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I have done a lot of international travel in my life, and I have seen extreme poverty.  I’ve also seen amazing love.

But I have no words adequate to express what we experienced in Haiti.

The things I blog about here now seem so petty. 

I’m going to let it all sink in for a while.  In the next few days I’ll post some pictures, but they do not do justice to the reality.

Hug your kids.  Savor your food.  Take nothing for granted.

Love Wins

Hope for Haiti

We arrived in Santiago, D.R. Thursday night.  We were supposed to cross over into Haiti yesterday.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

As frequently happens, violence erupted between Haitians and Dominicans yesterday and the border was closed.  UN troops came in to restore order and they surrounded the orphanage to which we are heading.  We got a phone call just before we were set to leave, from one of the missionaries (who was alone with the children).  She said we would not be able to get into Haiti and that we should stay another night in Santiago.  She also asked us to pray for protection and peace. 

Last night she called to say that the UN troops were leaving and that things had calmed down sufficiently that she expected the border to be open today.  We are leaving for Haiti in a few hours.

This newstory will give you some idea of the horrors of life for children where we are going.  http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/poverty/2009/7/17/32621/Dominican-authorities-bust-a-Haitian-children-trafficking-network

 I’ve become furiously angry (perhaps passionately indignant is a better way to put it) at how difficult it is to adopt Haitian children.  There are perhaps millions of Americans who would joyously adopt a Haitian child.  I know of five such couples personally.  But the process is filled with bureaucracy and corruption.  Last year only 301 Haitian children were adopted into the US.  Yet there are an estimated 300,000 Haitian children being held in slavery there.  And that number does not include those who wind up with the sad fate of those in the article above.  I’ll have a lot more to say about this later.

For those who read Spanish and or French, here are some articles describing the situation on the border yesterday.  http://www.hoy.com.do/el-pais/2009/7/24/286684/Muerte-de-joven-dominicano-causa-tension-en-Dajabon

http://www.alterpresse.org/spip.php?article8574

Please keep the missionaries (Karris, Brenda and Danita), the orphans, and our team in your prayers.  And please pray for peace.

Love Wins

 

Cows

White Flint Farm is now out of the cattle business.  Our herd peaked at three heifers (shown above).  Today a friend came and picked up the last two.

We started with February, a runt twin whose mother rejected her.  Cherie bottle fed her until she was old enough to feed herself.

We added two more Angus heifers.  I intended to have them bred, to keep their female calves and put the steers in the freezer.   We raised them on grass, and they grew very fat and spoiled.  But I had no need for beef.  We have more pork and chicken than I can possibly eat (Cherie is a vegetarian).  With one deer I have all the red meat I need for a year.

Raising cattle is more difficult than raising goats.  It takes more pasture, and requires a lot of work to make and put up hay.  Cattle are actually very inefficient as a food source, something I may blog about later.

In any event, my days as a cattleman are over.

And I don’t mind that at all.

Love Wins

 

Audit the Fed

Ron Paul’s bill to require that the operations of the Federal Reserve be audited now has an amazing 275 co-sponsors.  Remarkably, that is well over half of all the Representatives, assuring the passage of the bill should the House leadership ever allow a vote on it.  The Senate counterpart, S. 604, has eighteen co-sponsors.  The support for these bills is markedly bi-partisan.  Every Republican in the House has co-sponsored it, as have many Democrats.   Sixteen states have had their entire congressional delegations sign on as co-sponsors.  Dr. Paul has introduced this bill or one like it in every session of Congress during his long tenure.  Never before has it garnered any support.

Campaign For Liberty deserves a lot of credit for this.  Created with the funds left over from Congressman Paul’s presidential campaign, the organization has done an excellent job of mobilizing devotees of liberty to pressure their members of Congress to support this bill.  Of course the recent mind-boggling expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, and the fact that the Congress and the public are not permitted to know who received all those freshly printed federal reserve notes or on what terms, has swelled the public demand for transparency at the Fed.   The notion that the Fed should be able to conduct its operations secretly, and not account specifically for how our currency is being spent, is indefensible.

And that means there will be a lot of pressure to keep this bill from coming to a vote.  Despite the fact that 2/3 of the House has co-sponsored it, the House Banking Committe, chaired by Barney Frank, has not yet commenced hearings.  Senator Demint added the bill as an amendment to the recent appropriations bill, but the Senate leadership nixed it on technical grounds, despite conceding that the technical argument relied upon was routinely overlooked, including in the very bill in issue. Fed Vice Chair Donald has gone to Congress to try to make the case that secrecy equals transparency, and claims that opening the operations of the Fed to audit will destroy the economy (imagine that).  Recently a band of economists and financiers (Keynesians all) published a piece in the Wall Street Journal which, while vague, seems to be directed against the bill.  Of course, even if the bill should make it through Congress, it might very well be vetoed by the President.  Govco doesn’t really want the citizens to see the books.

For those interested, below are links to Florida congressman Alan Grayson’s questioning of Elizabeth Coleman, the Inspector General of the Fed, Mr. Kohn, and most recently Ben Bernanke.  These are truly incredible.  As proof that this movement is not merely from old school conservatives, Mr. Grayson is a first term liberal Democrat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXlxBeAvsB8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj0JAfq4esk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_VCy0lMU1g

Here is video showing the Senate blocking Senator Demint’s attempt to get the legislation passed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tRQHsXujpo

Finally, check this out (and the accompanying data):  http://www.clevelandfed.org/research/data/credit_easing/index.cfm

Let’s hope that this bill gets passed.  Maybe it will be the first step toward ending the Federal Reserve.

Love Wins

Jack versus the Possum

 

Jack is a bagel.  He’s half beagle, half bassett hound.  He is a great pet, but a lousy hunter.  We found him after he’d been abandoned by hunters who probably got tired of him getting lost, following the trail backwards, and who knows what other blunders.  We nursed him back to health, and now he’s content to stay around the house.  Most of the time.  At least a few times every year he takes off an epic hunt, usually lured by the sound of someone’s competent dogs, on the trail of a deer.  When that happens, we expect a call a few days later from someone who’s found Jack, miles from home and hopelessly lost.

I wasn’t surprised to hear Jack in the backyard recently, barking as if he had some wild animal cornered.  He often stands and barks at the horse, as if he’s never seen it before.  But when I looked out to see what he was doing, I was surprised to find him in battle with a possum.  

 

I didn’t know he had it in him.

Love Wins

Two Hands

Great new song from Jars of Clay.  The band has been very active with Blood Water Mission’s efforts to bring clean safe drinking water to Africa.  Check out the video.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0h2sUC6wPg

I’ve been living out of sanity
I’ve been splitting hairs and blurring lines
I am a house that is divided
In my heart and in my mind

Chorus*
*I use one hand to pull you closer
The other to push you away
If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high*

I have a broken disposition
I’m a liar who thirsts for the truth
And while I ache for faith to hold me
I need to feel the scars and see the proof
(Chorus)

And if we just keep digging we can reach the foundation
Of our souls
And if we just keep cutting all the chains from our hearts
We’ll lose control

And it feels like giving in
It feels like starting over
It feels like waking up, and you know it’s coming
It feels like a brand new day
Open your eyes
(Chorus)
Lifted high,
Lifted high,

Love Wins

Christianity and the Survival of Creation

The following is an essay in Wendell Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community.  It began as an address he made to seminary students.  I love it.  It’s a long read, but well worth it.  You can find lots more Wendell Berry offerings on the Wendell Berry page at our farm website.  Mr. Berry…

I confess that I have not invariably been comfortable in front of a pulpit; I have never been comfortable behind one. To be behind a pulpit is always a forcible reminder to me that I am an essayist, and in many ways a dissenter. An essayist is, literally, a writer who attempts to tell the truth. Preachers must resign themselves to being either right or wrong; an essayist, when proved wrong, may claim to have been “just practicing.” An essayist is privileged to speak without institutional authorization. A dissenter, of course, must speak without privilege.  I want to begin with a problem: namely, that the culpability of Christianity in the destruction of the natural world, and the uselessness of Christianity to any effort to correct that destruction, are now established cliches of the conservation movement. This is a problem for two reasons: First, the indictment of Christianity by the anti-Christian conservationists is, in many respects, just. For instance, the complicity of Christian priests, preachers, and missionaries in the cultural destruction and the economic exploitation of the primary peoples of the Western Hemisphere as well as of traditional cultures around the world, is notorious. Throughout the five-hundred years since Columbus’s first landfall in the Bahamas, the evangelist has walked beside the conqueror and the merchant, too often blandly assuming that his cause was the same as theirs. Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and of its traditional cultures. It is hardly too much to say that most Christian organizations are as happily indifferent as most industrial organizations to the ecological, cultural, and religious implications of industrial economics. The certified Christian seems just as likely as anyone else to join the military-industrial conspiracy to murder Creation.

The conservationist indictment of Christianity is a problem, secondly, because, however just it may be, it does not come from an adequate understanding of the Bible and the cultural traditions that descend from the Bible. The anti-Christian conservationists characteristically deal with the Bible by waving it off. And this dismissal conceals, as such dismissals are apt to do, an ignorance that invalidates it. The Bible is an inspired book written by human hands; as such, it is certainly subject to criticism. But the anti-Christian environmentalists have not mastered the first rule of the criticism of books: you have to read them before you criticize them. Our predicament now, I believe, requires us to learn to read and understand the Bible in the light of the present fact of Creation. This would seem to be a requirement both for Christians and for everyone concerned, but it entails a long work of true criticism–that is, careful and judicious study, not dismissal. It entails, furthermore, the making of very precise distinctions between biblical instruction and the behavior of those peoples supposed to have been biblically instructed.

I cannot pretend, obviously, to have made so meticulous a study; if I were capable of it, I would not live long enough to do it. But I have attempted to read the Bible with some of these issues in mind, and I see some virtually catastrophic discrepancies between biblical instruction and Christian behavior. I don’t mean disreputable Christian behavior, either. The discrepancies I see are between biblical instruction and allegedly respectable Christian behavior.

If, because of these discrepancies, Christianity were dismissable, there would, of course, be no problem. We could simply dismiss it, along with the twenty centuries of unsatisfactory history attached to it, and start setting things to rights. The problem emerges only when we ask, Where then would we turn for instruction? We might, let us suppose, turn to another religion–a recourse that is sometimes suggested by the anti-Christian environmentalists. Buddhism, for example, is certainly a religion that could guide us toward a right respect for the natural world, our fellow humans, and our fellow creatures. I have a considerable debt myself to Buddhism and Buddhists. But there is an enormous number of people, and I am one of them, whose native religion, for better or worse, is Christianity. We were born to it; we began to learn about it before we became conscious; it is, whatever we think of it, an intimate belonging of our being; it informs our consciousness, our language, and our dreams. We can turn away from it or against it, but that will only bind us tightly to a reduced version of it. A better possibility is that this, our native religion, should survive and renew itself, so that it may become as largely and truly instructive as we need it to be. On such a survival and renewal of the Christian religion may depend the survival of that Creation which is its subject.

If we read the Bible, keeping in mind the desirability of those two survivals–of Christianity and the Creation–we are apt to discover several things that modern Christian organizations have kept remarkably quiet about, or have paid little attention to.

We will discover that we humans do not own the world or any part of it: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). There is in our human law, undeniably, the concept and right of “land ownership.” But this, I think, is merely an expedient to safeguard the mutuality of belonging without which there can be no lasting and conserving settlement of human communities. This right of human ownership is limited by mortality and by natural constraints upon human attention and responsibility; it quickly becomes abusive when used to justify large accumulations of “real estate,” and perhaps for that reason such large accumulations are forbidden in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus. In biblical terms, the “landowner” is the guest and steward of God: “the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev. 25:23).

We will discover that God made not only the parts of Creation that we humans understand and approve, but all of it: “all things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). And so we must credit God with the making of biting and dangerous beasts, and disease-causing microorganisms. That we may disapprove of these things does not mean that God is in error, or that the creator ceded some of the work of Creation to Satan; it means that we are deficient in wholeness, harmony, and understanding–that is, we are “fallen.”

We will discover that God found the world, as he made it, to be good; that he made it for his pleasure; and that he continues to love it and to find it worthy, despite its reduction and corruption by us. People who quote John 3:16 as an easy formula for getting to heaven neglect to see the great difficulty implied in the statement that the advent of Christ was made possible by God’s love for the world–not God’s love for Heaven or for the world as it might be, but for the world as it was and is. Belief in Christ is thus made dependent upon prior belief in the inherent goodness–the lovability–of the world.

We will discover that the Creation is not in any sense independent of the Creator, the result of a primal creative act long over and done with, but is the continuous, constant participation of all creatures in the being of God. Elihu said to Job that if God “gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together . . . ” (Job 34:15). And Psalm 104 says: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created…. ” Creation is God’s presence in creatures. The Greek Orthodox theologian, Philip Sherrard, has written that “Creation is nothing less than the manifestation of God’s hidden being.” Thus we and all other creatures live by a sanctity that is inexpressibly intimate. To every creature the gift of life is a portion of the breath and spirit of God. As the poet, George Herbert, put it,

Thou are in small things great, not small in any…. For thou art infinite in one and all.

We will discover that, for these reasons, our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into his face, as of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them. To Dante, “despising Nature and her gifts” was a violence against God.  We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it. We have the right to use the gifts of Nature, but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need, but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property. The usurer, Dante said, “condemns Nature. . . for he puts his hope elsewhere.”

William Blake was biblically correct, then, when he said that “everything that lives is holy.” And Blake’s great commentator, Kathleen Raine, was correct both biblically and historically when she said that “the sense of the holiness of life is the human norm….”

The Bible leaves no doubt at all about the sanctity of the act of world-making, or of the world that was made, or of creaturely or bodily life in this world. We are holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy. Some people know this, and some do not. Nobody, of course, knows it all the time. But what keeps it from being far better known than it is? Why is it apparently unknown to millions of professed students of the Bible? How can modern Christianity have so solemnly folded its hands while so much of the work of God was and is being destroyed?

“The sense of the holiness of life” is not compatible with an exploitive economy. You cannot know that life is holy if you are content to live from economic practices that daily destroy life and diminish its possibility. And many if not most Christian organizations now appear to be perfectly at peace with the military-industrial economy and its “scientific” destruction of life. Surely, if we are to remain free, and if we are to remain true to our religious inheritances, we must maintain a separation between church and state. But if we are to maintain any sense or coherence or meaning in our lives, we cannot tolerate the present utter disconnection between religion and economy. By “economy” I do not mean “economics,” which is the study of money-making, but rather the ways of human housekeeping, the ways by which the human household is situated and maintained within the household of Nature. To be uninterested in economy is to be uninterested in the practice of religion; it is to be uninterested in culture and in character. Probably the most urgent question now faced by people who would adhere to the Bible is this: What sort of economy would be responsible to the holiness of life? What, for Christians, would be the economy, the practices and the restraints, of “right livelihood”? I do not believe that organized Christianity now has any idea. I think its idea of a Christian economy is no more or less than the industrial economy–which is an economy firmly founded upon the seven deadly sins and the breaking of all ten of the Ten Commandments. Obviously, if Christianity is going to survive as more than a respecter and comforter of profitable iniquities, then Christians, regardless of their organizations, are going to have to interest themselves in economy–which is to say, in nature and in work. They are going to have to give workable answers to those who say we cannot live without this economy that is destroying us and our world, who see the murder of Creation as the only way of life.

A second reason why the holiness of life is so obscured to modern Christians is the idea that the only holy place is the built church. This idea may be more taken for granted than taught; nevertheless, Christians are encouraged from childhood to think of the church building as “God’s house,” and most of them could think of their houses or farms or shops or factories as holy places only with great effort and embarrassment. It is understandably difficult for modern Americans to think of their dwellings and workplaces as holy, because most of these are, in fact, places of desecration, deeply involved in the ruin of Creation.

The idea of the exclusive holiness of church buildings is, of course, wildly incompatible with the idea, which the churches also teach, that God is present in all places to hear prayers. It is incompatible with Scripture. The idea that a human artifact could contain or confine God was explicitly repudiated by Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple: “behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee: how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27). And these words of Solomon were remembered a thousand years later by St. Paul, preaching at Athens:

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands….
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said…. (Acts 17:24 and 28)

Idolatry always reduces to the worship of something “made with hands,” something confined within the terms of human work and human comprehension. Thus Solomon and St. Paul both insisted upon the largeness and the at-largeness of God, setting him free, so to speak, from ideas about him. He is not to be fenced in, under human control, like some domestic creature; he is the wildest being in existence. The presence of his spirit in us is our wildness, our oneness with the wilderness of Creation. That is why subduing the things of nature to human purposes is so dangerous, and why it so often results in evil, in separation and desecration. It is why the poets of our tradition so often have given Nature the role, not only of mother or grandmother, but of the highest earthly teacher and judge, a figure of mystery and great power. Jesus’ own specifications for the church have nothing at all to do with masonry and carpentry, but only with people; Jesus’ church is “Where two or three are gathered together in my name” (Matt. 18:20).

The Bible gives exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) attention to the organization of religion: the building and rebuilding of the Temple; its furnishings; the orders, duties, and paraphernalia of the priesthood; the orders of rituals and ceremonies. But that does not disguise the fact that the most significant religious events recounted in that book do not occur in “temples made with hands.” The most important religion in the Bible is unorganized, and is sometimes profoundly disruptive of organization. From Abraham to Jesus, the most important people are not priests, but shepherds, soldiers, men of property, craftsmen, housewives, queens and kings, manservants and maidservants, fishermen, prisoners, whores, even bureaucrats. The great visionary encounters did not take place in temples, but in sheep pastures, in the desert, in the wilderness, on mountains, by rivers and on beaches, in the middle of the sea; when there was no choice, they happened in prisons. However strenuously the divine voice prescribed rites and observances, it just as strenuously repudiated them when they were taken to be religion:

“You new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mind eyes from you: yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isa. 1:13-17)

Religion, according to this view, is less to be celebrated in rituals than practiced in the world.

I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a hypaethral book, such as Thoreau talked about–a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. That is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air, and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances, will hardly balk at the fuming of water into wine–which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is fumed into grapes.

What the Bible might mean, or how it could mean anything, in a closed, air-conditioned building, I do not know. I know that holiness cannot be confined. When you think you have captured it, it has already escaped; only its poor, pale ashes are left. It is after this foolish capture and the inevitable escape that you get translations of the Bible that read like a newspaper. Holiness is everywhere in Creation, it is as common as raindrops and leaves and blades of grass, but it does not sound like a newspaper.

It is clearly impossible to assign holiness exclusively to the built church without denying holiness to the rest of Creation, which is then said to be “secular.” The world, that God looked at and found entirely good, we find none too good to pollute entirely and destroy piecemeal. The church, then, becomes a kind of preserve of “holiness,” from which certified lovers of God dash out to assault and plunder the “secular” earth.

Not only does this repudiate God’s approval of his work; it refuses also to honor the Bible’s explicit instruction to regard the works of the Creation as God’s revelation of himself. The assignation of holiness exclusively to the built church is therefore logically accompanied by the assignation of revelation exclusively to the Bible. But Psalm 19 begins: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” The word of God has been revealed in fact from the moment of the third verse of the first chapter of Genesis: “Let there be light: and there was light.” and St. Paul states the rule: “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead. . . ” (Rom. 1:20). And from this free, generous, and sensible view of things, we come to the idolatry of the book: the idea that nothing is true that cannot be (and has not been already) written. The misuse of the Bible thus logically accompanies the abuse of Nature: if you are going to destroy creatures without respect, you will want to reduce them to “materiality”; you will want to deny that there is spirit or truth in them, just as you will want to believe that the only holy or ensouled creatures are humans, or only Christian humans.

By denying spirit and truth to the nonhuman Creation, latter-day proponents of religion have legitimized a form of blasphemy without which the nature- and culture-destroying machinery of the industrial economy could not have been built–that is, they have legitimized bad work. Good human work honors God’s work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors Nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. And such blasphemy is not possible so long as the entire Creation is understood as holy, and so long as the works of God are understood as embodying and so revealing God’s spirit.

In the Bible we find none of the industrialist’s contempt or hatred for nature. We find, instead, a poetry of awe and reverence and profound cherishing, as in these verses from Moses’ valedictory blessing of the twelve tribes:

And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that croucheth beneath,
And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,

And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills;

And for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush…. (Deut. 33:13-16)

I have been talking, of course, about a dualism that manifests itself in several ways; it is a cleavage, a radical discontinuity, between Creator and creature, spirit and matter, religion and nature, religion and economy, worship and work, etc. This dualism, I think is the most destructive disease that afflicts us. In its best known, its most dangerous, and perhaps its fundamental version, it is the dualism of body and soul. This is an issue as difficult as it is important, and so to deal with it we should start at the beginning.

The crucial test is probably Genesis 2:7, which gives the process by which Adam was created: “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.” My mind, like most people’s, has been deeply influenced by dualism, and I can see how dualistic minds deal with this verse. They conclude that the formula for man-making is: man = body + soul. But that conclusion cannot be derived, except by violence, from Genesis 2:7, which is not dualistic. The formula given in Genesis is not man = body + soul; the formula there is soul = dust + breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; by breathing his breath into it, he made the dust live. Insofar as it lived, it was a soul. The dust, formed as man and made to live, did not embody a soul; it became a soul. “Soul” here refers to the whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glued together, but as a single mystery.

We can see how easy it is to fall into the dualism of body and soul when talking about the inescapable worldly dualities of good and evil or time and eternity. And we can see how easy it is when Jesus asks, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26) to assume that he is condemning the world and appreciating the disembodied soul. But if we give to “soul” here the sense that it has in Genesis 2:7, we see that he is doing no such thing. He is warning that, in pursuit of so-called “material possessions,” we can lose our understanding of ourselves as “living souls”–that is, as creatures of God, members of the holy community of Creation. We can lose the possibility of the at-one-ment of that membership. For we are free, if we choose, to make a duality of our one living soul by disowning the breath of God that is our fundamental bond with one another and with other creatures.

But we can make the same duality by disowning the dust. The breath of God is only one of the divine gifts that make us living souls; the other is the dust. Most of our modern troubles come from our misunderstanding and misvaluation of this dust. Forgetting that the dust too is a creature of the Creator, made by the sending forth of his spirit, we have presumed to decide that the dust is “low.” We have presumed to say that we are made of two parts: a body and a soul, the body being “low” because made of dust, and the soul “high.” By thus valuing these two supposed-to-be “parts,” we inevitably throw them into competition with each other, like two corporations. The “spiritual” view, of course, has been that the body, in Yeats’s phrase, must be “bruised to pleasure soul.” And the “secular” version of the same dualism has been that the body, along with the rest of the “material” world, must give way before the advance of the human mind. The dominant religious view, for a long time, has been that the body is a kind of scrip issued by the Great Company Store in the Sky, which can be cashed in to redeem the soul, but is otherwise worthless. And the predictable result has been a human creature able to appreciate or tolerate only the “spiritual” (or mental) part of Creation, and full of a semiconscious hatred of the “physical” or “natural” part, which it is ready and willing to destroy for “salvation,” for profit, for “victory,” or for fun. This madness constitutes the normality of modern humanity and of modern Christianity.

But to despise the body or mistreat it for the sake of the “soul” is not just to burn one’s house for the insurance, nor is it just self-hatred of the most deep and dangerous sort. It is yet another blasphemy. It is to make nothing, and worse than nothing, of the great Something in which we live and move and have our being.

When we hate and abuse the body and its earthly life and joy for Heaven’s sake, what do we expect? That out of this life that we have presumed to despise and this world that we have presumed to destroy, we would somehow salvage a soul capable of eternal bliss? And what do we expect when, with equal and opposite ingratitude, we try to make of the finite body an infinite reservoir of dispirited and meaningless pleasures? It is the same spite and destruction, the same poor, preposterous assumption that Paradise can be recovered by violence, by assaulting and laying waste the gifts of Creation.

Times come, of course, when the life of the body must be denied or sacrificed, times when the whole world must literally be lost for the sake of one’s life as a “living soul.” But such sacrifice, by people who truly respect and revere the life of the earth and its Creator, does not denounce or degrade the body, but rather exalts it and acknowledges its holiness. Such sacrifice is a refusal to allow the body to serve what is unworthy of it.

If we credit the Bible’s description of the relationship between Creator and Creation, then we cannot deny the spiritual importance of our economic life. Then we see how religious issues lead to issues of economy, and how issues of economy lead to issues of art, of how to make things. If we understand that no artist–no maker–can work except by reworking the works of Creation, then we see that by our work, by the way we practice our arts, we reveal what we think of the works of God. How we take our lives from this world, how we work, what work we do, how well we use the materials we use and what we do with them after we have used them–all these are questions of the highest and gravest religious significance. These questions cannot tee answered by thinking,but only by doing. In answering them, we practice, or do not practice, our religion.

The significance–and ultimately the quality–of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.

If we think of ourselves as merely biological creatures, whose story is determined by genetics or environment or history or economics or technology, then, however pleasant or painful the part we play, it cannot matter much. Its significance is that of mere self-concem. “It is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing”–as Macbeth says it is, when he has “supped full with horrors” and is “aweary of the sun.”

If we think of ourselves as lofty souls entrapped temporarily in lowly bodies in a dispirited, desperate, unlovable world that we must despise for Heaven’s sake, then what have we done for this question of significance? Not much, I think. For we are still stuck, like Macbeth, in a condemnation of this life and this world, which were not made for our condemnation. If we divide reality into two parts, spiritual and material, and hold (as the Bible does not hold) that only the spiritual is good or desirable, then our relation to the material Creation becomes arbitrary, having only the quantitative or mercenary value that we have, in fact, and for this reason, assigned to it. Thus we become the judges, and thus inevitably the destroyers, of a world we did not make, and that we are bidden to understand as a divine gift.

It is impossible to see how good work might be accomplished by people who think that our life in this world either signifies nothing or has only a negative significance.

If, on the other hand, we believe that we are living souls, God’s dust and God’s breath, acting our parts among other creatures all made of the same dust and breath as ourselves; and if we understand that we are free, within the obvious limits of mortal human life, to do evil or good to ourselves and to the other creatures–then all our acts have a supreme significance. If it is true that we are living souls and morally free, then all of us are artists. All of us makers, within mortal terms and limits, of our lives, of one another’s lives, of things we need and use.

This, Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote, is “the normal view,” which “assumes. . . not that the artist is a special kind of man, but that every man who is not a mere idler or parasite is necessarily some special kind of artist…. ” But since even mere idlers and parasites may be said to work inescapably, by proxy or influence, it might be better to say that everybody is an artist–either good or bad, responsible or irresponsible. Any life, by working or not working, by working well or poorly, inescapably changes others’ lives, and so changes the world. That is why our division of the so-called “fine arts” from “craftsmanship” and “craftsmanship” from “labor” is so arbitrary, meaningless and destructive. As Walter Shewring rightly said “the plowman and the potter have a cosmic function.” Bad art in any trade dishonors and damages Creation.

If we think of ourselves as living souls, immortal creatures, living in the midst of a Creation that is mostly mysterious–that, even when visible, is never fully imaginable–and if we see that everything we make or do cannot help but have an everlasting significance for ourselves, for others, and for the world, then we see why some religious teachers have understood work as a form of prayer. We see why the old poets invoked the muse. And we know why George Herbert prayed, in his poem “Matters”:

Teach me thy love to know; That this new light, which now I see May both the work and workman show..

Work connects us both to Creation and to eternity. This is the reason also for Mother Ann Lee’s famous instruction: “do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live on earth, and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow.”

Explaining “the perfection, order, and illumination” of the artistry of Shaker furniture makers, Coomaraswamy wrote: “All tradition has seen in the Master Craftsman of the Universe the exemplar of the human artist or `maker by art,’ and we are told to be ‘perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.'” And searching out the lesson, for us, of the Shakers’ humble, impersonal, perfect artistry, that refused the modern divorce of utility and beauty, he wrote: “Unfortunately, we do not desire to be such as the Shaker was; we do not propose to ‘work as though we had a thousand years to live, and as though we were to die tomorrow.’ Just as we desire peace but not the things that make for peace, so we desire art but not the things that make for art. . . we have the art that we deserve. If the sight of it puts us to shame, it is with ourselves that the re-formation must begin.”

Any genuine effort to re-form our arts, our ways of making, must take thought of “the things that make for art.” We must see that no art begins in itself; it begins in other arts, in attitudes and ideas antecedent to any art, and in nature. If we look at the great artistic traditions, as it is necessary to do, we will see that they have never been divorced either from religion or from economy. The possibility of an entirely secular art, and of works of art — made things — that are spiritless or ugly or useless, is not a possibility that has been among us for very long. Traditionally, the arts have been ways of making that have placed a just value upon their materials or subjects, upon the uses and the users of the things made by art, and upon the artists themselves. They have, that is, been ways of giving honor to the works of God….

In denying the holiness of the body and of the so-called “physical reality” of the world — and in denying its support to the economic means by which alone the Creation can receive due honor — modern Christianity has cut itself off from both nature and culture. It has no competent interest in biology or ecology. And it is equally uninterested in any feature of culture by which humankind connects itself to nature: economy or work, science or art. It manifests no awareness of the specifically Christian cultural lineages that connect us to our past. There is, for example, a splendid heritage of Christian poetry in English that most church members live and die without reading or hearing or hearing about. Most sermons are preached without any awareness at all that the making of sermons is an art that, at times, has been magnificent. Most modem churches look like they were built by robots without reference to the heritage of church architecture or respect for the site; they embody no awareness that work can be worship. Most religious music now attests to the general assumption that religion is no more than vaguely pious (and vaguely romantic) emotion.

Modern Christianity has become, then, in its organizations, as specialized as other modern organizations, wholly concentrated upon the industrial shibboleths of “growth,” counting its success in numbers, and upon the very strange enterprise of “saving” the individual, isolated, and disembodied soul. Having witnessed and abetted the dismemberment of the households, both human and natural, by which we have our being as creatures of God, as living souls, and having made light of the great feast and festival of Creation to which we were bidden as living souls, the modern church presumes to be able to save the soul as an eternal piece of private property. It presumes moreover to save the souls of people in other countries and religious traditions, who are often saner and more religious than we are. And always the emphasis is on the individual soul. Some Christian spokesmen give the impression that the highest Christian bliss would be to get to Heaven and find that you are the only one there — that you were right, and all the others wrong. Whatever its twentieth-century dress, modern Christianity as I know it is still at bottom the religion of Miss Watson, intent upon a dull and superstitious rigmarole by which supposedly we can avoid going to “the bad place” and instead go to “the good place.” One can hardly help sympathizing with Huck Finn when he says, “I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.”

Despite its protests to the contrary, modern Christianity has become willy-nilly the religion of the state and the economic status quo. Because it has been so exclusively dedicated to incanting anemic souls into heaven, it has, by a kind of ignorance, been made the tool of much earthly villainy. It has, for the most part, stood silently by, while a predatory economy has ravaged the world, destroyed its natural beauty and health, divided and plundered its human communities and households. It has flown the flag and chanted the slogans of empire. It has assumed with the economists that “economic forces” automatically work for good, and has assumed with the industrialists and militarists that technology determines history. It has assumed with almost everybody that “progress” is good, that it is good to be modern and up with the times. It has admired Caesar and comforted him in his depredations and defaults. But in its de facto alliance with Caesar, Christianity connives directly in the murder of Creation. For, in these days, Caesar is no longer a mere destroyer of armies, cities, and nations. He is a contradictor of the fundamental miracle of life. A part of the normal practice of his power is his willingness to destroy the world. He prays, he says, and churches everywhere compliantly pray with him. But he is praying to a God whose works he is prepared at any moment to destroy. What could be more wicked than that, or more mad?

The religion of the Bible, on the contrary, is a religion of the state and the status quo only in brief moments. In practice, it is a religion for the correction equally of people and of kings. And Christ’s life, from the manger to the cross, was an affront to the established powers of his time, as it is to the established powers of our time. Much is made in churches of the “good news” of the gospels. Less is said of the gospel’s bad news, which is that Jesus would have been horrified by just about every “Christian” government the world has ever seen. He would be horrified by our government and its works, and it would be horrified by him. Surely no sane and thoughtful person can imagine any government of our time sitting comfortably at the feet of Jesus, who is telling them to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. . . ” (Matt. 5:44).

In fact, we know that one of the businesses of governments, “Christian” or not, has been to re-enact the crucifixion. It has happened again and again and again. In A Time for Trumpets, his history of the Battle of the Bulge, Charles B. MacDonald tells how the SS Colonel Joachim Peiper was forced to withdraw from a bombarded chateau near the town of La Gleize, leaving behind a number of severely wounded soldiers of both armies. “Also left behind,” MacDonald wrote, “on a whitewashed wall of one of the rooms in the basement was a charcoal drawing of Christ, thorns on his head, tears on his cheeks — whether drawn by a German or an American nobody would ever know.” This is not an image that belongs to history, but is one that judges it.

Love Wins

 

Danita’s Children

Cherie and I are preparing to go visit an orphanage in Oanaminthe, Haiti. 

I’ll probably blog about the trip when we’re back.  In the meantime, check out the website, and consider supporting these folks, as they try to bring a little hope to a miserable suffering place.  http://www.danitaschildren.org/

The orphanage was started by Danita Estrella,  whose remarkable story can be seen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc6YPqEsLNA&feature=related

Haiti is by far the poorest nation in this hemisphere.  Disease and malnutrition is rampant.  Unemployment is so high that they don’t even keep track of it.  Child slavery is common, and social injustice is the norm.  The country’s enviroment has been destroyed by decades of abuse and irresponsibility.  Most of the people there live in abject poverty, almost beyond our imaginations.

Haiti is only 600 miles from Florida.  These are our neighbors.

Love Wins

 

The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness

Below is Dr. Donald Miller’s article “The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness,” from lewrockwell.com. I really like it. Enjoy.

The Austrian Cure for Economic Illness

An ill person may have diabetes or an infection. When an economy becomes ill people lose their jobs and watch the value of their homes and stock portfolios fall. A doctor evaluates symptoms and signs (physical findings), orders laboratory tests, and makes a diagnosis. Having determined the cause of the illness and its pathophysiology (how the disease alters bodily functions), the physician prescribes treatment and gives a prognosis, predicting how the patient will progress under the treatment and the likelihood of recovery.

Government officials and their financial advisors approach economic illness the same way–they diagnose the trouble, institute treatment, and provide a reassuring prognosis.

As in medicine, with its opposing schools of allopathic (pharmaceutically oriented) medicine and homeopathy, there are two diametrically opposed schools of economics: the Keynesian one and the Austrian School of economic thought. Based on the ideas of the John Maynard Keynes (1883�1946), a British economist, Keynesian economics is the one government officials, academic experts, pundits, journalists, editors, and establishment economists follow. Employing mathematical models, this school evaluates the economy from a macroeconomic perspective–as a whole. The Keynesian prescription for treating economic illness is more government spending, along with fiscal and monetary policies designed to achieve full employment and price stability.

Austrian economics focuses on the individual. Taking a microeconomic approach, this school studies the actions of individuals in the marketplace, where people act to achieve their chosen ends, governed by one’s perceived needs and wants. It eschews mathematical models. Instead, Austrian Economics addresses such subjects as marginal utility, the subjective theory of value, economic calculation, scarcity and choice, capital malinvestment, moral hazard, and the importance of free markets and a stable currency for setting prices.

Named for its country of origin, the Austrian School of economics was founded by Carl Menger (1840-1921), a professor of political economy at the University of Vienna from 1873 to 1903. Leading Austrian economists include his successor Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914); and then Henry Hazlitt (1894–1993), F.A. Hayek (1899-1992), Hans Sennholz (1922-2007), Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), and most importantly Ludwig von Mises (1881�1973), who taught at the University of Vienna from 1913�1934. His book Human Action, published in 1949, is the defining work of this school of thought. Austrian economics explains and predicted the last depression and also the one unfolding now.

The worst economic illness the U.S. has suffered so far is the Great Depression, which began in December 1930 with the collapse of the Bank of United States, a bank in New York not affiliated with the government. By 1932, more than 10,000 banks, 40 percent of all the banks in the country, had failed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, after reaching a high of 381 in 1929, dropped to 43 in 1932, an 89 percent fall. GNP dropped 31 percent. International trade fell by two-thirds. The unemployment rate climbed to 25 percent. The Great Depression lasted for 17 years, through the Second World War (WWII) until 1946.

From a Keynesian point of view, the government should have intervened with sufficient fiscal and monetary stimuli to keep the recession of 1929 from turning into a depression. The money supply contracted 30 percent and the velocity of money also declined (people held on to their money and didn’t want to spend it). Farm prices fell 53 percent. President Herbert Hoover is said to have done little to try and prevent the economy from sliding into depression. But he did, in fact, pursue a vigorous Keynesian line of attack.

A Hoover “New Deal” preceded the one that Franklin Roosevelt put in place after he became president in 1933. Hoover had been an activist Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. He was in favor of government intervention and embraced central economic planning, which he called “economic modernization.” He increased government spending on public works projects, propped up weak firms, and bolstered wage rates and prices, all to no avail. Hoover spent 13 percent of the GDP on various “stimuli” to combat the growing depression (compared to 5 percent of GDP President Obama is spending to stimulate the economy now–a $787 Billion stimulus package in a $14.1 Trillion economy). Nevertheless, despite three-and-a-half years of vigorous government spending in a Keynesian mold, the depression worsened and hit bottom by the time Roosevelt was inaugurated.

The Austrian School of economics holds the United States’ central bank, the Federal Reserve System, responsible for the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The business cycle–“boom-bust” cycle–is not a component of free-market capitalism, as the Keynesians would have it. The Austrian economists show that central banks and/or a government-sanctioned and supported fractional reserve banking system spawn cycles of boom and bust. Central banks inject new money into the economy and push interest rates below where the market would set them. These actions generate a boom, which ends in a bust. With interest rates held artificially low, entrepreneurs misdirect capital into unsustainable investments, creating malinvestments such as building too many shopping malls and an oversupply of expensive homes. Thomas Woods, author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse (2009), puts it this way:

The bust is the period in which the economy sloughs off the capital misallocation, re-establishes the structure of production along sustainable lines, and restores itself to health. The damage is done during the boom phase, the period of false prosperity.”

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law in 1913. It created the Federal Reserve System, with its presidentially appointed Board of Governors, twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks acting as fiscal agents for the U.S. Treasury, and in a 1930 amendment, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates. Wilson also signed the Revenue Act of 1913 into law after the 16th Amendment, permitting a federal income tax, was declared ratified earlier that year. As Austrian economists make clear, these two signal events helped turn our Republic into the Empire it is today.

The current era of big government began in 1913–except during the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861–1877), which serves as a prelude (like Das Rheingold to Wagner’s Ring Cycle). Prior to this watershed year federal government spending averaged 3 per cent of GDP–except during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It rose to 20 per cent of GDP during the First World War (WWI) and up to 44 percent in the Second World War (WWII). For the last half-century federal government spending has ranged between 17 and 24 per cent of GDP.

Wilson was a Progressive and believed that, if they had enough power, experts could make the world better. He wanted to expand the power of government to bring about a revolution in society, both at home and abroad. Seeking to “bring light and liberty and peace to all the world,” Wilson sent U.S. troops to intervene in a European war that had no bearing on American national interests. When U.S. troops arrived in France in 1917, this three-year-old war had reached a stalemate. With American troops coming in on the side of Britain, France, Russia, and their allies, however, the balance shifted; and in 1918 this coalition of states defeated Germany and its Central Power allies.

The Wilson-inspired Treaty of Versailles effectively destroyed Germany as an economically and politically viable nation and led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Had the United States not intervened and allowed the war to end in a stalemate, there would have been no Hitler and an intact Hohenzollern Germany could have thwarted the Bolshevik takeover of Russia and Central Asia and prevented the rise of Stalin. Wilson turned a stalemated European war into WWI, which led twenty years later to WWII.

Sixteen million people, soldiers and civilians, died in WWI; 72 million, in WWII. There are parallels between WWI leading to WWII and the Great Depression (GD-1) leading to the economic illness that now afflicts the world, which may come to be known as “Great Depression-2″ (GD-2).

Ignoring, or, more charitably, unaware of the tenets of Austrian economics, Roosevelt and his Progressive academic advisors, like Wilson, believed that the government could run the economy better than profit-seeking businessmen. They viewed businessmen as scoundrels and blamed the free-market economy for causing the depression. Roosevelt established many agencies, bureaus, and acts. The NRA (National Recovery Act) Code Authority, for example, established 700 state-supervised trade associations that codified union privileges; stipulated regulations for wages and working hours; and regulated qualities, prices, and distribution methods of what goods the Authority allowed to be produced. The AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) paid farmers to burn oats, plow under cotton, and kill millions of hogs in order to keep prices up. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) made government the employer of last resort.

Entrepreneurs and private investors became concerned about the security of their property rights and stopped investing. The unemployment rate remained high. Instead of recovering, the economy took a downturn and dropped to another low in 1937.

Keynesian economists think that WWII ended the depression. Unemployment dropped from 20 percent to 1 percent, but the rate dropped because 10 million men were drafted into the military. Government deficits of $3.5 Billion in the 1930s did not lift the U.S. economy out of its depressed state. Then during the war deficits peaked at $55 Billion ($2.2 Trillion in today’s dollars). Keynesians conclude that the right dose of the government-spending treatment needed to cure the depression was $55 Billion rather than the much smaller $3.5 Billion.

As the Austrian economic historian Robert Higgs has shown, the economy did not begin to recover from GD-1 until after the war had ended, and Roosevelt had died. During the war, with price controls and rationing, the public’s economic well-being deteriorated. Spending for civilian consumer goods declined through 1941–1943 and was still below the 1941 level when the war ended. People spent a lot of time in lines trying to purchase things. The quality of consumer goods deteriorated. Rationing of tires and gasoline limited where people could go. After the war, Federal spending contracted by two-thirds, freeing up money for businesses to invest for civilian purposes. And with a less threatening Harry Truman now president, investors became more sanguine about the security of their property and went back into the market.

War does not cure economic illness. Ludwig von Mises puts it this way: “War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

Measured by military and civilian deaths, World War II was four times worse than World War I. Likewise, the unfolding Great Depression-2 has the potential to become much worse and more protracted than the 1930–1946 Great Depression. In GD-1, the U.S. was a creditor nation. There were no subprime mortgages (and no property taxes), no credit cards (and thus no credit card debt), and no financial derivatives (there are $600 Trillion of them today). The country had a trade surplus. The U.S. now has a trade deficit (the gap between the nation’s imports and exports), ranging between $612 and $759 Billion a year since 2004.

Nine months into Great Depression-2, U.S. federal debt is $11.3 Trillion ($37,000 per capita). The government also has $62.9 Trillion in unfunded liabilities. Part of that amount is for Social Security, a legacy of the New Deal.

Tax receipts are plummeting. In the first six months of fiscal year 2009, which began in October 2008, income tax receipts fell 31 percent and corporate tax receipts, 64 percent. The budget deficit this April was $20.9 Billion, the first deficit in this tax-paying month in 26 years. April 2009 tax receipts dropped 44 percent compared with those in April 2008. Money collected by taxes is only going to cover half of the fiscal 2009 federal budget, requiring the government to borrow and print more than $1.8 Trillion to fund it. Equal-sized deficits loom for fiscal year 2010 onward. Tax receipts fell 50 percent in GD-1. Now eight months old, GD-2 is already rivaling that drop.

In the 1930s the country had a strong manufacturing base and was self-sufficient in oil. Only 12.2 million people in a total civilian labor force of 154.7 million (8 percent) are now employed manufacturing goods, while the government employs nearly twice that number, 22.6 million people (15 percent of the labor force).

The official government-reported “U3″ unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in May. Using the older “U6″ method it is 15.8 percent (this includes workers who have given up looking for a job and those working part-time who cannot find full-time work). The true rate of unemployment is closer to 20 percent, as John Williams shows in his Shadow Government Statistics Newsletter. For the last six months more than 500,000 people each month have lost their jobs. In March, 633,000 people lost their jobs; in April, 568,000–149,000 in manufacturing, 110,000 in construction, 269,000 in the service sector, and 40,000 lost jobs in the financial sector.

One in every 10 Americans, 32.5 million people, now receive food stamps. Fourteen million homes in America stand empty, one out of every nine. And the United States now imports 62 percent of its oil. The U.S. economy today is in a much more precarious state than it was at the onset of GD-1.

Americans trusted their currency in the 1930s, even after Roosevelt (in his April 5, 1933 Presidential Executive Order 6102) no longer allowed people to redeem their Dollars in gold–only central banks could still do this. President Richard Nixon closed the central-bank “Gold Window” in 1971, taking the Dollar completely off the gold standard. During GD-1 the U.S. Dollar was worth a fixed weight of gold. Now it is a fiat currency. The Latin word fiat means “let it be done,” and Nixon did it. The Dollar now is simply a piece of paper with printing on it, or it exists as electronic digits in a computer. It is not backed by any tangible assets. Nevertheless, the government declares the U.S. Dollar to be legal tender “for all debts public and private.” It is the only form of currency that people can use as a medium of exchange in the U.S. economy.

While the government can decree that it be used as a medium of exchange and serve as a unit of measurement, the U.S. Dollar has proved to be a poor store of value. A basket of goods that cost $100 in 1913, when the Fed was formed, cost $409 in 1971 and now cost $2,152. Over the 96 years that the Federal Reserve System has been in existence it has inflated the money supply (M2) 500-fold, from $16.4 Billion in 1914 to $8,264 Billion in April, 2009. The U.S. Dollar has lost 96 percent of its value. The life blood of an economy is its currency, which makes economic calculation and efficient markets possible. Federal Reserve monetary policy is like a cancer that is ravaging the body of a leukemic patient.

Given the true cause of the country’s economic illness, the only way to keep GD-2 from worsening and reaching WWII proportions is to take the following Austrian medicine:

1) End the Fed. Repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. If the economy is going to be able to recover any time soon, the market must be free to set interest rates, without a central bank that can inflate the money supply. The government must play no role in monetary affairs. Banks will exist as free-enterprise institutions with no privileges from the state; and if they engage in fractional reserve banking, they do so at their own risk.

2) Restore sound money to the economy. Have no legal tender laws that restrict what currency the market chooses to use. Privatize the country’s monetary system and allow the free market to determine the forms of money it prefers: gold and silver; new currencies based on gold and silver, or other commodities; PayPal dollars; a Google currency based on any number of goods; foreign currencies, etc. There has to be a separation of money and banking from the state, just as there is with church and state.

3) Lower taxes and cut government spending. Repeal the 16th Amendment and abolish the personal income tax. Like cutting government spending by two-thirds after WWII helped end GD-1, the government needs to cut spending by a similar amount in this depression. Close the 865 U.S. bases around the world, bring the troops home, and end the U.S. Empire. Abolish unconstitutional departments and programs like Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. Limit cabinet departments to State, Defense, and Justice. Cut the government’s budget as drastically as possible, thereby releasing resources for use by the productive sector of the economy. An economy where the government employs twice as many people as its manufacturing sector does will stay sick.

4) No bailouts. Stand aside and allow malinvestments, bankrupt firms, and insolvent banks to fail. The economy needs to liquidate all the mistakes made during the boom in order to recover from the bust.

5) Allow prices and wages to fall to levels set by the market. Government must not pass laws that prevent wages from adjusting to circumstances, despite pressure from vested interests and labor union monopolies. Prices are the vital signals that enable people to decide what to produce and consume. Propping them up artificially stifles recovery.

6) Regulate the government, not private property and markets. Investors will only make long-term investments that spur recovery and boost employment if they think that their property is secure. Fifteen cabinet-level departments control different aspects of the economy, along with 100 Federal regulatory agencies that have produced 73,000 pages of regulations � not including those set by state and local governments.

In a nut shell, this is the Austrian prescription for curing economic illness, as per Murray Rothbard in America’s Great Depression:

 

If government wishes to alleviate, rather than aggravate, a depression, its only valid course is laissez-faire–to leave the economy alone. Only if there is no interference, direct or threatened, with prices, wage rates, and business liquidation will the necessary adjustment proceed with smooth dispatch… The proper injunction to government in a depression is cut the budget and leave the economy strictly alone.

If government refuses to undergo this treatment, the economic collapse that some analysts are predicting will likely occur. A Weimar-Zimbabwe-like hyperinflation could result. If that happens, the suffering that a depression can cause will seem mild compared to the devastation an inflationary depression wreaks. The astute observer William Buckler, Editor and Publisher of the Privateer Market Letter, predicts:

The action of governments and central banks everywhere is guaranteeing a catastrophic collapse in the purchasing power of the money they are borrowing into existence. [And�]

The last of the big time spenders, the U.S. Treasury, is on a countdown to bankruptcy with its gargantuan borrowing. When it goes, the final U.S. underpinning–the international value of the U.S. Dollar–will go with it.

I recently finished rereading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It is timely. I certainly hope that an Obama-led U.S. economy does not go the way of the Thompson-led economy in Atlas Shrugged. There are some disturbing parallels. But we have some valuable resources in GD-2 that GD-1 lacked that can help cure this depression. We have Congressman Ron Paul, authors like Thomas E. Woods, Jr., sites like LewRockwell.com and Mises.org, and vast amounts of information available at our fingertips on the internet. Tea Parties reminiscent of the one that sparked the American Revolution have been held across the nation by students and people from all walks of life, and some states are beginning to assert their 10th Amendment rights.

Austrian economics is most compatible with a Jeffersonian republic–one with free trade, private property, and limited government.

There is hope. The treatment Austrian economics prescribes for 21st century America can restore us to the republic we once were and salvage our economy before its illness proves fatal.

Recommended Reading

Articles

Books

 

 

Love Wins

Deep Thoughts

By Jack Handey

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.
 
One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said. “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late. 
 

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis. 

 

Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself: “Mankind”. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – “mank” and “ind”. What do these words mean ? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind. 

 

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face. 

 

If you define cowardice as running away at the first sign of danger, screaming and tripping and begging for mercy, then yes, Mr. Brave man, I guess I’m a coward. 

 

I bet one legend that keeps recurring throughout history, in every culture, is the story of Popeye. 

 

When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges. 

 

To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other. 

 

We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can’t scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me. 
Probably the earliest flyswatters were nothing more than some sort of striking surface attached to the end of a long stick.

 

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.
 
Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his head out when you’re coming home his face might burn up. 

 

The memories of my family outings are still a source of strength to me. I remember we’d all pile into the car – I forget what kind it was – and drive and drive. I’m not sure where we’d go, but I think there were some trees there. The smell of something was strong in the air as we played whatever sport we played. I remember a bigger, older guy we called “Dad.” We’d eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you. 

 

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is “God is crying.” And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is “Probably because of something you did.” 

 

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone. 

 

If you’re a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it’s real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you. 

 

If you go parachuting, and your parachute doesn’t open, and you friends are all watching you fall, I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming. 

 

Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling. 

 

Whether they find a life there or not, I think Jupiter should be called an enemy planet. 

 

Instead of trying to build newer and bigger weapons of destruction, we should be thinking about getting more use out of the ones we already have. 

 

I think a good gift for the President would be a chocolate revolver. and since he is so busy, you’d probably have to run up to him real quick and give it to him. 

 

Just because swans mate for life, I don’t think its that big a deal. First of all, if you’re a swan, you’re probably not going to find a swan that looks much better than the one you’ve got, so why not mate for life? 

 

If you ever catch on fire, try to avoid looking in a mirror, because I bet that will really throw you into a panic.

 

Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead. No, wait, not me, you. 

 

I can’t stand cheap people. It makes me real mad when someone says something like, “Hey, when are you going to pay me that $100 you owe me?” or “Do you have that $50 you borrowed?” Man, quit being so cheap! 

 

I think the mistake a lot of us make is thinking the state-appointed shrink is our friend. 

 

If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet you could shoot beer out of you nose. 

 

I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex. 

 

If you’re in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it’ll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them. 

 

I think a good product would be “Baby Duck Hat”. It’s a fake baby duck, which you strap on top of your head. Then you go swimming underwater until you find a mommy duck and her babies, and you join them. Then, all of a sudden, you stand up out of the water and roar like Godzilla. Man, those ducks really take off! Also, Baby Duck Hat is good for parties. 
Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

Sometimes, when I lie in bed at night and look up at the stars, I think to myself, “Man! I really need to fix that roof.”

If you lived in the Dark Ages and you were a catapult operator, I bet the most common question people would ask is, “Can’t you make it shoot farther?” “No, I’m sorry. That’s as far as it shoots.”

Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he’s carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he’s carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you’re drunk.

I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I’d just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.

If you go flying back through time and you see somebody else flying forward into the future, it’s probably best to avoid eye contact.

It’s easy to sit there and say you’d like to have more money. And I guess that’s what I like about it. It’s easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.

Whenever you read a good book, it’s like the author is right there, in the room talking to you, which is why I don’t like to read good books.

Instead of a trap door, what about a trap window? The guy looks out it, and if he leans too far, he falls out. Wait. I guess that’s like a regular window.

During the Middle Ages, probably one of the biggest mistakes was not putting on your armor because you were “just going down to the corner.”

If I ever get real rich, I hope I’m not real mean to poor people, like I am now.

Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then on the way out, slam the door.

Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you’d look out your little window and think, “Boy, I’m glad I’m not out in that.”

Consider the daffodil. And while you’re doing that, I’ll be over here, looking through your stuff.

For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here’s a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?

It’s sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs.

Instead of having ‘answers’ on a math test, they should just call them ‘impressions’ and it you got a different ‘impression’ so what, can’t we all be brothers?

If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He like enchiladas, because that’s what He’s getting!

Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.

I hope that after I die, people will say of me: “That guy sure owed me a lot of money.”

If you get invited to your first orgy, don’t just show up nude. That’s a common mistake. You have to let nudity “happen.”

Ambition is like a frog sitting on a Venus Flytrap. The flytrap can bite and bite, but it won’t bother the frog because it only has little tiny plant teeth. But some other stuff could happen and it could be like ambition.

Can’t the Marx Brothers be arrested and maybe even tortured for all the confusion and problems they’ve caused?

How come the dove gets to be the peace symbol? How about the pillow? It has more feathers than the dove, and it doesn’t have that dangerous beak.

Instead of studying for finals, what about just going to the Bahamas and catching some rays? Maybe you’ll flunk, but you might have flunked anyway; that’s my point.

I hope that someday we will be able to put away our fears and prejudices and just laugh at people.

I hope, when they die, cartoon characters have to answer for their sins.

If they ever come up with a swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something.

It’s funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

Some people think clowns are funny.  Not me.  Clowns have always frightened me.  Maybe that’s because when were kids our Dad took us to the circus, and a clown killed him.

Love Wins