Eugene Cho

george bush and the shoe-throwing journalist

George Bush and his legacy as President of the United States?  What do you think?  Is it too early to tell since the war on terror will mark the legacy of his presidency?

When he was sworn in eight years ago, who would have thunk things would have turned out in this manner.  Even folks in his own party have dismissed him, opposed his leadership and pleas, and he was clearly ignored at his own party’s convention.  Now, I know that 9/11 changed everything but who would have thunk?  So much convoluted thoughts in my head bit let me share four random things including the news of the shoe-throwin’ journalist: 

from BBC News

1.  He’s always seemed like a likable guy which is probably why many voted for him…  That and he’s a member of one of the most powerful families in the country.  But he should  have never been the President.  Why?  He simply wasn’t qualified and competent.  Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green, or Anarchist – I think many will now agree he simply wasn’t ‘presidential material’  The lesson I’ve learned is that we don’t need likable folks.  We need sharp, brilliant, intelligent, and articulate leaders who seek to serve, protect, and lead the entire country.  Clearly, a tall order for anyone.  In his own words, President Bush referred to himself as a “simple man.”  But perhaps that’s the problem since his job is to lead in a very complex world. 

2.  His future memoir will be the highest selling memoir in the history of this country.  Why?  He’s going to share what he couldn’t share during his administration including an apology.

3.  For those that care, I wrote two posts a year ago [?] about  George Bush:  Best President and Worst President.  Check them out.  He’s done some good things and I want to credit him – as others have – for his substantive work and commitment to issues of global poverty [particularly in Africa] but his legacy is going to be marked by the failed war in Iraq that many around the world view as illegal and irresponsible.

4.  And lastly, I was disheartened to read the news and see the video of an Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush at yesterday’s news conference in Baghdad.  Honestly, despite my not so positive reviews of President Bush’s presidency, he’s still the leader of my country and I just don’t enjoy the sight of someone hurling shoes at their President – and considering WHY he felt the conviction to do so. 

And I know the adage of leadership all too well – “You’re not going to please everyone”  and I agree with President Bush that the incident doesn’t represent all Iraqi people but I hope he and the next President, Barack Obama, will NOT ignore the significant meaning behind the incident.   The work of building trust in the larger world will be more difficult that any rebuilding project in Iraq.

The brother of the journalist now famous for hurling his shoes at President Bush said his sibling’s actions were “spontaneous” and represented millions of Iraqis who want to “humiliate the tyrant.”

Dhirgham al-Zaidi, who sometimes worked as his brother’s cameraman, described the reporter’s hatred for the “material American occupation” and the “moral Iranian occupation.”

Muntadhar al-Zaidi’s feelings were influenced by watching the agony suffered by everyday Iraqis. Most of the reporter’s stories focused on Iraqi widows, orphans, and children, said the brother.

Sometimes the 29-year-old journalist would cry. Moved by the tales he reported of poor families, he sometimes asked his colleagues to give money to them. On most nights, he returned to his home in central Baghdad after reporting from Sadr City, one of the country’s most violent slums and the epicenter of several of the war’s pitched battles.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi’s reporting for Egypt-based independent television Al-Baghdadia was “against the occupation,” his brother said. The journalist would occasionally sign off his stories “from occupied Baghdad.” [full CNN article]

But here’s another perspective to convey that change is taking place.  Let’s be honest here:  those shoes would never have had the freedom to be thrown under the regime of Saddam Hussein. 

I know the video below isn’t the most flattering video of President Bush but I share this to caution others about the eloquence of President-Elect Barack Obama.  I remember watching this debate live in 2000 and was so impressed with Bush.  Had I had access to such things like Facebook Status and Twitter, I would have written:

Wow. Governor George Bush is so genuine, authentic, and humble.  Not stiff like that Al Gore dude.

We can all talk the good talk…  Let’s hold Obama and his administration accountable to his words and promises.  The people should never abdicate the totality of their voice and power to a government.  Never.

Here’s the article about the show throwing journalist from CNN:

Filed under: politics, , , ,

133 Responses

  1. elderj says:

    I agree with you about the shoe throwing thing. As for his legacy… I think time will tell. It is a bit early to pronounce Iraq a failure from a historical point of view. Relatively speaking, very few people died and a very harsh absolutely brutal dictatorship was overthrown. I did not favor going in to Iraq, but I can’t argue that it would be preferable to have Saddam kicking around over there.

    I also think that Bush’s intelligence has been underrated, not least of which reasons is because of his accent. As a lifelong Southerner (without much of an accent) I can assure you that many people hear an accent like Bush and think – “ignorant hick.” There are certainly other reasons people think him to be unintelligent, but I don’t think there is much concrete evidence of that, though he does tend to mix up his words a lot (I know how hard it is to put food on your family)

    I’m no apologist for Bush, but a historian by training, and I know that the verdict of history is usually not as obvious as it first seems. And frankly, every president probably owes us an apology – not just Bush.

  2. leochen says:

    Notice the second shoe landed on the U.S. flag? I think that pretty much says it all. The intent maybe was for G.B., but the insult landed on the flag of the United States. I’m not going to judge the journalist who threw the shoes. He may have had really good reason for his outrage. His country was torn apart and perhaps his own neighborhood bombed by our weapons. What pisses me off though is when I see fellow Americans laugh at the incident. All their narrow mind can see is “Bush got what he deserved” and failed to recognize the insult and attack on the United States.

  3. IY says:

    i didn’t think it was funny, but i thought bush was kind of silly in his reaction. it was a serious signal (of disrespect, of anger, both) and maybe he could have responded without smirking and chuckling. the guy’s got good reflexes, though! i totally would have been hit in the head. twice

  4. JC says:

    I was totally not surprised as to how “W” responded, but none the less, you should never throw any object at someone up on a podium or stage. How do you think Pastor Eugene would feel if someone threw a pair of shoes at him while he was preaching =P Anyhow, it was pretty disrespectful, even though W is arguably the worst US President in history

  5. jorgebautista says:

    First, one has to understand the ethos behind throwing a shoe at someone and what that means for the Iraqi culture. One has to truly understand the ethos of the culture where the incident has happen, and then the question has to be determined if this incident was justified or not. In this case throwing a shoe at someone is a sign of contempt and in the incident is likely to serve as a lasting reminder of the widespread opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, and as you mentioned in your post Eugene, this has defined Bush’s presidency.

    Next, we shouldn’t disagree with the action of the journalist just because this happened to our president. After all this is his country to begin with, and we cannot even fathom what the people of Iraq has lived through while the U.S. has occupied their land. I know you will argue that this event would not have happen if Sadam was still in power, but the fact is the the U.S. have not heard the peoples voices of Iraq. The Iraqis have been demanding their freedom from our presence there, and this whole war been behind a lie.

    Now, we can hope and pray that harsh measures are not taking upon the reporter as he is held in custody, for if there is, then there will be reminders of a dictatorial era. The Iraq war is a complex issue, and I am sure you are aware of these issues, but there has been terrible tortures that have taken place under US authority. The list goes on brother, and I think that you should evaluate your statement about what you said and I will quote you, “he’s still the leader of my country and I just don’t enjoy the sight of someone hurling shoes at their President.” This is hard to swallow after the fact that this man is a war criminal, and we don’t have to respect a leader simply because he is a leader of our country.

    .

  6. jorgebautista says:

    I thought you might want to know that Muntadar al-Zaidi the journalist, has been inflicted with pain while in custody, “Muntadar al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC.”

  7. Thanks for the update, Jorge.

    Leochen: I suppose the question on my mind right now is why so many American Christians would care that one of the shoes hit the American flag? Had it hit a (representation of the) Cross, I’d feel a sense of anger, though I recognise that such an efigy is only a reminder of truth, and not worthy of worship in and of itself. But as a Christian, I don’t follow a nation’s flag. Sure, I live within a nation, but that flag is not what I live for, it won’t be what I die for, and it sure won’t save me. I think a quick values-check is needed here: aren’t we supposed to desire the privellege to walk beneath the cross of Christ, crucified for our sins? And can we really still allow something so earthly to command our attention? I personally don’t think I can afford to allow this to happen.

    Eugene: RE: “We can all talk the good talk… Let’s hold Obama and his administration accountable to his words and promises. The people should never abdicate the totality of their voice and power to a government. Never.” – Spot on.

  8. leochen says:

    Graham: Thanks for your thoughts. I think you might have a better understanding where I’m coming from and my feelings towards the significance of the American flag if you knew that I am an Army Vet. The U.S. flag, among other things, reminds me of a history of selfless sacrifices of American soldiers and their families. That is one of the reason why it is upsetting to me to see that the insult ended up on it.

  9. elderj made some great points. Bush is not the “ignorant hick” many would like to paint him as. Jimmy Carter was elected for his common sense attitude in ’76 after a tumultuous presidency and scandal and instead of change, the country got further into problems so Obama’s election guarantees nothing.

    As you stated Eugene, I’ve told others in Denver that the shoe throwing incident is not a sign so much of hatred, but of success. Freedom allows guys like this to feel free to throw his shoes. Having an Iraqi student in my midst these past few years has put an even deeper shade of dark on Saddam Hussein. This girl thanks the U.S. and George Bush for removing a man that had killed a part of her family, friends, and teachers.

  10. Count me among the folks who chuckled and felt encouraged by this man. To me it’s not an issue of Saddam Hussein or the American flag. This is an issue of a lengthy lecture by one people group at another. How many years now has America been in charge of Iraqi destiny? It must be incredibly frustrating to be an Iraqi because, though the citizens of your country don’t agree with each other about how to proceed, all the decisions about what Iraq should become are being made by foreigners.

    I can see why so many people can identify with and be encouraged by this man. He clearly didn’t try to actually hurt President Bush. His act was symbolic and for the millions of people who’s opinions haven’t been taken into account in this long process he’s a rare spokesperson.

    I know it’s a stretch but before we decide what the Christian perspective is here it’s worth remembering Jesus running through the temple with a whip that he made with his own hands. Sometimes a symbolic expression of anger is appropriate.

    But I completely agree with you Eugene that Bush handled it with class and, ultimately, this wouldn’t have been possible under the previous regime. Let’s hope the next government provides even more stability.

  11. Dan Hauge says:

    I admit it’s hard for me to see the shoe-throwing as anything but a completely appropriate response from a people that have been seen such devastation as a result of the decicsions of this president. Yes, they now have more freedom to speak their minds, but whatever freedom they have is still compeletely circumscribed by U.S. military and economic interests (maintaing our bases and preserving a large amount of control of their oil supply for U.S. companies). There is a huge difference between a freedom that you yourself have chosen to fight for, and died for, versus a freedom that is ‘bestowed’ upon you by a much more powerful nation, doing so for their own interests. There is often a tally of U.S. soldier deaths in Iraq (as there should be), but we lost count of the hundreds and thousands of Iraqi deaths long ago.

    At the very least, the current status-of-forces agreement gave the Iraqis a small amount of say as to how long we have a military presence there. And I do hope that President Obama will make good on a lot of his lofty rhetoric–and Eugene’s points of caution are very appropriate here. We’ll see.

  12. Kacie says:

    I am glad that he took it lightly. we don’t need the American people to react quickly with anger. It’s true that this was an act of disrespect, but sometimes if you let small actions get a big response (for instance, the issue of the cartoon with Muhammed), it can escalate. Bush let the steam out by joking about it, and I’m glad he did.

  13. eugenecho says:

    @jorgebautista: he needs to be released immediately imo.

    if i didn’t make it clear, i’m bummed and disheartened by what took place not because of the PHYSICAL act of someone throwing a shoe at their President…

    that’s part of it since he represents our countryand you dont’t to see it…period.

    but it’s the whole aspect of why this man felt so compelled to do what he did. it’s funny – imo – to read that folks are doing tests to see if he’s a loonie. he’s not. he’s a respectable journalist who loves his country and seen and heard the pains of his people.

  14. dm says:

    Eugene – may I ask what makes you say that President Bush will “share what he couldn’t share during his administration including an apology”? I ask because I haven’t seen any indication that he is remorseful in the least for what he has done to America or its perception abroad.

  15. Jeff Mitchell says:

    We have to remember that the shoe-throwing journalist was a marxist worshiping lunatic, and the battle between Marxist socialism and Republican capitalism is *the* battle of both the 20th and 21st centuries. So, that explains most everything about this case.

    The two sides line up approximately this way: Marxist socialists dominate journalism, state-run education, and the democratic party. They are secularist progressives.

    In contrast, Republican capitalists dominate business and church. They are traditionalists.

    Nearly every major struggle and cultural battle in Western society revolves around these two sides and their competing ideologies. I think we all know which side Bush is on, and this explains most of the unfair treatment he has received from the Left for the past eight years. Every Republican and/or conservative receives this same treatment and disrespect from the Leftists.

  16. dm says:

    Jeff – “marxist worshiping”?

    If you believe all that you just typed, I highly doubt you’re open to look at a different perspective. Let me just say that I personally don’t find the Cold War dichotomy to be accurate, helpful or illuminating.

    If you’re interested in why this journalist might be angry enough to risk his personal safety to make such a disrespectful, insulting gesture at t he president, I’d encourage you to check out the post Unsavory and Shifty Ingrates at Obsidian Wings.

    Ultimately, let me remind you: God is not a Republican (or a Democrat).

  17. rogueminister says:

    I must say this shoe throwing excited me just a bit. It showed the world that Iraqi’s are not all pleased with whats going on there right now. Many are better off, but I think the poorest are still where they were maybe even worse off in some cases. Maybe it also reminds us that “collateral damage” is really a poor euphemism for innocent lives taken. It also reminds us that the reality is that war is never a good thing that we should laud or glorify in any way. It is terrible, it is hell. I think this man did what a lot of people have wanted to do for quite a while.

    Now as a staunch pacifist, I cant fully endorse such and incident and I do think it is unfortunate that it was a physical attack, but nevertheless I hope it opens people’s eyes to the tragedies of war and foreign occupation.

  18. Leroy Glinchy says:

    “Now, I know that 9/11 changed everything but who would have thunk? ”

    I’d like to answer this:

    Those of us who were paying attention to the news might have.

    “Last August the Clinton administration launched a cruise missile attack on a camp in southern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, which it claimed was used as a training complex for Osama bin Laden and his supporters.” – http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/nov1999/afgh-n13.shtml

    “Their war room is up and running … but we are ready. Their attacks will be relentless … but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar, but they are facing something new. ” – http://www.2000gop.com/convention/speech/speechbush.html

    A friend of mine read this speech to me about ten times. He warned me that if Bush got elected, we’d have a mess on our hands. There would be endless war and economic collapse. I thought he was exaggerating. Politicians didn’t do what they told us in speeches. Usually they didn’t.

  19. elderj says:

    I firmly disagree; there is nothing to be admired about a journalist (or anyone for that matter) hurling an object at someone and certainly not a foreign leader. It is not humorous, it is not respectful, it is not in any way honorable and it is flatly inappropriate.

    I am no fan of militarism, but it is naive to think that peace and security are maintained in the world without the threat or actual use of force. I have no doubt that except for the large amount of US military forces stationed in S. Korea, it would have been completely overrun by N Korea following the end of the Korean War (as happened in Vietnam). Did the 50K + soldiers that die in that war die in vain (along with hundred of thousands of others)? Is it preferable to leave a brutal dictator in place (as in the DPRK) or is it better to wage war to remove him (as in Iraq)? If Iraq in 50 years looks like S. Korea today, will George Bush be hailed as a hero or as a villain? Why is it okay that Clinton intervened in Bosnia – where thousands died and there are still repercussions of that intervention, but not in Iraq? Was it okay that throughout the Clinton administration, Iraq was continually bombed (remember the no fly zones)? There are thousands of Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq living in my city who certainly are grateful that their relatives don’t face mass gas attacks and genocide because he is no longer in power. Would that be preferable?

    Is George W. Bush the worst president ever? Worse than James Buchanan who took a pass on dealing with the slavery issue and ultimately set us up for Civil War? Worse than Andrew Johnson who sold out newly freed Blacks for political advantage? Worse than Jackson who exiled Cherokees from their homeland to Oklahoma? Worse than McKinley who got us into war with Spain, and we’re still dealing with issues in Cuba today because of it? Worse than Carter whose legacy includes the Iranian revolution?

    There is far too much hubris and arm chair quarterbacking and criticism about a presidency that hasn’t yet ended and which on balance has probably produced more good in the world than ill, though history will be the judge of that. Whatever our politics though, some things ought always to be off limits in civil society. Throwing shoes at heads of state is one of them. I’m sure the response would be quite different if it were Obama at whom the object was thrown, and yet it would be no more or less disrespectful.

  20. Jeff Mitchell says:

    DM, the reporter was an avowed marxist. That explains everything about his actions, for *the* battle of the past century has been the battle for a future based on either Marxist socialism or Republican capitalism. These ideologies are entirely opposed to each other and are the fundamental clashing sides of every major political fight in the West. Every major political fight.

    Cold War dichotomy? This dichotomy has been in severe tension and conflict since the 1800s, and Marxist socialism now has the upper hand of power in the U.S. educational system, journalism schools, judiciary, and democratic party. The Left always treats every Republican capitalist the way this journalist treated Bush. They have to, for it’s an ideological fight to the death. Both the Left and Right understand what’s at stake.

    Though God is not Republican or Democrat, it is clear that the Democratic Party is gaming for a secularist socialist godless state. The Republican Party (at least for the past decades), is the only party dedicated to traditional Christian ethics, capitalism, and states run by “the people.”

  21. Jusitfy Not says:

    I wonder what would have happened to the journalist if he threw a shoe at Saddam?

  22. Randall says:

    @JM

    I don’t think it’s clear that “Democratic Party is gaming for a secularist socialist godless state.” I think they are closer to the heart of Jesus on issues of tackling poverty and caring for the homeless and the marginalized. They may be further from the heart of Jesus on other issues but the Republican party is in the same boat. They may be closer to the heart of Jesus on issues like abortion and euthanasia but are very far from the heart of Jesus on issues like war and aggression.

    Shane Claiborne said that if he were asked if he were a Democrat or a Republican he would ask back, “on what issue?” Neither party has a monopoly on the teachings of Jesus.

  23. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Randall,

    Both the Democratic marxist socialists and the Republican capitalists care about the poor and homeless. But they have diametrically opposed methods and solutions for how to rescue them.

    The Democratic socialists believe in state-run everything, wherein the citizens work for the state and their wages are confiscated by the state and then redistributed. That’s where the U.S. Democratic Party has been heading for the past 50 years. However, this system doesn’t work, for it doesn’t encourage freedom, entrepreneurship, innovation, or business growth. And without that, the whole nation becomes poor, and then the citizens are poor while the rulers horde whatever wealth exists.

    In contrast, the Republican capitalists know that capitalism generates and distributes the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of citizens. (Even the poor in the US are relatively rich when compared to the poor in socialist dictatorships. This is because the Republican Capitalist system has worked with amazing efficiency over the past 200 years.) The downside to Capitalism, as we all understand, is that while even the poor do well within capitalist countries, the rich become *super-rich*. But that’s a small inequity to bear when one considers the the higher quality of life and standard of living achieved through Republican capitalism.

    As for war, socialist dictatorships around the world are *not* pacifistic. Rather, they are militaristic. By comparison, the U.S. (a Republic and Capitalist nation) has been remarkably restrained in using force. (We could have easily conquered the whole world by now, but that’s not how we view America’s place in the world.)

  24. dm says:

    @JM: No. What “explains everything about his actions” is not his abstract political ideology. Far more fundamental would be, oh, that he has lost family and friends, or that he was kidnapped, or held “for questioning” by US troops…!

    Randall nails it on “Republican values”. Capitalism and “states run by the people” are not specifically Christian virtues. Much less “preventative war”, torture, unconcern for the poor…

  25. Sam says:

    Remember how much confidence evangelical Christians, especially James Dobson, placed in Bush? Remember all the wonderful things they promised he would do for the country?

    Remember all the money, time and effort some of those same folks spent on the recent election, especially in their efforts to pass Proposition 8 in California?

    I’ve read the Bible many times and have yet to find the place that tells me to rely on the political process. I do find many places that tell me to rely on God, however. He is in control. The world is not going to fall apart if I fail to vote for Bush, for Prop 8 and so on. God is in control. If I can depend on Him for my eternal destiny, I can depend on Him here and now, not just personally, not just as the church, but also as a nation. I depend on God, not George Bush or any other politician or proposition.

    So – Instead of spending our time, money and effort on the political process (which I can not find the Bible telling us to do), how about we do what it does tell us to do? Matthew 25:34-36 might give us some ideas on where to start.

  26. Randall says:

    @JM

    “. . .their wages are confiscated by the state and then redistributed.”

    Again, one might argue that this is closer to (although not exactly) what Jesus had in mind when instructing the rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor – a teaching he followed up with the warning about how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

    Also, the problem of the “super-rich” isn’t the only problem generated by capitalism. There are also issues of environmental sustainability and exploitation (and many others) that need to be addressed.

    I’m not saying capitalism is a bad system per se, I’m just suggesting that it’s probably not the system that Jesus would have supported – at least not in its entirety.

  27. Matthew says:

    I definitely had a mixed reaction to Mr Zaidi’s protest – I was not happy to see it, but there was a lot of pain and anger in his voice as he threw his shoes, and those are probably not irrational feelings, given what he has seen and experienced over the past six years. There’s little doubt now that his action had incredible symbolic weight.

    Also, Mr Mitchell, I completely disagree about the efficacy of capitalism (at least as it has been practised for the past thirty years) at improving the quality of life for the poor. What we see is not actual wealth being produced, but investment in markets which produce nothing – banks got wealthy from people using their homes as ATM machines because of lack of sufficient economic regulation and accountability, and the economy bottomed out as a result. Now we are bailing out the wealthiest people in the country (Republicans and Democrats) for being completely irresponsible under the licence granted them by rampant free-market laissez-faire policy – we are not bearing good fruit for the poor or the homeless this way, either here or elsewhere in the world.

    And it is worth bearing in mind that our Lord and Saviour preached and directed non-violent action against structures of social and economic inequality, as well as against the wealthy colonial and entrepreneurial powers of his own time (the scribal class, the Temple moneychangers and the courtiers of King Herod).

    Also, Dr Cho – I just discovered this blog, and I’m finding it a very enlightening and thought-provoking site. Thank you very much for hosting it.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  28. Jeff Mitchell says:

    To DM, political ideology is not something “abstract” but rather visceral and motivational. It drives behaviors and determines how one interprets the world. The journalist (like most journalists) is a Marxist socialist; George Bush is a Republican capitalist. The two individuals are on two different sides of an ideological and cultural battle. Thus, the journalist throws shoes “to humiliate” Bush. As a Republican capitalist, Bush pledges to make Iraq a free democracy. Finally, capitalism distributes the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of people in a nation. So, there’s your best bet for the poor.

  29. JB says:

    Well I always try to imaging how people would feel if the shoe were on the other foot…so to speak (heh).

    If we were not the world’s superpower, and someone came and occupied our country, and those occupiers were of a country that was primarily led by and peopled with people of the Muslim faith, and whatever reason they say they came for the vast majority of Americans were outraged and wanted them OUT, already, and each and every one of us had innocent family and friends killed as a result of the invasion and occupation, and when you walked down Westlake you saw tanks filled with the other country’s army, you had no power and were in constant fear,….you might not worry about whether a person who threw a shoe at that muslim country’s leader, who admitted to using Seattle as “flypaper” to draw terrorists to Seattle so that they didn’t have to fight them in their own country….well, you just might find that rude shoe-thrower to be your biggest hero.

    I think if we were occupied a whole lot of Americans would be in the streets fighting, and if someone killed himmself taking out some occupiers, we’d call them a patriot.

    Not saying it’s right, the killing, and suicide bombing, in fact, the opposite. I wouldn’t be doing or applauding it. But I think some of the most outraged Americans would be the ones throwing shoes, and IEDs.

  30. benjamin says:

    not to take away from the seriousness of this topic, but is anyone else impressed as I am at our current president’s reflexes?

  31. benjamin says:

    ah…I just read your post IY. I guess you beat me to it!

  32. Jeff Mitchell says:

    To Randall,

    You said that Jesus would want the state to confiscate wages and then redistribute them. Republican capitalists argue that Jesus wants a system of charity to be based not on state-enforced coercion but rather on love and duty. Yes, the rich have a Christian duty to use their greater wealth for greater acts of charity. But this philanthropy is not to be coerced through state-confiscation.

    Again, if we want to help the poor, our system must be a Capitalist one, for it is the only economic system that generates productivity and wealth for the greatest number of citizens within a nation. Capitalism is entirely sustainable and more environmentally friendly, for private ownership results in the best care of land, assets, and means of production. State-ownership always leads to greater sprawl, pollution, and wasted resources.

    Capitalism is based on biblical principles of private ownership and the right of workers to keep their wages. Socialism denies both private ownership and the right of workers to keep their earnings at the end of each day. Socialism is an unjust system at the core, and it doesn’t make the citizenry any better off with regard to the quality of life and standard of living.

    Can capitalism be made even better? Absolutely. The continued integration of Christian ethics into it will make it even more productive and charitable. Socialism, on the other hand, by removing freedom of entrepreneurship and innovation, destroys the potential for wealth creation, leaving everyone worse off–except for the dictator.

  33. Jeff Mitchell says:

    In response to Matthew,

    Compare the poor in the U.S. to the poor of other countries. The poor in the U.S. have their basic needs met and even some cable television and Xboxes. They aren’t starving, and they aren’t living exposed to the elements or in grass huts. This high standard of living for the poor is owed to the wealth-generating-and-spreading power of capitalism.

    As for the present banking crisis, this was caused during the late 1990s when the government *forced* banks to begin lending to millions of people who couldn’t afford houses. Once the inevitable defaults ensued, it bankrupted the mortgage firms who had tons of empty houses on their hands and no money. Banks didn’t get wealthy, they got bankrupted!

    The banks usually resisted giving “subprime” high-risk loans to poor people, but the government forced them to do it. And if you loan all your money out to people who you know can’t pay you back, you eventually lose all your money. This is what happened to the banks.

  34. JB says:

    Current mortgage crisis is vastly larger than the outstanding value of mortgages in default. It is a huge ponzi scheme, almost unbelievable in its audacity, really. Mortgages were only cheap and easy to get because the scheme demanded that there be some underlying asset, somewhere. It is due to deregulation and greed, and an assumption by the financial elite that housing prices would only ever go up.

    Michael Lewis’ latest book is a must-read.

  35. Tom says:

    ‘The journalist in question thought the president was his father-in-law. No loafers of mass destruction exist in Iraq. And as everyone knows who has any contact with angry urban young men the term ‘dog’ is normally used as a term of affection.’

    –Dana Perino

    Just joking, of course, with the Dana Perino quote. She didn’t actually say that (I guess she got whacked in the head in the melee after the incident), but as a piece of satire its not too far away from the kind of disinformation campaign the Bush admin has carried on for 8 years. If he’s disliked by journalists around the world in general, I think that’s a big part of it.

    A couple of comments in response to some assertions that have been made here:

    1. @ elderj, I can’t agree with you about your statement that relatively few people have been killed in the war in Iraq. Estimates of Iraqi deaths and casualties vary, but some of the most reliable studies estimate, at a minimum, that at least a couple of hundred thousand have died with four of five times that number wounded. Millions have become refugees and left Iraq, and the country has been basically ethnically cleansed and segregated on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. Its been pretty disastrous for the Iraqi people by almost any standard. The numbers of civilians and enemy combatants killed and wounded has been systematically ignored and spun by the administration. We’ve been shielded from the real results of the war, even to the point that we’re not allowed to see the flag draped coffins of our own soldiers.

    Whether some folks believe that those costs were worth paying in order to remove Saddam Hussein is another issue, though it’s important to remember that that wasn’t the reason we fought the war. Had they tried to sell it along those lines there would have been no war. I don’t know any commentators or intellectuals on any part of the spectrum who don’t agree on that point.

    @ Jeff. I appreciate your convictions about capitalism, but I wonder if there is more to the discussion than the way you’re casting it? For one, I’m not sure why you feel the need to create such a black and white distinction between ‘democratic marxist socialists and republican capitalists?’ I say this with respect, but if you think democrats or American (or Iraqi!) journalists are marxist socialists I wonder if you understand either marxism or socialism.

    In my experience virtually all Americans are capitalists; the debate is about how much and in what ways the government is involved. There is no such thing as free market capitalism and there never has been such a thing–the economic system of capitalism has always relied on governments to develop the conditions in which it can flourish, has always relied on government regulation to keep it honest and functioning, and has always relied on governments to bail it out when it goes badly wrong. Again, the debate that most thoughtful people have along the political spectrum is how the government–within a capitalist framework–should provide those services and how involved it should be in directing market decisions, setting prices, lending a hand to those who are struggling economically. But those are debates are between people who all largely accept and embrace capitalism, and frankly, who all largely accept the existence of an extensive social safety net. It’s not a discussion between ‘marxist socialists’ on the one hand and ‘free marketers’ on the other.

    That’s the real deal, no matter what political idealogues trying to ‘rev’ up the base or entertainers like Rush Limbaugh or some of the people on the Daily Kos say. Those folks get paid to polarize people’s thinking by setting up straw men and then knocking them down. Polarizing doesn’t contribute much to the real debate, and its part of the reason why ideologues on both end of the spectrum are often disappointed in their parties–they never really understood the nature of the real discussion or differences.

    As for your comments about capitalism and the poor, you have a point, but its far more complicated than you seem to allow for. Capitalism–the way it’s actually practiced and not the theory–has done both lots of good for and lots of damage to poor people. As to whether it’s sustainable, well, I guess some wonder if capitalism has played a crucial role in doing tremendous damage to the environment, and others wonder if capitalism–at least the free market fantasy version that some folks peddle–is even sustainable as an economic system. You’ve probably noticed that our current version of capitalism is on life support at this point. So maybe it’s going to take more than a few small tweaks and the introduction of a few more Christian values to make it serve people better than it has.

  36. elderj says:

    @Tom – the key words in my statement are “relatively few.” Far fewer have died in this war, both Iraqi civilians and military personnel, than have died in most wars, than have died in the ongoing conflict in the Congo, in the Korean War, in Vietnam, etc. War is horribly, terribly destructive, and I don’t believe that states should wield the sword lightly and certainly not unless we must. I did not support this war and I do not believe it was well prosecuted. As for whether it has been more disastrous for the Iraqi people than the 10 previous years of devastating economic sanctions under Clinton, or the 10 years of war with Iran, or the ongoing brutality of Hussein — well now that’s hard to say isn’t it?

  37. Matthew says:

    In the case of the condition of poor in other countries, the ravages of capitalism have been even worse – in the third world, capitalism has failed to act as a wealth-spreading force, but rather as a force for removal of resources and exploitation of cheap labour for concentrating wealth in the hands of the investors (who reside in the first world). What wealth is generated in the third world is generated as the result of investment in local markets, duly regulated to slow down the outward cash flow. As to the banking crisis, it has its roots far deeper, in the 1980′s with the Reagan-era savings-and-loan laws (supported by both Republicans and pro-deregulation Democrats) – since, we’ve been in a spiral of deregulatory policies which have encouraged avaricious behaviour. An overabundance of government involvement is not in the picture here; rather, the libertarian myth that the private sector can police itself is caught at the scene of the crime.

    But the error you seem to be making is that you treat the market as central, rather than the teachings of Christ. The market does not understand Christian ethics nor does it understand charity, only the forces of supply and demand hold any sway in the agora. As such, public regulation of the markets, to protect the economically distressed from being trampled underfoot by rampant, amoral market forces, is absolutely and utterly necessary to protect the very things that Christians must necessarily value – the family (particularly poor families) and the community.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  38. kevin says:

    Three cheers to Jeff Mitchell for being so funny. His satirical posts really do a very good job of poking fun at conservatives.

  39. Kheidr says:

    am sorry Americans and i really feel bad about the shoe hitting the american flag
    actually this what made me upset about the whole situation!
    as an Egyptian, if someone threw a shoe on our Egyptian flag i will definitely feel terrible.

    But what happened here is what’s been happening for the last decade! Bush always Ducks, and the Americans get the hit! The only difference today that we all actually saw it with our own eyes!

    actually i’ve been myself in a business trip to New York and i adooooored the americans, such a lovely people, very nice very friendly, not as we hear in the media…

    Am terribly sorry but he is the one who caused that shoe throw!
    and he’s the one to be blamed not the journalist!!

  40. Jeff Mitchell says:

    To Matthew,

    Where have you seen capitalism tried and failed in third world countries? The only ones I can think of are China and India, and these are now *former* third world countries. The only danger with China is that the government can step in and confiscate at any time. But I think China is now growing at over 8% GDP, and that’s amazing.

    And this current banking crisis started with the Subprime Lending wave, which begins in the 1990s under coercion of the federal government. The government actually forced banks to lend to people the banks believed could not pay mortgage bills. That is what bankrupted the banks.

    The market is based on various biblical *principles*: the right of a worker to own his own wages at the end of each day. The right of a worker to own a home and other assets; the right of citizens to start their own business; the necessity of investment; the intrinsic evil of stealing another man’s wages and property. When a whole nation has such rights, it creates a “market.”

    The “free market” is just people acting out their daily work and keeping the wages they earn. Now, people with Christian ethics produce better private and public sectors. So, a free people can only stay free and happy so long as they have personal morals and personal responsibility.

    In capitalism, some poor people are getting themselves un-poor each day, because they have the freedom and opportunity to try. In socialism, the people are given whatever the state dictator decides. There is no “freedom.” There is no “try.”

  41. deneenwhite says:

    I truly believe that President George W Bush will have a great legacy. It’s easy to point out how many men and women have died in Iraq. What is impossible to determine is how mant lives were saved over the course of the last seven years due to his presidency.

    Who says that President Bush isn’t a “sharp, brilliant, intelligent, and articulate leader who seeks to serve, protect, and lead the entire country?” OK–he’s not the most eloquent man that’s ever spoken, but from what I’ve heard he is everything else that you say is necessary as president of the US. I believe, with everything inside of me, that President Bush did more to serve and protect our country than any leader before him. I’ve also heard that he gets up before dawn to pray for our country.

  42. Megan says:

    I applaud those of you who have taken a stab at talking some sense into Jeff. However, he made it very clear in his first post that he is an ideologue. This means he will dismiss anything that doesn’t agree with his ideology and will endorse even illogical ideas that do agree with his ideology. Your efforts are better spent in discussion with people who can think and reason for themselves instead of swallowing (hook, line, and sinker) everything that comes out of the conservative Christian and Republican machines.

  43. Megan says:

    I applaud those of you who have taken a stab at talking some sense into Jeff. However, he made it very clear in his first post that he is an ideologue. This means he will dismiss anything that doesn’t agree with his ideology and will endorse even illogical ideas that do agree with his ideology. Your efforts are better spent in discussion with people who can think and reason for themselves instead of swallowing everything that comes out of the conservative Christian and Republican machines.

  44. Megan says:

    Sorry for the duplicate post!

  45. elderj says:

    megan – with respect, your comments about Jeff evince a rather unsophisticated and unfair assessment of him. By designating him “an ideologue” you have not engaged the validity (or invalidity) of his ideas. Further, you imply that Jeff is somehow unreasoning or unthinking; that he is swallowing something that is on its face absurd and that no reasonable person could accept. There is no conservative Christian “machine,” and even if there were, it would not undermine the credibility of arguments advanced from that perspective. Ideas that you don’t agree with are not necessarily illogical.

  46. Hak Kim says:

    Most Americans who saw that video will feel thusly:

    Bush = bad dog that rips out the furniture, chews on shoes and pees on the carpet.
    Journalist = next door neighbor who tried to spank the dog for ruining his yard.

    Us, Americans = “You can’t spank the dog! It’s our bad dog dammit! Only we can spank it!!”

    I think we pity him more than we hate him. And I think that’s the worst kind of legacy to have.

  47. Matthew says:

    Jeff, I’ve been in China – in Beijing, in Sichuan, in Guangxi, Guangdong, Dongbei and several other provinces. And capitalism seriously hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be over there. Yes, there is an expanding middle class, but it is primarily confined to the cities and to the east coast. Neither communism nor capitalism has had a very great effect on the material well-being of the people living in the small towns and the countryside, though, where people don’t have the resources to start improving their own economic situations on their own under the capitalist parcelling strategy and are blamed for it by the government and the private sector at large when they don’t. I did a study on it which I won’t reproduce here in total, but suffice it to say that from a pragmatic standpoint, the economic policies which have met with the most economic success in the poor rural west are neither capitalist nor communist, but communitarian: villages banding together and pooling their resources, placing limits on their own engagement in the national market for the common betterment of everyone in the village – very similar to the early Christian model.

    With regard to the principles behind the market, I would advise you to read Adam Smith. He did not base his ideas nor his ideology, which became the later bedrock for capitalist and libertarian thinking, upon ‘biblical principles’ – he was a decidedly Enlightenment thinker who placed more emphasis on ‘reason’ and ‘empiricism’ as they were then construed.

    elderj, I agree with you that I don’t know Jeff personally and I cannot therefore presume to understand him or judge his character. However, he has presented a Manichaean vision of the world and an ideological framework which I do not think squares well with Scripture, particularly the Gospel and the letters of Paul. And I beg to differ with you about conservative Christianity – there has been a demonstrable, concerted movement since the 1980′s to assert a reactionary social and political agenda based on a form of extreme Calvinist theology, and it has been spearheaded by several organisations including the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.

    Megan, I thank you for your concern, but I should not write someone off when he says something which is wrong or wrong-headed or which he may have picked up from some unreliable source, but rather in a spirit of compassion and humility attempt to correct him. I think many of us on the left make the mistake of undervaluing or writing off our brothers and sisters among the conservatives, and that doesn’t serve us well at all, but rather feeds the cycle of alienation, resentment and false consciousness that plagues so much of our politics.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  48. gregory says:

    will all of you who continue to “throw shoes” at our President please stop. have you considered praying for the man who has the weight of the last eight years on his soul? Where were all the shoes when mr clinton acted so “presidential” with monica and a cigar? Hmmmmm?
    God Almighty is Sovereign over all of this. Throw your shoes at God. If you dare.

  49. elderj says:

    Matthew – God bless you as well. I don’t know enough about Manichaenism to comment on it specifically, but I know a bit about history and economics in the context of history. As Jeff asserts, foundational aspects of free market economies are as rooted in scriptural ideas of human freedom and autonomy as are ideas of equity and justice in economics. It is not incidental that free market economies took greatest root in parts of the world dominated intellectually by Christian thought. Capitalism is a Marxist usage to describe free markets. Capitalism does have as its cost increasing economic inequity and anyone examining any western country during the period of the industrial revolution could have concluded (as did Marx) that capitalism was a horrible system. However, despite its social costs, very few would have wanted a return to the economic system that preceded large scale capitalist mobilization of industry – -which was largely communitarian and local. Free markets create an incentive for individuals to be more productive and to take risks that are disincentivized under socialist schemes.

    As for the assessment of Christian conservative movement, I agree there has been a political agenda advance by certain Christian groups. I don’t know if calling them reactionary is fair, and in any event, there must be engagement with the ideas rather than a summary dismissal, or what is even worse, the condescension implied in your statement about “in a spirit of compassion and humility attempt to correct him.” In an exchange of ideas, both persons must be willing to be convinced, and neither can assume a posture of informing and correcting the other.

  50. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    China’s newfound (partial) capitalism is only a couple decades or so old. Since free market reforms in 1978, China’s GDP has grown an average 9.9 percent a year. China’s per capita income has grown at an average annual rate of more than 8% over the last three decades, and this has reduced poverty. Things are only just starting there, Matt. And the state has restricted economic reforms to a few cities. So, you’re only going to be able to measure the change in those areas.

    I obviously agree that Christianity is heavy on charity, but not the coerced or confiscatory “charity” as the marxists preach (so as to enrich the dictators and crush economic progress and growth for citizens). Moreover, scripture allows individuals to own both private property and their wages at the end of the day. So, we know for a fact that the ancient Jews were not communistic. Moreover, scripture warns against overtaxation, and capitalists of course agree to moderate taxation. So, the biblical principles are there to support free enterprise informed by a culture of philanthropy and Christian ethics.

    Never in scripture do we ever see coerced state-mandated redistribution of wealth (i.e., government theft). God is against such violations of the human person and his work.

  51. Jeff Mitchell says:

    ElderJ,

    You are correct in saying that “Capitalism does have as its cost increasing economic inequity.” But this is only a problem for those with unbridled envy. The fact is that Capitalism generates and distributes the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of citizens in a country. No other country can claim anything comparable. And in America, Capitalism has enabled our poorest citizens to have their basic food clothing and shelter needs met. (Amazing, when compared to the poor of non-capitalist countries. And we have 300 million citizens to care for.)

    Those who really care about the poor must therefore care about establishing and maintaining healthy capitalism in a nation (and teaching the ultimate virtue of charity/philanthropy, especially from the richest citizens). That’s economic justice for the poor.

  52. Matthew says:

    Gregory – all I have to say is that Bush is not God, no more so than Clinton, and he has done an incredibly poor job with regard to our foreign policy, which ought to be predicated on (at the very least) an Augustinian concept of when force may be used justly. I’m not sure shoe-throwing is the appropriate response, but a similar, more non-violent act might have been called-for here.

    ElderJ and Jeff – your points are well-taken and I do stand ready to be proven wrong, but at the same time, I have to object to the mischaracterisation of what I know to be the realities of the history of capitalism particularly as it has manifested among third world nations. Capitalism is not a ‘biblical’ notion, and to say so betrays an extraordinary level of anachronism – capitalism emerged as a result of Enlightenment principles and the growth of industrial technologies and economic niches. In Biblical times, the economics of the Jewish and Roman states were heavily tied up in the religious activities of the Temple (which also served as a governmental authority), so any analogy between that time and the present, industrial one would be of incredibly limited usefulness.

    I must also object to the false notion that capitalism is somehow a ‘new’ concept to the Chinese. The Chinese were well-accustomed to capitalism, particularly when the Western powers of the 19th century established (by force) spheres of influence in China to exploit local resources (such as tea) and ready markets for opiates – and they saw capitalist regimes (and rightly so) not as beneficent, but as predatory. The reaction to capitalism beginning under Sun Zhongshan was based in sound principles (the three Principles of the People – democracy, self-rule and socialism), but it was carried to radical and tragically destructive extremes by sociopaths such as Mao and the Gang of Four in later decades. This is not to argue against the Deng-era reforms , which have done a world of good in some urban areas (the statistics you cite are indeed valid), but in rural areas, the Deng policy of forced privatisation and land parcelling has not led to greater production or distribution of wealth (in fact, many residents of the areas I had studied preferred the commune systems of the Mao era, though feelings toward the Mao regime itself were not very warm). Again, the systems which met with the greatest economic success (even in these industrial times) were small village enterprises which relied on cooperative, limited common-property strategies (though there were other fairly significant factors in the equation, such as ethno-religious tensions and drought).

    Also, I would hope some more stringent economic regulations would be called-for when it comes to lead paint in children’s toys and contaminants in dairy products – for humanitarian purposes if nothing else. This, as with the banking crisis, ought to be an object lesson in the amoral nature of unbridled market forces.

    Jesus had a special solidarity with the poor and marginalised of his day, and his words toward the structures of social and economic inequality of his day were not affirming ones, and I would note that certain capitalistic structures today create similar disparities and social distinctions that the Temple authorities and moneychangers did in Jesus’ time. We must never forget that we worship God – that is, the God who in the person of Jesus sat with the poor and outcast and healed the socially-marginalised – and not mammon, the idol of the markets.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  53. elderj says:

    @matthew – I think we all are agreed that Jesus has a special solidarity with and concern for the poor, and in this way he was firmly in line with the prophetic tradition of the OT. And while some contemporary capitalistic structures foster disparity, it is preferable to previous systems of relatively static economic mobility it replaced. Social and economic inequity existed long before capitalism. I do not worship mammon but that idols been around a lot longer than capitalism as it is presently understood.

    Your argument that capitalism emerged from Enlightenment philosophies does not square with historical evidence nor even with your own assertion about the development of capitalism in China.

    Certainly I agree that the economic exploitation of so-called 3rd world countries was and is deplorable, but I don’t know that it can be laid entirely at the feet of capitalism alone. There were multiple factors leading to imperialism, whether the mercantile imperialism of the early modern era, or the later industrial imperialism of the Victorian Era. In many ways what was most exploitative about imperialism is that the markets fostered were not indeed free and colonial subjects of European empires (and Chinese in ‘spheres of influence’) were not free to develop economically in ways that were most efficient.

  54. CG says:

    The churches in Iraq actually praise God for Bush. I have a good friend who is a Iraqi pastor there of the largest church in Bagdad and is planting churches all over Iraq. One of Sadaam’s right hand generals – who is a believer and was imprisoned just before the end of the war – is also grateful for Bush. Maybe we should look outside our media saturated box and see what our Iraqi brothers and sister in Christ have to say. Not saying all he did was right on but we should see that somehow God’s hand was working for His people. By the way, that was a great dodge by George W.

  55. JM says:

    Before you generalize about all Christians in Iraq please know I have heard from many pastors and priests there who are deeply saddened both with our presence in Iraq and the lack of Christians in America who spoke up against the war before it happened. There was even a group of Christian leaders in Iraq who asked the American church to speak out against the war before it happened, because they saw it coming, and our churches were, on the whole, doing the exact opposite. Persecution of Christians has dramtatically increased since our occupation and Christians who once had stable lives are now refugees, a persecuted minority and in some cases martyrs. All Christians in Iraq definitely are not thanking God for GW.

  56. CG says:

    @JM:

    Thanks for your input. My friend would whole-heartedly disagree. We just spoke last month and He, his family, his church and the many church plants have suffered greatly for the gospel however from their point of view they are teafullly grateful for our nation. We have supported and visited these churches since the end of the war. They are quickly growing and winning many Muslims to Christ. Last year in speaking with this Iraqi general, he was well was overwhelmed with gratitiude. He knew of the WMDs. He also knew his government was corrupt. On the other hand, I was not aware of these pastors and priests who spoke up against the war. I will give that to you and concede that I assumed they spoke on behalf of the masses of believers.

    Here are a few of his comments four years ago – http://www.christianitytoday.com/tc/2004/001/2.27.html

    Today, he is even more passionate in his gratitude towards our President. Honestly, his comments took my by surprise but I am more understanding as I hear their (the churches) stories.

  57. VL says:

    i felt at times like a coward for not expressing my views on the war, sometimes my silence was justified because it was too devisive an issue for everyday conversation. up to this day i really dont know what went on, i can understand that at imes its best if the press doesnt report the reality of war while it is going on.

  58. Daniel says:

    I think an important idea to remember is that God can use all things for His glory. Both good and evil. I believe the war in Iraq was wrong, but I’m certain that God will still use the events for His glory. It doesn’t justify the action though.

  59. Jusitfy Not says:

    I find it amazing that the some of the people who claim we should all be in prayer for President elect Obama (which I agree with) are so quick to dimiss prayers for President Bush and laugh about the infamous shoe throwing.

  60. eugenecho says:

    hey folks,

    just got back from an all day staff retreat and ‘attempting’ to read some of the comments here and on fbook. iposted a few comments from fb here engagement.

    again, i thank folks for your thoughtful and respectful dialogue. i seriously think i can put together an entire book on just some of our comments.

    i do have to say that it’s really easy to play armchair quarterback. we criticize, laugh, judge, mock, etc…and often times, beyond our words, we do nothing.

  61. n-n says:

    Let me be the first to say it: I am a sinner.

    My initial reaction to hearing about Muntadhar al-Zaidi lobbing his shoes at bush was not what one could characterize as Christian. Al-Zaidi expressed very poignantly the feelings I have had towards this president for the last five years: disgust and anger.

    gw bush has disgraced the office he has held, disgraced this country, and disgraced the citizens of this country.

    Although I cannot condone al-Zaidi’s action (as much as I’d like to), bush and the rest of the world needed to hear what al-Zaidi had to say.

  62. chad m says:

    glad you posted on this Eugene. i have to say, GW has some moves. did you see how he evaded that shoe?! our boy is wicked quick. anyway. have to say that your reflection about this man even being able to throw said shoe because of the circumstances on point. what an idea! it’s like when democracy goes bad and the wrong dude is elected. sometimes when people are allowed to finally express their true feelings, it ain’t always nice….hmmmmm

  63. Don Bryant says:

    My frustration level with Bush is so high that I totally get throwing a shoe. Gosh, he is so exasperating. I am generally a conservative, but I did not vote for either Bush. I told my boys that a vote for Bush would mean going to war – and so it was. Bush will not be know for the war on terrorism. He will be known for being stupid about it and wrecking the USA while he was doing it. Bush flying onto the aircraft carrier in his aviator suit tells you about all you need to know about this man. I surprise myself about how upset I get with him. He is a Republican Jimmy Carter – bumbling, confused and out of hisleague in handling a crisis.

  64. Matthew says:

    ElderJ – thank you for the correction. It seems the first true capital ventures were undertaken by the Dutch and the Italians in the 17th century, before the Enlightenment. It wasn’t until Adam Smith, though, that the ideas behind venture capitalism became codified into an ideology of the market, so I could have been more specific about that. As to the development of capitalism in China, it didn’t really happen until the late Qing Dynasty – generally the market was not the preferred way of gaining wealth social status under the Confucian doctrines and the Imperial state (education in the Classics and becoming a member of the literati through the civil service exams being preferred), and the economic climate was not conducive to risk-taking and industrial innovation.

    Don – I also understand that frustration. I’ve been frustrated for the past eight years of seeing opportunities for creative and constructive engagement with the rest of the world squandered by the Bush Administration’s lust for violence and disdain for the opinions of the international community. I truly hope that an Obama administration will be true to its word in not provoking the same kind of resentment, and allowing us to recover some of those lost opportunities.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  65. Jeff Mitchell says:

    As for the shoe-thrower, it’s a testimony to the victory of the Iraq war that he had the freedom to throw shoes at the state rulers and not be beheaded. Moreover, he had freedom to sit in a press room and report whatever he wanted in his newspaper/media outlet. That shoe-thrower can thank Bush for the fact that he’s not in a Saddam torture chamber with his nuts in screws. And Bush celebrates this fact, too, even though he was the target of the shoes. That’s remarkable.

    To Matthew, the *principles* of capitalism are biblical. I listed those earlier. (Right to own property, right to own one’s wages at the end of each day, freedom to operate a business, hard work and investment.) And when a whole nation has these rights (as Americans do), it produces a high quality of life and standard of living for all citizens. This system directly helps the poor. (Please take a moment to compare the living standard of the poor in the U.S. with the poor elsewhere.)

    You are plain wrong about the banking crisis. Again, the U.S. banking crisis was caused when the government forced banks to offer millions of new loans to “subprime” (i.e., not-able-to-pay) customers. Subprime lending was a practice most banks knew to be business suicide, for lending to people who can’t pay you is reckless banking. When millions of subprime customers subsequently stepped up to buy homes they could never afford, the doom clock for the banks began ticking. Within about 7 years time, the defaults began flooding in, and the banks suddenly had a bunch of foreclosed and devalued homes on their hands and zero money in their businesses. The whole sector was brought down by the government’s meddling, and the collapse of that banking sector has now screwed up many other sectors that rely on banks to operate their businesses. This government-created crisis is now creating severe financial pain for all Americans, and the poor are way worse off in a bad economy.

    The fact remains that socialism doesn’t produce wealth for any citizens except for the ruling class, who live off a few state-run industries like energy or mining. Capitalism distributes the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest number of citizens, and it produces goods and services that meet real human needs. Capitalism with the expectation of philanthropy is the hope of the poor. (Buffet and Gates alone have given more money and medicine to needy people than most governments on this planet.)

  66. Dadofiandi says:

    Who do we think we are that we are beyond reproach? Throwing a shoe is wrong but I can understand the sentiment.

    I have to agree with what JB said about if the US were being liberated and how we would react if our neighbors or family members were killed or subjected to interrogation, our houses being searched. Living without electricity and plumbing etc.

    A couple of other points:The Bush administration didn’t go to war to liberate the Iraqi’s from Sadaam but for the infamous WMD’s and a “connection” to Al Queda (sp). We also shouldn’t forget the US support of his regime as well.

    As far as deaths go, perhaps the number is not as large as other wars, but that is cold comfort to someone who lost a loved one(s).

  67. dm says:

    @Jeff: To Matthew, the *principles* of capitalism are biblical. I listed those earlier. (Right to own property, right to own one’s wages at the end of each day, freedom to operate a business, hard work and investment.)

    I’ll start buying that when we re-institute the Year of Jubilee.

  68. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Listen, DM, your socialist solution is not an option if you really care about the poor and justice in general. Socialism doesn’t generate any wealth for anyone. Moreover, the system says that individuals don’t have a right to own their property and wages at the end of the day. They are slaves to the state. Where’s the justice in that?

  69. dm says:

    I’m not a socialist.

  70. Jeff Mitchell says:

    A communist? Certainly not a capitalist.

  71. dm says:

    Indeed, certainly not a capitalist. No, not a communist, either.

    I guess I lean more towards the communitarian, but ultimately I reject all labels. I am a human.

  72. Matthew says:

    Jeff, where is the right to own and run a business mentioned in the Bible? Property rights are laid out in the Pentateuch, but it seems to me that you are imposing your own values system anachronistically back upon Scripture, rather than taking Scripture in context.

    And your model of the banking crisis could use some tweaking. It doesn’t explain, for example, why the percentage of loans from the big investment banks which were subprime stayed below 10% until 2004, when they suddenly skyrocketed to over 20%. That jump was not due to government intervention. That was due to a number of private investors thinking they could use subprime lending as a pyramid scam.

    Also, I must object to your branding anyone who disagrees with your analysis a ‘communist’ in this kind of pejorative, dismissive fashion – that smacks of the kind of Manichaean paranoia that was so prevalent during the 1950′s and ruined many people’s careers, who were innocent of any crime, and to be quite honest, it smacks of the scribes’ attempts to brand Jesus as Beelzebul. The idea that democratically-run government (as the guarantor of the public interest) does have a place in regulating the economy in the public interest is not communistic, it is not tyrannical, and it does not in itself impede the creation of wealth. The economies of modern Europe, South Korea, Japan and Singapore in no way correlate with that of Soviet Russia, and obviously they’re doing something right as they have top-rate standards of living and excellent distribution of wealth (though in each case, the government plays a large role in regulating the economy in the public interest).

    God bless,
    Matthew

  73. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Jeff to DM: “Are you Mac or PC?
    DM to Jeff: “I reject all labels. I am a human.”
    Jeff: Um…okay.

  74. Matthew says:

    And what if you’re Linux?

  75. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    The Hebrew society was agrarian, and the citizens were *owners* of animals, lands, and products. They made money off of their farming, and the owners kept their property and wages. Thus, they were *not* socialists, for they had economic freedom. Citizens in socialist countries do not have economic freedom.

    Fannie Mae, a government-owned institution, began buying all the subprime mortgages it could from private banks in order to bundle them into a new type of security that could be traded on international markets. The more mortgages it could purchase, the more it could bundle and resell as securities for big $$$$$$. To get as many mortgages as possible, Fannie pushed insane lending guidelines: no-money-down, no income verification, no bad credit restrictions, etc. The whole normal free-market system of banking was destroyed by such foolish though good intentioned government intervention. The $ 1 trillion-plus subprime homes all foreclosed in a short time, creating all sellers and few buyers, which made home prices everywhere sink to all time lows. Banks were stuck with millions of devalued and vacant homes—and no revenue.

    You may think that “communism” is a relic, but anyone with a basic understanding of economic systems knows that there are three types of economies currently battling it out: capitalist, socialist, communist. That’s not “paranoia,” it’s mankind’s struggle for the future.

    Most government attempts at meddling in business end up crushing whole industries. Very few government bureaucrats have any experience whatsoever in business and economics; almost none have ever run a business or hired a workforce or developed a product from concept to market. The rules they set are often so expensive to comply with or so out of touch with supply and demand that they end up bankrupting whole organizations and industries. And that hurts workers and consumers.

  76. dm says:

    @Jeff: Jeff to DM: “Are you Mac or PC?
    DM to Jeff: “I reject all labels. I am a human.”

    Matthew’s response was spot-on (“What if you’re Linux?”). There are some of us that don’t fit in the black-or-white, either-or, with-me-or-against-me framework that you seem to live in.

    One of my favorite scriptures is right before Joshua leads the march on Jericho. When confronted with the angel, he asks “are you for us or for our enemy?” The angel’s response is “neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come”.

  77. Rusty says:

    @ Jeff Mitchell

    I must say, I have enjoyed reading your exchanges with Matthew. May I suggest at this point, however, that you two are talking past each other. You seem to have a different definition of “capitalism” “socialism” and “communism” than Matthew (or most of us, for that matter). Jeff, I do not believe that socialism and capitalism are mutually exclusive ideas. Perhaps in theory, but certainly not as they ever historically been practiced. As for your usage of terms, I think Inigo Montoya said it best:

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  78. Jeff Mitchell says:

    DM,

    It is no virtue to be non-committal on capitalism vs. socialism. These are diametrically opposed systems, and only one (capitalism) creates and distributes wealth to masses and raises the quality of life. Only one (capitalism) says the worker owns his wages after a long day’s work. Only one says the worker can own a house or land (capitalism). Only one says individuals have freedom to start a business if they desire (capitalism).

    Socialism makes everyone a slave to the state and its dictators, and socialist countries don’t produce much in the way of products and services, generate wealth for citizens, or raise the standard of living for the poor.

  79. dm says:

    What Rusty said.

    -

    I’m not non-committal, I just believe that the two paradigms, though “diametrically opposed”, do not express the full range of possibilities available.

  80. Fitz says:

    I can’t condone violence, and a shoe could, most assuredly, hurt someone. But having followed up on the reporter, it is hard for me not to have empathy. Losing loved ones, arrest and mistreatment, a spectacularly corrupt government, and no real end to the violence in sight.

    We here talk about ‘success’ and ‘surge’, but Iraq is, after a trillion dollars and more than 100,000 deaths (and millions of refugees), a hellish, violent place. If I lived in it, and had it effect me personally, I am not so sure that I, myself, would not lash out.

    I think that it is especially sad that shoe violence is answerd not with pity, sympathy, and help, but with some very stern physical violence. Not only was the man, understandably, forcibly detained, he definately appears to be undergoing some serious mistreatment in custody.

    Can anyone really believe that more torture and inhumanity is the answer? Consider George Bush’s reaction to the shoe attack to that of Don Yun Yoon to the loss of his family. What happened to Yoon was completely beyond his control. The same cannot be said for George Bush and the hell on earth that is Iraq.

  81. J.J. Yoon says:

    I know this site is basically non-political but I want to write about Americans and their patriotism. First, I am not an American citizen but I love this country that’s why I came here. About a year after I came here, 9-11 happened which changed this country throughout the decade. Since then, I think the country has been divided into two. What surprises me is the lack of love of their own country, especially by college kids and the younger generation. How can you laugh when the president whether you like it or not is attacked? If 9-11 happened for example in another country, I’m sure that country that attacked will have its flags torn to shreds, burnt and stamped on in college campuses nationwide. I have witnessed that in Korea. Even a simple incident when an American is the assailant or accidents happen, the whole country would erupt and the media would insitgate even more.
    But not in this country. In this country, it could lead to racism and xenophobia so I’m glad that it doesn’t happen very often. What I’m questioning is the college kids and their love for the country. America showed for a while after 9-11 and soon it was gone. Don’t show weakness to the rest of the world. Go protest in front of the embassies of consuls when America is the victim. Use the Internet, send e-mails, faxes or letters.
    Remember. The 444 days of occupation of the US embassy in Tehran and the failed rescue attempt by Jimmy Carter (a Democrat), the body of the dead US pilot being dragged on the streets of Somalia during Bill Clinton (a Democrat). I’m sure Bush should’ve handled much better. America’s enemies don’t care whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. Bush didn’t create anti-Americanism in the world. Chavez and Castro will continue to hate America as long as these guys are in power. Those who voted for Obama supporters should know that. History repeats itself.

  82. Jeff Mitchell says:

    JJ Yoon,

    I’m so glad you love this country, and it may be that people like you can save it from a major internal divorce and collapse. You are right that the country is divided in two, and both sides have entirely different outlooks on America’s past and future. More and more, democrats and republicans can’t reconcile our different worldviews.

    Republicans love America’s past and are deeply patriotic to it and hope to continue the traditions and values that made America the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Democrats largely despise America’s history and see America as an oppressive country that needs to adopt socialism and reject former traditions and institutions. This shift is probably the result of public education more than anything, as our public education and media have been dominated and directed by influential marxist theorists for about 50 years now. As a result, patriotism is discouraged and mocked; traditional American values and institutions are discouraged and mocked; American history is derided and mocked. All the former ways of our people are insulted and spit on by young Americans and their marxist educators, entertainers, and social engineers.

    Your advice that Americans should “not show weakness” and “protest in front of the embassies of consuls when America is the victim” is warmly received only by Republicans. The democrats celebrate when Bush is attacked with shoes or when America is perceived to fail. It’s bizarre suicidal behavior, but that’s the state of our country today. We are definitely moving towards “two Americas,” and it’s hard to say whether it will lead to a permanent split or the victory of one side over the other.

  83. david says:

    jeff- just a question: is this binary world in which you live at all open to those who don’t fit your rigid categories? i’m young (relatively), a christian, an educator, a reluctant/suspicious capitalist, and i voted for obama.

    does that mean i’m automatically unpatriotic, a socialist/marxist, and i spit on american values and history? why do you find it constructive to paint anyone who disagrees with you as a part of the problem? if the country is indeed moving towards “two americas” as you seem to lament, then i hate to break it to you, but i’m not sure you’re helping to move it in the other direction towards a “more perfect union.”

    granted, this is america and we’re all free to disagree (a freedom for which i’m grateful), but judging from the host of comments here and my own experience of other “young americans” out there, i think your black or white, this or that, in or out, for us or against us mentality just doesn’t fit the reality of our current cultural context.

    i’m a taxpaying, law-abiding citizen, and there’s no other country on earth where i’d rather live and raise my family. but that doesn’t mean i can’t critique the mistakes and failures of our history while also celebrating the strengths and rich traditions of our past. as i’m sure the founding fathers would agree, patriotism is not blind allegiance, and part of the responsibility of waving the flag is taking advantage of the privilege to express my political conscience honestly. doesn’t blind loyalty lead to the authoritarianism you seem to despise?

    ditto on capitalism. it’s clear that no other economic system generates wealth like the free market. but isn’t mandatory gov’t taxation inherently a “socialist redistribution” of my wages? america has socialized all sorts of systems- libraries, post offices, fire & police stations, public schools- should all of these be privatized in the free market to ensure the totality of our commitment to capitalism? i think most of us realists recognize that there are some real strengths to capitalism, but that it’s not a perfect system, and in reality even our most deregulated systems have some elements of that evil marxist socialist liberalism you demonize.

    lastly, on the jesus bit, i think you’d be hard pressed to read the gospels, the pauline epistles, and especially the book of acts, and come away with the conclusion that jesus and the early church were champions of pure, unadulterated capitalism. if anything, it’s nearly impossible to anachronistically read our modern economic models backwards into the text. it’s bad exegesis, and sets us up for distorted hermeneutics.

    but i’m sure you’d disagree.

    i just hope that at the end of the day, you’re not trying to round up “the liberal democratic socialists” and ship them off to eastern europe, or venezuela, or micronesia, or wherever else the bad marxists should go. you’re right that we need to heal the rift of our two americas, and the way to build bridges across contexts is to find common ground, soften our rhetoric (advice i should probably take), engage in civil discourse, and learn to simply listen.

    and i think a crucial part of that listening is to at least attempt holding loosely to our binary categories, no matter how committed we may be to enforcing their boundaries. let’s build some bridges and not burn them! i should probably take my own advice.

    peace.

  84. gar says:

    “and i think a crucial part of that listening is to at least attempt holding loosely to our binary categories, no matter how committed we may be to enforcing their boundaries. let’s build some bridges and not burn them!”

    amen.

  85. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Peace to you, David.

    You say you’re a “reluctant capitalist,” and perhaps that implies that you’re a ready socialist, but I’m willing to bet that if you’re like most Americans, you haven’t spent much classroom time studying either or comparing them in their actual settings. Most Americans have never taken a business or economics course, and it would be helpful if our citizens had to take classes about our own economic (and political) systems. America’s self-government (i.e., our democracy and economic freedom) cannot last if the people don’t take their self-governing roles seriously.

    You voted Obama, but your capitalism is inconsistent with his socialism. Your Christianity is inconsistent with his campaign pledge for infanticide, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research. Your view of America’s history is likely inconsistent with the radical revisionist views he received at his Chicago Church under Reverend Wright for the past two decades. Even your views on free speech may be inconsistent with Obama’s likely support of the “fairness doctrine” and “political correctness”—democratic party euphemisms for censorship of political speech.

    Patriotism is rare among Americans today, as J.J. Yoon rightly recognized. People need to have pride in their country and commit to keeping it safe, moral, peaceful, and free. If they do not, their country will be taken from them by a stronger, more determined, more patriotic nation. America is not capable of dictatorial authoritarianism so long as “the people” continue to have their constitutional rights and position of authority. But once those rights slip (or we willingly let them be taken from us), we revert to a dictatorship.

    The “two americas” I listed are real factions, David, not imaginary ones. And they have become even more polarized since the 1960s. This cannot last. Either one side will win, or the country will split.

    Next, taxation is not socialist redistribution when the people set their own taxation and keep it at levels that don’t destroy the ability for economic savings and growth. In America, we the people have the power to decide what levels of taxation we have. (Our Founders said: “No taxation without representation.”) But our federal government has grown beyond our control, and now we are approaching a point where we the people can no longer have a say in our own taxation levels. This is a slide towards government authoritarianism—which is a radical departure from America’s founding constitutional government.

    As for public schools in America, they have been run by the democratic party unions for decades and are failing our kids beyond our wildest imaginations. (Look up the basic literacy problems and dropout rates.) Note that democrat politicians, while they force us to go to public school and deny school choice, they never send their kids to public schools. I’d rather have Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in charge of education than Ted Kennedy and George Bush.

    As for the post office, once the government monopoly on delivering packages was partially lifted, Fed Ex and UPS outperformed the government service and made the government mail system look totally incompetent. Businesses are way more efficient than government bureaucracies can ever hope to be. Even the clean-up of New Orleans after Katrina has been mostly led by private organizations and businesses; the government has been largely useless, despite all the taxpayer money thrown at that region.

    As for exegesis, the Hebrews were for private property, the ownership of one’s wages, and low taxation. Those core economic principles are consistent only with capitalism. (Socialism says the State owns my wages and property, and it gives citizens no ability to put their entrepreneurship and innovation to work.)

    At the end of the day, the liberal democratic socialists are going to turn America into a Venezuela or an Eastern Europe. Since that vision for the future is such a radical departure from America’s past, these two visions cannot exist simultaneously. Either the socialists will win the battle for the future, or the country will split.

  86. Matthew says:

    First off, Jeff, I think you are unfairly caricaturing the opposing side in your argument.

    Most Democrats, realistically speaking, are generally not socialist, but demand-side Keynesians who support free markets and free trade (witness NAFTA under Clinton). There are several left-leaning Democrats who approach social-democratic or democratic-socialist economics, but these have had fairly little voice in the party as a whole since the 1970′s. Also, most Democrats deeply respect America’s values, traditions and ideals, though they interpret those values, traditions and ideals along the lines of Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America – a synergistic relationship between government, the civil society and the private sector which values civil equality and social cohesion based on inclusive shared values. If anything, the Democratic Party as a whole is coming to be characterised not as Marxist or socialist but more accurately as Tocquevillean.

    Secondly, not all socialists are Marxist. The vast majority of Western socialists have rejected most of Marx’s prescriptions, particularly his calls to violent revolution as a solution to the excesses and inequalities of capitalism. The current socialists generally hold to a brand of peaceful reformism, are influenced primarily by some version of Christian ethics, and are dedicated to the ideals of democratic rule – and the most powerful voices speaking out against the evils of communism and totalitarianism were not, in fact, capitalist (the libertarians and palaeoconservatives of the 1950′s and 1960′s largely took up a coexistence and detente policy with regard to communism), but actually socialist (like Reinhold Niebuhr). Also, most of what American socialists have wanted has been to America’s benefit. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, called for a more inclusive and equal society based upon egalitarian and social-democratic reforms.

    Other than that, David summed up most of my feelings on the issue, and expressed them more probably more eloquently than I could.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  87. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    The Democratic party is shifting leftists socialist at a rapid clip due to the political activism of billionaires like George Soros, insurance magnate Peter Lewis, Hollywood mogul Stephen Bing, and California savings-and-loan CEOs Herbert and Marion Sandler, among others. These financiers are the radical leftists behind The Democracy Alliance, MoveOn.org, ACORN and countless 527 organizations.

    The Democracy Alliance consists of a growing list of billionaires and millionaires who collectively hope to give upwards of 500 million dollars each year to further promote a left-wing agenda. Their expressed goal is to permanently realign U.S. politics and shift our society and culture in a far-left wing direction. These folks are bankrolling the following:

    * defending the civil rights and liberties of suspected anti-American terrorists
    * drug-legalization
    * the end of technological/industrial civilization
    * legalized prostitution
    * legalized abortion and partial-birth abortion funded by taxpayers
    * bringing American foreign policy under the control of the United Nations
    * a ballooning welfare state
    * socialized medicine

    Soros even funds a documentary film industry to propagandize his radical agenda and spur social change.

    For sure, this is not your parents’ Democratic Party.

  88. Matthew says:

    Again, not all Democrats toe this line, and Obama certainly (by his rhetoric, by his voting record and by his appointments) doesn’t toe this line. Just as the Republican Party is not monolithic (being comprised of libertarians, palaeoconservative, neoconservatives and religious conservatives, with conflicting social and economic priorities), the Democratic Party is not monolithic. For example, I am a pro-life (meaning anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, pro-gun control and anti-war), pro-PATRIOT Act (with modifications), anti-drug and anti-prostitution Democrat (though I do think a very basic form of single-payer universal health care will be necessary), following largely in the communitarian vein of social theorists like Amitai Etzioni and Michael Sandel. David sounds another such concerned voter, though his concerns and priorities are probably different than mine.

  89. Matthew says:

    It sounds like al-Zaidi has publicly apologised for the shoe throw, and has asked al-Maliki to forgive him.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/18/george-bush-shoe-thrower

    I’m glad that he has apologised for it, though I don’t think he should be punished with fifteen years imprisonment for just throwing his shoes.

  90. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    You are pro-life, so don’t you know of Obama’s pledge to sign FOCA into law, and the implications of this? You are pro-Patriot-Act, so don’t you know of the Democratic Party’s constant attempts to end that legislation? You are anti-drug and anti-prostitution, but the Democratic Party is constantly discussing legalizing these.

    So, my question for you is this: what would cause you to vote for a person and party whose legislative agenda on the whole is against your positions on issues?

  91. Rusty says:

    Jeff,

    I believe Matthew’s point is that the platforms of both political parties in this country often fail to align perfectly with the beliefs of the parties’ adherents. As a result, we are forced to choose the party that comes closest to representing our beliefs of the issues that are most important to us. Assuming you are also pro-life, is it not fair to turn the question back to you and ask how you could support a party that has no interest in bringing to a close the war in Iraq? Or has made our country complicit in the torturing of human beings? Or supports capital punishment? Or cuts funding to social service programs while willingly running up record deficits to finance our own weapons of mass destruction?

    I am beginning to suspect you are being intentionally thick. As many have pointed out, we don’t live in a zero-sum world. Until you can concede that point, this conversation is at a stalemate.

  92. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Rusty,

    It is unclear to me that Obama and the Democratic Party come closest to representing Matthew’s beliefs as he has stated them.

    As for the Iraq war, it’s over. The Americans and the Iraq people won. The Iraqi people now have their own democratically elected government and military.

    As for torture, you must mean these acts:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture1.html
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture2.html
    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture6.html

    Capital punishment is probably no longer necessary, now that we can keep people in prison. But it’s not unjust for society to use capital punishment to protect itself from aggressive murderers. In fact, it’s technically a breach of justice to allow a murderer pay far less than his crime. But we look for ways to allow this mercy, as we are Christian.

  93. Matthew says:

    Jeff, I am a Democrat is because they generally do a better job on environmental issues, because particularly in my state many of them devote themselves to tough law enforcement (full funding of the police force, for example) and the fight against corruption, and because their worldview tends to see government as civil and community service rather than as an obstacle or a means of personal enrichment at the public expense. Do I like their stance on abortion? No, but I feel their stances on funding for public education, support of civil institutions and encouragement of NGO’s which provide activities and education for children living in bad or neglectful homes that they are often far more child-friendly than the Republicans. And Rusty is right – given that neither party represents all of my values all of the time, I have to prioritise.

    As to the PATRIOT Act, it has met with opposition from both sides of the political spectrum, both from libertarian and small-government Republicans and from Democrats with similar tendencies. I think parts of it need to be scrapped or at least rewritten (the wire-tapping and library records access strike me as superfluous); I think much of it actually does keep us safer.

    But the big issue for me was (and is) the Iraq war. I felt that it egregiously flouted the Augustinian principles of just war which the Christian tradition has held for sixteen centuries as the only alternative to pacifism – it was as though the Republicans, while hypocritically preaching traditional values, were telling me through their actions that traditional Christian morality with regard to the use of force was no longer relevant. I am glad that some good is finally being salvaged from that mess and that the Iraqis are enjoying some level of political freedom, but the ends do not justify the barbarous means by which they were achieved, and the Republicans will not be winning my vote unless they publicly admit and repent their culpability and their error.

  94. Rusty says:

    Jeff,

    Now I *know* you’re being intentionally thick.

    The Iraq war is over? I guess I missed that fact. As did the persons who detonated a bomb in Baghdad yesterday that killed 18 people and wounded 52 more.

    So is your argument that Al-Qaeda tortures, therefore, the United States should also? As an American citizen I find this much more troubling:

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/11/20/torture/

    Thanks for the dialog. I’m done.

  95. eugenecho says:

    @jeff: you’ve had some decent things to share. but your comment that the Iraq War is over pretty much negates everything you’ve said. i was going to suggest you call it while you’re ahead…

  96. elderj says:

    Wow its gotten rather heated in here since I left.

    It seems to me after reading through all these posts (oh so many) that there is a bit of, how can I say, obtuseness in the responses. Many people have attacked/ confronted Jeff and he has responded, not with insults or derision, but with refutations based on his view of things. The reverse has also been true (though someone did accuse him of being intentionally “thick.”

    A few points @ Iraq:
    It is dishonest to suggest or imply that the Republican Party was solely responsible for our involvement in Iraq. The AUMF was passed with large majorities including quite a number of Democrats who were convinced that military force was an appropriate response to Saddam Hussein’s purported WMD’s. They were as informed or misinformed as anyone else in the Congress and must bear the weight of their decision.

    Following the midterm elections, the Democrats held a majority in Congress and could have at any time chosen to defund the war or otherwise change our Iraq policy. They chose not to do so. It is not right to blame “The Republicans” when both parties are jointly responsible for the decision including most of this years candidates including Obama who was not present when the initial AUMF was passed, but once in office continued to fund and back the war like most of the rest of Congress.

    If we’re going to critique something, we should critique it honestly.

  97. eugenecho says:

    elderj: i can’t speak for others. this isn’t solely on W. that would be unfair. but he IS the president. but to say that the war is a success and over is far from an honest assessment.

    but, i ain’t throwin’ shoes here.

  98. elderj says:

    eugene: I agree with you. The war is, at best, a mixed bag. I opposed the war, but once we went in I felt strongly that we should have executed a different and better strategy. I don’t think that’s happened. Nevertheless, things have calmed quite a bit there and despite everything, getting rid of Hussein is a HUGE blessing and advance for liberty. The truth is, we broke Iraq, and we own it, so to pull out precipitously would be absolutely adding error to error. In any event, my point was that in this discussion as in others, folks like to get on very high horses and preach about the mote while disregarding the beam. Or put another way; its easier to throw shoes than to dodge them!

  99. elderj says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to put all that in bold

  100. Jeff Mitchell says:

    To Rusty,

    America doesn’t torture. And just to be sure you and I were thinking of the same thing when we used the same word, “torture,” I posted some examples to make sure. I hope you looked at those examples of torture and can recognize that America doesn’t torture.

    Three points about the Iraq War:

    (1) Democrats and Republicans voted to launch the Iraq war. That’s a fact. America just fought and won a major war.

    (2) Less than *one dozen* Americans have been killed each month in Iraq since July. For comparison, Chicago has seen a minimum of 41 violent killings each month and sometimes as many as 75 (as was the case in every year between 1991-1994). The worst year in Iraq saw approximately the same number of American casualties as Chicago, Illinois.

    (3) Vietnam, which lasted about the same time as Iraq, saw more than 58,000 Americans killed in action. Iraq has seen about 4,200.

  101. Matthew says:

    Jeff, you’re arguing semantics and issues of scale, and that aside you are completely missing the point. In most systems of Christian ethics, the ends cannot justify the means, and this applies completely to the use of force. You cannot justify military pre-emption (which is a use of force falling completely outside what is acceptable by the Christian just war tradition) by citing statistics about how ‘mild’ the violence has been.

    Democrats and Republicans together may have authorised the President’s use of force and therefore abrogated their constitutional duty (I might note here that the only opposition to the war came from twenty-one Democrats and one lone, now ex-Republican, Lincoln Chafee), but it was a Republican president and a Republican administration, acting under a neo-conservative Republican ideology, which declared war. That is fact, and that decision is on their shoulders. I might not be throwing my shoes, but I have long since shaken the dust from them with regard to the Republican Party.

    Also, just because an extremist enemy group uses more deadly and physically-damaging methods of torture does not give American forces licence to sexually humiliate and abuse, electrocute and waterboard prisoners – all of which qualify as ‘torture’ by any sane definition. Again, matters of scale do not apply – deontologically speaking, torture is torture is torture, and it is wrong.

  102. Tom says:

    You’re a good host, Eugene.,

    But even good hosts understand the importance of helping abusive guests who dominate the conversation to learn some manners.

    It’s not about people’s ideas. It’s about learning to be civil.

    Could you make more of an effort to not allow a single person to so dominate a discussion?

  103. eugenecho says:

    @tom: i’m assuming you’re referring to jeff. to my knowledge, he’s newer to the blog. we’ll see if he’s a regular or not. if he is, i’ll try. it’s hard for me to monitor the comments as i check in only couple times/day and when i do, it’s via my PDA. it’s that or moderate every comment which i don’t want to do. and to be honest, i thought he engaged in the discussion respectfully. granted, he did post alot but he doesn’t know that at the end of the year, i’ll be sending a bill to each person for the number of words and comments they posted. it all goes to our poverty organization.

  104. [...] throwing shoes at kim jong il I didn’t expect the post about shoes thrown at George W. Bush to elicit so many responses.  I don’t condone the act and wished it never happened but it [...]

  105. m@ says:

    Jeff said:

    “Socialism makes everyone a slave to the state and its dictators, and socialist countries don’t produce much in the way of products and services, generate wealth for citizens, or raise the standard of living for the poor.”

    Hmm. Germany: socialist state. #3 GDP globally.
    Nigeria: Democratic state, growth rates stagnating due to Washington Consensus reforms that isolated its growth to oil production, creating zero linkages to develop complementary businesses.
    Japan: Socialist state. #2 GDP.
    Korea: In the 1960′s it had a lower per capita GDP than Sierra Leone. The state took extreme control of economic developing, mimicking that of Japan’s post-WW2. Now, South Korea is considered one of the more stable economies in East Asia. Currently has #14 GDP globally.

    Capitalism and Socialism, when separated violently, are ambiguous in their ability to resolve issues of poverty. Most economists with half a brain and consulting firms are pretty certain that public-private partnerships are truly needed in order to curb stagnating growth. I’d be happy to provide you with some background research on Nigeria, Malawi, and Rwanda that would help support this approach.

    And whatever talk of which economic model is “Christian” or not is hogwash. Whatever helps those is need is Christian — capitalist, socialist, communist, anarchist, whatever.

  106. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Japan, Germany, and South Korea are capitalist countries, and Japan and Germany rank in the top 25 most economically free economies in the world.

  107. m@ says:

    Then you weren’t paying attention. South Korea boasts the very fiscally-controlled characteristics that you claim define a “socialist” country. So, please explain to me how they don’t fit that description.

    If you’re suggesting that a “capitalist” country is one that succeeds in generating above-average GDP growth, then I think you need to reassess your definition.

  108. Tom says:

    I guess we think differently about engaging respectfully.

  109. m@ says:

    Jeff, I’m looking at my last comment, and I think I need to apologize for being a little too curt; I think the fact that I just spent a semester researching capitalist reforms in developing countries forced me to ensure we were all on the same page here. Hope we can continue this dialogue. :)

  110. Matthew says:

    It is interesting to note that many of the countries which rank high on the Economic Freedom of the World Index (which I believe Mr Mitchell is citing) are, in fact, significant welfare states with strong government presence in the economy (nationalised industries and services such as health care, banking and transit), which also regulate the E/L wage ratio down to 16- or 4-to-1. Singapore has full universal health-care and the government runs most of the domestic industries; yet it ranks number two on the EFotW index.

    Besides Japan and Germany, other notable presences in the ‘top 25′ (which is more like the ‘top 30′ given that many countries achieved the same score) are such democratic-socialist and Third-Way powers as Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Norway and Sweden.

  111. Jeff Mitchell says:

    M and others,

    I suspect that some definitions are in order. A capitalist economy is one where the means of production are all or mostly privately owned (not state owned), the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system set by supply and demand (not arbitrarily by the state), and individuals have a right to own and trade goods, land, and money. This is the what we mean by “economic freedom.” And it works.

    This economic freedom for the people has generated America’s great wealth and has raised the standard of living and quality of life for everyone, even the poorest. America’s poor are the most well-off poor people in the world. And America’s richest are the most charitable in the world, as measured by their philanthropy.

    Once we see how effective capitalism is at generating wealth, creating products and services for every imaginable human need, and distributing the most money to the greatest number of citizens, we see that Christians must embrace this economic freedom for the sake of the world’s poor.

    States are very inefficient organizations in most matters and can never compete with business organizations. Therefore, there needs to be Separation of Economy and State.

  112. Matthew says:

    Problem is, Jeff, for the very same reasons you describe, the market does not value communities, it does not value families, and it does not know sympathy or compassion – only supply and demand. The market is an amoral force, and idolatry of the invisible hand is perhaps the most common form of idolatry in modern Western society. How well it works with regard to producing wealth among the poor depends on what boundary conditions the public seeks to impose upon it.

    Predatory and parasitic growth strategies like those employed by Wal-Mart and other large internationals do not add to the wealth of communities – it can be demonstrated that in many small towns across the United States, the arrival of a Wal-Mart signals death for many local businesses, because Wal-Mart’s ability to exploit cheap overseas labour and procure cheap distribution puts them at an unfair advantage. The end result is that money leaves the small community faster than it otherwise would (I refer to Bill McKibben’s excellent book, Deep Economy). This kind of capital drain occurs much more drastically where large internationals are involved overseas. If the health of communities is something we as Christians value (which ought to be a no-brainer), then we have to begin by supporting commonsense local, state and federal regulations on the economic behaviour of large corporations.

    States may be inefficient – but the benefit of state-run organisations is that, with a sufficient level of individual participation in civic life, they can be held accountable and answerable by the public for their actions and performance to a degree which private-sector businesses cannot. This is the case in all representative forms of government, whether in constitutional republics (the US) or in parliamentary democracies (Canada, India, the UK). I prefer a state in which the public is given the power through its elected officials to break up monopolies (the trust-busting era of TR) or the power to oversee the large banks (the banking reforms of FDR).

    Also, I beg to differ that market capitalism can create products and services for every imaginable human need. I know that I cannot buy or bid for the lowest price on redemption or salvation from my sins. Efficiency and profit cannot give me eternal life – for that, I need the grace of Jesus Christ, which is neither efficient nor profit-driven.

    God bless,
    Matthew

  113. m@ says:

    Jeff, I’d be willing to suggest that this “economic freedom” works in countries that have an established comparative advantage in non-commodity (i.e., Value-added) goods and services. However, you cannot look at each individual state in a vacuum. You cannot simply state that every country will be able to generate economic growth in the same manner as which the United States has done. America’s had virtually every variable going for it: a temperate climate, access to seaports for shipping routes, investments in education and healthcare, etc. In fact, it was the very attempt at creating Americanized, market-based reforms through the IMF and World Bank that drove Sub-Saharan Africa into that big mess in which it currently resides.

    I should also mention that the principle of free trade, in itself, is NOT free trade. We charge tariffs on vehicles not entering from Mexico or Canada. Nigeria charges up to a 50% tariff on incoming agricultural goods. And so on, so forth.

    Now, here’s where I think we can find common ground: yes, market-based reforms *can* work if implemented properly (see South Korea). BUT, it requires an approach unprecedented and not necessarily in lockstep with capitalism:

    1. Substantial investments in education (particularly for girls, as the ROI on female education is statistically higher across the board)
    2. Develop community lending models to spur on entrepreneurship
    3. Create Advance Market Commitment programs for developing ARVs for AIDS/HIV (an AMC, in itself, is a market-based solution)
    4. (This is the toughie) completely reverse structural adjustment policies of the 1970s/1980s

    So, in essence, capitalism can be one of many drivers toward a free-market poverty reduction strategy, but it requires some calculated, deliberate steps that I don’t think fit within your definition of capitalism. Maybe it’s just a hybrid, I dunno.

  114. Jeff Mitchell says:

    To M:

    Why do you suppose that an individual’s right to own property, wages, and to engage in entrepreneurial ventures only works with some countries? Why should the state be the only entity with a right to determine the jobs and economic fate for all its citizens?

    A great many countries of the world have the same basic natural resources as the U.S., but very few grant the political and economic freedom to citizens to use their efforts and ingenuity to shape those resources into profitable, need-satisfying outputs—and keep their own wages at the end of the workday. That’s the difference. Capitalism is what has made America’s standard of living so high, even among its poorest citizens. When a country generates wealth and growth and need-satisfying products, even the poorest see their standard of living improve relative to the poor living in non-wealth-generating countries. And when Christians add their higher ethics to the process, it even gets better. I’ll leave you with this fine quote written in 1919:

    “We have taken the hopeful position that our entire social order, with all its terrible immoralities, is nevertheless woven through with Christian elements, which form the basis of its further regeneration. The same thing is true of our economic order. With all their bitter cruelty and wrong our factories are the cells out of which a christianized industry must be evolved. Even now business men are public servants in embryo. They pride themselves on the community service they are rendering, and many a one of them would serve admirably as Bishop of the Church of Holy Industry, if he had half a chance to put his Christian good will into action.” (From “Christianizing the Social Order” – Walter Rauschenbusch, p.237 — , New York, The Macmillan Company, 1919 )

  115. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    The market absolutely values communities and families, for it examines their needs day and night and tries to find the products and services that meet those needs. Whether the need is food, medicine, transportation, housing, clothing, clean water, etc, the market seeks to meet those needs as efficiently and at as low a cost to consumers as possible. That’s an amazing mechanism, and one that doesn’t exist in socialism. This is why the U.S. has such a high standard of living. We’ve had two centuries of active need-seeking and need-meeting workers.

    Wal-Mart made its money through an amazing NEW innovation: super-efficient operations and state-of-the-art supply chain system which keeps inventories at a bare minimum. It’s new business model, with its never-before-known efficiencies and economies of scale, have indeed been as revolutionary as when the Model T Ford improved upon the horse and buggy. So, Wal-Mart rightly benefitted from its smart visionary understanding of operations.

    Finally, states are inefficient, unaccountable, and dictatorial when they are not run “by the people.” Again, the U.S. has an advantage in having created a government system where the rulers serve at the pleasure of the people. If the power of the people continues eroding in the U.S. via government takeovers and encroachment upon individual constitutional rights, we will become a Venezuela or a Russia.

    Businesses in market economies are held accountable through a variety of means: the courts and market outcomes. These don’t hamper economic freedom. The state, however, stifles economic growth via clumsy regulations that screw up the natural flow of demand and supply.

  116. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Relevant article:

    Saving Capitalism No Sure Thing as Statism Undermines Economy
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=washingtonstory&sid=aDjmuEpDoctc

  117. Matthew says:

    First of all, bravo to you, Jeff, for providing me with my best laugh of the day. You have, in your obliviousness to irony, marshalled to your defence perhaps the one person of the era who couldn’t possibly have disagreed with you more. Walter Rauschenbusch was one of the leading Christian democratic-socialist thinkers of his time, including Norman Thomas and Eugene V Debs. His true opinion of the capitalism of his time might have been made obvious to you if you had bothered to read further in his book:

    ‘But the great powers of human goodness that lie latent in our economic life are largely kept down or misdirected through the constitutional maladjustment of social forces in capitalism. The power of association is thwarted or soured by the competitive struggle and the autocratic relation into which the leaders are placed over against the workers. The profit system lures the economic stewards
    of society into tricking or extorting from those whom they ought to serve. Our economic system in its fundamental structure is still nonmoral or immoral, nonchristian or unchristian. It offends the thoughtless by its excesses,
    and the thoughtful by its essence and spirit. The more the Christian spirit rises to clear-sighted ascendency in any individual or any social group, the more offensive and intolerable does the ethic of capitalism seem.’ (Rauschenbusch, Walter. Christianizing the Social Order, 237-8. MacMillan & Co.: New York, NY, 1919.)

    I don’t think I have much more to add – Rauschenbusch’s criticisms of capitalism are much the same as mine, except he goes quite a bit further in his criticism than I do. Capitalism produces wealth, yes. But it also provides the groundwork for the social malaises of consumerism, hedonism, materialism and avarice. The excesses of capitalism have roundly deadened society to the needs of both the materially and the spiritually impoverished. Never mind that Wal-Mart is draining local communities of their wealth and crowding out smaller competitors, they’re doing it with ‘super-efficient operations’, and for this they must be lauded! Why bother with compassion and other such needs you cannot register on the bottom line when you can get the newest cheap plastic widget at an everyday low price from a blandly-impersonal emoticon?

    I might also humbly suggest that this is perhaps the point where Jesus would have been overturning tables (or cash registers).

  118. Jeff Mitchell says:

    I don’t remember reading Rauschenbusch as an anti-capitalist when I read two of his books long ago. In fact, I found in his writings the seeds of a Christianized capitalism. It seemed to me, as I remember it, that he was simply arguing for a capitalism that was actively and self-consciously committed to the betterment of humanity, from a Christian ethical and moral perspective. That’s exactly the goal that all human endeavor should be ordered to, and I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote.

    Consumerism and hedonism are not inherent to capitalism, but rather paganism. The pagan philosophies do not see the the importance of charity and philanthropy, for they see wealth as an end it itself, rather than an instrument for accomplishing good. Just as democracy requires an ethically-minded people to prevent against a mob-rule that goes morally astray, so also Capitalism requires solid ethics to prevent people from selling slaves or sex. But capitalism’s need-meeting engine unleashes the full power of man’s productivity. And capitalism in the hands of Christian leaders produces enormously successful organizations that are socially responsible and profitable.

    Wal-Mart is indeed making old models of business obsolete. But this is what happens whenever progress initially arrives. We don’t lament anymore that the buggy whip industry was made obsolete by the early 1900 innovations of Henry Ford and William C. Durant. Progress is unavoidable, and creates the opportunities of the future.

    Wal-Mart is great for the poor, and great for anyone who would rather pay $25 for a pair of shoes that other retailers offer for $35.

  119. m@ says:

    Jeff, sound business discipline to achieve profitability through lower cost does not go hand in hand with consumer welfare. Can you explain how Wal-Mart is good for the poor?

    I will give you this: I’ve been in discussions with WMT’s VP of Sustainability, and given the massive impact such a large retailer could potentially have on the environment, they’re making some decent progress. However, they still have a long way to go when it comes to establishing fair wages and robust healthcare benefits for its employees before I’d consider them as offering a public good.

  120. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Anti-Wal-Mart activists invariably come from upper-middle class backgrounds. As for the poor, they love Wal-Mart, for they know it serves them and improves their lives dramatically. The average Wal-Mart customer earns earns $35,000 a year, whereas the average Costco customer makes 74,000. So, Wal-Mart’s customers are definitely the poorer classes. Here’s a few things you ought to remember:

    * Wal-Mart is the world’s largest employer of people, so it provides more jobs to the marketplace than anyone, and its compensation is at least as good as the comparable retail alternatives.
    * Wal-Mart’s “every day low prices” produce enormous individual savings: $263 billion in 2004, or $2,329 per household (so, individual Wal-Mart shoppers retain an extra $2,329 each year just by choosing Wal-Mart as the place to shop. There’s no other organization anywhere that does this for the poor. Nowhere.).
    * Each new store opening, which hires about 500 lower-education/lower-skilled workers, sees something between 6,000 and 8000 applicants! The low-skilled poor line up to work there.
    * The company’s many pricing breakthroughs matter for food, medicine, clothing, and entertainment needs. The company’s recent foray into $4 generic drugs is doing amazing things for those the most common medical problems

    In a nutshell, the poor love Wal-Mart, but elite rich snobs hate it, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

  121. Matthew says:

    First off, Jeff, my apologies for having responded in so derisive a manner. Though your characterisation of Rauschenbusch was erroneous, I was wrong to be short with you about it – I ask your forgiveness for it.

    That said, though, Rauschenbusch definitely saw the capitalism of his day as a form of paganism, as a form of faith in capital and the market, standing in opposition to Christianity as faith in the way of the cross. Capitalism is not self-sacrificial, and can make sense neither of the self-sacrificial way of the cross nor the radical equality among human beings that it creates. Capitalism expects an earthly, material return; the Christian faith has no such expectation. Capitalism does create earthly prosperity – that is not at issue here – but it also sits comfortably with existing inequalities and with the use of force, and does precious little to address their causes. The liberal mindset accompanying capitalism sees human beings merely as constellations of liberties and property rights. The Christian mindset sees human beings both as individuals in need of salvation and as members of the body of Christ, united in the radical messianic project of building the Kingdom of Heaven, based upon love, peace and creative cooperation.

    As to the business practice of Wal-Mart, it is not merely for aesthetic reasons that it should be criticised, but for real issues of equality. Control over capital (both fiscal and social) is removed from the community in which a Wal-Mart arrives, and as a result, high-paying retail jobs leave the community and are replaced by lower-paying retail jobs (either at Wal-Mart or at companies which can compete), meaning that Wal-Mart receives more patronage, since the people in that community can afford only to shop there. On top of that, the poor benefits and the hostility to collective workers’ action within the organisation prevents any real communication between the labourers and the executives. As a result, the flow of wealth out of the community is hastened, leaving less opportunity for other businesses, non-profits and charities to invest in the community; the working poor are trapped in a cycle of poverty while the wealthy get wealthier. I don’t know how I can say this plainer, but this is not a Christian vision of the society.

    Also, I don’t shop at Costco; I shop at the local retailer, which contributes a lot more for the poor and sick of our community than any of the big chains do.

    God bless, and merry Christmas,
    Matthew

  122. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew, Merry Christmas to you, too.

    I read two Rauschenbusch books years ago, and to my memory he was more for Christianization of American business than for socialism. That is, he envisioned combining American industry (capitalism) with Christian ethics—something I also advocate.

    You suggested that faith in economic systems is a form of “faith in capital and the market” in a religious sense. I think that’s a mistaken notion. Having faith in an economic system is like having faith in a good bridge as you drive your car over a river. Such “faith” is not religious faith. I’m sorry, but I can’t take you seriously when you suggest that the formulation of a good economic system is a form of paganism opposed to the Cross of Christ.

    To suggest that capitalism is not self-sacrificial and thus invalid is to use a weird and arbitrary metric. Actually, capitalism does the most good to raise the quality of life for the greatest number of citizens in a nation. So, not sure your claims have any validity at all. Work is certainly good. Saving and investing wisely are good. Starting a business that grows to employ thousands is good, for it provides daily bread to thousands of families. The immense philanthropy from businesses and millionaires does more for the poor than any government can do by confiscatory taxation and redistribution (i.e., stealing our wages from us).

    Christian faith has no concern for the life of people on earth? That sounds like gnosticism to me. I know Rauschenbusch didn’t talk that way. To the contrary, he had enormous concern for improving the societal and economic condition of those on earth via Christian ethics and morals.

    Now, capitalism not only creates prosperity, but it has almost totally eliminated a level of poverty in which real hardship and deprivation are suffered. That’s amazing relief for the *entire class of the poor.* Because of capitalism, no one in America lives in mud huts and dies of cholera. Life expectancy has gone way up for everyone.

    Next, capitalism does not involve “the use of force.” A business is not a military unit. Capitalism is simply the way in which we order our work and finances, both individually and as a nation. Capitalism works by identifying and meeting human material needs at a cost affordable to the masses. It’s remarkable. No other economic system can provide the need-meeting power that capitalism does. Good medicines, clean water, safe food, warm housing—capitalism has provided these and much more.

    Wal-Mart helps business in a community: It creates hundreds of jobs, It helps local restaurants, car dealerships, and even small businesses who get supplies there. It attracts more people and other businesses to the area, providing more jobs and land development. Yes, it puts old 1940s retailers out of business. But, it creates new competing retailers like Target and Kohl’s and Costco, which provide far more jobs to a region than the old mom ‘n’ pop retailers could have ever hoped to do—and it provides the same goods and better services at less cost to the customer. Economic progress and development is a win-win for any community.

    Wal-Mart’s retail workers get paid about the same as any other retail workers, so what are you talking about? Wal-Mart made it’s money not by cheating on wages, but ***by reinventing the entire way in which retailers order products and stock their shelves.*** Wal-Mart eliminated the need for warehouses, eliminated unused stocks, and bought in bulk—passing the savings on to the customers and making a huge profit for the company. It was a brilliant innovation in operations. It was a giant leap forward in retailing.

    Yes, Wal-Mart doesn’t unionize, but that’s because steep union demands kill the ability of the company to make a profit. Ford, GM and Chrysler are the best case studies on record with regard to the outcome of unions. Unions force the economic collapse of the company, ultimately putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

    Matthew, you have strong opinions here. But I get the sense that I’m talking with someone who has not worked much with businesses or taken enough business courses. Forgive me if I’m wrong about that, but I just can’t imagine a person with a business education saying the sorts of things you’re saying.

  123. m@ says:

    Jeff, I’m an MBA student and I find myself in agreement with points both you and Matthew are making. Like I mentioned before, the attempt to develop capitalist markets in developing countries has failed numerous times — I don’t think that point has ever been refuted by anyone on this board. The result of such a failed experiment is apparent, and I think both you and Matthew would agree with that.

    WMT is, of course, a bit of a unique scenario: yes, it has developed scale economies and operational efficiency unlike any other retailer; however, this competitive advantage isn’t always translated into macro-level efficiency that “capital markets” would assume should occur (the whole “perfect competition” model those economists continue to espouse :) ). I’m not sure what studies have been completed, but I do wonder if communities’ gross outputs both pre-and post-WMT store openings improves or not, as well as gross income. That would be the only true measure of whether or not poverty is being addressed.

    On a side note, regarding operational efficiencies: you would expect that, in the face of improved supply chain logistics brought on by the Japanese manufacturers, the Big Three would also attempt to implement such changes. Instead, they chose the wrong strategic approach and sunk. No, Jeff, unions were not responsible for the economic collapse of the Big Three — it was the fact that they weren’t able to reduce their marginal costs in the face of output reduction, and as a result they had to continue to produce the same massive level of vehicles even when demand didn’t exist for them. If unions were the culprit, then Toyota’s U.S.-based plants would also be on the brink of failure, and so would nearly every factory in the EU (I worked in an aircraft engine facility in Germany for six months, and their unionized workers had the highest productivity levels of any of our global facilities).

  124. Jeff Mitchell says:

    But M@ (matt?),

    Most textbooks identify India and China as emerging nations precisely because they have recently begun to adopt Western-style capitalism. I just don’t know where you are coming up with the notion that capitalism is failing in some regions. I am unaware of any “failed capitalism” cases.

    The Big Three can’t succeed because the union compensation package is so absurd that it costs GM over $2,000 per car, compared to Toyota’s two hundred dollars per car. In 2007, the two automakers sold nearly the same number of cars. Yet GM lost $4,100 per sale while Toyota made $1,800 per unit sold. GM’s hourly labor cost is above $73, but Toyota’s is about $48.

    In 2007, GM lost $38.7 billion and Toyota made $17.1 billion. That’s a difference of $55.8 billion–and they sold the same number of autos.

    Check out the difference in health care costs: GM spends $1,635 per vehicle on health care for active and retired workers in the U.S., yet Toyota pays nothing for retired workers and only $215 for active ones.

    Basically, GM has become a Nanny State, handing out cash it simply doesn’t have for benefits and freebees it simply can’t sustain. If you want to talk about “sustainability” in business, you must remember that there is no more critical topic than *financial sustainability.* Financial sustainability is the primary sustainability. Without this, no business can survive, and the production shuts down and the jobs are lost.

  125. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Hold on, M@, quick edit of my last post:

    I meant to say in paragraph two that it costs GM nearly $2,000 per car for health care expenses. The actual number is $1,635, and that comes from paying health care to both active and retired workers. In contrast, Toyota pays only $215 per car for health care.

  126. Matthew says:

    First of all, Jeff, I think you are generalising to an enormous extent what ‘capitalism’ is. If ‘capitalism’ means hard work and thrift, it is hardly peculiar to developed nations, and I have absolutely no problem with it. (It should be telling that central to the social theory of Karl Marx is the need of the human being to see his own worth expressed and recognised in his work!)

    Also, I never said Christianity had no concern for the quality of life on earth. Jesus had tremendous concern for the real needs of the poor, of the sick and of the outcast. He had concern not only for their material well-being, but also for their dignity and self-determination, which can not be bought or sold but must be recognised freely. He explicitly told his disciples not to place faith in market forces, but to share what they had to meet the needs of his followers (St Mark 6:36-41).

    (And yes, I think market deregulation is practically a system of pagan faith, an ideology which doesn’t correspond well with fact – Bush 41 called it ‘voodoo economics’ for a reason. Markets, left to their own devices, do not miraculously produce ‘trickle-down’ effects for the lower classes of the society – the poor are still much where they were 30 years ago, if not worse off in terms of actual buying power, while the wealthy are much, much wealthier.)

    Left to its own devices, unchecked market forces have and will trample all over the dignity and self-determination of the poor, the sick and the outcast. I don’t need an MBA to realise this; I see it and hear it at work near every day. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer can produce drugs for every imaginable disease – but only for those who can afford them. Insurance companies can provide extremely good health care – but only for those who can afford it. (I think it is telling that my own extended family, who live in Vermont and who do not have a lot by way of liquid assets, end up visiting Canadian dentists because they can get good dental care from the state of Quebec at a much-reduced cost that side of the border.)

    I think capitalism is a good system – when kept under good regulation by an organised, moral and civic-minded public, and when there is explicit provision for those who are inevitably marginalised by an acquisition-oriented economy. I am not an advocate of planned economics, but I am an advocate of greater consumer voice in the market, and the reciprocal relationship which must be present between representative government, civil society and the private sector (a relationship which Obama actually understood through his volunteer service, and explicitly endorsed). If the private sector did end up dominating public life, we really would be another Russia.

    As to Wal-Mart, I’m not going to argue with you on the efficacy of their business models. I do know that Kohl’s was around long before Wal-Mart became ascendant, and I can see with my own eyes how their policies come to cripple community life and create new structures of inequality and marginalisation. I actually find it quite funny that you accuse me of elitism and ‘aesthetic’ objections to Wal-Mart, and then turn around and belittle me for lacking the necessary insider knowledge and worldview of a business degree, though. I may not have a business degree, though I have taken several economics and social theory courses as an undergraduate – you should know, as (I presume) a business major, that creating efficient systems is not enough to sustain permanent growth, and in itself cannot meet the needs of the marginalised. For that, social action is necessary, whether indirectly through the representatives of an electorate, or directly through the institutions of civil society which empower the poor and the oppressed (churches/synagogues/mosques, schools, clubs, NGO’s and other local non-business associations). Jesus did not leave the poor in the care of the Temple moneychangers, after all.

    I hope you had a happy Christmas, and God bless,
    Matthew

  127. Jeff Mitchell says:

    Matthew,

    Capitalism means hard work, thrift, and the right of individuals to own their wages at the end of each day. Socialism means the State is a sort of slaveholder that determines what the slaves will do each day. And after each day is done, the State owns the wages and property.

    If you want to help the poor not be poor, you have to use the systems that actually produce wealth and distributes wealth to the greatest number of citizens. That system is capitalism. To hate capitalism is to hate the poor by depriving them of the only economic aid that meets their needs and raises their standard of living above destitution.

    Funny that you think that deregulation is “a system of pagan faith” yet you don’t think of government dictatorship as “a system of pagan faith in the State.” Isn’t it fair to use your logic back on you and say you’re a State Worshipper?

    Left to its own devices, market forces produce safe foods, clean water, new medical cures, safe transportation, and dependable temperature controlled housing—at prices affordable to the greatest number of people. With capitalism, workers have wealth-generating power. In socialism, the dictators alone have financial stability and opportunity.

    I think you meant to say that if the PUBLIC sector dominated public life, we would be another Russia. After all, the Russia you are referencing was a nation where the GOVERNMENT dictators, not the people, dominated public life. And the masses were deprived of basic food and shelter.

    Next, Wal-Mart actually creates real wealth improvement for the poor. Any person who shops for groceries at Wal-Mart gains more than $2,000 annually in savings. That’s incredible.

    Finally, I’m glad I wasn’t wrong in suggesting that your educational knowledge and experience of these topics is very limited. I find that so many socialist-leaning folks actually have zero background in business and economics. They have zeal aplenty, but little understanding of how things work in the real world. And in the real world, capitalism alone has shown the ability to give the masses wealth and shelter and cars and safe food and water and even Xbox 360s. Meanwhile the socialist dictatorships of the world crush their own masses and leave them in mudhuts and squalor without any ability to do anything to improve their own condition through free industry.

    By the way, churches/synagogues/mosques, schools etc. in the West get their money from hard working capitalists who fund them generously out of the charitable goodness of their hearts. If these faithful capitalists would cease giving to these non-profits, they would cease to exist. All of those organizations are able to carry out their work precisely because hard working bankers and Pepsi salesmen and marketing managers and Toyota assembly line workers give as much as 10% of their earnings to them. Without those hard-working capitalists, non-profit organizations would collapse to nothing.

  128. Matthew says:

    I’m bowing out of this conversation. It seems you do not have ears to hear, but are so ideologically deafened that you are content to caricature and denigrate me, my education and my experiences rather than engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue. I do not worship the state, but I believe that in a democratic or representative system of government, the public deserves some level of self-determination in the economy beyond the option of Pepsi or Coke. I believe that the sweatshop worker in the third world deserves some level of self-determination in the global economy beyond Pepsi or Coke. It has been my observation that capitalism simply does not adequately address this need on its own; as a result, it must be regulated by a democratic process.

    The fact that unfettered market forces have been producing tainted food, tainted milk and unsafe toys out of China, all of which bypassed an import system and an FDA which a Republican administration refused to regulate, adequately refutes your blindly ideological fourth paragraph in its entirety. I shouldn’t have to remind you that Russia was never governed by the public sector. The Communist Party which governed the Soviet Union was not the public, just as the current corporate plutocrats which govern Russia now are not the public (it is an historical irony that these are very often the same people).

    I find it amusing that you chose to interpret my assertion that I ‘have taken several economics and social theory courses as an undergraduate’ to mean that I ‘actually have zero background in business and economics’, and that you choose to caricature my view as advocating ‘dictatorships’ which ‘rush their own masses and leave them in mudhuts and squalor without any ability to do anything to improve their own condition’. But this is not nearly so offensive as your clear lack of any theological understanding of the church – that it is not banks and car and fizzy-drink corporations that form the church, but that the church is found ‘wherever two or three gather’ in Jesus’ name. If the Christian community had relied entirely upon the economic powers and principalities in the era in which it was founded, there would be no Christianity. Full stop.

  129. [...] thank god for george No, this isn’t a post about President Bush although can read my latest one here about W. [...]

  130. pastoralan says:

    I like the video above. Looking at it makes the observer think Bush was a liar. But would someone really lie about war? I’m not sure it was his agenda. 9.11 changed everything. And it’s not over. There will be more mayhem in the future. Scripture is clear on that.

    The Iraqi people will have freedoms and opportunities that they never had or would have had. 4000+ have died and that’s never good. But my concern is our nation has lost it’s will to fight for the very thing she enjoys: freedom. I served in Desert Storm in a combat infantry unit. I would have gone back to Iraq if it would have been possible. The Iraqi people deserve freedom and opportunity. Being poor while Saddam Hussein got rich? Is that right?

    Much of our attitude toward Iraq came from 4-5 years of negative news. That’s sad. Were mistakes made? Of course. But just in case some are not paying attention, the muslim world does not like us (US). They didn’t like us before the war.

    I agree with Fred Thompson: “What has the rest of the world ever done for the US other than hold our coats” (as we fought for freedom.

  131. [...] President George W. Bush.  The funny thing was I was trying to defend him in that post about an Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at him.  Okay, I know he’s not the greatest president and many can’t wait to see him out of [...]

  132. Ashleigh says:

    What does the shoe-throwing incident mean? People hate. People get angry. People can be cruel. Plain and simple.

    It doesn’t really matter that the shoe was at Pres. Bush. It doesn’t reflect anything about Pres. Bush. It only reflects the heart of the man who threw it.

    Many people, who’ve done nothing wrong, can end up having a “shoe” thrown at them (although, maybe not a shoe. Maybe an insult, or a punch, or a bullet).

    Stephen got stones thrown at him. Why? He spoke the truth and preached Jesus, and those who stoned him wanted nothing of it. They hated him. Jesus was crucified. Why? They hated him. Didn’t want to hear him.

    A teacher gets a spitwad thrown at her because she disciplined a child. A homeless person gets a can thrown at him by a bunch of drunken and rowdy teens. A policeman gets bullets in his gut by someone who hates the law.

    The shoe-incident only reflects the person doing the throwing.

    Of course, had the person been Obama, there would have been a completely 100% different reaction from the media and all those whose thoughts are shaped by the media. There would’ve been sheer outrage. It would have been an atrocity. I can’t even imagine the backlash.

    Personally, I love Pres. Bush. I think very highly of him. We have not had a major attach on this country since 9/11. He has had to deal with a completely hostile media (who we get all our news from… hint, hint… it’s biased to make Pres. Bush look bad) and an uncooperative Congress.

    4 years ago, the media was saying Pres. Bush was spending too much money on the inauguration and how can he have such a hoopla in the midst of a war, and blah, blah, gripe, complain. And now… wow….what a difference… the cost of Obama’s inauguration WAY exceeds Bush’s and we’re in the midst of a major recession. You hear the media griping, criticizing, or complaining? Nope. Not a bit.

    President Bush did many, many good things while in office, and I’m glad and thankful that he was our President, and I will miss him actually. I have no desire for the “change” Obama and his crew are about to bring.

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stuff, connect, info

a movement to fight poverty

My Instagram

What a joy to celebrate Dr. John Perkins' legacy this week. Like many others, he has been a deep inspiration to me. 
When I finished the first draft of my upcoming book, OVERRATED, he was one of the first folks I showed it too. 
He wrote back with the following endorsement: "We are called to give ourselves to our generation, and Pastor Eugene's work here in OVERRATED is exactly that. This deeply personal narrative takes readers on a lived journey of wrestling through the realities of being a justice fighter today. I've given my fifty plus years to this fight, and his story is my story. I believe it may be yours as well. I encourage all believers to read OVERRATED. It lays a course for how we must proceed as humble but faithful justice leaders in an unjust world." Needless to say, I'm humbled by his endorsement and words of encouragement. It was painful to complete (and I'm still working on final edits)...but I CAN'T wait to share the book in September when it releases. Wow. Blessed are the artists that help others reimagine the Gospel. #HeIsRisen #questchurch Amazing Resurrection celebration service. Especially love celebrating Communion every Sunday. Today, hosted a super Feast with bread from many different countries. #HeIsRisen Don't rush too soon to the empty tomb. Reflect on the cross. Thank you, Jesus, for your life & love. Thank you, Jesus, for you have redeemed this day of injustice and violence to be "good." You are truly the Light of the world. #GoodFriday Layover. San Francisco. Having grown up here, my heart still flutters. No other city like it. A quick, busy, & meaningful 26 hrs in Wash DC but managed to go for an hour walk for this view.

my tweets

  • About to preach in Minneapolis. Pray that in proclaiming the Gospel, I may honor God, be led by HolySpirit, & simply direct people to Jesus. || 4 hours ago
  • Be humble. Stay humble. Walk humbly. And kick butt. Then give God all the glory. || 15 hours ago
  • The book was painful to complete (and I'm still working on final edits)...but I CAN'T wait to share the book in September when it releases. || 18 hours ago
  • I nervously showed @JohnMPerkins a draft of my upcoming book, OVERRATED. He wrote the following endorsement: instagram.com/p/nJoXdUSWQy/ #Humbled || 18 hours ago
  • "Waiting time is not wasting time. Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life." ~ Henri Nouwen || 1 day ago
  • Bummer. Those Google glasses didn't help Krik Henrich with the free throws. #NBAPlayoffs || 1 day ago
  • RT @RevDocBrenda: Glad to represent @seattlequest at 10 yr anniversary of the John Perkins Center @SPU w/ Derek, Minhee & @EugeneCho http:/… || 1 day ago
  • Dear @NorthwesternMN: You so lucky. After having @GovMikeHuckabee at your campus, you get...me. See you at chapel Wed & Th. || 1 day ago

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