Randall Gerard writes back...

Location: Out West

An old-fashioned guy grappling with new-fangled ways.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everyone should read something by Gene Logsdon..

I have a peculiar habit. (Actually, my wife would say I have several peculiar habits, but that's another post) Every spring, just before planting time I revisit 'The Contrary Farmer' by Gene Logsdon. For me, this book epitomizes the raucous, joyous, defiance that ought to characterize us cranky agrarian types. Logsdon has been on my reading list since the early 70's, when I happened upon a copy of 'Two Acre Eden' at the local library. I read it clear through in one sitting, and then asked the librarian if I could buy it. She said no, so I just kept checking it out. I had it all summer, using it as a blue-print for the family garden that year.
There's always been this kind of practical wisdom in Logsdon's writing; but one thing I really appreciate as well is the astute and often hillarious economic and political commentary that frequently characterizes his books. Here's an example:
"If I were to say, for example, that capitalism and socialism are in practice more alike than they are different, most people, certainly most economists, would object strenuously because we have been taught that the two are absolutely opposed to each other. But both accept the same money system that the industrial revolution encouraged: 1. The use of pieces of paper or metal to represent real goods. 2. the acceptance of interest on these pieces of paper and metal as essential to 'growth' (keep in mind that hardly four centuries ago, in a pastoral world, all interest on money was considered usorious and immoral); 3. the right of authority to manipulate interest rates -- changing the definition of usury whenever self-serving authority desires it; and 4. the necessity of an expanding credit system that a government or bank can turn on or off at will in an effort to cover its own ass. Both capitalism and socialism, in other words, use money to centralize control over society. They differ only in who the central authority should be: socialism wants it to be the public sector, and capitalism wants it to be the private sector."
- "The Contrary Farmer" by Gene Logsdon, pages 18,19. Copyright, 1993.
The first time I read this, I was scandalized. Why, didn't this bumpkin know that capitalism characterizes a godly economy and socialism an atheistic one? How dare he impune the good name of St. Adam Smith, Lord High Keeper of economic orthodoxy? Well, it took about 10 years, because I'm a little thick, but I finally understand his point. Sure enough, pure capitalism concentrates wealth, and therefore power, into few hands just like pure socialism. And of course, this is the age-old human tendency in modern garb, isn't it? The universal human desire is to re-build babel and make a name for ourselves apart from God, and it continues today under the leadership of Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. Which, ironically, is not 'federal' at all, and has no 'reserve'.
If you want to know what water is like, don't ask a fish. The fish has grown up in water and doesn't give it a second thought. We are like that fish. We've grown up in the present system, and so have a hard time imagining any other. I suspect this, more than anything else, is what biblical agrarians are engaged in; the hard work of imagining a different economy, a different 'system', a different way of life; and then living it out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's the border, stupid!

Here is an excerpt from Michael Scheuer's new book, "Marching Toward Hell", a well-titled work if ever there was one. Mr. Scheuer is a 20-some year veteran of the CIA, virtually all of those years in Muslim countries.
"One can agree or disagree about whether al-Queda has a nuclear device, as well as about whether it would know how to detonate one, but it is impossible to argue that bin Laden is not pursuing such a weapon or that al-Queda would not use it if acquired. And yet that is exactly how the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations have behaved. They have not been bashful about warning Americans about this possibility, but twelve years after bin Laden declared war, and six plus years after 9/11, U.S. borders remain porous to the point of being wide open. Instead of seeing border control as perhaps the single most vital element of homeland security, our governing elite have turned it into a political issue with which to court Hispanic voters, a tactic that can only be seen as meaning our leaders value their offices more than the lives of Americans. More disastrously, sixteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the three post-1988 U.S. presidential administrations have failed to push to conclusion the U.S.- Russian program to secure the 22,000 nuclear devices that form the former USSR's nuclear arsenal. The Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, in fact, have cut funding and manpower for the program. Open borders and unaccounted for nuclear devices are a dangerous combination, especially because al-Queda and America's other enemies have been on the trail of the latter since 1992."
-Page 74, 2nd paragraph, "Marching Towards Hell" by Michael Scheuer, copyright 2008
My two cents: None of the major presidential candidates stand for border security, which is tantamount to national security in this age of terrorism and portable nukes. Fortunately for us, bin Laden must get prior permission from a cadre of Islamic clerics before he kills more than 10,000,000 Americans. That's a relief.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The age of 'isms'...

You have to pity conservative christians. They have no one to vote for this fall, no lesser of two evils to pay homage to. At my church in the fellowship hall, political conversations focus on how unthinkable it would be to vote for Hillary or Obama... or McCain. Hillary, it is widely believed, would give us socialized medicine, Obama would give most of the south and millions of dollars (more) to poor persecuted black people, and McCain would have no qualms about keeping our military in Iraq for the next 100 years. The consensus is no one stands for 'conservatism' anymore, not even the presumed nominee of the Republican party.
And all of this has come to pass because we refuse to recognize that we are as much children of the enlightenment as anyone else. The enlightenment, you may recall, gave the world a vast, un-founded faith in autonomous human reason. Human reason gave us all the 'isms' that plague us to this day: materialism, naturalism, feminism, liberalism, socialism, fascism, ad nauseum. The institutional child of the enlightenment, and the locus of salvation for moderns, is the modern secular state. The modern secular state is where all the 'isms' spawned by the enlightenment joust for power. We christians play along, and usually play second fiddle, because we are torn between being biblical and being 'relevant', and we don't even know it. We are double-minded. We say we are trying to restore something called 'Godly, constitutional government', but our thinking is no different from our enemies. We are held captive by various human ideologies. This is how it works: We read something we like, some explanation of 'how the world should be', we then baptize it and give it a christian-sounding name, find an eloquent spokesman to push our 'ism' in the halls of power, and vote for him. But if our spokesman has no strength of character, it isn't long before he has abandoned us and our pet 'ism' and is now in line with whoever wields power. If you haven't figured it out already, the aim of politics and politicians is to expand and consolidate power to the glory of man. The enlightenment was all about MAN and his 'possibilities', and to hell with God. God is irrelevant to the secular state.
When it comes to choosing leaders, the Bible does not start with 'isms' but with godly character.
Listen to Moses advise Israel on how to choose a King:
"When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, 'I will set a King over me, like all the nations that are around me', you may indeed set a King over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as King over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, 'You shall never return that way again.' And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn to the right hand or the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel" Deuteronomy 17:14-29
There isn't a single word about ideology in this passage. If we were to choose a king, according to this word, he needs to be male and descended from the white tribes of Europe. He must be willing to recieve instruction from the church, even though the church has no direct power to rule. He may not major in military adventurism (another ism!) or make questionable alliances with foreign powers, but attend to his own affairs in his own country, seeking the good of his people. He shall be a man of moderate appetites, not multiplying to himself gold, silver, women or any other ostentatious luxury. He must be a man of godly character who is committed to the right judgements of the Lord, and he does not turn to the right or to the left; he is not persuaded of any 'ism' above the word of the Lord. He is a humble man, seeking to follow God and serve his brethren with his throne.
As un-American as it may sound, I could support such a king. I could gladly pray for him, serve him, toast his health, and hail him with a lusty 'God save the King!'. Such a man in power would be a blessing to our nation. But I would also hail a godly President, Congress and Supreme Court. However, as long as our government is committed to various 'isms' and not God, I won't be hailing anyone. I will abjure the realm, and work and wait for more reformation to sweep away the dead carcass of the enlightenment. Unfortunately, much of the enlightenment is in the church.