Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: My Life Story: In Safe Keeping


 My Life Story (1916-1999): “In Safe Keeping” is the autobiography of my grand aunt, Marjorie Mercer.  Less than 20 copies of the book were published and sent to family members because Aunt Margie wanted us to “understand why God is so real and precious to me…He has never failed me.”

     Aunt Margie was born in Indiana in 1916.  She had 2 brothers, Robert (7 years older) and Raymond (My grandpa, 5 years older).  During the flu of 1918 (22 million died from the flu) her whole family became seriously ill.  Her parents could not take care of either their sick children or themselves.  Just in time, the old family doctor drove by and noticed that no smoke was coming from their chimney although it was very cold.  He suspected something was wrong and stopped to check on them.  Then he saved their lives by caring for them.  

     In the summer of 1924, the family of 5 left for California in a Model T Ford loaded with tools, clothes, bedding, food, water, a tent, and camping equipment.  They had a leisurely trip, sightseeing along the way.  After they arrived in California they lived in their tent in a campground while her father looked for work.  In Los Angeles, her father attended a church meeting and say so many miraculous healings that he accepted Jesus into his heart.  Her dad got a good job in Redlands.  When she was 9 years old, Aunt Margie got saved at a small church.  During high school, she babysat and did house work.  Her senior year she earned straight A’s in typing, shorthand, and book keeping.  One of the biggest surprises was the birth of her sister, Betty, in 1933.

     In 1937, Aunt Margie met a young man named J.T. at a Halloween party.  It was love at first sight, and she and J.T. married the next year.  They had a son named Tommy.  In February 1946, she became very sick with pneumonia when she was 7 months pregnant.  Her baby died one day after its birth.  1 hour after the delivery, Marjorie had a spinal tap.  She then had a rib re-section and a motor and pump drained her lungs.  She was given a blood transfusion--of the wrong type of blood--and had a very bad reaction.  She nearly died.  Two doctors said that she would not live.  Soon she fell into a coma.  J.T. came home, and she was sent to another hospital.  In this hospital she was placed in isolation; only a minister was allowed to visit her.  She survived the night--contrary to expectations--and spent 1 month in a coma.   Her illness lasted 6 months in all.  All her friends prayed for her.  J.T. never gave up hope; he was firm in his faith in God and refused to believe the dire predictions of the doctors.  He claimed Mark 11:22-24 for Aunt Margie.  Verse 24 says, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”  When Aunt Margie came out of the coma, she was blind and the doctors said she would be a vegetable mentally and physically for as long as she might live.  

     J.T. was allowed to be in the ambulance on the way home.  On the way home, something miraculous happened: she could see, her mind cleared, and she knew what was happening.  She was moved to a hospital bed in her mothers house.  J.T. sat by her bedside and told her that God had healed her.  He read Mark 11:22-24 to her and told her that God had answered prayer for her.  She said, “Well, if God has healed me, what am I doing in bed?  I want to get up!”  She didn’t know that she couldn’t even lift her head off the pillow or turn over by herself in the hospital, as she’d been diagnosed with spinal meningitis, and her spine had become rigid as a pole.  She insisted that she get out of bed; then she discovered that her right leg was paralyzed, and her right arm and hand were useless.  J.T. held her up, and “In Jesus’ name” she took one step.  She began “eating like a horse.”  At first, she couldn’t even hold up a spoon, but in just a few days she regained use of her hand and arm.  Each day, with J.T.’s help, she took one more step than she had taken the day before; within 10 days she could take care of herself.  

“Do I believe in miracles?”  Aunt Margie asked,  “Yes, a thousand times yes!  Do I believe in God?  Yes, a thousand times yes!  Do I know that God answers prayer?  Yes, a thousand times yes!…I can never thank the Lord enough for all that He has done for me!  He has now given me 52 years of life that medical science said I could never have…God in His love and mercy has spared my life.  All He asks of each of us is that we love Him, believe in Him, and accept his Son, Jesus, into our hearts as our personal Saviour.  There is a heaven that God has prepared for all those who love and serve Him.  There is a literal hell prepared for all those who reject Him.  We were all born in sin, and even though we may live a good life, our good deeds will not be enough when we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of our lives.  The one question we will be asked is, ‘What have you done with Jesus?’  As a Christian, we are not immune from sickness, sorrow, or problems in life, but Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  One of my favorite scriptures is found in Isaiah 41:14, ‘Fear not for I am with you.  Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I  will uphold you with my righteous hand.’” 

Within 4 weeks (In July of 1946) she was able to go home and return to her duties as a mother.  The next year, she and J.T. built their first home.  She lathed the entire house, never missing one nail.  The city inspector said that she had done the best job he’d ever seen.  She and J.T. were very involved in church and were youth leaders for 10 years.  They also had a great time camping, fishing, and touring the United States and Canada with their son.

The last 2 weeks before J.T.’s death, they volunteered to help with the Billy Graham Film Ministry and served as counselors.  She was privileged to pray with a dozen girls to receive Jesus.  Then they visited Campus Crusade and celebrated their 34th anniversary.  On December 9, 1972, she and J.T. ate lunch together and made plans for the day.  Then J.T. went out to mow their and their neighbor’s yard.  J.T. had a major heart attack and died while mowing the lawn.  Aunt Margie knew that J.T. was ready to go, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to cope with the sorrow.  She wrote, “Our body goes into the grave, but our spirit goes to be with God, if we believe in Him.  John 14:1 says, ‘Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions…’ None of us have any guarantee of tomorrow, or even of the next 5 minutes.  We may not have a chance to call upon the Lord when our time comes.  That’s why it is so important to be ready by giving our hearts to the Lord, and it is a personal choice.  No one can answer to God for our lives, but ourselves…I pray that everyone will consider where you will spend eternity.”

Aunt Margie continued to do much volunteer work: she helped widows, orphans, the poor, and missionaries, and worked with women’s organizations and the elderly.  She also served as a deaconess at her church.

In 1982, Aunt Margie began coughing up blood.  X-rays showed a large mass in her stomach, and the doctors suspected cancer.  When she went for a biopsy, the nurse asked if she were afraid.  She said “No” because she knew God was with her.  After the biopsy, the specialist came in with the biggest grin and said, “The mass is gone, and I cannot find anything wrong with your stomach.”

God spared her life many other times, including 3 car accidents, but I will not go into detail here.

Aunt Margie toured Europe and had a wonderful time.  She also visited Hawaii, cruised to Alaska, toured the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Ice fields and all of the US National Parks.

 

Aunt Margie tells us that she frequently asked Grandpa Ray, “Ray, wouldn’t you like to ask Jesus to come into your heart, to be your own personal Saviour?”  He always said, “No.”  But one day he said “Yes.”  They both cried and Grandpa Ray asked Jesus to come into his heart and forgive his sins.  Soon after, he died of cancer.  

Aunt Margie concludes her book by mentioning all of her family members (including me!) and telling us that she wrote the book because she wanted to share her faith in God with us and tell us that Jesus is real, the Bible is true, we all will face eternity someday, and it is important to prepare for that time.  Aunt Margie died the year after she published the book.  At the end of the book, we find this poem:

Did You Know?
Margie Mercer, 1981
Have you ever lost a loved one?  Been lonely and sad?  I have, but did you know?

Jesus promised He’d never leave me nor forsake
When sorrows come and grief would try to overtake.
He said, “Place your hand in mine, and don’t let go,
My daughter, trust me, because I love you so.”

Have you ever been anxious or afraid?  I have, but did you know?

Jesus said, “Peace, my child, I give to thee;
Do not fret, worry, nor anxious be.
Cast all your care on me; I’ll carry the load.
Let’s walk together down this treacherous road.”

Lift up your head, Smile through your tears!
I promised I’d take away all those fears.
And in their place, give joy and peace;
The burden is gone!  What sweet release.

Have you ever been given up to die?  I have, but did you know?

When sickness comes, and all hope is gone,
Jesus brings “New life” at the coming of the dawn.
He will restore health, revive and renew.
What He’s done for me, I know He’ll do for you!

Have you ever been tested as by fire?  I have, but did you know?

Satan will try to accuse you, my friend,
He’ll bring deception, and doubts he will send.
Resist him, and out of the darkness of night,
Jesus will bring you into glorious light!

This life is like a dressing room, back stage,
Preparing us for eternity and a brand new page.
Jesus is the master potter, and we are the clay,
He’s getting us ready for a brand new day!

Have you ever been tired and weary?  I have, but did you know?

Jesus said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.
Let my love enfold you, and lean upon my breast.”
He will refresh you, through prayer and his word;
Praises of victory will soon be heard.

Have you ever had a financial need?  I have, but did you know?

Jesus said, “I will supply all your need.”
He did not promise to provide for our greed.
You’re an heir of Christ, a child of the King!
He will not withhold from you, any good thing.

Have you ever asked Jesus to come into your heart?  I have, wouldn’t you like to?

Do you know my Jesus?  Is He your dearest friend?
In times of stress and problems, on Him can you depend?
He longs to give you the very best in life.
Won’t you give him now, all your turmoil and strife?
Just open the door of your heart today, and invite Him in,
Not as a temporary guest, but to stay.
He will bring strength, healing, and peace;
He will give you abundant life,
And Joy that will never cease.

What a wonderful testimony!






Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review: Nation, State, and Economy

Nation, State, and Economy (Nation, Staat, and Wirtshaft) was written by Ludwig von Mises in 1919--at the same time as Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of Peace.  Translated by Leland B. Yeager, the book was published by New York University Press in 1983.  If you’re addicted to reading Von Mises’ books (like I am), there’s no reason not to read it; but I would not recommend the book for beginners.  This is one of Von Mises’ earlier works, and his theories had not yet matured.

To start the book, Mises urged everyone to go on with life instead of living in eternal remorse over World War 1.  People should, however, learn from the disaster and never repeat their errors: “Every person must take his life and every nation must take its history as it comes; nothing is more useless than complaining over errors that can be no longer rectified, nothing more vain than regret.”  “Nations,” he says, “like individuals, become wise only through experience, and only through experience of their own.”  

Mises believes that nations are not based on geographic or political boundaries, but rather on language because language affects the thought process.  “Community of language binds and difference of language separates persons and peoples,” he says.  

Democracy doesn’t work well, he observed, in a state with a nationally mixed population (I.e. with strong ethnic groups which have not been assimilated).  “In polyglot territories, the application of the majority principle leads not to the freedom of all, but to the rule of the majority over the minority.”  The struggle of nationalities for control will only “lose sharpness to the extent that the functions of the state are restricted and freedom is extended.”

Von Mises goes on to international affairs.  War, Mises observes, was always caused by one thing, greed for power.  Philanthropic pacifism wants to abolish war without getting at the causes of war.  The League of Nations and any extensive efforts at arbitration will fail, Mises predicted.  Methods such as a socialist world community would not eliminate problems; they are utopian.  “Whoever wants peace among nations,” he declares, “must seek to limit the state and its influence most strictly.”  Mises rejects war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility: war lowers the standard of living.  An increase in wealth never results from destruction.  Free people who are busy with their own business do not want war, but the “‘statification’ of life and of the economy necessarily leads to the struggle of nations.”  Von Mises explores the pre-war conditions in Germany and Austria and the reasons an authoritarian government was able to take power.  He then notes that the development of the spatial division of labor and progress toward a world economy works “more effectively for peace than all the efforts of the pacifists.”

“Inflation,” von Mises wrote, is an indispensable intellectual means of militarism.  Without it, the repercussions of war on welfare would become obvious much more quickly and penetratingly; war-weariness would set in much earlier.”  During World War I, inflation messed up balance sheets because the depreciation of money was not accounted for. “The inflation drew a veil over capital consumption.  The individual believed that he had become richer or had at least not lost, while in truth his wealth was dwindling.  The state taxed these losses of individual economic units as ‘war profits’ and spent the amounts collected for unproductive purposes.”  Everyone fell into ecstasy, thinking they had made a lot of money off the war, while their standard of living dropped.

Von Mises goes on to contrast socialism and liberalism (the old liberalism, nearly the opposite of modern day liberalism, was a belief in liberty).  Both Socialism and liberalism strive for the same goal (general welfare); they both seek for “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”  The only difference is in the methods they choose to reach the goal.  Liberalism calls for free trade internationally, not for the sake of foreigners, but for the sake of one’s own people.  It calls for free trade at home, “not out of regard for particular classes, but for the welfare of all.”  Mises says, “An economic order resting on private ownership of the means of production and according the greatest possible scope to the activity and free initiative of the individual assures…the attainment of the goal…The socialist…seeks to attain it by socialization of the means of production…In the socialist society, the distinction between rich and poor would fall away; no one would possess more than another, but every individual would be poorer than even the poorest today, since the communist system would work to impede production and progress.”  Waste, he explains, is rampant in public services and enterprises, while private enterprise is highly efficient.  Socialism cannot be defended rationally, Mises claims, it is more like a doctrine of salvation.  “Yet, the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world; socialism, on the contrary, wants to establish the kingdom of salvation on earth.  Therein lies its strength, therein, however, its weakness too, from which it will collapse some day just as quickly as it has triumphed.  Even if the socialist method of production really could raise productivity and provide greater welfare for all than the liberal method, it would be bound bitterly to disappoint its adherents, who also expect the highest exaltation of the inner feeling of happiness from it.  It will not be able to remove the inadequacy of everything earthly…it will have to recognize that a religion not referring to the life to come is an absurdity.”

On the other hand, von Mises explains some of the essential points of liberalism, “If they deny to the state the mission of furthering the realization of the values of life, they do so not out of want of esteem for true values, but rather in the recognition that these values, as the most characteristic expression of inner life, are inaccessible to every influence by external forces.  Not out of religiosity do they demand religious freedom, but out of deepest intimacy of religious feeling, which wants to make inner experience free from every raw influence of outward power.  They demand freedom of thought because they rank thought much too high to hand it over to the domination of magistrates and councils.  They demand freedom of speech and of the press because they expect the triumph of truth only from the struggle of opposing opinions.”

Mises then writes of the great influence oppression can have in the “modern” world (of 1919).  He speaks of how it is so easy to kill and control so many, of how one pressing one button could kill “thousands.”  [Just think of the extent of destruction a war or oppression could create today with nuclear weapons and so much more technology.]  Von Mises said that, “Only one external limit is posed to this rage for destruction.  In destroying the free cooperation of men, imperialism undercuts the material basis of its power.  Economic civilization has forged the weapons for it.  In using the weapons to blow up the forge and kill the smith, it makes itself defenseless in the future.  The apparatus of the economy based on division of labor cannot be reproduced, let alone extended, if freedom and property have disappeared.  It will die out and the economy will sink back into primitive forms.   Only then will mankind be able to breathe more freely.  If the spirit of reflective ness does not return sooner, imperialism and Bolshevism will be overcome at the latest when the means of power that they have wrested from liberalism will have been used up.”  

Mises then concludes by affirming the rights of self-defense.  A war in self-defense is a “just war” and “the most virtuous person cannot live in peace if that does not please his evil neighbor.”  Then he goes on to tell us that everyone, even the most evil leader, has claimed to exercise power for the “general good.”  But basically, as Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I’m glad I read Nation, State, and Economy.  It definitely contains plenty interesting ideas and food for thought.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Heavenly Couch Potatoes?


Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who went on a long trip. He called 3 servants and “delivered unto them his goods” (Matthew 24.14). He gave 5 talents to one servant, to another servant 2 talents, and to another 1 talent (to each man according to his own ability--He doesn't give anyone work that's too hard). Then the lord left.

Servant #1 immediately got to work and doubled his money. Servant #2 did the same. But Servant #3 took his talent and buried it. A long time later, the boss came back. He was very pleased with the work of Servant #1. Because #1 was faithful with the small task assigned to him, the lord said, “I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” When #3 came however, he had nothing to offer but excuses, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” The Lord told the servant that he was wicked and lazy and said he should at least have invested it. Servant #3 faced dire punishment.

How is this like the Kingdom of Heaven? Here's my take:

Our Lord, Jesus, no longer walks among men, but He has promised that He will come back one of these days in flaming fire. Earth is so small compared to heaven, but we, Christ’s servants, have been given talents to use and jobs to do. If we do our best for Jesus now, He’ll have much greater projects for us to do when He returns. If we fail in our little tasks and prove to be wicked and lazy, are we to think God will give us a place in the great work of His Kingdom?

Think of the business world: if someone is hired in a low position, he will have to do an excellent job if he wants to get promoted. If he does a bad job, he’ll stay in his low-paying job forever or get fired. A good business manager only promotes faithful, hardworking people. Well, the “Big Boss up in the Sky” is the best business manager of all. We were all a bunch of losers, condemned to death because of our sins. We had no chance of getting hired into His prestigious company. But His Son, Jesus, cared about and loved us so much that He took our place, died for us, and gave us a letter of recommendation in His name. Jesus arose from the dead, and all of us who believe in Jesus and ask Him for a letter of forgiveness and recommendation (on His merit) can join the company. The thing is, after you join up, you should love Jesus so much that you work hard at the small job He’s given you. When the Big Boss comes back for His inspection tour, let’s hope we hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord. For some reason, I don’t quite believe I’ll be lounging around on feather pillows in the clouds when Christ returns to earth to execute judgment on all the injustice we see going unpunished today (in many cases injustice and corruption today is found in the very authorities whose sole task should be the execution of justice).

So, if you believe that Christ will return and the “Big Boss in the Sky” will rend the heavens and come down to execute perfect Justice in the earth one of these days, get ready. If God sees you lounging around and being lazy at your current post, won’t He see that as an indication you’re fit to be no more than an heavenly couch potato? Work on your relationship with Jesus. Do a good job using your talents here on earth so the good Lord knows you and knows you want to reign with Him--not be a heavenly couch potato--when power is given to the saints of the Most High.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Freedom of Religion and Equality in Educational Choices

A young girl walks to school every day--5 steps to her desk--where she is soon absorbed in her studies. She is an evangelical Christian homeschooler. School is out when she finally dozes off with a classic by her side and pen and notepad slipping from her grasp. She never misses a day of school for snow, sleet, wind, or rain. Though her rights to free exercise of religion are challenged by the public schools, her entrance into the portals of knowledge has been expedited by her alternative. It is impossible for public schools to provide satisfactory religious consideration for a very diverse populace, as “a general state education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another” (Hayek, 376). Equal consideration of all views can be achieved fairly only through eliminating public funding, localizing education and reducing public schools to equal footing with parochial and home schools.

The first amendment reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This was, at first, solely a restriction on the federal government (Permoli v. First Municipality 1845), and therefore the restriction had no influence on the schools because the federal government had no power over education (10th amendment) (Federalist No. 84). In his 6th annual address, Jefferson addressed the problem of a debt-free nation that was accumulating a surplus with the proposal that federal funding be extended to education. Education would not be taken out of the “hands of private enterprise, which manages so much better all the concerns to which it is equal,” but an amendment to the Constitution was deemed necessary “because the objects now recommended are not among those enumerated in the Constitution, and to which it permits the public moneys to be applied.” (Richardson, Vol. I, 409-410). The suggested amendment was never passed.

But while courts have overlooked Jefferson’s official remarks about the constitutionality of federal funding of education, they have placed much stock in Jefferson’s interpretation of the First Amendment as a wall of separation between church and State, found in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (Jefferson, 332). Up to nearly fifty years after the first amendment, there is little evidence of a wall of separation in the public schools. State schools were non-sectarian, but ultimately Protestant (Parsons, 60). Washington’s admonition was heeded: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion…It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government…Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge” (Richardson, 220). Jefferson’s slight of the Bible in suggesting that young students whose “judgments [were] not mature enough for religious inquiry” would profit more by reading Greek, Roman, European, and American history” (Lambert, 227) was temporarily forgotten. As Tocqueville observed in the early nineteenth century: “In America, it is religion which leads the way to enlightenment; it is the observance of divine laws which leads man to liberty” (Tocqueville, 30).

The 14th amendment, ratified in 1868, extended the first amendment to the states. By then, the Zeitgeist had changed. In his 7th annual message, President Grant recommended that an amendment be submitted for ratification, making it the duty of each of the States to maintain public “schools adequate to the education of all the children…forbidding the teaching in the said schools of religious, atheistic, or pagan tenets; and prohibiting the granting of any school funds or school taxes, or any part thereof, either by legislative, municipal, or other authority, for the benefit or in aid, directly or indirectly, of any religious sect or denomination” (Richardson, Vol. VII, 334).

Of course, such an amendment was never passed, but, as Tocqueville states, “The peace, prosperity, and very existence of the Union rest constantly in the hands of seven [now nine] federal judges. Without them, the Constitution would be a dead letter” (Tocqueville, 169). In Everson v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that the establishment clause of the First Amendment forbids taxes to be raised in support of any school teaching religion. In Abington Township School District v. Schempp the Supreme Court ruled school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional. In Wallace v. Jaffree, the Supreme Court ruled that the State's endorsement of prayer activities at the beginning of each school day is not consistent with the “established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.” In Kitzmiller v. Dover the teaching of intelligent design was banned from the classroom.

Do such rulings accommodate evangelical Christian students and teachers who are instructed to “Pray without ceasing,” (King James Version, 1 Thess. 1.17), “Go…into all the world [“all” does not exclude the classroom], and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mk 16.15) and “Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He shall direct your paths”(Prov. 3.6)? Do the rulings accommodate Christians who are taught that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1.7), and who are instructed to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”? Not at all. Instead of Christianity, creationism, and the Bible, students are taught sociology and evolution, and are psychologically evaluated (Gross, 129-148). That is why my parents chose to home school me. I was taught to read from the King James Bible with prayer and Bible reading always an integral part of every school day.

It is just as impossible to satisfy everyone with the public schools as it is to return the schools to the teaching of piety. America is now a far more diverse nation than when the Constitution and First Amendment were written. Everyone has his or her own interpretation of how a child should be raised and what he or she should be taught. As F.A. Hayek adeptly observed: “Very few of the problems of education are scientific questions in the sense that they can be decided by any objective tests. They are mostly either outright questions of value, or at least the kind of questions concerning which the only ground for trusting the judgment of some people rather than that of others is that the former have shown more good sense in other respects” (Hayek, 380). Perhaps the greatest enormity is that parents who opt out of the public school system and home school or send their children to parochial schools are compelled to furnish tax dollars for the propagation of opinions they disbelieve (Paul, 133), a practice Jefferson termed sinful and tyrannical.

Satisfaction that my rights to the free exercise of religion will be sufficiently protected will not come the day the King James Bible is studied in the public schools. That day will never come; but if it does come, my atheist and Jewish neighbors will cry that their rights have been abused. I myself would fear that the government would corrupt the church. Satisfaction that my right to the free exercise of religion is sufficiently protected will not come when Protestant teachings are re-introduced into the public schools. Anyone who believes that day will come is dreaming; but if it does come, my Catholic neighbors will cry of tyranny. To compel any man or woman, of whatever religious persuasion he or she be, to furnish money for the propagation of opinions he or she disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical. I will honor Jesus Christ with my life: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” But to everyone else I say, “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” but do not compel me to pay tribute to your god, opinions, or godless education. I am a Christian. My family is Christian. My children will be raised as Christians, and dearest to our hearts, shining eternally and in everything we do, will be the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, and His immortal gift of Liberty: the individual liberty which my forefathers sought to protect with the Bill of Rights and the eternal liberty of a conscience at peace with God.
_______________________
Works Cited:

Gross, Martin L. The Conspiracy of Ignorance: The Failure of the American Public Schools. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Print.

Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. The Federalist. Ed. Wright, Benjamin F. New York: Barns & Nobles Books, 1996. 531-541. Print.

Hayek, Friedrich A. von. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. Print.

Jefferson, Thomas. The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Ed. Koch, Adrienne, and Peden, William. New York: The Modern Library, 1944. 332-333. Print.

Lambert, Frank. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, c2003. Print.

Parsons, Wilfrid. The First Freedom. New York: D. X. McMullen Co.,1948. Print.

Paul, Ron The Revolution: A Manifesto. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008. Print.

Richardson, James D. United States. Cong. Joint Committee on Printing. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897. 53rd Cong., 2nd sess. Washington: GPO, 1896. Print.

The Holy Bible: Authorized King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 1998. Print.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Trans. Stephan Grant. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Pub., c2000. Print.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hardin City


Hardin City, established (sometime in the 1800s), a sign beside the road read. Sitting behind the sign was the old Hardin City bridge slowly rotting away as weeds and grass grew around it. The locals had not wanted to see the bridge destroyed, so when a new bridge was built over the Iowa River, this bridge was brought to its current location. But, where, oh where was Hardin City? My eyes searched in vain. All I could see was the old bridge, trees, grasses, and wildflowers; not even a cemetery was in sight! So much for my thirsty fellow travelers--there was no hope of finding a pop machine or even an old well pump and dipper in a city (!?) like this. Well, well, maybe we’d have better success with Eagle City. Our friend in the passenger seat said Eagle City was only a few miles away. She instructed the driver to follow the road for a while and then turn left. Directions were followed until we saw a sign saying “Eagle City, 5 miles”--in the opposite direction! The driver made a quick U-turn and followed the signs directing us toward the city. “Don’t worry,” the driver remarked, “we’re headed to Eagle City; the sign didn’t say village or town, it said city. We’ll see all the big buildings and skyscrapers--we won’t miss it.” After seeing Hardin “City,” my fellow passengers couldn’t restrain their laughter. After a long day of hiking though, they were hoping that they could, at least, find some water. Finally, we arrived at Eagle City--no skyscrapers, only 3 houses and the only big building was an old dilapidated barn. There were also two well-maintained parks. The lower one was still closed for the winter, but the higher park was open. Finally, the most thirsty passenger spotted a water pump--without a handle! What a disappointment.

The many dwindling small towns (or “cities”) of Iowa, including Eagle City and especially Hardin City, are striking reminders of how ephemeral many of our efforts are.


Consider my great, great, great grandfather Eli Carson. All I know about him is that he was born on November 14, 1836 in Morgan Co. Indiana to Jessie and Mary Carson. He married Melissa Humphreys on October 16, 1861 in Decorah, Iowa. Enlisted in the Union army on August 21, 1863, he was mustered out on August 15, 1865 as a (2nd lieutenant?) of Company D of the 38th infantry. He had 13 children, died October 16, 1915, and was buried in Union, IA. His obituary says that he was “a man of jovial disposition and of ready wit, and his nature was such as makes and keeps friends.”
Ethel, 2 of her children, and Clair

More is known about more recent generations: Ethel Carson, my great, great grandma, lived to be 103. When she was 100, my father asked her if her life had gone by fast. She said, “When I look forward 100 years, that seems far way, but when I look back 100 years, it did go by fast.” When she was 102, my father asked her what advice she would give to a young person. She said, “Hard work never hurt anyone.” Her favorite hymn was “The Touch of His Hand on Mine:

The Touch of His Hand on Mine
Jessie B. Pounds

There are days so dark that I seek in vain
For the face of my Friend divine;
But tho’ darkness hide, He is there to guide
By the touch of His hand on mine.

There are times, when tired of the toilsome road,
That for the ways of the world I pine;
But He draws me back to the upward track
By the touch of His hand on mine.

When the way is dim, and I cannot see
Thro’ the mist of His wise design,
How my glad heart yearns and my faith returns
By the touch of His hand on mine.

In the last sad hour, as I stand alone
Where the powers of death combine,
While the dark waves roll He will guide my soul
By the touch of His hand on mine.

Chorus: Oh, the touch of His hand on mine,
Oh, the touch of His hand on mine!
There is grace and pow’r in the trying hour,
In the touch of His hand on mine.


Grandma Ethel certainly knew about trying hours. Her sons (including my great grandpa Harry Sr.) let their practical jokes go too far. They “greased the tracks” and derailed 2 trains. The railroad company sued for damages, and the family lost their farm. Shortly after, Ethel also lost her husband, Clair, when he died of heart problems at age 44. She lived the rest of her life in a tiny house in town. Grandpa Harry Sr. and the great uncles got into the habit of telling their descendants that we lost the farm because “the pigs caught cholera,” but the truth could not be hid. As the saying goes, “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

We should ask ourselves what kind of heritage we will leave behind when we die. Will we leave behind a Hardin City--nothing--will our lives be spent in vain? Will we leave behind poverty and sorrow like my great grandpa who, with his brothers, lost the family fortune and then spent the rest of his life mostly in selfishness, treacherously leaving his wife and children, and today is remembered as “a bad man”? Or will we leave behind a memory like that of Ethel Carson, who encouraged hard work and whose favorite hymn tells us that God will see us through the most trying hour with grace and power? Jesus said that whoever gives someone a glass of cold water will not lose his reward. An old friend of my family, Esther Pitts, who died in 2009 at age 109, lived in Portland back in the 1920s. A traveling preacher came to town and gave good sermons--while running up his credit at the local grocery store. Then he left town without paying his bill. Throughout the city people whispered, “Those Christians! They are all the same--hypocrites! Did you hear about that preacher? He left town without paying his grocery bill.” Esther walked down to the grocery store and paid the preacher’s bill. People could still say bad things about that preacher, but no one could say bad things about all Christians anymore. She showed many small kindnesses to many people, and these simple kindnesses will never be forgotten. When the last trumpet sounds for you, what will you leave behind? “A life of giving” like Aunt Esther? Are you utilizing the talents God has given you? Will you leave behind beautiful symphonies like Bach or Beethoven? Don’t let your life be wasted. Show a little kindness today. Use your talents to bless others. Our lives will go by quickly, even if we do live to be 100. Are you laying up your treasures in heaven, or are you building a Hardin City?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: Economic Planning: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow

Economic Planning: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow is a series of lectures given by Ludwig von Mises at the University of Buenos Aires in 1958. The lectures were published by Margit von Mises in 1979, after her husband's death. Margit correctly notes in her forward that these lectures are easier to understand than many of Mises' works. It was her "earnest hope" that the book would be "made available to younger audiences, especially high school and college students throughout the world."
In his first lecture, Von Mises explains that the "kings"--modern captains of industry--don't rule, they serve. If they do not please their subjects, the customers, they lose their kingdom. I consider it striking how this principle of free market capitalism resembles Christ's advice to His disciples on how to be great in God's kingdom: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave..." (Matthew 20:26-27 NIV)
Von Mises carefully shows that capitalism improves conditions for the masses. Often, he observes, people look back at the Industrial Revolution, the factory working conditions, and the long hours for women and children and mourn how industrialization took these women and children from their homes into the factories. This thinking is all wrong, he says. "The mothers who worked in the factories had nothing to cook with; they did not leave their homes and their kitchens to go into the factories, they went into factories because they had no kitchens, and if they had a kitchen, they had no food to cook in those kitchens. And the children did not come from comfortable nurseries. They were starving and dying." The advent of capitalism improved living conditions so much that England's population doubled with the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was not evil; children who otherwise would have starved to death obtained jobs and lived. Since then, we have continued to see conditions improve.
What about wage rates? Since every individual is both consumer and producer, Mises says, "Wage rates under capitalism are not set by a class of people different from the class of people who earn the wages...If buyers do not pay the employer enough to enable him to pay his workers, it becomes impossible for the employer to remain in business."
Savings are good for the economy because they are invested, Mises notes. Let me give an example: take your latest tax refund or stimulus check. If you are a good, patriotic American and want to help the economy with your check, what should you do? Hide it under your mattress? No, that won't do you, or anyone else, any good. Spend it immediately (like you are advised to do) on luxury items? No! You might have fun with a new motor boat or big screen TV, but they really will do you no permanent good. Do you really help the economy? Not very much, you encourage frivolous industry. Should you save and invest your money? Yes! Your savings will be lent to some entrepreneur who may start a useful business, boost the economy, hopefully make a net income for himself, and pay you back with interest so you can lend even more money to the next entrepreneur. Theoretically, you will enrich yourself and society indefinitely.
Von Mises says the meaning of economic freedom is "that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society. The individual is able to choose his career, he is free to do what he wants to do." Many people do not realize, he notes, that "in a system where there is no [free] market, where the government directs everything, all those other freedoms are illusory, even if they are made into laws and written up in Constitutions." Where there is no economic freedom it is very easy for the government to suppress these other liberties. Take, if I may give an example, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand in Communist Romania: his ration cards were suspended when he was too vocal about his religious beliefs. Consider in Revelations where St. John speaks of the mark of the beast without which no one could buy or sell: in that case economic sanctions seriously inhibit religious liberty. Or consider the consequences of perhaps saying something "wrong" in the future if the government controls healthcare; it would be very easy for some hitch in bureaucracy to come up so you would not get your healthcare. Von Mises observes that while in a capitalist society the consumer is the boss, "In socialist countries it is not the seller who has to be grateful, it is the buyer. The citizen is not the boss; the boss is the Central Committee, the Central Office. Those socialist committees and leaders and dictators are supreme, and the people simply have to obey them."
Mises was a firm believer in limited government. He says, "Under socialism, of course, the government is totalitarian, and there is nothing outside its sphere and its jurisdiction. But in the market economy, the main task of the government is to protect the smooth functioning of the market against fraud or violence from within and from outside the country. People who do not agree with this definition of the functions of government may say: 'This man hates the government.' Nothing could be farther from the truth. If I should say that gasoline is a very useful liquid, useful for many purposes, but that I would nevertheless not drink gasoline because I think that would not be the right use for it, I am not the enemy of gasoline, and I do not hate gasoline...The government's only legitimate function is, precisely, to produce security." "Interventionism means that the government not only fails to protect the smooth functioning of the market economy, but that it interferes with the various market phenomena; it interferes with prices, with wage rates, interest rates, and profits. Von Mises goes on to explain the futility of price controls and protectionism, concluding that all government interference is wrong and leads to socialism.
Ludwig von Mises' 4th lecture is on inflation: "With the stroke of a pen, the government creates fiat money," he says. Mises, an Austrian, recalled when German hyperinflation took its toll. On August 1, 1914, $1 equaled 4 marks and 20 pfennings. By November 1923, $1 was worth 4.2 billion marks. Inflation is based on a live-for-the-day mentality, as Madame de Pompadour said, 'Aprés nous le déluge." (Keynes said, "In the long run, we are all dead.") Sometimes, though, Mises observes, we outlive the short run and find ourselves in "le déluge." Mises recommended the gold standard: "The gold standard has one tremendous virtue: the quantity of the money supply, under the gold standard, is independent of the policies of governments and political parties. This is its advantage. It is a form of protection against spendthrift governments." Inflation increases the quantity of money while lowering its purchasing power, effectively lowering real wages and decreasing unemployment. But unions noticed the lowering of real wages and started using indexing in their bargaining. If full employment is to be achieved, Mises explains, the unhampered market must determine wage rates. He also says that capital is the only way to increase the standard of living; unions, protectionism, inflation, and minimum wage rates only hamper the process.
Foreign investment, he remarked, is good for the country.
Like many authors and speakers, Von Mises ends with an optimistic note:

"We must fight all that we dislike in public life. We must substitute better ideas for wrong ideas...Our civilization will and must survive. And it will survive through better ideas than those which now govern most of the world today, and these better ideas will be developed by the rising generation."
Now, Let's take a look into Argentine history...
(Historical information thanks to A Brief History of Argentina)
If the Argentines had followed Mises' advice, given soon after Perón's resignation and exile, history would be written differently. But, no, bureaucracy, inefficiency, inflation, and corruption reigned. No president dared cut back the public sector because there would be outcries of (temporarily) jobless bureaucrats. In Argentina, economic downturns and regime changes became synonymous. Individuals tolerate difficulties if they have no one to blame but themselves. But when the government was in charge of (and consequently responsible for) everything, and nothing worked, the people had no one to blame but the government. There were riots and guerrilla fighters. Less than a decade after Von Mises gave his lectures there, 200 students were jailed and 30 hospitalized during the "Night of Long Pencils" at the University of Buenos Aires. The guerrillas claimed to fight the "enslavement of foreign capital. " The labor unions and guerrillas made Argentina ungovernable. Perón returned to power in '73. In '75, he died and his wife Isabel became president. A civil war between the Monteneros and Triple A ensued, and a military junta took the reins in '76. A temporary economic boom occurred, but the military soon succumbed to corruption. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The national debt rose astronomically. The junta "mortgaged future economic health, but the prosperity of the moment enabled the junta to defeat the guerrillas." To wipe out the approx. 2000 remaining guerrillas, the military killed 19,000 Argentines. The government tortured and killed in secret. They raided homes at night, and their victims just disappeared.
After a war with Britian over the Malvinas Islands, strikes, various elections, revolts, and with the onset of hyperinflation and 1/5 of total employees in the country working for the government, President Carlos Menem took office. Menem and his finance minister Cayallo privatised companies, lowered tarrifs, encouraged foreign investment, sought closer trade relations with neighboring countries, streamlined beauracracy, created a new peso note fixed on par with the U.S. dollar, and anounced that "subsidies no longer exist." Inflation dropped from 3000% to less than 20% in 3 years. Argentina's GDP increased by 35% from 1990 to 1994, and foreign investment increased by 150%. Of course, the situation in Argentina has changed since then, but imagine all the bloodshed, revolutions, and poverty that could have been avoided if Von Mises' advice had been followed in 1958.
The lectures found in Economic Planning: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow are very easy to understand, and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a short, easy introduction to Von Mises' work in Austrian economics.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hiking

Recently, we went hiking for the second time at the Mann Wilderness area. We started on a very good, well-maintained trail; then we tired of the easy way and followed a deer path into the woods. Down one steep hill we went, jumped a creek (we each have our own style--either jump over a narrow part, step on stones in a shallow part, or walk over the creek on a log), and then the younger ones of us left the older ones at the creek and, abandoning all trails, ran up the next, (even steeper) hill. Running, sliding, and falling back down the hills is the fun part, and we spent quite a bit of time hiking up and down various hills before our rendezvous and trek back home.




Early spring is the perfect time of year for a hike. Flowers of all types were blooming and more than made up for the presence of annoying ticks.




The simple and yet extraordinarily magnificent beauty God has chosen to bestow on the earth reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi's Sermon to the Birds:




"My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple raiment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and the valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sew, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God."




If the birds should be grateful to God whose "Eye is on the sparrow," we really should be thankful. Psalm 33 says, "Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy..." God cares enough to create delicate flowers, and He is so strong that He created the hills by His word. He is watching over us and will take good care of us, His children. God's love for us will last longer than the everlasting hills. It will last forever.