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Volume 8, Issue 4: Anvil

That Dole-Kemp Thing

Douglas Wilson

You know how it is. Presidential elections keep coming around, and we keep on voting, usually for one of the two pre-selected choices, and then we spend the next four years muttering. Then we do it again.

The lesser of two evils de jour this time around is Dole-Kemp in '96. Is evil too strong a word? For just one example, take Bob Dole's mealy approach to the Republican pro-aborts. Suppose that the honorable gentleman from somewhere or other proposed that we sacrifice all our babies to Molech. Suppose further that a few unteachable fanatics opposed the idea. Would it be the voice of moderation to suggest that we only throw half of them in the fire? Would this be oil on troubled waters? Would it be the voice of moderation-trying to get the no-babies-to-Molech and the fewer-babies-to-Molech factions into the same big tent?
What does it mean to be moderate on such an issue? Do we want serial killers to work at "tapering off"? Do we want them to enroll in a twelve-step program? If we do, then we want the Republicans' big stinking tent.
Some issues do not admit of "splitting the difference," and those "conservatives" who have agreed to split the difference have not positioned themselves to "do some good" later on. They have actually surrendered. So what do we do?
We must not go along. The lesser of two evils is still an evil. Since the early seventies, when believing Christians starting getting involved in politics in a serious way, the Republican Party has consistently received their votes with loud huzzahs, but have treated their biblical foundations with utter contempt.
Second, a pragmatic vote for the Republican can be hung with its own rope. Pragmatism doesn't work. The religious right has been used and abused for over two decades now. We probably should rename ourselves the Codependent Christian Coalition.
And even if Machiavellian voting could be justified (which it can't), we should all vote for Mr. Clinton. Like a glad bag full of vegetable soup dropped from a skyscraper, our nation is headed for the concrete below. The sooner we get it over with, the sooner repentance will start making sense. But we are not pragmatists; we are Christians. This means that we are neither Republicans nor Democrats. We are Christians.
So what do we do? We do not worship success, political or otherwise. We worship Christ, who will use our civic faithfulness to His glory. A great liberation can be found in voting your conscience, which compromisers call "throwing your vote away." Just so you know, not "throwing your vote away" is accomplished by voting for someone who solemnly covenants with us to destroy the nation slowly, rather than wickedly doing it right now.
Vote for Dole-Kemp? I'd rather be dead in a ditch.


Scientists as Welfare Bums

By Douglas Jones

Like anyone with a weird hobby, space scientists need funding. Instead of getting real jobs, space scientists prefer to wrestle down inner city children over federal funds. NASA certainly orchestrated a full-nelson for more welfare by declaring with Copernican fanfare and the full bleating of the media that they had maybe, perhaps, could have found life from maybe Mars.

Yes, not all of the research was complete, but why let cool science and skepticism hinder federal paychecks? The NASA priesthood even got the President to call immediately for a national convention to "confirm," not evaluate, this finding.
Curiously, just in January of this year, John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists whined, "with the cuts in NASA's budget, robotic space science is going to be absolutely decimated, and five years from now the program is going to be in serious trouble." Yet, NASA head Daniel Golden has long had a lusty vision of launching a spacecraft a month. But he needed funds. Now, the premature and rather unskeptical pronouncement of life from Mars is hailed as the "ultimate vindication" of NASA. How convenient.
But it's not just the hastiness of scientists stretching for the trough. It's the twists and turns their science takes in order to get the money. For instance, as some have noted, why do we get the whole convoluted, catastrophic story about asteroids slamming against Mars, catapulting debris out of its grip into Antarctica? Why not just suppose the lesser claim that the rock came from deep space that shares some features with Mars? The answer is that you can't get funding for an open-ended search of deep space. But Mars is within the budget, and it looks good on the cover of Time.
Behind all of the Mars hype sits a very clear attack on Christianity. Anthony Tambasco of Georgetown has openly noted that "it certainly moves us, in one more way, beyond the claims of the fundamentalists." We get such bravado even while other researchers at the University of New Mexico claim that "we concluded in our paper that our measurements give no evidence for life."
If Christians were to make a self-serving discovery driven by money and a hatred of unbelief, we wouldn't even turn an ear. The current hype is one of the perks of holding the reigns of intellectual power. And we're supposed to believe this is science? Hogsplash.


Intrusive Markets

By Douglas Jones

Southern Europeans have always excelled at preserving a regular seat for the simple riches of life-"to eat and drink and to enjoy the good of all his labor" (Eccl. 5:18). Many busy Italians still gather families for well-spread, midday meals. Greeks wait for the cool evening for conversation, feta, and pistachios. Saxon and Danish blood is perhaps too practiced in fighting the cold and ignoring the fog to enjoy life as much. Though German trains are certainly cleaner.

Many blame American constant busyness on the marketplace. Some complain about commercialism as if buying and selling were the criminals. We're a "consumer society!" they chant. They despise the market.
But the problem isn't the marketplace in itself. Buying and selling in freedom should be great blessings. Past societies, even medieval worlds, often had far freer markets than we do, and yet lived less annoyed. The bane of commercialism isn't markets, but markets that have no bounds, markets that intrude upon every inch of life. We have no peace. Merchants come at you while driving, while reading, while worshipping, while eating dinner. If the Church or the State usurped their boundaries as much as the marketplace, everyone would be quoting Patrick Henry.
Some conservatives and libertarians live for the impersonalism of intrusive markets. They can only recite how oppressive things would be without constant advertising. Leftists insist that free markets necessarily turn into intrusive markets. Both are wrong. Free markets have no life of their own. They are only the personal desires externalized. If people are repulsed by marketing the Church and merchants intruding into family privacy, commercialism would vanish.
As a boy, I spent several humid summers with my Greek grandmother and aunts and cousins in the distant suburbs of Athens. Far outside of the concrete modernity of Athens, older habits still prevailed. Life had its parts and spheres. Everything wasn't blurred together like a Generation X advertisement. The marketplace was confined to one secluded area. If you wanted to exchange, you went to the agora. It didn't ooze into every crevice of life. It knew its place. That left space for families to live the good life unannoyed. This is a heritage of Christian medievalism.
"Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold. . . . And he would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple" (Mk. 11:15). Markets simply don't belong everywhere.


Massa Building Inspector

By Douglas Wilson

My son and I have the privilege, granted to us by God, of working together on the construction of our new home. The modern state, jealous of His prerogatives in dispensing grace, has tried to horn in on the process. I have not been as grateful for the former goodness as I should have been, and I am not as angry at the latter intrusion as I should be. May God forgive both.

And please excuse the autobiographical excursion, but such stories need to be told, not just as libertarian abstractions, but the way stories used to be told after the Sherriff of Notingham left someone's cottage smoking on the ground. Words like statism, tyranny, oppression, and taxation always reduce to a series of actions and responses by individuals, and consequently they leave stories in their train.
After a recent visit by the county building inspector, my son was hearing the distant bagpipes of war, and I was not too far behind him. The inspector was pleasant enough, and to be fair to him, he did not really understand or realize how tyrannical his behavior was. We were standing there with our own tools, on our own land, building our own home, on our own time,with our own money, and, in some respects, in our own way. A stranger to both of us walked into our home and told us, among a few other things, that the head clearance for the basement steps at the bottom needed to be 6' 8," and not the 6' 7" that we were trying to get by with.
Chesterton remarks somewhere that there is a vast difference between leisure and liberty, and that any tyrant with sufficient sense will be astute enough to give his subjects ample leisure. When our house is done, Lord willing, we will have some leisure there. But as we build it, and as we live there, we manifestly do not have liberty. Very few modern Americans understand what liberty even is—and if they ever do get a glimpse of it, it frightens them. And so do people who talk about liberty.
We have to pay property taxes on this home we are building. These are not just taxes which use the value of the property as a means of assessing the tax. This is of course part of it, but the property and home are also the collateral for the tax. This means that if I do not pay the civil government $100 in taxes, in principle the entire home is forfeited. And what this means, in turn, is that I do not really own the home; I rent it from the state.
The state is claiming through property taxes and thousands of other intrusive and petty despotisms (by the way, our sheetrock screws have to be twelve inches apart) to be the owner of a cattle on a thousand hills. But as the Lord lives, the state is lying to us.
More importantly, we lie to ourselves. We say that tyranny is tolerable, and given enough leisire, it seems to be. We say, when some form of oppression occasionally breaks in upon us, that we do not deserve to have such treatment. But we must never forget that God has determined that we as a people are well-represented by such rulers. And we are.

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