Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Profitability of False Teaching

He commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, so that they might devote themselves to the law of the Lord. As soon as the word spread, the people of Israel gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.—2 Chronicles 31:4-5
The issue of supporting ministry and compensating clergy is an interesting one, and it has been for centuries, famously going back to the Protestant Reformation. For example, Martin Luther's 95 Theses included accusations that the Church sought inappropriately to accumulate wealth and that the pope was already exceedingly wealthy yet used the money of believers to erect St. Peter's Basilica (Source). Indeed, during the English Reformation, fully one-quarter of national wealth was shifted from monasteries to the Crown and nobility as the assets of religious communities were confiscated (Source). There are many other such examples wherein so-called "reformers" claimed that the Church was greedy and obsessed with political power. This makes it all the more interesting, however, that Martin Luther himself had a steady diet of roast goose and piglet, and he actually weighed some 330 pounds at the time of his death (Source). Similarly, in England, men such as Sir Thomas Pope were able to become quite wealthy while overseeing the dissolution of the monasteries (Source). In other words, many of the "reformers" took issue with clergy receiving too much wealth until they were in a position to accumulate that wealth themselves. At that point, dining on roast goose and rubbing elbows with Europe's princes appeared to have suddenly become acceptable practices.
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk? Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits?—1 Corinthians 9:3-11
It is plain to see what St. Paul was saying here: namely, that the clergyman's occupation is serving the Lord and tending to his flock. Does the soldier pay to serve? Does the vigneron plant the vineyard with no expectation of tasting the grapes or wine? Does the shepherd guide and protect his flock without gaining something for his efforts? Is the clergyman not the soldier serving the Lord, the vigneron planting the vineyard, and the shepherd tending to his flock, all at once? If a clergyman has sown spiritual good amongst his flock, should he not be provided for by the same? Indeed, St. Paul continued to tell us that "the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel," albeit he also tells us that he did not exercise his rights as other apostles and had instead made himself "a slave to all."

It is clear that clergy should reap what they sow, but is there a limit?

Take for an example the likes of Joel Osteen. He and his wife are co-pastors of the "nondenominational charismatic" Lakewood Church, which has operated out of the Compaq Center, former home of the Houston Rockets NBA team, since 2003. Approximately 40,000 people attend the church weekly, and millions more watch sermons on television or listen on satellite radio. Osteen reportedly stopped taking his $200,000 salary from Lakewood in 2005, but he is estimated to be worth approximately $40 million and lives in a $10.5 million home with 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, and 3 elevators (Source). Is Osteen simply reaping the material benefits of the spiritual good sown amongst so many? Well, consider the fact that there are no crosses or religious symbols within Lakewood Church (Source), that he clearly violates 1 Timothy 2:11-14 by allowing female pastors, that Osteen preaches a form of the heretical "prosperity gospel" that has made so many televangelists quite wealthy at the expense of their followers (Source), and that he says his "message is helping people let go of the past, reach their dreams, have a healthy self-image, and raise good children" rather than focusing on sins such as homosexuality (Source). Compare Osteen's message of prosperity and self-esteem with Jesus's message of penitence and combating sin in our lives and the lives of those around us:
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.—James 5:19-20
Also consider that the Lakewood "leadership team" includes Osteen, his wife, his mother, his brother, and his sister (Source). This sort of nepotism and other questionable behavior is not unusual among so-called "mega churches." Kenneth Copeland, another prosperity gospel televangelist who lives in a $6.3 million mansion (Source), includes his wife and children in the hierarchy of Kenneth Copeland Ministries (Source). Creflo Dollar, another prosperity preacher, and his wife, Taffi, are co-pastors of World Changers Church in Atlanta, and they are known for owning a Rolls-Royce, a 53-acre estate near Atlanta, and for previously asking their followers to help them buy a $65 million private jet (Source). T.D. Jakes and his wife, Serita, operate Potter's House in Dallas, which has allowed them to attain a net worth of some $18 million (Source). Interestingly, their son was arrested in 2009 after he exposed himself to undercover police and began masturbating while making eye contact with one of the detectives (Source). The now-deceased Eddie Long became a millionaire as the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia, but he was forced to settle out of court with multiple young men who said he had used his position to elicit sex from them (Source). Each of these supposed "pastors" have become quite wealthy through their churches, but it is plain to see that they are not sowing spiritual good among their followers. They are instead peddling heresies and duping many in the process.
Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, 4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, 5 and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.—1 Timothy 6:3-5
It is not difficult to understand how these false teachers have become so wealthy. They put forth a message that brightens one's day yet does not enlighten one's faith. They seek to maximize the number of people who hear their message, and then they let Christian tithing do the rest. Christians are called to provide for men of the cloth, and tens of thousands of people providing up to 10% of their income every month quickly adds up. How many of these supposed "pastors" are actually doing the work of the clergy that warrants the rights detailed by St. Paul? Is Joel Osteen available around the clock to congregants in need of counseling? Does Kenneth Copeland sit down with his followers and host Bible studies? Could Creflo Dollar or T.D. Jakes identify random members of their congregations let alone know their struggles in life? Are any of them shepherds tending to their flocks in the Lord's name, or are they just wolves preying on wayward sheep?

This sort of predatory behavior is not limited to wealthy prosperity preachers either, albeit they are the most obvious due to their prominent profiles. For example, John Pavlovitz ministers to teenagers at the North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina in addition to blogging, tweeting, and operating a Facebook group (Source). He has defended Joel Osteen (Source), espouses liberal political positions from his religious platform (Source), claims homosexuals are as God intended (Source), peddles the myth that Jesus was a liberal hippy (Source), defends Muslims (Source), opposes legislation aimed at protecting Christian religious liberty (Source), questions the existence of Hell yet wishes Republicans will go there (Source) as well as homophobes (Source), promotes female ordination (Source), and has even written his own version of wedding vows that references "hot sex," "flatulence," and so on (Source). For his heretical and godless efforts, he has cultivated a congregation of some 180 lost souls, which provides him $3,800 per month on Patreon alone (Source).
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.—Matthew 7:15-20
What are the fruits of those mentioned above? Are they faithful shepherds tending to their flocks in the name of the Lord, or are they ravenous wolves? Each of them has accrued immense wealth from their followers, but all they offer in return is New Age heresy that is meant to be like honey in the ear, ever so sweet and pleasant, rather than faithfully sharing the Word and bringing people closer to God. Why then have they prospered so while walking in the darkness? Two phrases come to mind—a fool and his money are soon parted, and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. These false teachers and prophets have a well-crafted message that is meant to sound like it is from the Lord, but it is an easy sort of faith, requiring little but promising much. Why bother with penitence and service when you can just feel good about yourself and your sins? Why worry about reconciling your personal views with God's will when you can just believe God's will is the same as your own? Faith is hard because we are flawed, but most do not want to hear that today. The Enemy's temptations are so dangerous because they target us where we are weakest, and that includes people who want to see themselves as faithful yet are still so consumed by sins that they cannot recognize them as the flaws they are.
Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.—Proverbs 16:25
On a more personal note, it can be difficult for a man of the cloth to discuss such issues with members of their flock out of a fear that they may seem money-grubbing, greedy, and corrupt. St. Paul may have said that clergymen have a right to be supported, but, in this day and age, can you honestly imagine being lectured about tithing to support clerics, even if using St. Paul's own words? Would a cleric not immediately be labeled selfish by many? Should men of the cloth be "slaves to all" in silence, or should they be as vocal and forceful as St. Paul? It may be easy for Creflo Dollar to shamelessly ask for a $65 million jet, but it can be infinitely harder for someone trying to walk in the light to discuss financial concerns. Of course, this does not mean members of a flock should pay what they cannot afford, even if they truly support their shepherd. It is for individuals to discern who and what they should support and to what extent, and a true man of the cloth must serve regardless. It is not for them to ever withhold what God commands or the flock needs. God willing, however, more Christians will learn to be more discerning and to stop supporting the Joel Osteens of the world.


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Monday, June 26, 2017

On the Immorality of Capitalism

In the 1987 film Wall Street, the character Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) instantly became an icon when he uttered these words, "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind."

While they may try to use more flowery language so as to sound less nefarious, this is actually an excellent summation of capitalists' ideology. As Adam Smith wrote, "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer," and it is "not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages" (Source). Consider then that the word "greed" comes from Old English grædig, meaning "hungry, ravenous." In the Gordon Gekko quote above, replace "greed" with "consuming," and then compare the thinking to Smith. Again, Smith: "Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it... he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention" (Ibid.).

In other words, the economy is to be understood as an amorphous blob of individuals who are all motivated by their own desire to consume, and producers only matter insofar as their own greed compels them to meet that demand in the name of profit. Neither the consumers nor the producers care about anything greater than their own selfish desires, but that collective greed nonetheless works as an "invisible hand" that produces the most efficient economy, which, in turn, inadvertently promotes the public interest. Capitalists can refer to greed as "self-interest" and profiting therefrom as "voluntary cooperation," but the meaning is ultimately the same (Source). Indeed, exchanges do not exist in a vacuum where both parties are equally content, but each is rather an effort on the part of the producer to provide the least while charging the most and on the part of the consumer to receive the most while paying the least. In effect, both sides are encouraged to take advantage of the other as much as humanly possible, but a capitalist would argue that the "invisible hand" would strike the best balance between the two thanks to market competition, consumer demand, and the like.

Is that actually the case though? Let's consider the United States, perhaps the most capitalistic nation on Earth (yet still not capitalistic enough according to laissez-faire capitalists). The national debt is nearing $20 trillion (Source), which actually exceeds the gross domestic product of the nation (Source). The richest 10% of the population owns fully 76% of the nation's wealth (Source), and the wealthiest 0.1% actually possess as much wealth as the bottom 90% combined (Source). This is in addition to the fact that total household debt in the US is nearing $13 trillion (Source). Since 2000, according to researchers at Ball State University, several hundred thousand manufacturing jobs have been exported to foreign countries, not including jobs lost to automation, and, according to an MIT study, up to 2.4 million American jobs were lost from 1999-2011 due to Chinese imports (Source). From 2000-2017, approximately 1.85 million foreign workers have been allowed into the US under the H-1B visa program, which allows cheaper foreign workers to fill jobs in the country legally (Source). Roughly 95% of H-1B visa workers are from the Third World (Source). That is not counting the some 1 million immigrants that are admitted to the US each year (Source), which capitalists consistently tout as being good for the economy (Source, Source, Source). Unsurprisingly, the US is expected to become "minority majority" in the next few decades (Source), but capitalists are quick to say it is good for the economy (Source).

None of the above appears to speak well of capitalism today, but the capitalists are quick to tell us that consumer debt can be good for the economy (Source) as can the national debt so long as it does not go too far (Source). Despite any misgivings you may still have, we are also assured that the American dream is alive and well because someone from the lowest rungs of society can pick themselves up by their bootstraps and become the next billionaire (Source). Economic policies must be aimed at always helping and never hindering today's wealthy capitalists because it could be you tomorrow, or so the thinking goes. Of course, the most expansive studies of social mobility in the United States now tell us that the social mobility gap is widening (Source), that there is actually little social mobility to be found (Source), and that estimates of social mobility have actually been exaggerated even when showing little mobility to begin with (Source). Is it any wonder then that the household debt of the nation is nearly $13 trillion as the national debt nears $20 trillion? Americans are being promised untold riches in exchange for incessant consumerism, but what they are really receiving is untold debt, jobs going overseas, and hordes of foreigners coming to take what jobs remain.

Therein lies one of the most intoxicating myths of capitalism: namely, that a true believer could be a poor immigrant and yet become a wealthy man due to nothing more than his own hard work. Who would not want that? Take, for example, the so-called "robber barons" of the Gilded Age of the late 19th century such as Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, J.P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. The myth is that those titans of industry were able to become among the wealthiest men in the world because capitalism allowed them to be freethinking entrepreneurs and benefit from their own work, but how true is that? Consider that Andrew W. Mellon was the son of a wealthy banker and judge, Thomas Mellon, who gave Andrew his start in the family bank (Source). Similarly, J.P. Morgan was born into a prominent banking family, and he began working for the international banking interests of his father, J.S. Morgan, and his business partner, George Peabody (Source). In contrast to Mellon and Morgan, Andrew Carnegie was actually an immigrant from humble origins, but he got his real start in capitalism when he began working as the secretary for Thomas Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who involved Carnegie in his then-legal insider trading schemes. By the age of 30, Carnegie was a millionaire due to said schemes, and he would then invest that money into ventures that would make him famous as a robber baron (Source). John D. Rockefeller perhaps had the most interesting background as the son of a con man, but, like Carnegie, his fortune would come through the efforts of others. Indeed, he had entered into a produce business with a partner, Maurice Clark, and it would be Clark and his brothers, James and Richard, who dragged Rockefeller into the oil business during the Civil War (Source). Since the Union government was subsidizing the oil industry, it was naturally quite profitable.

What do these famous robber barons all have in common? Clearly, despite the myth, none of them actually built something from nothing solely through their own efforts. Mellon and Morgan were both born into wealth that gave them their opportunities, Carnegie benefited immensely from what would send anyone to prison today, and Rockefeller was inadvertently dragged by others into the industry that would make him the wealthiest American in history. Thus, are they truly examples of social mobility that should give the masses hope that they could achieve the same, or did they rather each just catch lightning in a bottle? Based on the relative lack of intergenerational social mobility in the US today, it seems safe to say that it is nonsensical to suggest the robber barons were anything but rare. Indeed, the UK today has social mobility similar to the US (Source), which is not saying much considering research presented to the Economic History Society suggests that the "modern meritocracy is no better at achieving social mobility than the medieval oligarchy," and, "if anything the rate of social mobility is slower now than in medieval England" (Source).

Now, this is where a typical capitalist will put on his Libertarian Party lapel pin and start screaming about "collectivism" and "individual rights." This is because the core belief of capitalism is not really about economics but rather that individuals should be free to do what they want. If this thinking is followed to its logical conclusion, the state must be deprived of any authority or ability to interfere with the actions of the masses. After all, if the gluttony of the consumers is to be maximized so as to produce the most profit, then they must be left to their own devices so that their hunger is never hindered. This helps to explain why state Chambers of Commerce as well as countless corporations have consistently sided with queer activists (Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source). Society slowly succumbing to moral rot and decay is a small price to pay for the profits that could be earned from a new "gay market" full of disposable income. Indeed, homosexuals spent $1.3 billion on weddings in the first year the practice was legalized by the Supreme Court (Source), and some suggest the "gay wedding market" could be as high as $2.5 billion (Source).

In terms of other vices, the American pornography industry is worth more than $10 billion annually (Source), and the "adult toy" industry is also worth billions each year (Source). The alcohol industry is worth more than $200 billion (Source), and, despite only being legal in certain states, the legal marijuana industry is already worth more than $7 billion (Source). It should be noted that the US is not unique in this regard. For example, Japan—another exceedingly capitalistic society with a population about one-third the size of the US—has a pornography industry worth approximately $4.4 billion and creates some 20,000 films annually (Source). Pornography is so prevalent in the country that some "actresses" are nationally famous (Source). Even more disturbing is the fact that 1 in 10 Japanese men owns child pornography according to a government survey (Source), and the teenage prostitution market is estimated to be worth as much as $700 million annually (Source). Indeed, while Japan may be seen "as an isolated pocket of safety and low crime," a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has found that the nation is involved with human trafficking, the illicit drug trade, smuggling rare wildlife, creating fraudulent goods, and dumping illegal waste (Source). Encouraging sinfulness in the masses and then meeting the subsequent demand is quite profitable.

Of course, all of this highlights another of the great myths of capitalism: namely, that it uniquely provides markets and that said markets will produce the best outcomes for individuals and society. This line of reasoning often works today because capitalists are most often only contending with socialists and communists, neither of whom believe in market-based economies. After all, socialists seek social ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and communists wish to go a step further to entirely abolish private property and social classes. When confronted with other systems, however, the standard capitalist argument quickly falls apart. For example, mercantilism was the prevailing economic system in Europe from the 16th century until the rise of capitalism, and, by definition, it involves profitable trade. Unlike capitalism, however, mercantilistic nations sought to maximize exports, minimize imports, and prevent individuals from engaging in activities that ran contrary to the nation's interests. In so doing, a nation might amass great wealth at the expense of other nations while nearing full employment (Source).

Capitalists naturally scoff at "collectivist" ideas such as nationalism, or "statist" ideas such as the nation daring to restrain individuals, but the essence of their argument is that individuals should be free to seek profit even where it harms their own nation to do so. For example, capitalists have long criticized government-enforced monopolies under mercantilism (Source, Source), which were aimed at protecting the nation's interests, but, as history shows, capitalists freely produce their own monopolies whenever possible without any concern for others (Source, Source). It is also worth noting that mercantilism holds that there is a finite amount of wealth in the world derived from physical resources (gold, silver, oil, &c.), which is to be maximized for the nation's benefit, while capitalism holds that wealth is infinite so long as there are new markets to enter or old markets are growing (even if that means endlessly importing would-be consumers from the Third World by the millions). The latter, of course, ignores that continued growth does not mean wealth is infinite, but it rather means the limits have not yet been reached. When physical resources are depleted, all that would remain would be abstract with arbitrary value, such as fiat currency. The myth of infinite wealth is useful, however, for justifying capitalism to those who have not benefited from the system. It is important that they believe, while they may not be a robber baron yet, the opportunity is still there for them and their children.

Here, again, the capitalists would loudly bark that their beloved free market benefits everyone. For example, they would likely argue that, while true social mobility may be unlikely, capitalism at least offers people an opportunity to be self-employed and start their own businesses. From 1994-2015, however, the rate of self-employment in the United States fell from 12.1 to 10.1% (Source), and it is worth noting that only 1-in-4 of those also employed someone else (Source). Additionally, 20% of new businesses will fail in their first year, 50% within their first 5 years, and only 1-in-3 will survive beyond a decade (Source). Now, contrast that with the fact that the median employee tenure in the US in January 2016 was 4.2 years—meaning half of wage and salary workers had been in their current jobs longer than that—while only one-third had been in their jobs a decade or more (Source). In short, starting one's own business under this system is unlikely to provide any more stability than working for someone else, and that is without factoring in the fact that the average startup capital needed for a new business is approximately $30,000 (Source). Again, capitalism promises the world to the masses, but the reality is that the vast majority are only food for the beast.

Interestingly, despite capitalists often touting small business as evidence of capitalism's greatness, it actually exposes a cold truth about the system: namely, that it revolves around separating ownership of productive property from the productive use of said property. Let's remember that only about 7.5% of Americans were self-employed without employees in 2015, meaning any labor performed was their responsibility alone. Indeed, more than 90% of the American workforce is composed of wage and salaried workers, and that has been the case since 1972 (Source). Now, being employed by someone else is not necessarily a bad thing, obviously, but it is worthy of note that the median wage has only increased 9% since 1979. This is despite the fact that productivity has increased 72% since 1973, and the top 1% of earners have seen their incomes rise by 138% (Source). In other words, the vast majority of Americans are more productive than ever before, but they are merely using the capitalists' productive property to further increase the wealth of those same capitalists. The system has not empowered the masses to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and "make something of themselves," but it has rather convinced them to keep toiling away while others reap the benefits, to continue feeding the beast as they are devoured by it, generation after generation after generation.

Once we understand that capitalism is not merely "free markets for free people," then we can start to question whether or not there is a better way to implement a market economy that revolves around something more than greed and gluttony, and the key is in addressing productive property. A person who owns the productive property needed to provide for themselves and their family does not need to rely on others for their survival. For example, a family which owns a farm and the tools necessary to work the land could produce what is necessary to support themselves without relying on others. It is no coincidence that our capitalist system has slowly destroyed the family farm (Source). When farmers bought into capitalist thinking, they stopped trying to provide for their families and communities and instead sought to cater to the global market. That may have been profitable in the short-term, but it also made their survival contingent on defeating outside competition. As should be expected, capitalists inevitably came in to crush smaller farms and to monopolize markets, and the system allows them to purposely engage in practices to achieve these ends (Source). One of the most nefarious means of doing this involves forcing family farms into subcontracted production wherein the farmers take on most of the liability while the corporations reap the profits (Source):
A farm scholar once asked an agribusiness executive when his corporation would simply take over the farms. The exec said that it would be dumb for the corporation to do so, in that it is not free to exploit its employees to the degree that farmers are willing to exploit themselves.
Now, let's consider distributism as an alternative to capitalism. As Richard Aleman has said (Source):
Distributism is just like Capitalism, except that we differ on the nature of man, the purpose of economic activity, usury, the maximization of token wealth, the role and legitimate exercise of the state, empirical economics, the meaning of subsidiarity, subordination of economics to the higher sciences, our ends, our means, what money is, what wealth is, what a free market is, production and consumption, regulation, free trade, the moral and divine law in the social and economic order, and, yes, what liberty means.
At its most basic, distributism seeks for productive property to be in the hands of as many people as possible rather than a small number of capitalists or the government. This does not mean that either providing capital while others provide labor or shared ownership are inherently immoral, but the key is that people should be free to make those decisions for themselves. For example, a person may have their own reasons for preferring to work for another, or choosing to collectively own property with others, but it should be their choice to make with the system truly allowing them the freedom to choose. This highlights why usury is such an important concern. Let's consider a person who needs $50,000 to purchase the necessary tools and such needed to work as a plumber (Source), for which a bank may offer him an interest rate of 6 to 13% (Source). Using these figures and assuming a 5-year loan term, the plumber would pay anywhere from $970 to $1,140 per month (not including any additional fees), and, over the course of the loan, he would pay $8,000 to $18,000 in interest (Source). A bank may offer a longer term length to bring the monthly payment down, but that is itself a trap as he would pay them much more over an even slightly extended term. For example, a 7-year loan would save more than $200 per month with the above interest rates, but he would ultimately pay $3,400 to $8,400 more in interest. Can it really be said that such a system is encouraging entrepreneurship?

We find the same problem with owning one's own home. Distributism encourages the notion that as many people as possible should own their homes and the land upon which they are built, or at least have the real choice to do so, but our current system is again dominated by usury. For example, the current 15- and 30-year fixed rates are 3.27 and 4.05%, respectively (Source), which, for a $100,000 home, would cost the homeowner approximately $27,000 to $73,000 in interest over the life of the loan. The plumber or the homeowner may be able to afford these usurious charges, but that rather misses the point. It is not whether or not people can afford the parasitism known as usury, but it is whether or not such parasitism encourages people to have the freedom to make choices that benefit both their families and society through increased independence. For context, in any given year, millions of American homeowners owe more than their home is worth (Source) with approximately 1 million homes under foreclosure (Source). Our current capitalistic system seeks to prey on people trying to live the American dream whereas a distributist system would instead encourage such things so as to promote personal and social well-being. Indeed, consider that the current mortgage market can be valued as high as $2 trillion annually with no shortage of profit for the mortgage companies (Source).

How many such examples are needed before we consider the morality of capitalism, or rather the lack thereof? It is a system of greed and gluttony, of predators and usury. It promises freedom, but it has only delivered intergenerational wage slavery. The answer to these problems certainly does not involve socialism or communism, but might it include distributism? The average capitalist does not actually benefit from capitalism, and they are also much more likely to espouse ideals in line with a distributist system: namely, freedom and markets guided by ethics and solidarity with one's neighbors. It seems unlikely that the average person wrapped up in liberal capitalist ideology truly thinks that greed and gluttony are good for themselves, their families, or society. We have watched as capitalism has ravaged the countryside and our families, encouraging sin as a virtue so long as it results in money flowing to the capitalists. Social mobility has vanished and wages have stagnated even as the masses are told the American dream is more possible than ever. As Jesus once whipped the money-changers, perhaps it is time that we chased the capitalists away so that we may implement a system more in line with traditional Christian morality and values? Certainly, we should be able to say boldly and without question that greed is not good, but God is great.


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Monday, June 12, 2017

A Modest Proposal: A Real Wakanda as Reparations

The movie trailer has been released for Marvel's Black Panther, a movie focused on an African comic book character of the same name, and it has caused quite the stir. That Africans exist in the Marvel comics universe is hardly surprising, but the movie is centered on events in the mythical locale of Wakanda, a nation on the west coast of Lake Victoria in East Africa (Source), which stands out because it is the most technologically advanced nation on Marvel's Earth (Source). This is worthy of note considering that there are no actual First World developed nations on the continent of Africa (Source) and that the average IQ of Sub-Saharan (black) Africans is only ~70 (Source). On this latter point, Wakanda particularly stands out since its technology has apparently been developed in isolation from the rest of the world, "from agriculture to early days of knife and spear-building to developing exotic materials" (Source). This means that the isolated Wakandans are the most technologically advanced human beings ever, and they achieved it entirely on their own.

This is precisely how Wakanda is depicted in Marvel's new film—a futuristic cityscape with advanced aircraft soaring through the skies; African spears alongside advanced energy weapons, lip plates alongside advanced body armor. This depiction of Afrofuturism prompted one black activist to declare on twitter, "[Wakanda] is what Africa would've been like if white peoples had minded their own ******* business" (Source). This same sentiment was shared by another, "[Wakanda] is so beautiful, this is what Africa had the potential to be if the white man didn't **** us up" (Source). And another, "[Wakanda] could've really been us if white people hadn't... if anti-blackness hadn't... if everyone left Africa alone" (Source). Indeed, the self-contained universe of so-called "black twitter" has no shortage of people taking pride in Wakanda even though many freely admit that they are only now even attempting to learn about Black Panther comic books. The source material is only relevant to them insofar as it allows them to further embrace Pan-Wakandanism™, a manifestation of black power fantasies as condensed and viewed through the lens of a Jewish-created comic book. They need not understand anything about Africa, its peoples, or its cultures when they can just embrace Wakanda as a utopian ideal, what could, or rather would, have been had blacks been left to their own devices.

Now, there are some obvious problems with this thinking. Firstly, the various kingdoms of Sub-Saharan Africa, which are often held up as evidence of their civilization and culture, only came into being during the Middle Ages in Europe, and their rise was facilitated by trade with non-blacks. Indeed, what history is known of those peoples is largely left to us by Muslim writers since the blacks themselves lacked written language and instead relied entirely upon oral traditions. Secondly, none of those kingdoms or "empires" were ever more than alliances of tribes, and they certainly never rose to the level of the Greeks, Romans, English, French, &c. For example, the "Songhai Empire" was the most powerful of the Sub-Saharan African kingdoms, and they were still relying on mud as a building material in the 15th century. Naturally, it is hard to fathom how blacks could have gone from the Stone Age to Space Age without help when, with help, they were still using mud huts and such while Europeans had long been erecting massive stone castles and cathedrals that still stand today.

But let us put such issues aside and come to the proposal at hand: namely, that the United States should establish an actual Wakanda for black people as a form of reparations and reconciliation. Imagine a new nation being carved out wherein the new Wakandans were provided with homes, investments allowed local entrepreneurs to open businesses to serve their people, and the new natives were free to establish whatever form of government they chose including their own justice system. Once this new nation was established, all western interference would be removed by law to ensure that the Wakandans were free to do as they wish with their newly sovereign nation. As part of this process, ownership of any and all natural resources would be restored to the Wakandan people. Through such efforts, the newly formed nation would have the means of sustaining itself economically while providing much needed jobs for its people, and so on. Naturally, this would not include providing advanced spaceships, energy weapons, or a futuristic cityscape, but whites providing such things would violate the spirit of Wakanda anyway. The entire point is to afford black people the chance to become what they were meant to be on their own terms, and the United States absolutely has the ability to offer just such an opportunity to settle any perceived debts owed to the descendants of slaves.

It is important to note here that past attempts at quantifying reparations have almost entirely been tainted by the personal biases of those making the estimates. For example, one form of estimate attempts to valuate "stolen labor" of slaves using modern minimum wage of $7.25 per hour with applied interest, which yields claims that blacks today are owed approximately $59 trillion (Source). Of course, this ignores that the average hourly wage for a laborer in 1860 was only $0.10 (Source), which would have been equal to approximately $2.71 in 2016 (Source), or nearly two-thirds less than the figure used for the biased estimate. Others instead claim that black people are still owed "40 acres and a mule," or at least the value thereof, which is estimated to be at least $6.4 trillion (Source). This is inherently flawed since the "40 acres and a mule" is actually a myth. It is true that Union General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 to settle colored refugees on confiscated lands, but those lands were finite (400,000 acres), no mule was promised to anyone, and the order was overturned. Prior to that, the proposed settlement plan involved a finite number of 20- or 40-acre plots being auctioned to blacks at $1.25 per acre, or $33.90 in FY2016 dollars. While that is certainly inexpensive, this speaks to the fact that there was no plan to award every black person "40 acres and a mule" as reparations, so it is nonsensical to base any such attempt on that myth. What then should we do?

There have been many efforts by both whites and blacks to encourage resettlement to Africa—so-called "Back to Africa" movements—but most people today declare that this would be unfair since American blacks have never lived in Africa, know little to nothing about life there, and so on. As the thinking goes, it would be cruel to uproot them and drop them into an unknown land. In truth, this argument makes little sense when one considers how much of "black culture" in the United States is about seeking "African roots," adopting African customs (or what they perceive as such), and so on. If American blacks long to have African names, clothing, tribal identity, and the like, would they not achieve all of that by returning to Africa to form their own nation according to their own desires? It rather seems that the truth is that liberals and blacks are both tacitly acknowledging that life is better in the West than in Africa, and they see it as cruel to force them to live without the convenience of white societies even as they rant about how evil white people are. For the sake of argument, however, let us assume that it would indeed be too cruel to send African Americans to Africa.

In that spirit, the modest proposal here presented is that a total of 59 counties covering an area from California to Texas be separated from their respective states and the United States to form Wakanda. The area covered is approximately the size of Spain with preexisting housing for around 33 million people with the possibility of easily accommodating the 43 million black people currently in the US. Any white people living within that region would have an opportunity to relocate, with government assistance, to somewhere else within the United States. Likewise, black people living anywhere in the United States would be moved to Wakanda with "settlement" being on a first-come, first-served basis. In other words, if a black family could reach a now-vacant mansion in southern California before others, they could stake their claim to it. This would incentivize blacks from around the country to move to Wakanda as quickly as possible to acquire the best real estate, to form neighborhoods and communities around extended families, &c.

There would be some growing pains as white families and businesses were forced to leave Wakanda, but the United States would be better for it in the long-term. For example, cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and El Paso would be lost in the bargain, but people and industries could be relocated to now-homogeneous cities in need of restoration such as Detroit, Baltimore, and Atlanta. Others such as the film and television industry—centered on southern California—could be prevented from reestablishing themselves elsewhere in the United States unless they agree to abandon anti-white, pro-degeneracy policies and ideologies. Another benefit would be that any illegal aliens captured in the resettlement area could immediately be deported, and any attempting to flee north into homogeneous white areas would be easily noticed and deported as well. Additionally, since Wakanda would be a black nation that would replace the entire US border with Mexico, illegal immigration would become a nigh impossibility as Central and South Americans would not be able to blend in within Wakanda and would have no excuse for crossing the closed US-Wakandan border. Wakandans themselves would also have no incentive to allow illegal immigration into their new nation since that would involve non-blacks stealing work entirely from blacks. What sense would there be in that?

As the black activists have said, the Afrofuturistic Wakanda of comics and film is what they could have achieved on their own. So why not provide them with that opportunity while returning the United States to homogeneity? This proposed Wakanda would have natural resources, port access to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, ample opportunity for international trade, and First World infrastructure unlike anything to be found in developing nations in Africa. Racial tensions would vanish overnight as whites and blacks went in their own directions peacefully, and both would be free to pursue their own interests without concern of being oppressed or the oppressor. If blacks truly believe in what Wakanda could be, why not make it a reality?


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