Elections in the steroid era

by the Night Writer

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but America’s game is politics, and it’s played for keeps.

It was all very exciting when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in a tight race to break Babe Ruth’s single-season homerun record, and when Barry Bonds sledge-hammered his way toward Hank Aaron’s career record. Many people cheered as the dramatic numbers climbed higher and if anyone scratched his head and wondered outloud at the unusual displays of power and hat-size they were repeatedly assured that the game was clean and these were merely exceptional athletes plying their trade at the highest levels. After all, we were told repeatedly that Sosa, McGwire, Bonds and other sluggers of the era had never tested positive for steroids. Of course, that spotless record was likely the result that they had never been effectively tested for steroids. In fact, for a number of years Performance Enhancing Drugs weren’t even specifically against the rules in a game that has long winked at “gamesmanship”

Similarly, cheating in politics is as American as apple pie. Recently we’ve seen a series of extremely close political elections with enough curious counts and results that you’d of had to have botox injections to keep from raising an eyebrow. And as the Minnesota legislature debates a voter-ID bill requiring a state-authorized photo ID in order to vote, we again have those who claim the process is clean and that large-scale fraud has never been proven. As was the case with baseball, though, there has barely been an effort made to try to prevent it.

“Well, that’s just baseball,” you might say. “That doesn’t mean politics is like that.” Of course not. Baseball players might be willing to cheat in order to gain fame, glory and riches, but politicians are above such tawdry motivations and designs. Baseball players cheat because a slugger can pull down $20 million a year or more, but that amount is bush league when you consider the amount of money that can be gained in furthering an agenda, feathering a nest and favoring your friends. Influence is much more valuable than an MVP.

If you doubt that, look at the amount of money generated just to gain the influence in the first place. The recent Wisconsin Supreme Court election – a race that would normally be reported in box-score agate type – generated some $3.6 million in outside political contributions. In baseball, $3.6 million barely gets you an average outfielder, or a good lefty set-up man. In politics, a good lefty set-up men may arguably be an even more valuable commodity to some.

Testing for steroids, and verifying voters, won’t eliminate the desire to gain an advantage, but it does make it easier for those scoring at home to have faith in the results. Major League Baseball dragged its feet on drug-testing because neither the owners or the players really wanted to look too closely at the situation. The owners liked the high ratings and interest that homerun races generated and the players liked the rewards that came with age and gravity-defying feats. It was the fans’ distaste and sense of injustice – and potential alienation – that forced action. Major League Politics drags its feet because neither party wants to change a system they’ve used to their advantage in the past.

Just as in baseball, though, the blatant hypocrisy and questionable results risk alienating the “fans”. The steroid era has cast doubt on the records and statistics of a generation of players, calling into question the validity of many records and tainting even those who played clean and diminishes the game overall. The same thing is happening with our election process. It is up to us fans to keep the pressure on if we want to see integrity in America’s pastime and America’s game.

Take the Highway to Hell and make a left at the Road to Serfdom

by the Night Writer

The inane political bickering over spending cuts that do about as much good as an ice-scraper on the side of the iceberg that hit the Titanic, a debt-to-GDP-ratios of around 140% and yesterday’s S&P downgrade of the country’s bond rating made me think of an analogy that I shared on Mr. D’s blog the other day:

A car is barreling down the highway as the driver fiddles with the seat heater while balancing a Big Mac, fries and large Coke in his lap and staring at the GPS screen instead of at the road ahead. Meanwhile everyone else in the car is arguing loudly over what music to play through the high-tech, 12-speaker sound system and whether it’s too hot or too cold in the compartment, and who gets to drive next.

Suddenly they realize there’s a brick wall ahead. What to do? Hitting the brakes hard will toss people about, make them spill their drinks, bump their heads and hurt their feelings. Or you can just hit the wall. Either way, the car is going to come to a stop.

One option gives you chance to perhaps survive and eventually drive around the obstruction. The other results in a litte white marker beside the road, commemorating what once had been.

The choice is between the unacceptable and the unthinkable. And some just say, “Go faster.”

Don’t put all the blame on the current driver, though. The car turned down this road a long, long time ago and no one paid attention to the Dead End sign. There have been several drivers since then, and some have had more of a lead foot than others but no one’s ever seriously tried to change direction, though we have veered from the ditch occasionally.

It really is an old story, so old that few alive today can even remember it being any other way. How old? Check out the cartoon below I just saw today and that comes from a 1934 issue of the Chicago Tribune and it’s depiction of “young pinkos from Columbia and Harvard”, what looks like two versions of Stalin (the Road to Serfdom was thought to lead to Communism, not Socialism then) and the “Plan of Action for the U.S.: Spend! Spend! Spend under the guise of recovery – bust the government – blame the capitalists for the failure – junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship.”

1934 cartoon blog

The five dumbest things you can do if you have too much debt

by the Night Writer

I noticed one of those ads next to an on-line article I was reading this morning. No, not one of those talking about Obama wanting mothers to go back to school or terrorists to go back to Guantanamo or whatever is being promoted this week. This ad appeared to speak directly to a significant issue: The Five Dumbest Things You Can Do if You Have Too Much Debt.

A better title, though, may have been “Obama doesn’t want you to read this.”

Following the link, I discovered that the ad really did list the five things you shouldn’t do, rather than just starting you on a trail of multiple clicks to suck you into a scam. Reading them I thought the advice was as relevant to a country as they are to a family. Here’s the list, with my observations:

The five strategies you may want to avoid:

The first piece of advice from experts in the financial field is to be sure you don’t make your situation worse by making common mistakes. In particular, try to avoid:

1. Paying only the minimum payment on your debt, as this will result in the amount you owe actually growing, and your problems will only become worse.

This is especially true if you only pay the minimum on your existing debt and continue to take on new debt at the same time.

2. Relying on friends and family, as this can damage relationships with the most important people in your life.

Do we consider China a friend? Can we count future generations as “friends and family”?

3. Unscrupulous credit counselors that demand cash upfront or high fees for help they promise, but don’t deliver.

Ben Bernanke, I’m looking at you.

4. Using new, high-interest loans to pay off lower interest rate loans. While it may be easier to just have one payment, it will actually increase the amount you have to pay back.

Isn’t this what Quantitative Easing is all about?

5. Declaring bankruptcy–this can have permanent and severe consequences on your financial future. Avoid it if you can, especially when debt settlement may work for you.

Declaring bankruptcy is a good thing to avoid. But what if other countries declare it for you by removing the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency?

As it turns out, the advertisement wasn’t completely altruistic. It eventually made a pitch for working with a Debt Settlement company to develop and execute a plan to get your finances back in order. Unfortunately, you can’t hire a debt settlement group for an entire country.

You can, however, elect them.

Braveheart, 2010: Boehner as Robert the Bruce to Bachmann’s William Wallace?

by the Night Writer

“There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.”

With those words Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the movie Braveheart challenged a feckless Scottish noble, foreshadowing not only Braveheart’s battles with the English but also with the gentry that represented his supposed allies in the fight for Scotland’s independence. It also symbolically foreshadows an uncomfortable relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican leadership in the ongoing fight for freedom in America.

In 1297 the central players in an uneasy alliance were William Wallace, the upstart rebel who shocked and demoralized the English with a dramatic victory in the Battle of Stirling Bridge,  and Robert Bruce, the scion of a wealthy and politically powerful Scottish family. In 2010, Republican lion and presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner plays Robert the Bruce to Michelle Bachmann’s  Wallace.   Bachmann was out-front for the burgeoning Tea Party movement, driving her enemies to distraction and helping spark a historic Republican rout that changes the balance of power in much the same way that Stirling Bridge did. Her decision to now run for a leadership position in the Republican caucus has been greeted coolly by her nobles. I know there are those who will raise an eyebrow or a guffaw at equating Michelle Bachmann with a figure as historically significant as William Wallace but at the heart of the matter there are similarities.

Bachmann is derided by her enemies (both in and outside the Republican party) for being out-spoken, outrageous and deliberately provocative. That’s pretty much how Wallace was presented in Braveheart: coarse, blunt and sometimes appearing to be making it up as he went along. The way the Scottish nobles fought the English in those days is also not too different from the way the Republican leadership has historically contended with the Democrats: a show of force before the battle which merely sets the stage for a parley in the center of the field that ends in negotiation. When Wallace showed up — nearly unwanted — before one battle he was told to hang back and be quiet. When he rode forward to be part of the parley anyway someone asked him what he was doing and his response was “picking a fight.”  The passion and taunts of Wallace and his men discomfited the “civilized” combatants who weren’t expecting to be mooned or to be told that their general could bend over and “kiss his own arse.” Similarly, Bachmann and her unwillingness to “play nice” is barely tolerated by the party elite, while the passion and populism of the Tea Party rallies and town halls has shaken the political professionals and pundits who hope it is an aberration and not a new fact of life.

Consider this as well — the English king, Edward I (aka “Long-shanks”) was as ruthless and canny a leader as there ever was. He controlled the Scottish nobles by also granting them lands in England as well as Scotland, meaning any true rebellion wouldn’t just undermine him, it would undermine their wealth as well. Similarly, the entrenched Republican leadership, epitomized by Boehner the Bruce, has gained power, prestige and wealth by managing the status quo. Like any good general, the Boehner knows how to take advantage of opportunity when someone rocks the boat, but also realizes that if the boat rocks too much there’s no telling who all will go overboard. (At least he may take comfort in knowing that President Obama is no Edward I.)

In the movie, Robert the Bruce is stirred by Wallace’s example and conviction, but also swayed by his father’s adamant insistence that the only thing that was important was keeping his land, his possessions and his title, even if it meant lying, cheating and betraying others. As for the Boehner and the others who have been in D.C. for a long time, they will have to search their own souls to determine whether to be guided by principal or the political equivalents of the land, possessions and titles they’ve acquired by playing the game.

Of course, the risks aren’t solely with them. History tells us that Robert the Bruce eventually united the Scottish clans and factions and became king of an independent Scotland  (even if this was helped by Edward I dying and being replaced by a less resolute heir). History also tells us that William Wallace was defeated at the Battle of Falkirk, just one year after Stirling Bridge, when the Scots cavalry, commanded by the faithless nobles (Bruce was not present), abandoned the field when they could have routed a broken English attack and left Wallace and his pike-men and archers (under the command of one Sir John Stewart) at the mercy of the English cavalry and long-bows. Wallace and his surviving army were scattered and within two years he was ultimately betrayed into English hands, taken to London, convicted of treason and summarily drawn and quartered. While there are many who would like to see the same happen, metaphorically, to Bachmann (or perhaps literally given the vitriol some use in the comment sections of the newspapers), there are two historical lessons to be learned. One is not to trust your “leaders” to have your back. If they’re truly leaders then they need to be out front, which is what Wallace urged Bruce to do. In the movie he tells Bruce, “Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage. Now our people know you. Noble, and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they’d follow you. And so would I!” In the movie Bruce is inspired by Braveheart’s passion and sacrifice and summons the will to ignore his father’s advice and to see the cause through to the end.

The second lesson is that a cause that captures people’s hearts and minds is greater than any one individual or group of individuals. While some might say that it’s silly to compare our modern circumstances with Scotland’s fight for freedom from tyranny, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Scots had little knowledge of what we call democracy. They were used to a feudal system of gentry and serfs where the individual was regularly at the mercy of his “betters” who could impose sanctions and indignities with impunity, even to the point of claiming “first night” rights with a bride. Yet the people  still valued and longed for the right to live their own lives, even if it cost their lives. In comparison, our dealing with a government that would force us to buy health insurance, tell us what kind of light bulb or fast food we can buy or electronically strip-search us “for our own protection” seems almost petty. Or does it?

One of the remarkable documents that came out of Scotland’s battle for independence was the Declaration of Arbroath. Written in 1320, some 450 years prior to our own Declaration, it includes the words that I hope will resonate for another 400 years or more:

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Of golden chains and gilded gags

by the Night Writer

As part of the furor of the political season, I have seen several news stories in recent days about activist pastors provocatively announcing their intention to endorse candidates from their pulpits. Predictably, this has led to activist groups such as Americans United for Separation (ignore the oxymoron) of Church and State to file complaints with the IRS about the churches violating their tax-exempt status. This was, of course, what the pastors were hoping for in order to force what they hope will be a defining battle over free speech.

All of which I’m sure would cause our hallowed founding fathers — be they Christian, Deist or Other — to shake their heads at the ignorance abounding on all sides.

At issue is that the churches, like most U.S. churches over the past 50 years, have incorporated themselves as 501c3 organizations, ostensibly gaining limited-liability and tax-exempt status, but with the caveat that they can’t engage in politics. The pending confrontation has both sides enthusiastic about the battle, while the IRS is likely much less so. From the article in Tuesday’s Star Tribune:

Although pastors across the country have staged similar protests for years (more than 100 of them this year alone), the IRS has dropped them after investigating the cases, and agency officials have declined to say why they did so.

That’s likely happened because the IRS already knows that a church doesn’t need 501c3 status in order to be tax-exempt.

Despite the rampant ignorance (remember, “ignorance” is not the same as “stupidity”), the issue isn’t that complex. Here’s a useful and easy to understand website that explains this. One section in particular contains the following:

The IRS has acknowledged for decades that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for a tax-exempt status. According to IRS Publication 557, as well as IRS Code § 508, churches and church ministries are “exempt automatically.” Application for an exempt status is not only superfluous, but to do so subordinates that church to the IRS. Churches in America have always been nontaxable anyway. It simply makes no sense for a church to go to the IRS and seek permission to be exempted from a tax the government can’t impose in the first place.

The church in America is protected from the government by the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make NO law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It would be absurd to suppose that you could have free exercise of religion if you had to pay for it (taxes). If Congress can make NO law respecting the church, it can make NO law to tax the church.

The IRS lacks the jurisdiction necessary to tax the churches in America. The IRS has no more jurisdiction over the churches in America than it does over the churches in Canada. It would be as absurd (and tyrannical) for the IRS to tax the churches in America, as it would be for the IRS to tax churches in Canada. They don’t have jurisdiction.

Neither is your church required to be a 501c3 in order for your contributions to be tax-deductible. Nor is this a radical new concept of Church and State. America’s churches have always been “free” churches as opposed to the state churches prevalent in Europe at the time of our founding. They have neither been under the jurisdiction of, or supported by, the government. In the 1950s the 501c3 was offered as a “benefit” to the churches, perhaps to codify the tax-exemption…while at the same time making all churches who accepted the bargain fundamentally subservient to the State, especially in matters of free speech.

Now you could call it conspiracy, or merely one of those unintended consequences government is so good at, but there conceivably could be a reason why the State (regardless of the administration du jour) might seek to bind the Church’s hands with gold and close its mouth with silver: the Church had historically always been the first to speak up against tyranny, both within and without. Indeed, going back to pre-Revolutionary days, it was the pastors of many denominations who spoke out from their pulpits against the Crown’s violations and depradations, earning the clergy the deep enmity (along with sizable bounties on their heads) of King George and the Tories who referred to them as “The Black Regiment” (because of their black robes). More accurately, the preaching and activism of the clergy was likely worth several regiments in the field. (Here’s a sample sermon, circa 1776, from Rev. Samuel West, perhaps a distant relation of mine.)

The call to conscience, based on the word of God, will often stand in opposition to the rule of law as wielded by tyrants. Henry II is not the only ruler to, in one form or another, say, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be a more contemporary version of Thomas Beckett). Bloody decrees somehow only served to fan the flames then; now subtle favors and lulling complacency may be more devastating to liberty. To speak out is not merely the right of the clergy, but their responsibility as well. As John Adams said,

“It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted.

For example, if exorbitant ambition and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers against those vices?

If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue?

If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions, how muchsoever it may move the gall of Massachusetts?”

As with any right, it comes with responsibility, especially where a nation’s destiny is concerned. As Charles Finney said,

“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

Martin Luther’s own words were an unheeded warning in the 1930s as the German state church was subsumed and subverted by the Nazis into a facile caricature of Christianity unable to resist genocide and heritage-shattering megalomania:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ.

Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

I’ll credit the vision of the Minnesota pastors speaking out today and applaud their stance, but they never would have had to defend their free speech rights and responsibilities if their churches hadn’t incorporated and accepted their chains and gilded gags in the first place. (One might also wonder when the Revs. Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton, and Fr. Pfleger might be called into account by Americans United).

The American Church has accepted a foolish bargain and allowed liberty to be burned before its altars. The cause is no more dire today than it has ever been. Similarly, the cost is the same and must be paid with vigilance and boldness.

It’s all a simple misunderstanding

 by the Night Writer

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s attorney, Sam Adam, Jr., stated yesterday that Blago “didn’t take a dime” and simply trusted the wrong people. He went on to say that, “The guy ain’t corrupt” and that “not a single penny of ill-gotten money went into Mr. Blogojevich’s campaign fund or his own pockets.”

I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation. In fact, I’m sure I’ve heard it explained before. Oh, right — it was all laid out in the musical, “Fiorello” that dealt with the break-up of the Tammany Hall machine. The song, “A Little Tin Box” explains it in a way so easy to understand that you’ll wonder why you never thought of it yourself:

JUDGE: Mister “X,” may we ask you a question?

It’s amazing, is it not,

that the city pays you slightly less

than 50 bucks a week,

yet you’ve purchased a private yacht?


WITNESS: I am positive Your Honor must be joking.

Any working man can do what I have done.

For a month or two I simply gave up smoking

and I put my extra pennies one by one…

into a Little Tin Box,

a Little Tin Box

that a little tin key unlocks.

There is nothing unorthodox

about a Little Tin Box.

In a Little Tin Box, a Little Tin Box

that a little tin key unlocks,

there is honor and purity,

lots of security,

in a Little Tin Box.


JUDGE: Mister “Y,” we’ve been told

you don’t feel well,

and we know you’ve lost your voice,

but we wonder how you managed,

on the salary you make,

to acquire a new Rolls Royce.


WITNESS: You’re implying I’m a crook and I say no sir!

There is nothing in my past I care to hide.

I’ve been taking empty bottles to the grocer,

and each nickel that I got was put aside…

into a Little Tin Box,

a Little Tin Box

that a little tin key unlocks.

There is nothing unorthodox

about a Little Tin Box.

In a Little Tin Box, a Little Tin Box

there’s a cushion for life’s rude shocks.

There is faith, hope and charity,

hard-won prosperity,

in a Little Tin Box.


JUDGE: Mister “Z,” you’re a junior official,

and your income’s rather low

yet, you’ve kept a dozen women

in the very best hotels.

Would you kindly explain, how so?


WITNESS: I can see Your Honor doesn’t pull his


and it looks a trifle fishy, I’ll admit,

but for one whole week I went without my lunches

and it mounted up, Your Honor, bit by bit…

It’s just a

Little Tin Box,

a Little Tin Box

that a little tin key unlocks.

There is nothing unorthodox

about a Little Tin Box.

In a Little Tin Box, a Little Tin Box

all a-glitter with blue-chip stocks,

there is something delectable,

almost respectable,

in a Little Tin Box!

It appears Mr. Adam will use an intesting line of defense that combines purity and sentience:

“You have to be comatose not to figure out how to get a dollar out of $52 billion,” Mr. Adam said, referring to the state budget. “But who didn’t? Him!” he said indicating his client.

Too cynical? Yeah, right

by the Night Writer

Peter Bell, Chairman of the Metropolitan Council, had a commentary on the Strib’s editorial pages today with the headline “America Needs a Little Less Cynicism”. Being kind of a cynical person myself when it comes to the appointed bureaucrats of the Met Council, I expected some hand-wringing about how the toxic discourse in the public square has poisoned the people against their well-meaning political overlords, and my initial cynicism was validated in part by one of Bell’s first statements:

Of all the political challenges we face today, perhaps the most difficult is the depth and breadth of cynicism in America. This attitude, from across the political landscape, is a contagious virus limiting our trust and confidence in institutions both big and small, public and private. In February, a New York Times/CBS survey found that just 19 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing, matching the all-time low and well below the level of trust in government in the aftermath of Watergate.

I will say, however, that the article turned out to be fairly even-handed in its hand-wringing, citing examples of how all sides are equally guilty of both earning and fomenting cynicism, even touching lightly on the fact that some of the most cynical people in the whole equation are the politicians themselves.

Left out, however, is the fact that cynicism is an American right and custom, born out of a system fundamentally designed to “speak truth to power”… and one that perhaps causes Power to toss sops, instead of truth, to the people in order to stay in place. In some countries, however, mocking your leaders will get you arrested, even killed. Here it will get you a late night television show. In some countries, the people’s only recourse is bloody revolt. Here, our leaders are swept from power with handsome pensions and lifetime sinecures in the lobbying and punditry classes (or is that too cynical of me?).

The American heritage of individualism and self-reliance has historically bred its people to look suspiciously at a government that promises something too good to be true, even as our individualism and self-reliance is continually seduced away from us. Some credit Ronald Reagan with coining the sarcastic phrase, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” but I’m sure I heard it when I was growing up in the 70s, and it may have been born in the 1930s when expanding Federal programs and powers started to come in to save us from ourselves, all while Will Rogers became the most famous and beloved figure in America by making political commentary a mass- (and multi)-media entertainment form.

Here’s another old joke: what is the motto of the terminally cynical?

“Yeah, right.”

And What is the motto of the terminally naive?


I suppose that too much cynicism can be corrosive and when there’s an abundance of something it tends to become devalued, but cynicism also brings accountability. And, as Will Rogers said, “Chaotic action is better than orderly inaction.” The way I read Peter Bell’s column, he’s suggesting that cynicism undermines good government; I think undermining cynicism leads to bad government. A certain distrust and feistiness toward one’s government is healthier than fatalism (though fatalism, too, is becoming more seductive).

I do heartily concur with one of the statements he made in closing, however:

The surest way to reduce cynicism in America is to rely less on major institutions to do for us what we can and should do for ourselves.

One can perhaps wonder where Greece (acclaimed as the birthplace of democracy) might be today if its people had been a bit more cynical – or empowered – the last 50 years.

Speaking of our American heritage of skepticism and satire, here’s a fun video I saw over at TechnoChitlins; it’s kind of a VH1 “I Love the (17)70s” take:

St. Rukavina

by the Night Writer

“Jesus was a socialist, and you like him.”
— Minnesota state senator and DFL gubernatorial candidate Tom Rukavina

In that case, wouldn’t passing laws to raise taxes and forcibly re-distribute wealth be mixing Church and State? Isn’t that forcing (and enforcing) one’s religion on others? Did he go on to say that it was appropriate to rob Peter to pay Paul?

I suppose it does mean that when I stand before God and He asks me if I gave to the poor then all I have to do is say, “Well, I paid my taxes.” Or maybe I just have to say “I voted to raise other people’s taxes.”

Somehow or another I’ve always figured that giving to and serving others was a personal responsibility and not something I could farm out. Apparently it’s not self-government we need, just more government. Yet its been my experience that loving my neighbor brings me closer to both God and my neighbor, causes me to consider the state of my own heart and stimulates my appreciation for the blessings I’ve received. It also seems to me that if my neighbor loved me, he wouldn’t covet what I had or want to do anything to make himself a burden. My experience is that when people take it upon themselves to help others they end up sowing peace and reconciliation. When it’s left to a third party to do it on your behalf, however, the result is strife and enmity. Which would Jesus chose?

Along those lines, I recently shared a message with the Inside Outfitters group on the importance of “living with an open hand” and what I’ve seen in my life as a result. You can hear the message here (the first couple of minutes of the podcast features someone else, and then I get to talk).

Samizdat: the Libertarian Alarm Clock

HT: Mises Economics Blog

You might have read the story about the Socialist Alarm Clock. A friend who wishes to remain anonymous sent his libertarian version and asked me to post it (cross-posted at Division of Labour and The Beacon):

“This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock built by the ingenuity of millions of individuals all working for their own gain, but whose efforts were coordinated by the prices for labor and materials and finished goods provided by the free market. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the shower head, pipes, and sanitation facilities whose construction also involved the efforts of thousands of people acting in their independent interest. After that, I turned on the TV to The Weather Channel, whose owners include one of the largest multi-national corporations and private equity companies, to see the week’s forecast presented in a clear, informative (and even entertaining) manner. I watched this while eating breakfast of General Mills’ inspected food and taking drugs whose strong brand name gives me confidence in its safety.

At the time which millions of people coordinate their activities to take advantage of each other’s knowledge and skills, I leave for work. I get into my Japanese-designed, Mexican-supplied, Michigan-assembled automobile and set out to work on the roads built by construction contracting companies and named after corrupt politicians, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel that was shipped from the Middle East by an oil company at a per gallon cost many times lower than the price of having a letter delivered across the street by the government monopoly that loses millions of dollars each year. To make the purchase there is no need to leave the pump; I am able to slide a piece of plastic into a small slot and get credit extended to me by a bank who has never met me in person. On the way out the door, I put out the Fed-Ex envelope containing the documents I need to arrive across the country tomorrow morning and drop the kids off at the public school which is attended by only the best students, thanks to the high home prices in the area.

After work, I drive my Japanese-Latino-Midwestern car back home, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of materials developed in the research and development departments of hundreds of corporations and which has not been plundered of all is valuables thanks to the lock on the door and a sign advertising the security company whose services I employ. My piece of mind was not interrupted by the thought of these events anyway, as I have both fire and homeowners insurance through privately held insurance company.

I then log on to the internet to watch and listen to artists who don’t appeal to a broad enough audience to make it onto one of the few channels that a government monopoly allows to be broadcast. I then log onto the democraticunderground.com to post about how DEREGULATING the medical industry is BAD because low-cost, quality health care can never be provided by greedy, self-interested people.”