

Sara Thompson Muddy WatersMy debut novel, Muddy Waters (Book 1 of Otherwhere series), came out in April. This was a book I wrote because it’s the kind of thing I want to read. It has a female protagonist who is smart, funny, and magic. It is not at all what I thought I would first publish with. I thought I’d write some big literary fiction book and, well, best laid plans and all that. This story came easily and I enjoy writing this world.

 

 

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

 

I’d like them to have been entertained, to maybe have had a laugh or two, and perhaps thought something they hadn’t thought before. Above all, I’d like to be unignorable.

 

Links to find Sara and her books.

 

 

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSaraOThompson/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThWritingSpider

Blog: https://thewritingspider.wordpress.com/

Website: http://www.saraothompson.com/

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ycxjg484

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/y8p3f7v6

B&N: http://tinyurl.com/y9vv8628

Audible: http://tinyurl.com/y7k6zdt2

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/thwritingspider/

 

Socialism = Many-Headed Hydra   Leave a comment

I got into a kerfuffle with some socialists (Bernie supporters) on Twitter recently because I know what Bernie is advocating and they are so enamored of all the free stuff he’s offering that they are blind to the economic, social and political realities of socialism.

As the New Republic’s John Judis explains:

In the early 1970s, I was a founding member of the New American Movement, a socialist group… Five years later, I was finished with…socialist organizing. …nobody seemed to know how socialism—which meant, to me, democratic ownership and control of the “means of production”—would actually work… Would it mean total nationalization of the economy? …wouldn’t that put too much political power in the state? The realization that a nationalized economy might also be profoundly inefficient, and disastrously slow to keep up with global markets, only surfaced later with the Soviet Union’s collapse. But even then, by the mid-1970s, I was wondering what being a socialist really meant in the United States.

He then noted that socialism is making a comeback and he’s pleased that socialism seems to have a future in American politics once again.  He hopes Sanders can make socialism relevant to Americans in the 21st century.

The old nostrums about ownership and control of the means of production simply don’t resonate in 2017. …In the 2016 campaign, however, Sanders began to define a socialism that could grow… I think there is an important place for the kind of democratic socialism that Sanders espoused.

In analyzing the many flavors of socialism, Judis ultimately distilled them into two camps – Marxist Socialism with its apocalyptic abolition of capitalism and Keynes’s Liberal Socialism, which works more gradually toward the incorporation of public power and economic equality within something that pretends to be capitalism. Most of the leftists I know believe in “liberal democracy” and “liberal socialism”, which are both good when you compare them to Marxist socialism which requires totalitarianism to work, but what Obama and Clinton want is still bad compared to small-government capitalism.

American leftists are content to allow capitalism so long as they can impose high taxes on “economic surplus” to finance lots of redistribution. They are certain such policies will have no significant negative economic impacts. Punishing success and subsiding dependence doesn’t encourage long-term prosperity and demographic trends make their policies increasingly unsustainable, but at least these folks don’t want to enforce their ideals through totalitarianism … yet. They’ll leave that to a later generation, I suppose.

Judis suggested that there is no definitive definition of “socialism”, but throughout the 19th century and much of the 20th century, all socialists condemned and called for the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and imagined it replaced with some form of socialist central planning directed by the government in the name of “the people.” The only great debate among socialists and communists in the 19th & 20th centuries was over how the socialist utopia would be brought about … whether by violent revolution or the democratic ballot box. The Russian Marxists insisted only revolution and the “dictatorship of the proliteriat” would bring “the workers” to power and assure their permanent triumph over the “exploitive” capitalist class, while the German democratic socialists opted for democratic means to power and rejected dictatorship. Well into the post-World War II period, the dispute was over political means and not ideological ends. The goal was, for both ends of the spectrum, the abolition of capitalism and the imposition of socialist central planning. How they got there differed, but both ended up with centralized government direction of economic affairs and social change.

By mid-century, “democratic” socialists in Western Europe grudging accepted the failure of socialist central planning in the Soviet bloc, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The brutal tyranny of Soviet-style socialism made it ethically indefensible. They changed their message to a “social justice” message without mentioning the nationalization of the means of production or centrally planning all economic activity.

With the opening of Cuba to tourism, leftist social justice warriors are planning to go and study what worked there. Of course, they won’t tour La Cabana prison where Che Guevara acted as unrestrained judge, jury and executioner.  They probably won’t tour the forced labor camps or talk to anyone who spent 20 years in one of them for holding ideas that weren’t allowed. No, they prefer to bask in the moral satisfaction that the few remaining communist regimes are still trying to make the “better world” they promised. Censorship of ideas, music, political views and imprisonment of “the people” who don’t have the “right” ideology will mostly not be spoken of. And, note, the social justice warriors who so admire the murderer Che prefer to live in Western countries where the rule of law has thus far protected them from their “liberal socialist” dream.

So, what do my not-so-friendly leftist friends on Twitter want from this “Liberal Socialism” they fervently advocate for? It’s the same “utopia” that Western countries have been pursuing since the end of World War II, though it has different degrees in different places.

Mr. Judis wants the government to intensively regulate, command, restrict and direct various aspects of private enterprise in society while ensuring that American society can still take advantage of the self-interested incentives and innovations that work to improve the material conditions of life. He just wants the direction, form and extent to which private businesspeople are allowed to innovate and produce to be confined and constrained by “non-market” values to conform to the purposes of “society.”

Matching the regulatory and interventionist state will, of course, be the redistributive welfare state. Excessive and unnecessary income held by businesses and investors must be heavily taxed to assure greater material egalitarianism, to fund all manners of social safety nets, and bring benefit to ordinary Americans. They use that word “economic security” a lot.

I’m not really certain what differentiates Mr. Judis’ “liberal socialism” from what already exists in the United States. It appears it’s a fine line involving intentions and the recipients of the goodies. Modern liberals like Bill and Hillary Clinton lost their way and started sleeping with the enemy (Wall Street et al). What is needed, according to Mr. Judis, is for modern American liberals to take a giant step to the left and use the Democratic Party to propagandize and persuade more in society to believe that socialism is best for them.

Just move the existing welfare state to the ‘right’ elected hands and watching things change.

Of course, what we really have in the United States is not a free market “neo-liberal” capitalism. It’s more of a “bourgeois socialism” where a system of government regulation, redistribution, favors and privileges benefit many in the private enterprise sectors of society … what we now call “crony capitalism.” What Judis is calling for is “proletarian socialism” where government more directly takes from the “rich” to give to “the workers” and “the poor.”

How likely is this to come about? Well, the call for “participatory democracy” is telling. Politics in an unrestrained democracy always becomes a tug-of-war among special interest groups capable of gaining concentrated benefits from State intervention and redistributation at the diffused expense of the rest of society. Think about special interest groups who succeed in offering campaign donations and votes to politicians who then fulfill their campaign promises to those groups once in power. The “classless” Soviets used a hierarchial system of privilege that beguiled one of the most intricate social webs of power, privilege favoritism and plunder ever seen in human society. Turned out that the notion of “the people” owning, controlling, regulating and overseeing the collective direction of an economy was pure illusion.

What far too many peole who share Mr. Judis’ views about capitalism and socialism fail to comprehend is that ANY and ALL forms of planning, regulation and political redistribution takes power and decision-making away from “the people” and gives it to government administrators who then use it for their own benefit.

What do you want to be when you grow up, little boy? You can be an engineer or an engineer. Soviet Era Joke

Only in the open, competitive market economy does each and every individual exercise liberty over his own personal affairs. The market enables us to make our own choices concern the professional, occupation and productive calling we wish to pursue. It leaves us free to make our own choices on how to earn income and spend that income on what we value or desire or believe will bring meaning and happiness to our own lives. In a free society where individual liberty and voluntary association are protected, we have true opportunities to form groups of almost any type to make our lives outside of the market materially, socially, culturally and spiritually better in our estimation.

 

Posted September 19, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics, Uncategorized

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How Is the Fix In?   2 comments

So, the other day, someone on Twitter informed me that all Republic states had done away with paper ballots and that no states do hand-counting.

Last I looked Alaska was a Republican-leaning state and I fill out a paper ballot and feed it into a scanner. I’ve seen what comes out at the other end – a scanned copy of my ballot. I’ve seen the poll workers hand-count the ballots to assure they match the reading on the scanner before forwarding a report that verifies that the hand-count matches the scanner count. Then the paper ballots are forwarded in a locked box with guards to the Division of Elections.

Image result for image of russians meddling with election on facebookSo I went out and checked and 37 states have maintained paper ballots, some with optical scanners, others with a paper ballot that prints out after you use the digital machine, and most states that use electronic methods still have some form of paper trail attached.

Amid all of these ridiculous claims was someone up in arms because “Russia used Facebook to influence the election.”

So what?

I used Facebook to influence the election too. I posted on my social media accounts that I thought folks should vote for Gary Johnson rather than the Donald or She-Who-Would-Be-Queen. I offered reasoned arguments that you were free to accept or reject. I pointed out fallacies that you could believe or disbelieve. I posted scathing memes.

Oh, but wait, I’m an American citizen, so it’s okay for me to influence an election, because we all know nobody takes an American citizen seriously, right. But Russia … Russia … oh, my god, Russian agents expressed an opinion and some people might actually have been influenced by finding out that Hillary Clinton thinks the American people are idiots. The horror! And, of course, nobody can exercise their common sense and decide that they disagree with ads posted by Russians because … well, it’s Russia and we all know they have mind-control powers. The horror!

 

We have been subjected to 10 months of propaganda about Trump/Putin election interference without a scrap of actual evidence being produced. It is past time to ask an unasked question: If there were evidence, what is the big deal? All sorts of interest groups try to influence election outcomes including foreign governments. Why is it OK for Israel to influence US elections but not for Russia to do it? I seem to remember Angela Merkel saying something about how she wanted the US election to turn out. Why is it okay for her to do that, but not Vladimir Putin? Why do you think the armament industry, the energy industry, agribusiness, Wall Street and the banks, pharmaceutical companies, what’s left of the Moral Majority, George Soros, etc., supply huge sum of money to finance election campaigns if their intent is not to influence the election? Why do editorial boards write editorials endorsing one candidate and damning another if they are not influencing the election?

What is the difference between influencing the election and influencing the government? Washington is full of lobbyists of all descriptions, including lobbyists for foreign governments, working round the clock to influence the US government. Actual citizens’ opinions are the least represented in the government because we haven’t got any lobbyists working for us.

The orchestrated hysteria over “Russian influence” is even more absurd considering the reason Russia allegedly interfered in the election. Russia favored Trump because he was the “peace” candidate who promised to reduce the high tensions with Russia created by the Obama regime and neocon nazis like Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. What’s wrong with Russia preferring a peace candidate over a war candidate? The American people themselves preferred the peace candidate.

Those who don’t agree with the electorate are the warmongers—the military/security complex and the neocons. These are democracy’s enemies who are trying to overturn the choice of the American people by keeping back information we had a right to know. It is not Russia that disrespects the choice of the American people. Russia is not in our streets throwing rocks through shop windows, burning cars and beating up people who voted for the constitutionally-elected President. Russia is busy dealing with its own issues while the utterly corrupt Democratic National Committee with its divisive identity politics, the military/security complex, and the left-leaning media undermine US democracy.

Whoever is producing the propaganda that these people believe about the election process should probably be looked at as someone trying to influence future election results because it is far easier to hack a nation-wide popular election than it is to corrupt 51 state-wide popular votes conducted by a myriad of election apparatuses.

The important question is who is it that is trying so hard to convince Americans that Russian influence somehow prevailed over our collective commonsense? It would appear that at the most, they released information that allowed us more information upon which to derive our opinions. Are we now saying that an uninformed vote is better than an informed one?

 

 

Economic Armageddon?   2 comments

The Great Recession. We have probably all heard of if not lived through a recession. If a recession occurred today, what would you do to sustain your lifestyle? What changes would you make?

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So, I’ve calculated that this is the 4th deep recession I’ve lived through. There was the 1970s Stagflation recession, the Alaska Great Recession of the 1990s, the US Great Recession of 2008 and still continuing by some definitions, and the current Alaska recession caused by OPEC manipulation of the oil markets.

I’ve studied enough classical economics to know that depressions and recessions are part of the natural economic cycle. They have occurred many times throughout history. While they scare the snot out of a lot of people, they aren’t as bad as we have been taught to think they are.

Image result for image of savings

The singer Della Reese once gave a quintesential definition of a recession and a depression:

“It’s a recession if you don’t have a job; it’s a depression if I’m unemployed.”

Seriously, a recession and depression are very similar. Generally a depression is more severe, but not necessarily in the long-run because prices fall along with wages, while in a recession wages fall while prices often remain quite high and sometimes even go up.

So, what would I do if another recession hit? Well, it’s more like — what am I doing now? When the Recession of 2008 hit, Brad and I had just paid off the majority of our debts (except our mortgage), which meant that we had a little more latitude than some of our friends who were debt-leveraged up to their eyeballs. We had been living a fairly spartan life for a few years to get our debts under control, so we didn’t particularly panic when jobs dried up. Brad opened his own company, sometimes took jobs with the union when he could and we learned to live on my salary. The hard part was when I lost my job in 2012, but I was only out of work for about six weeks. It wiped out our savings, but we met our bills.

Since then, we’ve not really reclaimed a lavish lifestyle. We don’t go out to eat. We don’t have a cable bill. We look for clothes at the second-hand store before we buy new. We burn wood to save money on diesel fuel. We don’t have credit cards. We use our debit cards, saving 20% in interest, and we bank our extra money as savings. We’re not as good as my mom was at it. We don’t have the kind of reserves I would like to have. Mom lived through an actual Great Depression. She was willing to do with a whole lot less than we are. We’re spoiled.

I think we’re probably better prepared for a depression than we are a recession because prices fall during a depression and it doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that prices today are way WAY over inflated. Just do a little research on how much it costs to manufacture or grow some items and how much it costs us to buy them. Yes, it should always cost more to buy something than it costs to create it — that is a necessary profit — but when you see such a wide difference, you can be assured a market correction will eventually come about. These days it’s being prevented by government interference in the markets, but eventually, it will become inevitable because we are way overdue.

People who have saved money in those instances are the fortunate ones because their dollars are stronger in a depressive economy. What’s more, banks usually tighten their lending standards, which includes raising the interest rate on loans, which means your savings interest rate also increase, so you make money on having money in the bank. Still, having savings in a recessive economy is still a good idea. It is certainly better than holding debt. Brad and I would hunker down, not change our lifestyle a whole lot, and wait out the crisis. Because his skills will be needed regardless of the economy, we’d still have an income, albeit not one we might wish we had. I’m still of a mind that if you can’t find work in your field, find work where there is work, so I would find something that would pay the bills … assuming my current job went away, which it might or might not.

I should also point out that in a national recession, Alaska almost always does better than the national average. We joke that we’re protected by the Great Barrier Reef of Canada. Canada really doesn’t have much to do with it, but our resource-based economy does. Because we have oil and minerals and demand for those does not go down during a recession, our economy takes less of a hit. Unfortunately, when the price of oil drops really low because OPEC decides to once-again corner the market, Alaska then struggles with a recession, which is what’s going on here now.

So what are Brad and I doing? Yeah, living a frugal lifestyle and banking as much savings as possible. If the markets started booming again like they were in the 1990s, we’d have enough sense this time around to sock it all away in the piggy bank and look to the future.

The secret to dealing with a true deep recession is to not spend all of your money or live a really lavish lifestyle supported by debt during times of plenty. Then, when things turn downward, you’ve got some wriggle room. By planning ahead, you eliminate the need to panic.

 

Love is Eternal   Leave a comment

Love Never Fails
(13:8-13)

Love never endsBut if there are propheciesthey will be set asideif there are tonguesthey will ceaseif there is knowledgeit will be set aside. For we know in partand we prophesy in part,  but when what is perfect comesthe partial will be set aside. When I was a childI talked like a childI thought like a childI reasoned like a childBut when I became an adultI set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to faceNow I know inpartbut then I will know fullyjust as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faithhopeand loveBut the greatest of these is love.  (1Corinthians 13:8-13)

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul set out to show the superiority of character over charisma. Christian love overwhelms spiritual gifts.

  • Verses 1-3, Paul stated even the most highly prized gifts, exercised to the ultimate level of success, but without love, are of little value to the one who is gifted or to the one who is the recipient of his ministry.
  • Verses 4-7, Paul described love in a way which defines it in very practical terms and also shows the Corinthians’ lack of love.

In our subject passage for this week, verses 8-13, Paul reasoned love is superior to all the spiritual gifts because love outlasts them. Love never fails; spiritual gifts do fail.

The statement, “love never fails,” nicely links Paul’s words in verse 7 with those which follow. Love “never fails” because it always bears up, always has faith, always hopes, always endures (verse 7). Furthermore, love “never fails” because it is eternal.

The word “fail” is the translation of a word which literally means to fall. This same word is used to describe the fatal “fall” of the young man from the third story window during Paul’s really long sermon in Acts 20:9. Ananias and Saphira both “fell” dead when confronted by Peter (Acts 5:5, 10). Paul employed this term when he spoke of the 23,000 who “fell” dead in the wilderness due to their immorality (1 Corinthians 10:8; Exodus 32:28). In other words, love does not die; it does not come to an end. Love is like the Energizer Bunny that keeps going and going and going …

In contrast to love, which does not come to an end, spiritual gifts do come to an end. Paul said they fail. He wrote of the demise of the three spiritual gifts considered most valuable by the Corinthians. Gifts of prophecy will be done away with; tongues will cease; knowledge will be done away (verse 8). Knowledge and prophecy in this age are partial and incomplete. But when “the perfect” comes, this will render the “imperfect” obsolete.

My husband is a repairman. Often when he is called out in the middle of the night because someone has no heat, he will repair the boiler/furnace temporarily. He keeps used parts on hand to effect those repairs. He will then return the next day when he has secured the brand new part to make permanent repairs. Consider the late night repair to be “imperfect” until he makes the “perfect” permanent repairs.

Paul contrasted the permanence of love with the temporary nature of all spiritual gifts. I know there’s debate about how some gifts may be temporary in nature, but I don’t see that in Paul’s writing … and neither do the Bible commentators I read in research here. I guess the gift of tongues is singled out because of a subtle distinction in the Greek text. One Greek word is employed to refer to the passing of prophecy and knowledge, translated in the NASB by the expression “done away.” The cessation of tongues is depicted by a different term, rendered “cease” in the NASB. While the verb employed for the passing of prophecy and knowledge is passive in voice, the term used in reference to tongues is middle in voice. This subtlety is interpreted by some scholars to mean tongues will cease after the days of the apostles before the cessation of prophecy and knowledge.

“They shall make themselves cease or automatically cease of themselves.” A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), IV, p. 179.

All Christians should be knowledgeable and honest enough to say that the so-called “cessationist” position (certain gifts—especially tongues—came to an end at the close of the apostolic age) is based upon inferences rather than upon clear statements. Yes, I am a Baptist who does not speak in tongues, but I don’t agree with the “cessationist” position. It is one thing for the Bible to say tongues will cease; it is quite another to say tongues have ceased. Doctrine based upon clear, uncontradicted statements is to be held more dogmatically than doctrine based upon inference. I too hold certain beliefs based upon inference, but I desire to acknowledge them as just that. In 1 Corinthians 14:39, Paul pointedly prohibited us from forbidding others to speak in tongues. This is not an inference but a command. So, there you have it. I don’t speak in tongues because God hasn’t given me that gift, but I believe He has given others that gift. I’ve seen very.few people who exercise the gift do it properly, but the only argument I have against that is 1 Corinthians 14, which also tells me not to forbid others from speaking in tongues. Therefore, ….

I don’t embrace the cessationist position, but I also believe God is not obliged to give the gift of tongues anyone today. There are certain vital and necessary functions in the church, for which there are accompanying general commands. All are commanded to give, to help, and to encourage. All may not be gifted in these areas, but it seems necessary that there be some who are thus gifted. All are not commanded to prophesy or to speak in tongues. I don’t think tongues are necessary for the work of God, but I don’t deny the possibility of tongues. I also question the practice of tongues by some Christians. Not all that is called tongues is biblical tongues, and much of what is practiced as tongues (whether genuine tongues or false) is not practiced as the Scriptures require. In spite of this, a blanket rejection of the possibility of tongues cannot be biblically sustained.

Paul showed love to be superior to all spiritual gifts because it is permanence. Spiritual gifts are not permanent because they are not perfect. Spiritual gifts are partial. We know in part, and we prophesy in part. Prophecy is never wrong or inaccurate; it is simply incomplete. Peter wrote of the prophets of old who spoke of the sufferings and glories of the Messiah who was yet to come and whose own writings puzzled them because they were incomplete (1 Peter 1:10-12). Paul was privileged to fill in some of the gaps of the Old Testament Scriptures by unveiling certain mysteries (Ephesians 3:1-13). Nevertheless, his revelations were partial. He did not reveal all that we would like to know. Because of this, his letters raised unanswered questions, and false teachers were quickly on hand to distort his writings (2 Peter 3:14-16).

God used th prophets of old to reveal all He wanted us to know—but not all there is to know nor all that we would like to know. When “the perfect” comes, the imperfect will no longer be necessary. The imperfect will be done away with. I doubt the completed canon of Scripture is “the perfect” which will come (13:10) is the completed canon of Scripture. More likely, Paul meant the kingdom of God for which we eagerly wait. Only then will we know fully, just as we are now fully known (see verse 12).

In verses 11 and 12, Paul told the Corinthian Christians, and us, that we should view spiritual gifts as we do the toys of our childhood. We kept some of our kids’ toys for when friends bring their children to our house and while they still delight small children, our kids themselves have moved on to other “toys” … musical instruments, cars, etc. Childish toys are great when we are children, but they should hold little attraction for adults.

Paul’s illustration taught an important lesson to the Corinthians and also gently rebuked their pride and arrogance. Did they think they were wise? Of course, they did (see 4:6-21)! But their wisdom and understanding were partial. In the light of eternity, such knowledge will be set aside as imperfect. Did the Corinthians believe they saw things clearly and that their perception of matters was accurate? Paul let them know their knowledge was sketchy compared to the perfect knowledge which will be ours in eternity.

Our perception of truth and reality is like looking in a cheap, old mirror which only imperfectly reflects reality. Our modern mirrors are so much better than those of Paul’s day. His mirror was probably like the “mirrors” at a highway rest stop. Many states use metal “mirrors” in their restrooms to cut down on vandalism. Those mirrors make it very difficult to see yourself clearly. The Corinthians did not see as clearly as they thought, either. At best, their knowledge was partial. They shouldn’t have clung to their spiritual gifts with pride and thought too highly of themselves. They should have possessed and appreciated all the gifts as temporary provisions of God, seeing them as partial and inferior to what eternity holds for us.

Paul declared love is not only better than any or all of the spiritual gifts, but that it is even greater than faith and hope. Spiritual gifts fail, while love lasts. Faith, hope, and love all “abide” (verse 13). While love is greater than spiritual gifts which do not last, love is also greater than faith and hope, which “abides” and “endures.” Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It won’t be necessary in heaven because we will be with God face-to-face. Hope too seems to be temporal.  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25). Faith is necessary for salvation because it waits for God to reveal His plans, but that level of trust in the unknown will be unnecessary when we’re with God in Heaven. We won’t need to hope for eternity any longer because we will already have received it. But love will still be there. Love is not something to look down upon as inferior to spiritual gifts and wisdom. It holds greater value than anything else.

Something of such great value must not only be esteemed, it should be sought. Jesus told the parable of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46). When the merchant found the one pearl of great value, he gladly sold all he had to purchase it. Paul told us that love is that “pearl of great price.” It is the thing of great value. The Corinthians, knowingly or not, sacrificed love in their pursuit of certain spiritual gifts (see chapter 8). Paul showed this was contrary to eternal values, since love is the greatest. One does not wisely sacrifice that of the greatest value for something of lesser value.

The first verse of chapter 14 is Paul’s “bottom line,” the application he wants his readers to accept and accomplish. In saying love is the greatest, Paul is not belittling spiritual gifts. He merely seeks to put spiritual gifts into perspective. Spiritual gifts are a gracious provision of God, but they are never to be pursued or practiced at the expense of love. Love is to be pursued as the “pearl of great price,” but the spiritual gifts are not to be neglected. Love is the attitude of heart which adds value to the gifts.

A former pastor of mine was descended from the Bach family of musicians, so it was a family requirements that he learn to play an instrument and many of the men in his family were accomplished fiddlers (he grew up in the Ozarks). He learned the notes and fingering and bow work, but he just wasn’t that good. He tried (and his sons wished he wouldn’t), but he couldn’t make a good violin “sing purdy.” Spiritual gifts are like the violin. They are good. When employed by immature, carnal, self-seeking Christians, however, spiritual gifts produce an unpleasant sound. When spiritual gifts are employed by spiritual Christians, those who walk in love, the gifts they exercise are beautiful; they are edifying to others. Love is one ingredient that can never be absent without being noticed. The Corinthians might have professed to pursue and practice love, but they were lacking in it.

Christian love is a huge topic, but you can summarize Paul’s teaching on the subject with two main statements:

  1. Love should be our priority
  2. Love should be pursued

Love as a Priority

Spiritual gifts have little value apart from love. Spiritual gifts do not abide, while love does. Love is even superior to faith and hope, which do abide.

This truth is not unique to Paul. The teaching of the entire Old Testament and of our Lord Jesus Christ can be summed up by one word—“love.” (See Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; John 15:17).

Love was the goal of Paul’s instruction:

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).

Peter and John referred to love as the highest level of Christian growth, and Paul spoke of it as the basis for edification (see 1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 John 4:7-11; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-16).

Love is to be a high priority for the Christian, but it is so quickly and easily lost. Certainly love was lacking in the church at Corinth. The church at Ephesus all too quickly lost its first love and did not even seem to know it (see Revelation 2:1-5.

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE

Love is not automatic. It’s quickly lost, and it comes about only when we make it our priority and pursuit. How does one pursue love? We begin by reading God’s Word and meditating upon it. This epistle was written not only to the saints at Corinth but to all the saints, including us (see 1:1-2). The first thing we gain from God’s Word is an accurate definition of love. Our society does not have the same definition of “love” as the Bible says Christians should hold. The Bible is the only source of truth which defines what love is and does.

As the Word of God speaks to us of love, we should recognize our lack of love, and repent of it. Surely as Paul’s description of love’s conduct begins to unfold in verses 4-7 of chapter 13, it became increasingly clear the Corinthians lacked love. As we meditate on these verses and many like them in God’s Word, our lack of love must be recognized and repented from as the serious sin it is. This is what Jesus called for in His letter to the Ephesian saints in Revelation 2 and it is what He requires of us today.

Having recognized our lack of love and repented of this deficiency, we must now look to God alone as the source of love. Love does not originate within us. We love as a result of God’s love for us. We are to keep ourselves in this love (1 John 4:19; Jude 1:20-21). 

If we are to keep ourselves in the love of Christ, we must never stray from the cross of Christ, because that is where God’s love for us was poured out (Romans 5:3-8).

The love we have received from God came in the form of a cross—sacrificial love. That is the kind of love we are to manifest toward others (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:25-27).

The way we demonstrate love toward God and toward others is by obeying His commandments. This is why the Old Testament law can be summed up in two commandments, both of which are the expressions of love. Legalism is man’s attempt to keep God’s law without love. Love is that state of heart which seeks to please God by keeping His commands. In chapter 14, verse 1, Paul instructed his readers to pursue love, and the rest of the chapter tells us how that is to be done. We pursue love by exercising our gifts in a self-sacrificial way that endeavors to edify others. If most of the church today ignores the instructions Paul laid down here, we can conclude the problem begins with a lack of love toward God and toward others. Love is not so much a warm and fuzzy feeling as the grateful disposition to please God and others at our own expense, by keeping His commandments as initially laid down in the Old Testament and clarified in the New.

Just a reminder that I’m speaking primarily to Christians because this epistle was written primarily to Christians, but now I want to say something to those who have not yet acknowledged their sin and trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. You cannot express the love of God until you have first experienced it. This is why some Christians scoff at you when you try to lecture them about love. Christian love is impossible for those who have not yet accepted the love of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I urge you to consider the awesome reality of God’s love, expressed toward you in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us, to bear the penalty for our sins, and to give us His righteousness, as we place our trust in Him by faith. May you trust in Him this very hour and thus come to experience His love.

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