H. David Burton’s Creeping Socialism

By: Andrew S
April 10, 2011

The commitment of Church leaders to relieve human suffering was as certain as it was irrevocable. President Grant wanted “a system that would … reach out and take care of the people no matter what the cost.” He said he would even go so far as to “close the seminaries, shut down missionary work for a period of time, or even close the temples, but they would not let the people go hungry.” 3

Presiding Bishop H. David BurtonQuote-mining prophets and apostles past for specific effect has occurred forever and for every purpose, so that’s not really all that remarkable. But what perhaps was more remarkable for the listeners or viewers of the last General Conference (and now readers, for the April 2011 General Conference transcripts have been posted) — or at least, what was remarkable for me — was the selection of this quote from President Grant by Presiding Bishop H. David Burton in his Sunday morning session talk, The Sanctifying Work of Welfare.

Unlike Mormon Expression’s Tierza, who wrote:

The problem with conference is its utter banality.  If this is God’s one true church on the face of the Earth you would think that our most important meetings would be filled with something important.  Instead these hours of soothing male voices don’t offer solutions to life’s real problems.  They don’t even engage a call to action against poverty, hatred, or any other social ill.

…I felt that this conference — or at least most of the Sunday sessions — focused incredibly on life’s real problems…and they especially called to action to work to help these problems. I guess it was because Tierza only heard the Saturday sessions, while I only heard the Sunday ones. I suspected that perhaps the focus on the church’s welfare system was because of the recent natural disasters (and affiliated fallout [no macabre pun intended]) in Japan, but nevertheless…just look at that quote from President Grant!

Does President Monson have a similar perspective? And, if so, does the fact that the seminaries and temples are not being shut down imply that he believes the hungry have all been fed?

I digress; that isn’t even the question for today.

Joanna BrooksIn the #twitterstake, it was interesting to see certain liberal elements of Mormonism reflecting on talks like Burton’s. Joanna Brooks commented that several factors of General Conference led it to be a “Mormon liberal dream session.” Even from disaffected, post-, or at the very least heterodox Mormons, there was a sentiment that conference was “almost a promotion of a socialistic agenda.”

Now, I liked all the talk of the church’s welfare system too…but really…is it creeping socialism?

One thing I noticed even more than Burton’s (and other speakers’) mentioning of welfare was the almost lock-step follow-up of every mention with an emphasis on personal responsibility or self-reliance. Thus, we have another quote featuring a previous leader:

One of the distinguishing characteristics of this inspired gospel-centered endeavor is its emphasis on personal responsibility and self-reliance. President Marion G. Romney explained: “Many programs have been set up by well-meaning individuals to aid those who are in need. However, many of these programs are designed with the shortsighted objective of ‘helping people,’ as opposed to ‘helping people help themselves.’” 5

Silvia AllredAnd if one didn’t get the message from that talk, Sister Allred repeated in her talk, The Essence of Discipleship.

Despite the rapidly changing world, welfare principles have not changed with the passing of time because they are divinely inspired, revealed truth. When members of the Church and their families do everything they can to sustain themselves and still cannot meet basic needs, the Church stands ready to help. Short-term needs are met immediately, and a plan to help the recipient become self-reliant is established. Self-reliance is the ability to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.

All in all, I don’t necessarily find this “self-reliance” and “personal responsibility” stuff negative. Yet, as another tweeter, @youngph, note, these modifications suggest instead the Mormon *conservative* dream session.

But what really resonated with me were Sister Allred’s next lines:

As we increase our own level of self-reliance, we increase our ability to help and serve others the way the Savior did. We follow the Savior’s example when we minister to the needy, the sick, and the suffering. When love becomes the guiding principle in our care for others, our service to them becomes the gospel in action. It is the gospel in its finest moment. It is pure religion.

From here, I can see an ideal that I had not seen before — maybe because I don’t live it. Where the “conservative charity” and “liberal social net” ideals split is that the former envisions a world where each person — as they become more self-reliant, is freer to serve others in the way the Savior did. They gain self-reliance through a Gospel process that ideally transforms them to want to do this good continually, and so they do. So, this individualistic charity model offers greater personal growth and a more “elegant” end result than institutional or governmental welfare does.

…On the other hand, my reservations still poke through. We have to trust that self-reliant people will be driven to serve the poor to greater extents…but this requires a personal ethical transformation that isn’t certain (even among the faithful!). Can the poor really “wait” on people to become more Christ-like for individual/non-institutional charity to kick in or is a less personal social net a “lesser” evil?

114 Responses to H. David Burton’s Creeping Socialism

  1. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    We have to trust that self-reliant people will be driven to serve the poor to greater extents…but this requires a personal ethical transformation that isn’t certain (even among the faithful!). Can the poor really “wait” on people to become more Christ-like for individual/non-institutional charity to kick in or is a less personal social net a “lesser” evil?

    You don’t put your trust in the flesh. You put it in God and His ways. I’ll repost my scriptural analysis of this.

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  2. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden…. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

    Notice the context. He’s talking to the individual and says we will be judged on our own merits and let us, therefore, be good to all men. No mention of the government but the individual in the faith of Christ.

    Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day…. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

    People must take care of their own first.

    When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

    Jesus didn’t say, “Behold, my mother take her to the state and have them watch over her. You should visit her occasionally while they take charge of her.”

    Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    Where does it say that the state must love its servant as itself? No, this is an individual mandate. We are not judged in the collective, we are judged individually.

    And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.

    Where does it say that you should take your food to a central location by point of gun to give to others? No, the individual is responsible, voluntarily, to give to others (the poor).

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  3. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

    This goes well with Proverbs 6:30-31

    Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

    Even if a person is in dire hunger it is still not good that that person steals, or takes away from another person through an involuntary transaction, even if the majority of people agree that the person needs food and tell the other group of people that they are going to take food from them to give to the poor man, it is still theft and not approved of the Lord. It must be voluntary and the people must be willing to do it on their own (of course, they can create voluntary groups to get it done, as we’ll find in a scripture later on).

    But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [liberty defined by King Mosiah was the individual being responsible for themselves and their own sins], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself funspotted from the world.

    The individual is responsible for kind acts. No, one else, we will be judged on our own actions, not on those of others.

    Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

    How can it be any clearer? A man must do good works of his own volition, any other way just creates hypocrites.

    And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.

    Again, how can it be any clearer? Man must have his agency. But Lucifer tries to take it away. He lies by saying he can save all but it is not true, just the opposite. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Is that not what they say when they want to force people to help the poor? Don’t the fruits of this show the reality of their position? People living in perpetual poverty, communities built by the government having to be bulldozed because of the crime and neglect of the buildings, a continual decline in the standard of living for all, except for the ruling elite, of course. This only creates hypocrites and an indolent people.

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  4. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another [individual to individual]. And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance [the individual refused to give and will be judged individually], which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world. And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give [Notice this is voluntary that they give not]. And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received. And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man [the individual] according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants. And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order [God is a God of order, so should we use order in our lives and if we want to create a voluntary organization the better]; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

    See comments inside the quotation above.

    If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.

    Notice the pattern of God? He only asks for voluntary sacrifices from His people. Do we not try and emulate His ways in all things?

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  5. Joshua Whelpley on April 10, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Jon–who says it is the government who has to fulfill this role? I thick the post was directed to members of the Church. Do we really need to buy bmw’s while people starve. Do we need four tv’s in our homes while children die from malnutrition? Is a 4000 sq foot home needed while people live in shanty’s? There are far too many wealthy members of the church who are not obeying their Temple covenants to consecrate ALL.

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  6. mh on April 10, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    jon, I suppose the scriptures show anarchy is the best forms of government, and there were no kings or judges that ruled the people, right? anarchy is god’s true form of government, right? and you think you can find scriptural support for anarchy?

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  7. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    @Joshua Whelpley,

    My point was that we shouldn’t trust in the arm of flesh (the government) to do these things but to trust in God.

    The scriptures shown were meant to show that it is the individual who was given the mandate to help the poor.

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  8. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    @mh,

    I didn’t mean to bring anarchy into this discussion. Did I mention it in my posts?

    The prophets have denounced kings, although God did allow for it, and the natural consequences of kings was shown as mentioned by King Mosiah and Nephi and Samuel and I’m sure others.

    As for anarchy, some have used the second great commandment and proved through logic that anarchy (or the rule of law by natural law) would be the only consistent form of government. (Remember God is a God of logic and reason, therefore, we should be able to deduce the natural laws of God through logic and reason, of course, we should always look to the Holy Ghost to confirm the results of our pondering).

    We live in an imperfect world. I would be OK with minarchy (the rule of law under natural with governments of force at the very local level – even to the family level – with minimal rule and the more centralized governments at higher levels (state and federal governments) with little to no power, i.e., the federal government would protect us from foreign invasion but not to a plethora of other things.

    I can give you a link to someone that has done a lot of work on looking at the scriptures to ascertain what the properly rule of government is. But only if you are interested in learning with an open mind.

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  9. Mike S on April 10, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    I find it supremely ironic that Bishop Burton is even being mentioned in connection with socialism. His talk is merely paying lip service. Follow the adage: Put your money where your mouth is.

    For the past 25 years (including under Bishop Burton), the Church has averaged about $13 million per year in actual cash spent on humanitarian needs. This includes fast offerings to the poor in our own areas as well as money given to the Japanese Red Cross, for example.

    Contrast this with Bishop Burton recently being lauded as a “giant of the city” in Salt Lake City for his masterminding the $3 BILLION the Church has spent on a mall complex.

    So, he may pay lip service to helping the poor among us, but given his actions, I don’t think the Church is in any danger in slipping from capitalism into socialism. At least on Bishop Burton’s watch or under the current leadership.

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  10. Howard on April 10, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    The quote is ironic we build buildings while Africa needs clean water and sanitation.

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  11. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Howard,

    “The quote is ironic we build buildings while Africa needs clean water and sanitation.”

    Howard, do you have any data that any organization outside of the Church is doing more in Africa to help improve the clean water and sanitation situation?

    http://newsroom.lds.org/article/clean-water-projects

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  12. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I always find it fascinating that some people use the word socialism as a pejorative when, in fact, many nations in the world, including ours have some vestige of social democracy. These so-called socialistic tendencies are just as based on “Christian” principles as anything else in this nation.

    In fact, one could view the free market and capitalist way of life as about as unchristian as it gets. Where unbridled greed and wealth hording as taken over the nation as a revered trait and any social activity that might improve the living standards of the poor as some blight on our nation.

    Seems we have it backwards.

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  13. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    MikeS,

    I am wondering if there are other organizations that you are aware of that puts more money toward reliving the suffering of the poor and downtrodden as the Church as a function of their overall wealth?

    You are critical of the church but which organizations actually do it better? Including responding in the event of a national disaster for both its members and non-members?

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  14. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    the Marion G Romney quote is of course a moving of the goalposts from Heber J Grant’s quote. HJG wrote:

    President Grant wanted “a system that would … reach out and take care of the people no matter what the cost.”

    MGR wrote:

    “Many programs have been set up by well-meaning individuals to aid those who are in need. However, many of these programs are designed with the shortsighted objective of ‘helping people,’ as opposed to ‘helping people help themselves.’”

    Note the goalpost moving? President Grant wanted a system that would reach out and take care of people no matter the cost. Nothing in there about helping people help themselves. Sounds exactly, or near enough, like governmental programs that aid the poor. Help the people “no matter the cost.” I think we become shortsighted if we’re only going to focus on programs that “help people help themselves.”

    Furthermore, I would love to see the church attempt to take on the massive challenge of caring for this nation’s poor at the same level that the federal and state governments do. I think sometimes people do not realize just how costly it is to take care of the poor “no matter the cost.”

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  15. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Jeff,

    You are critical of the church but which organizations actually do it better? Including responding in the event of a national disaster for both its members and non-members?

    If I may have a go, I don’t think the criticism of how the church spends its money is necessarily benefited by comparing with other organizations, even other religious organizations. The question is, does the church match its words with its actions? Do we “help people no matter the cost?”

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  16. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    “The question is, does the church match its words with its actions? Do we “help people no matter the cost?””

    Well, if you are making the case that “no matter the cost,” has to mean spending all your money, that is different than no matter the cost being we’ll pay the price for helping the poor, no matter what. One must put into context who Grant was referring to. I doubt he meant the entire world, I doubt he meant much outside of Utah or Church members.

    The US government, in fact world governments have proven no matter the cost doesn’t work. Because they have a cost of setting up the incredible bureaucracies to help the poor, which in some cases cost more than the help they actually provide.

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  17. Troth Everyman on April 10, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    “In fact, one could view the free market and capitalist way of life as about as unchristian as it gets. Where unbridled greed and wealth hording as taken over the nation as a revered trait and any social activity that might improve the living standards of the poor as some blight on our nation.”

    Indeed! A great illustration of calling good evil and evil good.

    Seems we have it backwards

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  18. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Jeff,

    I am well aware of the stereotypical argument against “government bureaucracy” as being something bloated, and all that, but if you consider Medicare, for instance, Medicare is cheaper than private care would be because its overhead costs are lower.

    What I was meaning about looking forward to seeing the church manage a system that assists as many people as governmental programs do, is that when we parade about the virtues of the church welfare system, we fail to account for the fact that it represents such a small section of the overall aid to the poor in this country. Would the church welfare system, for instance, create subsidized housing for the poor that could match both the breadth and the quality of governmental housing for the poor? Take for instance here in New York, there are many, many areas of housing projects. They are not mansions, in the least, but compare with, say, India that does not have such programs, housing projects here in the US are quite good. They assist the poor so that they have shelter. The burden is shifted to both the poor and to taxpayers. Can the church manage such a system without becoming a “bloated bureaucracy?”

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  19. Steve on April 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Jeff,

    The Church is a relatively small player in terms of humanitarian aid.

    You had questioned whether any other organization provides as much aid. Many provide far, far more.

    For instance, disasters. The Church provides about $15 million a year in cash aid. The American Red Cross totals about $2 billion a year. Catholic charities in the US are in the hundreds of millions. Every major US charity provides far more than the LDS Church.

    We sometimes forget how relatively small we are.

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  20. Howard on April 10, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Jeff thank you for the link. No I don’t have comparitive data however I am aware of the church’s efforts in Africa and they are quite small compared to the size of the problem. About half of rural Africa is without clean water for drinking and irrigation about two thirds lacks sanitation. Africa’s situation is unique in the world today. Meanwhile we continue building buildings this doesn’t come close to closing seminaries, missionary work or temples.

    Grant may well have been referred to Utah but Burton quoting them today implies that they should be scaled up to take into consideration that we are a world church.

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  21. alice on April 10, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    #19 Don’t forget Doctors without Borders.

    Altho their giving is in medical services performed by volunteers and medical supplies dispensed and not quite so easily translated into dollars they are always there when an emergency happens anywhere in the world. And their record in turning donations over into services delivered is top rate.

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  22. Steve on April 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Another very large foundation is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has an endowment of over $32 billion and gives away over $1.5 billion a year in charitable projects.

    That is 100x the annual effort of the LDS Church.

    It is odd how Mormons think the Church is a dominant force with respect to charitable giving. After Katrina, I heard many who claimed that the LDS Church was driving the cleanup. We contributed a small fraction of the manpower and an even smaller fraction of the dollars.

    I suspect most members read the Church press releases and devalue the far more direct contributions of others. I don’t get that.

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  23. Larry on April 10, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    I think the Lord hates poverty and what it does to his children; but he equally dissapproves of greed, covetousness and selfishness. So before I cheer the free market too much or seek to increase the extent of our social democracies, perhaps I should consider the following:

    1. How generous are my faster offerings…really… and for that matter do I give to the perpetual education fund? …

    2. The “isms” (socialism, capitalism, etc)don’t quite get it right either. The isms fail because they envision a societal goal and seek to impose (or implement) it on a macro basis without addressing the need for individuals to change. The Lord’s plan seeks first to change the individual and then the individuals can change the failings of their society. Poverty will never be eliminated until the people become righteous.

    3.Since the Lord will not impose righteousness by force, Jon’s points about voluntary contributions are correct.

    4. In order to be effective there will need to be some coordination and direction fo resources. It’s really not reasonable to think that each guy looking out for his geographic neighboor will be all that is needed to do things the Lord’s way.

    5. But when the giver, the administrator and the recipient are righteous, the delivery system has a pretty good chance of working the way it should; but if corruption exists in any of those links the whole thing can get messed up.

    6. The system of Fast Offerings works remarkably well considering it’s funded and administered by potentially flawed people.

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  24. Jon on April 10, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    @Jeff,

    These so-called socialistic tendencies are just as based on “Christian” principles as anything else in this nation.

    In fact, one could view the free market and capitalist way of life as about as unchristian as it gets. Where unbridled greed and wealth hording as taken over the nation as a revered trait and any social activity that might improve the living standards of the poor as some blight on our nation.

    I find it interesting that those on the left lift themselves up so, and consider themselves morally superior to any other philosophy other than their own. I find it interesting how liberals lift themselves up and act like they are so benevolent when they don’t give of their own money voluntarily but require theft to do “good”. I find it interesting that those on the left bastardize well meaning philosophies and create lies out of what the philosophies really say.

    I find it offensive that liberals say that those that don’t agree with them don’t care about the poor. I don’t go around saying you don’t care about the poor. I believe you do. I just think your system is fundamentally flawed in that it relies on violence to achieve its ends. I think we should be consistent and not use violence but love. I say, love on another as Jesus loves us. Yet you bastardize that and say that I (and those that agree with me) don’t care. I do care, that’s why I believe a free market system can lead more people out of poverty then any socialist system ever could.

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  25. MH on April 10, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Jon, it appeared to me that Joshua in comment 5 didn’t understand your point of view. Since you are an anarchist, I felt it important for Joshua to understand that your perspective is from an anarchist. To me, it was clear you weren’t advocating people buying BMW’s at the expense of the poor, but your comments were hard to understand. I was trying to let those who are not familiar with you to know that you have some unconventional ideas. (I’d prefer to call them wacky, but I’m trying to be nice.)

    For you to find anything offensive from liberals or conservatives is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. I don’t know why we have so many anarchists frequenting the blog so much lately, but I find these ideas that anarchy is a cure for the nations ills quite offensive (to use your terminology.) I will say that Justin is a much better spokesman for anarchy than you are, but that’s not saying much.

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  26. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Jon,

    “I find it offensive that liberals say that those that don’t agree with them don’t care about the poor. I don’t go around saying you don’t care about the poor.”

    Since you have a tendency to excoriate the left such as,”I find it interesting that those on the left…” ten you need to be realistic that those on the right are in fact attempting to gut social programs in the name of reducing the budget while leaving defense, corporate welfare and huge tax cuts for the rich totally intact.

    So while you yourself may not hate the poor, the folks you are fond of quoting and supporting are attempting to pull the rug out form under them.

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  27. Jeff Spector on April 10, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Steve,

    “For instance, disasters. The Church provides about $15 million a year in cash aid. The American Red Cross totals about $2 billion a year. Catholic charities in the US are in the hundreds of millions. Every major US charity provides far more than the LDS Church.”

    With respect to the Red Cross, I appreciate you bringing that up. The American Red Cross derives most of income from the sale of blood products that are donated by individuals. they take in about 3.6B a year in revenue and expend about 3.1B. Most of those expenditures are for Blood products. The total relief aid is about $500M. they also pay our about 1.2B in salaries and benefits and have a $2B pension obligation hanging over their head. So they do a heck of a lot of good, no doubt, but their financial statement isn’t quite as good as you make it out to be. Also, that is the only thing they do. They have no other mission in life but to serve the public.

    And with the Catholic charities, also a wonderful organization, but I ask again how much do their give as a proportion of the overall wealth of the Catholic Church that would be a more equal comparison.

    I repeat what I have always said the Church could do more. But, I am not sure they are the slackers they are accused of being.

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  28. Steve on April 10, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Jeff –

    Some good points.

    I was responding to your statement questioning whether other groups expend more compared to their wealth than the LDS church.

    A quick clarification. I had in my head that the American Red Cross’ charitable function was $2 billion per year. It is actually $1.2 billion (the $500 million is U.S. disaster relief only — it excludes other charitable work). Still, that number is roughly 80x that of the LDS Church.

    Now, that is not a criticism of the Church. But, it does put the relative size in perspective.

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  29. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    Larry,

    Poverty will never be eliminated until the people become righteous.

    Are you implying that poor people are not righteous?

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  30. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    That Jon thinks the anarchy of Somalia is akin to the kingdom of Heaven, or the church, is what is highly offensive. Frankly I do not understand what of Christ’s teachings draw anarchists to Him. Then again I have no idea why Ayn Rand’s selfish Objectivism has any traction among Christians.

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  31. Dan on April 10, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Steve,

    Still, that number is roughly 80x that of the LDS Church.

    Now, that is not a criticism of the Church. But, it does put the relative size in perspective.

    Well said. We have to remember that the Red Cross as an organization has a far greater reach than our church does, with more people providing it money than our church gets. In the US, there are probably 6 million members, and maybe about 2 or 3 million active members. 3 million members is only 1% of the entire population of this country.

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  32. mcarp on April 10, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    The quote about shutting seminaries and temples is ironic, given that they announced new temples (including one in Meridian, ID, which will be less than 5 miles from the temple in Boise)and the fact that the SLC mall is costing billions makes me wonder how many people we could help with all that money.

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  33. David on April 10, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    I have to agree with Mike @#9 on this one.

    Context, in my mind, is everything. In the scriptures, understanding the context behind something may mean the difference between misreading something or having a “light” come on. In real life, understanding context helps diminish and/or eliminate misunderstandings. And yet, in our small LDS subculture, we seem to ignore and/or want to sweep the context of Burton’s talk swiftly under the rug as if it has no bearing whatsoever on what Burton said.

    In EQ today, I thought of this thread on Burton. The lesson was on honesty and the quote the teacher shared was:

    “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

    Now – I’m NOT stating Burton is being dishonest. At all. But, for all of us involved in this discussion, we simply aren’t being honest if we ignore the context of Burton’s talk.

    With that in mind, does Burton’s actions match the words he states, regardless of the “isms” we attach to the OP. Specifically, does Burton’s opening salvo really pass the test based on his actual actions as being the leader over all things temporal of the Church:

    “In 1897 a young David O. McKay stood at a door with a tract in his hand. As a missionary in Stirling, Scotland, he had done this many times before. But on that day a very haggard woman opened the door and stood before him. She was poorly dressed and had sunken cheeks and unkempt hair.

    She took the tract Elder McKay offered to her and spoke six words that he subsequently would never forget: “Will this buy me any bread?”

    Therefore, I think the appropriate question should be: will [insert project here] buy me any bread?

    Will the City Creek Center buy the poor any more bread? Will the redevelopment of downtown Ogden buy the poor any more bread? Will the for-profit ranches of the Church buy the poor any more bread? And on and on.

    And, based on what we can see from what Burton has shared and others, I think the answer is [at this point] a safe no. Burton has specifically stated that there will be absolutely ZERO Church presence at the City Creek Center and, as such, I can’t help but draw the conclusion that there will be very little (if anything) done to take care of the poor, to buy them some food, to care for them.

    And, based on the way the Church businesses are run, I can’t help but think that the profit (if any) from the CCC or other projects is strictly off limits for other projects. As such, I doubt very much any of it will be used to help the poor, or buy the poor some bread.

    That’s not to say the Church won’t help the poor in additional ways, but that help won’t come from projects like CCC or other projects. That help comes from Fast Offerings… and, at least within the church, from very few other places technically speaking.

    But, to give a crude conclusion to this portion on context, I think we are simply missing 90% of the conversation on Burton’s talk if we forget about the CCC and Burton’s efforts to get the CCC designed and built.

    ================

    As to comparing the Church to similar foundations/corporations, I think those comparisons are misguided, especially with regard to the latter. Corporations have a distinctly different “mission” which is generally based on pure profit motives. Foundations are a decent comparison, but the Church has only itself to look to in this vein.

    So, it might be inventory time. Is it giving enough? Is it doing all it can to alleviate suffering, to help and succor the poor? The Church, given it’s status in the world, simply can’t do ALL things, but it can do SOMEthing. And, by that measure, is the Church giving or doing enough?

    Is giving $50 million/year (rounding up based on Church figures) sufficient?

    From every estimate I’ve seen, it can be assumed that the church brings in an average of $7 billion annually (I’d suggest it’s closer to $10 billion, if not more). But, let’s assume it’s only $7 billion.

    If the Church gives away $50 million per year in cash or donations of some sort, then the church is giving away 0.71% of all it’s incoming funds in any given year towards that end.

    Apply that to my life. Last year (2010), I made approximately $30k per my tax filing. If I were to give away 0.71% of my income, that would be the equivalent of me giving away $214. That’s all that’s required to match the Church’s level. Assume I made $100k, then I’d need to give away $714. That’s it.

    Not much, right. The Church doesn’t even give away a tithe of it’s income. To give away a tithe, the Church would be giving away $700 million annually. And, per the Church’s own documents, it’s only given away $1.3 billion since the mid-1980s.

    All I can do is point out the figures and apply it to how I live my life. The Church asks that I donate 10% of my income as a tithe, plus a generous fast offering. Assume, for practical purposes, that’s 15% of my income. I have no issue with that. I do have an issue, though, with the Church asking me to do that and not even closely approaching the same standard themselves. 15% of their annual income would be nearly $1.1 billion dollars, or nearly the same amount the Church has donated/given to the poor in the past 25+ years.

    If that’s the case, then I think its certain the Church isn’t doing all it could be doing. I think it’s safe to say there is more it could be doing.

    How much more? I think that’s a fair question….

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  34. David on April 10, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    P.S.

    I just finished reading Burton’s talk, and thought of one more point in the whole “contextual” analysis. Burton closed his talk with this:

    “Seventy-five years ago a system devoted to the spiritual and temporal salvation of mankind rose from humble beginnings. Since that time it has ennobled and blessed the lives of tens of millions of people throughout the world. The prophetic welfare plan is not merely an interesting footnote in the history of the Church. The principles upon which it is based define who we are as a people. It is the essence of who we are as individual disciples of our Savior and Exemplar, Jesus the Christ.”

    In an article in the NY Times back in early 2010, “Church Officials” highlighted the City Creek Project as a “throwback” to church efforts in the 1930s and as a modern day analogy to the same “church welfare program” highlighted throughout the Sunday sessions. No mention of it was given in Sunday’s conference, so perhaps they’ve backtracked from that a bit – or at least honed the message so that this viewpoint is only shared in certain mediums, but it is an interesting parallel “Church Officials” have drawn: a for-profit multi-billion dollar investment versus the Church Welfare system which is largely funded through member donated fast offerings.

    That same article, incidentally, speaks of a “another huge development project called the Northwest Quadrant near the airport, where the church owns a swath of land used long ago as a Depression-era church farm” that the SL City Council is considering. So, add that to the list of projects to be used as a comparison to helping the poor.

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  35. Larry on April 11, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    Dan — What I meant when I wrote that “poverty would never be eliminated until the people become righteous” is simply this: both the poor and the rich can be flawed as noted by the Lord in D&C 56, particularly verses 16 & 17.

    16 Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your driches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The eharvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

    17 Wo unto you apoor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not clabor with your own hands!

    I think that for the Lord’s system to work — and this has happened only a few times in history — i.e., the city of Enoch, Melchizedek’s Salem and among the Nephites in 4 Nephi — both the giver and the recipient have to get it right…

    So while there is room for error on both sides, reading the rest of this section and other scriptures on the same subject leads me to think that the greater propensity to sin lies probably with the rich. Why? Well there seem to be more scriptures chastizing the rich and the promised blessings to the poor are greater — see D&C 56:18-20 — (in fact I don’t recall any promises to the rich…:)

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  36. Andrew S on April 11, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Thanks for commenting, everyone!

    I was away at a fencing tournament during this weekend (I’m typing this from the hotel), but I’ll try to get to many of your comments.

    re 1-4,

    Jon,

    OK, I get the whole individual thing. But why should we tolerate people going without help because individuals aren’t helping? That is why I asked:

    Can the poor really “wait” on people to become more Christ-like for individual/non-institutional charity to kick in?

    At this point, you said, “Don’t put your trust in the flesh…put it in God.” But I think my statement is a statement of not putting trust in the flesh (i.e., I DON’T think individuals can be trusted to help the poor.) I just don’t think that God really delivers either on this point.

    re 23:

    Larry

    2. The “isms” (socialism, capitalism, etc)don’t quite get it right either. The isms fail because they envision a societal goal and seek to impose (or implement) it on a macro basis without addressing the need for individuals to change. The Lord’s plan seeks first to change the individual and then the individuals can change the failings of their society. Poverty will never be eliminated until the people become righteous.

    My question to you is similar to my question to Jon. I get the whole need for individuals to change. BUT it just doesn’t seem to me that the Lord is doing a great job of changing individuals, and as a result individuals aren’t doing a great job of changing the failings of society.

    However, we do know that many social welfare systems — even if they aren’t perfect, do *something*.

    OR, let me try to put it in a different way. A radical new argument.

    Some people argue that “the church” is not a monolithic entity, but simply the people within it.

    In that case, why couldn’t “government” not be a monolithic entity, but simply the people within it? In this case, strong social welfare systems would represent the people’s individual changes to support the poor.

    re 29:

    Dan,

    Regardless of what Larry meant by the poor, I think the quote could certainly come to mean that the well-off around the poor are not righteous. Since Larry only supports personal, individual charity, the individuals who don’t help are not righteous…but the problem is if you go by this, you won’t get anywhere…because duh, individuals are not righteous.

    (Oh, Larry addressed this in 35.)

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  37. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    @MH,

    Well, it appears that you did so in a deceptive way. I don’t think I can really even trust your motives for your posts anymore. The comments I made were consistent from a libertarian and even conservative point of view, anarchism had nothing to do with my statements. It appears you just want to slander me. You are not a very nice person.

    I don’t know why we have so many anarchists frequenting the blog so much lately, but I find these ideas that anarchy is a cure for the nations ills quite offensive (to use your terminology.)

    I love reading W&T, I think they have interesting views. But you are telling me there is a litmus test to comment on this blog? I always thought this blog was supposed to be inclusive to different ideas. You are saying if the ideas are too radical for you then those people aren’t welcome? Why are you Mormon if you can’t except radical views? Is not Mormonism radical and different?

    The reason I find your views offensive is because you preach hate to the conservatives because they preach helping the poor in a different way then you do. You find my ideas offensive because they teach love. I don’t know why you find love offensive. The ideas I embrace say the republicans and the democrats are in error, which is consistent with a libertarian viewpoint. I don’t think republicans nor democrats mean bad, but when you look at the principles and I look at the actions and ideologies I find they both democrats and republicans are in error. I have heard nothing from you that would tell me otherwise, I only seek for the truth.

    One reason that I like the libertarians is because they know the principles/truth and then they say, well the principle is this but I don’t believe it would work so I will go against the principles. Neither the democrats nor republicans can say that, they have no principles that are consistent. Let me know the theory and lets debate on that.

    All you want to do is denounce the organization I quote but you haven’t even given them a chance, you make assumptions without even knowing very much about the institution, just because you don’t want to really know if they are correct your not, you try and slander rather than look for truth. If that is what you stand for then I will just stop the blogversation with you. I prefer to just talk to people that want to seek for truth, not those that just want to slander those that they disagree with.

    I will say that Justin is a much better spokesman for anarchy than you are, but that’s not saying much.

    I haven’t heard Justin talk anything about economics and anarchy, so I wouldn’t know his views. Do you know what they are? The only things I read from him on anarchy were on social issues, which I agree with him (I don’t agree with the tribes stuff at all) that people should be allowed to do what they will, as long as you aren’t trespassing on someone else’s property (e.g., stealing, breaking contracts, etc) you’re OK. I believe that God will punish the wicked and that people should use the “shaming” principle or the persuasion principle to effect change on society.

    So if you want to argue with me any more use principles and stop the name calling and the untrue slandering.

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  38. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    Larry,

    I think that for the Lord’s system to work — and this has happened only a few times in history — i.e., the city of Enoch, Melchizedek’s Salem and among the Nephites in 4 Nephi — both the giver and the recipient have to get it right…

    It may not be wise to bring these examples of what we should shoot for. Out of the hundreds of billions of people who have ever lived on the earth over thousands of years of history, only three times did we get it right? And on a very very VERY small scale too! Two cities and a completely isolated civilization. That does not sound like the Lord’s system has a very good batting average. Joseph Smith attempted such a system in the 1830s to failure. Two of your examples also ended up shifting away from that utopia back into typical characteristics. One of them actually ended up wiping out its own civilization! And then the third was taken from the earth! Rapture indeed!

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  39. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    @Jeff,

    I only “excoriate” those on the left because they are the ones that are trying to debate me (but just arguing rather than debating the actual principles of the matter).

    I do not defend the republicans nor their policies, neither does the Mises Institute. I disagree with the way they are going about things and I think they should be more principled. Yes, they should get rid of corporate welfare before stopping welfare for the poor, they should stop the warfare state before they stop corporate welfare.

    So while you yourself may not hate the poor, the folks you are fond of quoting and supporting are attempting to pull the rug out form under them.

    Once again, the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell website are not against the poor, but are truly for the poor. They believe, as do I, that the best way to help the poor is by making them free. By making it so the true order of God exists to help the poor, as Larry mentioned above. You may disagree with their method and principles but you cannot say that they don’t want to help the poor and that they don’t care for the poor.

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  40. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    Jon,

    Is not Mormonism radical and different?

    I guess you missed President Hinckley’s 60 Minutes interview in which he tried hard to portray Mormons as mainstream, not extreme. The church has moved away from extremism and radicalism realizing how unsustainable extremism is for the growth of the church.

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  41. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Jon,

    Once again, the Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell website are not against the poor, but are truly for the poor. They believe, as do I, that the best way to help the poor is by making them free.

    Giving them money does wonders to making them free…and no, they don’t want to help the poor. They want the poor to fend for themselves. That’s the whole point of “personal responsibility” and “free men.”

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  42. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    @Andrew S,

    At this point, you said, “Don’t put your trust in the flesh…put it in God.” But I think my statement is a statement of not putting trust in the flesh (i.e., I DON’T think individuals can be trusted to help the poor.) I just don’t think that God really delivers either on this point.

    Just as the Israelites put their trust in the flesh so do people that put their trust in the state, the state becomes their god to seek for sustenance, but God has taught us that He is the bread of life (manna) and that when we trust Him and His ways then we will not want. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah was, in part, destroyed for not taking care of the poor and the widows, etc.

    Their is a principle that it is not OK to steal, even if it is for food, as illustrated in Larry’s comment and in my scriptures that I quoted.

    I just don’t think that God really delivers either on this point.

    God has told us His ways and if you don’t trust Him, that is your prerogative. I do. I think He does help the poor. I think introducing statist policies has led to more poor and more dependency. We have enslaved the poor rather than set them free. We have created generational poor. That’s what the facts on the ground say.

    I believe your heart is pure in wanting to help the poor. I just believe the methods are wrong. That the scriptures tell us different. That it is not OK to steal, even for food.

    I also think you underestimate the human spirit. I know many poor people and it is quite amazing how they help each other in times of need.

    In that case, why couldn’t “government” not be a monolithic entity, but simply the people within it? In this case, strong social welfare systems would represent the people’s individual changes to support the poor.

    Because the government represents a violent way of doing this instilling fear in the people. Try not paying your taxes and then try defending your property, you’ll soon be 6 feet under. Force does not equate to charity. It will only make hypocrites of the people. Ask a person that believes the government needs to help the people to give and what is the answer? The answer is, that’s the government’s responsibility. I’ve gotten that answer before. Yes, I know you probably wouldn’t say that and would be willing to pull out your wallet, but that is the type of citizenry that socialism creates.

    Also, you assume that greed doesn’t exist in the government and that the motives of the governmental official isn’t impure. There’s a reason Obama and his cohorts do not want to be part of the new health care plan. This isn’t rule of law when the rulers are treated differently than us peons.

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  43. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    @Tory,

    The church has moved away from extremism and radicalism realizing how unsustainable extremism is for the growth of the church.

    Well, last I heard the church hasn’t gotten rid of the temples and the Book of Mormon. Therefore, the church is still pretty extreme.

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  44. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Jon,

    God has told us His ways and if you don’t trust Him, that is your prerogative. I do. I think He does help the poor

    Don’t say something like this when there are millions of people who die of starvation. God does NOT help the poor.

    We have created generational poor. That’s what the facts on the ground say.

    In Bizzarro world…

    I just believe the methods are wrong. That the scriptures tell us different. That it is not OK to steal, even for food.

    Once again, how little you know those scriptures…

    http://bible.cc/matthew/12-1.htm

    That would be called stealing. But guess what, it is allowed under the Law of Moses when need is great. Stop pretending libertarian/anarchist ideology in any way shape or form represents the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Force does not equate to charity.

    Tax is not charity. Never was. Never has been. Except in Bizzarro world.

    btw, in comment, #43, my name is not @Tory.

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  45. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    @Tory,

    Once again, how little you know those scriptures…

    http://bible.cc/matthew/12-1.htm

    That would be called stealing. But guess what, it is allowed under the Law of Moses when need is great. Stop pretending libertarian/anarchist ideology in any way shape or form represents the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Read the old testament. It tells the farmers to leave food at the corners of their fields for the poor to get. Nope, not stealing, that’s what they were left there for.

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  46. Jeff Spector on April 11, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Jon,

    What is clear is there are those who cannot fend for themselves. We are supposed to take care of them. If the churches and Christians had done a reasonable job over the years, there would have been no need for government involvement.

    But what has the capitalist system wrought. Greed, dishonesty, lack of caring for the poor.

    Your institutes would leave these people without a recourse. We need to reduce the numbers because of we have created a bunch of freeloaders as John Stossel likes to point out.

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  47. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Jon,

    Dude what’s with the Tory thing? Aren’t you the one who decried name calling?

    Read the old testament. It tells the farmers to leave food at the corners of their fields for the poor to get. Nope, not stealing, that’s what they were left there for.

    Care to share the verse?

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  48. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    @Dan,

    Yes, you are right, I shouldn’t name call. I guess my blood pressure is rising, I should take a break from this. Can’t convince people of anything, nor even get anyone to concede points.

    And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.

    Do a search with some of the phrases in their to get the exact verses. I don’t remember the verses.

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  49. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    http://bible.cc/leviticus/23-22.htm

    “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’”

    The ironic part, of course, is that God doesn’t give his people much choice. Either they obey him or they die. Hmmm…maybe we shouldn’t look to the Old Testament for guidance in a representative democracy…

    However, this was the verse of more interest:

    http://bible.cc/deuteronomy/23-25.htm

    If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.

    Which essentially allows for people to steal from others for food. That goes against what you said earlier when you said:

    I just believe the methods are wrong. That the scriptures tell us different. That it is not OK to steal, even for food.

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  50. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    But you ignore:

    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

    This goes well with Proverbs 6:30–31

    Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

    No, it’s voluntary to have people take food from certain parts of your crops. Either that or the scriptures are inconsistent, if they are inconsistent then I’ll go with what makes logical sense to me, which is, thou shalt not steal.

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  51. jmb275 on April 11, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    I’m pretty disappointed in this thread. I continue to be amazed at the ignorance of free-markets, anarchism, etc. Has anyone bashing Ayn Rand actually read her? If so, can you please point out a valid argument against her philosophy that goes beyond:
    1. she has no philosophy degree
    2. she’s an atheist
    3. she teaches selfishness and greed

    NONE of those arguments are valid. I’m at a loss for words for how ignorant people are about the nature of free-markets, capitalism, anarchy, corporatism, etc. THOSE ARE NOT THE SAME! Stop treating them as if they’re the same thing. America does not have a free market economy. It has a corporatist economy. That’s where the greed and selfishness comes from.

    For you to find anything offensive from liberals or conservatives is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black. I don’t know why we have so many anarchists frequenting the blog so much lately, but I find these ideas that anarchy is a cure for the nations ills quite offensive (to use your terminology.)

    Come on, MH. Pot calling the kettle black? Anarchy seeks to maximize liberty, it makes the fewest assumptions about anything. Socialism uses violence as a means to its end. It’s utilitarian in nature because it pits overall good against individual freedom. It inherently makes assumptions about what’s best for people. Anarchy makes no such tradeoffs, and the fact that it doesn’t guarantee food for the poor is intrinsically a reflection of its citizens, not on the system itself.

    I’m no anarchist but I definitely see why it is attractive. I see why socialism is attractive too, but I’m really tired of seeing all the nonsense spewed out against free-market and anarchism while turning a blind eye to the violence espoused by any other system. If you have an argument against the free-market or anarchism then make a good argument, but don’t conflate our current system with such ideals and setup a pathetic straw-man about selfishness and greed.

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  52. Jon on April 11, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    @jmb275,

    It’s nice to have someone else on my “side”. Although I’m not a hard core anarchist (I would be OK with the libertarian ideal). I still like to defend the concept since it is so principled and I think its ideas are correct.

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  53. Mike S on April 11, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I replied to Jeff Spector (#13) but my comment is caught in the spam filter. I don’t know how to retrieve it.

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  54. Howard on April 11, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I’m a free marketist in theory except when it comes to giant research projects like space exploration or helping the poor. After volunteering to help the homeless I have come to the conclusion that everyone should have clean water and food and access to sanatation and shelter beyond that they should help themselves.

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  55. Howard on April 11, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Oops I forgot to include basic healthcare.

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  56. Mike S on April 11, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    I’ll try the comment again, without the link, to see if it makes it past the spam filter.
    ————————

    #13 Jeff Spector

    Regarding your question of what other organizations give more “as a function of their overall wealth” – we need to see numbers. Numbers are notoriously hard to get, but in this case, we have some to work with.

    From the Church’s “Welfare Services Fact Sheet – 2009“, we find 2 numbers:

    $327.6 million – Cash donations
    $884.6 million – Value of material assistance

    So, what do these mean? I would assume that cash is actual money spent by the Church from funds they took in. I would assume that “value of material assistance” is the value of all of the other things that we give – blankets we make, volunteer time at the cannery, or any of a hundred other things.

    And where does this money go? From the left column of the page referenced, this includes our fast offerings, bishop storehouses, humanitarian help, etc. There is a whole list on the left, so I would assume that these figures include just about everything we could count.

    So, how much is this on an annual basis. These numbers are for 25 years. For for cash, we give an average of $13.1 million annually. For “other” non-cash things, it is around $35.38 million annually.

    Therefore, we spend $13.1 in actual money, or if we include non-cash donations, the time of our volunteers, etc., it is $48.48 million a year.

    In perspective, it is estimated that the Church takes in $4-6 billion per year. Optimistically, is the Church takes in $4 billion a year, and if we want to include “non-cash” things, we give 1.2% of our “income” on humanitarian things ($48.48 million / $4 billion). The other end is if we count simply cash in/cash out. This gives us 0.22% ($13.1 million/$6 billion)

    So, as an estimate, the Church uses between 0.22% and 1.2% of their revenue on humanitarian things, including fast offerings, bishop warehouse, etc.

    Where does this put us:
    Last year, Walmart gave 3.5% of revenue to charity. Yum! gave 0.3%. Pepsi, 0.35%, Johnson and Johnson around 5%. There are hundreds of companies that give away at least 0.2%.

    So, we’re in the mix with all of these capitalistic corporations. We’re a far cry from the “socialism” mentioned in the article and are much more in line with a corporation. The amount may be up for debate.

    Personally, I’d like the Church to be more like a church and less like a corporation. But that’s just my own opinion.

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  57. Mike S on April 11, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    To see the actual fact sheet for the previous comment, here’s the link:

    providentliving.org/pdf/2009_WELFactSheet_English.pdf

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  58. David on April 11, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Mike:

    I think you’re way low on the annual tithing income, but otherwise I’d agree with your assertions.

    Would it be too much to ask the Church to give away 10% of their income in actual cash donations/projects, and another 5% in miscellaneous aid (volunteer hours, blankets, kits, etc) – per year?

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  59. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    jmb,

    Has anyone bashing Ayn Rand actually read her? If so, can you please point out a valid argument against her philosophy that goes beyond:
    1. she has no philosophy degree
    2. she’s an atheist
    3. she teaches selfishness and greed

    I don’t know if you are responding to how people on this post and in the comments have characterized Ayn Rand, but the only thing I’ve mentioned is that Objectivism is based on selfishness. If you want quotes, I can show you how Ayn Rand agrees with that point. As to her atheism or her lack of education, I’ve made no mention, but now that you bring them up… ;)

    as to the -isms, I really don’t care what this country is. I care that we’re paid well for our labors, and that we’re generally free to do what we want (which we are). I’d prefer that our society was less selfish and more concerned about each other, but as long as Ayn Rand’s poison infects our society, this will NEVER happen. She is evil. Oh, and I hear she secretly used Social Security!

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  60. Dan on April 11, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    On Selfishness

    The Virtue of Selfishness is a collection of essays presenting Ayn Rand’s radical moral code of rational selfishness and its opposition to the prevailing morality of altruism—i.e., to the duty to sacrifice for the sake of others.

    In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand gives an outline of her code of rational selfishness, and of her argument establishing it as the only objective, fact-based moral code in human history. In the course of the essay, she raises and answers a fundamental and fascinating question: Why does one even need a morality?

    Man, she really hates Jesus…I ask again, how could any Mormon, or any other Christian allow her evil philosophy to be intermingled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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  61. Jeff Spector on April 11, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Mike S,

    “In perspective, it is estimated that the Church takes in $4-6 billion per year. ”

    In contrast to David, I think your estimate of income is quite high. I did a back of envelope calculation:

    14M members
    .3 Activity rate
    4.2M members active
    Average family = 4
    1.050M Tithe paying families
    Ave WW income $30K (very generous)
    10% = $3K
    Total church income from members 3.15B

    That makes the Church pretty much on par.

    But I still agree that the church could do more.

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  62. David on April 11, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Good thinking Jeff, but I just went through a “I just spent too much time on this” sort of thing and came out with the Church grossing at least $5 billion annually assuming the “median household income” statistics to be accurate.

    I used a 33% activity rate, coupled with a figure of only 40% of active members paying tithing (accounting for spouses that don’t work, kids, etc). For the U.S. alone, I came out with $3.981 billion in tithing receipts (using the 2009 membership statistics).

    Though the worldwide median household incomes don’t match up to the $30k, you have to realize the vast majority of tithing receipts come from the U.S. (6,058,907 members on file as of 2009, before reducing that number by household size, activity rates, etc). The U.S. Median Income Rate (which is falling, btw) was still $49,977 at the end of 2009. And, in Utah, where there are nearly 1.8 million members on record (2008), that median household income is $64,334 per the US Census. In California, where there’s another 750k members, the MHI is $68,750. So, there are some differences, but using $49,777 was a bit easier than looking it up by state.

    Anyway, I’m done with that. Way too much time down that rabbit hole.

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  63. Jeff Spector on April 11, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    “Anyway, I’m done with that. Way too much time down that rabbit hole.”

    I hear ya. if the church would just tell us, then we wouldn’t have to do this stuff!

    But its a good time consumer when you are on endless conf calls!

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  64. Mike S on April 11, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I do agree with both Jeff and David. Perhaps there are other things where the Church is spending money on “humanitarian” things that we just don’t know about. Perhaps tithing truly is lower. To be honest, I don’t really know. I would like MUCH more transparency – if there’s nothing to hide, I’d show the world.

    That being said, I fear they are going the other direction, financially and otherwise. For example, for the link in comment #57 to the Welfare Fact Sheet, I purposely used 2009. There is a sheet for 2010 (just change the 2009 in the link to 2010 and you can see it). They no longer break out how much actual cash they spend on humanitarian things, but lump it together to make it a bigger number. The cynical side of me suggests that someone in the Church also realizes that spending between 0.2-0.3% of our annual income on humanitarian needs doesn’t fit the message we give in conference, so they buried the number. But maybe I’m just too cynical. I would LOVE to be proved wrong and for the Church to give actual figures.

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  65. David on April 11, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    I lied. I couldn’t fully turn myself away from the rabbit hole.

    I’m going to guess it’s higher than $5 billion. Just a guess. Back in 1996 it was reported [Kingdom Come, Time Magazine]that tithing receipts were $5.2 billion [at which time there were 9,672,441].

    If you take that same ratio ($537 for every member), then we could assume the church brings in $7.6 billion today.

    At least in the U.S., median household incomes rose from $35,172 to $49,777 (+2.71% annual growth).

    Interestingly, if you assume that same growth rate (+2.71%) and carry it out from 1996 through 2009, it suggests the church would be bringing in $7.359 billion in tithing.

    So, after all this, maybe I will stick with the $7 billion estimate.

    Or, maybe the Church could just show the actual financials and we’d be done with it.

    New question: Is there anything dishonest about not disclosing any of the financials to the membership?

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  66. Jacob S on April 11, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    jmb, 51:

    “Anarchy makes no such tradeoffs, and the fact that it doesn’t guarantee food for the poor is intrinsically a reflection of its citizens, not on the system itself.”

    But if you are going to tout anarchy don’t you have to accept the fact that humans are generally selfish and that under that system the poor will inevitably be oppressed? It may not be intrinsic in the philosophy itself, but it is a natural outcome that pretty much can’t be avoided.

    “Socialism uses violence as a means to its end. It’s utilitarian in nature because it pits overall good against individual freedom.”

    Any mention of socialism these days has to start with the assumption that mainstream socialism is based on social democracy of western Europe and a few other places. This form of socialism is democratic and avoids the conservative argument of repression of individual freedoms (which I’d dispute anyway). It also was enacted completely without violence or violent rhetoric.

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  67. Mike S on April 11, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    There is no perfect system. Humans are basically selfish. You can try to harness that selfishness for common good. You can try to harness that selfishness with laws. You can try to stamp down the unique. You can try to take away the “spoils” of selfishness and redistribute it. But it will always be there.

    And unfortunately, even if 99% of people are “non-selfish”, most systems break down when an egotistical and supremely selfish person decides to subvert a country’s system for his own personal gain.

    I don’t know a perfect system out there. Even the most utopian, religious-based systems of equality ALL ultimately failed secondary to selfishness. Perhaps that’s why Enoch’s city needed to be translated – otherwise it, too, would have eventually failed.

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  68. Jacob S on April 11, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Mike,

    I agree completely. The problem we sometimes have when debating one form of government over another is trying to decide what we want the system to do, or in other words, what problem needs to be fixed.

    The leftist might see extreme inequality and injustice as the major ills of society and therefore wants a system to even those out to some degree. The conservative might see a lack of personal liberty as the major ill of society and wants a system that simply gets out of the way. Both are legitimate, in my opinion, which makes it all the more complicated.

    I think social democracy is a good compromise, but admit to being biased towards the left.

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  69. Jeff Spector on April 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    But isn’t that exactly part of what we are on earth to do: perfect ourselves in the image of the Savior? Do as He did.

    Are we certain those guys in the Beehive State didn’t accept the other guy’s implementation of the plan?

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  70. Andrew S on April 11, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    re 42:

    Jon,

    Just as the Israelites put their trust in the flesh so do people that put their trust in the state, the state becomes their god to seek for sustenance, but God has taught us that He is the bread of life (manna) and that when we trust Him and His ways then we will not want. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah was, in part, destroyed for not taking care of the poor and the widows, etc.

    I guess the issue is that God’s manna of life doesn’t really sustain the stomach.

    Note, that when you speak about Sodom and Gomorrah being, in part, destroyed for failing to take care of the poor, there doesn’t need to be a distinction between the *individuals* of S&G and the *government* of S&G. The problem is that neither took care of the poor. And what did God do? Well, he destroyed them. So much for manna of life.

    All I’m saying is, for a government to take care of the poor requires consent of the governed…so why regard it poorly?

    God has told us His ways and if you don’t trust Him, that is your prerogative. I do. I think He does help the poor. I think introducing statist policies has led to more poor and more dependency. We have enslaved the poor rather than set them free. We have created generational poor. That’s what the facts on the ground say.

    This doesn’t seem to be the case in many European countries, however.

    I believe your heart is pure in wanting to help the poor. I just believe the methods are wrong. That the scriptures tell us different. That it is not OK to steal, even for food.

    I also think you underestimate the human spirit. I know many poor people and it is quite amazing how they help each other in times of need.

    You call it “theft”. I call it individuals coming together collectively (that is what “government” is, especially a representative government) to give.

    You say I underestimate the human spirit. I think social welfare institutions are the strength of the human spirit — to overcome individuals deficiencies, we help each other.

    Because the government represents a violent way of doing this instilling fear in the people. Try not paying your taxes and then try defending your property, you’ll soon be 6 feet under. Force does not equate to charity. It will only make hypocrites of the people. Ask a person that believes the government needs to help the people to give and what is the answer? The answer is, that’s the government’s responsibility. I’ve gotten that answer before. Yes, I know you probably wouldn’t say that and would be willing to pull out your wallet, but that is the type of citizenry that socialism creates.

    Also, you assume that greed doesn’t exist in the government and that the motives of the governmental official isn’t impure. There’s a reason Obama and his cohorts do not want to be part of the new health care plan. This isn’t rule of law when the rulers are treated differently than us peons.

    What’s the distinction with your God? Try not obeying God and try to rebel against him, and what will happen? You will be rebuffed, if not damned. At some point, the scriptures say, every knee will bend.

    I’m not assuming greed doesn’t exist in government. I’m not assuming, for example, that current governmental systems are the best possible solution — in fact, I tend to believe that the current American political structure is immensely ineffective in particular. I am saying that what needs to happen is that we need checks and balances on ordinary behavior — and what a good system would do would be to temper the excesses or deficiencies of individual behavior. This goes also for corporate behavior, government behavior, religious behavior, etc.,

    We need something to align people’s interests mutually, because “God” isn’t cutting it.

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  71. Larry on April 11, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    To Dan, Jeff, Dave, Jon, & others

    I think the numbers you’ve cited for the church’s contributions to humaiitarian aid DO NOT include $ spent in local Fast Offering disbursements. Local fast offering disbursements are likely quite large.

    For example the church has 27,000 Wards… if each Bishop aveeraged fast offering disbursements of $1000 per month, it would add up to $324,000,000 annually. Thus we could be spending as much on our members each year as we did on the disaster relief humanitarian aid in the 1985 to 2009 period.

    ANd that doesn’t even include the value of food given out at the BIshop’s storehouses — which is perhaps even more, much more than the cash payments Bishops make for rent, utilities, medical bills etc.

    The church is pretty tight lipped about it’s finances …i think part of that, at least on the fast offering side, reflects a desire to quietly do good…

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  72. MH on April 11, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    I’m just getting to this thread–sorry for missing out all day.

    Jon,

    So if you want to argue with me any more use principles and stop the name calling and the untrue slandering.

    What are you talking about? We have a serious communication problem. I’ll plead guilty for calling your ideas wacky, but where did I slander you?

    But you are telling me there is a litmus test to comment on this blog?

    No–did I reference a litmus test anywhere?

    You are saying if the ideas are too radical for you then those people aren’t welcome?

    Where did I say you weren’t welcome? I merely pointed out that you have “unconventional” ideas, and you are an anarchist.

    Why are you Mormon if you can’t except radical views?

    Uh, I think Mormons abandoned most of the radical ideas 100 years ago–no more consecration, polygamy, and we want to be called Christians like everyone else. I’ve never heard a single conference talk espousing anarchy, so if you think the church is still a radical organization, I’ve got news for you. It’s not.

    Is not Mormonism radical and different?

    Different, but not radical anymore. Radicalism left 100 years ago.

    The reason I find your views offensive is because you preach hate to the conservatives

    Where did I preach hate to conservatives? I’m conservative on some issues–just not this one.

    because they preach helping the poor in a different way then you do.

    That’s not hate my friend–that’s simply a different point of view.

    You find my ideas offensive because they teach love.

    To be honest, I don’t find your ideas offensive–I find them wacky. Honestly, I’m not offended by your ideas at all. I merely used that word because you used it (remember, I said “to use your terminology”). I guess if I say I’m offended you take it pretty seriously. However, when you are offended, it’s not that big of a deal. Ok, I’ll take it back. Your ideas aren’t offensive to me. Your ideas are wacky.

    I don’t know why you find love offensive.

    There’s your problem. I don’t find love offensive.

    The ideas I embrace say the republicans and the democrats are in error, which is consistent with a libertarian viewpoint.

    I find republicans and democrats and libertarians and anarchists in error. That’s why I am an independent–My ideas are consistent with an independent. I don’t follow party lines.

    I don’t think republicans nor democrats mean bad, but when you look at the principles and I look at the actions and ideologies I find they both democrats and republicans are in error.

    Well, we are finally in agreement on something.

    I have heard nothing from you that would tell me otherwise.

    Jon, you’re new here, so you don’t know my political views very well. While I’m on Dan’s side on this issue, he knows that we’ve tangled on others. I’ve voted for Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Ross Perot, and Ralph Nader, so my vote does not follow party lines at all. Stop trying to pigeon-hole me as a liberal. I’m conservative on some issues, liberal on others, and moderate on most.

    All you want to do is denounce the organization I quote but you haven’t even given them a chance

    I read the stuff you asked me to read. It was wacky. I gave them a chance. Obviously you thought they were convincing, but they weren’t convincing to me.

    So where did I slander? Is calling ideas “wacky” considered slander now?

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  73. Larry on April 11, 2011 at 10:44 PM

    I praise the fast offering program of the church because it is really the best thing out there for caring for the poor…

    Remember 100% of all money donated goes to help the poor; 0% overhead!

    AND, some would say best of all, it is not a handout or entitlement program; there is accountability and it is typically a program of temporary assistance, coupled with a plan to help recipients become as self sustaining as possible…

    If we as a country were to adopt it’s principles we could care for all our poor. To see what I mean, just do the math…If everyone in the country lived the law of the fast — particularly if we did it the way President Kimball said we should —

    we would raise MANY BILLIONS annually.

    As a practical matter, we as a church have not yet mastered this so there is no reason to think that we as a country could do it — not yet, anyway…maybe someday

    So for me, as a practical matter, I think we must have some sort of publically financed program for assisting the poor…If we limit our assistance to those in the church we will take care of our own, but we will omit the majority of our fellow citizens that also need help.

    IT strikes me as inconsistently living the gospel to care for the poor in one area and ignore them in another…Or even worse than ignoring them would be our supporting and perpetuating a political economic system that surpresses them and deprives them of their property rights (or the right to obtain property)…

    That’s not to say that we should simply continue to fund programs that are mismanaged of lack long term benefits…or that create a culture of perpetuated poverty

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  74. Larry on April 11, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    and one more thing….some might find the following excerpt of a letter, written in 1785, from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison.

    The subject was Jefferson’s observations on the state of the really poor in France and the imbalance of property owned.

    He wrote:
    The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be labored.
    I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.
    Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment, but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.

    it is interesting to note that Jefferson advocates progressive taxation and that he observed that the French concentration of property in the hands of so few violated the natural right of the masses to posess any property at all…

    sometimes i wonder if we are headed in the same direction as the french were back then…

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  75. [...] you hadn’t checked yet, my latest column at Wheat & Tares, about H. David Burton’s April Conference talk “The Sanctifying Work of Welfare”, [...]

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  76. jmb275 on April 13, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    But if you are going to tout anarchy don’t you have to accept the fact that humans are generally selfish and that under that system the poor will inevitably be oppressed? It may not be intrinsic in the philosophy itself, but it is a natural outcome that pretty much can’t be avoided.

    Well, I’m not touting anarchy (as I said, I’m no anarchist). In any case, could you please show me a system that does not inevitably lead to the poor being oppressed? I’m not claiming that any particular system is perfect. We’re interested in minimizing harm, maximizing happiness, subject to specific constraints. Personally, I find that a free-market, liberty based democracy will balance those objectives best. Socialist/democracies may in fact help the poor, but at what cost? Every gov’t has a monopoly on the use of violence and uses force as a means to its end. Social welfare that comes from taxation is the systematic use of violence to allegedly achieve some moral good. If you don’t think so, try not paying your taxes this year. Do the ends justify the means?

    The mechanism the church uses is an acceptable one since tithes are FREELY given, not coerced through the use of systematic violence.

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  77. jmb275 on April 13, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Re Dan
    I don’t know why on earth you’re so down on people seeking their own self-interest. It’s easy to pull the old “Jesus said…” card, slap the “selfish” label on it and call it a day. Where are your real arguments against objectivism? So it begins with the assumption that people seek their own self-interest. So what? Do you know anyone who doesn’t, or hasn’t? Do you really think it would be a good idea if there was no self-interest? I suspect not since it’s what makes the world turn.

    BTW, I know about this guy named Joseph Smith who once said

    Some people entirely denounce the principle of self-aggrandizement as wrong. ‘It is a correct principle,’ he said, ‘and may be indulged [in] upon only one rule or plan–and that is to elevate, benefit and bless others first. If you will elevate others, the very work itself will exalt you. Upon no other plan can a man justly and permanently aggrandize himself’” (qtd. in Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., /They Knew the Prophet/ [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 61)

    The truth is, dear Dan, is that self-interest is precisely what governs your own alleged benevolence for the poor. I fully admit that my compassion has selfish motivation, and I’m not ashamed of that at all. I believe that a free-market approach, with much less taxation, but a gov’t that still enforced rule of law, would be the best system for producing funds to care for, uplift, and help the poor become self-reliant. It would do this by relying upon the generosity of its citizens rather than forcing them into compassion against their will. If you really don’t believe that people, if given the opportunity, and not coerced, will help the poor by donating money, time, and effort, then you are not looking around. Is not the church itself the perfect instance of such a thing?

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  78. Jon on April 13, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    @jmb275,

    I was just about to address that same point. I’m glad people are selfish to a certain extent. There’s a bad selfish and a good kind. The good kind is like jmb said, self interest. I’m glad when I drive on the road people are self interested enough not to run their cars into mine.

    As for greed Friedman said it best:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

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  79. DR on April 13, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    “The mechanism the church uses is an acceptable one since tithes are FREELY given, not coerced through the use of systematic violence.”

    You can make an argument that it’s not at all “FREELY” given – just ask those “event” tithe payers (~20% of all tithing receipts from what I’ve heard).

    “Event tithe payers are those that have been remiss in the payment of tithes but for a period of time preceding an event, like a temple wedding, the “sinner” repents of his omission and begins to pay tithing. These payers quickly fall back into the status of non or partial tithe payer shortly after the event. I’ve seen individuals write checks for 10′s of thousands of dollars on the spot to bring themselves current and “worthy” of a temple recommend. … Tithing is the NUMBER ONE issue that keeps individuals from being able to get a temple recommend. IT’S ENTIRELY ABOUT THE MONEY.”

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  80. jmb275 on April 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Yeah, DR, I totally hear your point (I intentionally didn’t address that particular aspect which I agree is important). There’s all kinds of social, familial coercion to get someone to pay tithing. So I agree it’s not really FREELY given all the time. Nevertheless, I do think there is a significant difference between social pressure and coercion and the use of violence. If you don’t pay taxes, and you resist long enough and hard enough, eventually they’ll take you away to jail in handcuffs. The church can take away privileges and threaten you with eternal damnation but they can’t put you in jail (thank God).

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  81. Jon on April 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    @DR,

    If you don’t pay your tithes the church isn’t going to come to your house with automatic machine goes and hose your arse. The government will. Hence the government=violence.

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  82. jmb275 on April 13, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    re Jon
    Awesome video.

    There is certainly greed in our country right now. And it most certainly does drive an unequal wealth distribution. You’d have to be blind not to see that. But to pin that on a free-market economy is just insane. It’s lazy, and irresponsible. Primarily so because WE DON’T HAVE A FREE-MARKET. We have corporatism. We have a system that favors large companies and the wealthy through the systematic passage of laws to their benefit. That means it is GOVERNMENT that is responsible, not the market. A free-market would allow banks to fail, it wouldn’t prop up industries, it would correctly allocate economic resources through a decentralized feedback system wherein money is the means of expressing one’s vote about who should succeed and who should fail. In a truly free-market it would be US, the citizens, who would decide whether banks succeeded or failed, not the government.

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  83. Mike S on April 13, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I agree with DR. Tithing is technically “freely” given, but when the Church starts withholding things that it also states are essential for your salvation based on the giving of money, I would argue that it is even MORE coercion than “merely” going to jail or paying a fine.

    Try not paying your tithing and:
    - Going to the temple for yourself
    - Watching your son get married in the temple
    - Ordaining your 8 year old daughter after her baptism
    - Etc.

    You may be absolutely worthy in every other way, and may hold the priesthood, but unless you pay the proscribed amount of money, it doesn’t matter.

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  84. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    jmb,

    The mechanism the church uses is an acceptable one since tithes are FREELY given, not coerced through the use of systematic violence.

    Heh, I guess you haven’t heard the Mormon legend that tithing is fire insurance…it is rather silly, I think, for you to compare the church’s system with the secular government unless you also add in when punishment is affixed to people who do NOT obey God according to one or another religion. Say someone doesn’t pay tithing in the church. The church, during a person’s mortal life, does not affix a physical punishment against the individual, but has promised that certain punishment will eventually be had upon EVERYONE who does not obey God. And God’s punishment IS violence.

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  85. Jon on April 13, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    @Andrew S,

    Note, that when you speak about Sodom and Gomorrah being, in part, destroyed for failing to take care of the poor, there doesn’t need to be a distinction between the *individuals* of S&G and the *government* of S&G. The problem is that neither took care of the poor. And what did God do? Well, he destroyed them. So much for manna of life.

    Yes, problem, sometimes the innocent are killed for the purpose of being witnesses against the wicked, as the BoM illustrates.

    All I’m saying is, for a government to take care of the poor requires consent of the governed…so why regard it poorly?

    Voting at a very local level is choice about what happens, at a national level it’s BS.

    He can explain it better than I can (I was looking for better video but this will work -warning bad language):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igbBItLemsM&playnext=1&list=PLC6879663BE1BCDB6

    Also the book “The Politics of Obedience” gives a good refutation to your argument.

    This doesn’t seem to be the case in many European countries, however.

    The Europeans don’t have it very well, so I don’t know what you are talking about.

    You call it “theft”. I call it individuals coming together collectively (that is what “government” is, especially a representative government) to give.

    Just because my neighbor says, “I want the money in your wallet to work on a project of mine.” Then I say, you can’t have it. Then he says, “Well, let’s have a vote.” He gets 10 of his friends and says and they vote to take your money. Now, scale that up to 1,000 or 10,000 or 1 million, it’s all the same, just because people vote on it doesn’t make it right.

    You say I underestimate the human spirit. I think social welfare institutions are the strength of the human spirit — to overcome individuals deficiencies, we help each other.

    I agree, when those organizations are voluntary in nature.

    What’s the distinction with your God? Try not obeying God and try to rebel against him, and what will happen? You will be rebuffed, if not damned. At some point, the scriptures say, every knee will bend.

    Yes, but my God lives under the same natural and immutable laws that I do. The government of God and the government of man are entirely two different things.

    I’m not assuming greed doesn’t exist in government. I’m not assuming, for example, that current governmental systems are the best possible solution — in fact, I tend to believe that the current American political structure is immensely ineffective in particular. I am saying that what needs to happen is that we need checks and balances on ordinary behavior — and what a good system would do would be to temper the excesses or deficiencies of individual behavior. This goes also for corporate behavior, government behavior, religious behavior, etc.,

    Yes, I agree and it’s called voluntarism or anarcho-capitalism. There isn’t a better system.

    We need something to align people’s interests mutually, because “God” isn’t cutting it.

    No, statism isn’t cutting it.

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  86. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    jmb,

    I don’t know why on earth you’re so down on people seeking their own self-interest.

    Not sure where you get that I’m against people seeking their self-interest. There’s a vast difference between self-interest and selfishness. Joseph Smith’s quote directly refutes Ayn Rand. Rand’s idea of selfishness is NOT based on altruism. Joseph Smith says self interest works best when you do things for others because you will be blessed in return. Rand says that selfishness should have no concern for the other at all.

    I fully admit that my compassion has selfish motivation, and I’m not ashamed of that at all.

    neither am I. But I don’t think, from what you’ve written, that you know what Rand is even teaching.

    Is not the church itself the perfect instance of such a thing?

    Nope, it is not. It’s a good system, but it is not perfect.

    I believe that a free-market approach, with much less taxation, but a gov’t that still enforced rule of law, would be the best system for producing funds to care for, uplift, and help the poor become self-reliant. It would do this by relying upon the generosity of its citizens rather than forcing them into compassion against their will.

    Ah the typical conservative tripe. Nothing new. As taxation is not a matter of compassion or charity, your point is not valid.

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  87. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    jmb,

    The church can take away privileges and threaten you with eternal damnation but they can’t put you in jail (thank God).

    heh, except of course that “eternal damnation” is quite a jail, isn’t it?

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  88. Jon on April 13, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    @Dan,

    Once again. God lives under the same laws he gives us. They are immutable because they are natural laws. Man’s laws are not natural, they are arbitrary and create monopolies and injustice.

    It is given unto man to not obey the natural laws if they desire.

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  89. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Jon,

    The Europeans don’t have it very well, so I don’t know what you are talking about.

    methinks you’ve never been to Europe.

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  90. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    Jon,

    I don’t think you understand what a natural law is. For instance, under God’s natural law, I am free to kill whoever I want. I am free to steal whatever I want. I am free to rape whoever I want. God does not stop me. Not in this life. That’s natural law.

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  91. Jon on April 13, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    @Dan,

    Natural says I can defend myself. Natural says groups of people can collectively defend themselves. So, no, your argument doesn’t hold.

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  92. Dan on April 13, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Jon,

    Indeed natural law says you can defend yourself. Natural law says you can group yourselves collectively to defend yourselves. Natural law also says you can create any kind of government you and your group agree on. Frankly, natural law allows for communism, fascism, socialism, or even libertarianism if the people are that stupid.

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  93. Jon on April 14, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    @Dan,

    Now you’re getting it. Natural law does allow for all of that. Even to sell yourself into slavery, if that is the desire of your heart. Under natural law you own yourself.

    But under natural law if you want to form a communist group you cannot force other people into your group.

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  94. Dan on April 14, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Jon,

    But under natural law if you want to form a communist group you cannot force other people into your group.

    um, yes, you can. If I can kill someone against their will, I can certainly force them into my group against their will. If I can rape someone (forcible sex), then certainly I can force them into my group against their will. Com’on Jon, this is not that hard to grasp. Your own belief in “natural law” goes against your whole notion of voluntaryism. There’s no such thing. Not under natural law. At some point under natural law, you are forced against your will into something.

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  95. Jon on April 14, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    @Dan,

    Obviously you don’t understand natural law. There’s a thing called property rights, under natural law you cannot take that which is not yours, including some one’s life, virtue, etc. Natural law implies rule of law where everyone is treated the same, in the US, currently, there is no rule of law.

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  96. Dan on April 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    Property rights are not “natural law.” They are manmade laws. They exist solely because someone said, “you know what, I think we all get to have property. In the end, none of the property we think belongs to us actually belongs to us. Everything on this planet belongs to God, and we’re only borrowing it. And yes, I can take something which is not mine and if I happen to be stronger than you, there’s little you can do about it. Nothing in “natural law” will stop the stronger from taking from the weaker. Because, under your silly natural law, Jon, exactly who is the enforcer?

    and you keep saying even sillier things:

    in the US, currently, there is no rule of law.

    That’s one big stinkin’ pile of bullcrap. You cannot make such an absolute statement as “no rule of law,” because if I show at least one rule of law, then your point is moot.

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  97. Andrew S on April 14, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    IN THE US, CURRENTLY, THERE IS NO RULE OF LAW.

    This sounds like the intro to a post-apocalyptic superhero film.

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  98. Jon on April 14, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    @Andrew,

    Awesome, rule of law dictates that everyone is treated the same under the law. An example of this is cops, who are, for the most part, above the law. Here’s another example from the great NYPD where they know no end to tyranny (apparently from all the things I hear about them).

    http://www.copblock.org/2413/nyc-resistance-holding-the-nypd-accountable-with-his-camera/

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  99. jmb275 on April 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    @Jon
    I’m really sorry you’re having to endure this ridiculousness. Your mouth is probably gaping wide open at the sheer ignorance displayed here. Apparently it is too much to even ask people to go to a dictionary before they shoot their mouth off. If I were you, I seriously wouldn’t waste my time discussing this with them.

    @all
    Rule of law indicates that no one is above the law, and that no one can be punished except for breaking the law. Clearly many people in this country are above the law, as evidenced by the story in Jon’s link, and as many dems claimed Bush was breaking the law but was not held accountable. Yes, people in this country are above the law all the time.

    Natural laws are laws that appear to be set by nature and to which every human is subject to. They have nothing to do with God except where they are interpreted by religious states such as ones under Islamic rule. Many, including John Locke, Islamic interpretations of Natural law, and English jurisprudence, include rights to property as a natural law. Our constitution was established under the natural laws of life, equality, property, and the pursuit of happiness (a tenet of libertarian thought).

    :: kind of embarrassed that I’m having to summarize two wikipedia articles because people can’t go there themselves ::

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  100. mh on April 16, 2011 at 7:55 PM

    it is a shame to stop at 99 comments. I will push this to 100.

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  101. Andrew S on April 17, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    re 99,

    jmb,

    Don’t stumble over your pet project~ We can point out to police *abuses* precisely because we have an understanding that police are not above the law — and thus, rogue police officers who seem to act outside of the laws are going *against* our system. They are not given free reign (and we do not expect such or tolerate such lightly) precisely because we have rule of law.

    This applies even to the President, who pledges to uphold the Constitution.

    It’s a far stretch to take few abuses of US rule of law to say “In the US, there is NO rule of law.” It’s almost as ludicrous as the annual report China writes to categorize US civil and human rights abuses in response to the US’s report of the same subject matter on the Chinese.

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  102. [...] were more interested in talking about politics, money, and especially economics. The CoJCoL-dS is preaching Socialism (though perhaps not practicing it). Despite borrowing mind-boggling sums for wars, the US [...]

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  103. Jon on April 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    @Andrew S,

    You should start paying attention to what is happening in the US.

    Police: Ever heard of asset forfeiture? Typically used against the poor or lower middle class who cannot afford to get their property back or it’s too costly to go through the court system to get it back.

    It is uncommon for police to have any serious consequences to their misdeeds since most juries give them the benefit of the doubt and acquit them. Many times a bad policeman will just go over to the next jurisdiction and be hired there if he got into trouble at his other work.

    It is well known (This American Life did a show on it) that NYPD is pretty corrupt and there hasn’t been any reform.

    Police are becoming more militarized and attacking citizens in the middle of the night when a simple arrest could be safely made instead.

    You cannot travel within 100 miles of the US/Mexico border without going through unconstitutional check points.

    On Cato Institute Bill Murphy discussed how a banker got on someones wrong side and they seized all his assets, leaving him nothing to defend himself.
    http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=7026

    Politicians regularly make laws and exempt themselves and their politically connected friends/corporations from these laws. (The most recent well known one was the “health care” omnibus bill, recently congress made it OK for themselves to gamble).

    The president can take the US to war without congressional approval (precedence started by Nobel Peace Laureate Obama). BTW the constitution says congress must declare war, this hasn’t been done since WWII from what I understand, which means all wars since WWII have been unconstitutional.

    What you call rule of law, I call chaos.

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  104. Andrew S on April 18, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    re 103,

    Jon,

    I am, btw, very well aware that the system (Note: to have a system means something) has problems. I am very well aware of racial and social oppression. Especially with respect to the police and the police of urban areas (especially NYPD).

    But when you say, “The US has *no* rule of law,” you’re being sensationalist.

    Basically, I will call any *war-torn* *developing* area an area of chaos. Even the worst abuses of the US pale in comparison.

    I find it interesting your choice of words. “Chaos” would seem more applicable for an anarchic situation. But in this case we do not have such. Rather, we have institutionalized privilege, abuse of power, and oppression. It’s very clear how it works and who it helps/hurts — so we can address and try to rectify it. But throwing the baby with the bathwater without addressing the underlying issues would more certainly lead to “chaos.”

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  105. Jon on April 18, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    @Andrew S,

    Anarcho-capatilism isn’t chaos. The example you should be looking at is the Quakers who lived in Pennsylvania and had six years of bliss without the state.

    What’s the underlying problem? First, the wickedness of man. Second, the state (there’s a difference between the state and government, I’m not against government, I’m against the state).

    What’s the best way to rectify the first problem? Liberty? How do we achieve liberty? By abolishing the state. What do you have when you abolish the state? Anarchy under the governance of natural law.

    I’m not throwing out any baby, just the bath water. Government still exists, just true and pure government.

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  106. Andrew S on April 19, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    re 105:

    Jon,

    What’s the underlying problem? First, the wickedness of man. Second, the state

    Why don’t the problems of the second exist because of the first? (It seems like you imagine an exactly opposite relationship here. You propose to get rid of problems of individual wickedness by getting rid of the state — when I would suppose that it wasn’t the state that caused individuals to be wicked. The state, to the extent it is problematic, is problematic because of individuals, to which anarcho-capitalism STILL continues the problem.

    The question is: how would you make someone into a Quaker, character-wise?

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  107. Jon on April 19, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    @Andrew S,

    It’s a feedback loop.

    The only way you can turn someone into a Quaker, character-wise, is by giving them liberty. Everyone has agency so not everyone will be good. That is why you would still have enforcers and judges, they would be privatized though. But more people would be good if they had consequences to their sins. Right now the state has taken away many of the consequences. Less people will save money for a rainy day if you are just giving them money and food (I’m not saying there are not circumstances where people should receive money and food for help). This is evidenced by the state welfare state making more people dependent rather than independent (and if dependent only dependent on their families). This is a direct contradiction to what the scriptures tell us is the natural order of things.

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  108. Andrew S on April 19, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    re 107:

    The only way you can turn someone into a Quaker, character-wise, is by giving them liberty. Everyone has agency so not everyone will be good.

    The latter sentence breaks the argument in the former sentence. Obviously, you can’t turn someone into a Quaker by giving them liberty — giving them liberty is insufficient to turn them into a Quaker because they may certainly use their agency not to be a Quaker.

    So, the thing that makes people Quakers or not is something different than liberty.

    That is why you would still have enforcers and judges, they would be privatized though.

    You have no way to establish that your enforcers/judges would be Quakers.

    But more people would be good if they had consequences to their sins.

    Which might not necessarily be the case in an anarcho-capitalist system. After all, it could be that certain “sins” are consistently supported in such an environment.

    Right now the state has taken away many of the consequences.

    But likewise, it introduces consequences in other areas. (E.g., economically, we know that negative externalities are overproduced unless there isn’t intervention, and positive externalities are underproduced. So to introduce consequences [say, to the production of pollution] is something that the market wouldn’t do, but the state can.)

    This is evidenced by the state welfare state making more people dependent rather than independent (and if dependent only dependent on their families).

    This is, btw, an argument against particular kinds of welfare states, since not all of them “make more people dependent rather than independent.” So, your argument should be: “reform welfare” rather than “eliminate it” (or eliminate the state, or whatever)

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  109. Jon on April 19, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    The latter sentence breaks the argument in the former sentence. Obviously, you can’t turn someone into a Quaker by giving them liberty — giving them liberty is insufficient to turn them into a Quaker because they may certainly use their agency not to be a Quaker.

    So your choice is to use violence to turn people into Quakers? I was just acknowledging that not everyone will choose to be good, even with liberty. But your system would try to create it through violence. Liberty is what creates Quakers, nothing else can. It’s God’s plans for agency of man. Nothing different.

    You have no way to establish that your enforcers/judges would be Quakers.

    So you have a gang of people bullying other people. Your solution? Create a monopoly of violence? Well that is your solution. How do you make sure these people are Quakers? You can’t, as evidenced by the blog Libertate (your theory doesn’t make any sense):
    http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-will-it-be-enough.html

    Which might not necessarily be the case in an anarcho-capitalist system. After all, it could be that certain “sins” are consistently supported in such an environment.

    Such as? A monopoly of violence creates more sins than not.

    But likewise, it introduces consequences in other areas. (E.g., economically, we know that negative externalities are overproduced unless there isn’t intervention, and positive externalities are underproduced. So to introduce consequences [say, to the production of pollution] is something that the market wouldn’t do, but the state can.)

    The market can take care of issues of pollution. There is quite a bit of theory out there dealing with this, it’s called property rights. The EPA doesn’t do a good job of stopping pollution, just the opposite, they create cartels that have legalized pollution. Something that wouldn’t exist in a free market.

    So, your argument should be: “reform welfare” rather than “eliminate it” (or eliminate the state, or whatever)

    If you pay attention there is no such thing as reform, the state grows stronger and mightier and people become dependent on the programs for their jobs and have a stronger interest in keeping the program going rather than change it to something that actually works, and when it is attempted to be changed typically it is changed for the worse, not better. Complete elimination is the goal, the ends do not justify the means, theft is not OK, and scripturally supported that it is not OK to steal.

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  110. Andrew S on April 19, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    re 109

    Jon,

    So your choice is to use violence to turn people into Quakers? I was just acknowledging that not everyone will choose to be good, even with liberty. But your system would try to create it through violence. Liberty is what creates Quakers, nothing else can. It’s God’s plans for agency of man. Nothing different.

    Violence will not turn people into Quakers. But violence will prevent or punish those people who turn into far worse things.

    The issue is: given we don’t have a way of reliably making people into Quakers, how do we address those who not only are NOT Quakers but are explicitly harmful? “Liberty” and “the market” don’t really help.

    …See, you are thinking there are just “quakers” and “regular joes.” But that’s not the case. There are bad people out there. What does liberty do here?

    Your solution might be: “Let God solve it out.” But in that case, there is still violence. You just defer it to cosmic violence and leave things unsettled in this life.

    So you have a gang of people bullying other people. Your solution? Create a monopoly of violence? Well that is your solution. How do you make sure these people are Quakers? You can’t, as evidenced by the blog Libertate (your theory doesn’t make any sense):

    You don’t. What you do is you make a system that employs people interests against each other, in a check-and-balance system. That way, EVEN if they aren’t Quakers, their interests will be aligned.

    Say you have two children, and you ask them to cut a birthday cake. Whichever child is first may not be a Quaker, and may be entirely apt to cut more cake for himself.

    So, do you find a Quaker to cut the cake for them? Do you make a system that only puts Quakers into Cake-Cutting Positions? OR do you find a game theoretical way to align the interests?

    Tell the child who gets to cut the cake that the other child will be able to pick the slice he wants, and all of a sudden that first child will have an extremely great incentive to make the slices identical so there is no preferable slice.

    In this way, whether someone is a Quaker or not, they will be incentivized to work in an equitable fashion.

    All that your examples of police abuses do is highlight that there are areas of privilege and oppression right now, and we don’t have a system currently to realign interests — so privileged people align the system toward themselves and oppressed people suffer the consequences.

    This does not indict the state in general. It indicts a state that does not take into consideration checks-and-balances and game theory. Certainly, that is the case now.

    Such as? A monopoly of violence creates more sins than not.

    and

    The market can take care of issues of pollution. There is quite a bit of theory out there dealing with this, it’s called property rights. The EPA doesn’t do a good job of stopping pollution, just the opposite, they create cartels that have legalized pollution. Something that wouldn’t exist in a free market.

    “Property rights” gives a polluter no reason to care about the general welfare (e.g., property and things that are not his own). That is the entire problem. Property rights are great for ME and MINE, but do not encourage me to do anything about YOU and YOURS, and if YOU aren’t as powerful as I am (say, you don’t own as much), then YOU don’t have as great an ability to defend yourself should I encroach upon you.

    So who will defend you? The “market”? “Liberty”? “Property rights”?

    Again, you point to a specific example of a poor implementation of a state solution, but this doesn’t absolve the market. Invoking an idea like “property rights” doesn’t show how pollution is lessened in a market environment.

    If you pay attention there is no such thing as reform, the state grows stronger and mightier and people become dependent on the programs for their jobs and have a stronger interest in keeping the program going rather than change it to something that actually works, and when it is attempted to be changed typically it is changed for the worse, not better.

    I’d say the American revolution with respect to the pre-revolution colonies and post-revolution nation was a “reform”, and the attempt changed things for the better.

    In fact, even admitting that the federalistic system with Constitutional government featured a stronger and mightier state than the Articles of Confederation…I will say the former was a change for the better with respect to the latter.

    “complete elimination” would not have helped.

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  111. Jon on April 20, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    The issue is: given we don’t have a way of reliably making people into Quakers, how do we address those who not only are NOT Quakers but are explicitly harmful? “Liberty” and “the market” don’t really help.

    …See, you are thinking there are just “quakers” and “regular joes.” But that’s not the case. There are bad people out there. What does liberty do here?

    Your solution might be: “Let God solve it out.” But in that case, there is still violence. You just defer it to cosmic violence and leave things unsettled in this life.

    I think your missing my points. People tend towards organization. I am not saying people should not organize themselves. What I’m saying is we shouldn’t create a monopoly of force to address bad people. What is the natural consequence of creating a monopoly? The smart bad people join that monopoly and continue to rape and pillage the people. That may do it with what appears to be a velvet glove but a iron fist truly exists under it. That’s why we have all the problems we have.

    So I’m saying let’s go to a system that can expunge people like that from the system. There are two ways that I know to do this. Either competition, which would be ordered anarchy, or competition, which would be very localized monopoly of violence. Centralizing the monopoly creates no incentive for people to act well but rather foments more violence, hence the reason we see so much war and violence against our own people and others (just look at the drug war, food war, etc).

    See the article below to understand what I’m talking about “ordered anarchy”.
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/molyneux1.html

    All that your examples of police abuses do is highlight that there are areas of privilege and oppression right now, and we don’t have a system currently to realign interests — so privileged people align the system toward themselves and oppressed people suffer the consequences.

    This does not indict the state in general. It indicts a state that does not take into consideration checks-and-balances and game theory. Certainly, that is the case now.

    I have no problem with competition, that’s what I’ve been saying we need, that is what anarcho-capitalism is. That’s why I also have no problem with very localized government.

    I don’t understand why God wanted the constitution since it contradicts what the ancient Israelites did (they lived under a confederacy). So I don’t understand why people knock confederacies so much since they do truly work well. The only guess I have for the constitution is that it was the best system for the time, but for the long wrong (as evidenced currently) it really sucks.

    “Property rights” gives a polluter no reason to care about the general welfare (e.g., property and things that are not his own).

    See the article I referenced to see how property rights is good for everyone, not just yourself and your own. You don’t understand the market. Once you read the article you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

    In fact, even admitting that the federalistic system with Constitutional government featured a stronger and mightier state than the Articles of Confederation…I will say the former was a change for the better with respect to the latter.

    See my comment above for a response to the efficacy of confederations.

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  112. Jon on April 20, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Here’s a good read on how in an ordered anarchy situation polluters would be dealt with.

    http://azdistrict1.blogspot.com/2010/06/regulation-and-state-part-1.html

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  113. Andrew S on April 20, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    re 111,

    Interesting article…I read the one you posted by Molyneaux and then another one from him. I am intrigued.

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  114. Jon on April 20, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Yeah, he has a better way with words than I do.

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