Freedom, government encroachment, and compromise

The range of options between pure socialism and pure capitalism is a spectrum which includes free market capitalism and the welfare state. Sometimes advocates of capitalism accuse their opponents of promoting socialism when those opponents only want more restrictions for the benefit of workers and consumers without desiring socialism. Sometimes people even call for socialism without realizing that what they truly want is not socialism but merely a more comprehensive welfare state. Labels can be slippery tools in our hands, especially when we exist on a spectrum of options.

One of the clearest guides to distinguishing capitalism and socialism is intent. Those who want a few more regulations to protect workers and consumers are still working within the free market system. Those who want to spread the wealth—to take money away from the rich and give it to the working classes, or to give away for free what was formerly bought or earned—by taxing and penalizing wealth are clearly working for socialism and against capitalism.

Here is one example I have seen online: imagine a society where the wealthiest people are earning $50,000 a year and the poor are earning only $25,000 a year. Imagine a change that brings the wealthiest people up to $100,000 a year and lifts the poor to $50,000 a year. Someone inclined to support capitalism will rejoice that all the people in the society have seen improvement. Someone inclined to socialism will complain that the disparity—the difference between the wealthy and the poor—has doubled because of the change, and that disparity is not fair.

Kurt Vonnegut, in one of his novels, imagined a society that tried, by law, to make life fair for everyone. People stronger than average were forced to carry weights. People smarter than average were forced to wear earpieces that distracted them with random noises. People more attractive than average were forced to wear clothes and makeup that made them ugly. Such efforts to make us more equal in every way clearly cause more harm than good. Bringing the higher-level people down to average does not necessarily help lift the lower-level people up to average. In fact, every attempt to reduce the wealth of the richest people through taxes and other legislation only causes them to move their wealth away from the places where it is vulnerable. It discourages them from making more wealth by selling improved products, hiring more workers, and performing other tasks that increase the wealth of the rich and also add benefits to the working classes and the poor.

Government’s job is to protect the rights of all people and to defend citizens from those who would harm them. A right to life includes protection from invasion and from crime; reasonable people still differ and debate whether that right to life also includes guaranteed food, clothing, and shelter for all citizens. In a democracy, the government is chosen by the people to do the will of the people; however, doing the will of the people means more than following and obeying the latest opinion polls. Those elected to govern are expected to learn and understand what is best for the people. Elected officials and their appointed staffs consider proposals, research them, and ultimately vote whether to enact them. Opinion polls might show that more than half the population wants college to be free for all students. Elected officials must still study and learn whether free college would be a benefit to most citizens or whether the cost of free college, assumed by the government, would become a burden to most citizens. Those who govern balance benefits and burdens. They speak to each other about these benefits and burdens. Their votes represent, not only the opinions of the people they represent, but also the best interests of those they represent. As a result, their votes often disagree with the opinions of the majority of the population.

Moreover, a representative government cannot condone injustice, even if the majority wants to be unfair to the minority. In protecting human rights, the government considers all the people, not most of the people. Even though the government has fallen short of it duty in the past, permitting oppression and abuse of some of its citizens, the solution is not to be unfair to a different group. (Two wrongs do not make a right.) We cannot change the past; we can only start with the current situation and move forward, seeking to make things better for all people.

Every person running for office states positions to attract like-minded voters. Different candidates have different priorities among the number of issues that matter. Elected officials work together for the common good. Each official holds some positions that cannot be compromised and others that can be compromised. Negotiation and compromise are part of the art of politics; they are necessary skills for anyone who seeks and gains elective office.

When a government gives each benefit that some citizens wants and then forces all the citizens to pay for all the benefits, that government cannot last long. The value and cost of various benefits must be considered; agreements and compromises must be reached. The more a government encroaches upon the freedom of its citizens—even with the encouragement of many or most of those citizens—the more that government fails to govern wisely and successfully. Sooner or later, the government that offers too much and promises too much and charges too much will collapse. The social contract is canceled when government demands too much of its citizens, because they still retain their basic rights to life, to liberty, and to property. Government does not give these rights to people, and it cannot take them away. J.

More about election fraud

When Richard J. Daley was mayor of Chicago, his workers had a strategy on election day. As vote totals were announced, they would withhold the counts from some precincts in the city, waiting to see how many Republican votes had been cast in the rest of Illinois (what Chicagoans call “downstate”). They would then know how many ballots to report so that the Democratic Party would win the statewide election. Most notoriously, this practice allowed John Kennedy to receive the electoral votes of Illinois in 1960. Richard Nixon knew that vote fraud had been committed in Chicago and other places. He chose not to challenge the election in court, figuring that such a challenge would be bad for the United States. Eight years later, Nixon finally was elected President.

The appearance that Daley’s method has been imitated this year in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and other Democratic strongholds is strong. President Trump has already accused the Democrats of cheating. Court cases have been filed. If the President and his lawyers have clear and convincing evidence of fraud, they should pursue these cases. It would be convenient if someone were to confess to filling out dozens or hundreds of ballots before or during or after the election. Next best is if people in these cities have seen others filling out multiple ballots. No judge is going to disqualify ballots and reverse the election results without compelling evidence of fraud. Suspicion alone is not enough. Proof must be presented in the courtroom; presumably, the President’s lawyers are gathering that evidence.

American courts traditionally are reluctant to take part in political struggles over elections. The election of 2000 was an exception, as the Supreme Court placed a limit on the time State of Florida officials could spend examining and recounting ballots. After that deadline passed, some journalists provided funds to continue the recount. In the end, more votes in Florida were cast for Bush than for Gore, so the Supreme Court’s intervention did not overturn the election results. (This does not stop some Democrats, even twenty years later, from insisting that the election was stolen by the Court.)

If a court decision identifies and excludes fraudulent ballots, changing the outcome of the election that has been reported this week, no doubt there will be an outcry and demonstrations in the streets. That likelihood should have no influence on any judge’s decision. The rest of us, though, should be aware and prepared, even as many business owners prepared for violence election night, speculating that President Trump might be declared the winner in spite of all the polls and prognostications that said that Vice President Biden and the Democrats would win by a landslide.

In 1876, the election was close, and three states had two groups of electors, one supporting Republican Hayes and one supporting Democrat Tilden. Instead of taking the case into the courts, leaders of both parties met and worked out a compromise. Hayes received the support of the compromise and became President. Democrats were granted political power in the southern states, power that had previously been denied them because of their part in the Civil War. When the pre-war officials regained their power, Reconstruction effectively ended. African Americans were disenfranchised and civil rights were denied. This situation lasted several generations, and its repercussions have not yet ended in the United States.

I cannot imagine any compromise that would satisfy the Republicans and the Democrats of 2020. The current question that must be answered is whether evidence—clear and convincing evidence—proves massive vote fraud that changed the election results. Americans must trust the judicial branch of the government to perform its duties in the balance of powers, defending what is right and striking down what is wrong. The Constitution will survive this crisis as it has survived crises in the past. America remains strong enough to weather this storm. J.

Jesus’ message to the Church in Thyatira (and to Christians today)

“Only hold fast to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25—read Revelation 2:18-29).

Like the congregation in Pergamum, the congregation in Thyatira was too tolerant. In this case, they were tolerating a woman whom Jesus calls Jezebel. In the Old Testament, Jezebel was queen of Israel, the northern kingdom. She was married to King Ahab, but she was not an Israelite. She came from Lebanon (Phoenicia) and was devoted to the Canaanite gods, especially Baal. The showdown Elijah prompted between the Lord and Baal involved Jezebel, who vowed to kill Elijah after he humiliated and destroyed the priests of Baal.

The Jezebel in Thyatira, according to Jesus, was seducing his servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul addressed the topic of eating food sacrificed to idols in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians. On the one hand, food is food, and the fact that it had passed through a pagan temple made no difference to the Christian whose faith in God was secure. On the other hand, some Christians are insecure in their faith. Seeing fellow Christians appearing to conform to pagan beliefs could damage their relationship with Christ. Therefore, Paul resolved—and advised others—to do nothing that would damage the faith of the weak. A Christian was free to eat food offered to idols privately. Out of love for others, the same Christian would not eat such food in the presence of someone whose Christian faith might be damaged by such eating.

The applications for today are numerous. A loving Christian would not drink beer in the presence of a recovering alcoholic, let alone offer that person a beer. Certain kinds of music trouble the consciences of some Christians, as do certain entertainments such as dancing or playing cards. Each Christian makes up his or her own mind about whether to do these things privately or to give them up as a sacrifice to the Lord. To encourage a Christian to change his or her personal rules, to end a voluntary sacrifice, neither honors God nor shows love for that fellow Christian.

At the same time, no Christian should confuse his or her sacrifices to the Lord with the sacrifice of Christ. Only Christ’s sacrifice removes sin and reconciles a sinner to God. The sacrifices we offer the Lord are only thank-offerings. They earn neither God’s forgiveness nor our place in heaven. The Christian who gives up drinking or dancing in the belief that such a sacrifice earns forgiveness of sins should be gently and lovingly corrected.

Sexual immorality is always wrong. God created us male and female so we could be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Also, we are male and female so we can be loving partners, supporting and upholding one another. Every marriage is a picture of God’s love for his people; he is a husband to us all. Every thought, word, or deed that tarnishes marriage is an insult to God as well as a sin.

Christians today are being asked to tolerate many insults to marriage. The spirit of Jezebel is as active today as it was in ancient Thyatira. Jesus knew many good things about the Christians in Thyatira. He mentioned their good works, their love and service and patient endurance, and the fact that their latter works exceeded the first. They had not lost their first love, as the Christians in Ephesus had lost. But tolerating Jezebel and her seduction of the saints was a blot on the record of this congregation. Jezebel was drawing them into what she called “the deep things of Satan.” Jesus does not want us to blend truth with falsehood. He does not want us to try to please both the Lord and Baal, both Christ and the sinful world.

Therefore, Jesus says that he has no additional burden for them. They are to hold fast to what they have until he comes. Jesus will come in judgment to strike down false religion and to punish all those who pervert his teachings. We do our best to warn others against the corrupting influences of the world, but we cannot defeat evil. Only Jesus can overcome and provide the victory. Because Jesus has already won this victory, we rest securely in his arms, finding strength in him to do what is right and knowing with confidence that we belong to his eternal kingdom.

From “Unveiling Revelation,” a work in progress. J.

The benefits of gridlock in government

The writers of the United States Constitution did not want a national government that would work quickly and efficiently. They chose instead to build a government with checks and balances that would limit the power of the government and slow its ability to interfere in the lives of American citizens.

Therefore, they divided the government into three branches: a legislative branch that can make laws but has no ability to enforce laws, an executive branch that enforces laws but does not make or overturn laws, and a judicial branch that interprets and applies laws and that can overturn laws—but only when asked to do so by one or more citizens. The legislative branch is further checked and balanced by two houses which must agree with each other to pass a law. In the Senate, each state is equally represented; but in the House, states are represented proportionally. Members of the House must seek reelection every two years, so its members are focused on short term problems and interests. Members of the Senate hold terms of six years, so they can take a longer view of things. Potentially, the entire House could be changed in one election, but a minimum of two-thirds of the Senators would still be in the Senate after such an election.

Even when the President and the majority of both houses of Congress come from the same political party, the President and Congress maintain an adversarial relationship because of their different powers and concerns. During the past seventy-two years, American voters have frequently chosen to have the President come from one political party while the majority of at least one house of Congress represents the opposition party. When Congress convenes in January, the country will be in that situation again, as President Trump comes from the Republican Party while the majority of the House of Representatives—chosen by this week’s election—come from the Democratic Party.

What does this mean for the government of the United States over the next two years? The best-case scenario is that Democrats and Republicans—including President Trump—learn to communicate and to compromise, working together for the good of the country and pleasing Americans of various political viewpoints. Given human nature, a more likely scenario is that both sides experience frustration, unable to accomplish their goals. Given their desire for limited government, the framers of the Constitution would likely prefer the second scenario.

On the other hand, President Trump thrives on conflict. The more grief the Democratic members of the House try to cause him, the more he will rattle their chains in return. Already in the first half of his term, President Trump has been able to demonstrate that he has tried to keep his campaign promises but Congress and the courts have hindered him. We can expect the President to continue to act as he has been acting for the past two years. The dire consequences that his opponents in politics and among news reporters have been predicting have not come close to happening. For the next two years, we can expect much of the same results.

The Democrats in Congress would be foolish to attempt an impeachment of President Trump during the next two years. No matter what evidence they uncover, they are unlikely to find enough to convince two thirds of the Senate to remove him from office. Meanwhile, the time and energy spent on that useless venture would be time and energy not spent on seeking their other goals. For that they would suffer in the 2020 election. Their best ploy is to seek to compromise with the President and give him the option of working with them or spurning them. In either case, they would gain more from a posture of compromise than they can ever gain from continual opposition. J.