Thursday, April 29, 2010

Scale vs. Scope

Immigration, the Tea Parties, and Big Government
Tread on me only when it comes to immigration?

Posted April 29, 2010, by Steven Horwitz (The Freeman)

The Arizona law enabling police to ask for immigration papers or proof of citizenship of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally has fanned the flames of an already hot debate over immigration. How these issues play out in the Tea Party movement will be interesting. Polling data indicate that Tea Partiers have a significant anti-immigration element to them. So, will people who claim to dislike big government be consistent and oppose this new law?

That opponents of big government would support immigration control is surprising on its face. Enforcing such laws requires governments, federal or state, to exercise powers that small-government advocates should reject. It’s not that immigration law requires enormous expenditures, or that it dramatically increases the size of government. But it does increase the scope of government power.

This distinction between scale and scope is made by Robert Higgs in his masterful Crisis and Leviathan. The real damage to freedom comes not necessarily from government growing bigger but rather from Big Government. The former is about scale, the latter about scope. So much of the Tea Party talk seems to be about scale: how much government spends, taxes, and borrows. Little of it has been about scope: the powers that government has to interfere with the rights of individuals.

The Arizona law will cost little and will not necessarily require more police, but it gives a great deal more power to the existing government. The same is true of building border fences or stricter labor regulations. Their direct expenses are not that large (compared to bailouts and stimuli anyway!), and they often get passed on to firms and consumers. But they expand State power in way that should concern those who oppose big government.

Anti-immigration laws restrict the freedom of at least two groups. One is American employers who want to hire immigrant workers. Laws that restrict immigration to officially approved people or that punish firms for hiring those who aren’t approved limit the economic freedom of employers. (By doing so, they also limit cost-cutting competition by firms, which lowers prices for American consumers.) Tea Partiers who wave Gadsen flags might consider the ways in which immigration law treads on the freedom of their friends and neighbors who are employers. If one really supports free enterprise, one should support the right of voluntary contract among any and all consenting adults, regardless of which side of an arbitrary political border they were born or live.

Immigrants’ Rights

Too often forgotten in these debates are the rights of immigrants. Libertarians believe in human rights, not just citizens’ rights or Americans’ rights. People everywhere have, or should have, the right to travel where they wish and to contract for work with whomever they wish. On what grounds do those who profess a belief in freedom prohibit them from doing so? (To anticipate a possible objection: Illegal immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes, and the U.S. crime rate has fallen since the 1987 amnesty program.) People who break the law to look for work in America are mostly trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Why risk life and limb to come here to go on welfare when they can do the same thing at home without risk? And by what right do we prevent them from trying to make better lives for themselves, just as we would wish for American citizens? The reverence with which supposed opponents of big government treat the artificial lines governments draw is yet another puzzle.

Enforcing immigration laws, including the new Arizona law, often requires encroaching on constitutional rights. Tea Partiers claim devotion to the Constitution, but those who support the Arizona law apparently missed the Fourth Amendment’s protection of privacy. Again, asking people for proof of citizenship is not going to add anything noticeable to the Arizona state budget, or the federal deficit if done on a national scale, but it does expand the scope of government power in a way that turns it from just being “big” to being “Big.”

Tea Partiers need to decide just what they are worried about. Is their opposition to big government coming from a principled objection to the larger scope of government power at all levels to interfere with the freedoms of all people (that is, Big Government), or are they just upset about the growth in federal giveaways that don’t benefit them?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Myth-Busting the Boston Tea Party (and Its Flunkies)

To the Tea Party: War and Liberty Aren’t Fellow Travelers

by Ivan Eland, April 28, 2010 (

In an astute op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor, James Bovard points out that the love of liberty by the Tea Party crowd usually takes a backseat to a hatred of President Obama and the Left. After attending a tax day Tea Party event in Rockville, Md., a suburb of the nation’s capital, Bovard reported that the Tea Partiers oppose big government from the Left but not from the Right. Big government from the Right usually involves warfare and its accompanying enhanced police powers at home, which usually severely erode the liberty Tea Partiers claim to stand for. For example, the tea sippers extended their pinkies in a salute to torture, harsh policies toward Iran, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They didn’t seem to mind the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping and vacuuming up of ordinary Americans’ phone calls either, according to Bovard.

Yet of all the causes of big government in human history, warfare is the most important. The nation-state originally came into being because wars had become too expensive for mere kingdoms to handle.

And then the welfare state followed the warfare state. In fact, a militaristic conservative, Otto von Bismarck, created the first modern welfare state in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century.

In American history too, welfare has followed warfare. The roots of the Social Security system were planted with pensions for Civil War veterans. The progressive movement – with its counterproductive regulations on business that hurt the consumers it was trying to help – followed the Spanish-American colonial war.

But World War I was what allowed big government a vast and permanent foothold in American society. War had become so expensive and large scale that the U.S. government took over the entire economy to fight it – historically, the first time that had happened. Equally important, the government crushed dissent with the worst violations of civil liberties in American history. The war’s only rivals in stifling free political discourse were the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in the late 1700s – ostensibly needed by the government to fight off the French in the Quasi War but really aimed at political opponents. After World War I, resulting anti-foreign sentiments led to a red scare and the Palmer raids by law enforcement on innocent people.

During the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought back many of the World War I wartime agencies designed to "manage" the economy and simply renamed them. The war had set the bad precedent that no sector of the American economy was immune from government meddling.

World War II, the most horrific war in world history, also gave us the most government. During the war, government again took over regulation of the economy and even accounted for more than 40 percent of the American economy’s output, an all-time high. Although for the general population, civil liberties erosion was not as great as during World War I, that was little comfort to Japanese-Americans, who had not a single instance of disloyalty but were thrown into unconstitutional internment camps anyway.

The Cold War, although spawning only periodic hot wars, corroded civil liberties because it lasted so long. The McCarthyite witch hunts for communists in the 1950s and presidential wiretapping during the Vietnam War era that led to Watergate both began over fears of compromising information to unfriendly ears during those periods.

And of course, we have George W. Bush, a big-government conservative, who curiously wins, as Bovard notes, a 57 percent approval rating from the "small government" Tea Partiers. Yet in parallel with his war on terror, domestic spending increased more than any president since Lyndon Johnson, and he dramatically increased executive power to near tyrannical proportions by illegally using torture, wiretapping, and indefinite detentions without trial.

As Bovard notes, Tea Partiers are right-wing Obama-haters rather than liberty-lovers. And like their icon Sarah Palin, they seem proudly ignorant of history. Even the Boston Tea Party, from which the supposedly anti-tax Tea Party movement gets its name, hardly promoted liberty. The original Tea Party was caused by the British reducing taxes, not increasing them. The British had reduced the tariff on tea, thereby ruining the smuggling business in which many of the Bostonian vandals were engaged. After the violent and unnecessary destruction of private property by a mob – which other American cities had avoided and no true proponent of liberty should celebrate – the British cracked down on Boston. This crackdown thus eventually triggered the American Revolution, which likely decreased liberty in America. Wars almost always do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

The following was submited by "Jack" to a comment thread at

A Big Problem With Tea Partiers:

This seems to stem from
a lack of knowledge, and stances based upon misinformation, disinformation and bias built upon
a poor philosophical foundation.

Philosophy matters and is important. Ayn Rand was correct about that particular issue. (and many others)

They all need to examine the philosophies that their positions grow out of:
The branch of neoconservatism leads back to a tree of ultranationalism and Trotskyite socialism.
The Tree is deeply rooted in Authoritarian and Totalitarian Philosophy.
At its core its Caesarism (worship of an all powerful leader)
That is why for years the neocons constantly pushed for an all powerful executive branch.
It also explains their fetish for Lincoln.
Many Tea Partiers sadly glom onto neocon talking heads and blindly take their words as gospel truth.
Many Tea Partiers profess to be Christians but support issues and ideas contrary to Christian Teachings:

Lets Compare Christian Philosophy with Neoconservative Philosophy:
Christian: ‘Let us do good so that good may result’
Neocon: ‘let us do evil so that good may result’

Christian: ‘Doing good makes right’
Neocon: ‘Might makes Right’

Christian: ‘Doing evil is unjust’
Neocon: ‘The ends justify the means’

Christian ‘Overcome evil with good’ (Bible)
Neocon: You must become the Devil to Defeat the Devil’

Christian: ‘God comes first’ (Bible)
Neocon: ‘Nation comes first’

Christian: ‘war as a very last resort…if ever’ (Just War Theory + Pacifism)
Neocon: ‘never met a war I didnt love’ (pro war pro ‘preemptive strike philosophy of Bush et al.)

Christian: ‘Promote peace’ ‘Jesus is the Prince of Peace’, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers…’ (Bible)
Neocon: ‘peace is for wimps, sissies, and the naive’

Christian: ‘We should be concerned about the Rights of others’
Neocon: ‘The Constitution is an outdated document, people who fuss about losing Constitutional Rights are crazy’ (Often said when their great leader is running the show)

Notice a difference here?
These are just a FEW examples. Everyone should think of more examples and ask themselves:
‘Do I believe any of that neocon garbage?’
ALL Tea Partiers should switch off FOX News on their TV and go read a good Book.
Such as reading a Book by Ron Paul
A Christian who displays Christian philosophy.
Rather than blindly buy into the pablum that the neocons are peddling as so many do.

Neocons worship war and they conflate and confuse true strength with being a reckless belligerent d-bag. Also Unlike our Founders, they want an Empire not a Republic.
They swoon for the might of Ancient Rome. (The same one that crucified all those Christians)

If Tea Partiers rejected all aspects of neoconservatism...they would be far better off for it.

Read more: The Mixed-Up Culture of the Tea Party — Mises Economics Blog here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How We Rate the Church

(1) We must not overrate the position and importance of the Church. It is only too possible to do this. But it will mean spiritual loss and disaster. If we exalt the Church we are likely to forget Christ. High views of the Church often mean low views of Christ. If we emphasize the Church as the depository of grace we tend to neglect Christ as the Source of grace. If we place the Church between the sinner and the Saviour we may easily shut Christ out of the sinner's view. But if we exalt Christ the Church finds her proper place. If we honour Christ we shall value the Church aright.

(2) We must not underrate the position and importance of the Church. It is only too easy to do this. But this too will mean spiritual loss. The individual Christian needs the Church for fellowship, growth, love, and progress. The world needs the Church for witness and blessing. We must therefore honour the Church, value her life, further her progress, and enable her to realize God's purpose. We must foster Church life, Church unity, Church fellowship in every possible way. We must pray for the Church, that she may realize her high calling and glorify God in the world. Thus shall we be Churchpeople in the truest sense, members of the family of God, branches of the Vine, members of the Body, and stones in the Living Temple.

W.H. Griffith Thomas, The Catholic Faith* (1920), p. 194.

*This was the author's evangelical treatise on the Anglican catechism and Prayer Book.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Tale of Two Niceas

Here is an excellent lecture presented by Craig Blaising (one of my favorite theologians) to a chapel program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Reformation Day, October 29, 2009. The message consists of a powerful call to the authority of the God-breathed Scriptures, a stark comparison of the two Councils of Nicea (325 vs. 787), and, by implication, a rejection of the authoritative claims of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Blaising, a member of the North American Patristics Society who engages Roman Catholics and Orthodox in dialogue, is at the end of the day an eloquent and firmly-rooted defender of evangelical faith and sola scriptura.

Update: Thanks to Andrew Preslar for providing the video link above.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Favorite Anglican: William Henry Griffith Thomas (1861 - 1924)

Though W.H. Griffith Thomas emerged as a British scholar with a sterling education and prestigious positions in the church and academia and Lewis Sperry Chafer was a “self-made” student of the Scriptures, the two shared much in common that bound them together. The commonalities were theological and ministerial. Both men were a blend of theological traditions. They were certainly not Arminian, nor were they comfortable with traditional five-point Calvinism; both were conservatives, but they were not fundamentalists.

Five theological points may be noted about their views. First, both men embraced the Reformation concept of sola Scriptura. Unlike his principal mentors, James Orr (professor of apologetics and theology in the United Free Church College of Glasglow, Scotland) and P. T. Forsyth, Thomas believed the Bible was the inerrant Word of God, a conviction on his part that was foundational. His philosophical approach to the Scriptures was not rooted in Baconian empiricism reinforced by Common Sense Realism. He affirmed that Christ is the central, all-consuming point of the Bible and life, and the Bible is the means of cognitively experiencing Him. Knowledge is limited; it can make something seem real, but it requires the witness of the Spirit of God to know that it is true. Thus Thomas did not possess confidence in the role of apologetics that was embraced at Princeton Seminary. As a teacher of apologetics, a position denied him in Canada, he said its role was not to construct the edifice of faith. Why? Because it is not a source of revelation equal to “the revelation of God.” Instead the function of an apologist is to demolish his opponent’s arguments and to demonstrate the reasonableness of faith. Supernatural truth is not beyond the grasp of knowing, but it is beyond the grasp of a whole-hearted affectional embrace. To Thomas and Chafer the Holy Spirit is the only Teacher of religious knowledge because well-crafted arguments can never produce certainty. A correct philosophy of ministry must be erected on a correct epistemology. Consequently the focus of ministry in Thomas’s view, and here Chafer would agree, must be on proclamation, not clever arguments or transient contemporary issues.

Second, while Thomas adhered to the Calvinism enshrined in the Anglican Prayer Book and the Thirty-Nine Articles, which he defined and explained meticulously in The Catholic Faith and The Principles of Theology, his Calvinism was at odds with the Reformed Faith. (Like Chafer, he might be described as a “reluctant Calvinist” and a “marginal Fundamentalist.”) Though Thomas knew and embraced predestination as “a Fundamental principle of Protestantism” and his adherence to the Princetonian, he did not extend the logic of his theology to double predestinarianism or limited atonement. In explaining the doctrine of irresistible grace Thomas was willing to live with such ambiguity that Benjamin B. Warfield furiously condemned him. Yet Thomas was a Calvinist, and Princeton theologians were forced grudgingly to recognize it. Sharing Thomas’s Calvinism, Chafer too felt the probing of Warfield’s surgical pen. Neither Thomas nor Chafer was Arminian. They shared a modification of Reformed dogma with which they were comfortable. Chafer may have been a little misleading when he wrote in a publicity statement that the curriculum of the new (Dallas) seminary was “in full agreement with the Reformed Faith and its theology is strictly Calvinistic.”

Third, while Thomas did not embrace the intricate distinctives frequently made by advocates of classic dispensationalism, he was aware of the stream of dispensational thought that ran from John Darby via James Brookes and C. I. Scofield to Chafer. In organizing and interpreting the Scriptures Thomas adopted a dispensational framework that included “three dispensations of the Divine revelation to man, involving a progressive economy of grace.” (emphasis added)

There were a few differences between Thomas and Chafer. For example, though a premillennialist, Thomas did not see the millennium as a dispensation (he did not embrace the details of the dispensational system advanced by Scofield and Chafer). By the standards of classic dispensationalism today Thomas might be perceived as suspect, but he was a committed proponent of the system as a whole. When Chafer sent a copy of the proposed doctrinal statement of the new seminary to Thomas for review, Thomas had only two suggestions for revision, neither of which pertained to dispensationalism.

Thomas was an heir of the premillennial tradition within English evangelicalism, though he spoke on eschatological themes with restraint. As he moved outside English evangelicalism, and more so when he moved from Canada to the United States, he increasingly spoke on these themes. Thomas wrote an article in The Fundamentals on this theme and contributed articles to the Sunday School Times (one of which he coauthored with Scofield), Our Hope, Christian Workers Magazine, and others. When he chaired the resolutions committee of the World Christian Fundamental Association, he affirmed premillennialism in its creed. Again he was not as detailed in his delineation of premillennialism as Scofield and Chafer, but he was firmly in that camp. “In his dispensationalism, as in his theology in general, Thomas demonstrated his preference for a few major articles and avoided a rigid and comprehensive system.”

Fourth, Thomas emphasized the spiritual life, accepting, like Chafer, a form of Keswick theology that rejected perfectionism and taught a progressive, counteractive view of sanctification...

As Thomas explained, there are three views on the believer’s relationship to indwelling sin. One view is eradicationism, the notion that sin can be entirely done away with. This is biblically unjustifiable and contrary to human experience. Another view is suppressionism, the idea that the believer must war against the remnants of sin without any hope of succeeding in this life. But this too is not the teaching of Scripture. Suppressionism, as Thomas called Warfield’s view, has the advantage of being more realistic than eradicationism, but it fails because it is too pessimistic. A third view is counteraction, the belief that believers have responsibilities and that spiritual progress and victories are more than an ideal. Though it is frequently asserted that the Keswick motto is “Let Go and Let God,” neither Thomas nor Chafer were passivists; they were, however, triumphalists and this brought on them the wrath of Warfield for their supposedly being too naive. Thomas and Chafer’s view is better captured in the words “Let us go on.”

Fifth, in Thomas’s dispensational approach to Scripture, he believed that the present era is “the age of the Holy Spirit.” He stressed that the work of the Holy Spirit is integral to the Christian faith. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, the Spirit alone regenerates, the Spirit is the key to the spiritual life, and the Spirit alone is the believers’ Teacher. Thomas believed, as Chafer often repeated, “at Dallas Seminary we have but one Teacher.” What they meant by this is that the Christian faith is beyond the grasp of the merely rational; being supernatural, it requires a believing, regenerate, affectional heart change. The Christian faith is not merely a careful collection of maxims; it is beyond a teacher’s ability to explain it fully or a preacher’s talents to describe it adequately. To become a Christian, to embrace Christian truth, to have the hope of heaven is to have an assurance of knowledge that is described in the Bible but that goes beyond it to the living Christ described in it. For both men apologetics has a narrowly defined function that was at the foundation of their common educational philosophy.

“The ‘Thomas’ in the W.H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship,” by John D. Hannah, Bibliotheca Sacra, no. 163 (January-March, 2006).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Christian Austrians

It took me close to eleven months to muddle through Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State. In March, I received an alert from the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, AL that its spring catalog contained a misprint: the scholar’s edition of Mises’ Human Action was listed for only $20 (it was supposed to list for $40). I couldn’t resist. My copy arrived three weeks ago and I’m already two-thirds of the way through it. It is proving to be much more a page-turner.

Another book I’m eager to get a hold of is Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, by Shawn Ritenour, a professor of economics at Grove City College in Pennsylvania (my Plymouth Brethren friends will recognize GCC as the location of one of their annual Bible conferences). Ritenour is both a biblically conservative Christian and an Austrian school economist. In an earlier post I erroneously insinuated that Austrian economics and Christianity are strange bedfellows; actually, that is not the case. A number of prominent Austrians are believers: Robert Murphy, William Anderson, Art Carden, historian Thomas E. Woods, and Jeffrey Tucker, to name a few. Dr. Ritenour recently gave an interview to Julie Roys of Moody (Bible Institute) Radio about his new book, which can be heard here.