Closing the Gap: Commandment Breakers on the Christian Left

I received my usual email bulletin from a UK based left-leaning Christian think-tank and once again I see that they are concerned with the gap between the rich and the poor, this time as exacerbated by the worldwide recession. Closing the gap is one of the mantras of the Left, whether their economics is cloaked with Christian buzz words and bad theology or not.

Why are we supposed to close this gap? Jesus said, “you have the poor with you always.” The story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 makes it clear that it is imperative for us to care for the poor and it is an indication of our eternal destination. That’s pretty serious business. The Holy Scriptures are replete with the words spoken through the prophets concerning God’s concern about our care of the poor.

However, it does not necessarily follow that the poor are better off by making the rich less well off. This is simply bad economics. It assumes that there is a fixed pie of world-wide wealth and it can only be sliced so many ways. According to this model, if some people get big pieces then other people are forced to have small pieces, even to the point that if some people get huge pieces, then some will be left with none.

It is not surprising that some politicians fall into this fallacy, because they confuse “wealth” with “government budget”. It is true that the government should only have a fixed amount of money to divvy up. After all, they have to get it from those who have created it. This confuses a lot of politicians, too. They have somehow gotten the idea that they are, or should be, or even can be, wealth creators. Once again, this comes from the inability to grasp simple economic concepts, and if you have heard some members of Congress speak to the press or to their colleagues during the legislative process, this incompetence shouldn’t surprise you.

Once we get past the fixed pie false paradigm, the source of wealth gap economics is clear. It is nothing more than the politics of envy. This is the root of Marxist and redistributionist ideology. It is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. The giving to someone else of something belonging to you is called charity. The taking of something belonging to you to give to someone else is called theft. That’s a violation of the Eighth Commandment. Governments that do this turn the less fortunate into receivers of stolen goods.

Now while matters of commandment breaking have no bearing on your average atheist Marxist, they should be relevant to the Christians that have co-opted the socialist ideology and attempted to baptise it. While the Commandments are in the Bible, the idea of making sure everyone has the same wealth, oppotunities, or advantages – closing the gap between rich and poor – is not.

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$3 or $4 a Gallon? It Could Be Worse

I came across an article on the CNN website, “Who gets rich off $3 gas – who doesn’t“. At first I thought to myself, “$3 gas – wouldn’t that be nice!” Then I looked at the break down.

The crude oil costs $2.07, which is 69% of the overall $3 price. Tax is just 40¢ or just over 13% of what goes into the register. Well, there’s no wonder gas is only $3 a gallon! Most of what you are paying for is gas.

I filled up yesterday at a cost of $8.37 per gallon.  It cost me over $85. Since the crude costs are roughly the same worldwide for these multi-national corporations, as are refining and the tiny percentage made by the retailer, there is about 70% left for the taxman.

My math may be off somehow. As I was typing this I was watching the CBS Evening News, which we get hear on SkyNews after midnight. They reported on gas prices from the UK and quoted prices at $9.50 gallon. But I suppose when you figure what most American tourist will pay for a pound sterling as opposed to the market price, it’s possible. It is very possible that $2.03 translates to $2.20 or more. I haven’t checked the walk-up rates on the high street recently.

Eroding Property Rights

An Englishman’s home is his castle. That is, until Gordon Brown gets his way. He wants to give local councils the authority to snoop around and make sure that local houses are owned by local people. It will be one castle per Englishman.

Councils will have the power to require planning permission for any house that goes from fully occupied to a second home. If councils find out that a house is owned by someone who does not live in it as a permanent residence, it is not clear what they will be able to do. However, they may also get the power to ban outsiders from buying newly built properties as well.

This is socialism through and through. The State will tell you how much property you can have and where it can be located. You will live where you are told. It will also tell you to whom you may sell your property, and under what circumstances, thus effectively controlling the prices.

The property market is already in turmoil. What we don’t need is the Government stepping in with social engineering policies and making things even worse, while chipping away at historic rights and personal liberty.

Plenty of Cash and No Money

Nicholas van Hoogstraten has been arrested in Zimbabwe. He achieve notariety here in the UK a few years ago because he was convicted of for the manslaughter of a business associate and later cleared, but eventually paid out civil damages. The arrest in Zimbabwe has nothing to do with this. It has to do with possessing foreign currency and demand rent for some of his 200 Zimbabwean properties in something other than Zimbabwean currency.

He did accept some local currency. In fact he had far more of it than anything else. There was Z$20,000,000,000 with the money that police confiscated. That’s right: 20 billion. The only thing is that with an exchange rate of over Z$30,000 to US$1 – or about Z$60,000 to £1 – $20 billion doesn’t go very far.

I say all of this not to say anything about Nicholas van Hoogstraten, but rather about the economy of Zimbabwe. This is the degree to which Robert Mugabe has destroyed his country. This is why people are starving in a land that used to be the bread basket of Africa.

Innumeracy and Reality

British 15-year-olds are now 22nd in the world in math skills. This is officially below the international average. With 190ish countries in the world, I’m not sure how this is below average, but it is. Regardless of where the average is, it represents a sharp decline over the last six years.

This surprises some people. Those people are not in education.

A study just released has shown that pupils in the UK are making no progress in maths between the ages of 11 and 14 (what to Americans would be the middle school years), and if anything are slipping backwards. Because grades must be maintained, the exams are made easier. When the exams can’t be made easy enough, the grade bands are lowered. A couple of years ago, one of the exam boards only required 16% on the Maths GCSE exam for a C grade.

It’s much more important to give the appearance of educational success than to actually achieve it. After all, once the Year 11s have gotten their results, what do schools care? The educational establishment have manipulated the figures to make themselves look good. Good GCSE results bring in more Year 7s who then bring in their allottment of government cash, which keeps school going and teaching jobs safe.

That most pupils leave school functionally innumerate is really not their problem. They don’t have to worry about how former pupils don’t understand the basic maths necessary to manage their lives. Tory MP and London mayoral candidate Boris Johnson has written about how innumeracy is pushing the economy off a cliff. He refers to a friend who provides shared equity mortgages for some of the most disadvantaged people in Britain:

And yet he has been amazed at the deals they are willing to accept from less scrupulous lenders, and the risks they are willing to run with their lives. It’s not that they are stupid, he says. “It’s that they just haven’t been educated to understand the maths. They don’t see what an 11 per cent interest rate can do. They say, ‘Never mind the rate, just give me the mortgage.’ It’s ignorance.”

The consequences of this ignorance can be profound for the individual debtor, and for the rest of the economy.

Nobody worries about consequences anymore, especially not 15-year-olds. After all, they face no substantive consequences for their behaviour in school. They are indoctrinated to face no consequences for their pursuits of pleasure. Why should they face any consequences for their use of money? It is far too removed from their sensibilities to think about how their actions result in consequences for others, including society as a whole.