Prayer and Politics

Mormon Hereticinter-faith, Leaders, Mormon, Peace, politics, prayer 71 Comments

A few years ago, I read a book by Larry King (yes–the one you are familiar with), called Powerful Prayers.  It is one of my favorite books!  Larry discusses prayer with politicians, actors, athletes, atheists, theologians, and celebrities.  There are some fascinating insights from many people.  Two people I really were fascinated with were President Jimmy Carter, and Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition.

I really enjoyed hearing President Carter discuss prayer during the peace negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.  From page 70,

When we went to Camp David on September 5, 1978, Begin, Sadat, and I all wanted to pray.  But before our first talks, I spent several hours negotiating the text of the prayer.  I got a proposed draft from a prayer group in Washington and I made some edits.  Sadat approved it, Begin made some changes, and we issued the prayer the first day….

While we were at Camp David those thirteen days, Begin and Sadat were almost totally incompatible.  They didn’t like each other and kept resurrecting ancient grievances.  So after the third day I wouldn’t let them see each other again.

[Larry King]  There are stories the talks almost ended without a resolution a number of times.

[Carter] I remember one day, maybe the tenth, Sadat told Moshe Dayan he would make no more concessions in the negotiating text that I was carrying back and forth.  Sadat told his people at Camp David to pack, and he told National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to arrange a helicopter to take them back to Washington.

I was in my cabin talking to Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and others about budget matters.  I was in jeans and a T-shirt.  I remember changing into a suit and going to Sadat’s cabin, where I had a very sharp exchange with him.  I accused him of breaking promises he had made.  Then I went outside to a quiet place by myself and prayed.

[Larry King]  The Camp David peace accords were signed three days later, on September 17, in a ceremony at the White House.

“Pray for your enemies” has an interesting meaning when looking at the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.  Do you pray for you enemies?

I also enjoyed Larry’s exchange with Ralph Reed.  From page 184, Reed said,

One of the things the Bible teaches us to do is pray for our leaders.  It doesn’t say pray for the leaders of the political party with which you are affiliated.  It doesn’t say pray for Ronald Reagan but not Bill Clinton.  that’s something we have to rediscover.

[Larry King] Do you include Bill Clinton in your prayers?

Yes.  I pray for our national leaders, that they will be wise and that they will be fair and judicious.  I hope that liberals said the same prayer when Ronald Reagan was in the White House.  On the day Reagan was shot, I think every American prayed for his health and his protection.  Maybe there were some who didn’t, but I think most did.

The book was published in 1998, so I’ll update question:  do you pray for President Obama, Harry Reid, and Mitt Romney, John McCain and (fill in your favorite/least favorite politician here)?

Comments 71

  1. Speaking about praying for our enemies. Robert E. Lee, general of the confederate army said about the Union: “I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.”

  2. I pray every day Obama and his band of hippies will be ousted as soon as possible. He is proof positive liberalism is a mental disorder.

  3. Without doubt, it is easier to pray for those we agree with but it is still important, even a commandment, to pray for those we disagree with.

  4. Try to start remembering the prayer, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” After awhile, it at least reminds us of our own failures and improper motives, and then we’ll at least be praying sincerely.

  5. I don’t have a problem with politicians praying per se. The problem that I have with a politician praying in public is this. Even when the prayer is supposedly an interfaith type prayer service, it always comes out sounding like its a Southern Baptist revival camp.

    I might not pray for a particular politician, but I will pray that certain situations are resolved peacefully.

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  7. I would argue that it doesn’t ultimately feel very good to get one’s licks in… only reinforcing our negativity/addictions. That being said, I often get my licks in. Thanks for the reminder MH. 🙂

  8. [i]I pray every day Obama and his band of hippies will be ousted as soon as possible. He is proof positive liberalism is a mental disorder.[/i]

    And you don’t think that demeans the entire concept of prayer?

  9. “And you don’t think that demeans the entire concept of prayer?”

    I’m not sure that it does. I agree that Ken’s remarks are a bit lacking in substance (more on this below), but I don’t think that just because we are commanded to pray for our leaders, that it behooves us in every circumstance to support our leaders. Perhaps if Ken feels that Obama is a reckless force whose leadership could lead to serious national consequences, he ought to feel justified in a plea that God will somehow intervene. That being said, it isn’t very productive if that is your attitude every time the competing party (Liberals as per Ken) wins a seat. But, I ultimately see no real objection to praying for the removal of leaders in a more general way.

    The above notwithstand, I’m not sure where Ken was coming from with his stab towards Obama. whenever I hear blanket insults against Liberal, Conservatives, their agenda’s, etc, all in the general, I get the impression I’m listening to someone who takes way too much of their opinion from the false cable news programs. It’s very similar to high school and college athletic rivalries. There’s little of anything thoughtful and intelligent in the arguments that the “commentators” make (the new catch phrase is commentator because the program anchors are then free from having to abide by the professional code of journalism which require impartiality, and adherence to the facts and a telling of the whole story), instead they just do a little cheerleading and wave signs which denigrate the opposition. The only other fitting corallary I can think of is the manufactured wrestingling drama’s that are on the TV. I think it socially destructive to be caught in the media model of partisanship rivalry.

  10. Is there ever a proper context for the prayer canonized at Psalm 109?

    “There’s little of anything thoughtful and intelligent in the arguments that the “commentators” make (the new catch phrase is commentator because the program anchors are then free from having to abide by the professional code of journalism which require impartiality, and adherence to the facts and a telling of the whole story)….”

    There are commentators, and there are commentators. The amount of substance varies, but the varieties at the high end of the scale would probably surprise some of the people who just issue blanket insults against “commentators.”

    Finally re: commentators, at least the label is worn openly — unlike some of the people who make a show of abiding by the professional journalistic code of impartiality, adherence to the facts, and a telling of the whole story.

  11. My comment towards Obama was not intended as a “lick”. The guy is just as destructive as any other extreme leftist in the past — Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot or Jimmy Jones. His ideas and objectives are destructive and I pray that he fails in implementing them. I love this country and don’t want to see it crumble under leftist polices that have destroyed so many societies.

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    while you are welcome to you opinion, your incendiary remarks comparing obama to hitler and stalin are way off. please tell me what holocaust obama has perpetrated akin to stalin or hitler. such comparisons are laughable, and not in the spirit of good citizenship or thoughtful prayer.

  13. Ken S, please leave the Hitler analogies to the critics of Arizonans or the anti-Bush folks. You’re better than that.

  14. “There are commentators, and there are commentators. The amount of substance varies, but the varieties at the high end of the scale would probably surprise some of the people who just issue blanket insults against “commentators.””

    Perhaps so, but my comments were intended to particularly address those who cheerlead on partisan politics, using issues and context only as a means to score points. I was criticizing Ken’s generalization of the “left”, which he thoughtfully responded to by comparing leftists to some of histories more prominent political mass-murderers – including Jim Jones of all people? For what it is worth, I am doubtful that much of any of the “higher varieties” exist on the popular cable news channels which resemble Ken’s line rhetoric.

  15. I don’t watch much TV news, but I did see the Glenn Beck show last Friday. It was about Frederick Douglass and the Reconstruction-era black Republican Congressmen and Senators from Southern states — the first (and only) black representatives until (IIRC) the 1960s. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of those men’s writings and speeches (which were miles above at least 99% of modern political rhetoric) — and also with the sophistication of the show itself. I understand the tenor of the show varies, but what I see isn’t the one-dimensional shoutfest the conventional wisdom says it is. But maybe I’m just too easily impressed by anyone paying any attention to history (just as a philosophy major would probably be impressed by any discussion of his equally useless major.)

  16. Back to the original question, regarding whether I pray for our leaders . . .

    I’ll omit the details, but I come from a politically active family. I remember years ago (I actually lived in California at the time) seeing a letter from the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” to then-Attorney General of Utah David Wilkinson complaining about Utah’s planned observance of either the national or the state “day of prayer,” or something like that, and asking how the state was planning to combat this alleged First Amendment violation, particularly in light of the fact that, according to the foundation, prayer had never been shown to be effective in any context (apologies for that grotesquely long sentence). Wilkinson’s written response concluded with something like this: “in response to your assertion that prayer is not effective, a colleague suggested that I tell you the story about the seagulls, but I’ll save that for another time.”

    As my own faith has changed throughout the years, I have found myself wondering whether prayer really has any impact at all on the rest of the world. (A brother-in-law told me that he now treats prayer as a kind of reporting session to God, where he reports on both his failures and successes, accounts for how he has spent his time that day, and commits to do better. His theory is, if God is listening, at least that kind of prayer breaks up the monotony for Him.) But for what it’s worth, I do pray for leaders, of all political parties and of multiple nations, and ask that they be guided to make wise and just and good decisions. I confess I don’t have a lot of expecation that that kind of prayer affects any decision those leaders make. I find myself praying far more sincerely for the voters of my city/state/country, and ask that THEY be blessed to make wise decisions. I suspect that, as in most cases, God will leave us to deal with the consequences of the voting decisions we make.

    The idealist in me thinks that what actually might make a difference would be to have the leadership of the political parties pray together, off camera, and without an audience. I just can’t picture Nancy Pelosi praying with John Boehner, or Harry Reid with Mitch McConnell. But if Sadat and Begin could do it, there’s no reason why those folks can’t. Sad that today’s political culture has made that notion so difficult to imagine.

  17. I know no one wants to bring Glen BEck into this conversation, His last show attacking the presidents’ seven year old daughter and then bringing in the race card is just not acceptable. If he wants to attack Obama on his politics or how he is handling the problem with BP that’s one thing, but I really don’t see anything sophisticated with his show except how skillfully he twist all things about Obama into an issue of race.

    I’m praying that his show gets canceled. I’m praying for that every day.

  18. Fair enough, D. Beck acknowledged his referencing Malia Obama in his show was going too far.

    But answer this, before Googling anything: What, specifically, did Glenn Beck say about Malia?

    I only ask, because it’s fashionable to repeat the conventional wisdom about how perfectly awful certain commentators are, without actually knowing what exactly got said. And that phrase “attacking the president’s…daughter” makes me think that maybe you haven’t seen the show or the transcript. Which was lame, but not really an “attack.”

    Of course Bristol Palin never got made fun of by anyone on the other side…

  19. Thomas/MH:

    Now calm down and don’t take my words out of context. I am not insinuating Obama is a mass murder or is preparing for a holocaust or world domination. I am saying, however, like those mentioned he is an extreme left wing ideologue. For this reason, I pray he fails in implementing his objectives. I feel this way as almost every major problem in our world has stemmed from some extreme left wing leader. Collectivists such as: Hitler and his NAZI (national socialist) Party; Mao and the people’s republic of China; Stalin/Lenin and the formation of the USSR; Pol Pot and the killing fields in Cambodia; Fidel Castro and the Communist takeover of Cuba; Kim Jong-Il and the destruction of North Korea; Hugo Chavez and the economic demise of Venezuela. The list goes on and on. My point, extreme left wing ideologues like Obama can wreak havoc on an economy and on a society and I pray he fails.

  20. I don’t know how to link something up to this site, but the gist of the conversation went like this.
    “Yes, baby’
    “Did you plug up the hole” referring of course to the current problem with BP
    “did you plug up the hole”

    no baby
    why, because I’m part white”

    totally disgusting. there was not need to try to implicate that a seven year old doesn’t know or understand what was or is for that matter going on, indeed at 7 years old growing up in the 70′ i read the papers with interest about the President Nixon and Watergate. I remember reading the newspaper the day Spiro AGnew resigned,( I was reading the paper in the car as I came home from a speech therapy appointment) I read about Patty Hearst. My social workers hated me or least thought I was a PITA(Pain in the A%%) because they knew if they came to see me they had to read the newspapers going back a month or more and watch the news because they knew I would asked them something.

    And BTW I don’t like Palin either but I didn’t like how Bristol was treated, however Bristol was much older the malia. The public also went after Bristol because her mother kept trying to shove abstinence only programs down everyones’ throats and then taking pot shots at unwed mothers. I think they were pointing out the hypocrisy. I’m not saying it was right

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    I could say, ‘hey look, you are as faithless as doubting thomas.’ such similarities are ridiculous. if you are a non drinker, I could say that you have that in common with hitler too. such comparisons are ludicrous.

    pol pot, stalin, and hitler are most famous precisely because they are mass murderers, not because they are leftist. to make comparisons between obama and them is at best irresponsible. there is no comparison unless you agree that you and hitler share similarities too.

    now, let’s pray for our leaders instead of continue to insult them with mind numbingly stupid comparisons to hitler. to continue to stand by such comparisons simply shows you are a lemming that can’t think for yourself. did you enjoy it when some compared bush to hitler too? are you getting back at them the same way they got after bush? I find these ridiculous assertions incredibly juvenile, no matter who they are directed at.

    the leaders of the rwandan genocide are most like hitler. the ethnic cleansing in serbia and bosnia are most like stalin. that is a legit comparison. bush and obama are nothing like pol pot. perhaps you should really study genocide to understand what the rwandans and hitler have in common.

  22. “there was not need to try to implicate that a seven year old doesn’t know or understand what was or is for that matter going on”

    Exactly. Which is why President Obama was lame to drag his daughter into his speech. You are aware that he did that, right? “Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” was the President’s line, which Beck was making fun of. He wasn’t making fun of the daughter herself, but rather the lame politician’s trick of using your kid’s cute alleged sayings to make a political point. See also Jimmy Carter’s claiming, in a presidential-race debate, that his daughter’s greatest worry was nuclear war.

    I have a general rule of thumb: Whenever a politician references The ChildrenTM — warning, fuzzy logic ahead. When you have the facts on your side, you go with the facts. When you don’t — pull on the heartstrings.

    Moving on, I may have missed Sarah Palin’s potshots at unwed mothers. Unless by “potshots” you mean that she may have said that being an unwed mother is generally something to try and avoid, which I think is pretty sound advice.

  23. MH, you’ve got your cannons pointed at the wrong guy.

    But I have to say that if you disagree with me about enhanced rescission authority, then you, Sir, are worse than Hitler.

  24. Thomas he was not just making fun of president, he was making fun of his daughter as well everyone can see that but you and that doesn’t really say that much. But its’ your style to take pot shots at everyone on here which you have. Just because some one disagrees with you doesn’t make them worse than Hitler. I think you need to find a better way to express yourself because you are coming across like you know everything there is to know about everything and if you dont like what I say than I’ll just call you a name.

  25. Thomas, I usually find your comments to be thoughtful, which is why I am so perplexed over your endorsement of Glenn Beck – particularly this week. Even if Beck has his moments of mild thoughtfulness (albeit less than thorough), here are just a couple of highlights:

    During his time at Y-95, Beck cultivated a rivalry with local pop radio station KZZP and that station’s morning host Bruce Kelly. Through practical jokes and publicity stunts, Beck drew criticism from the staff at Y-95 when the rivalry culminated in Beck telephoning Kelly’s wife on-the-air, mocking her recent miscarriage. – Wikipedia

    At WKCI, Beck and Gray co-hosted the local four-hour morning show, billed as the Glenn and Pat Show. On a 1995 broadcast of the show, Alf Papineau pretended to speak Chinese during a taped comedy skit. When an Asian-American listener called to complain, Gray and Beck made fun of the caller and played gongs in the background while Papineau spoke in a mock-Chinese accent. – Wikipedia

    In 2006, Beck remarked to Muslim congressman-elect Keith Ellison, a guest on his show, “I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel.”Ellison replied that his constituents, “know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There’s no one who’s more patriotic than I am, and so you know, I don’t need to — need to prove my patriotic stripes.”[127] Beck’s question, which he himself suggested was “quite possibly the poorest-worded question of all time,”[128] resulted in protests from several Arab-American organizations. – Wikipedia

    In response to the president’s remarks on the Henry Louis Gates controversy, Beck argued that President Barack Obama has repeatedly shown “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” saying “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist. – Wikipedia

    This is a short list drummed up from the Wikipedia entry on Beck. The fact that he approaches matters with an attempt at studying history, does not make him credible. He refers to his opponents, in his most recent apology, as a cabal – and continues to beat conspiracy theory rhetoric about the Obama administration. And he does all of this while maintaining a mild undercurrent of racism is his remarks – which begs the question as to who actually is racist, particularly given his penchant for doling out the accusation. I was turned off by Beck several years ago when he did a special presentation, using quotes from the Quran and modern radical Muslim clerics, to outline a widespread Muslim agenda to wage war. He proof-texted the Quran to make his point, yet ignores the same territorial militancy taught in the Bible, and the Mormon Missouri War, etc. If we can give Mormons and Israel a pass, why not the Muslims?

  26. MH,

    You did direct your comments towards Thomas and not me. With that said, we are talking about ideology, not an action or activity. With that said, your analogies are not logical or reasonable. Obama subscribes to the same ideals outlined in the Communist Manifesto – redistribution of wealth, government control of the means of production, government control of education, government control of …. Since taking office he has taken control of GM, AIG, nationalized student loans, paved the way to nationalize health care; and is in the process of taking over the banking system. Also, he is pushing heavily for Unionization of our nations companies.

    This is the same lunacy and the same playbook used by these other leaders. This is exactly what Hitler did when he took office. This is exactly what Stalin did in Russia. This is exactly what Kim Jong-Il and Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have done. To me, this is a valid comparison.

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    sorry thomas, i’m reading this on my phone, and my comments should have been aimed at ken.

    for all the rancor of the tip o’neill – reagan years, it seems those were the good old days of civility in government. the blowhards of rush and keith olbermann are undermining all attempts for bipartisanship. I pray for a return to more civil dialogue among people that disagree.

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    yes ken and it is the same ideology proposed by joseph smith, brigham young and consecration. are you comfortable comparing smith to hitler too? after all, the united order was all about redistribution of wealth, so there would be no poor among us. brigham went out of his way to lambast capitalism’s evils.

  29. MH, I believe your claim is untrue. As far as I know, neither Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young proposed the forcible redistribution of wealth. The united order was a very far cry from communism, regardless of what the seminary-age set might think.

    I do agree that comparing Obama to Hitler and Pol Pot because they were all “leftists” is unproductive at best. (Plus, many would argue — though wrongly — that Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s Fascism were right-wing movements unrelated to leftist ideology.)

  30. Sorry, I know I have posted like ten times now even though I’m new here. A work acquaintance told me about this site. I’ve been looking through it and thought I’d weigh in. I haven’t found any place for intros.

  31. MH,

    The United Order will be practiced in the Celestial Kingdom by Celestial beings. It is a Celestial Law and Terrestrial or Telestial beings are not capable of living this law. It does not use dominion or compulsion. It is completely voluntary. Moreover, Socialism/Communism is counterfeit to the law of Consecration. They are of Lucifer. The fruits of these ideologies are evil.Please don’t compare them to a Celestial Law.

    A final note; in your mis-guided comments towards Thomas, you mentioned Bush. He is not a Capitalist, Communist, Socialist or a Fascist; rather, he is an idiot. He spent way too much money and created way too many government programs. Please don’t associate him with conservation principles.

  32. Vort,

    National Socialist Party; that is Nazis’ Party. It was based on the German philosophy of Karl Marx and Fredric Engle.

  33. Didn’t Joseph Smith and Olivery Cowdrey have a falling out over capitalism (supposedly)?

    “Obama subscribes to the same ideals outlined in the Communist Manifesto – redistribution of wealth, government control of the means of production, government control of education, government control of …. Since taking office he has taken control of GM, AIG, nationalized student loans, paved the way to nationalize health care; and is in the process of taking over the banking system. Also, he is pushing heavily for Unionization of our nations companies.”

    Arguing that Obama suscribes to the ideals of the “Communist Manifesto”, is severely disingenuous. There has been attempts to reform certain industries, and I even admit the many of the reforms are onerous. Still, there has been no attempt to control the means of production according to a socialist scale. Of course there is ‘control’ over production. That is because there is nothing inherently more virtuous about capital owners and producers. Without regulation they would literally rape the nation. That’s a basic assumption in nearly all economic thought. Firm’s and people want to maximize their benefit. Moral’s come in to play only when firms and people are moral. I have faith in people, I have my eye on government, and I have doubts about big business. I’ve said this on this site before, but unfettered capitalism is every bit as dangerous as socialism. Long story short, nothing empirically supports the assertion that Obama is even trying to transform the U.S. into a communist nation.

    It is highly misleading to suggest that Obama has “taken” control of any of these companies. These capitalist companies on the other hand solicited the government for a bail out’s (ie, they sold themselves) to because of poor management on their parts. The first round of bail out talks took place literally as Obama was entering office. I haven’t agreed with the way everything has happened, but under the circumstances the recession has been very mild compared to it’s potential, and that is largely due to the various goverment bail outs. I would be more inclined to agree with you on the student loans issue if the banking system hadn’t largely lost my trust in general. Health care is far from nationalized as the current reforms are entirely dependant on the private health insurance market. What the reforms do is equalize the system a little, and then throw more money at it. I have my objections to the reform, but it is not because they resemble anything near a ‘nationalized’ single-payer system.

    As for Unions, I can somewhat sympathize with how government’s role as broker in this arena is often percieved. Even so, collective bargaining at it’s heart really is a free-market principle. With the exception of key employees, the general labor force has very little individual bargaining power, where as owners and management have inordinantly higher influence here. Unions give these employees a platform for stating their terms. A needed revolution in the workforce is an employees union whose board of directors is entirely composed of the employees. There has been little evidence of a true S&D equilibrium in the marketplace in spite of all the Adam Smith rhetoric used to favor free-markets. When labor can exert the same bargaining influence as capital on wage determination vs production, then we can talk about “the invisible hand” vs. “the heavy hand”. There are some sobering charts which look at firm profits, executive and management pay nationally, as compared to labor force wages. When adjusted for inflation, labor wages have remained stagnant since the de-unionization of the late 70’s and 80’s, while executive and management pay + firm profits have been on an exponential climb. So while I detest federal imposition on production, I also am discouraged by a system that allows firms to pay their workforce less than their fair share.

  34. Cowboy,
    Obama did take control of GM and divided it up as follows: United States Government owns a controlling 61%; UAW (United Auto Workers) 17.5 %; Canadian Government 11.7 %; and the Company’s old Bond Holders 9.8%. He also fired Rick Wagoner the CEO and replaced him with Ed Whitacre Jr.. If this isn’t a government takeover, I don’t know what is. It was not a bail-out. The government has no business taking over companies. If they fail, let them fail. He took it over to protect the Unions.

    The failure of GM also illustrates the problem with Unions. GM pays $.25 out of every dollar on retirement and union benefits before one component of a car is made. There is no way a company can compete with this business model. This is why GM went from the largest company in the world to bankruptcy. They are not an automobile company; they are a retirement and benefit company that attempts to sell cars to support these industries. They are a perfect example of these failed socialist/labor union policies.

    A final note; the Communist Manifesto is the root of various political philosophies such as socialism, communism, fascism and liberalism. It promotes centralized management as opposed to individual liberties, which all of the aforementioned philosophies premote to some degree.

  35. Vort, you might want to read a couple of posts I wrote about: Consecration vs United Order and Would you recognize this church? (The pants story is humorous, but shows how much coercion and compliance was within the United Order.)

    The fact of the matter is that Brigham Young set price controls. “Profiteering” was considered a sin. IF (and that’s a big IF) the Mormons sold anything to the gentiles, the price was higher. William Clayton’s journal quoted Brigham Young, “We do not intend to have any trade or commerce with the gentile [non-Mormon] world, for so long as we buy from them we are in a degree dependent upon them. The Kingdom of God cannot rise independent of the gentile nations until we produce, manufacture, and make every article of use, convenience, or necessity among our own people.”

    Brigham was much more successful with the United Order than Joseph was with Consecration, because Brigham would freeze anyone out of the Mormon economy that did not participate in the United Order. So yes, while many Mormons willingly joined the Cooperative farms, there was some coercion for Mormons to participate. Mormons such as William Godbe didn’t want to live the United Order and wanted to trade with the gentiles. Brigham forced Godbe out of the church, and Godbe created the Godbeites. He also set up the SL Tribune, which was a fierce opponent of Brigham Young. Mormons that didn’t want to participate in the United Orders became very hungry in the Utah desert. The grasshopper infestations made survival extremely difficult. Were it not for Brigham’s iron-fisted rules of cooperation, many Saints would have died. (Gentiles died because they didn’t share food–Brigham forced the Saints to redistribute the wealth.)

    I am greatly impressed with Brigham Young’s success of creating the United Order. He did have a motive to have no poor among them, and I think it is a laudable goal. However, there were some really heavy handed tactics that Mormons today would take great offense to. In many ways, I think today’s Mormons have accepted the apostate William Godbe’s free market ideas. I’m not attacking free markets, but as Cowboy said, “unfettered capitalism is every bit as dangerous as socialism.” The reason we nearly had a Depression (rather than the Great Recession), is because many of the banking laws initiated in the wake of the Depression have been peeled away (thanks in large part to Republicans and Democrats), and we are reaping what we sowed. There needs to be serious banking reform; unfettered capitalism will wreak havoc.

    Don’t get me wrong–capitalism is the best economy every invented, and I prefer capitalism to socialism. But there needs to be checks and balances. I think Obama’s principles are more in line with Brigham Young’s than Hitler’s, and I think that is a much better comparison. Now anyone (such as Ken) is free to quibble about Obama’s methods–but lose the incendiary rhetoric about Stalin. Such comparisons are simply GROSS distortions and exaggerations.

  36. Ken S.

    GM was purchased to protect 1) the unions 2) the American auto industry at large 3) the U.S. Economy at a time when we were already on the verge of collapse. The free-market concept about let them fail would have severely exacerbated unemployment rates, as well as eliminated a major American manufacturer. The assumption behind let them fail is that as result new and better managed firms will arise with innovations to take the place of defunct firms. This is largely because the competetive barrier to entry has been reduced or eliminated altogether. In reality, in the case of auto manufacturers, the liklihood is that the new emerging entities would be foreign made. So in sense our option was to sell the market to foreign nations, or to our own. Secondly the purchase plan is intended to be temporary, with GM eventually repurchasing itself from the government. As I understand it, this plan is already under way. Some funds have been repaid, and GM is planning on issuing new stock in the coming year – which should allow for repayment in full.

    As for employee benefits, union or otherwise, I actually agree with you. Not because I’m concerned that a companies greatest expense is it’s employees, but because of the overhead and diversion caused by offering benefits in the first place. No company should be offering health benefits, retirement, etc. People should be managing those issues themselves, and all of the tax favored benefits of employer sponsored programs should be available to all individuals. Employers should be paying wages. Part of what is lost to employees as wages goes to the administration and management of compensation packages. GM should make cars and pay wages. Retirement and medical benefit administrators should accomodate an individual market. I won’t bother with going into the details here of how a restructure would look, but yes, retirement and benefits are expensive and firms could save a grundle by doing away with them. However, the money’s saved should largely be reinvested into wages. Part of the problem is that American manufacturers are competing with low wage paying nations such as China. So part of the solution is political I believe.

    In sum, we can debate about the policy issues at hand here, but you are on very thin ice for arguing that this bail out is a first step towards total or near total government control of the means of production. Your continued insistence that somehow Obama’s behavior resembles Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, etc, is seriously out of line. Your connections are weak and smack of fearmongering by the fact that you would attempt to elicit the emotional response that comes by way these mens reputation. He’s a liberal, he’s a democrat, I don’t agree with him on a lot, but he is not the despot you would make him out to be by placing him in ranks with Hitler.

  37. I will again amplify the need to pray for the people, including the ability of all of us to see clearly our own biases, before we even try to pray for our leaders. Otherwise, I don’t think MH’s hope for us to continue to be able to talk to each other about critical political issues.

  38. MH, I’m new here. When I wrote “MH” before, I meant “Mormon Heretic”, not you. I didn’t realize there was a bona fide “MH” here. Sorry about that.

  39. Well, Cowboy, if you have to go back to 1995 to flesh out your case that Glenn Beck is too stupid to be worth hearing out….

    Beck worries me. He’s manic and seems a little unsure if he wants to be serious or a clown. I see him hovering somewhere between “serious commentator” and the foolish “comedy/commentary” Bill Maher model. (Speaking of total schmucks.) And I don’t like conservatives getting too closely aligned with him, because I figure the odds are better than even that he will eventually say or do something to completely nuke his reputation and career, and I don’t want to be within the blast radius when that happens.

    That said, I do see him grappling with more seriousness with some serious issues that more allegedly serious commentators seriously fail to approach. Although he’s unstable and a bit more Skousen-style conspiracy minded than he should be, he’s no Bill Maher (he who rejects “the germ theory of medicine”). For the record, I don’t agree that President Obama and his allies are a “cabal.” I think they’re garden-variety academic-influenced conventional-wisdom leftists who are in way over their heads. And I do think they’re a bit more Nixonian cutthroat than the average administration. But to dismiss Beck entirely because of some cherry-picked loose cannonball comments, would require you to do the same to Brigham Young (“Shall I tell you what the law of God is with respect to the black race?”) or Barack Obama (“typical white person”).

    Why do you think the Left Two-Minute Hates Beck and Limbaugh so much more than the other side pays attention to Ed Schultz or Bill Maher? If someone is really a fool, he’s not effective. You don’t need to bother with him. You only go out of your way to demonize someone who is really dangerous to you. And the most dangerous person is someone who can put his finger on your weaknesses. So you go all-out to spotlight his worst moments, and pray that as a result nobody pays any attention to him when he’s making sense.

  40. “The reason we nearly had a Depression (rather than the Great Recession), is because many of the banking laws initiated in the wake of the Depression have been peeled away (thanks in large part to Republicans and Democrats), and we are reaping what we sowed. There needs to be serious banking reform; unfettered capitalism will wreak havoc.”

    Well, considering there has never in American history been anything remotely resembling “unfettered capitalism,” that’s probably not something we need to worry about.

    Too many liberals seem to think “limited government” is a synonym for “no government.” The flaw in that logic ought to be pretty obvious.

    The question is how much and what kind of “fetters” we want on us. Trust me — the liberal narrative of the Bush Administration “gutting” the regulatory state is just risible. The Federal Register kept right on growing throughout the Bush Dark Ages, and the regulatory agencies’ enforcement budgets kept right on growing — by over a billion bucks, in the SEC’s case.

    People who don’t have to deal with regulations have no idea just how convoluted, complex, and inefficient they can be. As a purely professional matter, lawyers love them: It takes hours upon billable hours to figure out what you have to do to get square with the latest reams of regulatory requirement (whose drafters inevitably overlook some huge, cost-intensive unintended consequences.) But the burden of just compliance — let alone the substantive burden of doing what the regulations mandate — is increasingly unsustainable.

    What we have, in effect, is a duplicative system: We have the burden of complying with regulations designed (often inefficiently) to prevent things from going wrong, plus the burden of second-guessing litigation that results when people comply with regulations, and things still go wrong. We ought to focus on one or the other approach (as is the case in much of Europe, where regulatory compliance is often a defense against civil liability). We’re a rich country, and we can afford a lot of inefficiency — but not an infinite amount.

    The “banking laws initiated in the wake of the Depression,” I presume refers to Glass-Steagall, repealed on a bipartisan basis on the recommendation of Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary. Nobody has ever made a credible case that the repeal had anything to do with anything. Glass-Steagall prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking and/or insurance. Virtually all the firms that collapsed in the 2008 credit crisis — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch — were operating under the old GS framework anyway. They were still operating as pure investment banks or insurance companies, and screwed up just fine on that basis. Likewise, WaMu, Wachovia, and the other big commercial banks that imploded did so not because they’d gotten into investment banking or insurance, but because they just got their traditional banking balance sheets loaded up with crap assets and too much debt.

    The bottom line is that we got a recession and financial crisis in 2007-2008 because of bad real estate underwriting, which happened for a number of reasons involving both public and private misincentives. All the “financial reforms” proposed by our would-be regulatory saviors do absolutely nothing to address this fundamental problem.

    The biggest thing that’s been missing since the bailout of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998 is sufficient market discipline. There has been too much confidence that government will bail failing firms out if things get too bad. Some bailouts may be seen as necessary to prevent sharp corrections in malinvested markets — but the downside is that a moral hazard gets created, leading to greater risk-taking, which ironically makes the markets even more malinvested, making the eventual crash that much bigger. “Unfettered” capitalism gets you market corrections. Real catastrophes take the kind of economy-wide manipulation that only governments or central banks can orchestrate.

    I still disagree that the bailouts of sketchy big banks by the Bush and Obama administrations was the right thing to do. Rather than prop up big banks with compromised balance sheets, we should have let whoever was going to go bankrupt, go bankrupt; if it looked like the money supply would contract too much as a result, there are plenty of other banks that didn’t go crazy. Instead of re-capitalizing dead-man-walking big banks, capitalize smaller, uncompromised ones. Otherwise, we get all kinds of assets sitting around at fictitious values, and empty houses going to waste because the big bailed-out banks can drag themselves along and refuse to recognize the losses.

  41. Cowboy, GM and Chrysler were bailed out out ostensibly to keep them out of bankruptcy. They went bankrupt anyway (although the bailout allowed the government to unfairly privilege the union creditors over the other creditors). Bankruptcy doesn’t mean that the companies go away. It just means that the current owners lose some or all of their equity, the current creditors lose some or all of their claims (and often receive newly-issued equity in its place), and the company — if the basic business model is sustainable at all — goes forward under new ownership with a clean (or cleaner) debt slate.

    America has one of the best, most efficient bankruptcy systems in the world. There’s no good reason not to use it.

  42. Finally, back to the original “Hitler/Stalin” dust-up, yet another awful thing about them, is that they re-set the “tyrant” scale: If you haven’t murdered at least a million people, you’re just not in the big leagues. Lesser authoritarians get some leeway, especially if they balance their crushing of political dissent by providing universal health coverage and making the trains run on time.

    Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, Jefferson Davis, and even the 1933-1939 Hitler (who, in the “tyrant” category, wasn’t all that far out ahead of Mussolini, whose portrait FDR’s head of the National Recovery Administration had in his office) were still enemies of liberty. People in their league still need to be taken seriously, even if they haven’t gotten themselves into the seven-figure political-murder big leagues.

    In other words, exaggerating the extremism of your political opponents is counterproductive: It makes you look stupid and psychotic, yes — but it also tends to weaken your case for strong, principled opposition to lesser tyrannies than just the worst kinds.

  43. Thomas,

    Point taken and accepted; It is just so D*** frustrating to see these leftist radicals dismantling the best economic model the world has ever seen. Like millions of other good Americans, I am mad as hell.


    The Capitalist model worked for GM as it identified their problems. You can’t let Capitalism work by weeding out those companies that shouldn’t be in business and then take them over and the blame it on Capitalism. Allow capitalism to run its course and let the strong, effective business models work; and, filter out the poor business models. By your own logic with respect to retirements/benefits you are defending my point. Instead of the market fixing the problem, which you and I identified, the Obama administration enabled it continue with their take over.

  44. “Well, Cowboy, if you have to go back to 1995 to flesh out your case that Glenn Beck is too stupid to be worth hearing out….”

    That’s where I started Thomas, I ended with last years comment that Obama is a racist. Someone else already mentioned his recent screw up last week. The man has a history for this sort of thing. For what it is worth, I don’t put much stock into Brigham Young’s comments either.

    As for your comment in 46, I agree with some of what you have said, but not all. Regulatory is cumbersome, and compliance is often very un-manageable. My background is economics and employee benefits, and I’ll be the first to tell you that most employers cannot reasonably comply with all of the onerous expectations placed upon them, ranging from ERISA to COBRA, HIPAA, FMLA, FLSA, EEOC reporting, etc (just barely scratching the surface). At the same time, no one , including Adam Smith, has made a compelling case as to how an unregulated market creates an enviroment that is maximizes the benefit of society.

    Regarding Glass-Steagall, it would be near impossible to demonstrate exactly which behaviors were direct results from its repeal. I have read many, many, academic papers which attempt to make the case, none of which have compelled me to believe that it’s repeal was the single (or greatest) contributing factor to the mortgage crisis. Even so, the cross over between companies that underwrite loans (banks, or mortgage lending companies) and entities that deal in securities, particularly long-term debt obligations, contributed to the low lending standards which promoted adverse selection. My own opinion is that part of the problem that gave rise to the crisis, particularly from the banking sector, is that the entities underwriting risk had no intention of holding that risk. So to an extent I agree with you that the current debate on glass-steagal leaves many a stone unturned in trying to isolate the cause of the 2008 crash. Still the crash is directly related to the interlapping of commercial and investment bank activities. After all, there would have been little incentive to write loans regardless of risk, had it not been for the mass securitization of debt through ABS’s and CDO’s which depended on such enormous volumes.

    ““Unfettered” capitalism gets you market corrections. Real catastrophes take the kind of economy-wide manipulation that only governments or central banks can orchestrate.”

    Not invariably so. The market is not a thing to be corrected, but an interaction of people that defines the distribution of wealth and inherently power. Corrections imply that markets will always return to some expectation of equilibrium. Equilibrium theories however bare little resemblance to the actual economy, which give me little hope that people and firms who are not “regulated” will always interact ethically. Though I agree with your earlier point that the real question is “how much regulation”, and that’s the real trick.

    Regarding your last paragraph, and more to the point. I’m willing to accept arguments that such as this that suggest that there may have been a better way, such as bailing out the more responsible banks (not exactly sure how, but in theory not a bad idea). Of course a big part of what we learned from this fallout is how systemic the banking bloodlines are. Failure in major sector directl affects another. I certainly don’t buy the let them fail attitude, particularly when doing so can undermine everthing from savings and loan institutions to annuities and retirment benefits on a major scale. But this conversation didn’t start as a simple disagreement about the effectiveness or appropriateness of one economic policy vs another, but rather Ken’s comments that the government response was an insidious plot in the likes of Hitler and Stalin. Ultimately I don’t think we disagree as much as these conversations would make us appear, in fact I share much of your distrust in government. I just don’t believe that unchecked capitalism is any more virtuous than an onerous government. I prefer healthy regulation that promotes competition – but now were back to that question of “how much is too much?”.

  45. Ken S. –

    Rather than making another comment arguing over whether capitalism has worked (to a degree I believe it does), or arguments about what would “fix the problem”, let me ask another question instead. What would a “fixed” economy look like? In other words, what is the ideal state of the economy? Second, if we assume that capitalism “works”, then what exactly does that mean? What exactly is capitalism intended to do, that we can measure to determine whether it works or not?

  46. Cowboy,

    In it’s pure form it distributes income under a natural curve. The is true with any system that is challenging enough — very few will receive extreme sucess, very few will completly fail, and most will fall middle.

    The best comparison is the distribution of the souls of men under the plan of salvation in this mortal probation. Per the Savior, ” straight is the way and narrow the gate and few be there that find it”. Likewise, very few will be cast out.

    This concept is what infuriated Lucifer and is one of the reasons he sought to take away the agency of man. He is the ultimate collectivist. He wanted to centrally control the actions of
    man, like the counterfiet plans of Communism he has been pushing since the world began.

  47. Assuming that the intent then is create a normal distribution of income, a position that I’m fine with, at what level of capitalism is this social desire maximized? Assumed in the theory that this how capitalisim “works” is that equilibrium is realized where neither labor or capital achieve economic profits. In other words, implied in this assumption is the notion that the collective bargaining power of labor (whether organized or not) is equal to that of capital. Capital owners put their capital to use through entrepreneurship and the development of productive capital, while labor bring their human capital to the table. In theory when this happens each party will be willing to enter a contract only when they recieve their fair share of the pay. If they can’t come to terms then what happens? Capital owners can either hold out (because they have the money to do so) or they can refuse to open shop altogether (assuming they have no need for money). What can labor do? Labor can offer its services to the highest bidder, or they can try and cross over into capital through borrowing assuming they can satisfy a lender and they have the aptitude. In order to address this problem capital owners in the past had a simple solution, collusion. They would all agree to pay wages below equilbrium rates, or in order to maximize economies of scale they would conglomerate in single entities interestingly not all that disimilar to centralized socialist enterprises. With very few competitors, and none that can compete with their prices, they force wages down by paying more than their struggling competitors but well below the idealist equilibrium, or bell curve distribution. In order to mitigate this natural tendency of capitalism, the U.S. adopted anti-trust laws which prevent capital from manipulating the market in this way. So in short, I would argue that capitalism does not achieve our agreed upon purpose of normalizing the distribution of income, completely on its own. I generally agree that capitalism is the engine behind America’s economic success. It just isn’t a godly principle that rewards society based according to a righteous standard.

    Lastly, I am not at all sure how you have decided that heavenly rewards will be normally distributed. I know alot of statisticians who would have a field day entertaining your theory, but it is far from theologically supported. This ultimately is what makes your comments so interesting. You have drawn a correlation between your assumptions as to what percentage of the population will ultimately recieve the highest Eternal rewards, and imposed that perspective on to a worldview regarding the distribution of income as though it too is a divine system of rewards. Very little in Christian or even Mormon theology supports the capitalist ideal. In fact, we can argue the theological differences, but structurally the law of consecration most resembles communism.

  48. Let me provide addition support for my comments using another analogy. I was typing my comments from my Son’s graduation (it gets quite boring listening to 535 names being called out). The principal opened the graduation by stating how proud he was of the students as 322 of the 535 students received honors or high honors. On the other hand, the average ACT score in the school is around the national average and follows a natural bell curve. I don’t mean to sound negative, but this is broken. Either the teachers were accepting bribes, or the tests were not challenging enough; or, most likely, they had other stupid criteria for issuing the grades (e.g. attendance, a pulse, a finger print). Like the standardized tests that they take, the GPA’s should follow a natural curve. Not because the teachers grade this way, but because the curriculum is difficult enough that it distributes naturally.

    The free market, if left alone, will distribute wealth under a natural curve; because the free market is a natural law. Likewise, the Plan of Salvation is effectively survival of the spiritually fittest. It distributes souls based on their deeds. Although this is my assertion and there is no scripture that says it in this way, there is, in my opinion strong scriptural support. The direct statement of the Savior that I quoted earlier supports “few” will find the highest Kingdom. The Apostle Paul describes the distribution of the souls by comparing in to the Sun, the Moon and the Stars. He later states “one star differs from another star in glory”. The best support however is the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where Joseph Smith describes each kingdom. When describing the middle, or Terrestrial Kingdom, he described the inhabitants as “Good and Honorable” . To me, this describes the lion’s share of the people in this world. The last scripture I would cite is the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants – versus 22-38. The Lords describes an infinite number of kingdoms when he says in verse 37 “And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom”. To me, this feels like a normal distribution.

  49. Vort, let me be one of the first to welcome you here. I really hope you enjoy your time here. Sorry for the confusion, MH=Mormon Heretic; I often post under either. When I’m on my computer, I go by Mormon Heretic, but when I’m on my phone, I save keystrokes and just post as MH. Sorry for the confusion, but I guess I have a dual personality. 🙂

    Thomas, “Well, considering there has never in American history been anything remotely resembling “unfettered capitalism,” that’s probably not something we need to worry about.”

    I disagree. President Teddy Roosevelt was known as the first trust-buster. If you’ll recall, the railroads and oil tycoons such as Standard Oil held many monopolies, and I think the economies from the American Revolution through the Great Depression went through many severe recessions and depressions much more frequently than we have in the past 80 years. Many of the regulations keeping Insurance companies out of banking have helped prevent depressions that were all too frequent. Additionally, FDR’s banking reforms which made it illegal for banks to foreclose on homeowners that were making monthly payments also helped stabilize the economy. Many of the regulations have helped stabilize these wild swings in the market, and have fettered capitalism much better than prior to the 1930’s. These regulations have created stability.

    I’m glad you mentioned the Clinton administration, because I think that is where this whole Derivatives mess started. Frankly, I believe it is a bipartisan monster. My biggest concern is these Derivatives. They are completely unregulated, and I think this is a major cause of the current Recession. Nobody understands them, and these banks are making too risky bets hoping the government will bail them and–and the government has done that twice now–1998 and 2008. These “too big to fail” banks need to quit being so reckless.

    Once again, I find my position seems quite similar to Cowboy’s position here. “Very little in Christian or even Mormon theology supports the capitalist ideal. In fact, we can argue the theological differences, but structurally the law of consecration most resembles communism.”

    I know Cowboy is not talking Soviet Communism here, but rather the Consecration idea that there should be no poor among us. I don’t think King Benjamin was a big fan of unfettered capitalism (or big trusts, or monopolies, or child labor, or more than 40 hour work weeks–all of which have been restrained/eliminated in the past century), and was much more in favor of economic and social justice.

    Getting back to the original point, I think we should all pray for our leaders to do the right thing, and be inspired leaders. We need to limit the incendiary vitriol, and quit demonizing the other political parties. Apostle Hugh B Brown said at the BYU Commencement in 1968, (my commentary is in parenthesis):

    Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. (For example, don’t say Republicans only favor the rich, and are heartless toward the poor.) Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. (i.e. don’t tear down the President or the Supreme Court because you disagree with a policy or court case.) …

    Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which will enable you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. (Such as ‘All democrats are evil, gay-loving, baby killers.’) Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. (If the people you disagree with are all radicals striving to create a new world order, perhaps you’re the one who actually too radical.)

  50. Cowboy:

    May I respectfully suggest that in Chicago a couple of generations ago they figured out a far more lethal form of collusion: collude with other business, AND politicians, union leaders, potential revolutionaries, academia, even religious idealists — everybody with the power to stop you, and jointly plunder the little guy.

    The sheep are in very deep doo-doo indeed when both the wolves and the shepherds start to develop the taste for mutton.

    I think Thomas is making a BEST-CASE analysis of the current administrations connections. If you do not accept Obama as truly Messianic, how exactly did he walk on Lake Michigan’s political waters without being an integral part of that machine?

  51. Re: Ken S

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha …

    … you’re a funny guy. Probably don’t know it.

  52. Post

    marcus, please add to the conversation. you’re welcome to disagree with ken as I do, but we’re looking for thoughtful disagreement rather than unnecessary sarcasm. making fun of people is not what MM is about.

  53. Cowboy — I’ve never been convinced that the problem of “collusion” was as great as the antitrust regulators claim it is. Cartels are inherently unstable: When collusion drives up prices above what the market would set them at, everybody has an incentive to cheat, grabbing a greater market share at the elevated price — and pretty soon the cartel breaks down. That was already happening, by the way, when Standard Oil was broken up under the Sherman Antitrust Act; its market share had dramatically declined in the years leading up to that decision.

    MorHer, I lean towards Austrian economics, whose basic premise is that extraordinary business-cycle downturns (as opposed to garden-variety corrections) are almost invariably the result of poor monetary policy. That was the case in the “Long Depression” from the 1870s through the 1890s: The federal government had experimented with fiat currency (i.e., greenbacks not backed by gold reserves) to finance the Civil War, and then tried to reinstate a gold standard, causing severe deflation. Ironically, we’re going through something similar today, except instead of the government dialing back the money supply, it’s collapsed upon itself by its sheer unsustainable weight, after government intervention went too far in trying to mitigate the effects of the dot-com collapse. Central banks, in my opinion, simply didn’t comprehend just how much banks had invented the ability to multiply money creation, by derivatives and securitization of assets — so when the central banks set out to expand M3 by X amount, using their standard procedures, they wound up expanding it by 5(X) amount, kicking off an insane speculative bubble.

    The effects of Glass-Steagall were a raindrop in a tidal wave of hot money. Keep in mind that most of Europe, and Canada (which has been largely immune from the global financial crisis) never had anything like Glass-Steagall (or an Evil George Bush to Gut Regulations that never existed).

    No, the problem is simply underwriting standards. Instead of volumes and volumes of arcane regulation (that won’t work), let’s cut to the heart of the problem: Thou shalt not originate any mortgage with a low introductory interest rate, with less than full documentation of the borrower’s income and assets. 95% of problem solved.

  54. Firetag/Ken:

    “May I respectfully suggest that in Chicago a couple of generations ago they figured out a far more lethal form of collusion: collude with other business, AND politicians, union leaders, potential revolutionaries, academia, even religious idealists — everybody with the power to stop you, and jointly plunder the little guy.”

    Sure, this happens. So how would unfettered capitalism prevent this or similar power imbalances from occuring? Perhaps the checks and balances of our three branch system was not intended to describe the economy, but that is really all I am getting at. Ken has made his point that at least part of what drives his viewpoint is a prior belief that the “free market is a natural law”. This applies this viewpoint loosely on an interpretation of scripture that is not at all self-evident. This is fine he is entitled to do so, but I ultimately reject that entire premise largely because I question whether Jesus would feel so comfortable as to describe his infinite atonement, as per the Book of Mormon, as a game theory system of “survival of the fittest”. I believe that maintaining a heavy capitalist economy is and has been for the American good. I also believe that given economic alternatives, it is probably the best system in many ways. I don’t believe however that it is 100% self-regulating, or a natural law that balances an economy in all cases. Controls when applied correctly go a great way towards protecting not just capitalism, but competition (which academically speaking is much more important to me from the standpoint of income distribution). However, my final point would simply be that descriptors such as Capitalist, or socialist, are not static points on the economic spectrum. Rather they represent ideals tending toward a scale. In short, taking these controls in isolation and labeling it as “communist” or suggesting that Obama must be a communist on that ground, is highly unjustified when considered in connection with the whole.

  55. “Structurally the law of consecration most resembles communism”

    To be precise, the theoretical law of consecration resembles the theoretical operation of communism, where the initially-necessary dictatorship of the proletariat eventually “withers away” and is replaced by voluntary cooperation, where the smart guys naturally gravitate to management, where they are not resented at all by the dumb guys who are happy to spend their lives cleaning the toilets.

    I leave it to others to debate how closely either of these theories resemble the operations in the real world. Communism, of course, never works without a morality flexible enough to put extra holes in any selfishly dissenting heads.

    See Mosiah 2:14: “And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.” I can tell you right now that the featherbedded California state bureaucrats that “lade” me with taxes, and things grievous to be borne like $500 car registration fees and $475 seat-belt tickets, don’t labor with their own hands anywhere near as much as we suckers in the private sector do. Heck, when they retire at 50 on 100% of salary, they don’t labor with their hands at all. Neither did the average commissar, under the allegedly consecration-related communist system. I say “phooey” to any connection between “social justice,” as preached by its modern advocates, and the free system under which King Benjamin’s people prospered.

    Re: LDS consecration, and the ideal that “it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20), I refer you to this:

    That garish painted lady would’ve done Leland Stanford proud. Somehow, it always seems that those who get to administer the egalitarian utopias seem always to be more equal than others.

  56. Cowboy:

    I am suggesting that determining the best mix of government regulation and private incentive can at least wait until we grasp that WE are the sheep in the deep-doo-doo RIGHT NOW and that we first better look to locating some really big sheepdogs and a few more vegetarian shepherds.

  57. #38 Ken S: I did say I didn’t necessarily agree, just that that is the popular conception.

    #56 MH: Thanks for the welcome and also for the clarification. I need to do a bit of homework on this topic before much further participation.

  58. Firetag:

    Fair enough. There was a time when I was more apt to see the sinister in everything government. I still understand the sentiments of distrust, I just have a harder time taking the position that you do when clear connections really can’t be made.

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation from all points of view – including Thomas and Ken S.

    Ken I owe you an apology for the way I initially approached this conversation regarding your remarks. Unfortunately at times I find my blogging ettiquette a bit lacking, shall I say arrogant, compared to how I would like to come across. We stand at a disagreement, which is fine, but I should have been more courteous to you at the beginning, I’m sorry.

    As for the content, I believe I have spoken my mind, so now I need to learn to just shut up. Again thank you all for the conversation, see you on the next topic.

  59. Cowboy,
    No need to apologize, but I appreciate it anyway; and, I too have appreciated the comments and discussion.
    Let me take exception to one of your comments, however, the statement “but I ultimately reject that entire premise largely because I question whether Jesus would feel so comfortable as to describe his infinite atonement, as per the Book of Mormon, as a game theory system of “survival of the fittest””
    Let’s backup a little and look at this in context. I am not, under any circumstances, taking the Savior out of the equation. Whether you are in a traditional Christian Faith and believe the distribution of the souls of Men is either Heaven or Hell; or, if you accept the Mormon theology of various degrees of glory, there is still a distribution of the souls of Men and a Savior to provide a path for repentance. Keep in mind, repentance is not a magic wand, a Hail Mary, or a confession through a veil; it is a process. And, with any process, some will follow it in success, others will follow it haphazardly and some will not follow it at all. In short, in spite a Savior, some will still fail.
    Back to Mormon Theory, we believe in a distribution. In its most basic sense, it includes three degrees of glory; and, each of these kingdoms has sub-kingdoms. The lowest Paul stated “and one star differs from another in glory”. Some will not be able to live even the lowest law and will not receive any inheritance. No matter how you look at it there is some type of distribution curve and I believe it to resemble a natural curve. That is all I am saying. I will finish with the words of the Savior as recorded in the Bible “Straight is the way and narrow the gate and few be there that find it”. If this is not survival of the spiritually fittest, I don’t know what is?

  60. Cowboy:

    Ironically, there was a time when I was apt to see the idealistic in government. I came to Maryland more than 30 years ago trying to serve God precisely through that means. I don’t see everything sinister in government today; I have a great many friends in government who work very hard to do the right thing.

    But I also see things that an outsider might regard as coincidence from a perspective that suggests they aren’t coincidences at all. As they said during Watergate, follow the money.

  61. As I’ve said Ken, this is an opinion you are entitled to. Theologically speaking I don’t see the Church endorsing this opinion. I may be speaking a little out of my league, but if we are going to impose social science onto the “distribution of souls”, then why stop there? We may want to introduce theoretical probabilities as well. In short, people per thousand there should be an expected distribution of souls that lends to predictability, which then (at least in my mind) begs the question of what then, is an infinite atonement. I don’t have a problem understanding the LDS concept of degrees of glory, I’m just not certain it is possible to state what the ratio’s would be. I understand that the standard normal distribution is generally naturally occuring in nature, but we certainly can’t impose this assumption onto a theory from which we can’t even draw a sample. I believe most statisticians would agree with that.

    Lastly, even from an LDS point of view I think it is very difficult to identify exactly how the works vs. grace dynamic works exactly. Sure we teach about the importance of works, but we also know that it is impossible for any of us to achieve 100% on our own, hence the atonement comes into play. For me the parable of the talents comes to mind, where the expectation largely depended on the amount your were entrusted with in the first place. Section 82, for me even raises questions with this little dichotomy:

    3 For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation. D&C 82:3


    10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. D&C 82:10

    The only way I can make these two work in my mind is to expect that according to the D&C, the expectations are different from person to person. I think this throws enough mud into the equation to acknowledge from the standpoint of statistical science, we don’t even have a way to begin to categorize the data and soundness of our assumptions to state expectations on the population. My two cents, but since we cannot even begin to test something like this, our disagreement probably cannot go any further.

  62. Firetag:

    Fair enough, I understand the difficulty that comes with not wanting to be fooled by my optimism in conjunction with a desire to not appear paranoid by my pessimism. That is why I need clear connection, given that is the only way to stay objective, though that is easier said than done.

  63. Cowboy and Ken:

    Well, God is a pretty fair mathematician….

    I actually recall seeing a paper in an economics journal some year ago that I’ll never be able to locate again, but indicated that if you started out a simulation of free exchange with equal resources, you eventually ended up with a Paretto distribution in which 80 percent of the people ended up with 20% of the resources. When you try to keep the distribution more equal in the sim, you ended up with less overall wealth in the society. Maybe the original idea of the jubilee was to let each person grow without being hindered too much by the disadbantages built up by his forebearers.

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