Sunday, February 28, 2016

Three Factual reasons why "Democratic Socialism" will never get off the ground:


I respect and appreciate many of the people who are hopeful Sanders will start his revolution.  The reality of why he will never even get started hit me like an epiphany today.   
The first reason Democratic Socialism (DS from here out) will not get the flywheel started, let alone get off the ground:
#1. The main and primary claim of DS is this: The masses will coalesce and as one, together we will work for the "common good" of everyone. That's impossible. How do I know this can't happen? In our culture we can't agree on what a healthy lifestyle is --  like which is better, eating meat or being vegetarians, heck, we can't even agree over gas vs charcoal grilling. Our nation isn't simply divided.  Our nation is fragmented.

We will never come to a consensus over what the common good is.  

We are basically split 50/50 over liberalism & conservationism as it is, so democratically voting on the issue isn't the solution to finding the common good.  Our diverse nation has too many agendas floating around, and we will not agree on what is the best path forward for quite some time.  Also, think of the chasm that separates religious people of different faiths, and the span that separates the faithful from the secular.  All of these worldviews are so far apart, you'll never convince these scattered people what the common good is.  But wait, there's more....

The second reason DS will never get off the ground:
#2. Our nation will never submit to a panel of experts within the government that selects our working positions.  We are too independent.  For DS to succeed, it would have to assign workers to certain fields.  Since money is no longer used to motivate people in a DS society, there will be slots that no one will fill willingly.  I will not degrade any trade or field of work by coming up with an example, but simply use your imagination to stir up the worst jobs you can think of, then remember work under the DS utopia is volunteer-sourced, and think who in their right mind would take on those horrid jobs, the occupations that you know are wretched.  Oh yes, there's more...

The third reason DS will never fly:
#3. If you thought "Who will choose people to work in certain fields against their will?" was a deal breaker, it's about to get way worse.  The 3rd reason that DS will never have the majority's support is the biggest question no one is asking about DS: Who enforces the DS policies of work and the redistribution of wealth?  It can't be the masses, just reflect on major cities when a natural disaster strikes and people riot and loot.

One might respond to this question of enforcement by asking, "Isn't that why we elect political leaders, it is "Democratic" socialism after all?"  The reality is, DS has to have a pyramid leadership structure to keep the plebs in line.  For DS to function, there will have to be absolute rulers who are not accountable to others to enforce the policies as an absolute supreme power.  We can't even agree in our culture over "spanking" or putting kids in "time out" how would we ever enforce DS?

Sounds like fascism, I know.  But use some common sense, how could this DS system ever realistically be enforced?  We are strong willed people, with a deep sense of personal identity and independence.  If someone in favor of DS were to propose, "We could trust the people to do what's right because they are basically good natured," then we wouldn't need DS in the first place.

In summary: We won't be able to agree to what the common good is ("we the people" can't even agree on which news outlet is trustworthy, and for good reasons), people will not submit to working in certain areas they find unpleasant while other people live an easier lifestyle in a cashless society (talk about a revolution starter), and it's not possible to enforce the polices of democratic socialism (everyone wants their voice to be heard as the loudest).  Sadly, we can't even eliminate racism or bigotry, think of all the racists and bigots out there, and you think they will line up with your views?   

Friday, February 26, 2016

Should you keep your political views to yourself?

How many recent threats of unfriending have you seen on Facebook & other social media sites, or maybe you've personally made, over shutting down the drone of differing political opinions?   We all have memories of a family gathering, maybe over the holidays or at a reunion, when the topic of politics ruined the conversation.  Maybe you've been there, and you left the conversation shell-shocked or shunned, what a shame that had to happen.

If you are concerned about discussing politics with a certain person or group of people or over social media, because you think the relationship will suffer, or if you are afraid to voice your views because you fear repercussions, then maybe you didn't have a substantial relationship to begin with.  I have un-followed and unfriended people on social media, not over their political views, but over how they present their views.  There's a major difference between what you say and how you say it.

When people have to stoop to threats, slurs, and intimidation to make their political views understood, they will lose their audience, at least this listener.  The louder the rant, usually indicates the narrower of perspectives. I think we miss out on an opportunity for personal growth when we forfeit an exchange of ideas, and I like to engage in dialogue with people with whom I don't always see eye-to-eye with.  But, and I'm guessing I'm not alone here, I can't really have a conversation with a dogmatic bully.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What I wish I had told my kids when they were young and what I wish Americans knew too

Let me start off with a couple analogies of sorts.  I'll start with married couples, and then I'll move to the factory floor and to the grimy work of being knee deep in mud, and then share what I wish I told my kids sooner.

I've counselled dozens of married couples and hundreds of people.  I've learned there are only two distinguishing steps between those who work out their problems and those who stay stuck in a mess.  Here are the two steps that determine whether a person will get healthier or grow worse: One, they want to get healthier.  They want it more than other people want them to get healthy, that is, they want to get healthy themselves.  Two, they put in the work to change.  They don't give up just because it's hard.

I've seen married people fight against each other, and I've seen married people fight for each other.  It's not hard to guess which type of couple will gain success in healing their relationships.

Second analogy.  There are people in this world who know what it's like to have to work hard for what they have, and there are people who like to idealize hard work.  For example, I worked in a factory for two years while I was in high school.  I met people there who had worked in that same factory for 30 years, they put in their time, as the saying goes.  That was all they knew, hard work and dedication to the company.  Also, I've worked in concrete on and off all of my life, I've met some people who truly strive to labor diligently, and who give an honest day's work for for an honest day's wage.

Now, this isn't to say that there aren't white collar people who don't work hard.  I'm not simply talking about working hard, I'm talking at this point in time about work that is hard, it's hard on the body, it takes its toll on a person.  It grinds you into dust kind of work.  But I do want to say I respect the hard working white collar workers who aren't afraid to wear themselves out for the work they are passionate about,  And my feelings are true for the hard working artists too.

My contrast in this second analogy is this: I've also met people who have never had to work for anything, most of what they have was handed to them.  They stayed on their parent's dole, or their in-laws took care of them, well into adulthood.  They don't know what it's like to have to earn anything, everything has pretty much been given to them without any need for them to work for it.  Yet, they have a romantic view of what work is (Like the kids who wear timberland work boots or Carhartt jackets but have never dug a ditch with a shovel or carried a heavy load in their entire life).

Now, there are people in the same station of life who know their folks took care of their needs, who respect their parents and who don't pretend to know what it's like to have to be self-sufficient, they have no shame crediting their folks for taking care of their needs.  This last case of people is few and far in between.

These long rambling thoughts lead me to write now what I wish I had told our children when they were younger and what I wish America knew too:  No one is immune from effort. I suppose I could've just tweeted that short sentence, but I feel this topic deserves this lengthy commentary.

What I mean by this is, we all have to exert energy and work hard most of our life.  Life isn't easy.  Life is hard.  But! Work isn't a curse, it's a gift, it's a blessing.

My theology leads me to conclude that our God is a creator God.  Creators are creative, they work, they make things and do things, that is they work.  If our God is a worker God, then it makes sense to me, we who are created in His image would be creatures who would work.  Yes God is much more too, but this post isn't about covering the entire nature of God :-)

In my opinion, the real reason socialism appeals to the very people it does appeal to is because socialism sells the notion "you won't have to work hard to receive the same benefits as those who do work hard."  I think it's true, you reap what you sow.  If you plant a crop, you reap the fruit.  If you don't plant seeds, you don't receive a bounty.

Wouldn't it be nice to receive gifts all year long? But Christmas and your birthday only come around once a year.  Yet, in socialism, everyday gets to be Christmas.  With socialism, you deserve to get birthday gifts on the days it's someone else's birthday, in fact you get to unwrap their presents.

Also, socialism somehow proposes that a group of people can put their combined resources in a blender and everyone will drink the same frozen concoction.  Or simply put, socialism wants everyone to bear all the burdens the same, except for the people who have stored up more wealth and resources, then they should give a greater percentage of their share.  Or better yet, the wealthiest people should feel the same sting we lower class people feel when it comes to paying taxes.

Let me share a little secret with you, Bill Gates, the Walton family, along with Warren Buffet and you and me, we leave it all behind.  You can't take it with you when you go, but you can stand before the living God and explain to Him how you used your resources in life, or how you hid them.  Really, socialism is trying to replace God, it's trying to make decisions for people that only God makes, if I'm understanding the underlying appeal of socialism as the idea socialism will make everyone with more, give more.  Sounds a bit envious to me?

And, let me share one more secret with you who are envious of the wealthy.  Well two more secrets for you who are envious of the wealthy.  Number one, if you are reading this, you are probably wealthier than 95% of the entire world's population, those poor people who don't have electricity, running water, or the internet.  Number two, and a little harder hitting, Jesus, who never had a place to rest His head, told people it would be best to give away everything they owned and to follow Him, to not store up any treasures, but to seek the Kingdom.  So Jesus warned people of the dangers of wealth and of trusting wealth more than God.  Jesus says it's hard for rich people to get into heaven, nearly impossible.  Let that one sink in for awhile, for those of us who are richer than 95% of the world that is.

Our four sons are hard working young men in whom I'm very proud.  Even though I didn't share this idea with them when they were young, that is that no one is immune from effort, they still have a great work ethic.  I do wish I had shared this idea with them earlier in life, because I think this fact would have helped to better prepare them mentally or emotionally to face the challenges of hard work a little bit better.  It's not bleak or pessimistic to say life is hard and we all have to work hard, it's reality, and it's based in part in the character of God.

I think we as a nation have selfish, spoiled people and an unprepared generation that isn't equipped to face the reality, we all have to work.  Please take a look at 3 much shorter posts I wrote on socialism to gain a fuller perspective on my thoughts on the subject as well.

Who would want socialism?

The seduction of socialism

The logjam of socialism

"1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation." (Source unknown)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The deception of knowledge: How we are wrong when we are right

I agree with Bernie Sanders, in part.  There is a massive mount of inequality in America and it is unfair, there's corruption on Wall Street and in DC, and that greed hurts people.

Time out: Just because I agree with Sanders on this, certainly doesn't guarantee either of us are right.

But to make the point of this post, I think Bernie is right with his analysis of the situation we are in, but he's mistaken on the conclusions he draws, particularly in his offered solution.  His goals are flawed even though he's properly upset -- even while he sees the problem clearly.  Time will tell, but if history teaches us anything, "Bread & Circus" is more harmful than the threat of any outside invaders.

I could use the same logic with Trump.  Illegal immigration is a problem these days, but there's no way on earth you can deport over 10 million people from America.  It would literally take over a thousand years if you did the math.

Here's another way to look at this.  Have you ever watched a couple argue in a restaurant?  The man and woman are in a heated debate.  You think, what a scoundrel, look at this guy!  You think, he probably smacks her around at home.  You blood is boiling now, you are ready to take matters into your own hands.  Your analysis is, there's a conflict.  The problem is, you have no idea what it's over, and, you can't possibly know what advice to offer.  Yet, in your own mind, you are confident you know what's best for them.  I'm fairly sure your advice wound't be right or welcomed.

Here's an even better example.  Have you ever been lost, maybe while driving?  You realize (analyze  and assess correctly) you are lost!  Does this suddenly impart a mystical knowledge of how to get home, or to your destination?

An accurate analysis doesn't necessarily lead to the correct conclusion.  Read that again.

You might see the problem clearly, and that's the deceptive part.  Because we know what the problem is, we suddenly believe that entitles us to a clear insight into resolving the situation.   One doesn't lead to the other, just because you can identify the problem realistically that doesn't mean you know the right path forward.

Back to Sanders for a minute.  His suggestion that democratic socialism would be the solution is mistaken, in my opinion.  So, what is proven to work better under pressure than capitalism on the right, and socialism on the left?  A system we'll not go to willingly, but it's the oldest system of trade known to mankind.  We only go to it, these days, in times of natural disasters or when economies collapse.  The barter system was here at the dawn of civilization, and it will be here when it collapses.
In the meantime, what economic system is best?  I honestly don't know, but I do know what we've done isn't perfect and some of the proposals are worse.  I do know this, changing the name of the system won't patch up our problems, because you can't legislate morality.  The problems we face as a nation are matters of the heart, and until we fix our hearts as a nation, it doesn't matter who's in the White House or what system they back.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Living your life, one life at a time

Timesnews 2/12/16 Religion column 

Last Sunday CBS hosted one of, if not, the most watched events in annual television.  The Super Bowl, where the commercials are comical, the Halftime shows are extravagant productions, and the audience binges on junk food & pizza all night long.  But have you ever asked, why are professional sports so popular?  

It’s not just sports of all sorts we should wonder about.  What about the upcoming Oscar’s later on this month?  Why are the events and circumstances surrounding famous actors, who happen to be paid very well for their work, so enthralling for so many people?  Social media thrives on the mindless-minuscule details of the lives of movie stars to the point of obsession.  

There’s a lot of chatter going on in the news over the Presidential elections this year as well.  Critics of Donald Trump point out his narcissistic tendencies and his “bull in the China shop” approach to leadership, while critics of Hillary Clinton remind the public of Benghazi and her email scandals -- but to what effect? In their excitement, as baffling as it is, the supporters of most politicians somehow overlook the glaring defects of their own candidates.  

Again, why are the people in Stadiums, Hollywood, and Washington so popular?  Could it be possible that deep down inside we secretly wish we were rich, powerful, and influential -- to the point we’ve lost sight of the actual world we live in?  And if so, at what cost to our everyday satisfaction in real life?   Is it any wonder then that we lavishly reward our celebrities but we support our school teachers and our enlisted soldiers with only a fraction of their actual worth?

Perhaps we are living vicariously through our teams, our superstars, and our leaders.  I know this all sounds iconoclastic, but our culture has idolized the celebrity status to such an extent that our heroes can do no wrong and we can do no right.  Instead of actually making changes or taking personal action, we’ve settled for a dim reflection of their accomplishments -- daydreaming that we are affiliated with them so closely, their victories are by some stretch of osmosis ours as well.

Sometimes when I observe people going gaga over their favorite VIP, I feel like saying, “get a life.”  Okay, I do say that under my breath.  And then I remember the words of Jesus.  Jesus said He came to bring us life, not just an existence, but real life. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)

Life is too short to go around wearing someone else’s jersey all of the time, or their campaign-button on your coat.  Yes, our young people need good examples to look up to and we all need inspirational figures to emulate.   But in our aspirations, may we remember the difference between reality and fantasy, may we stay grounded in the good life that Jesus brought, and may we fully live out our own lives!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

This makes all the difference -- if you want healthier relationships

My awesome wife doctoring me up!

While getting a lot of work done today, I had to take a break and run a few errands.  Along the way I was sort of surprised by how many people I recognize throughout our community.  I know people from working in concrete who I bump into, and I'll meet people we know through ministry, and some people who fall under both.

Then, as I reflected on these eclectic relationships we've formed over the years, I wondered to myself, who would I miss if we were to ever move away?   And in my mind's eye, it was easy to see who I'd miss and who I wouldn't.

There are two types people we spend time with or form relationships with in life.  Some people feel like a sliver in the tenderest part of your hand while others feel like a caregiver who can bring you relief.   In other words, one type of person will drain you, they will use you, they can suck the life out of you if you let them -- it's actually painful to be around them.  Then, there are the people who build you up, they can re-energize your soul, they are simply a blessing to see.  If you want to have healthier relationships, you need to know the difference and you need to pace yourself as to how much time you spend with each type of person.

I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to spend the bulk of your time with people who will drain you.  Victims, complainers, takers, manipulators, bitter and hateful people need love and attention, but they don't deserve the best of us or the most of us.  Choose wisely who you spend the most time with, it will make all the difference in your health & happiness and in the way you see all relationships.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The logjam of socialism

I don't agree with every tenant of capitalism, it's certainly not perfect.  But tonight it finally clicked for me, it finally hit me, I now see the major flaw within the mindset of socialism.  To me, the perfect metaphor for socialism's worldview is the hourglass.

From what I can tell, socialists want to reverse, in their thinking, the flow of wealth in our society.  Bernie's ads use a pyramid to show the unequal distribution of wealth, but in my mind the better metaphor for a socialist is the hourglass.  So, if the top 1% is hoarding the majority of our wealth, what we need to do is to reverse the flow, let it trickle back down into the masses, and share the wealth.  Sounds good to me, except it is illogical.

Bernie Sanders, for example, states the Walton family of Walmart is wealthier than the bottom 40% of all of America combined.  Fact checkers confirm this shocking statistic.  But does this statistic prove Walmart is responsible for this imbalance, or that capitalism for that matter is evil?   All this proves is, Walmart has a huge base of shoppers, most of whom are bargain shoppers looking for cheaper goods/prices than the store down the road, and these shoppers freely funnel their money into the Walton family's pockets.

Since no one was held hostage or forbidden to shop elsewhere, and since the non-Neiman Marcus non-Saks Fifth Ave shoppers have freely volunteered to shop at Walmart, well you get the point.  By the way, economists say if you have $10 to your name and no debt, you are wealthier than 25% of all Americans...

Back to the hourglass and the illogical notion of reversing the flow of wealth in our society.  For Sanders to be right, there would have to be more cash flowing into the system to keep on passing it out to the rest of us.  This might be called inflation for all I know?  But for the socialist's plans to work out, you need an endless supply of wealthy people to siphon riches off of.  Yet socialism isn't about generating income, it's about spreading around what already exists, and eventually you would deplete your storehouse of wealthy tax "donors."  What are you left with then?  An empty hourglass, or at least a withered and dried up source of free goods.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The seduction of Socialism

When we were young and impressionable, I remember how our grade-school teachers had us read "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair.  I loved the book so much, I read it twice.  Then, a few years ago as an adult I decided I needed to read it again.  I still loved the story, but I was shocked.  I finally saw Sinclair was writing to promote socialism, his book was nothing short of propaganda.  With Bernie Sanders campaigning hard, I think socialism is on most American's radar these days.

This post is asking "why" would anyone want socialism.  This is a follow up on my last post, Who Would Want Socialism

I hear the question quite a bit, "Why do people want socialism?" Or something close to that, like, "How could anyone think socialism is a good idea?"  What I want to do here, as briefly as possible, is try to explain the lure of socialism and perhaps debunk the three biggest draws as I see them.

#1. Socialism seems fair.
Let's be clear, socialism isn't evil, it may be naive or it may be counterproductive and untenable, but it's not wicked.  Socialism seems fair because of the claim it can level the playing field.  I like that idea too, letting everyone share and be equal, only, that isn't reality.

Keeping to the analogy of leveling the playing field, you can't have a playing field without coaches, players, managers, and an audience (none play an equal role).  Without even referencing "winners & losers" there is still no such thing as a level playing field with full equality.  We've seen what happens to a generation of young people who grow up playing sports where everyone gets a trophy and no one loses, and we've seen socialism fail on many fronts.

Socialism seems fair, with rhetoric that's based in redistribution.  Please tell me how this is fair?  If you take away from the people who have earned, through their hard work, the fruits of their labor -- how is this fair the person who has worked hard to achieve their success?

#2. Socialism seems to be classless.
Who likes to compete within a class system of have's and have not's?  No one.  I like the idea of equality.  The only catch is, in Socialism all people will not be equal and the class system is extrapolated to segregate the working people from the ruling government who dictates ruthlessly their agenda.

#3. Socialism gives you everything you want and you'll never be in need.
Who doesn't like free stuff?  Who wants to be in need?  This sounds great, the idea that socialism can be like grandma & Santa Claus all wrapped up in one.  The problem is, a free handout method of governing demotivates the producers and the receivers.   Those who work hard become embittered, and those who "take" see no need to exert any effort.  And soon, no one will want to carry the load.

There's no such thing as a "free lunch."  Someone has to buy the ingredients, someone has to prepare them.

On top of this, could it be demeaning and dehumanizing to remove the blessing of hard work?  People shouldn't be ground into dust to earn a living, or worked like dogs to just get by, but the truths is hard work feels rewarding.  We need to strive and toil and spend energy to achieve results.  It's a human need to gain a sense of accomplishment.  Both hobbies and volunteering are stimulated by this need to break a sweat.  To take away the need for effort in the claim to provide all we want, could possibly be the most dangerous aspect of socialism, after all, we already know people who have everything to live with and nothing to live for.