Author: Oliver A.

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Canada’s Boiling Point

Canada’s Boiling Point

“The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience … not from our mental resolution to try a new form of life.” – Leo Tolstoy


The tee-shirt depicts a 2011 event orchestrated by a young Canadian Senate Page named Brigette DePape. The graphic shows DePape holding up a stop sign cut-out with “Stop Harper” inscribed on it. The year is 2015, and the slogan “Stop Harper” is alive and well. Canada is in the midst of its 42nd general election, and there is mounting pressure to oust the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party who has ruled for nearly a decade. Traffic stop signs in certain parts of the country have been altered and read, “Stop Harper.” The Canadian federal political climate begins to swelter, and results in a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party majority government. It is now 2021, and in a few short weeks from the time of writing, Canadians will once again head to the polls to decide the outcome of Canada’s 44th general election. Unsurprisingly, Canadian unity has further deteriorated under Trudeau’s reign. Slogans of “Stop Harper” have been replaced with the cruder “F**k Trudeau.” The escalating language speaks volumes.

In 2015, the far-left and left-of-centre considered Harper, a despot. An article entitled “The Harper Demolition” laid out many of Harper’s opponents’ views, labelling him an ally of big business, the wealthy, free-market proponents and Israel, to name a few. Harper’s adversaries pointed to his reluctance to focus on the welfare state, indigenous and union rights, and climate change issues. After nearly a decade under conservative rule, the Canadian left found themselves desperate to liberate themselves from conservatism’s yoke. So ideological differences aside, how poorly did the Harper conservatives perform?

Upon being sworn in, Harper immediately set up the “Federal Accountability Action Plan” for conducting government business. The new framework promoted “fairness, openness, and transparency” to curb the systemic waste and abuse long associated with government spending. Efforts to restrain government came as no surprise to those familiar with Harper’s libertarian leanings. From there, Harper worked on federal-provincial relations by formally acknowledging Québec as a nation within Canada – a recognition the Québécois people had long sought after.

The Canadian Dollar reached parity with the U.S. Dollar in 2007, something the “loonie” had not done in thirty years; the global economic crisis of 2008 saw Canada fair considerably better than most of its G8 partners. By 2012, Harper was struggling. The country was dealing with same-sex marriage matters under Canadian law – and conservatives appeared out of touch with an increasingly progressive culture. The following year failed to turn any fortunes, as party scandal hit when it came to light that senators appointed by Harper had abused spending allowances – sadly, power tends to corrupt. During his final year in power, and heavily backed by the Canadian public, Harper joined NATO allies denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine and deployed Canadian forces to fight against ISIL in the Middle East.

Admittedly, like all political parties, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party was far from infallible, and the unfurling of previous points does not express endorsement of any personality or party. Those familiar with the author’s works may have previously observed sustained efforts to remain apolitical, something which the author admits is becoming increasingly difficult. Detailing Harper’s successes was employed solely as a backdrop to better judge Canada’s current trajectory: one seemingly headed for a colossal impact as a result of Trudeau’s aggressively left tacking leftist agenda. Let us now examine what has led to the profanity-laden protest signs currently disrupting the Trudeau campaign.  

Trudeau’s liberals defeated Harper’s conservatives in 2015, obtaining enough votes to form a majority government. Upon taking office, and in true liberal socialist fashion, the responsible stewardship of the federal budget quickly evaporated. The liberal government earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it aimed at building and enhancing infrastructure. Additionally, nearly no demographic group was left out as the “big-hearted” liberals further enlarged the deficit by expanding numerous government programs and benefits. In 2020, a pre-pandemic Fraser Institute report stated, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is projected to be the largest accumulator of federal debt per person (5.6 percent) among prime ministers who did not fight a world war or experience an economic downturn during their tenure.” Not exactly the legacy one hopes to leave for their children. Furthermore, government spending to counteract the economic effects of lockdowns has forced individuals to re-imagine ideas surrounding appropriate deficit spending: another blank canvas.

Fiscal irresponsibility aside, the liberals have done a masterful job of marginalizing varying groups, including the Canadian right. Contrasting Harper’s efforts to bring Quebec closer into the fold, Trudeau completely alienated Alberta by dismantling the western province’s pipeline projects to appease his leftist environmental base. Never satisfied, by changing the nation’s anthem to make it more gender-neutral, the self-proclaimed feminist’s gender politics permanently removed a verse that remembered our young war-dead sons from battles past. Trudeau’s liberals continued applying their heavy hands when compelling public servants to restrict their usage of gender pronouns when drafting personal performance reviews. Some flying under the conservative banner have long held fluctuating degrees of progressive views. However, grossly miscalculating, the liberals have driven the right too hard, too fast, and the chickens are coming home to roost.

Today’s Erin O’Toole-led “conservatives” are hardly conservative and are often referred to as “Liberal-lites” or the “Liberals of ten years ago.” For many old stock Canadians and others still adhering to strong right-leaning convictions, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) no longer represents their values. Canadian conservatism, led by the storied CPC, has been steadily declining, but something new has emerged – like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Since its inception in 2018, The People’s Party of Canada (PPC), led by Maxime Bernier, has looked uncompromising in its defence of conservative values. Though some fear they may split the right vote, many are now beginning to recognize the PPC as the only genuinely conservative option left in Canadian federal politics today.

It sounds all too cliché; the stakes on September 20th will be higher than they have been in quite some time. As Canadians wait, the left slanders Bernier, likening him to a fascist, while those on the right label Trudeau, a communist. Following in the footsteps of our southern neighbour, Canada seems destined for increasing polarization. Perhaps the sentiments of those most marginalized will lead them to believe that the only way forward is secession, like many in the U.S. now do. We may soon witness Canadian tensions, which have long been simmering, roll over and reach their boiling points.   

OA


Inflation’s Assault on the Family

Inflation’s Assault on the Family

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” – C.S. Lewis


I moved aside and watched our twelve-year-old van pull into the driveway. My wife opened the door, smiled, and told me she got the job. Putting the basketball down, I hugged her and told her I was proud. The job was a part-time evening and weekend position at the local country health food store – a good fit considering my wife’s interests. But deep down, a sense of sadness and partial defeat rolled over me. The ten-year period leading up to this moment had found my wife solely focused on homemaking and homeschooling our three children. A responsibility so demanding that few ever attempt it – even fewer see it through. But there we stood, eleven years into our marriage, resigned to the fact my single income was starting to fall short. Not due to any pay decrease, change in spending habits, or some major unforeseen event – but the result of government lockdowns and central banking monetary policies. I wanted blood.

To bathe in lament would be wrong. My wife and I have been and continue to be abundantly blessed. Our decision to have my wife stay home beyond her initial maternity leave led to a second and third child and an eventual decision to homeschool. All this, on a single income stretched by a string of small sacrifices: being a single used vehicle family, refraining from taking exotic family vacations, and thrift shopping whenever it met our requirements, to name a few. These disciplines afforded us the ability to own a home – a mortgage that is, and more importantly, to homeschool our three children.

Detailing our reasons for homeschooling would overwhelm the subject at hand, so I’ll exercise brevity. Public schools are no longer safe. Teachers no longer have the authority to maintain order and hold students to account; respect hit the offramp several exits ago. Large classrooms don’t afford teachers the ability to better know their students or offer them flexibility based on individual learning styles. Not that academics seem to matter anymore. Then there’s the indiscriminate spewing of left ideologies with little tolerance for pushback. No, thank you – we covet our kids too much, more than a new vehicle, second vehicle, picturesque vacation, and yes, even more than Gap Kids.

I was fortunate enough to receive an annual salary increase two years running, both of which outpaced official inflation numbers. An astute budgeter, I know we haven’t expanded our lifestyle to include more comforts or upgrades. So, we should be getting ahead, but we’re not. Given a choice between working six days a week or having my wife pick up some part-time work, we decided on the latter. This affords our kids more one-on-one time with dad instead of less, hopefully reducing any feelings of guilt, regret or resentment down the road. And needless to say, mom benefits from a bit of time spent away from home. So, what happened? How did we go from building savings every month to relying on those savings just to cover expenses?

Rising consumer prices, aka price inflation, resulting from central bank increases to the money supply, aka monetary inflation. For added depth, we turn to “Monetary Inflation and Price Inflation,” an article published on Mises.org, which is part of economist Robert P. Murphy’s series entitled “Understanding Money Mechanics.” Murphy begins by including the following excerpt from Ludwig von Mises’ “Economic Freedom And Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays,” which highlights the importance of differentiating between price and monetary inflation,

“There is nowadays a very reprehensible, even dangerous, semantic confusion that makes it extremely difficult for the non-expert to grasp the true state of affairs. Inflation, as this term was always used everywhere and especially in this country [the United States], means increasing the quantity of money and bank notes in circulation and the quantity of bank deposits subject to check. But people today use the term “inflation” to refer to the phenomenon that is an inevitable consequence of inflation, that is the tendency of all prices and wage rates to rise. The result of this deplorable confusion is that there is no term left to signify the cause of this rise in prices and wages. There is no longer any word available to signify the phenomenon that has been, up to now, called inflation. It follows that nobody cares about inflation in the traditional sense of the term. As you cannot talk about something that has no name, you cannot fight it. Those who pretend to fight inflation are in fact only fighting what is the inevitable consequence of inflation, rising prices. Their ventures are doomed to failure because they do not attack the root of the evil.”

In the absence of any graphs or balance sheets depicting current monetary inflation rates, I recommend anyone interested visit the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) site and access their many tutorials to get started. Verifications aside, none of the following should come as a shock to those following government responses to Covid-19. Having limited economic activity through lockdowns, global governments have turned to their central banks to bail out their citizens and businesses alike. Growing government reliance on central bank monetary policies was evident long before this “pandemic.” Still, many have only recently become aware of the staggering rate at which the money supply has increased. To reiterate, this increase in money supply is what we call “monetary inflation” or simply “inflation.” What does history teach us about this topic?

Murphy’s article demonstrates the dangerous effects by referencing three historical examples of hyperinflation, the US Civil War, the Weimar Republic, and more recently, Zimbabwe, which experienced unimaginable price inflation. Regarding the latter, he writes,

“A more recent (and severe) hyperinflation occurred in Zimbabwe, from 2007 to 2009. In the worst month, November 2008, prices increased more than 79 billion percent, or 98 percent per day. As with other hyperinflations, in Zimbabwe too the connection between monetary and price inflation was evident.”

But how does increasing the quantity of money cause consumer prices to rise?

In his book “What You Should Know About Inflation,” the famous business and economics journalist Henry Hazlitt explained their relationship like this,

“Let us see what happens under inflation, and why it happens. When the supply of money is increased, people have more money to offer for goods. If the supply of goods does not increase — or does not increase as much as the supply of money — then the prices of goods will go up. Each individual dollar becomes less valuable because there are more dollars. Therefore more of them will be offered against, say, a pair of shoes or a hundred bushels of wheat than before. A ‘price’ is an exchange ratio between a dollar and a unit of goods. When people have more dollars, they value each dollar less. Goods then rise in price, not because goods are scarcer than before, but because dollars are more abundant.”

In the era of global lockdowns, we’ve seen increasing supplies of money, decreasing supplies of goods, and governments financing their citizens to forgo work and stay home. Fewer workers produce fewer goods, and as we’ve just learned, fewer supplied goods with increasing supplies of money lead to higher prices.

Although we haven’t experienced anything remotely close to Murphy’s earlier precedents, many families are being squeezed. Fortunately, avenues do exist, which lead to improved financial outlooks. Living within one’s means, avoiding “bad” debt, implementing a budget, and substituting goods when specific prices soar, to name a few. Sadly, authoritarian governments bridled with central banking policies minimize the positive effects of making responsible personal choices. In my family’s case, having exhausted all other options, increasing our revenue stream was the only card left to play.

I can’t say enough about my wife – she’s a rock. Together, we know what we want for our family despite where the rest of the world may be heading. We knew there would be challenges, and we would need to make sacrifices along the way – but it’s been worth every last one of them. We’re raising our children and leaving little to the state. We won’t shelter them from opposing views – that wouldn’t be right. Instead, we will introduce distinct topics and worldviews on our terms and will encourage our kids to think critically. Some say our aspirations will fail, and perhaps they’re right – God only knows. Until then, you’ll find us here in our home, building up our legacy – inflationary policies be damned.

Towards liberty,

OA

The Trouble With Oaths

The Trouble With Oaths

But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.– Jesus of Nazareth


Is this why you became a police officer?” asked the reporter, “No, sir, I did not. Have a good day,” replied the officer; this was the final scene during Pastor Tim Stephens’ arrest outside his family home. Handcuffed and surrounded by his wife and eight children, three uniformed officers took him into custody. His crime: breaking a provincial health order by holding an outdoor religious service. As I closed the video player, words eluded me – but frustration did not. It seemed unnecessary, excessive, shameful. And deep in their core, I believe all three officers felt the same.

Therein lies the trouble with oaths; despite potential personal discomfort, each officer was merely “doing their job.” Their personal views were of no consequence, superseded by feelings of duty, honour, and loyalty to the state. I could be wrong in my assumptions, and the officers may have felt wholly justified in their actions. However, this is of little consequence when addressing the general and inherent problems with sworn oaths. 

The acronym “ACAB” has long been synonymous with the anarchist movement. It signifies “All Cops Are Bastards.” Some, including myself, prefer substituting the word “Bastards” with “Bad” when presenting the topic before broader audiences, but semantics aside, let us examine this claim. It’s believed the term originated in England during the first half of the twentieth century. The first signs of the acronym appeared during a 1940s worker strike. ACAB eventually found a permanent home with punk music, which effectively carried its message throughout the world.

Most moderates shudder upon hearing the phrase. They find reconciling its assertion with specific displays of police heroism and sacrifice difficult, and may experience cognitive dissonance. Their aversion is understandable. I need only reflect on the officer I’ve met on numerous occasions who now serves in a small northern rural community; the God-fearing husband and father of six, humble and gracious. Privately, I can say he is anything but “bad.” So how can both be true simultaneously?  

ACAB is the idea that donning the uniform and swearing an oath places well-meaning individuals in a precarious position—A position that calls upon enforcing unjust laws, even if it means contradicting personal conscience. It is this reality that prevents some from ever viewing law enforcement favorably. The sworn oath binds the officer to the state, and from its seed, injustice blooms.

To see that oaths are not homogenous, we need only look at the differences between state and association oaths among the police. The International Association of Chiefs of Police, a non-profit organization aimed at advancing leadership and professionalism among police officers, posts the following “Law Enforcement Oath of Honour”:

“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”

Aside from a brief mention of “agency,” the focus is on the individual officer’s integrity and character, and the importance of maintaining public trust. These statements represent a balanced approach to carrying out police duties. Unfortunately, they do not mirror the required state oaths. The three officers responsible for Pastor Tim Stephens’ apprehension were members of the Calgary Police Service. The following is their pledge to “serve and protect”:

“I, _______ , swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law, in the office of _________ for the _________ of ________ and that I will diligently, faithfully and to the best of my ability execute according to law the office of _________, and will not, except in the discharge of my duties, disclose to any person any matter or evidence that may come to my notice through my tenure in this office, so help me God.”

Canadians will recognize the allegiance to the Queen as a metaphor for the state. But the focus is clear: Loyalty to the state and execution of duties according to law. There is no mention of community, no room for discretion based on circumstance. The officer is an agent of the state and must enforce its statutes.

Anarchy rejects state legitimacy, so there is no room for state-funded police services in their society. Anarchists present alternative solutions to protecting life and property (and the reader is encouraged to delve into those ideas elsewhere), but we don’t have to go that far. The ascending state’s reliance on law enforcement presents tension even for those who don’t consider state police services illegitimate by nature.

Advocates of a night-watchman state would limit government to the provision of military, police, and the courts, but find the majority of modern laws unjust. Referred to as minarchists, they consider anything outside of protecting one’s right to life, liberty, and property to be an infringement on individual natural rights. Police officers who safeguard this trio of rights conduct themselves like good actors, while those enforcing anything else – like bad.

Worldwide, governments have become massive and full of injustice. Swearing oaths to serve such governments contractually binds people to enforce laws that violate individual rights. These rights do not exist as a consequence of the law, but are fundamental to every human life. So how do uniformed individuals manage the mental discomfort at the intersection between their conviction and sworn oath? Through the justification and rationalization of cognitive dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance is,

“the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort. This inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimize feelings of discomfort. People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information.”

When law enforcement utters, “I’m just doing my job,” one could argue the officer is experiencing some discomfort with the situation at hand; dissonance has set in, and they now feel the need to justify their actions. After apprehending a violent offender, what officer sheepishly states they were only carrying out their orders? I have heard countless reports of officers remorsefully issuing Covid lockdown-related tickets while providing instructions on contesting the ticket and encouraging them to do so – this shows incongruity.

The fact that a growing number of law enforcement officers find themselves enforcing laws they disapprove of represents a dark cloud on the horizon. A thorough review of history books reveals numerous instances of populaces claiming “that would never happen here,” that were dealt tough lessons in the end. Gaining compliance and disposing of internal discomforts is achieved in two ways:

Policing is a livelihood, and nobody wants to lose their source of income. Income plays a crucial role in securing life, liberty, and property. Following orders to ensure continued employment is a strong motivator. It is not much different than voting for a political party based on the promised financial benefits one hopes to receive. But lurking deep in one’s subconscious, an ace in the hole lies ready to dispel any dissonance—that troublesome oath.

An oath is a promise. As evidenced by the pledge above, every officer makes a promise to uphold the law. Individuals who value solid moral character want to avoid letting others down. For them, breaking a contract is no easy thing. In a “Psychology Today” article, wellness expert Michelle Glelan explains:

“When we don’t keep a promise… [w]e have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. Tiny fissures develop in our relationships marked by broken promises. We are not only communicating all of this to others, we are telling ourselves that we don’t value our own word. We think it is okay to let someone down, to say something we don’t mean, or to fail to follow through on something we said we would do. Not keeping a promise is the same as disrespecting yourself. Ultimately it can harm our self-image, self-esteem, and our life.” 

As officers begin to doubt an order’s moral legitimacy, their sense of duty to upholding their promises acts as a solid motivator in carrying out their orders. Coupled with financial incentives, this makes it extremely difficult for anyone serving to listen to some still small voice. 

Some in law enforcement are indeed worthy of being called “bad.” They lust after power, revel in their authority, act as aggressors, and know nothing of serving their communities—the primary motivators behind all those punk lyrics and ACAB T-shirts. But to those who serve with good intentions, I turn to you now – smelling salts in hand. Like pawns on a chessboard, you have been made expendable and placed in impossible situations to enforce unjust laws that break down social trust. Your badges are the instruments that politicians and technocrats alike use to implement unfair laws and respond whenever neighbour reports neighbour. It’s not too late to revisit your oath and judge for yourself the legitimacy of recent laws and health orders. And to those contemplating joining the profession, consider a different path. A path that doesn’t require pledging allegiance to an oppressive employer.

Towards integrity,

OA


All Hat and No Cattle

All Hat and No Cattle

“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson


All talk and no action, all sizzle and no steak, all mouth and no trousers, all hat and no cattle; these idioms describe when someone’s actions don’t echo their claims. I often write on the ills of government and how ever-increasing laws infringe upon our natural rights to life, liberty, and property. But rather than focusing on state threats, this quill pivots to a matter of nuisance—a nuisance found within the ranks of the liberty movement.

I don’t presume to know the heart of every man, and the good Lord knows I’m incapable of attaining absolute consistency devoid of hypocrisy. But it strikes me that there are three main types within the liberty movement: 

  • Those who are all talk and no action. 
  • Those who act – then buckle under pressure. 
  • Those who hold fast to principles – even in the face of ruin.

Sounding off on the political state of affairs comes easy; we all partake in that. But for some, it represents a modus operandi. They complain like clashing cymbals and spit venom. They beat their chests like silver-backs as if that alone will bring change or relief. Calling social media platforms home, they build pseudointellectual fortresses from which to launch indiscriminate attacks on all who question them. And like the dark fishing spider, they devour their own, seeking short-term gains, no matter the cost.

This type does nothing to attract those new to the ideas of liberty. Their heavy footprints are mostly seen and felt within libertarianism’s perpetual infighting. I expect little from the individuals bent on lamentation – some of whom appear to be borderline neurotic, incapable of refining their ideas and presenting them in a manner that inspires.

“Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our second type poses an even greater risk to lasting credibility. When writers, podcasters, and politicians in the movement achieve levels of success, they often acquire a follower base and attain notoriety. Here, we find our leaders and spokesmen, but beware of the grifters and charlatans. Some talk a great game but leave nothing but the curtains behind when the heat turns up. To them, liberty is an accouterment, a vibrant flag flown high only until it no longer brings any advantage. They are only concerned with themselves. 

Likening an invertebrate, their spineless retreat negatively impacts liberty’s advancement in two ways. First, they leave their followers disillusioned and frustrated – stalling overall momentum. Those who look up to them often put too much stock in their heroes’ opinions. When their bastions crumble, they often crumble along with them. Prudence would have us set our sights on principle over man and resist this tribal tendency.

Secondly, the abandonment of principles sends a clear message to opponents keeping a watchful eye over us: it’s a weak-willed movement. When a writer or podcaster publicly propagates one thing but privately does another, their lack of integrity does not go unnoticed. When politicians campaign on liberty only to throw those principles aside to maintain power, popping champagne bottles can be heard throughout the duopoly. In life, compromise is a reality, and nothing happens in a vacuum – but lines need to be drawn. 

Traveling off the beaten path is not easy. The prominent voices of today’s movement need to consider the costs of leading the charge. Leaders are held to a higher standard, and if they experience difficulty practicing what they preach, humility will be required to carry trust forward. No one should blame them if their heart is no longer in it. Increasing personal responsibility and reducing government is anything but fashionable, and speaking out against narratives brings down immense wrath. But there are two choices for those acting as beacons: withdraw from the spotlight and let another light the way, or press on accepting whatever consequences may come.

“When you see no present advantage, walk by faith and not by sight. Do God the honor to trust Him when it comes to matters of loss for the sake of principle.” ― Charles Spurgeon

As a committed Christian, perhaps I expect too much. I begin with the assumption that people should be willing to sacrifice for principles. Martyrdom comes in many forms and is not exclusive to Christianity. Like those I include in our third type, many individuals experience strong convictions and feel the weight of deep burdens. For them, backsliding from a belief because presenting it won’t come easy would be unthinkable. 

When a soldier stands his ground, ordered to hold the hill, the risk he faces is maiming or death. But the risks associated with the battlefield in question are of an entirely different nature. Reputations are destroyed, elections and livelihoods lost, ridicule ensues. Yet, many have tethered themselves to the ship – even when it’s taking on water. And whether or not elections are won, articles are read, and episodes are listened to, those faithful torchlights will carry on illuminating the message of individualism: a gospel of sorts. 

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every human being holds value, skill, and reasons for being here. My intention is not to spread malice or diminish individuals but rather to speak to the witnessing ability of our marginalized ranks. Our ideals, grounded in logic, tolerance, and freedom, are too important to hold back for not wanting to cause offense – and so I must be bold. To those who post and yell loudest and yet do nothing, contemplate your next steps. To those occupying seats of influence – examine yourselves and your loyalty to principle. If anyone finds themselves lacking the motivation or courage to saddle up and endure, consider hanging your hat elsewhere.

Towards integrity,

OA


The Young Ruler

The Young Ruler


By Ollie Adamson

You bowed once before,
Your cause came up empty,

You turn to us,
Expecting now that we should bend,

But not all are willing,
For some deem you unworthy of such honour,

It is true, one day, every knee shall bow,
But upward-looking eyes will not gaze at some boy,

They will see the almighty God,
The same God who looks down upon you,

You too will give an account,
For your life, and for your rule,

You invoke strong words,
And clench your velvet glove-covered iron fist,

But hear this and be forewarned,
Some are stirring,

Not desiring violence,
But merely to oppose the decree, “this is not optional.”


Capsized By Charity

Capsized By Charity

“Far too many equate compassion for the poor with support for government welfare programs. They are not the same thing.” Bradley Thomas (@EraseState)


Merely two months had passed since purchasing our new car, yet there we were, continually stalling and finally unable to start – sitting ducks in the middle of traffic. Exercising our one option, my wife and I called a tow truck and waited in joint bewilderment. A faulty sensor caused a particular tow truck driver’s path along with ours to converge that evening. We climbed into his truck and struck up a great conversation that continued until we reached the dealership to drop off the vehicle. Once there, the driver offered to drive us home, roughly a thirty-minute drive away. It beat waiting for a cab. As we continued conversing, the driver and I soon realized we had both overcome past addictions and began sharing how those victories had once more granted us abundant lives. Thirty minutes seemed like ten, and we were home. Thanking the driver, I took my wallet out of my coat pocket and asked him what we owed him. “Absolutely nothing,” he said. He added that the conversation had been an encouragement and was payment enough. Nothing? I was speechless. We exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. As he drove away, my wife and I were left marveling at what had unfolded: genuine charity.

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said,

“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”

Many of us learn the benefits of sharing our toys and helping others early on in life. But where do these moral or societal norms come from, and how does applying them benefit us? In this quill, I will present the following three reasons individuals ought to be charitable: its importance throughout biblical scripture, the positive effect it has towards achieving individual happiness and peaceful society, and finally, how un-coerced charity erodes our reliance on government safety nets, potentially reducing the government’s influence over us.

Faithful Obedience

Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that although the forthcoming section speaks to Christianity, specifically, I recognize many other belief systems place a similar emphasis on the importance of charitable works. However, as a professing Christian, I have chosen to adhere to what I know best. To the particular reader who may be averse to religious arguments, I encourage you to skip this first section rather than abandoning this work altogether. Now let’s dig in.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 from the King James Version (KJV) reads,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Interestingly enough, the KJV is one of the few translations to convert this passage’s usage of the Greek word “agape” into “charity.” Most versions opt for the word “love” instead. Not to detract from the point at hand, but I find this helpful in demonstrating how closely associated the two concepts are.

The preceding passage addresses charity’s preferential position over individual spiritual fervor. Believers sometimes fall prey to the desire to impress others by voicing long-winded articulate prayers or trying to impart to others how closely they are to God. Please do not misinterpret me here; I am not saying articulated prayers, and a desire to grow closer to God is wrong. But the passage clearly states that if you demonstrate different types of spiritual gifts, claim to know God, but are not charitable, there’s a problem.

The website Britannica.com defines charity as,

“Charity, in Christian thought, the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men… In Christian theology and ethics, charity (a translation of the Greek word agapē, also meaning ‘love’) is most eloquently shown in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine summarized much of Christian thought about charity when he wrote: ‘Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love him.'”

So what do the accounts of Jesus Christ, and the bible as a whole, teach us about charity?

Let’s look at mercy as it relates to charity. In the biblical story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), the Pharisees confront Jesus, remind him Jewish law requires that she be stoned to death, and ask Him what should become of her. Amazingly, although he recognizes her sin and knows the law, Jesus replies, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Awestruck, the men withdraw from the scene, thus sparring the woman from a humiliating and almost certain death. Jesus then counsels the woman and addresses her wrongdoing before telling her to sin no more. He could have easily condemned her to ensure His continued good standing with the spiritual authorities of the day. Instead, he illuminated the reality of sin and pointed the light back onto them. The woman received a great measure of mercy.

Many people associate financial generosity with charity. A well-known biblical principle that supports this is the concept of tithing – giving a certain percentage of your income to advance the church’s work. Tithing is an Old Testament (OT) command that is re-affirmed again in the New Testament (NT). Modern believers sometimes disagree about whether or not the ten percent still applies under the NT. Nevertheless, most agree that faithful giving is an essential part of spiritual discipline and growth.

My wife and I currently operate a church out of our home. We have faithfully chosen to continue putting money aside even though we’re not associated with any organization or have any operating costs. The tithing discipline enables us to meet people’s needs when they arise and to support established charities. There are no shortages of opportunities to help, and the scriptures point many of them out to us. Scripture frequently addresses helping the orphan, the widow, and most often the poor. A thorough review of scripture should compel the believer to help those in need and warn them against turning a blind eye.

To the believing Christian, Jesus’ death on the cross represents the most remarkable demonstration of love the world has ever known. Jesus devoted his early years to the teachings of the OT scriptures. Later, as his teachings began to increasingly subvert the local authorities and Rome, he never backpedaled as pressure on him began to mount during his adult ministry. He could have recanted and saved His own skin; instead, He chose martyrdom. Jesus exemplified perfect love while enduring a slow, painful death on the cross in saying,

“…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…” (Luke 23:24)

The crucifixion account of Jesus and other accompanying scriptures has effectively spurred many Christians to make sacrifices to help elevate those around them.

Proverbs 25:21-22 describes the effects of being gracious and charitable on those who oppose us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Most people expect to be repaid evil for evil. When we repay good for evil, this unexpected reply often stings the offender: something unanticipated. The world knows too much vengeance and too little forgiveness.

Creating a Peaceful Society

Charity’s effects on individuals and communities often contribute to a more peaceful society. As we circle back to our tow truck driver, we recognize the impact a charitable disposition can have in transforming would be adverse events. What could have been a lost evening and a sleep-deprived night was completely upended and displaced by optimism and general hope for humanity. I recall resolving to seek out opportunities to be generous to people least expecting it. This desire is best explained by the 2000 American drama film “Pay It Forward.”

The well-known non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, defines “paying it forward” this way, “To pay it forward simply means to repay a kindness received with a good deed to someone else.” What would society look like if charitable acts were continually paid forward? Have you ever been in a drive-thru and discovered the vehicle ahead of you paid for you? I hope so – it definitely sheds new light on your day. And if you have, did you pay it forward by paying for the next person? Something to think about. Imagine the ripple effect of everyone paying it forward for one day. How would that impact the employees? Sure this scenario presents winners and losers in terms of its cost implications. Still, everyone would benefit from the kindness received and the feelings generated from passing on that kindness. Ok, maybe I’m seeing things through rose-coloured glasses, but a guy can dream. The drive-thru scenario is a simple illustration of how charitable actions contribute to positive attitudes and lead to beneficial outcomes.

On the topic of attitude, an evergreen article by Colleen Walsh of “The Harvard Gazette” states,

“Studies suggest that more money can lead to a significant bump in positive outlook when it brings people out of poverty, but when simply taking a person up a pay grade, there’s often only a minor change in attitude. And while the purchase of material possessions can offer a temporary lift, the effects of a new watch, car, or dress, studies show, are almost always short-lived.”

The article also references a Harvard Business School and University of British Columbia study stating the following correlation between the act of giving and levels of happiness,

“The findings showed that those who reported spending more on others, what the team called “prosocial” spending, also reported a greater level of happiness, while how much they spent on themselves had no impact on happiness.”

If happiness were capital, the preceding quote informs an individual’s expected return on investment when investing in others rather than themselves. Increasing levels of individual happiness can, in turn, have positive effects on the communities around them. Aside from helping with financial needs, people can also give of their time. A willingness to watch my neighbour’s children on short notice can significantly benefit them when something unexpected comes up. Knowing we are there for them can enlarge their sense of security and improve their overall mental and emotional state. Our neighbourly commitment to one another strengthens our mutual relationship. When our children have it out with one another (kids will be kids), both families have increased incentives to peacefully work things out.

Imagine this reality multiplied throughout an entire community: everyone would benefit. Neighbours would be better acquainted and have a vested interest in watching out for one another: making the community safer. In a more harmonious world, calling on law enforcement to lower the volume level of your neighbour’s music would be unthinkable. What might motivate your neighbour to comply with your request? The reciprocal nature of healthy relationships. Charitable neighbours make for better and more peaceful neighbourhoods.

For individuals living rurally, specific organizations exist, enabling charitable works and offering opportunities to get involved. “Voluntaryism In Action” exemplifies tangible voluntary initiatives aimed at strengthening communities. The organization’s mission statement reads,

“Voluntaryism in Action strives to empower and improve the lives of everyone across the globe through charitable, voluntary, and free market solutions.”

Their initiatives aim to improve community development, respond to urgent needs and disaster relief, contribute to education initiatives, and more. When life qualities are improved, we often witness less crime, leading to a more peaceful society. Whether done in person or from a distance, charity increases the prospect of peace. In an age where a growing number of people are becoming social isolates, reaching out to those around you can upend the individual tendency to withdraw. It may take time, but a little persistence can bring about remarkable results.

Continuing with the organization at hand, we find a compelling distinction within their vision statement, which reads,

“To be the premiere resource and venue for those who seek to help their fellow man through voluntary compassion rather than coerced altruism.”

Coerced altruism resulting from taxation and administered by the state lacks genuine charity’s upside and impedes its organic development. Government welfare is very effective, however, in creating individual and apathetic communities. In turn, this apathy strengthens the perception that the state is the only vessel capable of providing assistance to individuals in times of need.

Reducing State Influence

Turning our attention to altruism’s troubling relationship with the state, we once again borrow from our friends at Voluntaryism In Action,

“Rather than mutual agreements and voluntary exchange, we find our daily lives and actions being dictated by bureaucratic third parties. We find it not only immoral to centrally plan society, but dramatically inefficient. The system designates A to force B to pay for C, while A takes a portion for his own keeping. We find that this state-instituted welfare system not only leaves many disenfranchised due to disincentives, it further harms the individuals it intends to assist.”

State welfare should not be confused with charity. In his classic book “The Law,” famous French economist and philosopher Frédéric Bastiat wrote,

“You say, ‘There are men who have no money,’ and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it.” (pp. 20-21)

Government assistance is merely the re-distribution of resources obtained through forced taxation from one individual to another. Despite being disguised as philanthropy, the truth is the appropriation of funds that bankroll social safety nets is made possible by oppressing and plundering private citizens.

Coerced altruism also encounters problems of reduced effectiveness. I make no attempt to conceal that I’m a federal employee at the time of writing this. My livelihood depends on tax revenues, as do all public employees, including those overseeing government safety net programs. These salaries equate to high administration costs, diminishing the assistance provided to those who need it. Another drawback, often unnoticed, is what I like to call “divorced charity.” The term divorced speaks to the impersonal aspect of government hand-outs which can negatively impact individual psyches in numerous ways.

First, government bureaucracy forces applicants to navigate endless forms in hopes of qualifying and accessing benefits. This process can prove quite burdensome and can contribute to increased anxiety and feelings of disenfranchisement. I have seen this unfold in the lives of certain veterans struggling with PTSD while trying to navigate the system. True charity works to alleviate these sorts of experiences. If someone we knew expressed difficulties in paying their upcoming power bill, which of the following approaches would seem more charitable?

  • A – Ask them how much money they require and offer to do our best to help.
  • B – Ask them for recent bank statements and a monthly budget plan, offer them money, and request a receipt to ensure the money went towards paying the power bill.

Option A, and to be clear, I’m not concerned about enabling a few dishonest individuals along the way. My instincts usually don’t let me down. Moreover, as we’ve seen, charity’s benefits often apply as much to those giving as to those receiving. By nature, state “benevolence” is impersonal and often inefficient. But what effect does society’s reliance on state programs have on the government’s increasing size and mandate?

The famous economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote the following in his classic work, “Anatomy of the State,”

“Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or ‘caste’ is how to maintain their rule. While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long- run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a ‘democratic’ government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature.” (p. 18)

When seeking the citizenry’s support, perhaps no scheme is more effective than dangling one’s livelihood before their eyes. As governments continue to expand, the population’s reliance on government safety nets has increased with it. There are now endless discussions around enshrining certain benefits as human rights. These expectations have resulted in some individuals making incentive-based decisions about whether it is even beneficial for them to find employment. Clearly, the gravy train has gone off the rails. Long gone are the days when the government operated as a collective group of individuals legitimized by protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Today’s governments resemble huge cash cows, compelled to carry on funding all sorts of expensive programs and cooking up endless new positive right initiatives to maintain popular support. Every four years, many ballots are cast based on promises of increased financial incentives for the low and middle classes. As a consequence of central banking, most of these promises are funded without ever raising taxes, and few question the sustainability of such activities.

Consider the effects on voting behaviour if charity was solely an individual, community, or corporate pursuit. Back page topics would make their way into more serious discussions and contribute to superior policies – well, theoretically anyway. In the previous section, we visualized how communities, strengthened through neighbourly love, might impact society. Imagine how modified expectations might affect government size and the government’s claim to being our caretaker. For those yearning for freedom, from the classical liberal straight through to the anarchist, there’s consensus that the current size and scope of government is grotesque. Negating the government’s capacity regarding charity would take a small step towards undermining its authority, impacting future policies, and reducing its overall size.

In closing out this section, we would be wise to recognize government assistance for what it is – relief with conditions. The conditions being we accept the countless negative trade-offs, agree with the size and scope of government, and remember which hand has been feeding us through the next election cycle. Murray Rothbard put it simply in his book “Power and Market: Government and the Economy,”

“It is curious that people tend to regard government as a quasi-divine, selfless, Santa Claus organization. Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes. If individuals do not know their own interests in many cases, they are free to turn to private experts for guidance. It is absurd to say that they will be served better by a coercive, demagogic apparatus.”

In Closing

“The Golden Rule,” as it is best known, instructs us to treat others the way we want to be treated. I recently heard the following thought-provoking statement from Michael McCullough during an episode of Russ Roberts’ show “EconTalk,”

“We’ve tried on a couple of occasions to study the Golden Rule and it’s hard, to study in the laboratory.”

Interesting. It’s as though most people accept this rule as a natural law despite having no explanation as to how it works. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t really matter in the end. Perhaps what matters is that generosity benefits both parties, increases the prospect of peace, and reduces government legitimacy. Sounds pretty good to me.

Towards charity,

OA