Why legalizing gay marriage will not lead to the legalization of child molestation or polygamy

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Even though gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, its opponents, most recently Ted Cruz’s father, insist that it will lead to the legalization of child molestation and polygamy. There’s one major reason that they are wrong. It’s real simple. Are you ready? Here it is:

VICTIMS!!!

Gay marriages are between two consenting adults. While that might not fit everyone’s religious view of right and wrong, it is a sexual situation that has no victims. Some Christians might argue that society is somehow the victim, but the reality is that if two gay people choose to do their gay thing together, no one is calling the cops.

And that’s the difference between a civil law and a religious law. Religious laws may prohibit something that has no earthly victims, because it is morally wrong according to the religion. Civil laws, on the other hand, are victim-driven. If most people don’t like getting punched in the face, they’ll make face-punching illegal. Most people will choose to give up their right to punch others in the face in order to not be punched in the face by others. That’s where the laws of nearly all civilizations come from – people creating laws to keep unpleasant things from happening to them and their families. It’s a very simple concept, yet millions of Republicanized Christians don’t get it.

Child molestation has victims. It is something children dislike, to put it mildly. Even though children have no say in making laws, most of us, having once been children ourselves, can imagine how horrible it would have been for us to have been sexually-abused as children, and some adults don’t even have to imagine, because they were abused, themselves. So we will continue to keep childhood sexual abuse illegal, because we value the child’s rights to not be molested far more than we value the sexual predator’s right to gratify his urges.

As for polygamy, that’s a little different. One might argue that women might choose to share a man. We saw this in the TV show, “The Girls Next Door,” in which Hugh Hefner had three girlfriends who lived with him at the same time. Of course, they didn’t go through the technicality of getting married, but what difference does that really make? Conservative Christians get too hung up on the technicalities of the paperwork and tend to overlook that fact that people are already free to live as they please, and that denying them access to the paperwork to make it “official” doesn’t change that.

So will we become a predominantly polygamous nation?

No. We will not.

The reason, again, is simple: Most women do not want to share their man. And even if women did flock to the Donald Trumps of the world (if polygamy were legal, I can’t help but think that Trump would try to acquire 1001 wives, so he could be greater than Solomon…I think he has already acquired more gold than Solomon), men would complain that the rich guys were hoarding all of the women, leaving millions of men mate-less. And then the women would get mad when their rich husband’s added more wives. It would be a disaster, and that’s why in the modern world, widespread polygamy simply isn’t going to happen.

In Old Testament times, men possessed the land, so women were reliant on them for support. If men died in battle (which was common), so that there were far fewer men than women, then men had to take on multiple wives, so that all women had a means of survival. There’s a sense in which you could say that women in ancient harems were the welfare moms of their day. But today, we have federal assistance programs that help women and their children survive, and we don’t lose large portions of our male population in battle. Of course, if we keep voting for Republicans who love to feed tax dollars to the war machine, we might lose much of our male population in battle. And since those Republicans are often the same ones who despise welfare, they might take that away, too. Then women will have no hope but to join harems for the sake of their survival. So if you’re really afraid of America becoming a polygamous nation, don’t vote Republican!

– K. Scott Schaeffer

Why Capitalism isn’t sacred; and why modifying it isn’t evil

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[The following article is an excerpt from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

Imagine you’re the inventor and manufacturer of the first bicycle. The bike is fast with a smooth ride. People love it. As soon as you make one, someone buys it. But there’s one flaw: Cyclists return to you, complaining of the injuries they’ve suffered trying to stop the bicycle, because the only way they can is by putting their feet down, falling over, or crashing into something. So you modify the bicycle by adding brakes. You make it better!

Are you now a bicycle hater, because you altered the bicycle from its original “pure” form by adding a modifier to keep it from getting out of control and hurting people?

Of course not! This argument is absurd! Yet, Republican politicians and pundits make similar accusations against anyone who would modify pure corporate capitalism, calling them socialists. They effectively tell us that if a something has benefits, it’s wrong to improve it by fixing its flaws.

Now, imagine trying to design from scratch the best economic system possible for society. You establish liability protection to create big companies so that efficiencies in production may result. But then, after decades of the system in operation, you realize it has one major flaw – disparity of wealth – too many oppressed poor people. So why not make the system better by modifying it to fix this problem?

Ultimately, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What is my goal in creating the system?”

If the answer is “to make life better for as many people as possible,” then it’s your duty to modify the system to achieve this goal. On the other hand, if your goal is, “I want to enrich myself and my privileged friends while keeping everybody else down, so I can exert my power over others,” then you leave corporate capitalism unmodified, as Republican politicians and pundits want.

Modifications of capitalism do not have to be in the form of handouts that might take away motivation to work. They can be in the form of enacting a minimum wage, limiting the length of the work week, enabling workers to collectively bargain with their employers, providing things to society that everyone can use (such as schools and roads), and paying for the needs of those who can no longer work, such as seniors and the disabled. Some of these modifications require sharing the wealth of the wealthy with society through taxation, and conservatives say that’s unfair. But let’s not forget that the wealthy wouldn’t have all of those riches if it weren’t for corporate liability protection from the government. Since the rich couldn’t raise capital for big businesses without this protection, they owe their wealth to this system, not just to their own efforts. If, through bankruptcy, society is forced to share in the losses of the wealthy, then it’s only right that the wealthy be forced to share their gains with society.

Republicans have argued that since the poor can purchase the cheaper products pure capitalism produces, that the poor benefit, too, so the rich sharing with the poor need not be mandated. However, it’s not as if the poor benefit from cheap products and the rich don’t. The poor have a very limited choice of products, because they have limited wealth (our history shows that they could afford nothing more than a life of squalor under pure capitalism), while the rich can afford an abundance of products due to their great wealth. So the rich have the advantage here, too. Also, to argue, as Republicans do, that stealing from society (through liability protection) to enrich the wealthy is okay, because it’s better for the common good, is to say that the well-being of the common good is more important than right and wrong. In other words, “what works” trumps “what’s right,” which is what I’ve been saying all along.

Furthermore, modifications that minimize disparity of wealth establish a balance between investment money and consumer spending money that enables the investments to pay off. When such a balance exists, both the rich and the working class prosper in a flourishing economy. But without the buying power of working class customers, investments go bust, and the economy stagnates. Business owners simply won’t invest in creating jobs that create goods and services no one will buy, because that would result in a total loss of investment money. This was known as “the surplus” problem in the 1890s depression, when manufacturers had efficiently created lots of products, but were running short on customers to buy them. Today, thanks to the resurgence of conservative economics since 1980, “the surplus” problem has undermined our economy again. Investment money abounds, but customers are in short supply; so the wealthy invest in gold, derivatives, real estate, short-selling, and commodities, but not in job creation.

One of the first things I learned in Economics 101 at Penn State was that no system or economic approach solved all of the problems of unemployment, inflation, deflation, high interest rates, trade deficit, and budget deficit simultaneously. Even capitalist-oriented approaches, such as Keynesian, Supply-Side, and Austrian economics each solve one or two of the problems by making at least one other problem worse. For example, the Supply-Side solution of cutting taxes increases spending and investing in the economy, which creates more jobs, but then the budget deficit grows from the decreased tax revenue, which will ultimately drives up interest rates and, in extreme cases, leads to hyper-inflation if the government has to print money to pay its debt. To me, each economic approach is like rowing a boat straight ahead with one oar. If you continue to paddle on the same side, the boat will veer farther and farther off course. If you then switch the oar to the opposite side, the boat will, at first, get closer to being on course, but then will cross over and go farther and farther off course in the opposite direction. Likewise, if we continue to apply a singular economic approach, the economy will veer farther and farther off course as the years pass.

Since no system solves all economic problems, how then can we give any of them sacred status?

Like all things man-made, whether wooden statues or philosophies, they fall way short of the perfection of God. None of them are righteousness. None of them are to be held sacred. As Paul said in Romans, “You’re the servant of the one you choose to obey…” We Christians can serve God and commit ourselves to the purpose of His Law (the well-being of others), or we can serve the man-made system of laissez-faire corporate capitalism. If we serve the latter, can we truly call ourselves Christians?

How Unregulated Corporate Greed has Ruined American Lives

[As a politically-liberal Christian who believes in using our democracy to fight greed, I receive considerable push-back from conservatives who seem to think that it’s not any of my business whether or not the rich are greedy, that I shouldn’t be using my political forum to judge others. What these critics fail to realize is that my battle against greed has nothing to do with judging the greedy; it has everything to do with protecting we-the-people from the life-crushing effects of corporate greed. Greed has consequences, and they ruin people’s lives. It’s that reality that inspired me to write the following portion of my book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason:]

In 1996, I moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. For my daily exercise, I walked the downtown streets or rode my bicycle on the towpath canal trail located just across the Lehigh River from the dormant remains of Bethlehem Steel. I was initially puzzled by the massive, hideous sycamore trees lining the downtown streets. Why would someone plant the ugliest tree on earth all over town? Eventually, I learned the answer. At the time of planting, around 1900, no other trees were hardy enough to grow amidst the pollution from local factories. Meanwhile, in nearby Palmerton, the Appalachian Trail traversed a bare Blue Mountain, devoid of all vegetation due to contamination from decades of local zinc plant operations. I couldn’t help but wonder, “If industrial pollution killed all the plants, what effect did it have on the Lehigh Valley’s human inhabitants?” And I couldn’t help but be grateful for living in an age in which our health and the environment were protected, at least to some extent, by our democratic government.

The devastating effects of pollution were not all there was to learn about in Bethlehem. At Sand Island, where I picked up the bicycle trail, an educational display told the story of local mule drivers, who, during the late 1800s and early 1900s, led mules, pulling boats, up and down the towpath canal trail. On the display was a quote from former mule-driver, Joseph A. Lum. It read, “You were never bothered with insomnia. You rose about 3:30am and you wouldn’t retire until 11pm.” The mule driver workday began at 4am and didn’t end until 10pm. They worked 18 hours a day, 6 days a week, on their feet the whole time. As I studied more about the Gilded Age in years since, I learned that the mule drivers were not alone. The 100 hour work week was the norm for a large percentage of workers nationwide, from mule drivers on the Lehigh River, to bakers in New York, to street car drivers in New Orleans, to train porters in Chicago, to law enforcement employees in Boston. Even if laissez-faire corporate capitalism made products cheaper for the working class to purchase, what good are products to a person too busy and too exhausted to enjoy them?

Steel mill workers and coal miners, whose jobs were more physically-demanding, got away with 12 hour days, but the dangers of these jobs more than made up for the lesser hours. In the 1890s, approximately 3,000 steel mill workers died on the job in Pittsburgh area steel mills alone, plus 20,000 injured. Railroad workers also died on the job by the thousands each year. In 1889 alone, there were about 8500 deaths. Again, products may have been cheaper, but was it worth wives and children having to worry about their husbands and fathers coming home alive? In those days, neither businesses nor the government assumed any responsibility for the deaths, injuries, exhaustion, and overall poor health of workers. The government looked the other way, while industry produced the wealthiest men in all of human history at the expense of humanity.

The government did, however, come to the aid of business leaders when fed-up workers went on strike. In laissez-faire capitalism, the government’s only role is to protect property, and that it did. For example, during the 1890s depression, railroad car magnate, George Pullman, cut his employees’ wages but not the rents they paid him in his company town. This type of situation was common in the depressions of the 1870s and 1890s, thanks to the U.S. being on a gold standard at the time. The government could not expand the money supply, so deflation slashed the workers’ wages. Debts and rents, however, remained unchanged, choking off workers’ ability to pay their bills. The eventual result of the Pullman Strike was a quarter million railroad workers on strike nationwide. Thirteen people were killed and 53 seriously wounded in battles between strikers and government troops, as the government protected the property of the wealthy, but not the well-being of those unable to afford property.

Unlike today, Gilded Age factory owners regularly called in the state militia to force an end to strikes. In fact, Tom Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad once said that strikers should try “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” Anytime the workers stood up for their families’ well-being by striking, the government sent in the militia to do the will of the wealthy. They protected the interests of the property owners, but did nothing to protect or promote the well-being of the working class majority. The workers saw this as the government favoring the wealthy over the workers, and they hated the government for it. It’s ironic that anti-government types in those days hated the government for failing to protect the working class from the wealthy. Yet, today’s anti-government types hate the government for helping or protecting the working class, and they claim that limiting government’s role to the protection of property (and the wealthy folks who own it) is liberty.

Out of the working class’ disdain for the government’s support of the rich arose the anarchist movement. To anarchists, laissez-faire corporate capitalism had not only failed to protect Americans from the industrial age’s disproportionate concentrations of wealth and power, but it had driven humanity to the depths of oppression. The agrarian, small town society Thomas Jefferson had envisioned was dead. The working class majority had been denied their liberty to live, leaving them little to live for. Anarchists wanted revolution. The great American democratic experiment was in danger of termination.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said that recognizing unions and negotiating with them was “really in the interest of property, for it will save it from the danger of revolution.” Roosevelt was keenly aware of this danger. His predecessor, William McKinley, had been assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. While this act of terror may be the best known of the anarchist movement, the 1910s proved to be the most active period. A group of anarchists known as Galleanists sent about thirty dynamite bombs through the mail in 1919 alone. The movement’s deadliest act was the Wall Street bombing on September 6th, 1920 in which 38 people were killed. In Europe, anarchy’s fury against laissez-faire corporate capitalism was even more widespread. And of course, in Russia, the anti-capitalist movement was so strong that it overthrew the whole government in the communist revolution of 1917.

The insatiable greed of laissez-faire corporate capitalism’s wealthy business owners killed, injured, and exhausted workers, stole childhood from children, and poisoned God’s creation. That’s why nearly every capitalist society either abandoned pure laissez-faire capitalism or modified it as the United States did. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, along with additional legislation since then, reversed the course of these evils, enabling us to grow up in a country fit for humanity.

Personally, I’ve had Republican Christians argue that today’s business owners are more enlightened and would not resume the oppressions of the past if our democracy did the right thing and disposed of protective regulations. This claim is unfounded. A much higher percentage of Americans were devout Christians 100 years ago than are today. If there were to be any difference, it might be that future workers in a Republican paradise would work 16 hour days seven days a week instead of six days a week, since the Sabbath has been legally abolished in the name of greater profits. Also, despite existing regulations, many of today’s corporate executives have demonstrated a lust for ever increasing wealth at the expense of others. I know this from experience. I’ve worked in corporate sales for 19 years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for a couple of good companies over the years that have generally done right by their customers. Naturally, it was with these companies that I had the most sales success, being an honest person. But what I’ve experienced with most of my employers and their competitors, however, has been lies, deception, more lies, and more deception. In most corporate sales departments, liars win. When I sold yellow page advertising, sales management assured us that all 3000 directory headings generated significant business for advertisers, which wasn’t even close to being true. And they pressured us to oversell customers rather than work with them to create the most cost-effective programs for their businesses. My biggest argument with a manger was over my refusal to lie to customers about the directory print deadline, which was months away, so we could hit a monthly number.

When I sold lawn treatments, I was told by a manager to tell people that their lawns would look like the one on the brochure within three months. If their lawn was 80% weeds, however, it would look like a bunch of dead weeds within three months, since fertilizer and weed killer are incapable of turning weeds into grass. I was trained to make similar claims regarding fall aeration-seedings which, on lawns with little or no grass, resemble bad hair plugs more than they do lush lawns. (In defense of my employer, the company did full seedings for no extra charge for customers who had been duped by sales reps.) When potential customers pleaded poverty, it was our job to convince them that they could afford what we were selling. This is required of sales reps in every industry. Such an approach proved most damaging, however, in the mortgage industry during the housing bubble, when sales reps persuaded low income borrowers to borrow more than they could afford, and their defaults crashed the market.

When I sold insurance in Tennessee after college, I witnessed veteran agents pitching seniors investments for their grand-kids that were nothing more than small burial policies with high premiums. They used high-pressure tactics on little old ladies, even covering most of the signature page with another piece of paper, so the elderly victims couldn’t see what they were signing. One of these reps told me that if I wasn’t willing to lie, I wouldn’t succeed in the business. As a Christian, I stuck with honesty, and I failed. And this was at a time in which I was already in poverty.

I once had a new employer berate me on my third day of training for not telling the lies they told me to tell. These included giving a fake name and fake company name and making up stories to get past the gatekeeper to get to the targeted executive. In this office, sales reps boasted of their most creative “stories” and celebrated each other’s lies (this happens to some extent in most sales departments). The next day, I told management I’d sell their product, but I wouldn’t lie. I was told by a top executive at day’s end that I couldn’t work there if I wasn’t going to say what they told me to say.

When working in an inbound call center for a massive telecom provider, selling phone, cable, and internet services to businesses, we sales reps were required to tell customers that the promotional price was only good for today. The truth was that my employer guaranteed promotional offers to customers for at least 30 days after the initial offer was made. Nonetheless, one of the supervisors even required his reps to tell potential customers the lie that their shift was ending, or that they had to go home due to an emergency, so the customer had to sign “right now” to get the promotion. The point of these lies was to keep customers from shopping around for better deals. Sales management at this company also smiled upon reps who told customers asking for our slowest internet speed (which they saw listed on the company’s website) that the speed would be “sunsetted” the next month, so they had no choice but to select a faster, more expensive speed than they wanted. The truth was that the company had no plans whatsoever to eliminate their slowest speed. I refused to tell these lies, so management assigned me an inbound call schedule in which I had more evening calling hours than any of the 140 reps in the call center, even those who were at the very bottom of the sales stats. Most businesses called in during daytime business hours, so taking the fewest daytime calls and the most nighttime calls assured that I would fail to hit my sales numbers and be forced out of my job, which is what happened.

The position in which I encountered the most deception was selling small businesses their credit card processing equipment and negotiating the rates they pay to accept cards. Thanks to numerous charges for different types of credit cards, processors and reps find it easy to create deceptive rate proposals. Making this even easier is that different processors have different names for various charges, so merchants have trouble knowing which charge applies to which situation. To learn the definition of a particular charge, they must rely on what the sales rep tells them, which is often a lie. Once the merchant sees he’s been charged more than promised (which often takes a while, since most have to go online and enter passwords to access their statements), they can take no corrective action, because they’re locked into 3 year contracts and 4 year terminal lease agreements (many sales reps fail to inform them that they’re locked in at all). Conservatives argue that it’s the responsibility of merchants to read the terms and conditions before signing, but processors often have agreements over 100,000 words in length (that’s longer than this book) to prevent busy merchants from doing so. Most of the contents are benign, but hidden deep inside is the occasional statement that’s the equivalent of the merchant writing a blank check. I once expressed my frustration over competitors’ deceptions to my manager. To this he replied, “You’re just going to have to come up with some deceptions of your own.”

Of course, the motive behind all of these lies is that the corporations have revenue goals to achieve. Doing so must be done at any cost. If you can’t get it done, the company will find someone who will. Therefore, sales reps and managers must do whatever it takes to hit the numbers, or they can hit the road. And, of course, once a revenue goal is achieved, the next year’s goal is always higher. Too much is never enough.

The Bible promotes a different view, as we see in Proverbs 21:6: “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death,” or Amos 8:4-6: “Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, so that we may buy grain, and the Sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?’” The Bible contains over 30 passages denouncing lying and deception. In none of them does God condemn the deceived; He always condemns the deceivers.

Greed is an insidious, life-crushing, demonic force. We must be forever vigilant against it, never letting our guard down. Laissez-faire corporate capitalism guards against none of greed’s evils. In fact, it encourages them. Therefore, laissez-faire corporate capitalism without safeguards and modifications is simply demonic. It can never be a morality.

Both laissez-faire capitalism and socialism suffer from the same fatal flaw: neither system provides oversight of the money makers. In pure laissez-faire capitalism, the government looks the other way and lets the money-makers have their way at the expense of the innocent. In socialism, the government is the money-maker and chooses profitability over the well-being of workers and consumers. Both systems are equally oppressive. Only a capitalist system in which the people protect themselves from greed through their democratic government minimizes oppression.

The Dark History of American Capitalism and How the Bible Applies

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[The following article is an excerpt from the book, Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason]

No system is better than corporate capitalism at creating incredibly wealthy individuals. This should come as no surprise. A system that maximizes financial rewards for success while minimizing financial losses from failure can’t help but broaden the gap between the rich and poor. Those rich enough to own corporations get richer, while those who aren’t stay poor. According to a study published in the book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, 46 of the 75 wealthiest people to have ever lived in the history of human civilization were (or are) U.S. citizens. This is a list that includes Cleopatra of ancient Egypt at #21 and Nicholas II of Russia at #3. John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil tops the list at #1, and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, born in Scotland, but a U.S. citizen as an adult, is #2. According to Gladwell, 14 of the 75 wealthiest people were Americans born between 1831 and 1840. All of these owned large, powerful corporations in the late 1800s and even the early 1900s, an era known as the Gilded Age, when pure capitalism was the American way.

So is the system that produced the richest people in human history the best?

Unfortunately, as pure corporate capitalism produced the wealthiest group of men to have ever lived, it also produced some of worst poverty in history at the same time. When a Cincinnati man was asked how he, his wife and three kids lived on $5 a week in the 1870s, he replied, “I don’t live. I am literally starving. We get meat once a week, and the rest of the week we have dry bread and black coffee.” This story differs little from what my great grandmother used to tell me about growing up in the 1920s in a small rural town about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, “When I was growing up, we only had meat twice a week, because that’s all we could afford.” These were the so-called “Roaring Twenties.” But for the working class, the 1920s were more about scratching and clawing for survival than they were about roaring good times. Even though, by this time, corporate capitalism had been producing the richest men in history for over 50 years, a large percentage of working class Americans suffered poverty unimaginable to any American today.

While life in the country was rough, life in the city was even worse for the working class. In New York’s Five Points section, as many as a dozen people would live in apartments as small as 100 square feet under roofs that often leaked. The streets were mired in garbage and sewers were open. The stench was unbearable to all who were unfortunate enough to visit. And life was unlivable for the neighborhoods impoverished tenants.

Meanwhile, at any given time between 1880 and 1920, about 20,000 breaker boys, ages 8-12, could be found inside coal mine entrances separating anthracite coal from shale 60 hours a week, just in the state of Pennsylvania alone! Meanwhile, little girls sorted threads and fabrics in textile mills. Why would parents send submit their children to lives of dank industrial misery while forsaking their childhoods?

Did parents hate their kids back then?

No.

They were so poor that they had no choice but to put their kids to work. Unfortunately, the higher the number of children working for pathetically low wages, the higher the number of low wage workers there were in the workforce taking jobs from adults. This allowed employers to pay lower wages to adults as they competed for jobs, which in turn worsened their poverty and increased their need to send their children to work. This is what I call the Child Labor Trap. The government did not legally force the children into labor. They simply gave them the freedom to work while denying them any welfare assistance or minimum wage guarantees, so that they would have no choice but to work and sacrifice their childhoods to the service of the wealthy.

In capitalism, it’s considered righteousness, and even “good business,” to pay workers the minimum necessary to gain their employment. There’s no such thing as paying a worker too little if the pay is enough to fill the position. The goal of nearly every corporation is to maximize profits and pay them out to its owners in the form of dividends. Profit maximization consists of two components: maximizing revenues and minimizing costs. Employees are a cost to be minimized. During times of high unemployment, when workers compete for job openings, employers usually lower wages for workers, knowing that desperate job-seekers will settle for lower wages and current employees can’t leave for jobs elsewhere.

Even when profits are high, a “good” business executive lowers wages for workers, because adding to the owners’ wealth is more important than the well-being of employees and their families, which is of no concern to the corporation. This is what critics of pure corporate capitalism called “wage slavery.” In traditional slavery, a master had to feed, clothe, shelter, and preserve the health of his workers and their children since they were of financial value to him. But in corporate capitalist “wage slavery”, executives paid workers less than they and their families needed to live a healthy, dignified life. The working class, therefore, led lives not much better than those of slaves. Yes, they had the “liberty” to leave and choose another master, unlike actual slaves. However, the new master was often no better than the former.

Biblical opposition to “wage slavery” can be found on two fronts: the sin of underpaying workers and the righteousness of the workers’ keeping what they produce. Regarding underpayment of workers, Malachi 3:5 says, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me, says the Lord of hosts.”

How are “wage earners” oppressed in their wages?

It’s possible their promised wages were withheld, but businesses that practiced such things probably had trouble recruiting workers after a short time. It’s far more likely that these businesses oppressed their workers by paying them too little. (By the way, notice how adultery is mentioned in the same verse as oppression of workers in their wages. Both sins are equally evil.)

This passage indicates that God’s values differ from those of corporate capitalists. Maybe workers deserve more than being paid as little as the free market requires. Maybe they should be paid wages that reflect the value of the workers’ contribution to their employers’ success. Or maybe they should be paid enough to afford food, shelter, clothing and basic enjoyment of life, since they’re of great value, being created in God’s image. This is not to say businesses struggling to stay afloat are guilty of sin when they pay workers low wages. But when corporate executives and investors earn several hundred times as much as their employees, who are paid as little as necessary to fill the positions, they likely violate God’s message in this quote.

Regarding the workers’ right to what they produce, 2 Timothy 2:6 says, “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” Conservatives have used this verse to oppose taxation, but that’s not what it’s about. It was written in the Roman Empire where land owners hired farmers to work their land. The owners had first rights to the produce, leaving very little to those who farmed the land. Paul makes the common sense point that workers, not land owners, have first rights to what their work produces. The pure capitalist belief is the opposite: the owner of the capital (land, equipment, etc. used to produce goods and services) has full rights to what the workers produce with the capital; owning capital is to be rewarded, while hard work is not.

Thanks to these anti-biblical approaches to business, pure corporate capitalism has proven to be a system of huge winners and impoverished losers. In it, every person, theoretically, has an opportunity for great wealth. But in its purest form, which is free from regulations and redistribution of wealth, only a small percentage of the population can achieve economic prosperity at the same time; meanwhile, the masses wallow in poverty. The winners reap extraordinary riches, while the losers struggle to survive. That’s why pure capitalism is, essentially, a jackpot economy—the winners win big, but are few in number.

To the contrary, God’s system for ancient Israel minimized disparity of wealth. As the Israelites settled their nation, 12 of the 13 tribes received land upon which they could grow food and build homes. They would pass this land on to their descendants who would build and farm on it when they reached adulthood. A young man didn’t have to wait until his parents died in order to have land to farm and live on. Over 90 percent of the population had what they needed to survive. All they had to do was work the land. Each of the 12 tribes gave a tenth of their produce and earnings to the 13th tribe, the Levites, because they had no share of land on which they could grow food. Their job was to perform acts of ministry, not to farm. Widows who were unable to remarry, orphans, and resident immigrants also lacked land on which they could support themselves, so God required the 12 tribes to support them, too, as we see in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “Every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the word of God may bless you in all the work that you undertake [NRSV].”

God even minimized disparity by limiting the accumulation of property in ancient Israel. Leviticus 25:10 says, “You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.” The Bible explains that land prices were to be based on the numbers of crop growing years remaining until the Year of Jubilee when the land must be returned, “for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you (verse 16).” In the fiftieth year, all land was given back to the original owners or their descendants; and all debts were forgiven, so those who had been enslaved to pay debts were free to start anew. In the Year of Jubilee, the economy reset, and disparity of wealth was kept in check.

First century Christians in the Roman Empire found themselves in a different economic system, created by men rather than by God. Still, in addressing them, the Apostle Paul champions minimal disparity of wealth in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 where he says, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little [NRSV].’” I’ll be the first to admit that this quote addressed churches, not governments. Nonetheless, it gives us the general sense that everyone should have enough and not too much. This is not communism, in which everyone owns the same; neither is it pure corporate capitalism, in which the disparity of wealth is amplified.

Speaking of communism, some Christians over the past century have asked if Jesus is a communist. They’ve most frequently cited Acts 4:32…34, which says, “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common… There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the Apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as they had need [NRSV].”

This scene horrifies American Christians who see pure capitalism as gospel, because we have in these verses the early Christian equivalent of a commune, and a commune-inspired economic system is communism.

Should we practice communism in an effort to emulate the early Christians?

Not necessarily.

First, let’s look beyond modern economic systems and examine the principles involved. The intent of these actions was to ensure that “there was not a needy person among them.” This has always been God’s desire. Their solution was that everyone in the community would give up what they had in order for this intent to become reality. Today, our society in America is wealthy enough that we don’t have to give up everything to help those around us. However, the argument that we should have to give up nothing to help others is difficult to justify in light of this passage.

Some will argue that this communal act of sharing is not mandated by God’s Law, but is voluntary. This argument is correct. However, notice how “the whole group” fully participated in this system, and that the writer, Luke, seems impressed and eager to report the Christians’ radical other-centeredness. It begs the questions: Would we Christians today even be willing to consider taking part in such a selfless way of life? If joining the church meant sharing all we owned, would we join? Or would we argue for our right to individually possess property and condemn such a communal existence as evil Marxism? If we were to do the latter, it would mean our possessions and the principles of capitalism are more important to us than God, and that we might not even be Christians. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [NRSV].”

Does Welfare Really Keep Blacks Down, as Conservatives Say?

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a Presidential Town Hall Series at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a Presidential Town Hall Series at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Why, for a while in late 2015, did Dr. Ben Carson consistently poll ahead of every Republican but Trump?

In part, it’s because he’s a black man who grew up poor and supposedly has the inside scoop on how government assistance keep blacks down. He recently said, “It’s not compassion to pat them on the head and say, ‘There, there, I’m going to take care of all your needs, your health care, your food.’ That’s the opposite of compassion…I’m not interested in getting rid of a safety net, I’m interested in getting rid of dependency.”

What’s wrong with Carson’s statement?

It’s totally devoid of even the slightest bit of macro-economic understanding, which is typical of Republican politicians and pundits.

You see, I too have experience with inner city poverty – and it’s business experience. As recently as 2012, I sold credit card processing and POS systems to businesses in Philadelphia, many of which were located in the impoverished areas of the city.

This experience taught me a few things.

First, I never met a business owner in these areas who couldn’t find help because potential workers had chosen to freeload off of welfare rather than work (nor do Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have trouble finding help). Surely, you’ve heard somewhere along the way that the African-American U3 unemployment rate has been around 10% – about twice the national average. And you may have also heard that the unemployment rate only counts those who are “actively looking for work.” So this number proves that there are nowhere near as many jobs available as there are blacks looking for them. The group Republicans repeatedly blame for inner city poverty – “those on welfare who choose not to work,” have nothing to do with causing this number. Their looking for jobs wouldn’t create even a single job, because it’s consumers buying products and services that creates jobs. If looking for jobs created jobs, the unemployment rate would take care of itself. (If you want to argue that Obama is the cause of unemployment, I’d like to remind you that the national average unemployment rate over the last 50 years has been 5.8%, which is lower than today.)

So does ending welfare and food stamps fix this problem?

No. That’s the 2nd thing I learned.

Part of my job included reviewing the credit card processing statements of inner-city markets, and those statements included food stamp totals. Fifty to ninety percent of the transactions processed by these markets were food stamps. So what happens if Republicans take away food stamps? The markets lose more than half of their business, which in turn puts most inner city markets out of business and their hard-working employees out of jobs, which in turn puts more workers out of work, which further decreases spending in the community, which causes even more businesses to fail…and the downward spiral continues.

I’m sure conservatives will argue that inner-cities will be fixed by tax cuts for corporations and the rich, because they invest in job creation. Well, there’s a third thing I learned – corporations don’t invest in impoverished areas; they invest in the wealthy suburbs and downtown areas. Those who invest in impoverished neighborhoods are locals who often have little more money than their workers and customers. If conservatives really supported entrepreneurs like they say they do, they wouldn’t be trying to pull the rug out from under them by further impoverishing their customers.

Yes, I understand that that those who go a long time without work tend to get lazy and often cause trouble. Not working is not good. That’s what Republicans like Carson want to focus on. But high unemployment and low wages are NEVER the fault of the workers or the unemployed! They may be the fault of insufficient consumer spending, greedy business owners who are quick to lay off employees, or government policies such as the high interest rates of the late 1970s. But there’s no way workers or potential workers can ever cause unemployment or low wages. If anything, unwilling workers entering the workforce will increased competition for jobs and drive wages down, not up.

Republicans consistently blame unemployed workers from broken families for poverty. But the truth is that if every American came from a stable family with married parents and had a PhD to boot, and if there were 160 million workers and only 150 million jobs, 10 million people with married parents and PhD’s would be unemployed; and if 30 million of those jobs paid less than $10/hr., then 30 million people with married parents and PhD’s would earn an unlivable wage. Perhaps you could say that it’s the unemployed workers’ fault for being at the back of the jobs line; but it’s not their fault that there aren’t enough jobs for everyone in that line.

The real cause of America’s poverty problem is DEPENDENCY. No, not the dependency on government that Ben Carson talks about, but the dependency on the wealthy, who own what we need to survive. In ancient Israel and in early America, most people owned land they could farm, build houses on, run businesses from, and provide for themselves. Today, most people go into the world with nothing and must rely on wealthier people for jobs and income, and only when that system of dependency on the rich fails do we need government assistance, since charity has never worked well on a national level anywhere in world history.

The solutions for inner city poverty aren’t easy. The only answer is to grow businesses and create jobs, but those businesses only survive if there’s enough consumer spending to keep them afloat. Creating that consumer spending without giving too much of a handout is difficult. So it’s hard even for Democrats to find solutions. But it’s easy for Republicans to make the problem a whole lot worse. And if they take total control of our government one more time, that’s what they are likely to do.

-K. Scott Schaeffer

Why I (as a Christian) abandoned my anti-abortion stance after 30 years, but then changed my stance back

 

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As a teenager in the late 1980s, I was staunchly pro-life. It was a simple concept, really. What could be worse than killing babies? Some argued that it wasn’t really a baby, because it was still inside the womb, in which case it is called a fetus, but that just seemed like a technicality to me. I didn’t see why the location of the child, in or out of the womb, made any difference. So I believed that life started at conception, not at birth. In 1992, despite knowing that Republicans had been exploiting America for the sake of the wealthy, I voted for Republican George H.W. Bush anyway, solely because I believed that voting for pro-choice candidate Bill Clinton was the equivalent of killing babies with my own hands. Even when I started to lean Democrat in 2006 and registered Democrat in 2012, I was still a pro-life Democrat, just like Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania.

But then in 2014, I started following the feed of “The Christian Left” on Facebook. As time passed, they posted an article about how the Bible is pro-choice – an argument I had never heard, despite my many years in Bible-focused churches. The article pointed out how Chapter 5 of Numbers prescribed what was effectively a supernatural abortion for women who had committed adultery, and how Exodus 21:22 prescribed nothing more than a fine for causing a woman to lose the fetus in her womb, while requiring the more severe eye-for-an-eye penalty for any “further injury” to the mother. But I still wasn’t convinced that abortion was okay with God, since neither of these passages addressed abortion as a form of birth control. The article also said that the Bible never mentions abortion as a sin, but I thought, “Of course, it doesn’t. Abortion didn’t exist until the mid-1900s. How ignorant does the author of the article think I am?”

Well, it turned out that I was indeed ignorant about the history of abortion. Abortion did exist in ancient times! The Ebers Papyrus prescribed an Egyptian abortion procedure a century or so before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and wrote the Mosaic Law. The Code of Assura regulated abortion in neighboring Assyria at the time of the Prophets. And the Jewish Mishna and Talmud, written shortly after Christ, addressed abortion as well, such as in cases where it’s needed to save the life of the mother.

So if abortion was this prevalent in the biblical world, what should we make of the fact that the Bible never condemns it?

My conclusion: Even if abortion as a means of birth control is wrong, it’s not a biblical priority in comparison to the issues the Bible actually does address, such as the 100+ passages condemning greed and oppression of the poor – the most frequently addressed societal issue in the Bible. So how is it right for us politically-active Christians to shun the Bible’s numerous greed and oppression passages in favor of something the Bible never addressed?

The Bible’s exclusion of anti-abortion scriptures then made me wonder, “Could it be that life doesn’t begin at conception in God’s eyes, but that it begins at consciousness, since it’s consciousness that connects us with God?”

So I did a bit of research to see when a fetus develops consciousness.

What I found is that the part of the brain that controls consciousness and connects the experiential part of the mind with the body and its senses, the thalamus, doesn’t begin to develop until after the 24th week of pregnancy. Prior to the 24th week, consciousness is impossible. Thus the 1st and 2nd trimester fetus experiences as much pain during an abortion as your grass does when you cut it – which is no pain at all. This fact obliterated my traditional imaginary vision of an abortion, in which I imagined a little baby suffering excruciating pain and unable to understand what’s happening to it.

But despite all of this, I still struggled to embrace the pro-choice stance. So I did something I had never done in all of my pro-life years – I prayed to God for Him to show me the right view. I had always assumed that my anti-abortion views were correct, thus I never sought God’s revelation with an open mind. In doing so, I remembered how the book of 2 Esdras, from the Apocrypha (which consists of Scriptures written between the Old and New Testaments and is only included in Roman Catholic Bibles), had mentioned a storehouse of souls. So I turned to it to see if it gave me any clues regarding the ensoulment of the fetus. I prayed for revelation of the truth again as I began to read Ezra’s first vision, and I was immediately struck by the following words: “…at your command the dust brought forth Adam. His body was lifeless; yours were the hands that molded it, and you breathed the breath of life into it and he became a living person [2 Esdras 3:4-5].” So when did Adam become a “living” being? Not when his body was fully formed, but only once he breathed. Even if the Apocryphal books are not the authoritative word of God, they still reveal what Jews thought constituted life. Plus, for me, this scripture was an immediate answer to prayer.

Then I received even more divine guidance. I wrote the paragraphs you just read Sept 14th-16th, 2015. Last night, the 16th, as I proceeded through my bi-annual reading of the Bible from beginning to end, I just happened to be at the point in which I read one of the passages most commonly quoted by pro-life Christians. That passage is Psalm 139:13, which says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” They argue this proves that God Himself forms fetuses in the womb. But then, just a few verses later, I encountered a follow up verse that I had never heard a pro-life Christian quote. It (verse 15) said, “I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

What in the world does that mean?

Are fetuses formed in the earth’s molten core?

Of course, not. Clearly, this psalm is symbolic poetry, as is the case with most Psalms. It is not a literal description of how things work.

Again, the timing of this, just as I’m writing this article that I never in my whole life imagined I would write, is a bit on the miraculous side. It may not prove anything, but it gives me a sense of assurance that God is guiding me through his difficult political-theological transition. And it is indeed difficult. I realize that one’s abortion stance is the political sniff test for conservative Christians. If you are pro-choice, they damn you in their hearts as an evil person from whom no good or righteousness can come, and then they refuse to listen to anything you say. So my change in stance will make it harder for me to reach them. But I cannot misrepresent what I believe has been revealed to me. Perhaps God has a different audience for my ministry.

So will I now appear at a pro-choice rally proclaiming a woman’s right to choose?

Probably not.

I still feel uneasy about abortion and consider that maybe Roman Catholics are correct in the idea that all forms of birth control create a sex-without-consequences world which promotes sexual irresponsibility and makes it more difficult for a family with many kids to survive in a world where most families have only two. Also, I’m grateful that my mother, who was 14 years old at the time of my conception, “did the right thing” and chose to keep me rather than abort me (of course, I’m also glad that she “did the wrong thing” by fooling around at the age of 14 – otherwise, I wouldn’t be here). Yes, we lived in a trailer and Spam was on the menu, but our relationship was far more valuable than any prestigious career she might have had or any extra money she might have earned had I been aborted. So I encourage all Christian women to follow the noble path of bearing their children rather than aborting them.

But when I weigh that uneasiness about abortion with that fact that, according to the World Health Organization, “47,000 women die [worldwide] from complications of unsafe abortion each year,” I can’t vote to increase that number by denying women safe abortions in the U.S. I believe it is far more tragic, disruptive, and heartbreaking to lose a sister, daughter, or granddaughter, because she made a desperate, risky decision to have an illegal abortion, than it is to lose a non-conscious organism whom no one has ever met. And I think Exodus 21:22 backs me up on that belief by demonstrating that a life-in-progress is worth more than a life-not-yet-begun.

And perhaps the most important point of all when it comes to the legalization of abortion is that, regardless of what my religious scripture says, we live in a multi-religion nation that has, since its inception, guaranteed its people freedom from being forced to follow the religious rules of others. If our reason for banning abortion is purely a religious one, the Constitution disallows it. And if we Christians rebel against this constitutional right, Americans won’t join Christianity; they’ll despise it.

-K. Scott Schaeffer

Update – As of 2019, I am changing my stance to moderately pro-life. My change in stance does not invalidate the rest of what I have stated in the article. My points still stand. I still believe that conscious people matter more.

The reason for the change is two-fold:

1) Further research showed me that only 200 women in the U.S. died per year from having illegal and unsafe abortions in the years leading up to Roe v.Wade. That number should be wiped out, should abortion become illegal, by educating women about the prevalence of financial assistance for pregnant women and their children through WIC and other programs. That’s assistance we didn’t offer in the 50s and 60s.

2) I’ve come to realize that a fetus’s suffering during an abortion is not the most important factor, because all of us will suffer from death, and most of us will suffer more in life than we would had we been terminated in the womb. The avoidance of death and pain is not what life is about. Rather, life is about living. God put us on this earth to live. The reason murder is such a terrible crime is because the murderer takes away someone’s life without the authority to do so, not because the murderer causes someone to suffer what they were going to suffer anyway. Therefore, since abortion takes away life, I must declare abortion to be wrong, and I must support the idea of it being illegal.

However, due to the minimal amount of the fetuses’ suffering, and the fact that Numbers 5 promotes what is effectively a supernatural apportion for women who have committed adultery, I fully support legal exceptions for abortions due to rape, incest, and the mother’s life being in danger. If the Bible can make an exception for adultery, we can make exceptions for these. But when it comes to abortion as a means of birth control, I have to speak out against it, and speak out against the false accusations that those who believe in rescuing fetuses from abortions hate women, when it is far more likely that they care about babies, half of whom are female.

-K.Scott Schaeffer 8/13/19

The “Give a Man Fish…” saying is outdated. Here’s a realistic version addressing the realities of corporate capitalism.

Those who oppose government assistance, because it supposedly creates dependency, love to say, “Give a man a fish; he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime.” That doesn’t reflect American reality, so I extended the saying to make it more accurate.

Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Unless you hoard all of the fishing rods to yourself,
Then the man must fully depend on you for food.

If the man asks to use one of your many fishing rods so he can fish and feed his family,
Tell him that he first needs a fishing degree from your fishing college,
And the cost for him to get that degree is $100,000.
When the poor man says, “I can’t afford $100,000. I don’t even have $100,”
Tell him that you will loan him the money,
And that he can pay it back with interest and be indebted to you for life.

Once he gets the fishing degree and asks you for a fishing rod,
Say to him, “You may use my fishing rod,
But you must give all of the fish you catch to me, because I own the rod and the lake,
And then I will give you your share for the work you’ve done.”
Once the poor man fishes many hours in the heat of the sun and the cold of the night,
Enduring sunburn, blisters, sore legs, and an aching back,
And then brings you the 100 fish he worked so hard to catch,
Keep 99 of the fish for yourself and give him one fish as compensation.
When he complains that the compensation is unfair,
And that his family cannot survive on one fish,
Accuse him of Class Warfare!
And remind him that you are the hero who educated him, loaned him money, and created his job.

When he and his family become sick from malnutrition and the toxins you dumped in the lake,
And he asks you for healthcare since he cannot afford it,
Tell him that if he were a righteous and hardworking person, he would be able to afford healthcare,
And that he is a moocher for asking someone richer than him to pay for it.

When he and his family die from their poverty, convince yourself that you are not responsible.
And when you die and reach the afterlife,
You will find that you no longer share a lake with the poor man.
He and his family will reside at Paradise Lake,
Where there is a fishing rod for everyone, and everyone gets to keep their fish,
While greedy fishing rod hoarders like you are never permitted there,
Because they couldn’t call it paradise if you were,
Since your greed would ruin it for everyone.

You will reside at a different lake.
It is called the Lake of Fire.
And the swimming there is unlimited.

How corporations are a system of stealing

Big_banks
[The following excerpt is taken from the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”s”]


The Failings of Corporate Capitalism

In the two decades or so since the demise of the Soviet Union, many people have proclaimed that socialism and communism have been defeated and that capitalism has won. Well, this is true, and yet it isn’t. Pure socialism and communism (which were invented by those who suffered under pure capitalism) indeed lost the economic war. But they lost not to pure capitalism, but to a modified form of capitalism that we’ve practiced since the mid-1930s founded on the New Deal – the legislative incarnation of the Social Gospel. So, in a sense, pure capitalism was also defeated in America and in Western Europe many decades ago, not by communism and socialism, but by modified capitalism. It’s on this modified capitalist system that the western world’s prosperity in the post-WWII era has its foundation.

The working class peoples of the western world rejected pure capitalism. They voted to modify it and were, for many decades, delighted with the improvements. Of course, those who witnessed the change from pure to modified capitalism are no longer living, so today many of us take for granted the better life that modified capitalism has brought. To better appreciate our present system, it’s important to examine the flaws of pure corporate capitalism, the system that Republican Christians insist we return to.

Flaw #1 – Socialized Losses

As I stated earlier, the corporation is effectively a non-living person who bears the responsibility when things go bad, but who pays its owners profits when business is good. When things go awry, the great sacrificial act of the corporation is bankruptcy. When a corporation goes through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, its owners are forgiven their debts and the corporation bears the debt burden for them, kind of like Jesus does with our sins. But unlike Jesus, corporations are not human beings (nor are they the Son of God), so they cannot bear anyone’s debt burdens. Therefore, what happens in bankruptcy is that those to whom the business is indebted bear the debt burden, even though they did no wrong.

For example, if a life insurance company goes bankrupt in pure capitalism, its policy holders, who have been paying premiums for years, receive no benefit when they have claims (all states today have guaranty funds that pay policy holders up to a certain amount when their insurer becomes insolvent; but remember, this is “big government,” not pure capitalism where the government avoids involvement in the business world). Even though the policy holder entered into a contract with the insurance company and has upheld his end of the deal by paying premiums, the insurance company can break its contractual promise to pay his claims by going bankrupt and out of business. Without corporate liability protection from the government, the insurance company owners would have to sell personal property to pay claims to the policyholders. But thanks to corporate liability protection, the owners are relieved of responsibility for their risky business decisions; they get to keep all of the money the corporation has paid them (through dividends) when business was good, while their customers are left holding the bag, having paid out money for services they were promised but never received. To put it another way, a business owner can make millions of dollars when the risks he takes pay off, but when his risk-taking blows up in his face, and he owes millions of dollars, he gets to keep the millions he’s already been paid by the corporation, while society is stuck paying what he owes.

This is stealing.

Unlike a thief taking your purse, corporate owners steal your money ahead of time by over-paying themselves, while not leaving enough money in the corporations’ reserves to cover expenses when hard times arrive (which they inevitably will, sooner or later). In this manner, they steal from their creditors, customers, and suppliers through bankruptcy. In the case of creditors, they steal bank depositors’ money that was leant to them to grow the business. In the case of suppliers, they owe money for supplies received but not yet paid for. In the case of customers, they may owe services the customers already paid for, like car warranties. In every case, society bears the debt burdens that should be the business owners’ responsibility. In other words, the corporate model socializes losses when business goes bad, while privatizing gains when business is good.

Some may say that government bailouts, like those received by many banks, AIG, GM and Chrysler in 2008 and 2009 are also examples of socialized losses. Indeed they are. Many people make the mistake, however, of thinking that the owners of these companies would have been held responsible for their debts had the government not bailed them out. This assumption is incorrect. These companies would have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and gone out of business, and the owners and executives would have walked away with the millions they had already earned, while creditors, customers, and suppliers would have effectively paid their debts for them. Also, the financial system would have completely frozen, as it did in 1932, and millions more people would have lost their jobs than actually did. Everyone would have paid the price but those responsible for the failed companies.

The Bible, on the other hand, repeatedly calls for justice, as we discussed in the chapter on God’s Law. A definition of justice is “full liability.” As I’ve already stated in this chapter, if someone owed a debt in ancient Israel, they were fully responsible for paying it; if money was stolen, the thief had to pay it back and be punished. In fact, Exodus 22:7 says, “…the thief, if caught, must pay double.” However, under corporate “limited liability” protection, the thief gets to keep what he has stolen, and society is denied justice. Therefore, “limited liability protection” is the definition of injustice. And injustice is of Satan, not of God.

Not only is corporate liability protection injustice, but it’s the worst kind of injustice. Proverbs 22:16 says, “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss [NRSV].” Corporate liability protection steals from society to “give to the rich” and encourages their irresponsibility; thus it violates this verse’s message. Republican Christians repeatedly label taxation of the wealthy to help the needy as “stealing”. However, with the Bible’s calls to seek justice for the needy, we have cause to believe that such “stealing” is permissible. But nowhere does the Bible indicate that it may be right to steal from society to enrich the wealthy.

So do we abolish the corporation for justice’s sake?

If we could go back in time and snuff out liability protection at its inception, it might not be such a bad idea. Our lives today might then resemble those of the Amish, and they seem reasonably happy with their agrarian, small trade lifestyle. However, from where we stand today, our socio-economic world is built on corporations. We rely on them for gasoline, the internet, telephones, airplanes, major appliances, and much more. The layout of our cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and so on, differs greatly from what it would had corporations never existed. Ending corporate liability protection would end corporations, collapse our economy, and destroy the society we know and depend upon. Millions, if not billions, of lives would be thrust into poverty in an economic crisis more severe than any the world has ever known. So I think we should stick with corporate capitalism.

What’s important here is acknowledging that corporate capitalism is not righteousness in and of itself. It is not a morality. It is not from God. It is not sacred. So when a Republican Christian calls you an evil socialist because you believe in “stealing” from the rich to help the poor, you can counter that he or she, being a corporate capitalist, believes in “stealing” from society to enrich the wealthy. So now that you’ve established that you both support “stealing,” you can abandon the “what’s right” argument and move on to a discussion about “what works” for the majority of the population. Of course, I’ve already covered “what works” in pure corporate capitalism. Now let’s take a look at what doesn’t work (i a later post).

The Immoralities of Corporate Capitalism – Part 1

 

[The following excerpt is taken from the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.” It is the 1st of a 6-part series taken from the chapter entitled, “Pure Capitalism – How it Failed without Merciful Modifications”]

Opposite Evil: Socialism

Economics is complex. Throughout the history of civilization, nations would sometimes enjoy great prosperity. At other times, the very same nations would know nothing but want and suffering. Sometimes these crises resulted from war or famine, but in many cases, they simply happened without obvious causes. Economics is, in large part, the study of how these crises happen and of how to minimize their severity. Over the last two centuries, these complex problems have been addressed with three incredibly simple solutions: capitalism, socialism, and communism.

Capitalism promotes private ownership and private control of property, including businesses. Socialism, by dictionary and text book definition, is the public or government ownership of businesses (taxation is not the definition of socialism, contrary to what you may have been told). Communism is a communal ownership of all property, both business and personal, in which society shares all wealth equally.

Republican pundits and politicians tell us that pure capitalism is godly righteousness and that socialism is ungodly evil. They warn that any modifications to pure capitalism, such as taxation and business regulation, are socialist and therefore evil. By condemning any modifications to capitalism, Republican politicians and pundits condemn all economic solutions that don’t fit the simple-minded extreme of pure capitalism. (The pure capitalism of the late 1800s and 1900s was called “laissez-faire” capitalism. “Laissez-faire” is a French term, meaning “let it make.”) To Republicans, if this simple system can’t fix our problems, then there must be no fix, because all other solutions supposedly lead us closer to evil socialism.

The quote on how Satan attacks us with “pairs of opposite evils, so that we despise one so badly that we cling to the other,” applies to these Republican teachings every bit as much as it does to political party allegiances. History has shown that neither pure socialism, pure communism, nor pure capitalism have come close to solving humanity’s economic problems. This is why, unlike 50-100 years ago, nations have largely abandoned these systems. The Soviets and the Chinese ultimately abandoned pure communism and pure socialism, while Europe and the United States have abandoned pure capitalism. None of these systems worked, yet Republicans force us to choose between these simple-minded extremes and nothing else. They do this so we’ll despise the extreme of socialism so badly that we’ll cling to the extreme of pure capitalism, which favors the interests of the corporate power and wealth they represent.

Capitalism: What’s Good about It?

There are two major components to the version of capitalism we and much of the world practice: the free market and the corporation.

The free market has been around as long as people have conducted business transactions. It simply means that no laws interfere with the freedom to conduct business. No civilization practices it purely, as there are always some laws to prohibit unethical business conduct, but many have practiced it generally. Unlike government-planned economies (like socialism), the free market exists naturally. If a civilization has no system at all, it still has a free market.

The free market has great advantages over government-planned economies like communism. For example, a communist economy in which all people earn the same and share all property creates a disincentive to be productive. People in a communist economy know that working hard and working little have the same reward. Righteous people may work hard for the well-being of society, but selfish people will freeload as much as possible. In a free market economy, on the other hand, people can, to some extent, determine their earnings by how much and how effectively they work, and this increases economic productivity and innovation.

Socialist governments, unlike free market economies, bear the burden of having to control the allocation of resources. In other words, they must determine every price on every shelf and determine how much corn goes to one town and how much bread goes to another. The results are disastrous, because this task is far too large for any government to handle. What works better is letting supply and demand determine pricing and resource allocation. If a product fails to sell at one price, businesses lower the price to at least get some money for the product instead of taking a total loss. If a product sells out too soon, businesses raise the price in order to prevent a shortage and maximize revenues. Prices may vary from one neighborhood to another as supply and demand vary. These variations are best managed by many independent business managers than they are by one big government.

When socialist modifications are applied to capitalist economies, they sometimes fail. For example, if the government limits the price of tomatoes, because people say they’re too expensive, then farmers, who now earn less for each tomato grown, may stop growing them in favor of something more profitable, like asparagus. The result is a shortage of tomatoes. Now, instead of the people who most want tomatoes finding a way to pay high prices for them, nobody can buy tomatoes at all.

The free market is far superior to government-planned economies at providing products and services to the people who want them most. It also better aligns with the ways of God’s nation, ancient Israel, than a government-planned economy does. In fact, the free market is so biblical, even the Amish practice it! There is, however, a difference between Amish capitalism and the capitalism most of America practices. That difference is the corporation.

In capitalism without corporations, all companies are either sole proprietorships or partnerships. If a company falls on hard times and goes into debt, its owners are fully responsible for paying that debt, even if it means selling all of their personal property. In fact, in biblical times, if selling all property wasn’t enough, the owners would have to sell themselves and their children into slavery to pay debt. For example, Leviticus 25:39-40 says, “And if a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner with you, until the year of jubilee.” Exodus 22:3 says, “…A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft [NIV].” And 2 Kings 4:1 tells us, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Throughout history, the devastating consequences of debt kept companies small, since becoming part-owner meant your partners’ mistakes could cost you your freedom and possessions. Also, businesses took few risks with new products, services, or business practices, because the risks outweighed the rewards.

Corporate capitalism solved these debt problems. In corporate capitalism, the government provides liability protection for businesses that choose to become corporations. If a business’s owners run up large debts, they can declare bankruptcy, so that the corporation bears responsibility for the debts, while the owners are free to keep their personal possessions. The worst that can happen to a business owner in bankruptcy is that he or she loses money invested in the company. If the owner has 10 million dollars of property, but only invests one million in the business, the most the owner can lose is one million dollars, even if the business owes 10 million dollars. The corporation is effectively a non-living person who bears the responsibility when things go bad, but who pays its owners profits when business is good.

This system eliminates debt’s constraints on company size and risk-taking. Business owners are willing to take more risk and pursue profits more aggressively, thanks to the liability protection they receive when strategies fail. But even more important, corporations can raise money to become very large. While most people are afraid to invest in (and thus become part owner of) a business run by other people if doing so could cost them all they own, they are eager to invest in a promising company if the most they can lose is the money invested and nothing more. For them, there’s no limit to earnings, but there’s a strict limit to losses; they enjoy the benefits of ownership without the responsibility of ownership. Thus, a corporation can raise millions of dollars from many owners eager for gains and, in turn, grow far larger than any sole proprietorship or partnership ever could.

The benefits of large corporations are numerous. First, they can produce items en masse. A corporation that manufactures 1000 socks a day can produce them more cheaply than a one or two person operation can. They can buy supplies in bulk and can operate assembly lines in which many people and machines work simultaneously on different stages of the production process. Lower costs of supplying socks lead to lower sock prices for consumers. Second, corporations can produce products that no individual ever could, such as cars and jets, which make our lives more enjoyable, and washing machines, showers, and refrigerators, which have reduced the amount of time daily chores take from our lives. While socialist/communist countries, like the Soviet Union, also produced these products, they were far more expensive to produce than those of corporate capitalism, thanks to inefficiencies in the socialist/communist system.

[Next week – “The Failings of Corporate Capitalism”]

 

Trump’s bankruptcies prove why the wealthy should pay higher taxes

During Thursday’s Fox News Republican Presidential Candidate Debate, Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his most recent bankruptcy in which the banks to which Trump’s company was indebted lost over one billion dollars. Trump responded that the banks were evil in an attempt to convince us that the bankruptcy was no big deal. He may have been correct that the bankers were bad, but that’s missing the point.

We have to ask ourselves, “Where did the bankers get the billion dollars they lent to Trump’s company and then lost? Whose money was that?”

It was the depositors’ money.

It belonged to those who placed their money in the bank’s investment vehicles. These people expect to get their money back – with interest. And the banks have to make up for the money they lose in corporate bankruptcies by charging higher interest rates, more fees to their customers, and higher fees to businesses when they accept payments through corporate credit cards. So the money Trump failed to pay the banks was effectively stolen from the banks’ customers.

Corporate bankruptcy is legalized stealing!

In fact, a corporation is a system of legalized stealing!

Unlike sole proprietors and partnerships, who are held personally liable for their debts, corporate owners receive “liability protection” from the government. They get to make millions of dollars when business is good, but when their risk-taking goes awry, and they owe millions or billions of dollars that the company cannot afford to pay, they are personally free from having to pay any of it. The “company” goes bankrupt, but the owners of the company get to keep the profits they’ve been paid out during the years in which business was good. If it weren’t for corporate liability protection from the government, the owners might have to spend all they have in order to cover the debts, even if it makes them homeless and personally-bankrupt (which Trump made very clear in the debate that he has never been), and that would make corporate ownership financially dangerous and unattractive to the point that corporations and the stock market might not even exist.

It’s this “ownership without responsibility” that enables corporations to attract thousands of owners, which are commonly called “investors” or “shareholders,” and thus become so large that they can sell products nationwide or even worldwide, making their owners richer than was ever possible throughout all of human history. And these owners don’t have to put all of their eggs in one basket. They can own portions of many companies by owning stock.

So are you guilty of partaking in this system of stealing if you are financially well off but not a corporate owner?

Most likely, yes!

If you own stock to any degree, you are a corporate owner who benefits from liability protection. (You wouldn’t risk investing in stock if you might have to pay more than you invested because the company accumulated debts it couldn’t pay.) Yes, the shares you own might be very small in comparison to wealthier shareholders. And even if you don’t own stock but get a hefty paycheck from a corporation (ballplayers being the most extreme example of this), you still benefit from this system of stealing. No matter how you slice it, if you’re rich, you got rich because you took advantage of a legalized system of stealing.

So how can we justify having a liability protection system that steals from society to enrich the wealthy?

The only way I think it could possibly be justified in God’s eyes is if we require those who get wealthy from this system (which is just about all wealthy people) to pay a higher percentage of their income to taxes, and for those taxes to serve the common good and better the lives of those crushed and left out by the system. In fact, if we don’t insist on balancing out the system in this manner, we are evil, because we will effectively endorse a system in which the wealthy force the debts on society without allowing society to share in the gains. That’s the opposite of the Bible in which God required a national, mandatory redistribution of wealth from the haves to the have-nots, but had no system that enabled the wealthy to legally steal from society.

Some might say we should abolish corporate liability protection, but then world as we know it would collapse. You wouldn’t even be able to get gasoline without corporations. To live in the modern world, we need them. Therefore, I don’t have a problem with a system that makes society share in the debts caused by the risks that wealthy investors take, as long as society is entitled to share in the gains that wealthy investors make.