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December 24, 2009

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Roger McKinney

evagrius: "They sought the Holy Grail in exploiting foreign populations and stealing their resources."

You really ought to read something besides Marxists. There is a whole world of knowledge out there beyond Marxism. The colonies did not help England economically. For the most part they were a drain on resources, especially when you consider the cost of infrastructure the English had to build. Whatever their motivations for maintaining colonies, economics wasn't one of them.

zero: "i've asked more than once why should anyone be poor?"

Poverty is the natural state of mankind. As I wrote elsewhere, it's the result of God cursing the earth after kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden. From Adam to Adam Smith, the natural plight of mankind was regular famines with mass starvation. They were as regular as clockwork. It was part of God's judgment against a rebellious mankind. The first nation to escape the cycle of famine was the Dutch Republic in the 17th century. They were able to escape because they employed new methods of farming that raised their productivity so that they could feed more people. They also created new wealth by using capital intensive production methods in manufacturing. As a result they had the resources to trade for food in places that weren't experiencing famine.

Living in the West, we assume our wealth is natural, but it's not. It's a shame that Westerners don't understand the sacrifices and struggle our ancestors went through to provide this life for us.

At the same time, poverty is no longer necessary. S. Korea, Taiwan, Japan Singapore and now China have realized that. They can get out of poverty by using the technology and knowledge that our ancestors developed over several hundred years, so they can accomplish in a few decades what it took us centuries to learn.

The problem is that most people in the world are now socialists and refuse to follow China's example. Like Cuba, they would rather their people starve than admit that socialism is an utter failure.

zero

poverty is a natural state? that's social darwinism at it's finest! and who decides who should be the natural recipients of the condition of poverty? certainly this is winners and losers if ever there was an outcome! and how about those who harm others to "lift" themselves above poverty and, indeed, to extreme wealth? what about all those who were sacrificed at the hands of those who got the wealth?

as for those systems like socialism they aren't designed to benefit anyone except those at the top. it's lip service by those in control and to keep people in line. it's as i said in the previous post, it's do as i say, not as i do. it's how a system is actually utilized that counts not the label.

as for those countries like china and taiwan "lifting people out of poverty" by implementing capitalisms, these countries gained because american workers lost. that's ok with you? and the only reason those jobs went there was companies got a better deal with how they were able to treat the employees than american workers. this is ok with you? a system is successful regardless of what happens to those caught up in it through no fault of their own? no exit possible? trapped by power and wealth? why is this ok?

Roger McKinney

zero: "poverty is a natural state? that's social darwinism at it's finest!"

It has nothing to do with social darwinism. It's just a fact of history. From Adam to Adam Smith about 5% of the population, the nobility, held almost all of the wealth; there middle class was about 3% and the other 92% were near starvation. I'm sorry if history offfends you. I had nothing to do with it, nor did capitalism.

zero: "as for those countries like china and taiwan "lifting people out of poverty" by implementing capitalisms, these countries gained because american workers lost."

That's simply not true. Ricardo proved almost 200 years ago that trade benefits both countries by increasing the total wealth of both. Of course, you would have to learn a little about economics to understand that. Trade is not a zero sum game like poker. It's mutually beneficial. That is one of the chief principles of economics.

evagrius

Mr. McKinney,

So if someone disagrees with you they're Marxists or socialist?

Two questions;

Please, then, please state why the British, and other European nations, decided to have colonies if they were such a huge cost( and kept them for centuries)?

As an example; could you please tell me how Belgium was impoverished from controlling the Congo?

That's the first question.

The second is this;

If poverty is "the natural state of humanity" due to God's curse upon it for Adam's sin, then capitalism and the free market are contrary to God's decree since they obviously contravene the decree of poverty by creating wealth.

Could you please explain how contravening God's decree is in accordance with God's decree?

zero

from adam it's always been that way? who else was there when there was adam? does this mean adam began this system of wealth/poverty to stay on top?

zero: "as for those countries like china and taiwan "lifting people out of poverty" by implementing capitalisms, these countries gained because american workers lost."
That's simply not true. Ricardo proved almost 200 years ago that trade benefits both countries by increasing the total wealth of both. Of course, you would have to learn a little about economics to understand that. Trade is not a zero sum game like poker. It's mutually beneficial. That is one of the chief principles of economics.

um. that's deflection. i didn't talk about trade. i talked about jobs leaving america and going to these other countries where the masses have been "lifted up" by earning slave wages that can't be paid in the united states.

and, yeah. what evagrius said.

fundamentalist

evagrius: "So if someone disagrees with you they're Marxists or socialist?"

Not at all. I disagree with capitalists all the time. However, anyone who subscribes to Marxist ideology I consider a Marxist.

evagrius: "As an example; could you please tell me how Belgium was impoverished from controlling the Congo?"

It's very simple and happens today. The profits are privatized while the costs are socialized. Just like the bank bailouts of the past year. The private owners benefit while the tax payer picks up the tab. In colonial days, private companies bribed lawmakers to spend tax money to conquer nations like the Congo and build railroads and other infrastructure. They offered a lot of motivations, usually national pride, just like Bush's rationale for attacking Iraq. Individuals took the profits and left the government with the costs.

evagrius: "Could you please explain how contravening God's decree is in accordance with God's decree?"

God made an exception for those who would follow him. Witness the prosperity of ancient Israel at times when the people followed God. Continual poverty is God's judgment against rebellious mankind. That judgment is also his attempt to persuade mankind to end its rebellion. But Israel's prosperity wasn't the result of a miracle. It came from having a small government (except under Solomon) with low taxes and excellent protection for private property. People kept what they earned, so they were motivated to work. And they had extra to help the poor. The key to prosperity is protecting private property and limited government.

When God punished Israel, he had a brutal state conquer them and steal their wealth. Later, he just allowed the nobility of Israel to steal everything and tax them heavily. Today when God wants to punish a nation, he convinces the people that socialism is the path to perfection.

zero: "does this mean adam began this system of wealth/poverty to stay on top?"

I'm not sure what you're asking. Due to God's cursing the earth, the population has exceeded the capacity of farming methods to feed people for most of human history. In addition, droughts would cause crop failure and mass starvation. The blame falls on God for cursing the planet. Kings and nobility managed to escape this curse by stealing from the masses. That is a simple description of human history until the Dutch Republic.

zero: "i didn't talk about trade. i talked about jobs leaving america and going to these other countries..."

Companies leave only because they can continue to trade with us. But companies leaving the US were a tiny, tiny portion of the economic growth of China and Asia. Most of the growth came from Asians starting their own businesses.

Good questions, guys! Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

evagrius

Mr. McKinney,

I think your theological understanding of the Old Testament is what called Reconstrucion or Dominion theology, ( see Rousas John Rushdoony).

That theology is not representative of Christianity.

Your theology also has echoes of the "prosperity gospel" that is now so prevalent which promises wealth to those who follow God's law.

One cannot argue with someone who cannot accept that the argument they have is self-contradictory. If poverty is the "natural state" of humanity, why was ancient Israel exempt from this? If it was exempt as long as it followed the Law then the limitation of the Law to Israel implies that God only loved Israel and no other nation or people since they were still under the natural state of poverty. This is an understanding that even the Old Testament does not agree with.

zero

evargrius' response is better than mine would be....

Roger McKinney

Evagrius, have you ever read the OT? It is full of promises to Israel of material prosperity if they follow God and threats of material impoverishment if they don't. That begins in Deuteronomy. Then the history books are nothing but examples of God punishing Israel materially for its rebellion and rewarding it for faithfulness. Then the prophetic books pick up the theme again. How can you miss that? Either you don't understand dominion theology and prosperity gospel or you refuse to try to understand what I'm writing.

God's rewarding Israel for faithfulness and allowing ungodly nations to suffer in poverty advertises his love for them, because God wants people to repent. God's judgments are always merciful in that they are intended to get people to repent and end their rebellion.

Or do you deny that God judges the ungodly? Of course not. Several people have mentioned that God judged Soddom for abusing the poor. But God judged other nations as well.

In man's natural state in our early history, we had nothing but sticks to plow with and raise food. That is essentially the position of most farmers in poor countries. The most common farming implement in the world is a short-handled hoe. As a result, most farmers can barely raise enough food to feed their families. That is the natural state of mankind. But God had mercy and allowed people to domesticate animals and use oxen to plow with, which raised standards of living to the level of Abraham. But still, except for Israel when they followed God, famine reined supreme for another 3,000 years.

Roger McKinney

Let's look at the example of medicine. If God didn't create the bacteria and viruses that cause illness, he at least created the processes by which they appeared. Yet mankind was defenseless against these until the rise of modern medical science. We had nothing but prayer and the anointing with oil to help us. Of course, God did occasionally perform miracles and heal sick people. However, the Mosaic law contains sanitary laws that if followed would reduce the incidence of disease. But since they were part of religious instruction, only those who believed in the Hebrew god would follow them. Nevertheless, if unbelievers happened to follow those same sanitary principles, they would be just as healthy as the believers. Today, no one suggests following only the sanitary laws of the Mosaic Law and sticking to just prayer and anointing with oil. Most Christians go to a doctor.

In a similar way, principles of material prosperity were included in the Mosaic Law. They were the laws which limited the size and power of the government and protected private property. When Israel followed those principles they prospered, but when they rebelled against God, they also rebelled against those principles and allowed the nobility to steal from the people and enforce brutal taxation. Poverty resulted. With the decline of Israel, no empire followed God's principles of prosperity; theft by the state was the rule. Nothing changed until the Dutch Republic decided to implement God's rules concerning property and justice. They had received those principles from the Church scholars at Salamanca, Spain. Prosperity followed. Those principles had existed at least since the Mosaic Law, but people refused to follow them.

But as with medicine, the rules don't work just for believers. Other nations, such as those in Asia, and Brazil, have discovered that they can implement the same principles and find material prosperity for a majority of the people.

Before the Dutch Republic, people assumed that one person can get rich only at the expense of another, and they were right for the most part because theft was the most common way for the nobility to enrich themselves. But with the advent of capitalism in the Dutch Republic, it became clear that people can create new wealth, not just take someone else's. Adam Smith codified the process. Since then, most wealthy have gained their wealth by creating new wealth, not taking it from others. Capitalism creates new wealth; socialism forceably redistributes wealth. Even Marx understood that, which is why he warned other nations not to attempt socialism until they had gone through the capitalist phase.

evagrius

Mr. McKinney-

I think you win the argument by default.

You have constructed a religious world-view impervious to any questioning.

Of course, it is not a Christian world-view, except tangentially, but it is a world-view.

Roger McKinney

So you're saying that the Church scholars of the 16th & 17th centuries weren't Christians? Or that the Dutch Protestants weren't Christian?

If you'll show me where they fail to be Christian, I can respond, but generalizations and insults aren't worth the time and effort.

Roger McKinney

evagrius: "I think you win the argument by default."

Are you claiming that I didn't provide any evidence for my position whatsoever? I certainly thought I did.

I usually reach an impass like this when debating with atheists, not Christians. When it becomes clear that none of the evidence for the existence of God will satisfy them, I ask what they would consider evidence for God. I rarely hear back from them because the question forces them to admit that they would never accept any evidence at all.

So I ask you, what would you consider evidence that capitalism is Christian economics?

evagrius

Mr. McKinney,


Capitalism is a rational tool for ordering economic activity. It is a primitive tool since it is based on a false anthropology, that has, however, a sophisticated technological aspect that covers its primitive basis and, because it has an overwhelming temporary success, its primitiveness is overlooked.

It is, like science and technology, just a tool that can be used wisely or not.

Just as science and technology are not "Christian" so is capitalism.

Just because it originated, for the most part, ( don't forget that it is based on such discoveries as the zero and paper currency which originated in India and China and that credit and interest were well developed concepts before the 16th century), in Europe doesn't mean it's a "Christian" concept.

But your world-view won't take that so I don't think you'll accept my reasoning.

Roger McKinney

I don't accept your reasoning because you have a false definition of capitalism. Capitalism has nothing whatsoever to do with the zero or with paper currency. In fact, true capitalism would destroy paper currency. And capitalism has nothing to do with technology, charging interest or double-entry bookkeeping. Those are tools of commerce. Capitalism is a way of organizing commerce.

What Marxists labeled capitalism was the system created by the Dutch and described by Adam Smith. The Dutch/Smith definition is the only one that should be used. By it, capitalism is essentially that system of institutions designed to protect private property. Those institutions include the free market, the rule of law, equality before the law, limited government, an independent judiciary, and honest policemen.

The Dutch based their emphasis on private property on the work of Church Scholars which they produced in their effort to establish the conditions for a just price in the market and on the Biblical principles prohibiting theft.

Church scholars and many, many protestant theologians over the past 250 years have maintained that capitalism is Christian because it is based on those Biblical principles.

evagrius

I was right. No shaking your world-view.

The origins of capitalism and free markets can be traced back to the Islamic Golden Age and Muslim Agricultural Revolution,[32] where the first market economy and earliest forms of merchant capitalism took root between the eighth–twelfth centuries, which some refer to as "Islamic capitalism".[33] A vigorous monetary economy was created by Muslims on the basis of the expanding levels of circulation of a stable high-value currency (the dinar) and the integration of monetary areas that were previously independent. Innovative new business techniques and forms of business organisation were introduced by economists, merchants and traders during this time. Such innovations included the earliest trading companies, big businesses, contracts, bills of exchange, long-distance international trade, the first forms of partnership (mufawada) such as limited partnerships (mudaraba), and the earliest forms of credit, debt, profit, loss, capital (al-mal), capital accumulation (nama al-mal),[9] circulating capital, capital expenditure, revenue, cheques, promissory notes,[34] trusts (see Waqf), startup companies,[35] savings accounts, transactional accounts, pawning, loaning, exchange rates, bankers, money changers, ledgers, deposits, assignments, the double-entry bookkeeping system,[36] and lawsuits.[37] Organizational enterprises similar to corporations independent from the state also existed in the medieval Islamic world, while the agency institution was also introduced.[38][39] Many of these early capitalist concepts were adopted and further advanced in medieval Europe from the 13th century onwards.

From Wikipedia.

Notice that all of this is of Islamic origin. Nothing here about the Bible.

fundamentalist

Thanks for the post from Wikipedia. It's hilarious! Did Wikipedia get it from the Onion? I have read many histories of capitalism and this is the first time I have seen the Muslim origin. If you read other accounts of the origins of capitalism, you'll find there are as many differing accounts as there are historians. This entry in Wikipedia was obviously written by a Muslim.

There are many problems with the Muslim origin. First, no economic historian has ever proposed it. Second, most of the items listed as being of Muslim origin predate Islam by centuries.

But most importantly, when most historians discuss capitalism they are referring to the explosion of wealth that took place in Western Europe in the 17th century. Before then, the standards of living around the world from China to the Ottoman Empire to Europe were almost identical. In fact, living standards world-wide in the 17th century had changed little since the days of Abraham.

Suddenly, the West started pulling ahead economically without impoverishing the rest of the world through conquest. The West did it via the industrial revolution. Any history of capitalism has to explain that hockey stick effect of standards of living, especially for the common man.

Marx placed the origins of capitalism in the 16th century with the collapse of feudalism. Other historians go back to Venice. But you won't find an economic historian who credits medieval Islam.

evagrius

These are the footnotes to the wikipedia article;

The Cambridge economic history of Europe, p. 437. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521087090.
^ Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", The Journal of Economic History 29 (1), pp. 79–96 [81, 83, 85, 90, 93, 96].
^ Robert Sabatino Lopez, Irving Woodworth Raymond, Olivia Remie Constable (2001), Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World: Illustrative Documents, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231123574.
^ Timur Kuran (2005), "The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law: Origins and Persistence", American Journal of Comparative Law 53, pp. 785–834 [798–9].
^ Subhi Y. Labib (1969), "Capitalism in Medieval Islam", The Journal of Economic History 29 (1), pp. 79–96 [92–3].
^ Ray Spier (2002), "The history of the peer-review process", Trends in Biotechnology 20 (8), p. 357-358 [357].
^ Said Amir Arjomand (1999), "The Law, Agency, and Policy in Medieval Islamic Society: Development of the Institutions of Learning from the Tenth to the Fifteenth Century", Comparative Studies in Society and History 41, pp. 263–93. Cambridge University Press.
^ Samir Amin (1978), "The Arab Nation: Some Conclusions and Problems", MERIP Reports 68, pp. 3–14 [8, 13].


"Suddenly, the West started pulling ahead economically without impoverishing the rest of the world through conquest"

Now that's hilarious.

Philip Koplin

Gone for a few days, so it was enlightening to read through the recent topics and posts.

Roger seems to derive his understanding of historical economics from his reading of the OT, starting with Adam’s disobedience and God’s curse, and although he doesn’t give a date for these, he seems to think that they provide a sound basis for a reliable factual reconstruction of ancient economies worldwide.

In addition, if poverty is “part of God's judgment against a rebellious mankind,” one would think that it could only be “no longer necessary” if humanity had ceased rebelling, and, moreover, since Roger points to South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and China in particular as examples of countries that have been getting out of poverty, one would further have to conclude that they are being rewarded for their turn to the OT God. It would be difficult to characterize these views in charitable terms.

Roger has also informed us that “atheist socialists were the first to deny original sin,” as though it was only in the 19th century and only by atheists that this aspect of Roman Catholic dogma was challenged. Never mind that the notion was rejected by ancient and other pre-19th century Christians as well as by followers of other world religions.

Doug

Philip, I too have been away for a few days, and I have found it entertaining reading through here. Obviously I've generally agreed with Roger on things, yet now that I've been "out of the conversation" in this thread for a week or so, I can see how both Roger, evagrius, and zero are talking past each other, sometimes ignoring directed questions and/or specific responses. Roger seems too inclined to labeling, which is fine for writing a paper or explaining ideas, but not for conversation, and is even starting to wear on me (and I agree with his position 95% of the time!). Zero doesn't seem to understand some basic economics, refuses to admit this, and so won't really make headway in understanding how social injustices can be rectified economically. Evagrius has some really great things to say, but doesn't seem to understand what capitalism really is, and insists (like Chuck does) on a definition that isn't really accurate. It isn't about whether or not Roger cannot change his worldview. If you don't agree on the definition of something, how can you expect a reasonable discussion to ensue?

I've enjoyed the discussions we've had, but it seems a bit fruitless when most of us are rather unwilling to learn from each other, continue to take each other out of context, and question each other less civilly than we would in a pub or gathered 'round a living room discussing over pizza. I'm as guilty as anybody, and desire fruitful discussion, but at this point the benefit of this blog is entertainment, which is why I've been able to restrain from joining the conversation.

In any case, I've enjoyed the retorts, for I've learned from a few of the things I've said and the responses to them. Enjoy the new year, folks! If you're interested in following my thoughts, I write them here: www.liveloud.net comments are welcome.

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