Monday, 30 November 2009

War, what is it good for?

[I continue to work at my education ... 'Economics in One Lesson' by Henry Hazlitt)
Chapter 3 - The Blessings of Destruction

From my brief brush with the warfare of the 16th & 17th Centuries (not a first hand experience admitedly) I would agree with Hazlitt that often this line is taken in assessing warfare:
They (economics professors ... or we could add, professional historians) tell us how much better off economically we all are in war than in peace. They see 'miracles of production' which it requires a war to achieve. And they see a world made prosperous by an enormous 'accumulated' or 'backed up' demand (p25)
But this is merely the Ch 2 fallacy 'in new clothing and grown fat beyond recognition'.

It also is a view that confuses need and demand. Need is not demand. Because effective economic demand requires not merely need but corresponding purchasing power. Ask the average 16 year old about that one!

And purchasing power is NOT JUST MONEY. Printing off the readies just reduces their value ... and that falling value can be measured in the rising prices of commodities.

This chapter includes a great line that summarises the chapter nicely:
No man burns down his own house on the theory that the need to rebuild it will stimulate his energies. (p27)
Why would we even begin to think this would be the right way to evaluate the great wars and the economic whirlpools & eddies surrounding them?
Many of the most frequent fallacies in economic reasoning come from the propensity, to think in terms of an abstraction - the collectivity, the 'nation' - and to forget or ignore the individuals who make it up and give it meaning. No one could think that the destruction of war was an economic advantage who began by thinking first of all of the people whose property was destroyed.
Presumably we could add lives into that too.

War destroys accumulated capital.

His conclusion:
There may be, it is true, offsetting factors. Technological discoveries and advances during a war may, for example, increase individual or national productivity at this point or that, and there may eventually be a net increase in overall productivity. ... But such complications should not divert us from recognizing the basic truth that the wanton destruction of anything of real value is always a net loss, a misfortune, or a disaster, and whatever the offsetting considerations in a particular instance, can never be, on net balance, a boon or a blessing.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Strange that we should need to petition for something as basic as this!!

But we do:

'We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to
uphold that parents have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their child,
to not undermine parents legitimately fulfilling their fundamental duties,
and to assume that the best interests of their child is the basic concern of parents unless there is specific evidence to the contrary.'

HT: Amanda Robbie

It all makes work for the working man to do?

Highlights from Chapter 2 (Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt)

Fallacy: when things break/get used up this is good for the economy

Example: a flood takes out much of the shops in some towns in Cumbria. Far from being a disaster, this is good. The shop owners pay the repair men & resuppliers of their shops, who then in turn give business to a range of other people both in their professional and private capacities. Whether this costs £20000 or £200 million...that money is providing employment and 'stimulation' to the economy in 'ever-widening' circles.

Half truth: Yes, the damage does bring business to the repair men and others. Considering it from an economic stand point alone, they will be no more unhappy to learn of the 'disaster' as an undertaker would be news of a death.

Full truth: But the shopkeepers are out by £20000 or £200 million* that they would otherwise have spent on the expansion of their business into a new town or discounts that encourage more business and bring greater quality of life to those around them, or in charitable donations or in staff wage increases or in any number of other ways personally - that new conservatory or boat!
So instead of still having their stock and nice shops and these other things, they now just have their stock and nice shops.
The community (local, national or global) is actually poorer than it was before - though there has been a lot of activity.

In short the repairman's business is gained at the expense of the shopkeeper (or the insurance company). No 'new' employment' or 'growth' in the economy has taken place.

As we see builders and goods 'flooding' Cumbria in the months ahead it will be tempting to think that this is an increase in business. And of course it will be for the builders and suppliers of those shops. But because the other 'potentials' (the expansion of business, the discounts, the purchases made) are 'invisible' - they don't happen - it is all too easy to forget them and leave them out of the equation. The things that don't happen or are not made so often don't feature in our analysis of a situation.

*Ok, they might be insured. So this is not so straightforward. Yet, still wealth has been destroyed somewhere line. And though there is a delay, the cost will be experienced in higher insurance premiums for themselves and others over time and/or that insurance company not being able to do what it would have with the money. So the 'problem' is just moved back/up a level.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

right here, right now?

Chapter 1 Highlights: 

We can get things wrong at every turn in economics because :

#  we all see things from our perspective or our groups perspective ... or from the perspective of one interest group.
So some way of doing things might be good for one group (very directly) but at the expense of other groups (indirectly) or vice versa, might be very damaging for one group very directly but benefit all other groups indirectly. The interest group most directly affected will (often) argue persistently and plausibly that things should be seen their way.

# we tend to only see the immediate effects of a given policy or set of actions (whether in terms of the short term or the effects on one group most directly affected). The long term affects easily get ignored.

But of course...
to consider all the chief effects of a proposed course on everybody often requires a long, complicated, and dull chain of reasoning (p18)
...and lets be honest, most of us would rather open the can rather than brew the beer, or buy off the peg rather than knit the jumper. I realise there may be some beer brewing knitting enthusiasts who read this - you'll have to work with me on this one!
Half or quarter truths are easier to swallow than the whole.

Monday, 23 November 2009

'new atheism'


We got back from our youthgroup weekend away last night.

Today has been clear up day and keeping going when exhausted day!

But it was a great, great weekend.
Christmas Eve on Friday, Christmas Day on Saturday and Boxing Day on Sunday.
Pass the parcel, musical chairs, stockings and presents, turkey, 'pigs with blankets', beef, yorkshire pud, crackers...the works!!
I can't wait now to have the Christmas tree up again now we are back!

Mystery from Dan Stevers on Vimeo.

It was thrilling to have clear talks and good bible studies on John 1 (summarised well in the above video), Luke 15 (the lost sheep) and Philippians 2 as we focused on the 'what?', 'why?' and 'so what?' of the incarnation.
I think that all the eXcellers who came would now be able to say what 'incarnation' means and why it is such a big deal.
Would that we all praised Jesus as we should (which must include turning from our sins and to him continually ...) and that we imitated him in the whole of our lives... from the inside out!

That last aspect was the big challenge that the weekend threw up for us all - serving each others needs gladly and humbly. One of the group proved an exceptional encouragement on this front. But as I dealt with the 'other 99' (!) my own selfish, proud, unloving, thankless, moaning heart came into the spotlight of God's word and providential circumstance! And for all that ongoing 'seeking me out' and bringing me back, I am very grateful to God.

Thanks too go to:
  • John Young for speaking and modelling sacrificial service as he slept on the floor in Church House and spent Saturday afternoon just watching us all bowl!
  • Denise and Jane for being truly eXcellent partners in the leadership of eXcel
  • Hilary for backing Jane up in care for Simeon and Trev & Maz in the kitchen
  • Trev & Maz who gave their all (including sleeping next to a freezer) to feed us amazingly
  • Keith & Angela for 'popping in' (1 1/2 hr drive each way to do so!) and giving us encouragement on Christmas Day
  • Jacqui for her great hospitality
  • St Botolph's for use of Church House
  • the rustbucket for getting us there and back (cracked indicator light and all ... see below)

My apologies to ASDA whose petrol station I rendered inactive for a short period on Friday night. Ooops.

grit in the snow

silent night

A Rapid Change in the Climate

Today Christopher Booker has written an article on a new book by Christopher Booker [The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is The Obsession With 'Climate Change' Turning Out To Be The Most Costly Scientific Blunder In History?]. Ok, so the guy is going to talk this up then! And the 'alarmism/conspiracy theories' cuts both ways. But even having said all that, again, here are some very salient points.

First he says this:

We all know the basic thesis: that thanks to mankind burning fossil fuels, the world's temperatures are hurtling upwards, and that unless the most drastic action is taken, we can look forward to an unprecedented global catastrophe - droughts, hurricanes, killer heatwaves, melting icecaps, sea levels rising to the point where many of the world's major cities are submerged.
All this is what has been predicted by the expensive computer models relied on by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC), which the politicians tell us we must trust as the ultimate source of authority on the future of the world's climate.

On every side we are told that 'the science is settled', that '2,500 of the world's top climate scientists' agree that these terrifying predictions will all come true unless we take the most drastic action. So carried away have they all been by this belief that scarcely a single politician dares question it.

Yet the oddest thing which has become increasingly evident in the past year or two is the fact that almost none of these things is happening, certainly not in the way those computer models have been predicting. Although carbon dioxide levels have continued to increase, temperatures have not been rising in the way the computer models all agree they should have done.
In the past decade, the overall trend of temperatures has been not upwards, but down.

The hard evidence tells us that there have actually been fewer major droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves in recent years than there were in earlier decades

And second, this is not just a intra-science debate, but has cash value to you and I. And the arguments are powerful too; they involve some people suddenly being enabled to wield a lot of power:

exactly a year ago, Parliament passed, virtually unopposed, what was far and away the most expensive new law ever put before it. On the Government's own figures, the Climate Change Act is going to cost Britain £18 billion a year - that's £720 for every household in the country - every year from now until 2050.
Read his article here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

mad as hatters

These are around 220 hats - knitted by, amongst others, Mum and Susie (they lay claim to about 20 of them):

They came out of here:

A knitted smoothie carton:

It was all in aid of this (details here):

You can find out the whole story here.

History in the Making

The warm up

The preface
Ok, so this book is not going to be a tour de force of lots of economists and their theories (phew!) but a more general look at economic realities, principles and fallacies (some of which are 'so prevalent that they have almost become a new orthodoxy' p9).

Again, I am encouraged to dive in:
'I have tried to write this book as simply and with as much freedom from technicalities as is consistent with reasonable accuracy, so that it can be fully understood by the reader with no previous acquaintance with economics.' (p12)


Thursday, 12 November 2009

The work of a few, supported by many others

The Christian Institute

The Government has today accepted Lord Waddington’s free speech clause which underlines the fact that criticising homosexual conduct is not, in itself, a crime. See here for more detail.

Covering Economics in One Lesson

The back cover states:
'I know of no other modern book from which the intelligent layman can learn so much about the basic truths of economics in so short a time' F.A. Hayek
I am not entirely sure I qualify here, but I certainly take heart that this book might be accessible to me.

The first edition appeared in 1946 and this is the 1978 edition.
Will I find it all wildly out of date?

Given the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister episodes Jane and I have recently been re-watching, I doubt it! But we shall see.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

4 out of 10

Apart from the crass beginning ('We know more about Herod than we do about Jesus.'), which almost put me off this site (!), and  a startling absence of the light of Biblical evidence* this gives a good insight into the politics surrounding Herod the Great’s life & work. 

*in setting out helpfully that Herod was an outsider to the Jewish nation the site chooses only to speak of him being of Arab and Idumean descent. Yet, Idumean (Latin) = Edomite (Hebrew) = Udumi (Assyrian). Which opens a big can of worms biblically speaking! Even wikipedia traces this!

And unless I just missed it there is a startling omission – any mention of Herod’s rebuilding of the 2nd Temple.

Don't all religions lead to God?

Wasn't Jesus just another religious teacher?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

kingdom come

Memory Verse:

Carol of the Week:

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O Come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, Born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, Begotten not created.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, In the highest;

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesu, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, Now in flesh appearing.

Child, for us sinners
Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, Loving us so dearly?

Remembrance Day

In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.  (Isaiah 2:2-5)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Thursday, 5 November 2009

How many candles?

'I hope I am saved,' says one, 'but I do not know the date of my conversion.' That does not matter at all. It is a pleasant thing for a person to know his birthday; but when persons are not sure of the exact date of their birth, they do not, therefore, infer that they are not alive. If a person does not know when he was converted, that is no proof that he is not converted. The point is, do you trust Jesus Christ? Has that trust made a new man of you? Has your confidence in Christ made you feel that you have been forgiven? Has that made you love God for having forgiven you, and has that love become the mainspring of your being, so that out of love to God you delight to obey him? Then you are a healed man.

(sermon on 'by his stripes we are healed' in Sermons of Comfort and Cheer, Spurgeon, p12)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Green bins and Gospel

Ben Merkle has written a nice (short) piece showing how dangerous it is for Christians to buy into the whole 'environmental' project: 
For the Christian, the seemingly evenhanded argument looks something like this: global warming is a real threat to creation, a Christian doctrine of creation gives the stron­gest motivation possible for one to be concerned about the creation, thus Christians have a good reason to work with environmentalists in preserving creation, and maybe we can use this as an opportunity to witness to them as we sit on the curb together and sort the clear glass from the colored glass. But this approach misses the point where evangelism needs to begin. In making environmentalism our common cause, we have begun sharing in idolatry rather than con­fronting it.
You can read how he continues here.

He concludes like this:
Any truly Christian response to the Global Warming alarmists must be uncompromising on two points. First, it must be clear that only the Gospel will clean the earth and nothing else will. Men who are in rebellion against the Gos­pel are in rebellion against the earth, no matter what they say to the contrary. These men need the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the only cure. All true renewing of the earth subsequently flows from this cure. Second, the Christian life is a life of gratitude. Global Warming nuts insist on guilt. They insist on guilt because guilt produces a rabid frenzy which has the illusion of progress. But as an enduring moti­vation to work, guilt is nothing to gratitude. We are thank­ful for everything that God has given us. This includes the beauty of God’s creation. And when we look at the natural world with Christian gratitude, we can’t help but want to clean it up.

Luke 1:46-56

Robust and Polite

Christopher Hitchens writes about his recent engagements with 'right wing' Christians (here).

I haven't yet run into an argument that has made me want to change my mind. After all, a believing religious person, however brilliant or however good in debate, is compelled to stick fairly closely to a "script" that is known in advance, and known to me, too. However, I have discovered that the so-called Christian right is much less monolithic, and very much more polite and hospitable, than I would once have thought, or than most liberals believe. I haven't been asked to Bob Jones University yet, but I have been invited to Jerry Falwell's old Liberty University campus in Virginia, even though we haven't yet agreed on the terms.

Wilson isn't one of those evasive Christians who mumble apologetically about how some of the Bible stories are really just "metaphors." He is willing to maintain very staunchly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and that his sacrifice redeems our state of sin, which in turn is the outcome of our rebellion against God. He doesn't waffle when asked why God allows so much evil and suffering—of course he "allows" it since it is the inescapable state of rebellious sinners. I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing. (Incidentally, just when is President Barack Obama going to decide which church he attends?)
HT: 9 Marks

Not taking cheap shots!

Luke begins by drawing attention to many who had written before him. Many ancient writers begin by criticizing their predecessors. Not Luke. He is out to convey certainty (v4), but he does not disparage others. (p72)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The malady of maladies

Sin is my malady, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties,
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my tread,
its fruits nourish me,
its creatures subserve my ends?

Yet thy compassions yearn over me,
thy heart hastens to my rescue,
thy love endured my curse,
thy mercy bore my deserved stripes.

(Valley of Vision p 75)

Monday, 2 November 2009

A Wee Cough

Or a week off?
Or both?
But despite some hacking and with the help of large doses of cake/icecream we had a brillant week relaxing just south of Kendal last week.

I really enjoyed reading 'Who Made God?' by Edgar Andrews. The best 'sciency' book I have read concerning science and the Christian faith. I always feel out of my depth in this kind of thing (as a non-scientist), but despite being a very bright scientist he provided a good. unpatronising, range of floatation aids ranging from great illustrations, everyday scenarios and continual reminders about 'woods and trees'! Sometimes those trees can seem so impressive, complex and their white coats gleam just so brightly that I get blinded to the more obvious 'shape' of things.

I'd like to blog some of the book .. as I am still not 100% I can't promise this will be immediate.

That was the 'meaty' book I managed. On the edge of Yorkshire and feeling ropey, what to read? Imagine my delight to find James Herriot on the shelves: