Second Warning

norman-79860_640The first warning was pretty clear.

Back in May, a group of central bankers and financial analysts met together in Basel, Switzerland and issued a report on the dire state of the world economy. The 2014 annual report of the Bank of International Settlements then claimed that the present climate is as fragile and volatile as it was during the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2007.

Read the popular article: We Must Resist the Temptation to Secession

Now in September, a no less impressive group of seventy central-bank officials and other monetary experts met in Geneva and issued their own report under the auspices of the International Centre for Monetary and Banking Studies (ICMB). Their message: Something is dreadfully wrong with the way we are dealing with the crisis. The measures being taken to bolster the present, toothless “recovery” are not working.

The very title of the new warning is telltale if not a bit cynical: “Deleveraging, What Deleveraging?” The report claims the logical reaction to any kind of crisis like the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis would be to “deleverage” or radically shed debts. While American households had the good sense to temporarily shed debt (it is now back where it once was at $12 trillion), most governments have not done so. In fact, the report shows that global debt, excluding the financial sector, just keeps on growing, rising some 36% since 2008 to a record 212% of GDP.

The underlying logic behind the policies criticized is an exaggerated fear of deflation. In typical Keynesian fashion, policy makers are actually crafting their actions to provoke higher inflation. They reason that higher debt is easier paid with less valuable dollars and that consumers will spend more now if they perceive higher prices later.

Central bankers have actually tried to induce inflation by pumping money into the economy with measures like the Fed’s w6yra8quantitative easing (QE). Indeed, just when it seemed that the Fed would end the money pumping that keeps the debt party going, Japan has recently announced its own quantitative easing program that takes the baton from the Fed and keeps the global dollars flowing. European backers also are offering their own version of QE as a “stimulus.” At the same time, interest rates are kept artificially low to keep money circulating without restrictions.

The bankers’ report notes that the money-pumping policy has failed to live up to expectations. It has neither induced inflation (which they see as a positive factor!) nor led to fast growth. Instead, modern economies are plagued by a “poisonous combination” of rising debt and slow growth, imperiling the global economic scene. This complicates “deleveraging” and encourages expanding debt.

Moreover, artificially suppressed interest rates add to the problem since they discourage savings, inhibit capital formation and lead to bargain borrowing. Without proportional growth, such misguided measures greatly increase the burden of debt service in the future.

It is no surprise that governments are major contributors to expanding debt. The American public debt ratio alone has climbed 40 percentage points to 105% of GDP since 2008. When governments maintain high debt levels, it increases the vulnerability to financial crises and gives rise to unrealistic hopes of government bailouts.

Nor is America alone in amassing debt. The report reveals that the same debt overload that provoked the 2008 crisis in developed counties has now appeared in emerging countries which “remain extremely vulnerable.” Early signs of the next financial crisis are “already visible this time around in some emerging economies and especially in China.”

Subscription5.3The Geneva report reflects a growing anxiety among central bankers who are deeply divided over what to do about policies that have yielded so few good results. The report suggests no concrete plan beyond the wishful thinking that a crisis might still take some time to happen.

However, experience has shown that an economy cannot be regulated, legislated and stimulated back to order. Solutions must be found beyond the economic formulas and figures, outside the Keynesian playbook. It is not only the financial and banking officials that are at fault, but a whole frenzied economy that reflects the present policies. What is needed is moral restraint and common sense on all levels of the markets to combat what might be called the “frenetic intemperance” of the times.

A second warning has been issued. Can the world afford to wait for more?

Religion Inspires Scientific Progress

what_we_can_oYet more evidence that religion promoted and inspired scientific progress can be found in the lives of the actual scientists who helped establish modern science.

Read the popular article: Why a Conservative Victory is not Enough

Economic historian Lynn White Jr. reports that, “Every major scientist from about 1250 to about 1650, four hundred years during which our present scientific movement was taking form, considered himself also a theologian: Liebnitz and Newton are notable examples.

The importance to science of the religious devotion which these men gave their work cannot be exaggerated” (Lynn White Jr., Machina Ex Deo: Essays in the Dynamism of Western Culture, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1968, p. 101).

12 Ways to Promote Return to Order

Perch_Rock_lighthouse_in_a_storm-by-Mike-Pennington copyMany people ask me what they can do to help promote Return to Order. The first thing to do is rid yourself of the notion that the only effective thing is to take measures that will instantly catapult the book onto the bestseller list. The fact is there are many simple things you can do to help that add up and get the word out about the book and its ideas.

Read the popular article: “We Must Resist the Temptation to Secession”

Book promotion expert John Kremer has compiled many to-do lists for friends of authors that he encourages authors to share. Below is an edited version of twelve things you can do.

1. Buy your friend’s book for yourself. Encourage other friends to buy the book.

2. Gift your friend’s book. Give the book to friends and family. The more, the merrier. Encourage the gift receivers to take action on the rest of this list as well.

3. Don’t put off buying the book. Don’t wait for the holidays to buy the book as a gift. First, the sooner you buy, the more confidence you’ll inspire in your author friend. Second, media and other decision makers choose a book based on the momentum the book inspires. The more sales, the more attention it will get from key decision makers, the media, and consumers.

4. Where should you buy the book? First choice: the independent bookstore nearest you (that will help your friend get his book into that store on a regular basis). Second choice: a chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble (if they start selling the book locally, they might buy books for more stores in the chain). Third choice: the author’s website (the author makes the most money when selling direct). Fourth choice: buy direct from the author. Fifth choice: buy from Amazon.com (preferably from the link on the author’s website).

5. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to your friends and family. Blog about it. Tweet a mini-review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Pin the book via its page on Amazon.com or the author’s website.

IMG_00876. Recommend the book to your book group. If you belong to a reading group, recommend your friend’s book as your choice of the book to read next. If you know of other local book groups, encourage them to select it for reading. If you know book groups in other cities, encourage them as well. Be sure to let them know how to get in touch with the author to buy the book or to interview the author as part of their discussion.

7. Review your friend’s book. Review the book on Amazon.com, BN.com, Good Reads, Library Thing, and other reader social networks and book sales sites. Write an honest review giving your authentic opinion, but be sure to add a note of praise somewhere in your review. If you don’t like your friend’s book, obviously don’t share that opinion. Help another author.

8. Tell your friend what you like about the book. Provide your friend with support by telling him something you like about his book. Was it a good read? Did it move you to tears or laughter? Did you learn something new? Were you moved to take action?

9. Help your friend get speaking engagements. If your friend is comfortable speaking, recommend your friend to your clubs, church groups, Friends of the Library, bookseller, garden club, school, etc.

10. Recommend your friend’s website. Link to it from your website, blog, Facebook page, etc. Tweet about it. Pin pages from the website. When your friend writes a blog post, link to it. If your friend tweets something great, retweet it. Feature a quote from your friend’s book on your website. Or tweet the quote.

11. Help your friend with the media. If you know of any newspaper editors or reporters, magazine editors, radio producers or hosts, TV show hosts or producers, columnists, bloggers, etc., send them a copy of the book or a note about the author. Or tell your friend about your connection, and introduce him to your contacts.

12. Pray. Prayer always helps. Pray for your friend and his book.Subscription5.2

How do you help promote Return to Order? Here are twelve helpful suggestions to get you started. More suggestions will be forthcoming. Please feel free to contact me if you need help with these suggestions or to report on your success. I can be reached directly at jh1908@aol.com. Above all, give special heed to the twelfth suggestion—it is the most important.

Eight Ways that Just Price Can Be Determined

Eight Ways that Just Price Can Be DeterminedThe theory of just price is often misrepresented by those who oppose the idea. They like to say that including justice as a factor in the determining of prices is contrary to free markets. They imagine just price to mean the setting up of an economic tyranny where prices were set in stone and merchants forced to sell a set price.

The real justice price theory was much more flexible and amazingly in line with free markets.

Norwegian economist Odd Langholm lists eight ways the value of a commodity could be approached according to medieval just price theory:

1. By reference to the common estimate by merchants who deal in the same good or in similar goods;

2. To what the good in question is usually sold for;

3. To labor, industry, care and expenses incurred in transport;

4. To the volume and variety of such goods or their scarcity;

5. To improvement and storage;

6. To their usefulness to the community;

7. To legal statutes and custom.

Subscription8.1It is also interesting to note that just price theory usually applied only to basic commodities and not to luxury items.

(The eight ways were taken from: Odd Langholm, The Merchant in the Confessional: Trade and Price in the Pre-Reformation Penitential Handbooks, Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2003, p. 98.)

 

Why Too Many Choices Can Cause Suffering

options-396267_640All too often, unlimited choice is heralded as the height of freedom to which all must aspire. However, it is often forgotten that when overwhelmed by choices, a person also faces the possibility of making bad decisions. This can consequently lead to anxiety, stress and dissatisfaction. Furthermore, the person starts to spend too much time on trivial choices or faces the exhaustion of constantly making choices based on whim and random desires.

That is why it is good that there be rules, moral standards and routines in life. They naturally serve to constrain people and limit their decisions. By relying on these social constraints, life becomes more manageable. People can devote more time to other people. They can learn to face the important decisions which must be addressed and discard those that are trivial and unimportant.

Thus, limitations serve the good purpose of helping a person connect with reality. They keep a person from developing unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, unlimited choice can actually produce genuine suffering, disappointments and failures. It can adversely affect consumption, relationships and jobs. Finally, it has repercussions on all society, since an economy based on the frenetic intemperance of unlimited choices will necessarily throw all society out of balance and lead to great social problems and chaos.

Six Reasons Why Christian Civilization Always Favored Progress

DSC_0903There is the common myth repeated over and over again that Christianity suppresses science and progress. One would think that those who call Christianity “anti-science” would at least use some kind of scientific method to prove their accusations. However, the proofs are sadly and incredibly lacking.

In contradiction to this myth, historians Stanley Jaki and A.C. Crombie affirm that “the rise of modern science, like that of political freedom and economic progress, has been coterminous with Christian-European thought, and for like causes.”

They claim that the biblical worldview contains all the essential elements for science and culture in general to flourish. Thus, at least six good reasons can be cited to support this claim:

1. Christians believed in a harmonious objective order intelligible to man which allowed for what Rodney Stark called “the triumph of reason.”

2. Christians believed in the biblical view that men’s role was to dominate nature and not be subject to it. This allowed them to search for ways to harness nature and make life easier.

3. There was a rejection of pantheistic magic that allowed the Faith to look for the reasons behind things.

4. The Catholic religion rejected the pagan idea of submission before the deities in nature that lived lives of vice and intrigue often at the expense of man’s progress.

5. The Church condemned superstition which hindered progress by adhering to irrational beliefs and practices.

6. Christians had a clear and rational understanding of reality which they developed into a philosophy that oriented their lives. This was opposed to the hazy, Gnostic understanding of reality that gave rise to fantasy and false mysticism that enslaved ancient and primitive peoples.

For these and other reasons, modern science only developed in Christian Europe and nowhere else. The groundwork was clearly laid.

The Big Pile of Work That Must Get Done

250px-Unemployed_men_queued_outside_a_depression_soup_kitchen_opened_in_Chicago_by_Al_Capone,_02-1931_-_NARA_-_541927In face of a recession that never recedes, the assumption of a broad and growing prosperity for the middle class is in doubt. Gone are the heady days of the post-Cold War triumphalism of the nineties when optimistic observers believed that we might live forever in a kind of glorious consumerism.

Instead, there is a universal perception that the middle class has been “hollowed out” and the gap between rich and poor widened. Everyone denounces the growing ranks of underemployed, unemployed and those who have simply left the work force altogether. All sense something vitally wrong.

Of course, those on the left clamor for middle-class job creation, more infrastructure projects, and job training, all paid for by government borrowing at today’s extremely low interest rates. Jumpstart the economy with shovel-ready projects, entitlement programs and good jobs, they claim, and all will return to normal. In a similar and more realistic vein, the right asks the government to free the market from its cumbersome regulations and taxes and it will generate jobs aplenty.

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While both sides clamor for jobs, they fail to call for work. The old distinction between “job” and “work” could well shed some light on where we need to go to solve our economic problems.

The word “job” is recent, dating from the Industrial Revolution. Its original meaning was “a pile of things to be done,” and now insinuates something done indifferently for hire. On the other hand, the word “work” is a very old word dating back to medieval England. Its first appearance is in the eleventh century Aelfric Homilies which stated that “work was begun under God’s will.” Work refers to an activity done for its own sake, motivated by a pleasure or passion for that which is done, as in a work of love or a work of art.

And that is the problem with so many well-intentioned people calling for jobs–they don’t call for work. They create “piles of things to be done,” which once done leave us looking for further piles. The term “job” calls to mind the scandalously inhuman statement of industrialist Henry Ford who reportedly said: “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?”

That is to say that a job implies limited commitment on the part of employer and employee alike. It is an individualistic commercial contract based upon the rule of money as the standard upon which all is judged. Since the job is a mere unit of labor, the employer is free to shuffle these units around at will, even offshore. On their part, employees often assume an indifferent attitude towards their jobs—as willing pairs of hands—since their employment represents nothing more than the financial means to secure the pursuit of happiness and self-gratification.

What is missing is the human element that has been hollowed out of the economy. Our economy has taken on a mechanical character where people really don’t matter anymore since they are but numbers in bureaucratic databases or statistics in political campaigns.

Of course, there are times when people need “jobs” as temporary avenues to secure sufficient income to live. But the job should not be the norm. It cannot become a panacea for all our economic ills. Indeed, creating jobs for jobs’ sake tells people they are expendable.

Work is something different; it confers dignity and value. Because work involves a passion for something, it goes deep into the soul. Work is not all about money. It involves relationships, honor and loyalty that bind together employer and employee, producer and consumer, and even families and generations. Work looks for craftsmanship, profession and calling. It includes God since real work takes on a prayer-like character.

Happy are those whose jobs correspond to their work—and there are still many on all levels of society. They are dynamos for any economy since their work is full of that vital flux that infuses passion, excellence and meaning into commerce and society. Everything should be done to encourage “work” through sound family, tax and other policies.

However, the main action cannot be governmental. A “work” vision of society relies heavily upon rebuilding a moral infrastructure based on strong ties to family, faith and community. Moreover, it invokes God who, in His Providence, can “provide” for man much more efficiently than governmental bureaucrats.
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The problem is so many are unwilling to even consider moral issues in the context of economic problems. They refuse outright to make the link between human relationships and business transactions. They prefer to reduce everything back to jobs.

Our efforts to rescue the present economy will be to no avail unless we look beyond the “piles of things to be done” and help those who will work to follow the desires of their hearts.

As seen on The Blaze

Why a Conservative Victory is not Enough

V0040807 Two men are using a plank over a large log as a see-saw. EngThe latest elections proved beyond a doubt that America is a conservative nation.

Despite everything, conservative ideas still resonate strongly with many Americans and definitely have a future. But a simple victory is not enough.

This is because the present victory does not explain everything. While conservatives just won in 2014, they lost in 2012, and 2008. The nation is polarized and we experience the see-saw cycle of elections that violently oscillates between the two major parties.

The problem is that America is a conservative nation but not necessarily a traditional one. We like to “conserve” and rightly enjoy our comfortable and prosperous way of life. We desire to “conserve” frozen and immobile a vision of America where all agree to get along while each freely pursues his own happiness. The left and right both present their own version of this America. Thus the see-saw battles of the last decades represent a “conservative” phenomenon regardless of who wins.

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The country might be likened to a boat. When liberals bring everyone over to their side of the vessel in an election, it starts to list dangerously to the left. This prompts the ship’s passengers to pull to the right in the next election to stabilize and keep the ship balanced and comfortable.

As long as the ship was in calm seas and shifts small, such an arrangement appears to have worked well. Prior to the seventies, the two political parties, although different, played by the rules of not rocking the boat too much. They managed to maintain the balance that allowed for smooth navigation and good times aboard.

However, beginning in the sixties, America started to navigate in troubled water. The consensus to play by the rules was broken. We lost our moral compass and the ship was left dangerously adrift toward chaos. Violent shifts on the left destabilized our American order which led to strong and very essential reactions on the right. Polarization has set in as each side reacted to the other with greater intensity. Every election becomes a must-win proposition; each one more important than the last.

Thus, see-saw battles take place. When conservatives call for sacrifices, less deficits or moral restraints to remedy liberal excesses and license, electorates often pull back and embrace the liberal cause anew.

On the surface, this seems to have happened in the 2014 elections as Obamacare and other issues represented a violent lurch to the left and the public reacted with a massive shift to the right to restabalize the country and return to normality.

However, this was not a normal election. Neither port nor starboard captured the imagination of the electorate. The electorate was sullen, stupefied, and absent. There was a profound and fundamental discontent in all sectors against all parties. Voters questioned not just the angle of the deck but the rudderless course that the nation is following as we head into a storm.

One could sense fears in the electorate that go beyond ship deck politics. On the horizon are the storms of ISIS, Ebola and economic collapse. There is moral decay in the family, community and Church that is the cause of much affliction. Above all, there is the unsettling sense that the comfortable normalcy that we have tried so hard to “conserve” over the decades has been hollowed out – and there is nothing to replace it.

And that is why a conservative victory now is not enough. Conservatives need to address the important issue of where we need to go—the course of the ship. We do not need the safety of value-neutral employment schemes or financial stimuli that are already being promised by opportunists capitalizing on the elections.

We cannot continue sidestepping important moral issues that are essential to the survival of the nation. We must free ourselves of the illusion that victory consists of avoiding anything controversial.

Now is the time to reflect and debate ideas as to the course we must choose. If we take this time to articulate those principles, ideas, and moral values around which we might rally, we will position ourselves to weather the storms and return to order.Subscription11

If however conservatives fail to plot a course, they will condemn themselves to yet more see-saw battles where the electorate will award the prize to the party that gives them the most advantages—whether it be tax breaks, entitlement benefits or any other modern “bread and circus” programs.

We need to have the daring to transcend the “unheroic” standards of our comfortable materialism.

Americans want direction not ambiguity. The future belongs to those with the courage to brave unpopularity, take calculated risks and reject political correctness. They must be willing to admit there is a moral right and wrong. Above all, they must not be afraid to get on their knees and ask God’s help and blessings upon America.

How the Industrial Revolution Created the Masses

Problems_bignessCommunist agitators constantly referred to “the masses” as an essential component of their revolution. However, they did not invent the masses or even create them. Rather, the masses are a product of modern society with its mass media, mass markets and mass production.

Author Lawrence Friedman traces the masses to the Industrial Revolution when he says:

 

 

“The Industrial Revolution vastly expanded the domain of cheap mass-produced goods. Mass production created, in a way, the masses themselves. You would not refer to peasants in a medieval village as a mass, nor even the peasants in all of, say, Germany or France. Mass is a way of describing people who live in a world where one can of soup is exactly like a billion other cans.”

(Taken from Lawrence M. Friedman, The Horizontal Society, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1999, p. 70.)

 

 

How Mass Society Collectivizes

How_the_masses_collectivizesProf. Richard Stivers explains the paradox of modern mass society that on the one hand seems highly individualistic and on the other hand strongly collectivistic.

Already in the nineteenth century, the individual became disconnected from the local community and extended family that normally served to give him an identity inside the context of community. The new mass society made each person an equal and independent entity that acted like tiny atoms inside a society of similar yet separate atoms.

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At the same time,” Strivers notes, “authority became centralized in government, bureaucracy, corporations, and the mass media. There was no buffer such as community and family between the individual and centralized power. The new sources of power used the needs, fears, and desires of the emotionally independent individual to control him” (Richard Stivers, The Illusion of Freedom and Equality, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2008, p. 80).

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