Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Whither the Liberal Party?

Oct 8, 2009

Where is the Australian Liberal Party at the moment, and where is it headed? Peter Costello is about to resign, and Malcolm Turnbull may be toppled by his own party members over his position on an ETS. Since losing the last Federal election it has already gone through one Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, and may be about to go with a third, perhaps Joe Hockey.

Of course such transitions are not uncommon for parties in opposition. It is one of the worst places to be in politically, and the longer it drags on, the worse things seem to become. But the issue of leadership is only one of its problems. True, both at state and federal levels, it seems there are very few decent opposition leaders around in the conservative side of politics.

But a much bigger problem may be the loss of direction, and a floundering in the political seas. What does the Liberal Party stand for these days? What are its core values? How does it distinguish itself from Labor? These are questions which should be carefully considered by the Liberals at the moment.

It is not clear however if these sorts of questions are on the top of the list. Power struggles and sheer desperation to get into power tend to outweigh more philosophical and ideological concerns. But that may well be to the detriment of the Party.

Sure, both major parties are becoming more centrist, assuming that is where the bulk of the electorate is at. It could be. But the worry is, as the Liberal party makes itself more and more indistinguishable from the Labor Party, why should anyone vote for it? If it offers little that is unique and different, then why not just keep the current mob in power?

In such situations it is usually helpful to return to first principles, to go back to one’s roots. What has made the Liberal Party so effective at getting in and staying in power in the past? One good indicator is the strongly held values of the Liberals some decades ago.

This was probably best expressed by Robert Menzies in a speech he gave in May of 1942. Entitled, “The Forgotten People,” it nicely lays out some core principles and values of the Party, and demonstrates some genuine substance and belief.

Menzies of course was Prime Minister in Australia from 1939 to 1941, and 1949 to 1966. Altogether, he served in that capacity for nearly eighteen and a half years. In many respects he was a great leader, as well as a man of some wit. For example, while speaking in Victoria in 1954, a heckler yelled out, “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were the Archangel Gabriel”. Menzies instantly shot back, “If I were the Archangel Gabriel, I’m afraid you wouldn’t be in my constituency.”

But back to his famous speech. In it he affirmed some core values of the Liberal Party, values which the nation as a whole could rightly sign on to. A few snippets of this memorable speech are worth posting here. He said this for example about the middle class and the importance of the family:

The middle class “has a ‘stake in the country’. It has responsibility for homes – homes material, homes human, and homes spiritual. I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses. It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole.”

He went on to say that “Human nature is at its greatest when it combines dependence upon God with independence of man”. It is the individual, not the state, which must be promoted and applauded:

“The idea entertained by many people that, in a well-constituted world, we shall all live on the State is the quintessence of madness, for what is the State but us? We collectively must provide what we individually receive. The great vice of democracy – a vice which is exacting a bitter retribution from it at this moment – is that for a generation we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if somewhere there was somebody else’s wealth and somebody else’s effort on which we could thrive.”

He continued, “To discourage ambition, to envy success, to have achieved superiority, to distrust independent thought, to sneer at and impute false motives to public service – these are the maladies of modern democracy, and of Australian democracy in particular. Yet ambition, effort, thinking, and readiness to serve are not only the design and objectives of self-government but are the essential conditions of its success. If this is not so, then we had better put back the clock, and search for a benevolent autocracy once more.”

While the current Liberal Party is going through turmoil and confusion, it may be helpful to remind them of some of the basic principles of the Party, and to remind them that some core values deserve to be retained, regardless of the day and the age.

No political party is perfect, being comprised of imperfect people. And for the Christian, no one party will ever fully represent biblical concerns (although the smaller Christian parties may indeed come much closer to this ideal). So we must be wise and discerning, as well as prayerful, when we think, talk and act in a political fashion.

Modern political parties can on occasion show moments of greatness, nobility and values of worth. It is hoped our current opposition party can recapture some of this greatness soon. Australia needs genuine alternatives, and it needs great men for difficult times.

Menzies was no saint, but he seemed to have a bit of vision, principle, and a set of core values. If the modern Liberals want to get back into power, they will need leaders with similar traits. Otherwise they may languish on the sidelines for some time to come.

[1062 words]

25 Responses to Whither the Liberal Party?

  • Allow me to make the first comment. Just after posting this article I found on the Australian site a piece dealing with somewhat similar themes:,25197,26179436-7583,00.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • All I can say is that Malcolm is standing firm on a very unpopular bill being the CPRS.

    If he continues to want to negotiate with the ALP on this Bill it will certainly lead to him being toppled. Qld is dead against it, and if a deal is struck then the coalition will have no short term future in this state. It would be hard for them to accept it in anyway.

    The only problem I see is that all the alternatives, IE Hockey and Abbott, are also tending to put pressure on their senators to negiotate, which will leaves no viable long term option with the Liberal party up here.

    Should they gain the courage to stand firm against this bill, then there is hope. 5 seats up here and the possibility of retaining all 5 senators (3 Lib 2 Nats). Qld is the one state at the moment that would stop Kevin from calling his bluff on a DD and everyone knows that.

    As they say if you support this bill then you are either
    1. Looking for a prominent position in the UN, or
    2. Hold major shareholdings in finance and brokerage houses (which will be the biggest winners on the introduction of this consumption tax.)

    The RET’s will hurt and diminish our abilty to produce food (in a world short of food), let’s see if they’re silly enough to deliver the final blow to our Agricultural industries and our regional brothers and sisters.

    Tony Zegenhagen, Queensland

  • Nice post Bill.

    Australia needs a Liberal party leader of substance and values. Remember Howard was our second longest serving PM and part of that (as the left attest when they scream ‘populist’) was because he was very forthright, voicing conservative principles, rejecting political correctness and providing gutsy leadership.

    There are definitely worthy criticisms of Howard (like not selling ABC and CSIRO, running a surplus instead of cutting taxes, giving too much money to the green movement, opposing federalism, etc) but he was an outspoken champion of principled leadership. The current Liberals are suffering without a strong leader like that.

    I suspect a conservative party that can articulate conservative principles will have far more chance of succeeding. Think of Reagan’s great successes in this way and the Republican victory in Congress under Newt Gingirich in the 90’s.

    Damien Spillane

  • Dear Bill, Pat Boone has called the nation of the United States to resist all ungodly leadership. You have alerted us to our need in Australia in national, state and local government of those who cry, ‘thus says the Lord’.
    Moses did so, when confronting Pharoah, God said, let My people go that they might serve me in the wilderness.
    Noah did when facing persistent ridicule for 120 years, building that mammoth structure for human survival.
    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego rejected the call to bow before the massive golden idol, choosing rather the fiery furnace, and a heavenly Messenger granting liberty and asbestos safekeeping.
    Prime Minister Daniel would not discontinue his thrice daily attendance at the throne of God; hungry lions notwithstanding. God grant Minsters of this calibre.
    Governor Nehemiah built a wall around Jerusalem.
    A discipline of hourly prayer could trigger off stirrings. on Daniel enlarges this.
    Harrold Steward

  • I hope Malcolm Turnbull fails to get the Liberal Party to negotiate ETS. For after the double disillusion, Rudd, Wong and Garrett will be forced to negotiate with the Greens to get the regulations through. Hence, a better outcome! (Remember the Australia Card?)

    Now getting back on the topic, I am glad you read the speech. The problem I have with it is that it fails to create the space for the individual to fulfil his or her full potential. For that you need a national health insurance scheme, welfare, good public education, good infrastructure, a strong industrial system to protect workers and so on. In other words, the socialist project! Yes, with high taxation and a highly regulated economy! I suspect we are going to have to respectfully disagree on that one.

    When the speech was delivered in 1942 there were more chances of winning a raffle than a national conservative government. John Curtin was made Prime Minister when two independent conservative parliamentarians crossed the floor and started voting for the socialist party. One of these men was A.W. Coles (1892 – 1982) who help found Coles and, during the Great Depression, made it Australia’s largest retailer. He preferred any government to the then conservative coalition. He was not on his own. There were only 36 senators then. In 1942, there were 23 conservative senators but by 1946 there were only three.

    Yet the “The Forgotten People” radio talk struck a chord with most Australians at the time. In it you can see the rugged individualism of Banjo Paterson’s The Man from Snowy River urbanised. It helped to unify most of the conservative parties to form the Liberal Party in 1944. It helped to win an electorate over too! In 1949, they elected Robert Menzies’ Liberal Party to national government.

    Hence, it is one of Australia greatest political speeches!

    Michael Boswell

  • Twenty years ago, Labor was a bit left of centre. Liberals were right of centre. They were more clearly different. Today, they vote together on 70% of all legislation and have a very similar philosophical base: the economy is the first and foremost concern of a country – all must be geared to the betterment of the economy. I like your emphasis in your article about human value: society and families are an important focus. Sometimes, in fact, people and communities need to be talked about even if some of the discussion might not make the most money for the free market economy.

    Interestingly: it was Labor who shifted more towards the centre, and who therefore blurred the distinctions between the two parties. The Liberals under Howard felt compelled to “be different” and so they felt they had to re-anchor themselves a bit further right again. So they became even more conservative as Labor stole some of their ground.

    Ironically the other parties that did not move (the Democrats and the Greens) then looked more radical than they were. The Democrats had been in the middle but now seemed a bit left of labor a lot of the time. (But they were started by an ex-Liberal if you remember.) And the Greens have always been left of labor, but seemed even further left.

    I don’t know what the future will hold for the Liberals. They are in a terrible situation. Turnball might get overthrown and whoever leads them will lead them into a huge loss next year at the election. I don’t blame Costello for getting out. Unfortunately he was probably their most capable option (though I did not always like his economics!).

    Jim Reiher

  • Jim

    Jim Reiher says: Today, they vote together on 70% of all legislation and have a very similar philosophical base:

    Hence the two headed monster on our campaign flyers in Queensland. Two parties. One objective. Doesnt matter which one you put in they are travelling the same road.

    Tony Zegenhagen State Secretary, Democratic Labor Party – Qld

  • All this talk about “centre” and “left” and “right” is pretty meaningless unless there is some kind of objective standard by which to measure it all. These are all just relative terms in the absence of a standard. If the extremes move then the centre moves by definition, therefore it doesn’t mean much to claim as some do that the major parties have both moved to the centre. Most people tend to consider their own views to be centre or “moderate” and then from this assumed position evaluate others as being either left or right.

    There is but one unchangeable objective standard and that is God’s standard and we discern that from His word. So as our society continues to shift away from a Christian base to a humanist base, the whole body politic drifts away from God’s standard towards a humanist standard. This is why I say that the whole spectrum has shifted leftward over the last several decades especially since the 1960s. (I am claiming here that the left end of the spectrum is the godless end and the right end is the more biblical.)

    Consider that prior to the ’60s no party would have supported abortion on demand and now effectively both major parties and many minor parties do. The same with legalised prostitution and pornography, homosexual “rights”, the lending of respectability to couples “living in sin”, no fault divorce, a welfare state, socialised medicine, anti-discrimination laws, religious vilification laws, etc.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Thanks guys

    Miranda Devine had a good piece in today’s SMH:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ewan: I would like to respond to some of your comments.

    First you began by saying that all is relative on the “left right” scale (and that has truth to it of course). But then you said that the right side is the more biblical and the left side is godless. What the?

    I think if you begin with a narrow focus on issues to do with personal morality, and if focus on sex, then you might draw that conclusion. The right seems to hold “traditional religious values” in areas of sex.

    But if you focus on caring for all, loving our neighbour as ourselves (even “Samaritans”), treating the poor and oppressed with more dignity, fighting structural evils, and standing up for justice – then the left has it hands down on the right.

    This is demonstrated when your list of bad things above, included “socialised medicine”. I guess you think Obama is evil then: wanting to help poor people get access to basic heath services. But if a Christian is concerned about those who are sick and marginalised, the poor and the powerless, such a Christ-follower should immediately support governments caring for the most poor in the community. They would support the idea of offering them basic medical services – even if they cant afford them.

    You might think it sounds like “socialism”… (use a word with bad connotations and no one thinks too deeply, right?). But every Western modern nation (except the USA) has some kind of medical system in place to allow their most poor access to health care. The USA, interestingly, does not see public libraries as “socialism”, and yet it allows anyone to use books they did not pay for! Out of tax revenue what’s more! Better close down the evil libraries. The USA pays for roads and street lights and some people use them who don’t pay taxes! Stop making them then? Public schools are not paid for by the most poor who use them. Should we exclude them from schools because they cant pay for their education?

    A healthy modern democracy will have a combination of freedom of the individual, and community activity and obligations. To go to one end or the other is when the extremes kick in.

    If you love your neighbour as yourself, you would not want them to miss out on health services just because they are poor, unemployed, or lacking in skills and resources. Would you?

    An even bigger philosophical problem that your note reflects, however, is the relationship between church and state.

    Volumes have been written on this, but let me just highlight the issue: not all Christians agree about it! Some see the church as needing to take over the state and make the laws and force everyone to live under Christian rules. Such folk usually focus on personal morality issues and sex.

    But other Christians don’t see it that way: they argue that we who follow Christ have never been given the mandate to take over structures of government and force non-dicsiples to live as if they were disciples of Jesus. Then there are various shades of differences along the scale of positions as well.

    But note: the church has never had unity on this issue. So you might feel “certain” that if Christians are not at the right end of your relative scale of positions, they are somehow “godless”. But just because you have been raised to think that way, does not mean it is the only legitimate way to think. In fact, there are others in the Church who would say that such thinking reflects living under the Old Covenant. Not the New Covenant.

    Jim Reiher

  • Thanks Jim

    Although your remarks are addressed to Ewan, if you don’t mind I will jump in here as well (it is my website after all!).

    We of course have been down this path many times before, so it does not pay to rehash these things yet again. But perhaps a few points can be made.

    You suggest that the left somehow has a monopoly on morality and compassion, and that they tend to be the ones mainly concerned about justice, the poor, etc. Not so. As I have said plenty of times elsewhere, all sides care – or should care – about these issues, but they differ on how best to achieve good outcomes in these situations.

    And it is really unfair and silly to keep insisting that somehow the so-called religious right is mainly concerned about sex and the like. That is as helpful as saying religious lefties are all a bunch of Marxists. Making such foolish generalisations and stereotypes adds nothing of value to the debate.

    And you are amiss to suggest that somehow those on the right are trying to push some “mandate to take over structures of government and force non-dicsiples to live as if they were disciples of Jesus”. Just who is doing that? And even if they were, the Left is quite happy to do exactly the same. They are quite ready and willing to use the coercive powers of the state to achieve their ends. So your complaint really does no hold up at all here.

    But thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for the note Bill. I am sorry if I was not clear.

    Firstly I was not trying to “foolishly generalise” in the way you have summarised. I was replying first and foremost to the note by Ewan. He wrote extensively on moral issues: “abortion on demand..legalised prostitution and pornography, homosexual “rights”, the lending of respectability to couples “living in sin”, no fault divorce, a welfare state, socialised medicine, anti-discrimination laws, religious vilification laws.” His most prominent concerns, and first listed concerns, were all moral and sexual in nature, (though, to be fair, by the end of the list he broadens it a bit – though not much! There was nothing on care for refugees, or the very poor, how to help drug addicts get off drugs, concern for other minority groups, there was nothing on wars for economic advantage, or expoitation by multinationals that enslave children and offer poor working conditions, nothing on the destruction of the enviornoment that hurts the very poor the most, nothing on child soldiers, of the anti-Christian emphasis on excessive individualism and rampant consumerism, etc). I felt he seemed to “typify” some on the religious right, who focus primarily – and sometimes only – on moral issues of personal morality and sex.

    Secondly I did not say the left has a monoploy on morality and compassion. You have definitely misread me there, and if I was unclear, then again I apologise.

    I specifically said the right seems to capture “traditional personal religious moral values” more than the left. And I implied that the left has more compassion on issues of social justice than the right.

    And I would still hold that position. The very outrage by many of the religious right to the Obama health reforms is a glaring example of that. If you (Bill) disagree with Obama please let us know. If you disagree – what is the answer to the American health system? What do you suggest? You imply that people who disagree have other ways of achieving compassionate goals. What are the compassionate alternatives that have never happened under years of conservative government in the USA?

    And finally, is your defence of Ewan’s note, and rebuttal of my response, agreement that you personally belive that your are Biblical if on the right and godless if on the left?

    Jim Reiher

  • Thanks Jim

    But I don’t share your pessimism about the US health care situation, although a proper discussion of it is too much for short comments here.

    I have already stated in many places that Christianity is ultimately above party politics, but one might find one side of politics perhaps closer to biblical concerns than the other.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Something we agree on Bill! You write that “one might find one side of politics perhaps closer to biblical concerns than the other.” I agree!

    That is why I have ended up left of centre.

    But we all don’t think the same. We all don’t read the scripture the same. But for me, the left captures my reading of scripture much more than the right.

    Jim Reiher

  • Jim, to address your first point, there is nothing contradictory about me saying that terms such as “left” and “right” are relative apart from a biblical reference point, and then proceeding to use those same terms. I wasn’t saying that the terms are meaningless, just that we need to judge them against the biblical standard.

    Secondly, I would observe that whilst you claim that it is the religious right that wants to “take over the state and make the laws and force everyone to live under Christian rules”, it is actually the religious left that attempts to do this especially in the area of welfare. Christians are indeed required to assist with the material needs of the poor and the disadvantaged, but nowhere are we instructed to make Caesar do it for us. It is our responsibility individually and collectively as the church. Christians have not been commanded to use the means of the state to “force everyone” (including non-Christians) into supporting what the religious left thinks qualifies as Christian charity. This is attempting to legislate morality in a way that has no biblical mandate.

    Contrast this with Christians wanting to pass laws prohibiting abortion. Abortion is not an example of a “traditional personal religious moral value”, it is an issue of justice. According to the biblical model the state is primarily concerned with issues of justice (I mean real justice not that fuzzy concept of “social justice” that the left like to go on about). It has been set up by God to restrain the evil of fallen humanity and to do so by rewarding the good and by punishing the wicked (Romans 13). And it should be obvious that where the Bible uses terms such as “good and evil” they are to be defined by what God says are good and evil. The religious left often get this wrong and think it’s good for the state to grant same-sex couples certain benefits but if God calls homosexual practice evil then how can any Christian promote the rewarding of evil behaviour?

    And it is a caricature to suggest that the belief of the religious right that the laws of the state ought to be based upon the Judeo-Christian moral code, means that we want to “take over the state and make the laws and force everyone to live under Christian rules”. The religious right is not attempting to bring the laws of the state into conformity with the Bible as an end in itself but because of a sincerely held belief that in doing so we would be promoting the common good. Biblical morality and the common good are not mutually exclusive even if the left thinks so. Maximum liberty for the maximum number of citizens is achieved where God’s plans are followed. When the humanists take over as has happened in the West, then liberty will gradually be replaced by tyranny.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Menzies repented of his political sins quite often during his career. He began to adopt many of the ALP’s good social policies before this present age of political correctness.
    Finally the great Ming finally made a perfect act of contrition by voting DLP before he died thus realising that Liberal Party policy was mainly about profits for the few, efficiency at all costs and was just sterile economic managerialism without a heartbeat.
    May many more Libs follow in his final footsteps of political repentance.
    Michael Webb

  • Two quick points:

    1) To give equality under the law to all citizens is a just and right thing to do – even if they do not live the same life or have the same beliefs as us Christians. Solomon gave prostitutes justice under the law without requiring them to change their lifestyle for example. And that was when he was a wise and good king, close to God

    2) Abortions are a social justice issue – I don’t know anyone on the left or right who sit around wanting to work out ways to get the number up. As Bill said in one of his pieces here, – we just don’t all agree on the best way to tackle the problem and see the number go down. Did you know, for example, that abortions in the USA dropped during the Clinton years and rose again in the George W Bush years? (Jim Wallice, 7 Ways to Change the World). Why? Because Clinton worked on fighting poverty in the states with more welfare programs. Bush dismantled those programs and the numbers went up again. So fighting poverty is actually a way of fighting abortion.

    Jim Reiher

  • I resonate with Michael’s comment about “sterile economic management without a heartbeat”. Reminds me of the old saying that captures some of the “left right” discussion:
    “God put our hearts a little left of centre.”
    Jim Reiher

  • Jim’s points about Obama’s health care reforms need to be exposed for the hogwash they are.

    Single-payer government run systems always fail because the very thing that puts the fire under private companies to innovate and find better solutions is profit. Remove that and eventually people will suffer as the incentive for new technology dries up.

    So, ultimately, ironically, the ones who will be hurt the most by the health care reforms Obama is preposing will be the poor. They will wait in line for health care. And they will have to wait there a while, as there will be even longer lines than there are now. Like so many leftist ideas, the intentions are good, but the mechanisms are based on feelings not historical facts about outcomes of certain economic policies. It is highly ironic that leftist ideas generally create a much greater division between the rich and poor.

    I am reminded of a blog post I read recently on this subject where there writer simply something like, “I wish I could tattoo the words ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ backwards on the forehead of every leftist so they could understand that you have to have more than just feelgood ideas to create good workable sustainable policies.” Jim, your motivations are good, but the vast majority of opposition to Obama’s healthcare ideas is based on the simple principle that it will not work. It has nothing to do with the poor, and everything to do with what usually works and what always fails.

    If you think what I am saying is silly, answer me this – why is Obama, his family and the elite politicians all going to be exempt from this wonderful caring medical utopia if it is going to be so much better?

    And never mind the fact that congressman Joe Wilson was right when he yelled out “You lie!” to Obama during his sales pitch last month about US taxpayers having to pay for the health care of illegals and the additional taxpayer burden there. They were also not upfront about the ‘death panels.’ And there is still ongoing wrangling about abortion paid for by taxpayers. They claim it’s not there, but mysteriously resist any proposals to have language inserted to specifically deny it. And strangely, US citizens are also supposed to take no notice of the fact that Planned Parenthood is backing the reforms… Yeah, right, abortion’s not there, and pigs will fly.

    Never mind that Obama put his foot in his mouth when he had this to say about how well government runs businesses. “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.” (11/8/2009) This in a speech where he’s trying to convince people to expand government control of people’s lives.

    I used to belong to a union. I even went on strike 3 times for several days each. I also helped a family member with election day work for the ALP several times. I also used to think that right-wing politics was all about power for the rich and greed. I now reject all this, especially the last bit.

    It seems to me that free-market economics can’t really function that well if you increase the plight of the poor, because there will obviously be less money changing hands, which eventually hurts business, who will in turn employ less people and take less risks. The capitalist system would theoretically work best if everybody was working and being rewarded for their personal effort and then going out and spending that money. It is those private risks that create wealth. Government systems usually eat up money, so it is not in the interests of the poor to advocate what you are proposing. Eventually the money runs out. This has been proven time and time again. Governments should only be there for security reasons, and encourage free enterprise by merely maintaining the basics. The bigger government gets, the worse for freedom. A famous quote from Ronald Reagan spells this out: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” And Margaret Thatcher said this, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”

    (The funny thing is, I remember how Reagan and Thatcher were demonized by the media when I was growing up and I have since found out that their economic principles were pretty much just common sense. But that just speaks to something I have mentioned in different comments before – I implore people to check out alternative outlets for news on the internet – Newsbusters, Townhall, MichelleMalkin, LifeSiteNews are 4 that you can peruse just for starters. Moonbattery is another one, although language is an issue, as is a bit of a tendency to report non-issues. But it’s better than the MSM. TheReligionofPeace is great for following the militant agenda of Islam. There’s plenty out there, but be wary of the Obama worship sites (ie. NBC, CNN, ABC, The Age))

    So, Jim, listen to what you’re saying – you actually think that those on the right side of politics want to deny health care to people. It’s rubbish. Any private enterprise in the medical profession would like to have them as a customer – competition being the key to bring a quality product and/or service to the customer, otherwise he/she will just go elsewhere. With the government as the only option, you just take a number, wait, and hope. What do you do if some bureaucrat decides you are too much of a burden? Sorry, can’t help. What do they do if the system runs out of money? Tax more or deny even more care. No wonder Americans are rejecting the idea en masse.

    I think your main error is that you think government ideas are always the solution to any problem. And it’s ironic that you think it’s what the right want – to “take over the state.” Revisit the quote from Reagan please. Nothing defines the left better than their forcing of their ideas down people’s throats via government decree. Leftist ideas generally create classes of dependence which in turn grow government making a few privileged fat cats rich, whereas right policies generally look to create environments where opportunities for all individuals abound. And if anyone is obsessed with sex and the imposition of ideas, hey, I don’t mind discussing these ones – same-sex ‘marriage’, rejection of abstinence education, abortion as contraception paid for by taxpayers, etc…

    btw, your examples of libraries, roads & schools are not relevant. Libraries could actually be privately run, but are hardly anywhere near as burdensome as healthcare and could be argued as encouraging enterprise. Roads are a basic requirement for society to function (ie. security and encouraging free enterprise). Schools – LOL! Lookup Obama’s take on the voucher system. Education for the Democrats is all about protecting union jobs and little to do with what’s best for kids.

    And finally your Old Covenant/New Covenant ideas I suspect will be influenced by a certain brand of simplistic liberal theology. FYI, moral laws did not change to focus less on personal morality, otherwise explain to me why it was Jesus who raised the bar from the Old Testament on what constitutes adultery – and therefore, sin? (Matthew 5:27-28) I guess he didn’t hear your rant about how it is just rightwing nuts who stress sexual morality as important.

    For the record, I don’t belong to any political party. I prefer to have the freedom to compare individual policies with the Bible.

    (I always seem to start these posts with the idea, oh I’ll just write a couple of lines… ugh, sorry, Bill.)

    Mark Rabich

  • Thanks Jim

    It is one thing to be a member of the Greens, but quite another to seek to baptise some of their outrageous positions with faulty biblical hermeneutics! Really Jim, I am a bit stunned! What will you be telling us next? That Christians should be in favour of legalised polygamy, because of Solomon’s less than ideal example?!

    And I find it quite odd that you even use him as justification. It is the religious left which usually chews out those on the right for even daring to appeal to Old Testament law and custom. Indeed, you just complained in an earlier post about this very thing: “such thinking reflects living under the Old Covenant. Not the New Covenant.” So much for consistency here.

    And I know nothing about your Wallis quote, although it all sounds quite dubious to me. And even if it had any validity, the logic in the use of it is quite bizarre. Clinton of course had grey hair, while Bush had brown hair. One might as well argue that abortions will go down under gray-haired presidents, and up under brown-haired presidents.

    While you keep chewing us out for supposedly putting party ideology ahead of biblical concerns, it seems that this is exactly what you are doing here. You appear to be scraping around for any shred of biblical support for the radical Green agenda. You will have to do better than that in order to convince me!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The story I quoted from was when Solomon was at his spiritual best. He was a young new king and God has just granted him wisdom to rule with justice. He makes one of his first rulings straight after that. The people marvelled because of the wisdom God had given Solomon to do justice! That is what the text says! My goodness Bill! I did not quote from Solomon when he was older and more carnal. When he became married to many women and began incorporating their religions into Israel. The story I cite is when Solomon was young and close to God! He had just had a personal vision of God and God spoke to him directly for goodness sake! You are pretending to ignore Solomon at his best, because you don’t like the implications of the story! I am stunned by your misuse and purposeful mishandling of the Bible.

    My point is that you do not have to agree with another person’s lifestyle or worldview to give them justice, especially under the law. Solomon was not condoning prostitution as an acceptable lifestyle, because he gave the real mother justice that day. He was not agreeing that her moral behaviour is acceptable, because he did not insist she “stop it” before helping her or treating her equally under the law. No. He was giving justice to citizens in his kingdom, because that is a good thing to do. To treat all with dignity and equality before the law, is a wise and godly thing to do. You don’t have to insist that sinners stop sinning to give them justice. God lets his sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous after all. Of course, how much more wonderful is it when those folk do find new life as well.

    Jim Reiher

  • Mark, a few things:

    – There are millions in the states who have no access to basic health care. I suspect they would be happy to be allowed to be on a fee queue rather than not be able to access health care at all! But you don’t think that is a good option.

    – You seem to really believe that those on the right care for the very poor. How then do they demonstrate it?

    – Are you really going to say that the US health system is better than the Australian one? Or some European models that give all members of the country free basic health care?

    – You also quote Jesus – I agree he lifted the bar. Followers of Jesus are meant to aim very high. But when he was confronted by a non-follower of his, who had been caught in the act of adultery, and that person was likely to be stoned to death, he got her off. There is a very big difference in Scripture between how Christ-followers are meant to live, and how non-Christians actually live.

    – You wrote a lot, I wont try to discuss all aspects of your comments. But thanks for taking the time to do so.

    Jim Reiher

  • Bill: I am surprised you have not read Jim Wallice’s book: “7 Ways to Change the World”. In the section on abortion, he gives that data I cited above.

    The link between poverty and abortion is this: when the single most given reason for abortions is “I just cant afford another mouth to feed”, then it makes sense if you lift the person’s lifestyle, they might not feel that despair about having another baby.

    And so as more welfare programs were implemented to lift people at the bottom of the ladder, abortion rates actually dropped. Not completely of course, (there are more reasons that just that for why some have abortions). But they declined. And when Mr Bush dismantled those welfare programs (how exactly did he show his compassion for the very poor? I am really intereseted to know), the numbers went up again.

    This is very embarrassing material for those on the right who think they have a monopoly on “fighting abortion”.

    Jim Reiher

  • Thanks Jim

    (I have allowed a bit of time for a cooling-off period on all sides, and I have also edited out some of your remarks which seemed merely to be ad hominem in nature.)

    As to the abortion issue you mention, there is nothing embarrassing about it for the right whatsoever. As I said, I have not read the book by Wallis (whom you keep misspelling!). But I still find his remarks quite dubious for at least five reasons: One, we know that most abortions in the US are not carried out by poor people, but by middle to upper class women. Two, no reputable sociologist would dare to make a cause an effect relationship between something like income levels and abortion rates. There would be far too many other variables to factor into the equation. Three, while I am glad when abortion levels go down, I suspect that for too many lefties this is simply a secondary concern, their main concern being to bash Bush and capitalism (I am not saying this is what you are doing here).

    Four, in general, abortion rates in the US peaked during the first decade after Roe v Wade (1973). Since the late 1980s they have steadily been heading downwards under both Republican and Democrat administrations. And five, more specifically, the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control show just the opposite of what you and Wallis are seeking to argue. In 2000, when Bush was first elected, the abortion rate at 21.3 percent and it declined to 19.4 percent by 2005, the latest year for which the CDC has data available. So for all these reasons Wallis is quite simply far off the mark here. If anyone should be should be embarrassed, it should be him.

    As to justice, I fail to see how your non sequitur is of any use here. Where and when have I said anything about denying justice to individuals? No one is disputing the notion of common grace, or the need to treat all people fairly. That is not the issue. Of course individuals should – and already do – receive equal treatment. But that is not what the Greens and the Left are on about. What they mean by these buzzwords is special rights for homosexual couples, and the like, dismantling the God-given institutions of marriage and family, and so on. That is an altogether different matter, which I have dealt with in numerous articles on this site.

    The same with Solomon. I am not ignoring, misusing or mishandling anything, as you suggest. The story you appeal to is in 1 Kings 3. I fail to see how that has to do with the original point of discussion. This simply has to do with a king making a judicial decision about a tough case. It has nothing to do with going soft on “personal morality” or anything like it.

    To seek to read into this passage modern debates about extending special rights to homosexuals and the like is to be guilty of eisegesis, trying to read something into the text which is not even there and was never intended to be. Solomon was simply adjudicating on the welfare of a child, and not making any pronouncement on the morality or otherwise of prostitution.

    Also, there is a clear difference between personal and social ethics in these areas. That is, one must hold in balance passages like Matt.5-7 with passages like Romans 13. We as individual Christians can and should love, befriend, relate to and forgive prostitutes, drug dealers, homosexuals, abortionists, etc., But it is quite another matter altogether when we deal with public policy concerns. Government (which is God ordained) has an obligation to promote the public good, constrain harmful behaviours, and promote public virtue while discouraging public vice. The religious left seems to keep getting these two quite distinct issues confused.

    But I think we have been over this ground before! So at the end of the day, as I keep saying, perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree on these matters. You seem unlikely to change your mind here, just as I am unlikely to. But I did have a major change of mind years ago, when I shifted from a very radical leftwing position (I was once far more to the left than you are), but I have moved right, mainly due to my conversion to Christianity. But differences will remain, so we may have to leave it at that. So thanks again for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Jim,

    I’ve answered your points one by one as short as I can. But like many arguments on this subject, it can take a little time to explain why you are wrong. I hope you will read to the end.

    1. You missed the main point of my post – ObamaCare will not work. It just will not. Period. You will end up with much higher taxes and/or substantial rationing of care. I think the poor and weak might be affected by that, what do you think?

    The tactic you’ve employed here – the common tactic of the left to equate denouncement of the ‘plan’ with lack of compassion with the poor – deserves contempt. ObamaCare is actually worse than doing nothing. Why do none of the ‘at-least-we’re-doing-something’ pundits concede that possibility?

    2. Are you aware that conservative leaning folks generally give proportionally more to the poor? (Never mind their generally better idea of economics.) That’s how they demonstrate it.

    3. A great many medical advances come from the US purely because the opportunity to derive profit from this activity is real. Only a very small percentage of medical innovations in the US are funded by the government. Competition between companies keeps them acting a whole lot more ethically towards patients than the government ever would. Under the Obama plan, where do you go if the government refuses you? The government has no incentive to look after you, but companies do – it’s called profit. Profit is a dirty word for some, but the fact is it works and people get good service. It simply comes down to economic motivation. Companies fear losing your business (and with it, a portion of profit) to competition so they have to perform better. In contrast, the government is economically motivated to lose your business. A single payer system is extremely bad because it views losing customers as a cost saving, and therefore, good. In plain English, the government will WANT people to die – especially those who need it most. That’s what you are supporting, as surely as night follows day. But you seem to be OK with that.

    And don’t give me that drivel about care being so much better in socialized medicine countries. Ann Coulter takes on this lie. I’m sorry, but I’ll have to quote her at length.

    (There) are risk factors that have nothing to do with the health care system. To evaluate the quality of our health care, you have to compare apples to apples by looking at outcomes for specific medical conditions.

    Although the United States has a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes compared to Europe — because of lifestyle choices and genetics — it also has better survival rates across the board for all these medical problems.

    The most revealing international comparisons look at cancer survival rates, because of the universally extensive record-keeping for this disease.

    A European study found that, compared to 18 European countries, the U.S. had strikingly higher five-year survival rates in all 12 cancers studied, except for one: stomach cancer. Even there, the survival rates were close — and the difference was attributed to the location of the cancer in the stomach.

    For all types of cancers, European men have only a 47.3 percent five-year survival rate, compared to 66.3 percent survival rate for American men. The greatest disparity was in prostate cancer, which American men are 28 percent more likely to survive than European men.

    European women are only 55.8 percent likely to live five years after contracting any kind of cancer, compared to 62.9 percent for American women.

    In five cancers — breast, prostate, thyroid, testicular and skin melanoma — American survival rates are higher than 90 percent. Europeans hit a 90 percent survival rate for only one of those — testicular cancer.

    Most disturbingly, many cancers in Europe are discovered only upon the victim’s death — twice as many as in the U.S. Consequently, the European study simply death — twice as many as in the U.S. Consequently, the European study simply excluded cancers that were first noted on the death certificate, so as not to give the U.S. too great an advantage.

    There are no national registries for heart disease, as there are for cancer, making survival-rate comparisons more difficult. But treatments can be measured and, again, Americans are far more likely to be on medication for heart disease and high cholesterol — medications that extend the lives of millions, developed by those evil, profit-grubbing American drug companies.

    To get to the comparison they like (America is not as good as Sweden!), liberals have to slip in the orange of “life expectancy,” and hope no one will mention monster truck races, Krispy Kremes and Virginia Slims. As the old saying goes: Life doesn’t last longer in socialist countries; it just feels like it.

    You also do not explain why so many people seeking the very best health care in the world are usually traveling to the United States, not away from it. That fact alone destroys most of your argument.

    For all the bleating of the left, the facts are clear – health care in the US is amongst the best in the world and will only be compromised by this very, very bad idea. And the poor will be hit the hardest. Never mind the rest of the world who go to the US when their health system hasn’t got the resources… And anyway, why stop at health? Isn’t food a ‘basic human right’? Not everyone gets sick, but everybody needs food. Hey, let’s socialize food as well. I mean, it sure is not ‘compassionate’ that people go without food…

    BTW, Jim, ironically the reason this reply was delayed was because I’ve just had a minor operation – in a private hospital! Less than 24 hours and I was back home. 2 years ago, when I was carted to a public hospital for chest pains (nothing serious, it turned out later), it took about 16 hours just to get a diagnosis.

    Yes, this is another long post, (I’ve just been taking it easy for a little while since the op., so answering your post was not a priority) but I want to make it abundantly clear to you that the evidence is profoundly against what you’re supporting. There’s actually lots more I could’ve written and referred you to, but I’ll stop here. ObamaCare will make things much worse for the poor, and in turn, worse for the world.

    Mark Rabich

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