Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Living wage or minimum wage?



One of the privileges of my current work is sharing a building with our Diocesan Social Justice Unit, spearheaded by Jolyon White, Kate Day (pictured front/centre) and Lyndon Rogers. The details of our many stimulating discussions need not be rehearsed here but occasionally their work makes the pages of the newspaper, if not the front page.

On page 3 of this morning's Press is an excellent report of their presentation to the City Council arguing that it ought to pay all its employees at least the 'Living Wage' (worked out here to be NZ$18.40 per hour, compared to our law-required Minimum Wage of NZ$13.75 per hour). The paper carries a beautiful picture of many supporters seated behind Jolyon and Kate as they present. Unfortunately the Stuff report is just text now includes the picture. Here is an excerpt:

"Advocating on behalf of the Living Wage movement, Jolyon White, from Anglican Life [Ed.: an alternate name for the Diocese of Christchurch], acknowledged the council was in a difficult financial position but told councillors that it was in hard times that good decisions really mattered.
He challenged the completeness of the report presented to the committee, saying it failed to draw on the experience of hundreds of overseas cities which had instituted a Living Wage.
Their experience showed the cost of introducing the Living Wage was often far less than initially envisaged.
"It is a far too important thing, affecting far too many lives, to be made on incomplete information," White said as he urged the council to commission a full feasibility study rather than accept the report's recommendation.
"We are foolish if we think there are not ongoing costs of paying low wages in Christchurch," she said."Kate Day, also from Anglican Life, said experience in cities that had introduced a Living Wage showed it boosted morale and productivity."
I am all for people being paid fairly but I am wondering whether the argument for the Living Wage being paid to workers not currently on or above that level is not also an argument for the Minimum Wage being set at the Living Wage level?

28 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Peter

being paid fairly

What is "fair" payment?

Any employee must earn more for his employer than he receives in wages. If an employee cannot produce a "Living Wage" worth of value to his employer then his employment at that wage is inherently unfair to his employer and the other employees who must carry the slack. The "fair" outcome would be that he not be employed at all.

The rational reaction to this kind of diktat is to increase the productivity of the employees so that total employment may be decreased and the cost balanced. That's the only way to rationalize the impact. Unless of course the intent is to force employers (and by extension their customers) to artifically subsidize the standard of living of non-productive workers. In which case, the work will simply move to low-cost centers of production overseas.

Man can pass his laws. But he cannot change the laws of economics.

carl

MichaelA said...

Peter, you make a good point.

I cannot comment on the precise wages issues applying in New Zealand. But the principle that employers are responsible before God for dealing justly with their workers is well established in scripture:

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty."[Malachi 3:5]

"Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin." [Deut 24:14-15]

“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.

He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord." [Jer 22:13-16]

Probably the most important passage is Colossians 4:1 - "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven."

This shows us that it is more than just the letter of the law that is in play here.

The precise details differ from country to country - here in Australia we have minimum wages, and see it as an essential foundation of the health of our economy. Other countries do things differently. But to every country and every employer, the Lord asks whether we are behaving justly.

Father Ron Smith said...

Good to see you, MichaelA, speaking on behalf of 'God's Little Ones'. I'm not too surprised to see very few comments on this issue. It is a matter of great moment to ordinary people, but often, not to polemical scholars and right-wingers.

Good on yer, Michael! Blessings!

Shawn Herles said...

"In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period. The law says: it is illegal, and therefore criminal, for anyone to hire anyone else below the level of X dollars an hour. This means, plainly and simply, that a large number of free and voluntary wage contracts are now outlawed and hence that there will be a large amount of unemployment. Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result."

http://mises.org/Econsense/ch36.asp

Minimum wage laws of any sort, hurt the poor in the long run. They prevent the poor from selling their labour at the price that is right for them, thus preventing the poor from being competitive in the market.

Arbitrary interferences in the market by the State, and the so-called "living wage" is an arbitrary intervention in the market, cause the boom-bust business cycle that hurts the poor the most (the rich can ride a bust out, ususally).

Right wingers care about the poor, so much so that we oppose any kind of socialist policy which just causes more poverty.

It should be compulsory for memebers of the misnamed "social justice" Commission to understand basic economics. Apparently an ignorance of basic economics is the current requirement.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
In respect of recent comments, are you concerned about the Social Justice COmmission of our whole church or the Social Justice Unit of the Diocese of Christchurch?

I can speak much for the former these days as it is in a process of transition from the days when it employed a full-time Social Justice Commissioner to a new day in which it may or may not employ another Commissioner.

It would be worth your while dropping by sometime to talk with the Social Justice Unit about their commitment to the Living Wage. I think you will find that they do understand things about modern economics. One response to my own questions about the campaign is that it is targetted at those employing bodies which can afford to pay the Living Wage, not at those which cannot afford to do so.

In general terms I recognise your point about the Minimum Wage but I am not sure that I support going backwards to the day of the poor selling their labour for less than a 'minimum wage.' Too easy to get into the mode of undercutting wages. There are some rich people running our country and they could afford to pay themselves less and their employees more.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

"In respect of recent comments, are you concerned about the Social Justice COmmission of our whole church or the Social Justice Unit of the Diocese of Christchurch?"

Both. As you know, I'm opposed to having a Left Wing Commission in the first place.

Question. Are any of the members of the Unit from National, ACT or the Libertarianz? Or are all of them supporters or members of Left Wing parties? If the latter, then that proves my point about the Unit/Commission being a form of political corruption of the Church which sidelines and effectively silences the tens of thousands of Anglicans who are not supporters of the Left. That is unjust.

"It would be worth your while dropping by sometime to talk with the Social Justice Unit about their commitment to the Living Wage. I think you will find that they do understand things about modern economics."

No, it really would not be worth my time at all. If they did understand basic economics they would not be proposing the policy in the first place. The fact that they are to me at least, proves my point. Talking to members of the Labour/Green parties will make no difference to the fact that I consider both parties economiocally insane, the latter seriously so. And the individual in the photo is a member of the Greens.

"There are some rich people running our country and they could afford to pay themselves less and their employees more."

Thats very simplistic. Real businesses in the real world do not work that way.

But the real question is, should they be forced to by the State?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
One of the two individuals in the foreground of the photo has been publicly associated with the Greens in the past. I have no idea whether either person is currently a member of the Greens, nor do I have any information about party allegiances of any person working for the Commission or the Unit.

I would be very surprised if political affiliation was part of the decision-making re who is appointed to which body.

My own view is that governments have a benign role to play in modern economics. Most things are best left to the market to sort out; but not everything. I think a role exists for governments in Western societies to determine the extent of welfare, conditions of work including health and safety (something notoriously and dangerously undervalued by employers when not regulated) and (I suggest) a minimum wage.

Yes, I know that real businesses are complex beasts to run. But there are some 'fat cats' out there who seem to have no problem accepting amazing pay packages while squeezing down the wages of their employees. Also: the photo concerns the City Council which is over endowed with people earning $100K+; and the campaign is focused on a comparatively few employees of the Council (not on all employees of all bodies owned by or contracted by the Council).

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

this is where we differ, because I believe that the State should play no role whatsoever in the economy apart from upholding the non-agression principle.

"The non-aggression principle (NAP)—also called the non-aggression axiom, the zero aggression principle (ZAP), the anti-coercion principle, or the non-initiation of force—is a moral stance which asserts that aggression is inherently illegitimate. NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what aggression is depends on what a person's rights are. Aggression, for the purposes of NAP, is defined as the initiation or threatening of violence against a person or legitimately owned property of another. Specifically, any unsolicited actions of others that physically affect an individual’s property or person, no matter if the result of those actions is damaging, beneficial, or neutral to the owner, are considered violent or aggressive when they are against the owner's free will and interfere with his right to self-determination and the principle of self-ownership.
Supporters of the NAP often appeal to it in order to argue for the immorality of theft, vandalism, assault, and fraud. In contrast to nonviolence, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violence used in self-defense or defense of others. Many supporters argue that NAP opposes such policies as victimless crime laws, taxation, and military drafts. NAP is the foundation of most present-day libertarian philosophies."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle

I agree that Councilers being paid 100k is obscene, in part because it's stolen money, but the answer to that is abolish the Council entirely. It serves no valid purpose. Nothing local body councils do could not be done privately.

As far as the Unit/Commision goes, I have read and heard enough over the years, some of it very disturbing, to seriously doubt that anyone from the Right has ever been employed by it. It is possible that some National-Lite centrists may have been, but I would happily bet a large wad of cash that no seriously consistent Rightist ever has been.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for pointing out the obvious bias of the Gospel - towards the poor and under-privileged of our society.

"Blessed are you poor, for you shall be satisfied!". That would seem to be the tenor of our Lord's economic package. Not all poor people are dole-bludgers. Many struggle to find jobs, and most of the jobs open to them are poorly rewarded.

This is antithetical to the lure of the 'Prosperity Gospel', that promises special financial rewards to the spiritually ambitious.

Shawn Herles said...

The Bible's concern for the poor, and modern socialism, are not the same thing. Socialism creates poverty and destroys the ability of the poor to get out of poverty.

The Bible and Socialism are not the same thing.

Oh, and nobody here is advocating the "Prosperity Gospel".

Shawn Herles said...

The Liberal-Left Christian version of social justice runs counter to Biblical teaching. The LLC view is that almost any means are just, so long as the end is achieved. But true justice, to be just, must be as much about means as well as ends. Using the State to force individuals or private business to hand over their property, the majority of which goes to the State, and then what is left over to "the poor" as defined by the State (with an eye to the next election) would be, if carried out by a private citizen, be called theft. The Bible condemns theft.

The Biblical version of social justice is that private individuals give to the poor and support the poor freely, from their own wealth, and that private employers behave justly, out of their sense of responsibility to God and their neighbour, again, freely. Forcing people and business to behave "justly" is not biblical justice, it is force.

The Living Wage campaign, clearly according to their own web site, is prepared to use unjust means, including government coercion, force and theft. It is thus contrary to true justice, and should not be supported nor funded in any way to any degree by the Church.

I do not tithe to the Church so it can engage in coercion, force, oppression and theft. The "social justice" commision, in all it's forms, must be shut down, in the name of justice.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I take a contrary view!
Biblical teaching (for example this Sunday past, Isaiah 58:1-9) clearly teaches the over-riding importance of seeking justice. In that reading it is more important than a religious practice such as fasting.
When the Bible speaks to us in this way it is strangely like a lot of 'left-wing talk'! Perhaps the left-wing has cottoned on to some biblical concepts?

Absolutely there is a debate to be had over whether this way or that way is the best means to secure justice in society. On that score I tend to the right myself as I believe that in the long run capitalism raises the standard of living of the poor rather than keeps the poor poor (the counter-intuitive experience of much left-wing economics). Nevertheless, along the way the left has usually raised valid challenges to conditions for workers and their families.

As for the Social Justice Unit, I think you will find they spend their time trying to persuade people to make changes, not coerce people to do so.

I cannot think of any government edict which has required people to pay the living wage. There has been a government rule to impose the minimum wage. When it first came in I was doubtful but following the fortunes of my children in their working life (in some menial jobs) I am glad that they can reckon on the minimum wage rewarding their hard labours.

Have you tried persuading others in the church (apart from here) that it is involved in 'coercion, force, oppression and theft'?

Shawn Herles said...

"Biblical teaching (for example this Sunday past, Isaiah 58:1-9) clearly teaches the over-riding importance of seeking justice. In that reading it is more important than a religious practice such as fasting. When the Bible speaks to us in this way it is strangely like a lot of 'left-wing talk'! Perhaps the left-wing has cottoned on to some biblical concepts?"

No. Of course we should seek justice, in fact a fair reading of my posts on this thread would acknowledge that I am seeking and advocating justice. But a simplistic 'The Bible talks about poverty and justice, therefore the Left is advocating Biblical principles', does not stand up to close scrutiny.

"As for the Social Justice Unit, I think you will find they spend their time trying to persuade people to make changes, not coerce people to do so."

By advocating coercive policies that are unjust. Any pro-welfare and pro-redistributive economics are a violation of the non-agression principle, which is a standard of real justice. And the Social Justice Unit, along with other SJ groups in various churches, advovate welfare socialism, thus coercion and force. I did not say they were using force, but advocating it, and that to me is indisputable.

"I cannot think of any government edict which has required people to pay the living wage."

Not yet, but the State will when and if the Left gets back into power. And it does currently use coercion on a massive scale.

" I am glad that they can reckon on the minimum wage rewarding their hard labours."

Minimum wage laws are theft. Theft is not justice. Your argument here is that the ends justify the means. But justice must be about means, not just ends. The Soviet Union justified everything it did, including mass starvation, on the basis that the ends were just. We, as the Church, need to be very careful we do not make the same mistake in our understanding our justice.

"Have you tried persuading others in the church (apart from here) that it is involved in 'coercion, force, oppression and theft'?"

Every chance I get, when the topic comes up.

I would like to see you answer my basic point. Is it ok for me to point a gun at you and steal your property? If not, then why is ok for the State to do so?

Do you think the non-agression principle is right or wrong?

MichaelA said...

"Minimum wage laws of any sort, hurt the poor in the long run."

As an Australian, I must beg to differ with that as a general principle. We have had minimum wages in one form or another for over a century, and there is no evidence that it has hurt us.

That doesn't mean I am suggesting that our solution for social ills is the right one for every other country. But I disagree with those who tell us that our system cannot work - sorry, but we have been doing fine for a long time now, thanks very much.

"The Biblical version of social justice is that private individuals give to the poor and support the poor freely, from their own wealth, and that private employers behave justly, out of their sense of responsibility to God and their neighbour, again, freely."

I don't think that is entirely true. There is a lot of social legislating in the Old Testament. Some of the passages I cited above are based on the fact that social responsibility is legislated in the Torah, and people were ignoring that.

Now God is fundamentally concerned with principle: I don't think he will be impressed if Australia or New Zealand pass a law requiring that anyone who takes a person's cloak in pledge must return it by nightfall - but he will be impressed if we consider the reasons why that law was legislated for Israel.

Also, to allay some other concerns that have been raised: my impression is not that the Old Testament teaches that every aspect of our behaviour can be legislated - the Torah left plenty of room for individual responsibility, both among the poor and among the wealthy. But I don't see how it can be suggested that Old Testament Israel was a "free market" in the unrestrained way that that term is sometimes used today.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
As long as the premise of the argument is that taxation is theft then it matters little whether you are pointing at gun at me or the State sends out an IRD form.

My question is whether taxation is theft, and what would be the biblical basis for making that argument (given that the Bible in both Testaments appears to view the right of the State to collect taxes as a divine right flowing from the divine appointment of the State to govern)?

If we accept that the State has the right to collect taxes we then, of course, have an argument about what those taxes should be used for and what they should not be used for. On analogy with the commandments of God in Leviticus and Numbers concerning Israel running an economy that allowed for some basic welfare for the poor, I cannot see a 'biblical' objection to modern governments using taxes (or its powers of law-making, cf minimum wage) for the purpose of ensuring basic welfare for its people.

Pragmatically (and having lived in a country with beggars on every corner) I would like our government to govern us in such a manner that no one needs to beg on the streets.

You mention the ends and means re social welfare and the minimum wage. If the State has the right to collect taxes under God, and other powers of coercion by virtue of divine appointment, then by definition it has just(ified) means for securing just ends.

In the Soviet Union the Communist government governed in all kinds of ways that were unobjectionable (i.e. it fulfilled basic requirements of all governments). Where it failed on the 'ends' justifies the 'means' measure is that it destroyed the welfare of the people in order to secure some imagined goal of welfare. That was a basic contradiction of an understanding of welfare, especially measure against the Bible.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Liberal-Left Christian version of social justice runs counter to Biblical teaching." - S.H. -

I think that this statement, combined with the idea that governments should keep out of the economic situation, is plain nonsense. When government is charged with the economic good of its citizens - and what government is not? - to expect them to 'butt out' of economic involvement seems quite peculiar and unrealistic.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

I think you managed to avoid the question rather well. While the Bible says that good citizens should obey current laws, including taxes, it nowhere says taxation is a divine command or a right for governments. I'm still waiting for your response to the non-aggression principle issue. You cannot avoid that by just referring to the status quo view that compulsory taxation is not theft. Being a status quo view does not make it right.

Ron,

" When government is charged with the economic good of its citizens"

Who says they should be? Individuals and families are better able to look after and determine their own economic goods. Governments have a terrible track record on that score. The current economic crisis, including the massive collapse of Greece, was created by governments. Expecting governments to look after other peoples economic lives has proven to be a massive failure.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I was not trying to avoid the question but may have poorly made the point that not everything coercive (e.g. governments imposing taxes) breaks the non-aggressive principle. (At least in my understanding of it).

Shawn Herles said...

Peter,

the government taxes through force. This is so because you have no choice but to pay tax or be arrested. That is force, and thus a violation of the non-aggression principle. All initiatory force violates that principle. If your not sure about that, try not paying your taxes.

Here is a warning from God that could just as easily be applied to the modern welfare state:

Note that the reason why Israel wanted a king were very, very similar to the arguments for a strong welfare state and compulsory taxation.

"Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves." 1 Samuel 8.

Peter Carrell said...

Shawn
I am happy to pay taxes as that is part of the social contract which underpins a society governed by the principle of looking out for one another. Coercion is not needed.

Whatever God said through Samuel about kings, Jesus did not denounce the paying of taxes, nor did he invoke the non-aggression principle when speaking through his servant Paul in Romans 13. I am at a loss to know where you find support in the Bible for the absolutist invocation of the non-aggression principle which underlies your economic and political philosophy.

Shawn Herles said...

"I am happy to pay taxes as that is part of the social contract which underpins a society governed by the principle of looking out for one another. Coercion is not needed."

Yes, it is. Again, what happens if I chose not to comply? I will be arrested. That is coercion, even if some like it. That some like being slaves to the State does not justify them enslaving me as well.

The "social contract" is just a fancy way of saying that those who want to have a welfare state force the rest of us to comply at gunpoint. Force is thus still being used, and there can be no moral defense for that. It is not even necessary to have a society in which people care for one another. That could be achieved voluntarily. But the truth is that some want to define for the rest of us what "caring" means in practice, and if we disagree we get arrested, even if the "caring" of the welfare state has proven to be morally and economically destructive, and largely a sham in which politicians bribe people with stolen money.

No matter how you slice it, or spin it, those who disagree with your definition of a caring society are under the jackboot of the State and forced to comply. That is not a contract, it is slavery and oppression. A contract is something free people voluntarily enter into, not a State that says "hand over your property, or else!"

Voluntary societies are caring and civil societies. Coercive societies are not.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn One question for you: Have you ever lived in a country where taxation is not levied? By the tone of your statements here; if there were, surely you would be much more comfortable living there?

In the only other country you have ever lived - USA - are they not also taxed by their government? Is there anywhere in the world you could go where there is no government taxation? I have lived in several countries, all of which tax the local populace. That is the way in which public services are provided.

Of course, if one were really rich (or poor, and able to support one's-self and one's family by growing local produce) one could buy a desert island and become self-sufficient, with no pesky governmental interference, but what fun would that be?

MichaelA said...

“While the Bible says that good citizens should obey current laws, including taxes, it nowhere says taxation is a divine command or a right for governments.”

Actually, I think it does. Firstly, it is clear in Matt 22:15-22 that Jesus is telling the Pharisees that God’s law requires them to pay the taxes that the Romans impose.

Similarly in Matt 17:24-27, whilst Christ and Peter are no longer bound by the Old Testament law, they must still pay the taxes which the Jewish authorities impose (even though that tax is for the upkeep of a Temple which represents Christ, and which is now useless due to his coming in the flesh)

And so Paul in Romans 13:1-7 emphasises not only our Christian duty to pay the taxes which governments impose, but also their right to impose them. He finishes with the point:

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” [Romans 13:6-7]

Now, I agree entirely with the Puritan theologians who considered that Romans 13:1-7 leaves room for lawful rebellion in some circumstances. But the general principle is clear: governments have a right to impose taxes, and we have a duty to pay them.

“Who says they should be? Individuals and families are better able to look after and determine their own economic goods. Governments have a terrible track record on that score.””

I disagree. This is just not remotely true. Of course governments are twisted by sin and fall way short of what they should be – but so do families. And so do individuals.

And in any case, this doesn’t respond to Fr Ron’s point, which was not whether governments are good or bad at achieving the economic good of citizens, but whether God has charged them with doing this. If He has (and I believe the Scriptures are clear on that point) then whether they are good or bad at it is irrelevant.

“the government taxes through force. This is so because you have no choice but to pay tax or be arrested. That is force, and thus a violation of the non-aggression principle”

Sure. As far as I know, the NAP doesn’t even purport to be Christian.

Re 1 Samuel 8:10-17, how does that assist your argument? Sure, Samuel points out to the people the adverse side of strong centralised government in a fallen world. But he never says that God does not wish them to have a King. Remember that this is the period of the Judges, which was characterised by a continual stream of murder, adultery, rape, genocide and oppression, when “there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” [Judges 17:6, 18:1, 21:25]

In that context, note what the Lord says to Samuel earlier in the chapter – he does NOT say that the people rejected Him as king when they asked for a human king. Rather, he says:

“And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.” [1 Samuel 8:7-8]

In other words, the people were rejecting God as king during the period of individual rule, just as much as they were doing when they asked for a king.

“Voluntary societies are caring and civil societies.”

The Book of Judges tells us that this is simply not true. Actually most of the Torah teaches the same lesson.

Shawn Herles said...

MichaelA,

"Actually, I think it does. Firstly, it is clear in Matt 22:15-22 that Jesus is telling the Pharisees that God’s law requires them to pay the taxes that the Romans impose."

No, that is not what He is saying at all. This requires a longer response than a blog post. Here is a very detailed and well thought our answer to your claim.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/2010/03/jeffrey-f-barr/render-unto-caesar-amostmisunderstood-newtestamentpassage/

" But the general principle is clear: governments have a right to impose taxes, and we have a duty to pay them."

No, we have a duty to obey the law of the land, to a degree, which usually includes taxes, but Paul is not saying that therefore all laws, or taxation is therefore just and right, or good practice.

"I disagree. This is just not remotely true. Of course governments are twisted by sin and fall way short of what they should be – but so do families. And so do individuals."

Families and individuals do not have power over millions. The sins of governments affect far more, and do far more damage to entire nations. And in fact I would happily claim that families and individuals do have a better track record than governments. That is certainly true. Who knows better how to care for my family? Me, or a politician?

"As far as I know, the NAP doesn’t even purport to be Christian. "

It is entirely consistent with Christ's teaching not to Lord it over others, to be at peace with our neighbours, respect their property, and not use force against them or steal from them. Does Jesus ever advocate the inititian of force? Can you show me one place where he does? Many early libertarians were Christian, and pointed out that the NAP is entirely consistent with many Biblical laws and moral principles.

"this doesn’t respond to Fr Ron’s point, which was not whether governments are good or bad at achieving the economic good of citizens, but whether God has charged them with doing this. If He has (and I believe the Scriptures are clear on that point)"

Your point beggars the question as to what exactly is entailed in a government looking after the economic good of it's citizens. Devaluing the currency, spending a country into massive debt, creating inter-generational poverty through welfare, and using taxes to bribe voters, is not to anyone's economic good. Ron's point, which I did respond to, was that the government should use the welfare state and "pubic" services to look after it's citizens good, and nowhere in Scripture can that be established.

" Sure, Samuel points out to the people the adverse side of strong centralised government in a fallen world."

Which was my point.

"“Voluntary societies are caring and civil societies.”

The Book of Judges tells us that this is simply not true. Actually most of the Torah teaches the same lesson."

Over quarter of the laws of the Torah are concerned with the preservation of private property rights, and peaceful cooperation between neighbors. Nowhere does it advocate a large welfare state or a coercive secular government. And all the sins of the time of the Judges were continued under the monarchy. Israel was not supposed to be nation like other nations, which is why God was opposed to them having a King, as that was the common practice and why His warning about the consequences of this would be oppression.

But it is clearly obvious that voluntary cooperation is morally better than one group of people oppressing and lording over others. That is certainly consistent with Christ's teaching.

Shawn Herles said...

Ron, a few hundred years ago most countries had slavery. So that was ok because that is what everyone did. Twenty years ago no country had gay marriage. That was right because that's what all countries did.

See the problem with your argument?

Simply saying that something is the staus quo is not a good argument.

We do not need "public" services. "Public" by the way actually means owned by the State, not the public.

Nothing governments currently provide in terms of "services" could not also be provided privately, and without the use of force.

Father Ron Smith said...

Round and round the mulberry bush!

MichaelA said...

Shawn wrote:

1. "This requires a longer response than a blog post. Here is a very detailed and well thought our answer to your claim..."

It is indeed detailed, but most of the detail is irrelevant. Barr adopts a totally unjustified assumption (that the coin that Jesus looked at was a coin of Tiberius - it almost certainly was not), and other than that does not put forward a single reason to support his argument. Most of the article is taken up with describing the background to the gospel story, which I already knew.

The Pharisees gave Jesus the clear opportunity to state that we do not need to pay taxes to a secular government. But instead, by pointing out that the coin was minted and backed by the Roman government, Jesus highlighted the services provided by that government, and that therefore paying taxes to defray the cost of those services is not inconsistent with God's ownership of all things.

2. "No, we have a duty to obey the law of the land, to a degree, which usually includes taxes, but Paul is not saying that therefore all laws, or taxation is therefore just and right, or good practice."

Thank you. I never suggested that "all laws (taxation or otherwise) are just and right", and I don't believe Father Ron did either.

3. "Families and individuals do not have power over millions."

Yes, they do. If there are a million people in a nation and families rule, then a million people are ruled by families. And if there are a million people in a nation and a government rules, then a million people are ruled by the government. The numbers are exactly the same.

This is why the comparison between the period of the Judges and the period of Saul is so relevant - it was exactly the same nation, and there was just as much injustice and violence under the judges as there was under the king - probably more. And God disapproves of both of them - he does not endorse either the period when "every man did what was right in his own eyes" nor the period when a king ruled - both are equally rebellious [1 Sam 8:7-8]

4. "Who knows better how to care for my family? Me, or a politician?"

What has that got to do with it? The politician doesn't stop you caring for your family in any meaningful way, not like your neighbour does if he walks into your house and shoots you, because there is no law against it, and no police service to enforce the law - please let's keep this grounded in reality.

5. "[the non-aggression principle] is entirely consistent with Christ's teaching not to Lord it over others... etc"

No it isn't. You are arguing that governments are breaking God's law when they enforce their laws, and Jesus taught nothing like that, rather the opposite.

6. "Does Jesus ever advocate the inititian of force? Can you show me one place where he does?"

Even if this were true, so what? The "initiation of force" (to use your peculiar phrase) was an undeniable part of the culture in which Jesus lived, particularly by the government and he at no point condemns it. You are trying to argue from silence.

And in fact, Jesus does advocate the initiation of force by those lawfully entrusted with that role. Jesus told people living in fornication to stop doing it, and those who committed theft to cease from it, but he never suggested to the soldiers he came in contact with that they should leave their profession.

Furthermore, Jesus endorsed the teachings of the Prophets before him and the Apostles who came after him. Look at how one of His prophets, John the Baptist, dealt with the issue:

7. "Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay".”

The whole Bible is God's teaching - not just the bits we prefer to pick and choose. I have already given you plenty of scriptural support for the teaching that God requires governments to exercise force in governing.

To be cont.

MichaelA said...


Cont. …
8. "Your point beggars the question as to what exactly is entailed in a government looking after the economic good of it's citizens. Devaluing the currency, spending a country into massive debt, ..."

No it doesn't, because I covered this point – neither I nor Fr Ron (so far as I am aware) have suggested that government is always good or right in the way that it discharges its responsibilities; but that doesn't change the fact that it has had responsibility conferred on it.

The point is equally true of individuals: A father is commissioned by God to rule his family. If he abuses that power, then he stands guilty before God but that doesn't change the fact that the responsibility was conferred on him in the first place. In the same way, a government is commissioned by God to rule the people. If it abuses that power, then it stands guilty before God, but that doesn't change the fact that the responsibility was conferred on it in the first place.

9. "Ron's point, which I did respond to, was that the government should use the welfare state and "pubic" services to look after it's citizens good, and nowhere in Scripture can that be established."

No you went further than that and argued that governments have no right (at all) to govern, hence why I have been pointing out that the scriptures make it plain that they do have such right and responsibility (the two go hand-in-hand).

I am not going to get into arguments about the definition of "welfare state" (I don't think I have ever seen two definitions the same) but there can be no doubt that "public services" were part of the Roman apparatus of government which both Christ and his Apostles recognised as being part of normal government.

10. "Over quarter of the laws of the Torah are concerned with the preservation of private property rights, and peaceful cooperation between neighbors."

I don't recall ever suggesting otherwise.

11. "Nowhere does [the Torah] advocate a large welfare state or a coercive secular government."

Lets not shift the goalposts: you made the sweeping assertion that “Voluntary societies are caring and civil societies.”, and I responded that the Torah demonstrates the opposite: Both its historical and legislative parts demonstrate that mankind has to be coerced into being caring and civil.

13. "And all the sins of the time of the Judges were continued under the monarchy."

Even if that were accurate, how does it support your argument that individual rule is better than autocracy?

14. "Israel was not supposed to be nation like other nations, which is why God was opposed to them having a King"

Then why are you using it as a reason why other nations shouldn’t have kings?

15. "Nothing governments currently provide in terms of "services" could not also be provided privately, and without the use of force."

I disagree. Governments pass laws for the provision of e.g. running water because laws are required. If there were no laws, each of us would look after our own interests first and foremost, even though the end result means no running water.

The foundational problem with your argument is that you are denying the truth of sin in all aspects of human life. Ironically, your arguments are based on the same assumption as Marxism - that humans will revert to a primitively good state, if only the influence of the State/Capitalism [pick one] is removed. But that is not what the Bible teaches - rather, it reminds us that the problems of our society are within each of us.