Sunday, November 11, 2012

Of Moses and Mises: How Businesses Are Better Than Charities

By Jeremy Egerer

The world has seen its fair share of injustice and stupidity, but there exists one particularly obnoxious sentiment, masked in pretenses of Christendom, which denies the moral importance of business and profit. Citing most improperly Jesus Christ, ignorant Westerners tout charity as the supreme duty of all Christians, as though Christ Himself was not a career carpenter and Paul not a tent-maker. They love to quote "sell all you have and give to the poor," without noting the instructive purpose of that individual commandment to an individual person, meanwhile entirely disregarding "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." But looking beyond this, there is a question still lurking behind the necessity of production which begs to be answered: whether or not business is actually less moral than charity.
These two great human endeavors, business and charity, have been noted by economic greats such as Ludwig von Mises as being diametrically opposed. Self-interest, on the one hand, guides the policy of capitalism, while Christ's selflessness guides the other. The first requires an almost merciless customer supremacy: businesses must deliver goods and services at the highest possible quality for the lowest possible price, and if they cannot compete, they will not long be in business. The market requires frugality, cold calculation, a survival of the fittest which enriches the consumers at large. But charity requires giving without receiving, loving not a paying customer, but every neighbor who cannot afford compensation.
Let us consider the matter soberly: should either one exist without the other, should business entirely replace charity, or charity entirely replace business, men would either live cold, empty lives and die alone or they would have warm hearts, leaky huts, and starving children. Therefore, if man is not to suffer the evils of imbalance, an adequate picture must be drawn not simply of opposing ideologies, but of a morality which encompasses both practicality and humanity, both the physical and spiritual goods.
If we acknowledge that good and evil exist, and that they lie diametrically opposed to each other, we may also argue that certain actions, though varying in their morality, strike the eye as more evil or good than others. For instance, considering actions from their most base and progressing to their most honorable, a man may:
1) harm others intentionally
2) harm others unintentionally
3) neither harm nor help
4) help others intentionally, for gain
5) help others intentionally, even at a loss
The third option may inspire some controversy, as a refusal to stand for righteousness or to cowardly abandon one's duties can encompass evil in varying degrees; but it is entirely incontestable that the two highest forms of action are giving for gain and giving despite loss. Human nature itself confirms in epic poems that slain heroes capture the heart better than businessmen -- yet the morality of one only supersedes that of the other; it does not negate it.
But having noted charity's moral superiority, business has two entirely unusual advantages over charity -- a superiority consisting primarily in the usage of capital itself, the medium of exchange. A man cannot ever be expected to know the needs of all his countrymen, let alone all his neighbors -- and so he finds himself not entirely incapacitated, but severely limited in his sympathies. His sphere of charity is limited to those he knows, whether through charitable campaigns or personal interaction, and aside from this ignorance, he finds even amongst this shallow pool an inability to properly address all concerns. He may have more than one unemployed neighbor; a father of six children may require expensive medical treatment. The do-gooder finds himself encumbered beyond his capacity, and, finding his other neighbors oftentimes unreliable, or concerned with their own particular branches of charity, he wallows in despair, knowing well that much exists to be done but resigning himself to impotence.
But business -- this is another story entirely. Man's two shortcomings, his ignorance and poverty, cannot yet be entirely overcome; omniscience belongs to the Creator alone, and the concept of an economy is predicated upon scarcity. And yet, by means of capital, man finds himself almost psychically connected to all of humanity. He does not know every neighbor, nor is he acquainted with his neighbors' every ill, but he does know one thing: unnecessarily high prices in any particular business beg other entrepreneurs to compete, and so he follows the money. He helps those around him not by acquainting himself with other beings, but rather by soliciting their votes. He makes others happy by efficiently filling a need, and they reward him with capital, an exchange in which both parties part with what they desire less and gain what they desire more.
Aside from this psychic connection, the charitably inclined man receives a second benefit, perhaps just as helpful to him and to humanity at large. For in satiating needs and wants, he finds his resources replenished -- perhaps even augmented. He gives to others, and they give back. The better he gives, the better he receives. Certainly, some complain about the necessity of the goods and services involved, yet whatever is given, insofar as it is moral, or is not improperly abused, is benefiting another. In many charitable causes, nothing is returned from the beneficiary but gratitude; with business, someone is helped in some way or another, and the giver receives more than what he gave -- if not physically, then subjectively.
Understanding, then, the moral superiority of charity, but recognizing also the advantages of business, men must understand in which cases they must give at a loss and when they must give for gain. These two scenarios constitute the secular principles addressed in the civil Laws of Moses and the Christian principles addressed by Christ Himself. These must be presented in full, for a well-rounded perspective -- but for our purposes, consider an unusual verse.
Regarding the poor, Moses says, You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.
Being enforced not by civil penalty, but by the very wrath of God, what does this commandment declare but that the beggar and the businessman both have rights -- that stores of goods must be replenished (within limit), but that the destitute are to eat? In banning starvation's profitability and usury in desperation, the Almighty Himself ensured the safety of the poor, all the while confirming the righteousness of business. Sell and lend, He says, but do not profit off the destitute.
Consider again that God's wealth redistribution consisted of food, land, and periodic debt-release -- never in the particular burdening of business or the righteous wealthy, never in transfers of capital, never to satiate the indigent, the welfare queens, the covetous. In a forceful climax, we see Christ speak of the farmer and how he chooses to pay his hired hands: is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?
So, then, we see that business has an advantage over charity, but that it must be kept within certain bounds. We see that in a market economy, the iron-hearted customer guides all commerce, and so the foundational principle of business must be entirely different from that of charity. We see that business is not heartless, but rather the ribcage which holds the heart; that two philosophies, almost like the yin and the yang, converge in a dance of humanity, the paradox upon which civilizations are built.
What, then, shall we do with our lives? Produce within the Law, and when needs have been met, and the masses empowered with goods, and justice brought to the poor and the rich alike, then we rest our checkbooks and ledgers and return home, and give as we are called.
Jeremy Egerer is a convert to biblical conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website

Eugenics Still Alive and Well in 2012

By Michael J. Norton

Wouldn't it be great if politicians and other public figures actually told us what they believe rather than talking out of both sides of their mouths?
For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually did say what she believes about life-ending abortions in July 2009. Justice Ginsburg said:
Frankly I had thought that, at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of.
What the good justice is talking about is called "eugenics." Eugenics is not a happy thought -- it is a movement of extremists who claim that humankind can be improved through selective breeding and sterilization. It is what Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany practiced in the extermination of millions of Jews as they sought to create the "perfect human being."
One of the early advocates of eugenics in the United States was Margaret Sanger, founder of what was to become Planned Parenthood. Sanger believed that birth control, sterilization, and abortion would eliminate disease, crime, and the burden of children born to the socially and eugenically unfit. In December 1921, Sanger said:
Birth Control is thus the entering wedge for the Eugenic educator ... the unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit' is admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization[.] ... The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the overfertility of the mentally and physically defective.
Dottie Lamm, wife of former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm and ardent Planned Parenthood supporter, frequently advances the eugenics cause. In a Denver Post op-ed last year, she said that "population [is] one of the major contributors to climate change and other environmental crises."
According to Lamm, the prediction that the world's current population of 7 billion will reach 9 billion by 2045 is of staggering consequence. She warns readers that "the pressures that an expanding population [will] put on global warming are enormous."
Regrettably, people like Justice Ginsburg, Margaret Sanger, and Dottie Lamm have, up to now, had their way. More than one million abortions are performed in the United States every year. And members of our minority populations are disproportionately targeted by those who promote abortion.
In concert with the Obama administration, Planned Parenthood has used the courts to thwart the will of the people and their elected representatives whenever they reduce or eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Moreover, the administration has been promoting abortion and hard-selling extreme birth control methods, often to the financial benefit of close allies like Planned Parenthood. This is nothing but a 21st-century attempt to wipe out "undesirables" in the name of eliminating "climate change and other environmental crises."
For the record, Planned Parenthood is responsible for more than one-third of the abortions committed in the United States. One half of Planned Parenthood's annual one billion dollars of revenue as a "non-profit" comes from federal and state taxpayers. And predictably, Planned Parenthood spends about $56 million every year on "public policy" initiatives, such as lobbying for pro-abortion laws and supporting the election of pro-abortion candidates who will continue to fund them and cover their overhead costs.
This election year is no exception. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood's CEO, took a leave of absence to campaign full-time for President Obama.
Today, more than one half of Americans say they oppose abortions. Even more Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortions. And more and more research links abortion to very serious mental and emotional consequences in women -- as well as to physical problems that complicate later attempts to bear children, and even breast cancer.
That's why radical allies like Justice Ginsburg, Dottie Lamm, and even President Obama are so valuable to Planned Parenthood. These abortion advocates echo Margaret Sanger's words and beliefs in an attempt to foist Nazi-era eugenics on a new generation of Americans. Predicting "undesirables," overpopulation, and inevitable doom, they preach and coerce birth control. And when that birth control inevitably fails, Planned Parenthood is on hand to exterminate the "unwanted" among us via abortion.
As Mother Theresa once said, abortion is "the greatest destroyer of love and peace" in the world. We should all give thanks to God that our fellow Americans are becoming more and more informed on this life-ending issue every day in the realization that every innocent life deserves to be protected, not ended. The more informed they are, the less likely they are to believe the double-talk of abortion activists and the politicians that further their heartbreaking agenda.
Michael J. Norton is a former United States attorney who currently serves as senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Life.