Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

2 Corinthians Introduction   Leave a comment

I’m turning my attention to 2 Corinthians because the two letters really are joined at the hip in many ways. The apostle Paul wrote this letter. How do we know?

Image result for image of second corinthiansIn general, the external and internal evidence for Pauline authorship of 2 Corinthians are the same as for 1 Corinthians. There are three bits of evidence for this to consider.

  1. The external evidence is quite strong for 2 Corinthians, though not as strong as for 1 Corinthians. Scholars use quotations by the early Church Fathers as evidence that the book was of 1st century origins. 2 Corinthians is not quoted by Clement, but it is quoted by Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Further, it is listed in Marcion’s Apostolicon and the Muratorian Canon.
  2. Internally, using 1 Corinthians as a benchmark of authenticity, this epistle easily passes the test. The literary style and form of argumentation are the same.
  3. There is another significant piece of internal evidence which, though present in traces in 1 Corinthians, is much stronger in 2 Corinthians. A pious imitator would be unlikely to portray Paul as an apostle in danger of losing his authority at Corinth or an apostle struggling to preserve the Corinthians from apostasy.”

It may be helpful here to rehearse the contacts and correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians.

  • Spring 50 AD, Paul arrived in Corinth and stayed there one and one-half years (Acts 18:11), in the home of Priscilla and Aquila.
  • Fall of 51 AD Paul sailed for Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla and Aquila stayed in Ephesus while Paul returned to Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). While in Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla met and trained Apollos, sending him back to Corinth to minister in Paul’s absence (Acts 18:24–19:1).
  • Summer/fall of 52 AD, Paul returned to Ephesus (after passing through the Phrygian-Galatian region) on his third missionary journey, and ministered there almost three years (Acts 20:31). Probably in the first year of his ministry in Ephesus, Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians—a letter which is now lost (see 1 Corinthians 5:9).
  • Probably in the spring of 54 AD, Paul learned of other problems in Corinth from Chloe (1 Cor 1:11) and the delegation of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17). He then wrote the letter we call 1 Corinthians. He was in the second year of his ministry at Ephesus.
  • In the summer/fall of AD 54, he visited Corinth as he had indicated he would in 1 Corinthians 16:6, but he was not able to spend the winter with them. It’s possible Timothy had warned him the Corinthians hadn’t taken kindly to his rebukes in 1 Corinthians. What was originally planned as a positive time ended up being Paul’s “painful visit” (2 Cor 2:1) because of a particular man who was acting immorally (2:5-11; 7:12)—and was, indeed, creating doubts among the congregation about Paul’s apostolic authority. It was also painful because it was done in haste (he went directly to Corinth, bypassing Macedonia) and was much shorter than planned.
  • After the painful visit, Paul returned to Ephesus (Fall 54). Because of his humiliation at Corinth, Paul wrote a “severe letter” (2 Cor 2:3-4; 7:8), which was apparently carried by Titus (2 Cor 7:5-8). Scholars tentatively suggest a date of spring 55 for this severe letter
  • Paul left Ephesus in the spring of 55 AD for Macedonia, probably Philippi (Acts 20:1). On the way he stopped at Troas, intending to meet Titus there on his way back from Corinth. But he could not find Titus and sailed for Macedonia without him (2 Cor 2:12-13), hoping to meet him there.
  • Paul met Titus in Macedonia, learned from him that the Corinthians are getting straightened out (2 Cor 7:6-16), and while in Macedonia he wrote 2 Corinthians. Most likely, it was written in the fall of 55 AD.
  • Finally, in the winter of 55-56 AD Paul again visited the Corinthians (Acts 20:32 Cor 12:14).

If this reconstruction is correct, Paul visited Corinth three times and wrote four letters to the Corinthians, the second and fourth of which have been preserved.

There’s all kinds of different theories as to why the first and third letters no longer exist. There are some scholars who so fear that people will come to question the inspirational nature of scripture that they must twist themselves into pretzels to find some parts of these missing letters in either of the two existing letters. I’m more practical than that.  I think, and scholars at Dallas Theological Seminary appear to agree with me, that the harsher of the four letters weren’t circulated or copied and so, disappeared into the dustbin of history. Rebukes are painful and when a church has no intentions of adjusting to discipline, neglect of correspondence happens.

Nowhere in the Bible is there a claim that inspiration will protect a letter from loss. What we are promised is that what we have preserved now is God’s word. We know from the ending of John, that much more of Jesus’ words could have been recorded, but it would be too much and so, it wasn’t.

Paul began his second (canonical) letter to the Corinthians with a customary greeting (1:1-2), followed by a customary thanksgiving (1:3-11). But the thanksgiving this time is not for the church’s progress in the faith (as is usual in Paul’s salutations), but for God’s comfort of him in the midst of great hardships (1:3-11).

This note on God’s comfort in affliction is a natural bridge to the body of the epistle, for 2 Corinthians is focused on God’s glory in the midst of suffering. There are three main sections to this epistle:

  • defense of Paul’s apostleship in the light of his critics’ charges (1:12–7:16)
  • exhortation of the Corinthians to give to the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem (8:1–9:15)
  • final affirmation of Paul’s apostolic authority (10:1–13:10).

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Posted November 12, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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What US Medical Care SHOULD Look Like   Leave a comment

My cousins research group continues and right now we’re reading David T. Beito’s  history From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services 1890-1967, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2000. Having finished reading it before the guys, I wanted to share my unprocessed feelings about it.

Image result for lodge provided medical careReaders who want to know how medical care should operate and what is wrong with today’s system should read Mr. Beito’s book.

The premise of the book is that the US rejected Obamacare in 1918 and it took almost a half century for its supporters to finally win, take over and destroy the US medical care system.

For a quarter century before WWI, many of the nation’s well-to-do young people went to Germany to complete their college education and some of them returned determined to recreate the US in the image of socialist Germany. Richard Ely founded the American Economic Association for that sole purpose. He and economist Irving Fisher would lead the drive for universal, mandatory health care insurance.

In those days, while middle class and wealthier Americans paid for doctors directly, such fees were too high for the working poor, who instead organized into mutual aid societies such as the International Order of Odd Fellows, the Freemasons, the Eagles, the Moose, the Elks, etc. The lodges started offering burial insurance because poor people were terrified of suffering a pauper’s burial. Later, they added healthcare and life insurance, built orphanages and hospitals, and provided banking services and even pensions. Many of these groups had existed for centuries under other names and followed the ancient guild practices of mutual aid to craft members. The Shriners, a branch of the Freemasons, still maintain children’s hospitals. Back in the day, most lodge members couldn’t afford to pay fee-for-service doctors and would otherwise go without medical care, but the lodges provided this care as part of their membership fees.

So what happened?

Socialists were wary of lodges and fraternal societies because they employed security measures to prevent non-members from defrauding them for the benefits of membership. Back in the day before data bases and phone calls — two hundred years ago, say — organizations employed passwords and secret handshakes to prevent such scams.

 

The American Medical Association began attacking the lodges as early as the 1890s because the lodges would contract with doctors for a flat fee per year per member to provide medical care for lodge members. Oddly, this practice of “capitation” is making a comeback with the federal government as a means to restrain the explosive growth in the costs of medical care. Lodges usually contracted with doctors from private medical schools set up by other doctors to fill the deficiency in the supply of new doctors by the state schools.

The AMA claimed that the lodges kept doctor pay too low, causing some to starve. So they launched public relations campaigns to stigmatize the lodge system and the doctors who served the working poor. They bribed politicians to shut down the medical schools they didn’t approve of, insisting that they cared about “public health and safety”, thus creating a shortage of doctors. They bribed hospitals to reject doctors who worked with lodges and convinced medical organizations to ostracize them. AMA doctors refused to work at lodge-owned hospitals and the AMA worked tirelessly to shut those hospitals down. The AMA’s assault on “low pay” for their doctors finally worked,

Lodge practice was also a victim of an overall shrinkage in the supply of physicians due to a relentless campaign of professional “birth control” imposed by the medical societies. In 1910, for example, the United States had 164 doctors per 100,000 people, compared with only 125 in 1930. This shift occurred in great part because of increasingly tight state certification requirements. Fewer doctors not only translated into higher medical fees but also weaker bargaining power for lodges. Meanwhile, the number of medical schools plummeted from a high of 166 in 1904 to 81 in 1922. The hardest hit were the proprietary schools, a prime recruiting avenue for lodges.

When socialists and the AMA proposed mandatory health insurance for every citizen in the early 1900s, the lodges saw it as an attack on their system of self-reliance and mutual aid. Enough Americans shared the same values as the lodges that they defeated the proposals in two referenda. In 1918 the citizens of California voted three to one to reject mandatory health insurance. It failed again in New York in 1919.

Still, times were changing, and Americans were abandoning traditional Christianity rapidly and its values of self-reliance and mutual aid. Churches had always provided charity to the poorest since the early days of Christianity recorded in the Book of Acts in the Bible. Until the 1920s, Americans resisted accepting charity as much as they could out of a sense of honor. The lodges intended to help the working poor, not supplant charitable work. But by the 1920s Americans interpreted self-reliance as selfishness. As Beito wrote,

The traditional fraternal worldview was under attack. Age-old virtues such as mutual aid, character building, self-restraint, thrift, and self-help, once taken for granted, came under fire either as outmoded or as drastically in need of modification.

In 1918 Clarence W. Tabor used his textbook, Business of the Household, to warn that if savings “means stunted lives, that is, physical derelicts or mental incompetents…through enforced self-denial and the absence of bodily comforts, or the starving of mental cravings and the sacrifice of spiritual development – then the price of increased bank deposits is too high.” An earlier generation would have dismissed these statements. Now they were in the mainstream. Bruce Barton, the public relations pioneer and author of the best-selling life of Christ, The Man Nobody Knows, espoused the ideal of self-realization rather than self-reliance, declaring that “life is meant to live and enjoy as you go along…. If self-denial is necessary I’ll practice some of it when I’m old and not try to do all of it now. For who knows? I may never be old.”

JM Keynes echoed Barton in the 1930’s with his famous line, “In the long run we’re all dead,” and with his continual assault on the evils of the Protestant work ethic and savings. The ideal of “service” replaced that of self-reliance. By “service” socialists meant that the wealthy should give to the poor. They helped remove the stigma of charity by convincing the poor that they shouldn’t be ashamed of receiving aid because the wealthy owed it to them.

In addition to the efforts of the AMA to destroy the excellent system of medical care insurance set up by the fraternal societies, the progress of socialism continued to erode the appeal of self-help. The federal government gave favorable tax treatment to corporations who offered group insurance without extending that to individuals while members of fraternal organizations received no tax deductions for their medical care insurance. This meant corporations paid the premiums so workers were fooled into thinking their insurance was “free”.

Good economists understand that corporations, then as now, merely deducted the premiums from future pay raises. The lodges argued that group insurance from the employer would enslave workers to a single company because they would lose their insurance if they lost their job whereas lodge insurance traveled with the individual. You see, that whole “portability” argument had already been addressed and a solution worked out. The lodges were right, but we forgot it over the decades.

The Great Depression weakened lodges as the bulk of the 25% unemployment came from the working poor. More assaults on mutual aid came with the passage of Social Security legislation, company pensions, and worker’s compensation insurance. Again, the government allowed corporations to deduct expenses for those from their taxes without extending the privilege to individuals in fraternal organizations. Then came Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.

The book exposes the lie that socialists proposed their welfare measures because they saw a desperate need for them. Churches and charities had provided for the poor who couldn’t work since Biblical times, while the fraternal societies took care of the working poor very well. In 1924, 48% of working-class adult males were lodge members.

Socialists opposed the lodge system, not because it failed, but because they wanted the services provided by the state as they were in Germany. They convinced the American people that socialism would not just help the poor, as the churches and fraternal organizations were, but would eliminate poverty. And as Helmut Schoeck warned us in his Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior, the lust to destroy successful people served as fuel for the fire. Beito’s concluding paragraph is worth reprinting in full:

The shift from mutual aid and self-help to the welfare state has involved more than a simple bookkeeping transfer of service provision from one set of institutions to another. As many of the leaders of fraternal societies had feared, much was lost in an exchange that transcended monetary calculations. The old relationships of voluntary reciprocity and autonomy have slowly given way to paternalistic dependency. Instead of mutual aid, the dominant social welfare arrangements of Americans have increasingly become characterized by impersonal bureaucracies controlled by outsiders.

Minority Report   Leave a comment

Image result for image of hl mencken

“If you were against the New Deal and its wholesale buying of pauper votes, then you were against Christian charity.  If you were against the gross injustices and dishonesties of the Wagner Labor Act, then you were against labor.  If you were against packing the Supreme Court, then you were in favor of letting Wall Street do it.  If you are against using Dr. Quack’s cancer salve, then you are in favor of letting Uncle Julius die.  If you are against Holy Church, or Christian Science, then you are against god.  It is an old, old argument.” H.L. Mencken “Minority Report”

Liberals in a Tizzy   Leave a comment

By 

September 7, 2017

Many blacks and their white liberal allies demand the removal of statues of Confederate generals and the Confederate battle flag, and they are working up steam to destroy the images of Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis from Stone Mountain in Georgia. (For the unfamiliar, Stone Mountain is the Mount Rushmore of the Southeast US – Lela). Allow me to speculate as to the whys of this statue removal craze, which we might call statucide.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/09/walter-e-williams/liberals-in-a-tizzy/

To understand it, we need a review of the promises black and white liberals have been making for decades. In 1940, the black poverty rate was 87 percent. By 1960, it had fallen to 47 percent. During that interval, blacks were politically impotent. There were no anti-poverty programs or affirmative action programs. Nonetheless, this poverty reduction exceeded that in any other 20-year interval. But the black leadership argued that more was necessary. They said that broad advancement could not be made unless blacks gained political power.

Fifty years ago, there were fewer than 1,000 black elected officials nationwide. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, by 2011 there were roughly 10,500 black elected officials, not to mention a black president. But what were the fruits of greater political power? The greatest black poverty, poorest education, highest crime rates and greatest family instability are in cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo. The most common characteristic of these predominantly black cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal politicians. Plus, in most cases, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils.

American Contempt for …Walter E. WilliamsBest Price: $9.99Buy New $8.60(as of 11:00 EDT – Details)

During the 1960s, black and white liberals called for more money to be spent on anti-poverty programs. Since the Lyndon Johnson administration’s War on Poverty programs, U.S. taxpayers have forked over $22 trillion for anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution. Despite that spending, the socio-economic condition for many blacks has worsened. In 1940, 86 percent of black children were born inside marriage, and the black illegitimacy rate was about 15 percent. Today, only 35 percent of black children are born inside marriage, and the illegitimacy rate hovers around 75 percent.

The visions of black civil rights leaders and their white liberal allies didn’t quite pan out. Greater political power and massive anti-poverty spending produced little. The failure of political power and the failure of massive welfare spending to produce nirvana led to the expectation that if only there were a black president, everything would become better for blacks. I cannot think of a single black socio-economic statistic that improved during the two terms of the Barack Obama administration. Some have become tragically worse, such as the black homicide victimization rate. For example, on average in Chicago, one person is shot every two hours, 15 minutes, and a person is murdered every 12 1/2 hours.

So more political power hasn’t worked. Massive poverty spending hasn’t worked. Electing a black president hasn’t worked. What should black leaders and their white liberal allies now turn their attention to in order to improve the socio-economic condition for blacks? It appears to be nearly unanimous that attention should be turned to the removal of Confederate statues. It’s not only Confederate statue removal but Confederate names of schools and streets. Even the Council on American-Islamic Relations agrees. It just passed a resolution calling for the removal of all Confederate memorials, flags, street names and symbols from public spaces and property.

By the way, does the statue of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman qualify for removal? He once explained his reluctance to enlist former slaves, writing, “I am honest in my belief that it is not fair to our men to count negroes as equals … (but) is not a negro as good as a white man to stop a bullet?” It’s difficult to determine where this purging of the nation’s history should end.

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.

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

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Trump Gets It Half Right   Leave a comment

Yeah, Donald Trump is no history scholar. In fact, he probably isn’t much of a history buff. We actually read history books.

In an interview that aired Monday May 1 with Salena Zito, he wondered aloud if better leadership could have prevented the Civil War.

Trump thought that Andrew Jackson would have prevailed in a showdown between the North and the South. After all, he did it before in the 1830s. Trump then said this:

He [Jackson] was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’

Trump followed up by violating all that is sacred in American religion – he questioned if the Civil war was necessary. The horror!

Image result for image of abe lincoln as a warmongerThe leftist media immediately pounced, openly mocking Trump for believing that Andrew Jackson was alive in 1861. He died about 15 years before. Social media trolls ran post after post criticizing Trump’s “revisionist” history, lambasting him for not knowing when Jackson was alive, or that he dared to buck modern historical interpretation.

Leftist reporter for The Atlantic David Graham published a piece titled “Trump’s Peculiar Understanding of the Civil War” in which he made a number of kind of peculiar claims himself. Graham suggested:

  1. “nullification” is unconstitutional because the federal courts say so.
  2. “The Civil War was fought over slavery, and the insistence of Southern states that they be allowed to keep it.”
  3. The Civil War wasn’t tragic because Ta-Nehisi Coates said so in 2011.
  4. War was inevitable because of the “Confederate states’ commitment to slavery.”
  5. If Trump had read great history like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, he would have a different position on the War—which is really pretty hysterical.

Graham also Graham insisted that Trump can’t be blamed for being such a historical ignoramus because even though he attended great schools, “many Americans are still taught, incorrectly, that the war was essentially a conflict over state’s rights, with abolition as a byproduct of the war. This revisionist view flourished after the war, and though gradually being displaced, is common across the country.”

I found that sort of interesting, that a modern day revisionist would call traditional history revisionism.

The Atlantic followed up with Yoni Applebaum’s “Why There Was a Civil War,” which berated Trump for suggesting the Civil War might have been avoided. To Applebaum, the question of the War begins and ends with slavery and nothing but slavery. He provided one quote from Lincoln to prove his point and, as most shallow Lincoln apologists do today, several quotes from the Southern States’ declaration of causes that seem to prove unequivocally that slavery and only slavery led to the War.

He applied a theory of moral causation to the War that the vast majority of Americans missed when the question of war or peace was still on the table in 1860 and 1861.

“There are some conflicts,” he wrote, “that a leader cannot suppress, no matter how strong he may be; some deals that should not be struck, no matter how alluring they may seem. This was the great moral truth on which the Republican Party was founded.”

I encountered this theory once back in college, but evidence to the contrary persuaded me to give the whole era a different look.

Trump’s reverence for Jackson is concerning, not the least because it offends my Indian DNA. I don’t go so far as to refuse to spend $20 bills because his image is on it … that’s just weird and inconvenient, my tribal brethren … but I don’t exactly love Jackson either. Yes, he supported Henry Clay’s death with South Carolina in 1832, which allowed South Carolina to nullify the Force Bill. That’s something we often ignore. Nullification worked in 1832 and, contrary to Graham’s ill-informed suggestion, the federal court system has never had the final say on the constitutionality of nullification. That was always the point, actually. States don’t ask permission from the federal courts to nullify unconstitutional legislation. Every proponent of the Constitution, including staunch unionists Alexander Hamilton and James Wilson, swore in 1787 and 1788 that laws contrary to the Constitution could be voided by the States.

My main issue is with the idea that the Civil War was inevitable because of the moral conflict of slavery. The entire history of America up to the Civil War was built on compromise, and there were ongoing discussions of Constitutional amendments in Congress. Moreover, there was no irrepressible moral conflict until the North  fabricated one.

 

The South was willing to compromise in 1860 and 1861, as it had been for the 80 years prior. Jefferson Davis insisted that any compromise placed before the special Committee of 13 established to handle the crisis needed the support of both Republican and Democratic members. He could get the Democrats to support several, but the Republicans, led by president-elect Lincoln, voted down every single one.

Lincoln, while not yet sworn in, refused compromise, which led six other Southern States out of the Union in early 1861. Lincoln could still have saved the Union through compromise at this juncture, but chose not to do so. The Union still existed even with seven States missing. The government, banking houses, and infrastructure remained. It seems that the “Confederate States insistence on slavery” had nothing to do with War. War and secession are separate issues. Secession didn’t mean war was inevitable. Most Americans hoped otherwise, even in the South where President Davis insisted that the South simply wanted to be left alone. The South was acting very much like the American colonies had acted in 1776 and the North was playing the role of the British crown.

There were also still six other slave States in the Union as late as April 186. Over a month after Lincoln took office, six slave States that had already rejected secession. There’s no evidence Lincoln was worried about slavery at this point. He supported a proposed 13th amendment which would have protected slavery indefinitely in the States where it already existed. He promised never to interfere with the institution in the South. Lincoln’s objective in March 1861 was to “preserve the Union” at all costs, and by “preserving the Union” Lincoln meant preserving the Republican Party and his fledgling administration. He had received less than 40% of the popular vote in 1860. Letting the South go would have certainly made him a one-term president, which might well have killed the newly-minted Republican Party.

Yes, letting the South go would have ensured the existence of slavery within the Union for the near future, but its days were numbered. Every other power abolished slavery by 1880. Still this was not a moral question for most Americans. Lincoln received thunderous applause across the North in 1860 when he made campaign promises to leave the institution alone. Racism was an American institution and Lincoln never challenged the prevailing attitudes on blacks. He agreed with them. The Republican Party’s objective was always political. Bottle the South up, ensure that the Whig economic agenda could be ascendant, and control the spoils. They never dabbled in moral issues.

The tragedy of the Civil War was that more than a million men died for a conflict that was unnecessary. The elimination of slavery was merely an afterthought to Lincoln. He wanted war. He had the chance to save the Union without war before he took office. He refused it. He had the chance to save the Union without war in March 1861. He rejected attempts by the South to peacefully purchase Fort Sumter and began polling his cabinet about provisioning Sumter less than a week after taking office, knowing full well it would cause war. As he later told a political ally, his decision to provision Fort Sumter had the desired outcome, meaning armed conflict. Nothing can sugarcoat Lincoln’s head-long rush into the bloodiest war in American history.

So, though he is certainly no historian, Trump may have been on to something here. Better leadership could have avoided the carnage. Ooo, I just committed American sacrilege.

But who cares. No one really reads The Atlantic anymore, anyway.

Posted June 20, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in History, Uncategorized

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