Whither the Australian Left?

When I first settled in Australia some twenty years ago, I wrote a major article on the Left in Australia. I spent a month or more trawling through all the leftist publications I could find (the Internet was not an option back then). After this lengthy period of research, I wrote a large piece summarising my findings (a shorter version of which appeared in the August 1990 IPA Review).

This week in the Australian a six-part series on the Left appeared. It is interesting to read these articles in light of what the Left was saying twenty years ago. The bottom line is, little has changed. These recent pieces are all united by the usual collection of clichés, platitudes, and ethereal thinking.

There is very little which is concrete here, just the usual moral rhetoric and the usual buzz words: equality, social justice, fairness, diversity, and so on. And what also binds these articles together is the usual leftist alliance on the state. For the most part, the state, not the individual or the family or the community, is generally viewed as the ultimate saviour. Thus in the end, expanding government is what we are left with (no pun intended).

While others will examine in greater detail these articles, here I wish to simply utilise broad-brush strokes. One way to proceed is simply to outline the ways in which Left and Right differ. Thomas Sowell has very nicely summarised the major differences between the two in his many works, especially in these three important volumes: A Conflict of Visions (1987); The Vision of the Anointed (1995); and The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999).

Sowell argues that the Left and Right operate from fundamentally different premises. These premises really amount to differing worldviews, with differing ways of looking at the world, man, his predicament and possible solutions. Thus the foundation, or vision, on which political ideas are built is hugely important.

The two main visions Sowell discusses are what he calls the constrained and the unconstrained visions. The constrained vision (the conservative worldview) acknowledges that there are limits. There are limits to human nature, limits to what governments can do, limits to what can be achieved in a society.

The unconstrained vision (the radical or leftist worldview) tends to downplay limits. Mankind is seen as more or less perfectible; social and political utopia is to a large extent achievable; and evil is not endemic or inherent in the human condition, and therefore is able to be mostly eliminated.

The conservative vision tends to reflect the Judeo-Christian understanding that mankind is fallen, is limited, is prone to sin and self, and cannot produce heaven on earth, at least without the help of God. The left-liberal vision, by contrast, tends to see the human condition as innocent, malleable and perfectible, and tends to think that utopia on earth is achievable under the right social conditions.

Edmund Burke may best exemplify the former vision, with the American Revolution one of its main fruit. Rousseau may best exemplify the latter vision, with the French Revolution a key expression of it. Sowell argues that on the whole, the conservative vision, being much more closely grounded in reality, will usually produce better outcomes for those intended to benefit by them, than those of the leftist vision.

These basic differences are nicely illustrated in the Australian series. There is plenty of utopian vision here, but little of realistic substance. And when they do start to offer some tangible proposals, it is interesting to see how centrist they become. In other words, the more down to earth and practical they want to be, the more rightward they tend to go.

What also should be pointed out is that in some respects the Left and Right do not differ so much on what they consider to be ultimately important. Both want to see such goods as justice, tranquillity, national well-being, and so on. Where they differ, as Sowell and others have pointed out, is how to best achieve these ends, and what can realistically be attempted.

Both for example favour equality, but the Left tends to favour equality of outcome, while the Right favours equality of opportunity. And are bureaucrats, ruling elites, social engineers and expanding state powers the answer, or are individuals, mediating structures (church, family, community, etc) and free markets best placed to achieve social goods? That is where the differences emerge.

Indeed, the Left does not have a monopoly on moral concerns. It is not just Julia Gillard who is “Driven by indignation at injustice”. Conservatives are also incensed at injustice. It’s just that the Left so often seems to be highly selective in where its outrage is directed.

America, capitalism, globalism and the West in general tend to be its targets. At the same time, they seem deathly silent on the mega-injustices of such things as Soviet Communism or Islamo-fascism. Some of us might be more persuaded by their rhetoric if they were a bit more consistent in where their moral outrage was sprayed around.

The truth is, the enemies of the Left usually in fact turn out to be the best guarantors of genuine social goods, such as freedom, opportunity and prosperity. The things the Left tends to press for are often at odds and conflict with such goods.

Light on a Hill?

Also of interest is the decidedly secular tone of this entire series. Given that fact, it is interesting to recall the title used in the very first article: “A new light on the hill”. Whether the author or subeditor realised it, this is of course taking us back into history, especially religious history. The phrase was first used by the ancient Hebrew prophets when describing what life would one day be like when Yahweh puts an end to evil and suffering, and establishes his universal kingdom.

The early Puritans and American founding fathers also utilised such terminology as they expressed their hopes of what sort of place that new land was to be. In both visions there was an overwhelming spiritual reality which lay behind the terminology.

What is remarkable about this series is the fact that there is not one religious or spiritual reference to be found anywhere. God is entirely left out of the picture, and the heaven on earth which the leftists want to create will be one entirely constructed by human efforts and mortal hands.

Of course we have been there and done that. Modern history is replete with such secular visions of a new earth. We have seen one bloody example after another of such coercive utopians in action. And lest anyone doubt the bloody results of such experiments, they simply need to consult the now classic work, The Black Book of Communism.   www.amazon.com/Black-Book-Communism-Crimes-Repression/dp/0674076087

But it is not just the fact that the desire to build heaven on earth sans deity is bound to fail, and lead to bloodshed, but the very vision of what the left is seeking to achieve (justice, peace, harmony) in fact can ultimately only be achieved by divine help anyway. These qualities happen to be his attributes.

To seek to bring heaven to earth without the author and source of such values and goods is an exercise in futility. It is as C.S. Lewis warned about: “You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that our civilization needs more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” (The Abolition of Man)

So while some of the aims and goals of the Left may be morally laudable, the question remains as to whether the worldview of the Left, and its proposed remedies and policies will in fact usher in these sorts of goods. Fortunately we have history on our side here, and the verdict is not very favourable.

In sum, the Australian Left does not seem to have changed much from when I last analysed it in depth some two decades ago. The same rhetoric prevails, the same vague and intangible social visions are offered, and the same inability remains to see that individuals, rather than states, are best placed to make of life what we all want it to be.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26089126-28737,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26100893-5013479,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26105683-7583,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26111672-7583,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26120528-7583,00.html
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26124842-7583,00.html

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53 Replies to “Whither the Australian Left?”

  1. Bill, it’s been interesting working in Southern Africa the last 7 months. The mindset is that when something goes wrong, Government should do something. (And capital G Government is always used as a name, not “the government”.) This attitude then flows through to those working in government, who conduct themselves as doing favours for the public. We’ve just had an example with our neighbour last week where a bureaucrat, called in to do what is his job, expected to be pampered and paid by my neighbour.
    Trouble is, third-world countries don’t have much of a revenue base in order to do things, so they are always going cap in hand to the IMF, World Bank and any number of international agencies for funding.
    None of this encourages individual responsibility, especially when most individuals are hardly managing to live hand-to-mouth themselves.

    Graham Keen, Mangochi, Malawi

  2. Yep, the Left hasn’t changed much however, neither have the non-Left rich.
    ‘Conservative’ doesn’t always equate with sugar and spice and all things nice or to the Gospel. Some elements of ‘conservative’ hold to a ‘no rules’ quarantining a.k.a. in Australian parlance ‘let ‘er rip’ ie unfettered business doing as it pleases and profit taking without morals.
    Michael Webb

  3. Bill,
    I just wonder what would have happened to the US and the world now, if we had left the free markets to determine it’s own course and save itself from the big mess it created. Capital bail outs from the states, and heavy doses of state intervention in private enterprises certainly smell of socialism. But it is welcomed, because it helped to save the free market economy and the world, at least for now. The truth is that only the doctrines of God are sacrosanct, all other human philosophies are just man made ideas, and not a guaranteed formula to bring an utopia to the world. It’s alot safer to be somewhere in between.
    Barry Koh

  4. Thanks Michael

    But I am not sure I buy the moral equivalence that you keep bringing up: “Yes, the Left is bad, but so too is the Right…” And what you describe here isn’t even really conservatism. It is more libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. Most conservatives, although usually in favour of the free market as opposed to socialism, are also very much concerned about the moral, social and cultural aspects of economic issues.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  5. Thanks Barry

    I think you are fully correct in your last two sentences. But I think you are far less correct in your first three. It was more government policies – including those initiated under the Clinton administration – than the free market alone, that caused the mess in the US. But here is not the place to go into all that, although I have spoken to it elsewhere.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Bill

    I am not meaning any moral equivalence. Implicitly in several of my posts over the apst year here is all about not aligning one tag eg ‘conservative’ ( which as we know can mean different things depending on which adjectives or hypens after ‘neo’ ). Further to be “Left’ of soemthing doesn’t always mean nor imply Socialist Left.

    Ultimately and implicitly I am saying that I feel that sometimes here at CultureWatch I sometimes (and I stress sometimes) feel that ‘conservative’ is equated with being synonymous with the Gospel.

    Even the most well -meaning and conscientious fo friends ( and I count you as a friend) and some of your followers here fall into that trap.

    The Gospel is none of the above.

    Michael Webb

  7. Thanks Michael

    In a sense I have already answered you in the opening sentence of my reply to Barry. I agreed with him in what he said, and thus agree with anyone who says Christianity is ultimately above any one political ideology. Indeed, I have said that countless times before on this site, so my position should be pretty clear on all this by now.

    I have also said that, in addition to this, we all fall somewhere along the political and ideological spectrum, and some of those places may more closely fit in with biblical Christianity than others. But it is needless for me to make that case again, since I have done it so many other places. See for example this post, plus the articles I link to in it: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/05/22/liberal-or-conservative/

    If, after reading those, you still disagree, then fine. Then we simply agree to disagree.

    Of course no Christian is so spiritual or other-worldly that he can place himself above all political and earthly concerns. In a fallen world, which we all still inhabit, Christians will have to make prayerful, informed decisions about all sorts of mundane things, including political involvement, preferences and commitments. I have sought to make the case for why I believe what I do. You may have another point of view. Fine. But we must remember that no believer (no matter how pious) can transcend this world, including its politics, and somehow float above earthly and political realities. We live in this world, so as best we can as believers, we have to interact with it, including the often dirty world of politics.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  8. Bill,

    I read on a blog recently a bloke saying that he almost wishes he could tattoo on the forehead (not a pleasant thing to say, I know, but he was simply making a point) of every leftist these words – “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” One of the major problems I see consistently with left-wing adherents is that they think they have the market cornered on goodwill and ‘social justice’. Well, no they don’t. The old adage of giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day, or teaching him how to fish and feeding him for a lifetime comes into play here. I don’t know if those who hold conservative views of economics believe that the divide between rich and poor being greater will be good for businesses, since the people can buy less and less…

    I read this wonderful story some time ago on the Schwarz Report (CACC) link you gave after the passing of Fred Schwarz earlier this year.

    The story is told of a visitor to a Russian factory who asked the workers, “Who owns this factory?’
    “We do,” they replied.

    “Who owns the land on which it is built?”

    “We do.”

    “Who owns the products of the factory when they are made?”

    “We do.”

    Outside in a corner of a large park were three battered jalopies. The visitor asked, “Who owns those cars out there?”

    They replied, “We own them, but one of them is used by the factory manager, one is used by the political commissar, and the other is used by the secret police.”

    The same investigator came to a factory in America, and said to the workers, “Who owns this factory?”

    “Henry Ford,” they replied.

    “Who owns the land on which it is built?”

    “Henry Ford.”

    “Who owns the products of the factory when they are made.”

    “Henry Ford.”

    Outside the factory was a vast park filled with every make and variety of modern American automobile. He said, “Who owns all those cars out there?”

    They replied, “Oh, we do.”

    You may take your choice but, personally, give me the automobile.

    The concept that Capitalism is inherently evil and collective ownership inherently good is contradicted finally by one unanswerable fact. Wherever Communism is in power, the people flee by the millions. They leave everything they love, and they flee to loneliness and the unknown to escape the horror of life under Communist rule.

    http://www.schwarzreport.org/yct/02ycttc.htm

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/01/29/fred-schwarz-rip/

    Mark Rabich

  9. Mark,
    Sometimes it does not pay to laugh at others, because eventually it becomes your turn to be laughed at, as is the case of the USA. Sadly, it will be dependent on borrowed money to run the country for a long long time, much of it coming from communist China. And the current situation for workers in the car industry in USA is definitely not the same as described in your joke. It’s rather sad. The inherent evil is not in the ideologies of the right or left but in the greed and corrupt nature of humankind. Common sense is better than being dogmatic in either beliefs.
    Barry Koh

  10. I see the test for everyone at a universal level, for social policy to be derived from our Christian heritage. Please find a brief summary from bliblical teaching which is used within social teaching:
    The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment, that will determine each person’s final destiny:

    Feed the hungry
    Give drink to the thirsty
    Clothe the naked
    Shelter the homeless
    Visit the sick
    Visit those in prison
    Bury the dead
    Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ’Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ’Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?’ And the king will answer them, ’Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’”

    The corporal works of mercy are oriented toward the body. The spiritual works of mercy are oriented toward the soul.

    In government policy we need to have both the market dynamic protected and help it ot flourish; and for those who need our assistance ( via government or private householders) let us draw upon our heritage as listed above. http://www.secondexodus.com/html/catholicdefinitions/corporalworksofmercy.htm

    Michael Webb

  11. Barry,

    I don’t know where you got the idea I think it’s a joke. It’s a story, and it’s not mine (I supplied the link). And the story is not really about the car industry as it is about the two economic systems. (You could probably substitute any number of different industries.) The simple fact is that history tells us a great deal about the two systems and how well they work. And I’m aware of the foreign debt situation in the US.

    Finally, I agree with Bill that conservative views generally allow more for the “corrupt nature of humankind” whereas the left generally believe that utopia is attainable here on earth.

    Mark Rabich

  12. Bill,

    Like you I’m an American expat, but I think the differences between left/right, liberal/conservative or whatever you want to label it are much less marked in Australia than the USA.

    I’ve only been here 10 years but it seems to me that both sides of politics here support policies from both the left and the right where appropriate. Australia’s systems for healthcare, pharmaceutical subsidy, education, welfare, superannuation and financial regulation seem well tuned as a mix of appropriate intervention in a generally free market system. And these policies have the support of all major parties.

    In America, many of these systems would be howled down as socialist,and I believe America is the poorer because of those entrenched attitudes. The husband of a good friend of mine in Detroit recently lost his job when the company collapsed. He now has few job prospects, no health insurance and no pension plan because everything was tied to the company. Hardly a great advertisement for the bastion of capitalism.

    It beggars belief that there is so much opposition in America to the latest attempt to provide better healthcare for those without insurance, which basically means those without a good job, the very people most in need of coverage. And the opposition stems largely from an irrational fear that any government intervention means a slide down a slippery path to socialism, which to many Americans is the same as communism.

    Australia appears to have fared much better than any other Western country in the face of the global financial crisis. That seems at least partly due to its higher degree of regulation and oversight of financial markets and banking. In contrast, Wall Street screams socialism at attempts to introduce better regulation there, nothwithstanding that greater prudential oversight might have forestalled the recent crisis.

    So while it’s fine to ridicule the loony Left, I think that the rabid Right also deserves criticism. Fortunately, Australia seems to be largely free of the influence of either extreme.

    Therese Kingsley, Sydney

  13. The fact is that much of the Bible presupposes capitalism whilst there is little if any support for state sponsored socialism. See this.

    Ewan McDonald.

  14. Thanks Therese

    I already mentioned in the article that in order for the Left to make much headway, it tends to move in a centrist direction. But there clearly exists a radical Left here. Perhaps my time as an active participant in the Left some years back has given me a different perspective on all this. So we may have to agree to disagree here on a number of issues.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Mark,
    I agree with you that history will tell you how well each system works. The extreme of both will only lead to human hardship and disaster.
    Barry Koh

  16. Therese,
    I agree with what you wrote. One of those rabib Right is Fox channel. They worship capitalism like it’s a God that can do no wrong.
    Barry Koh

  17. Barry,

    Do you really think that capitalism is “extreme” and doesn’t work substantially better than socialism?

    Mark Rabich

  18. Michael, I have waded into this debate a little late in the piece but I would like to add something to the fine things you said about Christian practice.

    Jesus also said: ‘For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Mat 5:18). Clearly we are not at this point yet so we still need to weigh up our actions (individually and corporately) in light of God’s Law. Very simply, this obedience to the Law will not save us but it is how we should live. The actions you mention are for individuals to perform of their own volition from the gratitude of the salvation given to them by Christ not to be offered up under compulsion.

    Many socially liberal Christians are quick to jump up and down about legalism and feeling compelled to obey a Biblical Law they have a barely cursory understanding of yet do not bat an eyelid when the state compels (forces in fact) them to contribute to the welfare of society and often derive some sense of satisfaction that they are doing God’s will through this means.

    The state in forcing one man to pay charity to another is in actuality stealing in direct violation of the eighth commandment. The way we go about fulfilling the clear will of Christ is constrained by preexisting Biblical commands which unless explicitly superseded in the New Testament still apply. If I was to steal from my neighbour to give charity to the homeless I would not only be in disobedience to God’s Law but I would be making a mockery of and nullifying the very things that Jesus meant for His glory and the edification of the Church.

    There are many many other criticisms of the Leftist position on the State where, just by weighing its tenets and actions against clear in-depth biblical teaching, the heart and soul of its socialist doctrine can be found severely wanting. Historically things don’t look so good either.

    I guess my point is that we need to weigh up every political philosophy against the Biblical Law codes (since all are essentially about law) and toss out those that are in violation. For those who worry about free markets and a more laissez-faire view of government, the Bible has plenty to say about how these are to be run justly. All we need to do is obey the Biblical principles of government and we are almost there. the Bible from Genesis on takes a constrained view of man and provides not only rules to deal with those who think they can operate out side of it but examples for us to follow now. I bet Nimrod had fantastic social programs to keep the folks building the tower of Babel happy but it did him no good in the end!

    Phil Twiss

  19. Mark,
    I did not say I favour any particular ideology over the other. I abhor communism, just as I cannot tolerate blind adherence to laissez faire. I believe it’s best to only embrace the good in the capitalist as well as socialist ideas. And the needs of each nation differ from one and other. There is no one single jacket that fits all. We need to get the right policy mix.Try and remove completely the state enterprises and state control in China, with its humongous population, and replace it fully with the American laissez faire, and you will create an economic and human disaster just as communism in its purist old form did before. Saying only one ideology is right and best for every nation used to be the sheer presumptious arrogance of one particular rich nation.
    Barry Koh

  20. Phil,
    I like John MacArthur’s explanation on tithes and the compulsory part earmarked for charitable purposes under the mosaic laws, definitely not regarded as stealing. (www.gty.org)

    During the time of Moses, God ordained tithes which in fact were equivalent to taxes today, to fund the theocratic national goverment of Israel, run by Levites as administrators. In actual fact, the Israelites pay more that 10% ie they pay more than one tithe. The 1st tithe went to support the Levites who ran the government. The 2nd tithe was the festival tithe that went to pay for national festivals, the national holidays, the government religious conclaves and occassions and convocations. Further every 3rd year, there was a 3rd tithe collected which was a welfare or charitable tithe to be given to the poor, and the orphans and the widows etc. So the total payment in tithes averages 23% annually. So we see that God earmarked a certain percentage of compusory giving for charitable purposes. This is the compassionate and caring heart of God, and the compulsory contribution by the haves to the have not, can hardly be regarded as stealing from them. It’s God’s divine requirement. Today because we are not a Jewish theocratic government, there is no tithe collection but the government collects taxes and follows the same pattern of setting aside a certain sum for welfare purposes. Can we now call that stealing.
    Barry Koh

  21. Barry, I agree in one sense with what you are saying, and do understand the nature of the tithe/s in the Old Testament. My point in addressing Michael’s comments was that we cannot call what the state does now the same thing as the biblical tithe. I do in fact believe in the tithes and think they are a vitally important part of the life of the Church at large and society in general. I also believe that a portion of money needs to be set aside to allow for the defence of the nation and the upholding of justice both civilly and in the market. I just don’t believe that the bible endorses most of the types of taxation that we see now nor the purposes for which they used.

    One kind of tithe you mention was for the fatherless, the widows and the strangers but it was not 42% of all revenues taken in a year (only counting social security). It was not necessarily all taken by the state and its final purpose was to glorify God not those taking it. (How often do you see a Centerlink office with poster proclaiming “loving charity brought by the Grace of God for your wellbeing.”?) Yes there is a command to look after the genuinely destitute but is it the love of God that our governments are motivated by? I know this is simplistic but the point is the total state has a different motive to the biblical one and that is to glorify itself and hold onto power. This may be couched in any number of humanitarian terms but the intent is the same.

    The point is also made in no uncertain terms in the bible that robbing God of the tithe comes with some fairly serious consequences. I think it is fair to say that a state tax is no substitute for the tithe and is in fact a result of God’s people refusing to obey and pay what God has said is due of them. Where the Church failed, the state stepped in. The problem with this is that even though the job gets done the state, unless constrained (by biblical principle) will seek more and more power to itself. The countervailing effect of the Church and Christian organisations on government, through looking after the very things Michael noted above, has been greatly diminished and the blessing almost lost because we failed to tithe. We are reaping what we have sown and are now at the mercy of the state that will take as much as it can get away with for its purposes. This is nothing new and is what God warned his people about in 1 Samuel 18 when they wanted a king.

    I don’t say we should not pay taxes (render to Caesar) as we enjoy the security and benefits of government, what I do say is that we don’t call what the state does in the name of social welfare the moral equivalent of biblical charity. Once we do that the door is open (and the resources available) for the state to positively fix every “problem” of equity, justice, diversity, etc it sees fit. Sound familiar?

    Phil Twiss

  22. The Biblical principle of private property (which I would argue equates pretty squarely with pure capitalism) goes further than just economics.

    Bill’s most recent articles on the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act are good cases in point. In a society which truly respects property rights, a charitable organisation or school that I set up and fund, is my property and means I can hire who I wish to work in it. It’s really that simple. Similarly, those who I invite to work for me can choose or choose not to accept.

    It is therefore only because our society has departed from the Bible and compromised with upholding property rights that we have allowed these freedom destroying ‘equal opportunity’ or ‘discrimination’ laws to get a look-in.

    For those still not convinced on the link between the Bible and capitalism, I highly recommend Andrew Kulikovsky’s article “A Biblical View of Economics and Industrial Relations”

    http://hermeneutics.kulikovskyonline.net/hermeneutics/BiblicalEconomics.pdf

    Mansel Rogerson

  23. Phil,
    I was merely pointing to your comment that taxes collected to fund welfare purposes is stealing and direct violation of God’s 8th commandment. How can that be when it is merely following the pattern and example God set, when He Himself had mandated the Israelites to pay tithes, a portion of which were set aside to fund charity works. How can God contradict His own laws, if ithis is stealing from the haves for the haves not.
    The church today is in no position to be responsible for the welfare of the nation like Israel was, as it is not the theocratic government. So obviously the responsibility now lies with the secular government. Any good works, even by the state pleases God because caring and charity is His will and His character (though good works don’t save). And biblically all governments are there because He permits for them to be.

    I will agree with you if you are contending with the excessive quantum of tax levied, the huge portion allocated to welfare, the inefficiencies and wastage and the abuses of the welfare system. But your accusation that it has no biblical basis and is breaking the 8th commandment contradicts biblical examples.
    Barry Koh

  24. Thanks Barry

    But you seem far too enamoured with, and dependent on, the modern welfare state. Don’t forget that for most of the West’s history, it was the church, along with family and community groups, that did provide the bulk of welfare and charitable activities. The modern welfare state is just that, quite modern and recent. And even today churches are doing zillions of welfare works, without of course being “theocratic”.

    So who says the secular government must now carry the load? The NT understanding of what governments should do is fairly limited, with the weight of responsibility still falling on believers and the church. It was not a centralised bunch of government bureaucrats that looked after the poor in Jerusalem in the early days of the church, after all.

    Both church and state of course have roles to play here and in other areas, but we have tended to be far too cavalier, sitting back and allowing the state to steadily encroach upon the church and its many responsibilities and activities.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  25. Barry I must admit that I have not clearly looked at how or whether the early state of Israel enforced the paying of tithes but I suspect it was qualitatively different to the way the modern state enforces the paying of taxes. I need to do a bit more reading in this area but so far most of what I read in the bible points towards the tithe being essentially voluntary. Most of the sanction appears to be the fact that God will not bless a people who fail to tithe. There are no doubt some fairly logical and natural consequences to not fulfilling a duty voluntarily (for example security and justice will be diminished for want of funding) but there is a deeper set of consequences as far as corporate and personal relationships with God are concerned.

    I say that tax taken in order to redistribute to others for social means is stealing for two reasons. The first is that it contributes nothing to security and civic well-being. I know many on the left and right will argue otherwise but reality defies the theory – take the aboriginal welfare situation and long term multi-generational unemployed for example. Neither security nor well-being is promoted by government policies in these areas. The second is that the levy is taken either by force or by stealth. Try to not pay your taxes and you enter the world of force, try to work out exactly where all of this money is being taken from and it will do your head in.

    I disagree that the Church today is in no position to take care of the welfare of the nation inasmuch as biblical welfare is concerned. What we have today is not biblical welfare – most actually goes to the middle class. I do think that God is merciful and provides for those who cannot look after themselves but I am not so sure he is pleased that a self-serving state is doing it for its own glory.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Bill’s statement that we have allowed the state to encroach on the responsibilities and activities of the Church. Part of this has been laziness on our part but I also believe there has been a concerted strategy to undermine the influence of the Church which we have failed to see. I’m sure Bill has plenty of material on the characters and strategies I’m talking about.

    Forgive me if it seems that I labour the point here but I think it is a major blindspot of many Christians and is something I am a little passionate about. We really all need to look a little deeper into the motives of those with alternative agendas. Those who oppose the Christian worldview do not sit back and accept our explanations at face value and read all sorts of things into what we say and do. We should not be so quick to accept what they say either – I think the left did a real number on us over century ago on the welfare issue and we have not really recovered from it since.

    Phil Twiss

  26. I must say I’m rather astounded at some of the views being expressed here in the name of Christianity.

    I assume there would be full support from everybody here for Australia to provide medical, financial and other emergency assistance to those affected by the recent tsunami and earthquake. Surely we are equally obliged to help the poor and disadvantaged in our own country. Isn’t that the very essence of “love thy neighbour”?

    Extreme right-wing views have never been popular in this country. Our social security systems may not be perfect but they largely reflect the wishes of the people about how we should live as a community in a modern democracy. References to ancient Jewish tribal customs are irrelevant.

    The principle is pretty simple. Those who have been fortunate enough to accumulate wealth contribute towards meeting the basic needs of those who have nothing. This system has never stopped the rich from getting richer.

    It’s possible to use the Bible to support almost any stance, and it seems to me that those of the extreme right are using the Bible to bolster their predisposed political views rather than the other way round. Such views promote a dreadful image of Christianity, mean of spirit and devoid of any semblance of human empathy or compassion.

    Richard Somerville, Adelaide

  27. Bill,
    What you are saying is exactly what I was pointing out to Phil, that welfare and charity is very much a divine arrangement and found in the pages of the bible.. From the welfare system in theocratic administration of Israel , to the pooling of resources in the early church and collections for the destitutes etc are examples of a caring society, a hallmark of Christianity. And no doubt Christian charity has continued even to this day, and I am so glad for it and do wish it can do much much more. The point is that the financial burden for the national welfare of a country is simply beyond the financial means and capacity of the church today, simply because Christians only form a very small tiny percentage of the population. Who then should shoulder the burden, if not the state. Bill, I am not enamoured with welfare and I thank God I am not dependent on charity or welfare, and I pray I do not have to be, but I am aware that there are many who needs them.

    My discussion with Phil was purely over his comments about welfare programs being thievery and a violation of the 8th commandment when there many examples of it in the bible.. I would rather a country do without such welfare programs, if possible, as it is such a drain on the national coffers. I am neither left not right in the the areas of economics but prefer to choose only the best in each, and what is best differs from country to country. In other areas that conflict with biblical injunction, particular those coming from the left wing, I am just as opposed to it as you are.
    Barry Koh

  28. Thanks Richard

    But I am not sure how affirming the Biblical position of the emphasis on individual responsibility and church, family and community action equates to “Extreme right-wing views”. And the issue of course is not about “love thy neighbour”. Of course we are to do that. The question in fact is this: what is the best – and most Biblical – way to love your neighbour? By relying on the welfare state, or by Christian involvement both at an individual and community level?

    As I already said, there is a role for the State to play, since God created that institution. But he also created the institution of the church, which should be the first port of call. Both have responsibilities and necessary involvement here. And generally speaking, the hands-on personal approach of a Christian charity, such as World Vision, will provide a much better delivery of aid services than faceless bureaucrats sitting in a Canberra office.

    And one can ask just how effective government overseas aid programs are anyway. As the English economist Peter Bauer correctly observed, all too often Western foreign aid amounts to leaders in rich countries taking money from poor people and giving it to rich leaders in poor countries.

    Again, the issue is not choosing one over the other, but reminding ourselves about the curious reliance of many Christians on the State, and how they tend to forget that the church is to be at the forefront of most of these matters, and not palming off its responsibilities and obligations to the impersonal State.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  29. Well said Richard. The rich alays know how to look after their own. Remember all the lies in the media against Eddie Mabo. The cry went up that Australian land titles in the suburbs would be subject to Aboriginal claims etc. It was all false and scaremongering by a media that actually, when its leadership wishes, swithces allegiance from one political leader/Party as it pleases.

    No stories about a small group of wealthy farming organisations who wnated to use Eddie Mabo’s land and similar at a low price to use for grazing and other activities.
    Nothign said about the Aboriginals whose families for many generations occupied and continue to occupy those lands.
    Yet the MABO decision was made the subject of ridicule by a small cabal of wealthy farmers.

    Michael Webb

  30. Hi Richard,

    You say “References to ancient Jewish tribal customs are irrelevant.”

    As most of the previous commentators have been referring to the Old Testament Civil laws I assume that is what you mean. These are not customs, they are laws given directly by God. Take the first verse of the books of Leviticus and the Numbers for example:

    “The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said …”

    “The LORD spoke to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said…”

    You see, there has been only one instance in recorded history where God set up a state and gave it His own laws, and that one instance was ancient Israel. Sure, there are differences between our circumstances and theirs, but this certainly does not make these laws irrelevant. Rather it makes them the basis for constructing the best possible legal system in any era.
    If you don’t believe this, then I’m not surprised you go on to say “It’s possible to use the Bible to support almost any stance”.

    Mansel Rogerson

  31. Richard, let me counter your extreme left-wing view with my extreme right-wing view! I absolutely would say that when it comes to charity the responsibility lies more with the individual than it does with the state. Research has demonstrated that when it comes to charitable acts and giving, the conservatives out perform the liberals. The liberals prefer to make other people (via government programs funded by taxation) pay for charity. And if you love the welfare state so much then why not go all the way and simply have a totally socialist system?

    And as a member of the farming community I object to Michael Webb’s defending of the racist concept of native title which after all was an invention of an activist High Court. I had no problem with Eddie Mabo being granted title to his particular island in the Torres Straight, but I absolutely did have a problem with the invention of a new race-based type of title which was then unjustifiably applied to the mainland of Australia. And freehold title was absolutely open to native title claims until the Keating government arbitrarily legislated to say that native title was extinguished by freehold title. So that left crown land and leasehold including pastoral leases that could be claimed. The effect being that the mining and farming sectors have had to carry the burden of (often vexatious) native title claims when city dwellers have gotten off scott free.

    Ewan McDonald.

  32. Ewan

    It was a media invention that all farming land and suburban homes were up for grabs from Aboriginals.
    The media didn’t report enough about the rich farmers in tha most unrepresentative of farming organisations.
    People fell for the scare-mongering.

    Eddie Mabo and family were entitled to get security over their traditional lands. Corts hear cases for all sorts of people to decide on equity and justice; Aboriginals are no exception. People really do need to calm down and stop getting excited because of the major media whipping up baseless panic.

    Michael Webb

  33. It is not a strict dichotomy between capitalism and socialism. The argument is about the degree with which we as Australians keep say water, rail, airports,banking, insurance, super funds, electricity, ports- all in public hands. This is legitimate socialisatin ( not socialism). Socialism is control of everything by govt along with one Party States like the old USSR.

    Even Coalition voters, especially traditional Country Party people ( before the silly renaming to the Nationals- what a joke !)….most believe in public ownership for soem if not most of what I have listed. In fact, this is how Australia used to be in the ‘good old days’ of your beloved and mainly Coalition Govts before the 1970s.

    May I say that if Australia back then was ‘socialist’ how can I join up?! It’s simple. Here is the true Christian social doctrine in policy to restore these public goodies:
    http://www.dlpnsw.com/

    Michael Webb

  34. Ewan,
    I feel that if state welfare and help is regarded as a socialist ‘evil’ when it comes to providing help and assistance to the people, the same judgement should apply when it comes to state assistance for private businesses. But state assistance and the humongous amount of state financial bail outs with tax payers money, as happened recently in the western economies especially the USA, does not seem to be regarded as welfare or socialism, but is regarded as a welcomed saviour by the greedy private financial institutions and businesses. Since you dislike state welfare and anything that smells ‘socialists’, I am quite sure you will agree that they should have just let the financial institutions, banks , auto industry and other businesses collapse. Why rely on state help and bail outs from tax payers money.Why not let the private free market work it out. Why not let them save themselves or just simply collapse? Of course , we know that will be suicide for the world, and so we have no choice but rely on ‘socialist’ bail outs to save the businesses and the nations. The truth is that the nation’s and world’s problems are not so straght foward that any single political ideology alone can solve it.
    Barry Koh

  35. Bill,

    My statements did not diminish the importance of individual responsibility, rather I emphasised that one of our responsibilities is towards others who are less fortunate in life, whether that be through lack of talent or sheer circumstance. I sense that many here think that most of those who are poor have only themselves to blame, which is a terribly judgmental position to take. I think you should never judge a person till you have walked in his shoes.

    You call the state impersonal, and as an institution it is so, but in a democracy it represents the will of the people, however imperfectly, and it exhibits traits of human empathy that is often missing in individuals, including many here.

    You suggest that the church is the appropriate vehicle for assisting the needy. That might have made sense when the church was the state, but is a grossly impractical suggestion given the relatively insignificant role the church plays in society today. In fact too many churches are focused on amassing riches and property rather than distributing it.

    I used the term “extreme right” because there is no other way to describe the anti-welfare politics that is being endorsed by some. The most extreme right political party in Australia is One Nation, and you are further to the right than them on social policy, so what else can I say. The problem with being so far to the right is that almost everything looks socialist from there.

    Mansel,

    Jewish scripture got the history of the world badly wrong, so I don’t attach full credence to every single word of the Old Testament. Selectively quoting from Leviticus to justify your position is quite ridiculous. If we were to follow every instruction in the Bible we would have mass daily public executions for minor infringements of the law. Clearly we temper the more questionable rules as cultural oddities or sheer human folly. I doubt very much that some of those rules were actually laid down by God, or if they were it was for a very different society from today’s.

    There are huge differences between today’s complex globalised society and that of ancient Israel. There is no successful modern society on earth that doesn’t have a substantial social welfare policy, so where is the example you can offer to demonstrate that your ideas would create a better world? I find it supremely ironic that some people are apparently happy to embrace social Darwinism in the extreme. What are you hoping for? That the poor and the weak will eventually be weeded out and will be less of a burden and nuisance?

    I expect most of you would adamantly deny being Reconstructionists, or seeking to implement a Rushdoony-style theocracy in Australia, but what other conclusion can one draw from this discussion?

    Ewan,

    It’s perfectly possible to support basic “safety net” welfare in society without resorting to a socialist state and all that the term involves. It’s call centrist politics, and it’s the basis of almost every modern democracy.

    Richard Somerville, Adelaide

  36. Thanks Barry

    You may not realise it, but in one sense you exactly make our point. When governments heavily intervene and bail out failed businesses, then we no longer have the free market at work, but a state-managed economy, which is how we begin to define socialism.

    Of course the question remains as to whether such government intervention is a good thing or not. I leave that discussion for another time. But we should also ask how much of the free market was to blame in the first place for the current financial crisis, and how much blame in fact goes to government intervention, including some appalling policy decisions under the Clinton administration.

    However we both agree that ultimately the biblical gospel transcends any one political or economic ideology, although it can be argued that one might more closely line up with the biblical data than the other.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  37. Thanks Richard

    But where exactly have I said that we don’t have responsibilities “towards others who are less fortunate in life,” or said that most poor people only have themselves to blame? Of course we have obligations to the poor. But that is not the issue here. The issue is what are the best means – and the most biblical means (I believe the two go together) – by which the poor can be helped. I have already said enough times here that both state and church have a role to play in this.

    And I have also stated that far too many believers have simply become uncritical supporters of statism in these areas, and tended to ignore or forget the many biblical principles of non-statist economic policy. But we may just have to agree to disagree here.

    Also, I agree that some churches and some Christians have simply been focused on getting rich, and some have bought into an unbiblical health and wealth gospel. But that is another issue.

    But I fail to see how seeking to stress the biblical data on these issues makes me a Reconstructionist, or someone “further to the right” than One Nation. With all due respect, such silly claims may in fact simply tell us just how far to the left you are.

    And BTW, your trite dismissal of OT history also tells us a lot about where you are coming from, including what regard – or otherwise – you have for the biblical text. If it is laden with errors, as you seem to suggest, or completely irrelevant to contemporary life, then you might as well appeal to the Gospel of Marx on these matters as your basis of authority, instead of the Gospel of Mark and the rest of Scripture.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  38. Michael, as far as I can see you made no attempt to argue against my comments on native title and simply restated your original claims. I repeat, the only reason that freehold title was not under threat of claim from native title was because the then Keating government legislated to arbitrarily determine that freehold title extinguished native title. It was not a media beat-up. As you know the left leaning MSM love to champion all trendy left causes including aboriginal land rights, so the MSM were fully behind native title – they weren’t trying to undermine it by scare-mongering that freehold title was at risk.

    And the Keating government could have just as easily legislated to the effect that leasehold title also extinguished native title but they didn’t do so because, let’s face it, miners and pastoralists are not in the politically-correct protected category.

    Ewan McDonald.

  39. Ewan,

    Sure Keating did do as you say. Now that was always going to happen. There was never a chance of any Government allowing private homes to be up for a claim.
    Now at the time I remember listening to the radio and reading the tabloids in which a lot of scaremongeing was in fact going on. Freehold title was always going to be closed off.

    I am also quite happy to see Aboriginal claims not only for Torres Strait Islanders but also on the mainland. There can always be an arrangement and deal done on leasehold.and Crown lands. Large miners do not have many burdens except when demand in down on world markets. Most city dwellers that I know paid for their land whereas many large farms were simply occupied by squatters since the First Fleet arrived.
    Yes, the Left are agitators at times. We have governments to reign them in which they do. This situation would only change for the worse if the Greens get moe votes in future or if the Democrats rise from the dead which is happily most unlikely.

    Michael Webb

  40. Bill, you missed my point that no one system can solve human and economic issues of the world. That’s why the free markets had to rely on state for capital bail outs (socialist intervention) as on its own it cannot save itself.
    To think that they can do without bailouts are suicidal thoughts.
    While I need to emphasise that I am no fan of Obama, I must recognise that he inherited the mess from free marketer George Bush. We can apportion some blame on Clinton, but the fact remains that Bush enamour for free markets and a dislike for government ‘meddling’ brought about the right wing policies of the extreme kind,
    that slowly created the enormous financial bubble that he himself had to admit defeat and call for bail outs.He cut taxes but paid little attention to expenditure that wipe out previous surpluses and created record deficit. He failed to rein in excessive credit creation as it was considered good for free market businesses and had little concern for oversight for the financial institutions as that would be state meddling.To run his country, he relies on borrowed funds from overseas, ironically even from socialist China.
    If not for state intervention, the extreme right wing policies of George Bush would have resulted in the mother of all economic depression.
    Now the future generation will have to pay the costs of the sins of their free wheeling government. And now that people are suffering, should not state help and welfare be welcomed?
    I stay in the centre, not left not right. The arguments of those who say the bible is pro capitalism or pro socialism, are as valid as those who insists that God wants you to be rich. God only sides a good, clean, honest, caring, wise , just, and up right government.
    Barry Koh

  41. Thanks again Barry

    You and others tend to think Bush and the free market are mainly responsible for the current financial crisis. I and other tend to disagree. And we differ on what might be the best solutions to these problems as well. But we are beginning to spin the wheels here, and not covering much new territory. So perhaps we should just agree to disagree here, and leave this thread alone for awhile.

    Indeed, I wrote far more than about economics in the above article. In fact, I am interested that no one has commented on what I considered to be a most significant point: that all of these Australian lefties had absolutely nothing to say about God and the spiritual nature of our troubles. That for me is a very telling omission from our Leftist leaders.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  42. I think the title of Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The church of liberalism pretty well sums up where the left is coming from. The secular left especially, operate out of an anti-biblical / anti-Christian worldview, and as far as I can tell, the so-called ‘religious left’ hold to most of the same policies whilst claiming to be following Jesus’ example.

    Ewan McDonald.

  43. Barry is right. Whilst poor/bad government decisions concerning handing out loans to those who could not afford to repay was part of the Democrat regime from Clinton’s time, the overall system suffered also from lack of proper regulations. It is not socialist to have proper regulations.

    It seems that some on the far Right want to throw away prudential regulation. Remember that the Coalition Govt here in Australia did one good thing and that was to establish proper regulations via APRA.
    I and the DLP would actually build upon APRA and give it more teeth. Once again, this is not socialism.
    Michael Webb

  44. I suppose most who would use the term would call me a lefty. I was a member of the Communist Party, the ALP’s Left faction and other so called institutions of the so called ‘left’. Twenty years plus has taught me one thing, we are all lefties. The terms come on which side would you sit in the Estates General in the then royal French parliament. Even given the excesses of the French revolution, nearly all of us would sit on the left. Capitalism progressively emerged from the excesses of business by royal privilege.
    I have two disagreements with your essay. The first is that there is no such thing ‘the left’ with one set of recognised policies. Indeed, I have only seen the left united in their hatred of the ‘enemy’. No, these are not conservatives but heretics on the left. Several times I have been told I am not left enough. Prior to 1975, many on the left thought the same about Gough Whitlam, supposedly Australian most left wing Prime.
    (Yes, I too fall into the trap of using the inexact terms left and right. They are a convenient short hand when one wishes to make broad unsubstantiated statements).
    The other thing is the anti-religious basis of the so called left. I have been reading a John Clifford, who was both a Baptist church minister and a Christian Socialist. He wrote two pamphlets for the Fabian Society, a non-Marxist socialist organisation that flourished from the 1890s onwards in Britain. In one he argue that the role of a Christian in social policy is to attempt to bring out the best human characteristics, which occur in within collectives dedicated to non-profit activities. This is not a denial of the effects of sin on human character but a belief that if one lives within community such evils can be corrected. To support this, Clifford pointed to the first Christians who had organised themselves into communes with a common purse, according to Acts. (I have no record of Clifford joining some Anabaptist ‘brotherhood’). For Clifford, a social policy based on guarding against the effects of sin is not only surrendering to evil but a denial of the God’s grace in Christ.
    Bill, I really don’t know which left wing commentators you have been reading or talking to but they cannot be very wide. The socialist George Orwell is the best know critic of Soviet state capitalism. Why do you think that euro-communism emerged? Or why the Australian Communist Party never returned to the Soviet Union after 1969?
    But the one thing that grated on me was claiming the equality of opportunity for the right. It was one of the criticisms of the Whitlam government. So much so that Freundenberg tell the story of the frustrated ad agency trying to grapple with the concept. They asked Whitlam for a concrete example and he instantly replied that every student should have a room of their own, a desk and a lamp to study by. And that what Whitlam’s opponents did not like about that equality – the requirement of economic resources.
    Michael Boswell

  45. Bill,

    You need a history lesson in the Australian Labor Party. The Light on the Hill reference refers back to a speech given by Ben Chifley (Labor PM 1945-1949). The speech was delivered on 12 June 1949 just as Chifley was about to send the troops in against a communist lead coal miners strike. The speech was a vieled attack on the Communist Party.

    It well covered in wikipedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Chifley
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_light_on_the_hill

    Michael Boswell

  46. Thanks Michael

    The lefties I have been specifically referring to in my article were of course the six leaders of the Australian left who wrote the Australian articles, the links of which I feature at the end of my article.

    And thanks for the reminder about Chifley. Yes, as someone originally from the US, I do have a rather incomplete understanding of Australian history, but now that you mention it, I do recall reading about his speech.

    But Chifley did the very same thing I chewed out Soutphommasane for: he used the phrase totally stripped of its original spiritual and biblical context. For him it appears to be a totally secular concept, devoid of its original religious connotations.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  47. Well said Michael Boswell. Terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are only rough guides or as you said convenient shorthand. And yes we all need to use convenient shorthand, so long as from time to time, all of us, do not fall into the trap of just using those terms, so as to deny the variations and also so as not to justify the ugly aspects which are found in the extremes on both sides.

    Before culture wars since the 1960s in the West, there were more people whose culture was imbued with respect and support for govt conroland regulation of public utilities. Today the ALP is similar to teh Liberal Party ( and simialr story in the USAand Europe) in which small groups of Party admin & officials ignore the rank and file and are constantly introducing polciies of full-on privatisations and selling off of srategic public assets so as to deny the common good ( a Christian concept) and instead to serve monopolies in the private sector.

    Michael Webb

  48. Bill,

    I think you assume that Chifley didn’t do it deliberately. I think he did. He was enlisting the ALP’s Christian origins against a anti-Christian force – atleast that was one element. Please remember this was the ALP with the DLP attached – prior to the split.

    Michael Webb

    You forget the Cold War. There was a fear the common people were turn against the then current political culture infavour of a Marxian one. Some have argued that the polices prior to the 1980s were bribes to working class. Others think it was simply a shift in the intellectual climate.

    Marx wrote – We make our own history but we do not choose the circumstances in which we make it. They are transmitted to us from the past.
    It not the full quote and I did not read it in Marx. It heads a chapter in Power without Glory by Hardy.

    Michael Boswell

  49. To Barry Koh,

    Capitalism was the logical outgrowth of the American dream. The basis for doing business in a free market place is goodwill.
    Laws were established by the US Government to protect people from those who would coerce others either by force or other illegal means.
    Today in America you have a generation who live by the philosophy of “Do unto others before they can do it to you.”
    Or “It is only illegal if I get caught”

    The basis for Capitalism is not at fault here, it is the people within the community who have no morals. When the majority or even a sizable minority are immoral then the society is in trouble.
    Bernie Madhoff (?) was doing what he did for more than 20 years. Many of his institutional investors knew he was up to no good, but wanted a piece of the action.
    Brian Wheatley

  50. Coming in a bit late here but I just wanted to say my take on all this from a Christian young person who has tended to be left leaning for years but recently seen the immense wisdom in the conservative point of view. I am like my generation of young Christians in general and am concerned about the relevance of the gospel to social and political issues, particularly poverty and justice. For me what matters is what actually helps the poor practically, not idealistic rhetoric. A few years ago I felt God say to me that if I really care about the poor then I owe it to them to really understand what causes poverty and how to overcome it. This surprisingly led me to develop an interest in economics, which the relevance of never really crossed my mind before. But I realised that economics is the science of wealth and poverty. My knowledge is very limited and I am still an amateur, but I have come to be fairly convinced that what Bill said about left leaning ideals tending to move rightward in practical outworking is entirely accurate. Economic liberalisation seems to lead to economic growth and development for the poor not government intervention in the market. That accompanied with strong protection of private property rights. Look up the Austrian school of economics for scholarship regarding this. I challenge left leaning Christians to seriously look into these issues of what economic and political conditions really deliver countries from poverty. To maintain trendy leftwing views or remain in the domain of postmodern ambiguity out of fear of becoming a ‘right wing extremist’ does not cut it when the hopes and freedom of the poor are at stake. The labelling of ‘right-wing extremist’ or ‘far-rightist’ is not helpful in this critical debate. In fact I would argue that free market ideas are the really progressive economic ideas if we are willing to rationally understand why. But it seems that too much of my generation is more concerned with being politically correct and appearing to be socially progressive than actually taking the time to wrestle with what actually works and most fits with a biblical worldview. I knew nothing about economics when I was left-wing, but I was sure to wear my ‘make poverty history’ sticker proudly for all to see. I believe God will hold us to account for what we did personally to help the poor with our own money, our own resources, our own time. What sacrifices do we actually make. Sloganeering is not a sacrifice, it makes us feel good. The real countercultural progressives will stand against the politically correct, lef-wing establishment and live in the realm of hard practical reality, not fantasy. We need to get our own hands dirty. We need a thorough intellectual critique of marxist class conflict theory and the way it still influences us more than we realise. We need to acquaint ourselves with history and the devastating oppression that left-wing ideas have led to. Are we for the poor and against oppression? Ideas do have consequences. We need to be more careful in our thinking, and stop making excuses for sloppy thinking. I’m not a suit and tie conservative type at all. I have long hair in dreads, I am scruffy and I listen to heavy metal. But I take intellectual honesty seriously. And because I want to do good in the world. Please pray for me. Pray for a whole generation of Christian young people. Cheers.
    Conor Ryan

  51. Thanks Conor for sharing your thoughts and a bit of your journey. I am glad to hear you are seeking to think carefully about these important issues. Like you, I started on the left, but moved to the right over the years. No political or economic system is perfect, but some may more closely approximate some biblical ideals than others.
    Thanks again for joining us here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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