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>Disregarding the rule of law

2009 August 28 5 comments

>Since 1961 until recently the law in New Zealand stated that parents could use physical discipline for the purpose of correction but it was illegal to assault a child. The law was both intrinsically reasonable, clear in its intent, and effective in court. In 2007 the law was modified at the behest of a politician who has a philosophical opposition to the use of corporal punishment.

There was significant citizen opposition to changing the law at the time.

The new law is regarded a shambles. Persons on both sides of the debate have variably stated that it allows and forbids smacking children. Some have even claimed that it forbids using non-physical discipline on a child. And legal scholars have stated that the wording is a mess.

This is not clear legislation. In creating this law, Parliament abandoned its constitutional responsibility to say with clarity just which conduct is criminal.

Here is the wording of the law.

In response to the new law there was a referendum to which the vast majority (88%) of New Zealanders (who responded) voted that: A smack as part of good parental correction should not be a criminal offence.

The current government claimed to oppose the law when it was enacted 2 years ago. They were not in power at the time. Their response to the recent referendum is to say that the current law is working and there is no need to change it. They have also suggested that they will reinforce to the police not to prosecute minor infractions of the law.

I am not certain one can say the law is working when over 200 people have been investigated by the police for smacking since the law came into place (~2 years). And it hasn’t prevented 15 children from being murdered. (The population of the country is 4 million.)

Telling the populace that the police will not prosecute them even though the law states their behaviour is criminal is a request from the state for us to trust them. But a request for trust can only be made by someone that has proven themselves trustworthy. The refusal to change the law despite saying that they didn’t like the original law, despite the fact that the vast majority of New Zealanders want it changed, and despite the fact they are asking the police to disregard the law; proves they are not worthy of the trust they are asking for.

However the major problem here is not about parents being able to physically discipline their children for corrective purposes, as important as that is. What is incredibly pernicious is the idea that actions should be criminalised while the investigators of such actions are told to ignore these actions. Such thinking is stunningly foolish for any person, and malevolent for a politician. It utterly disregards the rule of law. It resembles the monarchy of a vacillating king; where men are praised or condemned at his whim.

The government needs to decide what behaviour they consider criminal and make the law clear. Unclear law where people are uncertain whether or not their behaviour breaks the law, and law that criminalises people but denies it will prosecute them (most of the time), are both unacceptable.

Some may claim that the police often use their discretion in prosecuting crime. This is true. There are several reasons why this may be the case.

  • A crime is identified but there is insignificant evidence against the perpetrator.
  • The criminal has committed several crimes and the police want to concentrate initially on the most severe.
  • Delay is being used to identify further perpetrators.
  • Police lack staff to adequately investigate all crimes so choose to focus on what they consider the most important.

The difference in the above examples are that decisions are being made based on what is possible, or practical. It is not the choice to deliberately ignore criminal behaviour.

This kind of approach to law could eventually lead to all citizens being guilty of criminal behaviour and the state arbitrarily prosecuting individuals it finds inconvenient.


Wisdom supporting liberty

Image source

Categories: children, politics

>Random quote

2009 July 2 2 comments

>The thing I don’t like about socialists is that they are dead to shame. They see nothing wrong with begging, nothing wrong with robbing, nothing wrong with being a tax-eater rather than a productive member of society. They see nothing wrong with a man not providing for his family, nothing wrong with breaking up families, nothing wrong with exploiting the poor for political gain, nothing wrong with dishonor. Instead they spend their time consumed with mock-outrage at honest men who make an honest living.

John C. Wright

Categories: politics, quotes

>Libertarian quiz

2009 June 12 4 comments

>Young Mr Brown at Marmalade Sandwich points to this quiz on libertarianism. Unfortunately it is somewhat Americo-centric. This meant I had to hedge my decision and go down the centre for several answers. And as typical for these things, does not allow for nuanced views. Questions I may answer one way for a certain reason are likely to be interpreted another way suggesting to the examiner I think differently than I do. And hypotheticals as to what I think will happen as opposed to what I think is desirable may be incorrectly conflated. Further, agreeing with concepts does not indicate their relative importance (here is a quiz that takes your priority for your opinion into account (I scored libertarian on foreign policy)).

Some examples

The market is the only meaningful means to combat the state.

Pro-market people would be expected to agree, socialists would be expected to disagree. I am pro-market, but I don’t agree as it is not the only means nor the only meaningful means. There are other meaningful means, and Christians think there are bigger battles at play in national and international politics. Slavery abolition did not come about thru the market. Though freer markets may have made employed labour relatively cheaper than slave labour and helped the abolitionist cause.

And I mean, what sort of question is?

State intervention tends to enable big buisiness [sic] and capital at the expense of labor and consumers.

State intervention tends to favour special interest groups, whether they be unions, or big corporations, or friends of the politician. It is not about big business versus labourers and consumers, it is about special favours for anyone at the expense of others.

How does one answer?

The outcome of a truly free market would essentially entail the elimination of large bureaucratic corporations.

It may or may not. But one’s opinion on the likely outcome may say nothing about whether he approves of that outcome.

And

I consider myself an environmentalist.

Well, yes; but not a greenie or a watermelon.

Nevertheless, it is just a silly online quiz you say. These are my results. Because of similar top scores I was faced with a tiebreaker. My top 2 scores are accurate.

You Scored as Minarchist

Minarchists are libertarians who advocate a strictly limited government and usually a more decentralized form of it. Minarchists may vary in the degree to which they think that government should be limited, although the bare bones position is essentially nothing more than police, courts and the military. Minarchists tend to think that some minimum level of government is a necessary evil, or at least an inevitability. The contemporary libertarian movement in America is dominantly minarchist, although it has had a long history of dialogue and debate between minarchist and anarchist libertarians.

Paleo-libertarian
83%
Minarchist
83%
“Small L” libertarian
50%
Neo-libertarian
50%
Left-libertarian
50%
Agorist
42%
Anarcho-capitalist
42%
Geo-libertarian
8%
Libertarian socialist
8%
Categories: libertarianism, politics, quiz

>Conflict of interest

2009 May 5 4 comments

>The Institute of Medicine has released a report on conflict of interest in medical practice.

Collaborations between physicians or medical researchers and pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies can benefit society—most notably by promoting the discovery and development of new medications and medical devices that improve individual and public health. However, relationships between medicine and industry may create conflicts of interest, potentially resulting in undue influence on professional judgments.

…The committee’s report stresses the importance of preventing bias and mistrust rather than trying to remedy damage after it is discovered. It focuses specifically on financial conflicts of interest involving pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology companies.

The committee recommends the implementation of policies and procedures that will reduce the risk of conflicts that can jeopardize the integrity of sci­entific investigations, the objectivity of medical education, the quality of patient care, and the public’s trust in medicine.

The New York Times notes the report has stated that doctors, medical schools and hospitals should not accept gifts from pharmaceutical companies.

doctors should stop taking much of the money, gifts and free drug samples they routinely accept from drug and device companies.

And the suggestion is to remove funding from education courses as well

Drug companies spend billions of dollars wooing doctors — more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Much of this money is spent on giving doctors free drug samples, free food, free medical refresher courses and payments for marketing lectures. The institute’s report recommends that nearly all of these efforts end.

3 brief questions.

  • If medicine was fully privatised would this be as great a concern?
  • While money can be a strong conflict of interest, so is ideology. Do people note competing interests based on philosophical, theological, or political beliefs? Is this a bad thing?
  • Should this be extended to democracy? Should any person receiving financial favours from the government (excluding legitimate work done at governments behest) forfeit their vote? Welfare recipients, subsidised farmers, corporations that have specific laws written for them.
Categories: ethics, medicine, politics

>A prayer and a pledge for real change

2009 April 7 2 comments

>Soon after the election of Obama in the United States, Sojourners Chief Executive Officer Jim Wallis instigated a campaign to send letters to the White House requesting action on several issues. This does not apply to me as I am not a US citizen or resident. But the letter seems designed to have broad appeal to Christians. I take issue with what the letter requests and I have been meaning to offers some thoughts on this. The problem I see is that the appeal is not as broad as some may think, and when requests are too broad, the solutions proposed by various people may be vastly different.

Sojourners started in 1971. Their mission is to

articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.

The letter covers 4 areas: poverty, war, respect for life, and climate change.

Here are my brief responses to the presentation of these issues.

Overcome poverty, both here in our rich nation and globally. Your efforts to resolve the economic crisis must include those at the bottom, the poorest among us. You pledged during the campaign to mobilize the nation to cut domestic poverty in half in ten years and to implement the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half.

He has a point. If money is going to be distributed it is probably better to give to those who have true struggles rather than rich men who have made poor decisions. Though perhaps consideration should be given to giving out no money at all. Letting people live with the consequences of their decisions (to an extent) is one of the better ways to prevent further poor decisions whether one is rich or poor.

The bigger issue is how we define poverty. US “poverty” and global “poverty” are hardly synonymous. I tend toward an absolute definition: no food, no clothing, no shelter; whereas political definitions are generally defined relatively which favour socialist theories. The gini index and the poverty line (the percentage of households whose income is below x% (eg. 50%) of the median income) are examples; though these are better called inequality indices, not poverty indices.

Thus a call to end poverty may result in policy determined to decrease income inequality which many people claim is counter-productive because it decreases total wealth of a country.

Find better ways than war to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world. It is time to end the war in Iraq and emphasize diplomacy over military action in resolving problems in Iran and Afghanistan. We need better and smarter foreign policy that is more consistent with our best national values.

One does not want his leaders to be warmongers. And perhaps inadequate attempts have been made at diplomacy. But the idea that everything can be solved diplomatically is false. And avoiding war at all costs can mean inadequate opposition of despots and lead to abysmal living conditions. I make no claims in this post concerning what best be done about Afghanistan or Iraq currently, nor whether these invasions were wise decisions at the time. But the situation now exists and must be dealt with appropriately. Leaving may well be smart foreign policy. But this call seems to me to imply that war is always wrong and diplomacy always works. I am less than certain.

Promote a consistent ethic of life that addresses all threats to life and dignity. We must end genocide in Darfur, the use of torture, and the death penalty. I urge you to pursue common ground policies which can dramatically reduce abortions in America, and help bring us together on this divisive issue.

There are a multitude of issues with this request.

There is demand to leave Afghanistan and Iraq above, yet here is a demand to involve the US in Sudan. This does not necessarily mean the US places troops in Sudan, but what does the letter imply should be done if diplomacy fails. And if the US are to support United Nations troops in Sudan then why can the US not be involved sans UN. And if there is a moral argument for US forces with or without the UN in Sudan, surely there is possibly a moral argument for Afghanistan or Iraq.

Torture should be ended, though as much for perpetrators as victims. Evil men may well be deserving of pain. Shame and whipping may well be appropriate punishments; though this may possibly be defined as torture by opponents. But even if the recipient is indeed evil, the use of torture destroys the character of those performing it.

The use of “consistent” implies that all life should be preserved. This is not self apparent and may well be inconsistent. Many anti-abortionists also support the death penalty and a biblical argument can be made for capital punishment. And the call to reduce the death of innocents in the same paragraph as ending the death of the guilty seems morally confused. If a Christian is opposed to the death penalty and abortion, and he had the choice of ending one and minimising the other, it surely would be abortion that was ended.

Reverse the effects of climate change on God’s creation. We must learn a new way of living in America to end our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. We need a spiritual commitment to stewardship and national policies that promote safe, clean, and renewable energy. You spoke of job creation and economic renewal with a new “green economy.”

I have previously indicated that I deny anthropomorphic global warming. I think minimising CO2 is both pointless in terms of the climate, and harmful in terms of the poor. It may be prudent to end dependency on Middle East oil, though a switch to Alaskan and offshore oil is perfectly acceptable. Private ownership of land will lead to better stewardship of the environment. While the government can introduce policy to maximise job creation and economic renewal, there are huge differences of opinion about what these policies are.

In conclusion I think there are several issues in this letter that are incorrect from a Christian perspective. Where there are issues of agreement (poverty bad, abortion bad, job creation good) the approach of various Christians to these ends differ dramatically. And a letter to a Democratic president, if effectual, is likely to lead to a socialist solution. From my point of view, while government action potentially could lead to improvements in such issues, the policies that will get enacted are likely to be counter-productive.

>Health care adherence and responsibility

2009 March 12 Leave a comment

>A recent study published in PLoS Medicine confirms what has previously been thought by those working in African health field. Adherence to antiretroviral (Anti-HIV) medication in Africa is high (> 90%) and higher than the West. After several hundred interviews the reasons were documented. Summarising the responses,

[Medication] adherence through a number of deliberate strategies aimed at prioritizing adherence: borrowing and “begging” transport funds, making “impossible choices” to allocate resources in favor of treatment, and “doing without.” Prioritization of adherence is accomplished through resources and help made available by treatment partners, other family members and friends, and health care providers. Helpers expect adherence and make their expectations known, creating a responsibility on the part of patients to adhere. Patients adhere to promote good will on the part of helpers, thereby ensuring help will be available when future needs arise.

I am not certain how robust this study was, nor whether other factors (age, religion, sex, income, etc.) were adequately addressed, but it is interesting that the high adherence was due to perceived responsibility of action.

Relationships confer responsibility in addition to providing resources. Recipients of help must recognize what they receive and reciprocate. To ignore these responsibilities is to risk resentment on the part of helpers.

It is their sense of duty within the domain of immediate family, supporters and community. There is no disconnect created by involving the government as an intermediary. When others help directly there is a sense of reciprocality. Not necessarily that one has to do the exactly the same as others, rather that one should do his duty in response to others.

I believe that when antiretrovirals have been scarce or expensive, the choice to medicate one patient funded by other patients who were not receiving treatment meant that the survivor would likely care for the non-survivors’ kin. So an expectation is on the treated person to comply so that he will indeed survive.

Interestingly another article in the same edition compared health outcomes in children for user pays medicine and free health care. There was no difference in rate of illness. The authors wrote,

This lack of any effect of being randomised to free health care on health outcomes is unexpected, since there has always been an assumption that increased access as a result of free health care improves health.

Though the free care group used significantly more services!

People are capable of caring for themselves (if they have the resources). They are able to be responsible for their care and respond to reasonable community expectations.

Government intervention is mostly unnecessary—at least in illness; however it is likely the attribute of self care and responsibility extends beyond health behaviour.

(Not to mention the government cash savings by leaving the funding private. And, as usual, private investment is more efficient: in this case same outcome for probable lower cost—I am using attendance as a proxy for cost.)

Categories: economics, health, politics

>Portfolios for Africa

2009 February 20 3 comments

>The New Zealand government has ministries in the following areas

  1. Accident Compensation
  2. Agriculture
  3. Archives New Zealand*
  4. Arts, Culture and Heritage
  5. Biosecurity*
  6. Broadcasting
  7. Building and Construction*
  8. Civil Defence*
  9. Climate Change Issues
  10. Commerce*
  11. Communications and Information Technology
  12. Community and Voluntary Sector
  13. Conservation*
  14. Consumer Affairs*
  15. Corrections*
  16. Courts*
  17. Customs*
  18. Defence*
  19. Disability Issues
  20. Disarmament and Arms Control
  21. Economic Development
  22. Education*
  23. Education Review Office
  24. Energy and Resources
  25. Environment
  26. Ethnic Affairs
  27. Finance*
  28. Fisheries
  29. Food Safety*
  30. Foreign Affairs*
  31. Forestry
  32. Health*
  33. Housing
  34. Immigration*
  35. Infrastructure*
  36. Internal Affairs*
  37. Justice*
  38. Labour*
  39. Land Information*
  40. Law Commission
  41. Local Government*
  42. Maori Affairs
  43. National Library
  44. Pacific Island Affairs
  45. Police*
  46. Racing
  47. Regulatory Reform*
  48. Research, Science and Technology
  49. Revenue*
  50. Rugby World Cup
  51. Senior Citizens
  52. Small Business
  53. Social Development and Employment
  54. Sport and Recreation
  55. State Owned Enterprises*
  56. State Services
  57. Statistics*
  58. Tertiary Education
  59. Tourism
  60. Trade*
  61. Transport*
  62. Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations*
  63. Veterans’ Affairs
  64. Women’s Affairs
  65. Youth Affairs

As well as Ministers responsible for the following services

  1. New Zealand Security Intelligence Service*
  2. Government Communications Security Bureau*

I have placed an asterisk next to the areas that I think it reasonable for the government to assign ministry oversight. The number I have marked is large, but nearly so as the 67 there are! However I have caveats to my selections.

Several of them could be combined. Commercial disputes can be under a single umbrella; eg. Consumer Affairs, Building and Construction, Commerce. National Library and Archives. The Courts could possibly be combined with Corrections, though stay separated from Policing.

Some could be much smaller in scope. Health could be oversight of individual health funds and insurances with a review of fund managers/ insurance providers if necessary. Monitoring health workers could continue. But the provision and funding of health could be completely privatised.

Education could be privatised with government monitoring funding via a voucher system for school or home school options. Overview of education minimised to gross dereliction of duty.

Some Infrastructure and Transport may require oversight but tolling for revenue should be maximised.

Regulatory Reform is necessary to remove a lot of previous red tape!

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations is required because it is a treaty. Though finalising of restitution should be sort. I don’t think a separate portfolio for Maori is probably necessary but may (or may not) be sensible while the Maori seats continue.

Overall I think the government is trying to take far too much responsibility for things that it need not and often times should not concern itself with.

Which of the above areas do you think the government should or should not concern itself with? Are there some areas it should that are not currently being covered?

Categories: politics

>Standards versus consumer affairs

2008 December 2 4 comments

>Given the importance of standards it is reasonable to argue there should be a portfolio and minister assigned to this. New Zealand has a Ministry of Consumer Affairs which covers much of this. Unfortunately the structural organisation is such that different issues are at risk of being conflated. The hierarchy is

  1. Ministry of Economic Development
  2. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs
  3. Measurement and Product Safety Service
  4. Trade Measurement

Standards are not an issue of economic development, they are an issue of honesty. That it may lead to economic growth is a side issue. Consumer Affairs covers a variety of related and unrelated issues. Measurement and Product Safety is an umbrella group for both measurement (i.e definitional standards), and safety issues and minimum standards (possibly important but a separate issue). I would favour expanding trade measurement to cover all relevant measures and making it a separate portfolio.

Confusion in this area of ensuring standards is seen in the Briefing to Incoming Ministers.

The practical implications of this structure is that Consumer Affairs has a special identity as the Ministry with a focus on creating an environment in which consumers can transact with confidence, and also works within a broader sustainable economic development framework.

One can attempt to encourage confident transactions without being involved in economic development. One can ensure market transactions are honest without trying to manipulate the market.

One outcome was that the focus of consumer policy should be on creating the conditions in which consumers can “transact with confidence”. In practice this means that consumers should get what they reasonably expect from a purchase and, if not, have access to redress.

Transacting with confidence is not just important for the individual, it is also essential to a thriving, innovative and sustainable economy. When consumers demand higher quality products and services, make effective choices among the offerings of competing suppliers and seek satisfaction when their purchasing expectations are not met, they can stimulate greater economic efficiency and innovation.

The first paragraph is reasonable, so long expectation is in line with what was offered. But we desire this not because it leads to a thriving economy, rather because the alternative is fraudulent transactions. The error is apparent in the further comment.

For example, information barriers are a significant reason why consumers do not get what they expect when making a purchase and this has led to an emphasis on information disclosure as a principal regulatory tool. However, consumers do not always respond as expected when better information is available to them. Behavioural economics may offer new insights into consumer behaviour.

Information is exactly what is needed. But there is not necessarily any state expectation concerning consumers. The government shouldn’t care if the demand is for higher or lower quality, the quality margin may not exceed the monetary margin. I don’t want the government telling me what I should and should not buy. And not recognising that there are different issues here may lead the ministry to focus on economic manipulation and growth rather than honesty. If fraudulent behaviour leads to economic growth, why forbid it?

Categories: economics, justice, politics

>Ministry of standards

2008 November 29 6 comments

>Governments involve themselves in much of public life. It is reasonable to think that at least some involvement is excessive. Many would argue that most involvement is excessive. Of all the portfolios that governments have, there is one that I think should exist of its own accord.

We should have a Ministry of Standards.

Now we do have laws related to these issues, but I think the issue is important enough to warrant its own department with various divisions.

By standards I mean

  • defining various standards;
  • ensuring they are appropriate;
  • enforcing their use; and
  • prescribing punishments for breaches

Given that I prefer minimal government this may appear intrusive, but I see it as an issue of justice, and justice is an important role of government.

Defining standards

It is important to understand that I mean standards which are defined not prescribed. I do not think the government should enforce what manufactures should do, rather describe accurately what they in fact do. Granted there may be safety issues that mean minimum standards must be met in some areas, but by and large I think people should be able to exchange what they wish to do so. People should be able to buy products of varying quality.

Quality often relates to price. For any given object, desired price and quality vary among consumers. Some want high quality, others want low price. Most want high quality and low cost, but decisions are made at the margins. Government does not have a role in specifying a minimum standard (usually). Such a policy limits people, especially the poor who may not be able to afford such high quality items.

I do however think the government can have a role in ensuring that such items are of the claimed quality, and further, the government can have a role in specifying what must be shown on items for sale.

Examples include weights and volumes for foodstuffs, measurement dials in vehicles, breaking force and insulation property of glass, and electricity meters. Much of which is already covered by law.

Ensuring appropriateness

Consumers have the benefit of taking their custom where they will. Manufactures have the benefit in knowing exactly the quality of their product. Few consumers have the knowledge or ability to assess quality to this degree. Manufacturers may advertise various benefits of their product which is fine, but this should not be used to remove focus from more important quality issues that may not be mentioned.

Consider digital cameras. The quality of a photo is determined by several things including resolution. For people who print photos 6 megapixels is probably adequate. Now manufacturers can produce cameras of higher density such as 9 megapixels and they should be free to do so. This is good for larger photos, for cropping photos, and for digital zoom. The problem is that people may assume that the number of pixels reflects the quality of the photo because of the way cameras are marketed; but other factors are important such as the depth per pixel, speed of shot, stability of image capture, and software manipulation. So one may spend the extra money gaining extra pixels with no gain in printed product, and possibly worse if the pictures are blurred. He would be better spending the extra money on a camera that shoots more stable pictures at a lower resolution.

Defining standards of measures that affect photo quality that must be displayed on the product makes people aware of the issues, it lets them choose what they think best, and makes it harder for manufacturers to make cheap improvements and market the product as significantly superior.

Enforcing use

This is legislation that makes certain labelling compulsory and allows for the government to fund random testing to ensure compliance. Not compliance to some artificial mandate, rather accuracy of labelling. I am not concerned whether a product contains 1% or 20% sugar, just that one can trust the label.

Dealing with non-compliance

I think there is a role for this ministry to define the level of fines for breaches. The relationship between consumer and manufacturer is asymmetrical. Fortunately manufacturers are quite responsive to consumers for the sake of their brand name. However they may not be, especially in areas that may not have significant repeat service such as car and house sales. When organisations are blatantly and knowingly passing off a false product it is unduly onerous to expect a duped consumer to take up this cause. It costs them time, time that may be intentionally delayed by a company; money they may not have; and even if they were to win in court they may still be out of pocket and time and the company may be inadequately fined nor forced to significantly change their practice. Government enforcement is probably preferable.

I do not see this as applying to legitimate disputes, nor should it remove the ability for a consumer to act if they deem it necessary.

Nor am I anti-industry. I think some people make frivolous claims. Frivolity should be dealt with by claim dismissal and fining if necessary (paying the appropriate costs of all sides at minimum). Further, many companies care about both their employees and their customer base; they are what keep them in business.

Some caveats

  • As mentioned above, I don’t see the governments role as setting what standards a product should have, just what standards it should measured by and making those easily accessible, preferably displayed on the product. Of course the company can include any other benefits it wishes to, so long those claims are accurate.
  • If the government wishes to set minimum standards, e.g. seatbelt positioning and engagement, then this is the role of a different department. It is very important the roles are not confused and that excessive red tape is not created.
  • I do not think the compliance costs should be high. It is reasonable to measure the macro- and micro-constituents of foodstuffs as this is a one-off cost. Incorporating the data into a label is not that costly either. But requiring a car company to carry out extensive crash testing would be an excessive cost. Car companies remain free to do this of their own volition and many large car companies do this anyway. And the government is free to carry out this testing (though at whose cost?).
  • I am not certain whether the government should enforce standards that are measured by a group not of the manufacturer’s choosing. It is their product, they should have some say. Though if it is a sensible and well defined standard then the result should be the same whoever tests.
  • Protecting vulnerable people from predators and the public from scams are important issues, but may come under a slightly different aegis. Possibly a division within the “standards” umbrella, probably within a policing portfolio.
  • I think monetary policy and inflation comes under the definition of standards, but the issue of monetary standards is large enough to have a separate division within a Ministry of Standards.

Current law

I am aware that much of this is already in legislation. I do not mean to imply that this is not done. I just think it important enough for citizens that it is reasonable for the state to involve itself. It is after all an issue of justice, and justice is one of the few mandates of the state.

More to follow.

Categories: justice, politics, standards, truth

>It doesn't matter so much who you vote for so long you vote

2008 November 7 10 comments

>What is it about getting people to vote? It may seem reasonable to inform people about electoral process, but the intense drive to get people enrolled and to the polling booth seems at least partially misguided.

About a month ago nearly 100,000 New Zealanders under the age of 25 were not enrolled to vote in an election that happens tomorrow. And I say so what? One of the most foolish comments I hear is that taking part in elections is more important than who one votes for. This from Nigel Roberts, a political scientist no less,

Once you’ve got people to participate, they are more likely to participate the next time. The difficulty is snaring them in the first place.

There are so many things wrong with this concept it is difficult to know where to start.

Governing a country is no minor issue. If you are clueless as to the issues why do you have an opinion? And if you don’t even really have an opinion, why cast a vote based on a trivial issue? Governments make decisions that significantly affect people for good and bad. Ruling people is a serious issue. You need to consider how policy will affect you and other people both in the short and long term. If you don’t know as much as you think you need to, don’t vote. The article gives several reasons why people don’t vote but these are good reasons not to.

  • Most [young people] do not care, do not know enough about the process or just cannot be bothered.
  • An Electoral Commission study of young Kiwis last year found two general reactions to elections among all who were interviewed – “I’m in the dark” and “It’s not on my wavelength”.
  • Most said voting meant nothing to them, and some had a “fearful” relationship with politics.
  • Parties know that securing a first-time voter can result in a vote for life. Voting is habit-forming, and voting for the same party election after election is the norm rather than the exception.

If you don’t care, are ignorant, it means nothing to you, or you are going to get into a habit rather than basing your decision on a valid reason, then I don’t think you should vote, and encouraging other people to vote with this state of mind is plain wrong.

Some reasons given are understandable, but should not be a reason to avoid voting; they should be addressed.

  • Though they wanted to take part, they were overwhelmed by the decision-making process and intimidated by polling booths.
  • Most simply did not think their vote would make any difference, and many were disillusioned by politicians, distrusted those in power, did not believe the Government cared about them…
  • The least motivated almost held the entire system in disdain.

Voting shouldn’t be made unpleasant for peripheral reasons like intimidation or inadequate access for the disabled. And it is understandable why many hold some politicians and the governmental system in low regard. Many in power are untrustworthy. These things are worth interacting with people about. Choosing not to vote because you object to all options, or even the concept of democracy is also a reasonable option.

Thinking your vote won’t count is an understandable logical error.

2 other sentences are worth commenting on.

The challenge is to convince those people that voting is not only a right, but a responsibility.

It is a right in a democracy, though not an inalienable right. And it is your responsibility to vote well, not just vote. If you can’t vote well one could argue it your responsibility to not vote.

I am not certain about these plans though.

And when the new school curriculum takes hold next year, New Zealand politics will be taught more frequently.

Firstly, politics is an important though peripheral subject. Literacy and numeracy remain primary, and I would rate logic as more foundational than politics. What is potentially concerning however is related to the current public schooling system having a socialist flavour. Attending a class in “politics” could very easily become indoctrination in socialist policy rather than teaching of political philosophy.

While some youth can make intelligent political decisions, I am not certain if this is the case for the majority. And there remains much immaturity and selfish motication. I mentioned above that one needs to consider how policy will affect you and other people both in the short and long term. Considering others and understanding the long term issues probably increases with age. The statistical nature of democracy means you need to consider how a demographic thinks and acts, irrespective of particular individuals in that demographic. Because of this my current thinking is that voting should be restricted by age to those older than 25, and preferably 30. This also applies to being a candidate for office.

Categories: politics

>God ordained cultural structures

2008 October 28 Leave a comment

>I currently don’t mind democracy, though I am not adverse to monarchy and possibly other governmental structures. Christians are called into a different kingdom and can live under any political or economic structure, although some are more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, it is good to understand the proper role of the state; and if one finds himself in a democracy then it is good to vote well (if one thinks he should vote).

How should we frame our ideas about the state? The state is a social structure where leaders oversee community. There are, however, several God ordained social structures in this world and we need to start with the central ones.

Prior to the Fall we have Adam relating to God which is the first and highest order relationship. I think that the individual relationship and the group relationship with God—Adam and Eve pre-Fall; God-worshippers, faithful Israel, righteous Gentiles, and the church post-Fall—are all part of what will become the Bride of Christ. This is the pre-eminent social/ spiritual relationship in the universe. All of this world is building toward that relationship.

Prior to the Fall we also have marriage and family:

So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man….

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2)

I have included family, however children, while very important and a blessing, are not as fundamental as marriage. They are temporary; given to us to train them to love God so they can depart to form a new unit—the son leaves his parents and joins with his wife.

These 2 relationships: God and man, and man and wife, are central to social order. Note that they both pre-date the Fall. Note also that the latter is a copy of the former:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5)

And that marriage is temporary:

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matthew 22)

The other social structures are the community and the state, the state being the power that oversees the community as mentioned above. We are first introduced to the embryo of the state some 1600 years after creation. Earlier judgments are made directly by God; note the examples of Cain and the Deluge. Men take things into their own hands such as Lamech and the mighty men of old, but there is no evidence this is sanctioned by God. I am not certain if we can infer anything from the existence of antediluvian cities. After the Flood God gives specific commands to Noah and his sons:

But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image….” (Genesis 9)

God is the giver and owner of life, we are made in his image. Thus God gives commands concerning life: Men are to refrain from eating blood because of the life symbolism; and men are not to kill men.

The context suggests that it is murder that is forbidden here, as the murderer is to be subsequently put to death for his actions, capital punishment being commanded not condemned even though it removes life. These commands of God establish legality. Even if full government is not required, there needs be some community structure to deal with murderers; be that egalitarian, or community elders, or kingship, or some other structure.

So the state is enacted by God some centuries after the Fall and it is necessary because we are fallen creatures. If marriage is a temporary institution, how much more so then is the state! There is much the Bible teaches us about ideal government, what God intends leaders to do, what they should concern themselves with, how they should rule; but this is on the background of the above concepts. Our ideas about temporal government need to be tempered by thoughts on eternal relationship and our current fallen nature.

>New Zealand political party policies

2008 October 26 1 comment

>This is a list of topics on which various political parties have policies on. I have included all the current parties and have also included The Family Party which is not in parliament but it is an example of one of the current Christian parties running for election. Obviously these do not say what the policy is, but it gives a range of issues that parties think they need policies on. Their policies are on their websites, there are also policy lists on VoteMe.

Act
Accident Compensation| Agriculture| Climate Change| Constitutional Framework| Education| Employment| Families at Risk| Government Asset Ownership| Government Expenditure| Health| Housing| Immigration| Infrastructure| Law and Order| Local Government| National Security| Public Service| Red Tape and Regulation| Resource Management| Risk Insurance| Superannuation| Tariffs| Taxation| Welfare|

The Family Party
Abortion| Broadcasting Standards| Defence| Economic Policies| Environment| Education| Gangs and Prostitution| Health| Housing| Immigration| Justice| Law and Order| Maori| Senior Citizens| Welfare|

The Green Party
Accident Compensation| Agriculture and Rural Affairs| Animal Welfare| Arts, Culture and Heritage| Children| Climate Change| Community and Voluntary Sector| Conservation| Disability| Drug Law Reform| Economic Policy| Education| Energy| Environment| Food| Foreign Affairs| Forestry| Gambling| Green Taxation and Monetary Policy| Health| Housing| Human Rights| Immigration| Income Support| Industrial Relations| Information Technology| Justice| Maori Issues| Population| Research, Science and Technology| Sea and Ocean| Security Services| Sexual Orientation| Student Support| Sustainable Business| Tertiary Education| Treaty of Waitangi| Tourism| Toxics| Trade and Foreign Investment| Transport| Urban| Waste Free New Zealand| Water| Women| Work and Employment| Youth Affairs|

Labour
Accident Compensation| Agriculture| Arts| Biosecurity| Broadcasting| Building and Construction| Climate Change| Communications| Conservation| Defence| Disabilities| Economic Policy| Education| Emergency Management| Employment Relations| Energy| Environment| Ethnic Affairs| Fisheries| Foreign Affairs, Trade and Official Development Assistance| Health| Immigration| Housing| Law and Order| Maori| Pasifika| Rural Sector| Science and Innovation| Small Business| Social Development| Student Allowances| Tourism| Training and Apprenticeships| Transport| Veterans’ Affairs|

The Maori Party
Education| Foreshore & Seabed| Health| Treaty of Waitangi| Whanau first|

National
Accident Compensation| Art and Culture| Auckland Issues| Broadcasting| Building & Construction| Commerce| Communications & Information Technology| Consumer Affairs| Defence and Security| Economic Development| Education| Energy| Environment| Ethnic Affairs| Finance and Taxation| Foreign Affairs| Health| Housing| Immigration| Infrastructure| Justice—Law & Order| Labour & Industrial Relations| Local Government| Maori Affairs—Culture & Development| Maori Affairs—Education & TPK| Pacific Island Affairs| Police| Primary Sector| Science & CRIs| Small Business| Social Services| State Services| Student Allowances| Tourism| Trade| Transport| Treaty Negotiations| Women’s Affairs|

New Zealand First

Accident Compensation| Biosecurity| Broadcasting and Communications| Consumer Affairs| Defence And Veterans’ Affairs| Direct Democracy| Disability| Economic Plan|
Education| Employment—Business Development| Employment—Regional Development| Employment—Industrial Relations| Employment—Industrial Training| Employment—Community Wage| Energy| Environment And Conservation| Family, Youth And Social| Fisheries| Foreign Affairs| Foreign Investment and State Assets| Health| Housing| Immigration| Justice| Law And Order| Local Government| Maori Affairs| Racing| Resource Management Act| Rural| Senior Citizens| Superannuation| Taxation| Tourism| Trade| Transport| Treaty of Waitangi|

Progressive Party
Accident Compensation| Alcohol & drugs| Art & Culture| Communications & Broadband internet| Conservation and the environment| Currency| Defence| Disability| Disarmament| Early intervention| Economic Policy| Education and training| Family| Forestry| Genetic engineering| Gun control| Health| Housing| Immigration| International affairs| Justice, law and order| Maori development and the treaty| Mental health| Pasifika| Refugees| Senior citizens| Social services| Sport and recreation| Transport| Women| Workplace|

United Future
Accident Compensation| Animal Welfare| Arts, Culture & Heritage| Broadcasting| Business| Children| Citizenship| Climate Change| Communications| Community & Voluntary Sector| Constitution| Disability| Drugs| Education| Emergency & Civil Defence Services| Energy| Environment| Ethnic Affairs| Family| Fishing| Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade| Forestry| Gender Affairs| Health| Housing| Immigration| Law and Order| Local Government| Outdoor Recreation and Conservation| Research, Science & Technology| Road Safety| Rural Life| Savings| Senior Citizens| Social Services & Employment| Tax| Tourism| Transport| Treaty of Waitangi|

Categories: politics

>How to vote in an election

2008 October 25 9 comments

>I had the opportunity to discuss politics with one of my pastors recently. He was interested in who I would vote for. Where to start? There are so many issues to discuss. I think people, including Christians, think too superficially about this issue. Even those who think in some depth often cover only a few and not all the issues. And frequently people fail to address the fundamentals.

Last election a different pastor discussed voting and suggested people think about the principles underlying policy. Many parties may have similar policies but vastly different principles leading to that policy. It is the principles that are more fundamental.

Political parties can have policies on a variety of issues. Even more foundational than what the principles are, is: in what areas do the principles really matter? How do we weigh the issues of say justice versus health or education? How do view a party that has the right principles guiding policy on minor issues or issues government should not be involved in, but the wrong principles guiding core government function?

I hope to discuss the nature of the state, what policies government should be involved in and the principles I think those policies should be shaped by.

Categories: politics

>The front fell off

2008 October 7 2 comments

>For those outside the Oceania John Clarke is a New Zealand born comedian living in Australia.

Categories: humour, politics

>The Council of Europe finds creationism dangerous

2007 July 28 4 comments

>

The Council of Europe has its eyes on creationism. They propose a 19 point resolution with an associated 105 point explanation. The summary states,

The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.

Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.

The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.

Aside from being completely wrong about creationism, the document is filled with inaccurate comments and their proposals are fearsome.

Rebuting the proposal would take a bog post or several per point so I will pick out a few.

3. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their theories are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.

Not all creationists seek to mandate teaching of creationism in schools. 2 leading creationist organisations (Creation Ministries International and Answers in Genesis) in the English speaking world and the Discovery Institute specifically have stated they do not want laws forcing their views taught. The creationist organisations’ primary target is Christians within the church. And while they are happy if individual schools wish to include creationism within their curriculum, the idea of making it mandatory and therefore having opponents teach it and likely distort it is not appealing.

11. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.

So how exactly is a rejection of science a serious threat to human rights? I don’t advocate rejecting science but this comment is patently false. Many men have accepted science and used inventions available through scientific development to serious impinge on human rights. I don’t blame science for that, but if you are wont to connect acceptance of science to human rights I think you will have stronger case for an inverse relationship that a direct one.

But the frightening comments are such as these,

17. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.

The idea that the council is benevolent and knows what the society needs. They have judged creationism and found it wanting and therefore must protect the vulnerable public. They cannot be exposed to “dangerous” ideas for that will damage society. Your thoughts must be controlled and you are limited in what we will let you think about, but it is all for your own good. Trust us as we want the best for you.

All while approving of abortion and euthanasia, overriding the rights of parents (education in Germany, corporal punishment in Sweden), and witnessing a rise in slavery coincidental with the demise of Christianity.

You can worship God, but only if your religion is approved by the benevolent powers:

13. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.

Their proposal, in 5 parts, would find agreement by creationists for the first 3:

18.1. defend and promote scientific knowledge;

18.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;

18.3. make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;

18.4. firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection and in general resist presentation of creationist theories in any discipline other than religion;

18.5. promote the teaching
of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the
school curriculum.

And the creationists would add that if 18.5 is enacted then they should do this fully, teaching evolution, warts and all—for there are many difficulties that could be raised. And if you don’t want exposure to the problems but just school child acceptance of the shaky theory, then it is propaganda and not science you are proposing.

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Categories: creationism, politics, science

>Do I have Christian worldview?

2007 July 16 3 comments

>Worldview Exam: You are a Strong Biblical Worldview Thinker. But I still only scored 143 points of 170 possible, 84%. This is their ratings chart.

Scoring/Ratings Chart
Strong Biblical Worldview Thinker 75% – 100%
Moderate Biblical Worldview Thinker 50% – 74%
Secular Humanist Worldview Thinker 25% – 49%
Socialist Worldview Thinker 0% – 24%
Communist/Marxist/Socialist/Secular Humanist Worldview Thinker under 0%

Their sections were, with my score in parentheses,

  • Civil Government, 8 questions (62%)
  • Economics, 9 questions (66%)
  • Education, 6 questions (83%)
  • Family, 4 questions (100%)
  • Law, 13 questions (76%)
  • religion, 29 questions (94%)
  • science, 8 questions (81%)
  • social issues, 8 questions (93%)

For a total of 85 questions. My combined total of 84% was after a redo because of their faulty marking scheme. Sample question:

Physically and mentally healthy adults that do not work should not be protected from suffering the consequences of their actions.

Of which the possible answers are; with marking schedule:

  • Strongly Agree +2
  • Tend to Agree +1
  • No Opinion -2
  • Tend to Disagree +0
  • Strongly Disagree -1

The author may have strong Christian worldview but he doesn’t have a strong ability in maths and/ or programming. If one is uncertain about an issue (no opinion) it seems unfair for them to score lower than someone who has come down strongly on the wrong side. So my redo was choosing to side on one side or another. Further, I am not certain how well this was weighted: having a strong Christian worldview of family but less so of law would count for less overall than someone in the reverse position. They need to decide how important each section is and how much it should contribute to the whole, then weight the number of questions appropriately.

One problem I had with the test is some of it relied on American history. Take this question,

The original intent of our founding fathers was a form of government that was free to set its own policy only if God had not already ruled in that area. Our founders believed that our man made laws were not to contradict the laws of God.

Whether or not one believes the founding fathers thought in a certain way does not necessarily mean one’s own worldview is suspect. And if you are somewhat ignorant of American history but know how a biblical government should be founded then you deserve full credit.

Another problem I had was if one tended one way because that was the general thrust of scripture, but there are other scriptures that limit the extreme view, or scripture is not absolutely clear, then one gets only 1 of 2 possible marks. The answer to this question is either yes or no,

Adam and Eve were fictional characters that never really lived.

However the answer to this question is less clear cut,

There is no reason why a biblically-minded Christian should be opposed to human cloning.

Of course this is not a proper survey or well thought out Christian assessment, just an advertisement for their worldview seminars. You will have to unsubscribe to their newsletter afterward (click on the link at the bottom of the first email).

I applaud them for running worldview weekends, many people who become Christians know little doctrine and even when they do, seem to have some cognitive dissonance with their ideas at church and their ideas in the workplace. Others may not understand how to work out faith in practice. Ideas have consequences. While loving and obeying Jesus is more important that right belief, belief affects behaviour. We need to take every thought captive.

They need also be cautious with what they teach and their emphasis. Several concepts are clearly taught in Scripture, many are less clear and some are subtle. God’s expectations of nations and his expectations of individuals may not be the same. God’s priorities for kingdom citizens may be different to those who have yet to join.

Categories: philosophy, politics, quiz

>Can does not equal should

2007 June 18 1 comment

>UK parliament is to debate the Human Tissues and Embryos (Draft) Bill. The document is 247 pages long (not the bill). From pages ix-x

1.10 …The White paper also proposed that the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro should not be permitted but that there should be a regulation-making power allowing exceptions to this prohibition. The Bill as currently drafted reflects this position….

1.11 Following the publication of the White Paper…. The report of the Committee concluded that the creation of hybrid and chimera embryos is necessary for research.

1.12 …we intend to accept the principle that legislation should provide for the following inter-species entities (hybrids and chimeras)…:

  • cytoplasmic hybrid (cybrid)—an embryo created by replacing the nucleus of an animal egg or a cell derived from an animal embryo with a human cell of the nucleus of a human cell)
  • human transgenic embryos—a human embryo that has been altered by the introduction of any sequence of nuclear or mitochondrial DNA of an animal
  • human-animal chimera—a human embryo that has been altered by the introduction of one or more animal cells.

I have not waded thru this but is appears the proposal is these entities will be prohibited as per 1.10 with exemptions as deemed necessary. Of course all this will be debated.

And recently in the news a British group is stating that somatic cell nuclear transfer should be allowed

Making human-animal embryos for scientific experiments should be allowed because of the benefits to science and medicine, British experts said in a report released for Sunday.

As there is no bill currently against this they are asking for it to remain legal. The proposed bill will address it. It is good that the issue is being addressed. One hopes for the right outcome.

I am not completely opposed to all genetic experimentation. I am of the opinion that scientists think they know much more about DNA than they actually do, so my view is one predisposed to caution.

There seems to be an argument concerning scientific experiments that involve aspects of questionable morality, one of this knowledge is required to advance science or find cures to disease. But this is a muddying of the waters. If these experiments go ahead I think it is likely that increased knowledge will come of it. The question is not: will this lead to increased knowledge? rather: should we do this?

Just because something is possible does not mean that it should be done. This is the temptation Jesus faced and resisted

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If [or Since] you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,/
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:1-4)

Was the temptation? “Can you turn the stones into bread?” or was it? “You are the Son of God and you are hungry so use your power to make bread and sate your hunger.” The second option is consistent with Jesus’ rebuke to Satan; Jesus comments that it is not for him to do his own will but that of the Father.

This temptation of Satan continues to come to us: since you can you should. We best learn from Jesus: it is not “whether we can” that determines our course of action it is the will of the Father.

And if it is God’s will, ability counts for less—God’s ability is unlimited.

Categories: ethics, politics

>Reclaiming the Political Jesus

2007 April 15 1 comment

>I was asked to review A Prophet of God’s Justice: Reclaiming the Political Jesus by Chris Marshall

The article was published in Stimulus in 2006. I found it somewhat verbose. It is frustrating to have to read excessive words where the information content does not justify it.

I found him vague on specifics at times and when he did discuss specific passages I thought his exegesis was inadequate. He tried to give an overview of the gospels but he was somewhat selective and he tended to read his own left leaning politics into scripture. I also think his underlying belief that everything Jesus said spoke into the culture of the day is faulty. He is suggesting that one has misread the bible unless he understands the culture it was spoken into. This thinking is saying that the bible is a high context document (that there are certain assumptions by the readers according to their customs and language). While this is generally true, the context is not so high that readers of scripture don’t gain insight by what is written, and it is not so high that only historians understand what was meant. Further, what historians believe can be selective or coloured by their own theology.

Marshall also neglects large volumes of scripture. He favours words that are spoken by Jesus the man. Jesus as God is author of the entire bible. To use Jesus words to prove something, when he may or may not have been addressing the issue, to override other scripture that directly discusses the issue at hand is a poor interpretative technique. All scripture is given by God; Jesus words as a man should be given high (highest) priority, but if one’s interpretation of themes of Jesus contradicts direct comments elsewhere about an issue it is a good clue that the interpretation may not have been the correct one. I also wonder if he has read Revelation? He will have, but he doesn’t touch on Jesus words there, nor Jesus’ words to the disciples in Acts.

Below I will discuss 3 passages from his essay.

… Jesus’ saying “my kingdom is not of this world” cannot be taken as an affirmation that God’s kingdom is a
purely spiritual reality unrelated to worldly realities. After all it was out of love for this world that God sent Christ into the world in the first place, in order that “through him the world might be saved” (John 3:16-17). The term “kingdom” here, as always in biblical tradition, has the active force of “rule” or “kingship” or “power” more than place or territory or realm, so that what Jesus is really saying is that his style of exercising kingly authority is unlike that of other kings. His kingship conforms, not to brutal coercive rule of Herod or Caesar or Caiaphas, but to the compassionate, healing rule of God. It does not rest on violent coercion but on loving persuasion. That is why in the second part of the verse, which is hardly ever quoted by conservative apologists, Jesus explains that “if my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews”. The thing that most differentiates Jesus’ kingship from worldly forms of kingship is its non-violence. (p. 11)

I find this interpretation questionable, it alone may be enough for me to disregard the article. I do not think that “kingdom” means style of kingship. Now Jesus does have a style of kingship that is different, but the word “kingdom” does not mean this. Daniel discusses the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and the rock that destroys the previous kingdoms is likely the kingdom of God. And while God’s subjects in this new kingdom live a different lifestyle and the kingdom is of a different nature (that is people called out of this world’s system to live for Christ), to say there is no violence is incorrect. What about the parable when the nobleman goes away to get his coronation and returns to destroy his enemies who did not wish to see him made king? (Luk 19). We do not coerce men into the kingdom of God but it is a stretch to go from here to pacifism. What about Jesus comments about destroying the wicked that he makes in the book of Revelation? (Rev 2).

Jesus is not saying his followers are non-violent (they are, but that is not the issue here), he is merely comparing what followers of a leader would normally do with his situation. That they are not doing so now is not because they are part of a pacifist movement, rather that Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom in the same way that other kingdoms are.

How very different is the prevailing political landscape of global capitalist society today, which makes an idol of market forces, promotes consumerism as a means of political survival, and, while mouthing platitudes to the contrary, exacerbates the plight of the poor and dispossessed in pursuit of an ever-greater concentration of wealth and power. (p. 16)

It is interesting that he says this. I have become more capitalistic (and even more libertarian) as I have got older. Now there can be problems within capitalism, but one needs to ask whether this is as a result of the philosophy. Or is it that one sees these things in a society that is capitalist (or viewed as capitalist) and condemns them as fruits of capitalism society. Capitalism allows private property ownership, the rule of law, freedom of trade: it allows persons to provide goods or services in free exchange for whatever price the parties agree on. The early capitalists believed in thrift and hard work, both of which are very admirable. Money was reinvested hence “capital” rather than wasted on profligate living. Capitalist thinking came out of a Christian mindset; specifically: ownership, just courts, freedom and liberty. A capitalist system in a Christian society is materially beneficial for all. In a non-Christian society, it may have its downfalls, though I am uncertain if the downfalls are worse than other systems.

Does a capitalist society promote consumerism? Perhaps it does, and he is right that Christians should oppose that. However there are laws one could put in place that don’t refute capitalism but limit the damage caused by the greedy. Examples would be restricting an individual’s ability to indebt himself, limiting interest, limiting the power and exploitation from loan sharks, making bankruptcy more difficult.

“Exacerbates the plight of the poor.” Well this is patently false. Compare the poor in capitalist societies versus any non-capitalist society. The poor are hugely better off materially. Their rights are upheld more, they are better able to escape being part of the poor, they have more liberty. I am not certain what current system Marshall thinks does better. Capitalism is definitely better than the nobility/ serfdom system it replaced. Certainly capitalist states could do better, but they are doing hugely better than oppressive regimes elsewhere. Why do we hear about the problems in the West? Because our freedom of expression allows us to dissent without fear of government oppression. Worse problems happen elsewhere but voices are silenced. And why are people immigrating to the West in numbers that far exceed the other way around?

“An ever greater concentration of wealth and power.” That may be true on a national level, but that is because of the general wealth of the nation. In terms of within a country, the poor are not being sidelined in general. The problem with Marshall’s approach is it suggests that everyone should have the same, regardless of how little that is. But that is just a problem with envy. I am happy to live in a country that allows everyone to own a house and fed their children, even if that means there are some in the country who are filthy rich.

Some of the large corporations that exist do so within capitalist societies, but are not consistent with it. They seek to obtain governm
ent favours and this should be opposed, but this is the antithesis of capitalism which seeks a level playing field and to remove special favours.

I do think there are very real problems with chasing wealth, and the bible warns that riches can remove our devotion to Christ. This is very important. And it is far better to be poor and fear God than to have plenty and ignore him. But a lot is related to the love of money, and that vice is not necessarily limited to the rich.

Anyway, the studies suggest that conservatives that he has so much trouble with are actually more generous! Is he suggesting that the government should be handing out money to the poor? I am not so certain of the wisdom of this.

And I am much more concerned with the power concentrated in the monster of the United Nations, and that can hardly be laid at the feet of the capitalists.

It is here that Jesus’ exorcisms carried an important political message. It was common in Jesus’ day for people to ascribe the abject suffering of God’s people under Roman rule to the activity of superhuman demonic forces standing behind their pagan oppressors and their indigenous quislings. One manifestation of this spiritual tyranny was the susceptibility of vulnerable individuals to demonic possession. When Jesus cast out demons, therefore, he was not only healing the victims of societal dysfunction; he was symbolically challenging and defeating the spiritual authorities standing behind foreign repression. (p. 19)

So does he believe there are demonic powers behind nation-states or not? Where does he get that demonic forces in individuals is related to being subject to a foreign power? Is he saying that the Israelites in Egypt had more demoniacs when they were worshipping Yahweh, than the time in Israel under Jeroboam II when they were free of foreign rulership but were worshipping foreign idols? I do not accept his proposition of increased demon possession under foreign domination without proof. And even if it were true, how is that at all related to Jesus casting out demons? This shows his power over the spirit world; a testimony to his divinity. This says nothing about whether or not he was opposed to Rome.

In conclusion, Jesus may have had thoughts about Rome, but I see his message more in alignment with Jesus saying something like:

The problem is yourself, it is sin. Join my kingdom and I will deliver you from sin’s power.