Interview with Loredana Gasparotto   Leave a comment

Today’s interview is with Loredana Gasparotto. Loredana is my first interview with a film maker and screen writer. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself.
Loredana Gasparotto PictureMy name is Loredana Gasparotto. I was born and raised in a small, medieval and enchanting Italian town called Bassano Del Grappa. Bassano is a beautiful place
full of history and beauty, however it always felt too small, like a pair of tight
shoes.

The land I longed for was far, far away: it was America. As I landed in NYC at the end of 1999, I felt immediately at home. I’ve been living in NY for the past 17 years and it’s been a long, intricate and adventurous journey that took me to write Pentimento, my first feature film. This long life journey brought me to recognize and completely accept who I am: I am an artist. But what does it mean being an artist in America, the land of opportunities?

PENTIMENTO Trailer

Well, being true to yourself and your art in America, where conformity and success
are measured in terms of popularity and money is a true challenge. My questions
were and still are: is it finding buyers for my art what makes me a true artist? Or
does it turn me into a salesperson and a product instead of an artist? I realized that I
had to set aside all those marketing values. They did not belong to me and I did not
belong to them. Being an artist for me is the freedom to be myself. Free to search
and free to fail without the worry of being liked by “consumers”.

I wrote Pentimento with those ideals in mind. It might sounds heroic, but its’s a
continuous struggle. And why did I become a “writer”? Something that I never
liked in the first place? Because I had to. I had to write my own ideas in order to
turn them into moving images, in order to tell stories through filmmaking.

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I was forced to learn to write to make movies. I had to accept that it was a
necessary step in order to communicate my ideas and produce them into film.

 

Tell us about your writing process.

Initially I wrote scripts following the process my teacher taught me, which is to
begin writing a film treatment first.

Well, let me tell you: it probably works if you have to pitch your idea to a studio
executive, but I don’t think it’s the most creative nor the most fulfilling way to
write. I personally follow the Sylvester Stallone’s method, lol: Write and just write
until you get the first draft of the script done! I thought it was ridiculous at first, but
it works! I finished the first draft of my second feature in 2 days ( however, I had
been thinking about it for 10 years� ) I just let the protagonist go on her journey
without any judgments. It was a fun and wild ride� loved it!

Loredana Self-Portrait

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

Well I would think that my favorite genre is thriller and comedy. I believe these are
the two genre I am drawn to by default. Most of the stories and scenes I write are
scary or bizarre.
What are you passionate about?

Pentimento PosterI am passionate about honesty and originality. I watch tons of films and TV shows.
When I see something that stands out I am the happiest and more excited person
ever!

 

What is something you cannot live without?
Music, films, the sun, coffee, my iMac, my iPhone, my bike and sleep. Love to
sleep! �

 

 

Where do you get the inspiration for your films?

I get my inspiration from life. I came across so many weird things and crazy
people, that I can say with all honestly: life is much weirder than fiction.

Pentimento Preview

 

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

Weirdly enough, I keep repeating the action of having the main characters looking
outside windows. What’s up with that? I have that in all my movies! Definitely a
cycle that needs to be broken. Dream sequences are also a biggie. Seriously. All my
movies have dream sequences. I don’t even plan to create them consciously. I just
put them in . I think it probably has to do with my night dreams. I have crazy
intense dreams basically every night. So I guess I tend to recreate my daily life
dynamics. Usually all my characters become conscious through a bizarre dream
experience. Almost like a prophetic or paranormal perceptions.

 

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

I did try to write stories following an outline, but it never really worked for me. I
mean it always forced the story and it was not an organic progression. When I
began following my characters instead, everything fell into place. As I follow
them, the story creates itself.

 

Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?
I usually don’t begin a story with that in mind. Usually the beginning is just about
the journey of the character. However, I believe it’s the ending of the story that
defines its message. How is the heroine/hero’s journey going to end? Would she or
he find what they were looking for or not? The ending will define the moral of the
story as well as the philosophical views of the writer.

 

What do you want the readers to think or feel after watching in your films?

I’d like them to leave with a new prospective on how stories can be told and about
how life could be. I’d like them to be surprised.

 

What influenced your decision to self-produce?

Well, as a first time feature film director I had a super tough time finding investors
to make the film.

I searched for a very long time. I wrote proposals, met people etc… However, it is
extremely difficult to find individuals who’ll dare to invest in your ideas without
the guarantee of financial gain. And of course the film business is very
unpredictable. We can’t ever really predict what will be a hit or a flop. At the end,
I realized I had to invest my own money.With that, comes the pros and cons.
One of the major cons is that the production value of the film is not as
sophisticated as the one of a multimillion dollar production. Also the production
and post production phases are incredibly longer.

However you have enormous freedom to create. And I truly believe that my best
ideas came out of this process.

Creativity is the daughter of scarcity. If I’d had access to all the tools I wished for, I
wouldn’t have had to squeeze my brain to come up with new creative ways to solve a
problem.

I truly believe that Pentimento is a unique film because I was forced to invent
solutions to all the productions issues I encountered. I’m actually very please with
that.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-producing?

It’s definitely the creative control and originality that comes with it.

 

Who designed your posters?

I actually made the choice to do it myself. I was inspired by the posters of Wong
kar Wai’s film posters like Fallen Angels and Chunking Express.

I decided to utilize the technique of mashup to create an original poster, by the
way still in the making. I utilized this technique for my previous art work. I think
it’s a good fit for the film.

 

What sort of research do you do for your films?
Research is one of my favorite aspects of writing. I learn so much in the process.
For my second feature I am researching a varieties of topics from insights on the
NYC real estate market to various species of NYC BUGS. From Saint Francis, the
magic flute and Snow White to dumpsters recycle. Did you know that dumpster
recycling in NY is the new Trend? So much fun!

 

How do people interested in your work find you?

https://www.facebook.com/LoredanaGasparottoArt/

https://www.facebook.com/Pentimentofilm/

Liberty Conundrum   Leave a comment

Freedom can be a tricky concept because it tends to mean different things to different people. No-one really thinks that everyone should be free to do whatever they please. To everyone, “freedom” means freedom to do those things that don’t sufficiently harm others. There’s also an element of freedom from constraint imposed by particular actors ( such as government using the threat of legal action) and not other actors (such as churches using moral or spiritual sanctions). Church attendance is voluntary and portable. Government edict is neither.

Image result for image of freedomOf course, that brings us to the subject of harm. In a moral sense, what constitutes “harm”? Does paying someone a low wage for their work count as harming them? How about discriminating against them in various transactions? Interfering with their business relations? Libeling them? Having sex with their spouses? Revealing information about them that they view as private?

In a practical sense, causes “harm”? Does legal private gun possession really cause more crime and injury than would be present if guns were prohibited?

Ooo, that brings us to the question of when can avoiding some kinds of harm justify restrictions on people’s freedom? When can some behavior — e.g., the distribution of guns or alcohol — be properly restricted when the distribution is not itself harmful, but makes it possible for third parties to act harmfully?

Well-intentioned people can answer these questions differently depending on their individual points of view.

 

Abraham Lincoln asked these questions in his Address at a Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, April 18, 1864:

The world has never had a good definition of liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in need of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty.

It’s a useful reminder that “liberty” in the abstract is not self-defining. Most rhetoric that simply refers to “liberty” — whether in the context of slavery, where Lincoln said this, or abortion rights, or national sovereignty, and so on — rests on the question of the proper definition of people’s rights; and it’s that definition that cuts to the heart of the debate.

Many questions can’t be resolved by just talking about “liberty” or “not imposition one’s beliefs on others” in the abstract. If liberty means freedom to do things that don’t violate the rights of others, the important questions are

  • what constitutes those “rights”
  • what counts as violation,
  • who counts as “others”

At that point, you have to take the discussion of liberty out of the abstract and look at in reality.

Posted June 27, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 26th June   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

This week we’re writing about what advice has stuck with us for a long time, and who gave us that advice.

Nothing was ever sugar-coated for me as a child. My mother Dot, with her typical East End tell-it-like-it-is attitude, drummed the following advice into me from a very early age:

‘Never get old and fat, because first you’ll see ’em with one stick, then you’ll see ’em with two sticks, and then you won’t see ’em at all, so everything in moderation.’

As a child this always gave me a terrible mental image of an unfortunate whale-like, wrinkled person stuck and floundering in an armchair like a flapping fish.

Up until the age of about 12 or 13 when I was given pocket money, sweets were rationed to one small bag on Saturdays only.  If Dot saw me trying to take more than 3 biscuits, then the tin would be quickly whipped away and…

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Posted June 26, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Advice Well Received   2 comments

What Advice Has Stuck With You For A Long Time? And Who Gave You That Advice?
Did someone give you some great advice at a certain time in your life? Think back to that time and write down the advice as you remember it.

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So last week, I alluded to a period in my marriage that was not easy. I didn’t go into detail because I wanted to use it for this week’s blog hop article.

Image result for image of christian adviceBrad doesn’t make a secret that he’s a recovering alcoholic. We have a rule where we try not to bring up things from decades ago to shove in each other’s faces today, but I have to sort of do that to make this blog post make sense. I’m doing this with his permission.

Relapse happens with alcoholics, but recovery is not guaranteed. About 22 years ago, Brad went off the rails and I decided that for the sake of our daughter and myself, but also for Brad’s sake, he couldn’t be with us for a while. This coincided with the younger adults of our church choosing to dis-fellowship Brad until he straightened up. As a friend of ours put it, “If you show up at our door asking me to drive you to an AA meeting, I’m all in, but if it’s for anything else … don’t bother.” That might sound cruel, but Brad now credits those people as some of his best friends.

My choice to make an ultimatum (get help or lose us) came from advice I received at Alanon, but how I did it was entirely based on advice from my friend Theresa.

Theresa had been a missionary’s wife who discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their sons. By the time of my crisis, she’d been divorced from her husband for 25 years. She’d never remarried, which I had always assumed was because she had so many kids, but when my decision became public knowledge in the church, she came to me to give me some time-honored advice from a modern perspective.

I HATED that we were moving toward divorce (and at that time, it didn’t look like there would be another outcome). I knew that divorce outside of the exemption for desertion of a Christian spouse by a non-Christian spouse or adultery was not Biblically allowed. It bothered me that I was deliberately sinning. But Theresa explained things to me in a different way.

 7:10 To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.  1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Take a really good look at that clause in verse 11. Theresa chose to remove herself and her children from a damaging situation. She divorced her creeper husband. More power to her. We should never seek divorce lightly. “Irreconcilable differences” is a trivial excuse to end a covenant relationship sealed before God, but some marriages are not salvageable for deeper reasons than he leaves the toilet seat up or he watches football all weekend. There are husbands who beat their wives (and women who abuse their husbands). There are spouses who gamble away every dime and others who drink it away. Alcohol shuts down important centers of the brain having to do with reliability, self-control and judgment. Brad was doing things that needed to stop and he just couldn’t see that through the amber haze he was shrouding his mind in. I needed to keep a roof over our daughter’s head and I couldn’t afford his habits any longer. I provided him with a way back to us before I closed the door on him. But it looked like he wasn’t going to take that lifeline and I felt guilty that I was disobeying God by divorcing my husband.

Image result for image of christian adviceAnd then Theresa showed me this one little clause and my perspective changed.

“If you leave (for a good reason), remain unmarried or be reconciled.”

When Theresa left her husband, she did so to protect her children. He remarried (and there’s tales to tell about that one), but Theresa never did. She understood that she was still bound by the covenant they had both made before God. She was certain that (we’ll call him) John was a Christian, so his remarriage didn’t absolve her of her covenantal responsibility. She remained unmarried as an act of honoring God’s standards.

God blessed her by the way. Jobs fell out of the sky for this woman and her younger children, who had escaped their father’s predations by her choices, turned out to be wonderfully committed Christians who married wonderfully committed Christians. Some of her older children worked through their issues and are adults to be proud of. She was a respected elder in our church and among Christians throughout the state. And, she was happy, surrounded by grandchildren, financially secure, knowing she had obeyed her God to the very best of her ability.

Of course, I was at the other end of that decision. Divorcing without committing a sin wasn’t my only object in view. I had made that choice in hopes of driving Brad to a healthy choice. Would I still be there if he made it? How long was I willing to wait?

If I was going to remain “unmarried”, I could wait until God gave me other instructions. I could still have friends and a life. I didn’t have to grieve or fret about being alone because my relationship with Jesus would fill the voids. I could accept God’s will for my life and live that life.

I didn’t have to adjust to long-term singleness. Brad entered sobriety several months later, although he chose for us to remain physically separated for several more months because he didn’t want to put our daughter through a roller coaster ride while he got his head screwed on straight again. It also gave us time to enact the other part of Theresa’s advice.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. It sucks when someone hurts you. It sucks more when you hold a grudge. It sucks for you more than it sucks for the person you’re angry at. Theresa never reconciled with John … more power to her … but she forgave him. She prayed for him. She wished him well. In the 1970s, there were no laws against what he’d done to their sons, but she did what she could to protect people from him. She managed to prevent at least one woman from marrying him by telling her about his past. Then he moved out of state and back in those days, it was impossible to intervene long distance. When she heard he remarried, she prayed for that woman and the children she was bringing into that marriage. She prayed every day for them, I suspect until her death just a few years ago. She never forgot, but she did forgive. She wasn’t bitter. Her daughters are friends of mine and they say that she taught them a great deal about what it takes to sustain a marriage that doesn’t have a sexual predator as a partner.

When Brad and I were working out how to reconcile, we discussed that forgiveness thing a lot. It’s not something either one of us grew up seeing modeled. His parents have been married five times between them. My mother would bring up decades-old hurts whenever she was mad. When two people get married, they have to deal with each other’s baggage. We rely on an old Amish tradition. When a person repents of sin in the Amish community, they have to do it in front of the whole community, but once they do it, there is a prohibition from ever bringing it up again. The Amish will actually discipline the person who breaks that rule. Brad and I try to practice that at all times … which still means occasionally having to bite our tongues. Every now and then one of us will say “You’re not being very Amish”, which serves to remind us that the past is dead and we need to leave it buried. That’s usually enough to make us laugh and knock it off.

Not only do we do this for those unfortunate months way back when, but we try to practice it as an ongoing discipline.

To boil Theresa’s advice down:

  • Remember, you two Christians made an unbreakable contract with God for your marriage. You can walk away legally, but God won’t. (This applies only to Christians married to Christians, btw.)
  • You can divorce, if you have a good reason, and provided you’re prepared to reconcile or remain single.
  • Regardless of the outcome, forgive. Don’t leave that anger hanging in your past so that it ruins your future. Forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who did wrong. It’s for you, so you don’t have to live with all that pain.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Because God created us to have free will, there are times when He can’t fix something that really needs fixing. Trust that He’ll be with you even when things don’t turn out the way that you want, and … because He’s there with you … you can be happy even when other people think you shouldn’t be.

Paul Was a BiVocational Preacher   Leave a comment

Have you noticed how Hollywood can spend millions producing what they are certain will be a blockbuster, only to watch the movie bomb in the box office? Then along comes a small-time producer, who spends peanuts producing a flick that becomes the latest rage. Think the original Star Wars movie.

Image result for image of bi vocational pastorIt’s all too common to see an athlete sign a ridiculously lucrative contract only to be injured or have a sub-par season. Then a rookie can sign the league minimum and have an explosive year. You can’t always judge a movie by its budget or an athlete by his salary. Furthermore, you can’t judge a servant of Christ by his pay or lack thereof.

I know may be hard to believe as people genuflect before some televangelists in their limousines and million-dollar mansions, but the apostle Paul chose not to receive payment from the church at Corinth. Instead, he established a church in this sin-hardened city at his own expense. He served them freely so that the gospel would have an open door to travel through. It would be hard to argue that Paul’s personal sacrifices didn’t bring about great results for God’s kingdom.

Modern Christians have also been called to have a godly work ethic as ministers of the gospel. Some of us will be paid, others will serve as volunteers, yet, we are all called to represent Christ … to serve Jesus with our lives.

Paul started by building a lengthy argument for ministers being paid or at least supported by the church they serve in. In 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul began by reminding the Corinthians of his apostolic identity.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  1 Corinthians 9:1

Paul’s four rhetorical questions all expect a positive answer, and they become increasingly specific. Certainly he enjoyed the liberty that every other believer had. Moreover, he possessed the rights and privileges of an apostle. The proof of his apostleship was twofold. He had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21-22) on the Damascus road (Acts 22:14-15; 26:15-18), and he had founded the church in Corinth, which was apostolic work (see Romans 15:15-21).

If I am not an apostle to othersat least I am to youfor you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 9:2

There were some who doubted Paul’s apostleship (Galatians), but the Corinthians shouldn’t have because they themselves were the proof that he was an apostle. If the Corinthians denied Paul’s apostleship they denied their own validity as a church. Paul, therefore, took the opportunity to work that issue into his discussion seeking to nip it in the bud. He explained that the Corinthians were the “seal” of his apostleship. A seal in the ancient world was a warm blob of wax into which a signet ring was pressed to seal a letter or package. It was an assurance that the contents had not been opened; it showed who owned the contents; and it showed the genuineness of the contents, that it was sent by the right person. The Corinthians were Paul’s work in the Lord, proof that he was obeying God’s guidance.

As a Christian, you should have your own “seal” of people you have impacted and influenced for eternity. Like Paul, our goal must be to see lost people trust in Jesus Christ and then grow to maturity in Him. In light of eternity, nothing else will matter.

This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wifelike the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6

Paul started by sharing his apostolic rights to make his living from the gospel. His argument was based on a barrage of rhetorical questions that persuasively presented a rationale for his financial support, then he concluded it was best for him to forgo those rights in Corinth (9:12b). Paul lived what he preached and he firmly believed that proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

So have you ever noticed that when people work for free, they and their services are worthless. Since Paul was serving for free, some questioned his credentials. In Corinth, orators, teachers, and philosophers were well paid. It was unthinkable that someone like Paul would not receive a paycheck. So Paul built an air-tight case for remuneration and then insisted he would not make use of his rights. For Paul, proclaiming Christ demanded paying a price.

In the context, “the right to eat and drink” is a figurative reference to financial support. It means to “eat and drink” at the expense of others. Six different times the word “right” is used in this chapter. It’s a very central issue. Paul was saying that he had a legitimate claim to receive financial support from the people to whom he ministered.

All of these questions expect a positive answer. Paul stated that apostles have the right to be married and to cease to work outside of ministry.

Whoever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, 3  or does the law not say this as well? 1 Corinthians 9:7-8

Paul gave five reasons why he had the right to be supported by the churches to whom he ministered, why he shouldn’t have to work at a trade to earn a living, so he could devote his energy to study, prayer, preaching, and teaching. He began with an appeal to common sense with three illustrations from everyday experience in the workplace. 

  • Soldiers don’t work at their own expense.
  • Farmers eat from the proceeds of their fields.
  • Those who tend the flock get to use the milk.

Just like soldiers, farmers and herders, a Christian worker has a right to expect benefits from his labor.

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxenis he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for usbecause the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest.  1 Corinthians 9:9-10

Paul used Scripture to back up his reasoning, quoting the Old Testament law regarding the treatment of oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 commanded God’s people not to muzzle the ox while it was in the process of threshing, to allow it to eat the grain. If God cares so much about the animals who served His people, how much more must He care for the people who serve them?

If something is true on a lower scale, it is certainly true on a more important, higher scale. If mere animals are given the right to eat as they are working in the fields, certainly human beings made in the image of God have that same right. God is more concerned about getting across a principle for human beings in this text than He is about getting across a principle of animal husbandry.

Several times Paul asserted that the Old Testament was written as an example for New Testament believers (see 1 Corinthians. 10:6, 11; Romans 4:23-24; 15:4). This is an important reminder that the Old Testament is of great benefit to each and every one of us. We should read it frequently and look for opportunities to study it. Perhaps the price that you need to pay in proclaiming Christ is to spend some time studying the Old Testament. After all, it makes up ¾ of your Bible. To effectively proclaim Christ, we must be familiar with the Bible as he and the apostle Paul knew it.

If we sowed spiritual blessings among youis it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from youare we not more deserving? 1 Corinthians 9:11-12

In 9:11-12, Paul appealed to the inherent fairness of paying ministers. Spiritual things are intrinsically more important than physical things. The former will last forever whereas the latter are only temporary. Consequently, those who benefit from spiritual ministry should physically support those who minister to them (see Galatians 6:6). In spite of this spiritual principle, Paul surrendered his rights because proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

But we have not made use of this rightInstead we endure everything so that we maynot be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ9:13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple 5  eat food from the templeand those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? 1 Corinthians 9:12b-13

Paul referenced the Old Testament Jewish custom pertaining to the temple and the priests and Levites. The concept of paying God’s servants is not a New Testament notion; it dates back to the Old Testament. Paul saw his gospel ministry as priestly service (see Romans 15:16).

In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Paul closed his argument in powerful fashion, explaining that Jesus taught the same right for servants to be paid (Matthew 10:10Luke 10:7). Case closed: full-time vocational servants have the freedom to be paid.

My church pays our pastor, but a lot of churches don’t. Some are too small or new starts, so cannot afford to pay a large salary. I know quite a few pastors who serve in a voluntary fashion while supporting themselves bi-vocationally. There’s nothing wrong with that if those pastors feel called to service in that fashion and the church can’t afford to pay a salary. But I know some big churches that don’t pay their ministry staff because, they claim, there’s no Biblical mandate to do so. They apparently skip 1 Corinthians 9. If the church can afford a huge new building, but isn’t paying the pastor … there is something wrong in that church.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boastingbecause I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarilyI have a rewardBut if I do it unwillinglyI am entrusted with a responsibility. 1 Corinthians 9:15-17

Having argued vigorously for his right to the Corinthians’ support, Paul then proceeded to argue just as strongly for his right to give up this right. This section gives the reader a window into the apostle’s soul.

Paul explained that his passion for lost people and preaching the gospel consumed him. Consequently, he would go to any and every length to share Christ. Paul actually felt it was better to die than to receive any financial support from Corinth and lose out on freely boasting in the free offer of the gospel. This idea of boasting is used in Paul’s Bible—the Old Testament, of glorying in God. So when Paul used the word “boast” in his writings, he wasn’t talking about personal accomplishments. He was talking about what the Lord has done through him in spite of his weakness.

Why was Paul so adamant that he should not be paid for preaching the gospel? If he had the right, why not capitalize on it? Paul said that he could not legitimately boast in his ministry of preaching, because God ordered him to do it. He stated that he was “under compulsion” (9:16) and had been entrusted with a “stewardship” (9:17). There was an irresistible call of God on his life, and he couldn’t take any personal credit for doing it. He was a man on fire for God! “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The word “woe” occurs frequently in the Old Testament prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment. Paul felt the weight of severe consequences if he chose to forego preaching for another profession. Since God dramatically called Paul to preach, he had to proclaim the gospel. There was no reward in simply doing what God had called him to do (see Luke 17:10).

What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of chargeand so not make full use of my rights in the gospel. 1 Corinthians  1 Corinthians 9:18

Paul’s “reward” was demonstrating love to people by freely preaching the gospel. His highest pay was the privilege of preaching without pay. Of course, Paul also believed that his loving service would be recognized in the future by his Lord (see 3:12-14). However, Paul recognized that we do not get rewarded for our calling in and of itself, only for the manner in which we fulfill it. Thus, Paul sacrificed much and served well so that he might one day be rewarded for his service.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to allin order to gain even more people.To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the JewsTo those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weakI have become all things to all peopleso that by all means I may save some.1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Paul described his passion to do whatever it takes to win lost people to Christ. Six times in this paragraph Paul stated his desire to reach the lost. He reached the lost by adapting his methods according to the group he tried to reach. Paul pursued anyone and everyone:

  • Jews;
  • “those who are under the law” probably includes Gentile God-fearers and proselytes to Judaism as well as ethnic Jews;
  • “those who are without law” refers to Gentiles apart from any Jewish influence; and
  • “the weak” most likely refer to Christians with weak consciences. Paul must therefore be using “win” in the broader sense of winning to a more mature form of Christian faith.

Paul’s missionary principle had practical applications and still does. For missionaries it means learning the local language and customs to make the gospel understandable in the local environment. For those in campus ministries it means bringing to college students a message that challenges them on an academic level and shows that Christianity is not anti-intellectual. The applications of “being all things to all people” are endless. I have friends share Christ in bars, homeless camps, AA socials, homosexual clubs, and Mormon churches. If Christianity is to make a mark in the 21st century, fresh and radical methods will need to be pursued.

I do all these things because of the gospelso that I can be a participant in it. 1 Corinthians 9:23

Why does Paul go to such great lengths to win lost people? The work of the gospel was the hub of Paul’s life. Everything revolved around it. Paul lived in the way he did to become a “fellow partaker” of the gospel. He did not “share” the financial blessings of the Corinthians, but he expected to get a “share” in the rewards of the gospel eventually. He turned down rewards from particular congregations, but he expected that God would compensate him for that which he had lost. To become “a partaker of the gospel” means to receive its ultimate reward: to gain “the prize” that Jesus gives.

Brad suggested I should say something about how this correlates with our voluntarist principles. It comports very well because we are completely allowed to CHOOSE to give of our time and money as we see fit. We object to GOVERNMENT taking money from us involuntarily to give it to “charities” that often make the situation they purport to address worse. Most Christians in American churches give very generously of their NET income. Imagine if we had access to our GROSS incomes? How much more would we give to programs that are designed to help people out of difficult circumstances and give them the skills to overcome current and future difficulties? By and large, churches do a much better job of getting people out of poverty than do government programs because the aid is not offered in perpetuity. It’s time-limited and goal-focused because funding is finite. Churches can’t extort money from people, so they have to live within a budget and address needs in effective ways. There is no incentive to continue serving the same people forever because the vast majority of Christian ministers are lay people working on a strictly voluntary basis, raising their own funding. That is what existed in the 1st century and it is still the standard today for God’s people. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, yes, pastors and other ministers who work on a full-time basis for churches that have healthy budgets should be paid.

American Guilds   Leave a comment

When I did my series on the Medieval period a while back, I ran across some articles that were critical of capitalism and advocated for a return to the guild system that operated during the Middle Ages. I found it interesting because the commentators were from both the right and the left. Under this system, each occupation had its own guild and all employees and employers belonged to that guild. The guild regulated business particulars like prices, wages, hours of operation, and product quality. It prevented shops from underselling one another and encouraged cooperation over competition. The result was occupational stability. Everybody had a niche in a given line of work.

Image result for image of a guildThe guild system seems superficially plausible, so it seems attractive to some minds. But, remember, I’m a fan of Bastiat, so I have taken to running every economic proposal through the “seen and unseen” filter.

Consider how a guild system must work in practice. For a guild to work properly, certain people who wish to enter a particular trade are denied entry. If a particular guild happened to have a relatively liberal policy of admitting new producers to its craft, it would insist on a minimum price for all goods sold under the guild’s auspices and/or it would limit the amount of the good that any given master was permitted to produce. Whichever of these three control options (high barriers to entry, fixed minimum prices or fixed production quotas) are employed, the outcome results in higher prices and less production than if free entry into the profession, a free-price system, and unrestricted production were allowed.

Aspects of the guild system have existed in our economy in the past and some continue today, with clearly destructive consequences. Perhaps the most obvious example was the National Recovery Administration, established by the New Deal’s National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933. President Roosevelt believed that business competition had to be restricted in order to tame the alleged problem of “overproduction” and to spread among as many firms as possible what consumer demand existed.

I won’t attempt to explain FDR’s economic reasoning. Biographer John T. Flynn noted that “it is entirely possible that no one knew less about that subject than Roosevelt.” (The Roosevelt Myth, c. 1948 [1998] page 116). Roosevelt’s belief in economic fallacies had terrible consequences. The President’s faulty grasp of what caused the Depression led him to introduce a system similar in operation to the old guild structure, with the explicit intention of reducing competition. FDR borrowed heavily from a system established by Mussolini, by the way.

Under the NRA, each industry was “invited” to establish a production code. This code would set minimum wages, minimum prices, and a variety of other regulations to be observed by the firms in that industry. Note that the code established minimum prices. All sellers would have to sell their products for at least the prescribed minimum. This dramatically reduced intensity of economic competition, since with an established minimum price in effect it was not really possible to undersell one’s competitors.

The great New York Times editorial writer Henry Hazlitt had no illusions about the NRA:

[T]he American consumer is to become the victim of a series of trades and industries which, in the name of “fair competition,” will be in effect monopolies, consisting of units that agree not to make too serious an effort to undersell each other; restricting production, fixing prices—doing everything, in fact, that monopolies are formed to do. . . . Instead of a relatively flexible system with some power of adjustment to fluid world economic conditions we shall have an inadjustable structure constantly attempting—at the cost of stagnant business and employment—to resist these conditions.2

You hear this a lot on social media these days. “Businesses shouldn’t compete. They should cooperate.” It’s held up as some sort of ideal economic arrangement. The NRA gave the force of law to producers’ collusion with regard to minimum prices and wages, hours of operation, amount of output, and still other factors, thereby eliminating competition among producers in exactly the same way the guild system did.

The NRA was a complete disaster in practice. First, although such a system would indeed raise prices, such an outcome obviously defeated the program’s other aim of increasing wages, since a rise in prices must reduce the real value of wages. Increases in prices reduce what wages can buy, so at best increased wages keep even with increased prices, so really aren’t an increase. Second, the program produced such an outcry among sensible people that the U.S. Senate finally managed to force FDR into appointing a commission to investigate the NRA. Its report, issued in 1934, described the agency as “harmful, monopolistic, oppressive, grotesque, invasive, fictitious, ghastly, anomalous, preposterous, irresponsible, savage, wolfish.”3  The act establishing it was declared unconstitutional the following year.

The NRA has been gone for a long time, but a great deal of the guild mentality remains in the U.S. economy. We can observe it in the behavior of such organizations as the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, and others. These organizations lobby the government to institute stiff requirements to acquire a license to practice, and then places obstacles in the path of anyone else who might want to provide medical, legal, or other services. Milton Friedman suggests what is often really at work in such agitation:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber. (Milton and Rose Friedman, 1979, “Free to Choose: A Personal Statement”, Page 229)

The American Medical Association serves to reduce the number of people who can practice medicine, and thereby increases the cost of medical treatment beyond what it would be in a competitive market. According to Clark Havighurst, Duke University Professor of Law, “Professional licensure laws have long made the provision of most personal health services the exclusive province of physicians. Obviously, such regulation limits consumers’ options by forcing them to use highly trained, expensive personnel when other types might serve quite well.”6

Consider Friedman’s description of the guild’s operations:

One effect of restricting entry into occupations through licensure is to create new disciplines: in medicine, osteopathy and chiropractic are examples. Each of these, in turn, has resorted to licensure to try to restrict its numbers. The AMA has engaged in extensive litigation charging chiropractors and osteopaths with the unlicensed practice of medicine, in an attempt to restrict them to as narrow an area as possible. Chiropractors and osteopaths in turn charge other practitioners with the unlicensed practice of chiropractic and osteopathy.7

Yes, I’m sure most members of the AMA believe that such requirements work to the consumer’s benefit by protecting us from substandard medical care, but truthfully, this highlights how interest groups subconsciously conflate their own interests with those of society as a whole. Mancur Olson cautions people to “note that the examinations are almost always imposed only on entrants. If the limits [on entry into the field] were mainly motivated by the interest of patients, older physicians would also be required to pass periodic qualifying examinations to demonstrate that they have kept their medical knowledge up to date.”8 The fact is, studies find that non-physician providers of medical care, such as midwives, nurses, and chiropractors, “can perform many health and medical services traditionally performed by physicians—with comparable health outcomes, lower costs, and high patient satisfaction.”9

Government regulations on the chiropractic profession, lay midwifery, and on the freedom of nurse practitioners to offer services within their competence, all of which make perfect sense from the point of view of the medical guild that lobbied for them, often make no sense at all from the point of view of consumer wishes or from economic considerations. For example, studies have shown that lay midwives have a much lower mother-infant death rate and a substantially lower delivery complication rate than doctors or nurse-midwives, but they remain outlawed in many states. In many cases, non-physician medical professionals can provide health services far more cheaply than can licensed physicians, but consumers are prevented from making their own decisions regarding their medical care. We shouldn’t be surprised to find that the AMA has put so much effort into undermining its professional opposition.

But if the government doesn’t do it, who will keep us safe from unqualified people practicing medicine? Economist George Reisman explains:

[T]he members of the various state medical licensing boards around the country could constitute themselves into private certification agencies and give or withhold their seal of approval to individual medical practitioners on any basis they wished. They would simply lack the power to make the absence of their particular seal of approval the basis of fining or imprisoning anyone who chose to practice medicine without it. The consumers of medical care, who presently retain the right to judge the qualifications of the state governors and legislators who are responsible for the appointment of the members of the medical licensing boards, would decide for themselves the value of certification by this or that organization. . . . Indeed, if ordinary men and women are to be allowed to vote in elections in which their votes ultimately determine the most complex matters of foreign and domestic policy, and thus where their decisions affect not only their own lives and those of their immediate families but also the lives of everyone else in the country, then surely they are entitled to the responsibility of determining matters pertaining exclusively to their own well-being.10

Reisman further observes that if government regulations allowed only automobiles less than five years old on the roads, there would certainly be an overall increase in the quality of automobiles on the roads. But a great many perfectly serviceable automobiles would thereby become unavailable for use at all. The main victims of such a policy would be the poor.11

The legal profession in the United States is also akin to a guild (or could be called a cartel).  Everyone knows that legal services are expensive, but few realize that the barriers to entry erected by what is in effect a lawyers’ guild bear much of the responsibility for that expense. Thanks to the lobbying of bar associations, the only people who may enter the legal profession are those who possess a license from the state, which is available only to those able to afford the extraordinarily costly path of law school and the bar exam. The outcome is the desired one: fewer lawyers, and therefore higher fees.

As with the medical profession, where costs could be dramatically reduced by allowing medical personnel below the rank of physician to perform routine work, paralegals are more than capable of performing a variety of legal tasks that the guild currently reserves for lawyers only. That means people wind up paying a lot more for basic legal services. In 1987, the chairman of the Legal Services Corporation, W. Clark Durant, made an extraordinary address to the American Bar Association in which he suggested that his agency be abolished and that all barriers to competition in the market be removed. One day later, the president of the ABA was calling for Durant’s resignation.

One paralegal in Portland, Oregon, decided that enough was enough. Robin Smith, who worked for several years in a large law office, had grown tired of lawyers charging exorbitant fees that their clients could barely afford, all for work that she herself had done. She opened her own business, People’s Paralegal, Inc., where she and her colleagues offered basic legal services, such as the drafting of common legal documents, at lower prices. Not surprisingly, the guild went into action. People’s Paralegal found itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit by the Oregon State Bar, accusing the firm of violating Oregon’s prohibition on the “unauthorized practice of law.” People’s Paralegal was shut down, and ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by the Oregon State Bar when litigating them out of business!

The guild mentality results in a privileged few reaping abnormally high salaries while the vast majority are made poorer by higher fees. Should anyone attempt to give consumers an alternative to this kind of exploitation, the guild springs into action to quash the challenge. An entire society organized along these lines is scarcely conceivable, but that is what the guild system amounts to.

Lesser examples abound. During the 1990s, 15-year-old Monique Landers of Kansas opened her own African hair-braiding business. Upon returning from a visit to New York, where she was honored as one of five outstanding high school entrepreneurs, she was informed that the state licensing board of Kansas was shutting her down. No customers had complained, but the guild mentality of already existing establishments didn’t like her competing with them. She was told that she could stay in business if she spent a year at a licensed cosmetology school, but few of them teach the particular skill she already possessed, and none of them would admit her prior to her seventeenth birthday. “The Board won’t let me earn my own money, and won’t let kids like me learn to take care of ourselves,” she said. “I think owning your own business is a way of being free.”15

In The State Against Blacks, Walter Williams provides a lengthy catalog of occupational licensure laws and other barriers whose effect is to place overwhelming obstacles in front of those who wish to enter an industry.

For example, to operate a taxi in New York City, a potential driver needs a medallion from the city, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is impossible to measure how many jobs are destroyed by this kind of behavior, but we can get a sense of how much higher taxi fares are now that Uber is competing with taxis in some markets.

Agriculture provides perhaps the most disgraceful example of what the guild mentality wrought in reality. The federal government’s assistance to farmers has often amounted to encouraging them to destroy (or not plant in the first place) huge stocks of crops, in order to increase their selling prices. This is what a guild would do, though the guild would more likely keep supplies down and prices up by allowing fewer people entry into the guild in the first place, and/or requiring existing guild members to adhere to a production quota. Government is a substantially less far-sighted than guides were.

The costs and consequences of such an antisocial policy are staggering, and are all the more insidious because the beneficiaries of these policies are clear and visible, while the victims are dispersed and largely unaware that an organized cabal is taking advantage of them. Right, that sounds like Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”, where he stressed the need to assess the outcome of a given policy — to be aware of the long-term consequences for all groups rather than the short-term gains of one group. How many Americans realize that the price they have to pay for sugar and all foods containing sugar as an ingredient is much higher than necessary as a result of a government program?

For most of the 20th century, the price of sugar to Americans was 500% higher than the world price, thanks to government price supports.17  Sugar producers receive an average of $235,000 a year from the policy, but it costs consumers well over $3 billion per year, and it puts all American industries that use sugar at a competitive disadvantage to foreign producers who are not forced to pay such an inflated price for sugar.18  This latter point is always overlooked by opponents of free trade, who in their zeal to protect jobs in Industry X from foreign competition neglect altogether the destructive effects that their preferential policy for Industry X has for Industries A, B, and C that use X as an input in the production of their own products. Job losses in those industries will rarely be attributed to the tariff or other privileges shown to Industry X. Meanwhile, the government can point with pride to the jobs it has “saved.”

What is seen and what is not seen.

Since 1937, as much as 40% of all oranges grown annually in the U.S. have, by law, been destroyed, fed to livestock, or exported in order to raise domestic prices. Think about that the next time you wince at the price of oranges at the grocery store.

Quotas on peanuts effectively double the price of peanuts and peanut butter.

Every dairy cow in America is subsidized to the tune of $700 per year.

All this inefficiency and destruction of wealth impoverishes society as a whole, and hurts  the poor the most. We will never know the full cost of these policies, since many of their costs include jobs never created and businesses never started.

Still, is this really how we’d like our entire economy to be run?

All of these examples of genuine exploitation amount to one of many reasons that free-market economists hold the beliefs that they do. The greater the scope of state activity, the greater the potential for each pressure group to use the state apparatus for its own enrichment, at the expense of the rest of society. Since the benefits that accrue to such pressure groups from their political agitation are sizable and concentrated, while their costs are dispersed and hidden, the tendency over time is for more and more of this kind of activity to go on at the expense of the ordinary person.

Since guilds operate to restrict competition and price cutting, we must expect that the monopoly power of the guilds will have consequences analogous to those of the government favoritism we have just examined. Through a variety of methods, the federal government has granted special privileges to certain industries. In one way or another, these privileges dramatically limit competition, just as the guild system did and would.

Posted June 24, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

When Was the Last Time an Actor Assassinated a President?   Leave a comment

I’m not terribly surprised by Johnny Depp suggesting “it’s been a while and maybe it’s time.” He’s never struck me as a particularly intelligent person. Celebrities don’t have to be bright or informed. That’s not their job. Their job is to be entertaining and apparently Depp thought his British audience would be entertained by a suggestion that it’s okay to kill a sitting president. It speaks a great deal about the British audience that they laughed. Seriously, people, you were laughing over the prospect of killing another human being.

It’s a great big stupid world. It’s okay to murder babies (and presidents we don’t like), but we really must save the whale … and the snail darter. (With compliments to Randy Stonehill)

Related imageI’m not worried about Depp actually attempting the murder the president, but people unaccountably listen to celebrities and people do stupid things … like whomever sent suspicious white powder to the woman who won the Georgia special election.

Remember when Jared Loughner shot Gabby Gifford? The news was focused on a campaign ad by Sarah Palin that featured what was said to be gun-sights on various election campaigns around the country. “Oh, it’s all Sarah Palin’s fault! Destroy the Tea Party. They want to assassinate politicians.” It turned out Loughner had never seen the ad and there was absolutely no evidence that his rampage was caused by an affiliation with the Tea Party (he had long rambling posts on social media about admiring the Communist Manifesto). But the stink stuck and there are still liberals who will bring it up in conversation. “The Tea Party caused what happened to Gifford.” No, it didn’t. No one in the Tea Party advocated for anyone to go out and shoot anyone … including the President. We gathered peacefully in parks and along highways to protest the socialization of the country. Mentally ill people had to act upon their own delusional systems to decide to shoot elected officials.

And that is the difference between the Tea Party and the Resistance. The Resistance seems to be actively calling for violence against Trump and anyone who doesn’t see his presidency in the same way they do. Kathy Griffin (beheading Trump), Snoop Dog (shooting president in the head), Madonna (blowing up the White House), Robert DeNiro (I’d like to punch him in the face), Joss Whedon (what he wants a rhino to do to Paul Ryan isn’t acceptable fodder for this blog), Marilyn Manson (killing Trump in music video), Larry Wilmer (suffocating Trump with Scalia’s pillow) and several others have actively engaged in violent rhetoric, sometimes veiled as humor, but all designed to invoke a response both from their own followers and from “the other side.” I find it ironic that people are so worried about hurting the feelings of Muslims by talking honestly about Islamic terrorism or the feelings of transgendered people by using standard pronouns to describe them are okay with suggesting that murdering someone for their political views is fine.

So, if some Squeaky Fromm-like person tries to kill President Trump, Johnny Depp should be put on trial right next to that person, as an accessory before the fact. There are limits to what you can say under the concept of free speech. Shouting fire in a crowded theater and suggesting someone should kill the president are examples of when you cross a line and should pay a penalty. But, hey, my guess is that this will not hurt Depp’s career in the least and should an assassination attempt occur, nobody will remember who planted the idea in the public’s mind.

 

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