Monthly Archives: May 2013

We need a smaller government if we want to get a grip on corruption.

We need a smaller government if we want to get a grip on corruption.

We’ve gotten to the point where you need a guide-book to keep track of all the scandals in Washington.

As a fiscal policy wonk, I focus mostly on the sleaze at the IRS, but I also recognize that the other scandals are equally troubling.

So I’m amused by Lisa Benson’s portrayal of the…um…plumbing problems at the White House.

DC Septic Cartoon

But there’s a theme to all the scandals, regardless of whether they’re happening now under Obama or whether they happened under Bush or during the reign of previous Presidents: Many of them take place solely because government is large, bloated, and involved in areas where it doesn’t belong.

Here’s my video explaining why corruption is much more common when government is bigger.

Want Less Corruption? Shrink the Size of Government

Uploaded on Apr 21, 2009

Washington is riddled with corruption, much of which actually is legal. The politicians and other insiders claim that more ethics laws and lobbying rules are the solution. Some even say the only answer is campaign finance laws that restrict 1st Amendment rights to fully participate in the political process. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity video explores a different hypothesis and concludes that big government is inherently corrupting. http://www.freedomandprosperity.org

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P.S. You can see some of my favorite Benson cartoons herehere, here, here,here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here,herehereherehereherehere, hereherehere, and here.

And here’s my favorite one, which criticized Obama’s class warfare policy and became part of my political cartoon contest.

Related posts:

Bailouts are legal corruption

There is no free money out there. Somebody has to always pay. Bailout Nation January 13, 2013 by Dan Mitchell I have a serious question for readers. What’s worse, bailouts for government or bailouts for the private sector? Yes, both are bad, but is it worse to bail out a bankrupt entitlement program, such as Social […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 297)

Obamanomics: A Legacy of Wasteful Spending Published on Aug 12, 2012 by CFPEcon101 This mini-documentary from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation highlights egregious examples of wasteful spending from the so-called stimulus legislation and explains why government spending hurts economic performance. **Links to additional reading material** Thomas Sowell, “Stimulus or Sedative?” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/03/09/stimulus_or_sedative_104… Veronique de […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 250)

Federal Spending by the Numbers Uploaded by HeritageFoundation on Jun 10, 2010 http://blog.heritage.org/2010/06/10/new-video-federal-spending-by-the-numbers The Federal Government is addicted to spending. Watch this video from the Heritage Foundation to learn about the trouble we are in and where to find solutions. _______   President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 243)

  President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here. Not […]

Greece going broke before the USA?

Federal Spending by the Numbers Uploaded by HeritageFoundation on Jun 10, 2010 http://blog.heritage.org/2010/06/10/new-video-federal-spending-by-the-numbers The Federal Government is addicted to spending. Watch this video from the Heritage Foundation to learn about the trouble we are in and where to find solutions. _______ Greece going broke before the USA? We got to control the entitlement mentality. Almost […]

Solyndra, oil company tax deductions, etc

Obamanomics: A Legacy of Wasteful Spending Published on Aug 12, 2012 by CFPEcon101 This mini-documentary from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation highlights egregious examples of wasteful spending from the so-called stimulus legislation and explains why government spending hurts economic performance. **Links to additional reading material** Thomas Sowell, “Stimulus or Sedative?” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/03/09/stimulus_or_sedative_104… Veronique de […]

Robin Hood was not a left-wing hero who stole from the rich and redistributed to the poor

Not many people know the truth about Robin Hood. Robin Hood was not a left-wing hero who stole from the rich and redistributed to the poor. Stop Maligning Robin Hood! August 20, 2012 by Dan Mitchell When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Robin Hood. I remember reading at least two books […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 116.3)

Nassim Taleb: Time to Nationalize US Banking System? President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on […]

President Obama should go into movies after being kicked out of office this November!!!

Nassim Taleb: Time to Nationalize US Banking System? President Obama’s liberal agenda has not worked out too good in the last four years. Next Career Move for President Obama: Becoming a Movie Star! May 9, 2012 by Dan Mitchell Most people know that Ronald Reagan was an actor before he became a great President. So I […]

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Lowering top tax rate from 70% to 28% from 1980 to 1988 and those earning over $200,000 paid 99 billion in taxes instead of 19 billion!!!!

What did we learn from the Laffer Curve in the 1980’s? Lowering top tax rate from 70% to 28% from 1980 to 1988 and those earning over $200,000 paid 99 billion in taxes instead of 19 billion!!!!

One of my frustrating missions in life is to educate policy makers on the Laffer Curve.

This means teaching folks on the left that tax policy affects incentives to earn and report taxable income. As such, I try to explain, this means it is wrong to assume a simplistic linear relationship between tax rates and tax revenue. If you double tax rates, for instance, you won’t double tax revenue.

But it also means teaching folks on the right that it is wildly wrong to claim that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” or that “tax increases always mean less revenue.” Those results occur in rare circumstances, but the real lesson of the Laffer Curve is that some types of tax policy changes will result in changes to taxable income, and those shifts in taxable income will partially offset the impact of changes in tax rates.

However, even though both sides may need some education, it seems that the folks on the left are harder to teach – probably because the Laffer Curve is more of a threat to their core beliefs.

If you explain to a conservative politician that a goofy tax cut (such as a new loophole to help housing) won’t boost the economy and that the static revenue estimate from the bureaucrats at the Joint Committee on Taxation is probably right, they usually understand.

But liberal politicians get very agitated if you tell them that higher marginal tax rates on investors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners probably won’t generate much tax revenue because of incentives (and ability) to reduce taxable income.

To be fair, though, some folks on the left are open to real-world evidence. And this IRS data from the 1980s is particularly effective at helping them understand the high cost of class-warfare taxation.

There’s lots of data here, but pay close attention to the columns on the right and see how much income tax was collected from the rich in 1980, when the top tax rate was 70 percent, and how much was collected from the rich in 1988, when the top tax rate was 28 percent.

The key takeaway is that the IRS collected fives times as much income tax from the rich when the tax rate was far lower. This isn’t just an example of the Laffer Curve. It’s the Laffer Curve on steroids and it’s one of those rare examples of a tax cut paying for itself.

Folks on the right, however, should be careful about over-interpreting this data. There were lots of factors that presumably helped generate these results, including inflation, population growth, and some of Reagan’s other policies. So we don’t know whether the lower tax rates on the rich caused revenues to double, triple, or quadruple. Ask five economists and you’ll get nine answers.

But we do know that the rich paid much more when the tax rate was much lower.

This is an important lesson because Obama wants to run this experiment in reverse. He hasn’t proposed to push the top tax rate up to 70 percent, thank goodness, but the combined effect of his class-warfare policies would mean a substantial increase in marginal tax rates.

We don’t know the revenue-maximizing point of the Laffer Curve, but Obama seems determined to push tax rates so high that the government collects less revenue. Not that we should be surprised. During the 2008 campaign, he actually said he would like higher tax rates even if the government collected less revenue.

That’s class warfare on steroids, and it definitely belong on the list of the worst things Obama has ever said.

But I don’t care about the revenue-maximizing point of the Laffer Curve. Policy makers should set tax rates so we’re at the growth-maximizing level instead.

To broaden the understanding of the Laffer Curve, share these three videos with your friends and colleagues.

This first video explains the theory of the Laffer Curve.

The Laffer Curve, Part I: Understanding the Theory

Uploaded on Jan 28, 2008

The Laffer Curve charts a relationship between tax rates and tax revenue. While the theory behind the Laffer Curve is widely accepted, the concept has become very controversial because politicians on both sides of the debate exaggerate. This video shows the middle ground between those who claim “all tax cuts pay for themselves” and those who claim tax policy has no impact on economic performance. This video, focusing on the theory of the Laffer Curve, is Part I of a three-part series. Part II reviews evidence of Laffer-Curve responses. Part III discusses how the revenue-estimating process in Washington can be improved. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org

  • Category

    News & Politics

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    This second video reviews some of the real-world evidence.

    The Laffer Curve, Part II: Reviewing the Evidence

    Uploaded on Feb 24, 2008

    This video reviews real-world evidence showing that changes in marginal tax rates can have a significant impact on taxable income, thus leading to substantial amounts of revenue feedback. In a few cases, tax-rate reductions even “pay for themselves,” though the key lesson is the more modest point that pro-growth changes in tax policy will have a positive impact on economic performance and that good tax cuts therefore do not “cost” the government much in terms of foregone tax revenue.

    This video is second installment of a three-part series. Part I reviews theoretical relationship between tax rates, taxable income, and tax revenue. Part III discusses how the revenue-estimating process in Washington can be improved. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org.

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    And this video exposes the biased an inaccurate “static scoring” of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    The Laffer Curve, Part III: Dynamic Scoring

    Uploaded on May 28, 2008

    A video by CF&P Foundation that builds on the discussion of theory in Part I and evidence in Part II, this concluding video in the series on the Laffer Curve explains how the Joint Committee on Taxation’s revenue-estimating process is based on the absurd theory that changes in tax policy – even dramatic reforms such as a flat tax – do not effect economic growth. In other words, the current system assumes the Laffer Curve does not exist. Because of congressional budget rules, this leads to a bias for tax increases and against tax cuts. The video explains that “static scoring” should be replaced with “dynamic scoring” so that lawmakers will have more accurate information when making decisions about tax policy. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org.

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    And once we educate everybody about the Laffer Curve, we can then concentrate on teaching them about the equivalent relationship on the spending side of the fiscal ledger, the Rahn Curve.

Related posts:

Open letter to President Obama (Part 296) (Laffer curve strikes again!!)

President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here. The way […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 282, How the Laffer Curve worked in the 20th century over and over again!!!)

Dan Mitchell does a great job explaining the Laffer Curve President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a […]

Laffer curve hits tax hikers pretty hard (includes cartoon)

I have put up lots of cartoons from Dan Mitchell’s blog before and they have got lots of hits before. Many of them have dealt with the economy, eternal unemployment benefits, socialism,  Greece,  welfare state or on gun control. Today’s cartoon deals with the Laffer curve. Revenge of the Laffer Curve…Again and Again and Again March 27, 2013 […]

Portugal and the Laffer Curve

Class Warfare just don’t pay it seems. Why can’t we learn from other countries’ mistakes? Class Warfare Tax Policy Causes Portugal to Crash on the Laffer Curve, but Will Obama Learn from this Mistake? December 31, 2012 by Dan Mitchell Back in mid-2010, I wrote that Portugal was going to exacerbate its fiscal problems by raising […]

President Obama ignores warnings about Laffer Curve

The Laffer Curve – Explained Uploaded by Eddie Stannard on Nov 14, 2011 This video explains the relationship between tax rates, taxable income, and tax revenue. The key lesson is that the Laffer Curve is not an all-or-nothing proposition, where we have to choose between the exaggerated claim that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” […]

Harding,Kennedy and Reagan proved that the Laffer Curve works

 I enjoyed this article below because it demonstrates that the Laffer Curve has been working for almost 100 years now when it is put to the test in the USA. I actually got to hear Arthur Laffer speak in person in 1981 and he told us in advance what was going to happen the 1980′s […]

The Laffer Curve Wreaks Havoc in the United Kingdom

I got to hear Arthur Laffer speak back in 1981 and he predicted what would happen in the next few years with the Reagan tax cuts and he was right with every prediction. The Laffer Curve Wreaks Havoc in the United Kingdom July 1, 2012 by Dan Mitchell Back in 2010, I excoriated the new […]

Liberals act like the Laffer Curve does not exist.

Raising taxes will not work. Liberals act like the Laffer Curve does not exist. The Laffer Curve Shows that Tax Increases Are a Very Bad Idea – even if They Generate More Tax Revenue April 10, 2012 by Dan Mitchell The Laffer Curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between tax rates, tax revenue, and […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 328)

(This letter was emailed to White House on 11-21-11.) President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President, I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse […]

Two Lessons from Coolidge: Small government is the best way to achieve competent and effective government and Higher tax rates don’t automatically lead to more tax revenue

Will Rogers has a great quote that I love. He noted, “Lord, the money we do spend on Government and it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago”(Paula McSpadden Love, The Will Rogers Book, (1972) p. 20.) Dan Mitchell praises Calvin Coolidge for keeping the federal government small. […]

Open letter to President Obama (Part 331)

(This letter was emailed to White House on 11-21-11.)

President Obama c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here.

There is a better way to lower healthcare costs and it is not by a government takeover of healthcare.

When I travel, particularly overseas, I run into a lot of people who are totally confused about the American healthcare system.

For all intents and purposes, they think the United States relies on the free market and that government (at least in the pre-Obamacare era) was largely absent.

So they are baffled when I tell them that nearly one-half of all health expenditures in America are directly financed by taxpayers  and that the supposedly private part of our healthcare system is massively distorted by government interference and intervention.

When explaining how government has screwed up private health insurance, I talk about third-party payer and  how genuinely private insurance works for home ownership and automobiles. And I cite examples of genuine free markets for cosmetic surgery and even (regardless of your views) abortion.

But from now on, I think I will simply tell people to watch this superb video from Reason TV.

Oklahoma Doctors vs. Obamacare

Published on Nov 15, 2012 by

Three years ago, Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder and managing partner of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, took an initiative that would only be considered radical in the health care industry: He posted online a list of prices for 112 common surgical procedures. The 51-year-old Smith, a self-described libertarian, and his business partner, Dr. Steve Lantier, founded the Surgery Center 15 years ago, after they became disillusioned with the way patients were treated at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, where the two men worked as anesthesiologists. In 1997, Smith and Lantier bought the shell of a former surgical center with the aim of creating a for-profit facility that could deliver first-rate care at a fraction of what traditional hospitals charge.

The major cause of exploding U.S. heath care costs is the third-party payer system, a text-book concept in which A buys goods or services from B that are paid for by C. Because private insurance companies or the government generally pick up most of the tab for medical services, patients don’t have the normal incentive to seek out value.

The Surgery Center’s consumer-driven model could become increasingly common as Americans look for alternatives to the traditional health care market—an unintended consequence of Obamacare. Patients may have no choice but to look outside the traditional health care industry in the face of higher costs and reduced access to doctors and hospitals.

For complete text and links, go to http://reason.com/reasontv/2012/11/15/the-obamacare-revolt-oklahoma-doctors-fi

Shot, edited, produced and narrated by Jim Epstein.

Approximately 6:45.

Go to http://Reason.com/reasontv for downloadable versions and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

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This shows how a true free market operates. Efficiency and low prices are the norm, and consumers get a good deal.

My only quibble is that the video doesn’t explain how government policies – such as the healthcare exclusion in the tax code – should be blamed for the grotesque waste, inefficiency, and featherbedding in most parts of the medical industry.

But that’s a minor gripe. You should share this post with any and all fuzzy-headed friends and colleagues and tell them this is how smoothly the market would work if the government simply would get out of the way.

And if they want another example, here’s a report from North Carolina on free-market healthcare in action.

If we want this kind of system to be the rule rather than the exception, we need to scrap the healthcare exclusion in the tax code as part of a switch to a simple and fair flat tax. That will help bring some rationality to the health insurance market and address the part of the third-party payer crisis caused by indirect government intervention.

Then we also should reform Medicaid and Medicare to help address the part of the third-party payer crisis caused by the direct government intervention.

P.S. As this poster cleverly illustrates (and as Ronald Reagan correctly warned in the second video of this post), government is the problem, not the solution.

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Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733, lowcostsqueegees@yahoo.com

“Friedman Friday” Milton Friedman on “Firing Line” in 1968

Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan And William F. Buckley Jr.

Peter Robinson, 12.12.08, 12:01 AM EST

In a time of crisis, don’t forget what they had to say.

pic

As the federal deficit surpasses $1 trillion, Congress debates a bailout for the Detroit automakers and President-elect Barack Obama draws up plans for a vast new stimulus package, we Americans are being asked to do something odd: Ignore the lessons of more than half a century.

Limit government spending? Resist the creation of bureaucracies? Take a skeptical view of the experts, academics and other elites who are always ready to argue that they know more about what’s good for us than we do?

Forget it.

How long this great forgetting will last, nobody can say. But if you’re reluctant to participate, permit me to suggest a small act of civil disobedience.

Print the three quotations below, put them on your refrigerator and read them once in awhile.

Remember.

Milton Friedman: The political system “tends to give undue political power to small groups that have highly concentrated interests; to give greater weight to obvious, direct and immediate effects of government action than to possibly more important but concealed, indirect and delayed effects; to set in motion a process that sacrifices the general interest to serve special interests rather than the other way around. There is, as it were, an invisible hand in politics that operates in precisely the opposite direction to Adam Smith’s invisible hand.”

The general interest, sacrificed to the special interests: This is the iron law of government spending, the fundamental and everlasting equation.

Stroll down K Street, the home of Washington lobbying firms, any night this coming month; no matter how late the hour, you’ll see lights on in all the office buildings. Inside, highly paid professionals will be working with the feverish intensity of Santa’s elves. Only instead of producing gifts for good children, they’ll be scheming to grab goodies from the Obama stimulus package–billions of dollars’ worth of goodies–on behalf of the naughty adults who employ them.

Ronald Reagan: “A government bureau is the closest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

Like so much Reagan material, this aphorism isn’t merely amusing, it makes a vital point. The New Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society–overwhelmingly, the programs that each of these expansions of the federal government entailed remain in place today. Why?

Because federal programs not only respond to special interests (see Milton Friedman, above), they create them–each new act of largesse calling into being a new group with enough at stake to become politically organized–paying lobbyists and consultants handsome sums to keep the government dollars coming.

The Obama administration’s huge new spending package might or might not stimulate the growth of economy. It will certainly stimulate the growth of government.

William F. Buckley Jr.: “I’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard.”

Ordinary Americans vs. the high priests of knowledge and culture. It would only make sense, you might think, to put the country in the hands of the priests. After examining the record of the closing decades of the 20th century, you’d think again.

Bigger government, higher taxes, modest defenses, détente with the Soviets–by and large, these were the policies of the intellectual establishment. During the 1970s, such policies nearly brought down the country. Limited government, tax cuts, rebuilding our defenses, standing up to the Soviets–by and large, these were the policies of ordinary Americans. During the 1980s, such policies brought down the Soviet Union.

“Jan. 20, 2009,” the New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote, “will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law) looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).”

The Obama administration, Brooks asserts, will represent “a valedictocracy.”

The rest of us may be forgiven for failing to share his enthusiasm.

Peter Robinson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institutionand contributor to RobinsonandLong.com, writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.

Father Frank Pavone reacts to Kermit Gosnell guilty verdict

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE

Published on Oct 6, 2012 by

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Fr. Pavone: Right to choose must yield to right to life

STATEN ISLAND, NY — Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, had the following comment on the verdict in the Kermit Gosnell trial:

“The guilty verdict on charges of killing babies following abortion shows that the law recognizes a point at which the ‘right to choose’ must yield to the right to life, and also shows that abortionists don’t know where that point is. Such laws must be strengthened in every state.”

Note: the babies in this case have been given names by Priests for Life and more information on that can be found here: www.priestsforlife.org/library/4620-naming-the-gosnell-babies.

“Gosnell’s guilty verdict in the death of Karnamaya Mongar is different. Gosnell didn’t slit her neck but he did create conditions that caused her death. And Mongar is not the only mother harmed or killed in the hundreds of dangerous, unregulated, legal abortion clinics across our country. There are hundreds of Gosnells and they have to be stopped.

“The lessons to be learned from this case, and the actions that should follow upon it, are largely independent of the verdict rendered today. Those lessons and actions are summarized in my public statement about the case. http://www.priestsforlife.org/blog/index.php/statement-of-fr-frank-pavone-as-we-await-verdict-in-gosnell-trial#respond

Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent  No More Awareness Campaign, also commented on Gosnell’s conviction in the death of Karnamaya Mongar:

“On behalf of the many women who have died and the countless numbers of women who have been physically injured in abortion clinics across our nation, and whose abortionists have not been brought to justice, I applaud the jury for recognizing that what happened to Karnamaya Mongar was not an accident.  Justice for Karnamaya provides a measure of justice for all women harmed by abortion. The abortion procedure kills a child, sometimes kills a mother and is always  damaging to women. This product called abortion should be recalled by the government.”

Dr. Alveda King, director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life, said of the guilty verdicts:

“Justice was served with these verdicts, but injustice will continue unless we end abortion in this country. Gosnell was not the only abortionist who killed newborn babies and their mothers, he was just the one who got caught. Now we have to turn out attention to charging, trying and convicting others like him.”

Father Pavone said Priests for Life continues to pray for Ms. Mongar and her family, for Dr. Gosnell and for all involved in the case.

Priests for Life is the nation’s largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit www.priestsforlife.org.

Related posts:

  1. Priests for Life to name the babies killed in Gosnell clinic
  2. Fr. Pavone on “Choose Life” License Plate Victory
  3. What Americans Should Learn From the Gosnell Trial
  4. Statement of Fr. Frank Pavone as we await verdict in Gosnell trial
  5. The Power to Choose Life

Political Cartoons by Chuck Asay

By Chuck Asay – May 09, 2013

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By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Francis Schaeffer | Edit | Comments (0)

Ecclesiastes a scathing and self-deprecating attack on hedonism and secular humanism by Solomon

Ecclesiastes 4-6 | Solomon’s Dissatisfaction

Published on Sep 24, 2012

Calvary Chapel Spring Valley | Sunday Evening | September 23, 2012 | Pastor Derek Neider

___________________

I have written on the Book of Ecclesiastes and the subject of the meaning of our lives on several occasions on this blog. In this series on Ecclesiastes I hope to show how secular humanist man can not hope to find a lasting meaning to his life in a closed system without bringing God back into the picture. This is the same exact case with Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Three thousand years ago, Solomon took a look at life “under the sun” in his book of Ecclesiastes. Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.”

Let me show you some inescapable conclusions if you choose to live without God in the picture. Solomon came to these same conclusions when he looked at life “under the sun.”

  1. Death is the great equalizer (Eccl 3:20, “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”)
  2. Chance and time have determined the past, and they will determine the future.  (Ecclesiastes 9:11-13)
  3. Power reigns in this life, and the scales are not balanced(Eccl 4:1)
  4. Nothing in life gives true satisfaction without God including knowledge (1:16-18), ladies and liquor (2:1-3, 8, 10, 11), and great building projects (2:4-6, 18-20).

You can only find a lasting meaning to your life by looking above the sun and bring God back into the picture.

____________

Here is an interesting perspective below:

— In apologetics@yahoogroups.com, “yusefii” <yusefii@…> wrote:

> Having both read the book of Ecclesiastes and contemplated many instances of
wasted potential in terms of various Christians’ gifts and economically unviable
desire to work full-time in Christian ministry, I’m inclined to agree that
nothing matters.

I’m surprised. Ecclesiastes is a scathing and self-deprecating attack on
hedonism and secular humanism by a man who had obviously deeply considered if
not tried both as a way of life. The constant refrain “under the sun” expresses
the context and prespective from which the writer wishes his words to be
understood. In other words “if one takes the view that nothing exists beyond the
world we experience through our five senses” then all is meaningless, or vanity
or a chasing after the wind. Meaning, as opposed to value, only arises in a
wider and eternal context.

If all we had was this brief life, and if we had a true grasp of that fact, then
every second would be exquisitly, painfully, horrendously valuable to us, each
one gone never to return; but if we are born only to die, indeed if the universe
was born in a Big Bang only to die in a Big Crunch or the whimpering stillness
of an ever-expanding, dark, cold, void then, ultimately, everything in between
is completely meaningless.

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The Laffer Curve – Explained

Uploaded by on Nov 14, 2011

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____________

I have put up lots of cartoons from Dan Mitchell’s blog before and they have got lots of hits before. Many of them have dealt with the economy, eternal unemployment benefits, socialism,  Greece,  welfare state or on gun control.

I’m not a big fan of Obama’s class warfare approach to tax policy, so I especially enjoy cartoons that make fun of his soak-the-rich ideology. You can see some of my favorites here and here.

Now let’s add two more cartoons to the mix, both with a Thanksgiving theme.

The first one makes fun of Obama for his deliberate ignorance about the budget. Honest leftists admit that we need real entitlement reform, but Obama wants us to believe that the nation’s fiscal problems can be solved by targeting the rich.

The next cartoon comes from the irreplaceable Michael Ramirez.

I like the multiple messages. He’s nailing Obama for engaging in envy, but I also think he’s helping people understand that it doesn’t make sense to rape and pillage the so-called rich if that means less future production.

You can enjoy some of my other favorite Ramirez cartoons by clicking here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehereherehereherehere, and here.

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Review of the Woody Allen movie “Another Woman”

A very interesting review.

Eileen A. Joy
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Dept. of English Language and Literature
ejoy@siue.edu

College of Arts & Sciences Spring Colloquium
“Thinking About the University”
9 – 11 April, 2007

Session 2 (Friday, Apr. 11): Staring Back in the Mirror: Professors Consider Their Depiction in Literature and Film

“You Must Change Your Life: Woody Allen’s Another Woman

[see also Valerie Vogrin, “A Sub-Sub-Genre: The Creative Writing Professor as Protagonist”]

Figure 1. Gena Rowlands (Marion Post) and Gene Hackman (Larry Lewis) in Woody Allen’s Another Woman

The signature moment in Woody Allen’s film about the mid-life crisis of a female philosophy professor, Marion Post, played by Gena Rowlands, is when she sits down late one night with a book that once belonged to her mother, now deceased—an edition of poems by Rilke—and while she is reading her mother’s favorite poem, “The Archaic Torso of Apollo,” she notices a certain stain that has fallen across the last two lines, which she surmises can only be the remnants of her mother’s tears. The last lines of this poem, which are spoken aloud in voiceover in the film, read as follows: “For here there is no place / that does not see you. You must change your life.” The poem is not capriciously chosen by Allen for only these lines, and Rilke’s poem is worth quoting in full with regard to what I believe is the misguided theme of this film—that a commitment to the intellectual life necessitates the forsaking of the body, and with it, the powers of passion and art that are supposedly contained within that headless body:

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

What we have here, in Rilke’s poem, is a dazzling and sensuous staging of Apollo’s headless torso literally looking, from the point of its “dark center” where procreation flares, at the viewer who is enclosed within the imagined scene, and its sexual power, which “glisten[s] like a wild beast’s fur,” is therefore a type of seeing, or unmasking, that strips the viewer of any pretension of a different sort of life—in other words, a life that would refuse, or not fully acknowledge, or look away from, or set aside, or defer, this glistening, this bursting, this gleaming of an identity fully enmeshed in its erotic physicality. It’s an intoxicating, even moving poem, but within the context of Allen’s film, in which our philosophy professor, Marion, is in every way the epitome of her last name, “Post”—i.e., stiff, unmoved by others’ suffering, and seemingly closed off to passion and deep feeling—the poem is also a rebuke to those of us in the university who, for the sake of the life of the mind, have supposedly left our bodies, and the consideration of other persons’ bodies and minds, behind.

It is important to keep in mind that, just before reading this poem, Marion had been visiting her elderly father—a retired historian, played brilliantly by John Houseman—who lives alone in the house in which Marion grew up, and this visit, as in many other Allen films, occasions a series of flashbacks and cross-temporal encounters in which Marion glimpses herself as a young girl painting in her room and she recalls that “the time would just fly by” when she was working on a picture; she sees her mother in the garden gathering flowers and recalls that her mother “loved all beautiful things: nature, music, poetry—that was her whole existence”; and later she hears her father, as a younger man, explaining to her brother how important it is that her brother take a job in a paper factory so that the family can support Marion in going to Bryn Mawr because “she is such a brilliant girl”—further, as her father states, “she’s going to be somebody, she’s got what it takes, there are no limits for her, if only I can get her to stop daydreaming in the woods with her beloved watercolors.” And here we see what I believe is a false opposition—one that the film will re-emphasize several times—between the artistic life and the scholarly one. The scholarly life, the film implies, cannot be artistic, it cannot be about daydreaming, or even the woods (i.e., it can’t be about nature, in both senses of the term: the natural world, but also, bodily instinct).

These flashback scenes of Marion’s youth that occur before her reading of the Rilke poem have to also be read against a dream sequence that occurs later, in which she imagines seeing and hearing her father confessing to a therapist that, at the end of his life, he has “only regrets”—regrets because his wife was not the woman he loved “most deeply”; regrets because he feels he was too demanding of Marion herself when she was younger, partly because he was “too caught up in those stupid studies of historical figures”; and regrets that, even though he has achieved “some eminence” in his field, he ultimately “asked too little” of himself. Another added wrinkle to our understanding of the function of the Rilke poem in the film, which is related to the dream of her father’s therapy session, is that, when the film begins, we learn that Marion is on sabbatical and she has rented an apartment in which to write her new book (in order to have a quiet work space that is separate from the apartment she shares with her husband, Ken, a cold fish of a man played to perfection by Ian Holm). And it just so happens that this apartment shares a wall with a psychiatrist’s office and through one of the heating vents, Marion can hear the psychiatrist and his patients talking in the other room.

One of these patients, a married pregnant woman, Hope, played by Mia Farrow, who appears to be suicidally depressed for reasons that cannot be fully articulated, begins to obsess Marion—partly, we can assume, because her almost hysteric desperation and sobbing outbursts and vocal declarations of a life possibly misspent or miscarried, but for reasons she can’t really pinpoint with any accuracy, as well as her articulation of feelings of a frightening, almost schizophrenic disorientation and lostness, even when she is lying beside her apparently loving husband in bed, are deeply unsettling to Marion, precisely because she has spent a good deal of her life repressing such raw emotions and feeling admissions of alienation. Indeed, Marion is so out of touch with her own feelings and with the feelings of others who are close to her, that she has no idea that her husband is having an affair with one of her best friends, although in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter because their marriage has already withered on the vine from benign neglect, or as Marion puts it regarding their sexual relationship in another portion of the dream sequence, “I know exactly what you’re going to do and in what order.”

There are many other specific details in Allen’s film—especially as regards what might be called Marion’s forgetfulness of her own past and therefore of her unrealized present and submerged future, as well as her neglect of persons who once believed they mattered to her: a former teacher and husband who apparently committed suicide, a best friend who felt she couldn’t “compete” with Marion’s ego, and her brother, who has retreated under the sting of Marion’s disapproval of his unambitious life—but I do not have time to dwell upon all of those details here. What I do want to linger over just a bit is the very purposeful significance, I think, of Allen’s use of pregnancy in the film. In short, the troubled and neurotic pregnant woman in the film, Hope (who also expresses with regret, at one point, that she never became a painter), is a somewhat crude and too-obvious symbol of what is supposedly missing in Marion’s life: passion and sexual fertility and art (and never even mind the blunt message Hope’s name carries). Indeed, the epiphanies that Marion ultimately expresses in the last stages of the film can be summed up as: “Maybe I should have had a child” and “I wish I had married for passion.” Throw in the various well-placed hints of  “I could have been a painter instead of a philosophy professor,” and you pretty much have every not-so-subtle point about the life of the mind that Allen is trying to make in his film (and I do not even have time here, unfortunately, to draw out all of the complexities of the false binary Allen is also trying to establish between art and scholarship).

And in relation to all of this, we are led to a scene near the end of the film where Marion runs into Hope weeping in an antiques store in front of a copy of Klimt’s painting Hope I, in which we see the depiction of a naked pregnant woman surrounded by the faces of death. Quite uncharacteristically for Marion, she reaches out to console Hope, an almost perfect stranger, although it must be admitted that Marion has been listening to Hope’s therapy sessions and even snuck out of her rented apartment one day to catch a glimpse of Hope as she was leaving the psychiatrist’s office. Marion invites Hope to lunch where Marion confesses that turning fifty has traumatized her, and further, she has some regrets, especially as regards not having had a child. This leads to yet another flashback scene, which doubles as a kind of further confession to Hope, in which we see her first husband, Sam, the older philosophy professor who later commits suicide, convulsed with rage at the young twenty-something Marion, who has had an abortion without telling him. While Sam berates her for not considering his feelings or his age—after all, he doesn’t have, as he argues, his future “stretching out” in front of him—Marion expresses the frustration that, yes, she loves the idea of children, but she hasn’t yet had the chance yet to “make something” of herself, and in a bold move that causes Sam to physically assault her, she says to him, with great anger, “Do you want to bring a child into this world . . . really? You’re the one that hates it so much. You’re forever lecturing me on the pointlessness of existence,” at which point, grabbing her shoulders and trying to push her to the ground, Sam tells her how much he hates her.

And here, my friends, in this wrestling match between student and teacher, wife and husband, and philosopher and philosopher, we have the whole “shebang” as regards Allen’s take on the intellectual enterprise and the university more generally—to cadge from Shakespeare: it’s all about the expense of spirit in a waste of bodies and minds together, as well as the tragic drama of the supposedly too great cost of an endlessly agonistic pedagogy. And what is Allen’s sweet and gentle and life-affirming antidote to all of this? It’s the novelist, Larry Lewis, played by Gene Hackman, who was always madly, deeply, and passionately in love with Marion, but could never convince her to leave Ken for him. Larry has enshrined Marion in one of his novels as the beautiful “Helinka” whose one random and chance kiss with his narrator is “full of desire” and demonstrates to him that “Helinka” was “capable of intense passion, if she would just allow herself to feel.”

Taking all of the moments of the film I have dwelled upon here, the intellectual life is apparently without passion and without feeling and it can’t “give birth” to anything but despair and regret over the loss of a more sensual life—in short: it is the life not lived, it is a small death, and it also kills. But Allen also closes his film with a scene of Marion, having left her cold husband, back in her rented apartment, working on her book, and commenting that the writing is just “flowing” out of her. And this gives me some hope, regardless of the heavy-handedness of the films clichés regarding the supposedly “dead” nature of the academic life, that the intellectual life can also be a sensual one—it also gives birth to something, and continues, in the words of Rilke’s poem, to glisten and gleam in all its power.

Figure 2 . Gustav Klimt, Hope I (1903)

I have spent alot of time talking about Woody Allen films on this blog and looking at his worldview. He has a hopelessmeaningless, nihilistic worldview that believes we are going to turn to dust and there is no afterlife. Even though he has this view he has taken the opportunity to look at the weaknesses of his own secular view. I salute him for doing that. That is why I have returned to his work over and over and presented my own Christian worldview as an alternative.

My interest in Woody Allen is so great that I have a “Woody Wednesday” on my blog www.thedailyhatch.org every week. Also I have done over 30 posts on the historical characters mentioned in his film “Midnight in Paris.” (Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway,T.S.Elliot,  Cole Porter,Paul Gauguin,  Luis Bunuel, and Pablo Picasso were just a few of the characters.)

Related posts:

I love the movie “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen and I have done over 30 posts on the historical characters mentioned in the film. Take a look below:

“Midnight in Paris” one of Woody Allen’s biggest movie hits in recent years, July 18, 2011 – 6:00 am

(Part 32, Jean-Paul Sartre)July 10, 2011 – 5:53 am

 (Part 29, Pablo Picasso) July 7, 2011 – 4:33 am

(Part 28,Van Gogh) July 6, 2011 – 4:03 am

(Part 27, Man Ray) July 5, 2011 – 4:49 am

(Part 26,James Joyce) July 4, 2011 – 5:55 am

(Part 25, T.S.Elliot) July 3, 2011 – 4:46 am

(Part 24, Djuna Barnes) July 2, 2011 – 7:28 am

(Part 23,Adriana, fictional mistress of Picasso) July 1, 2011 – 12:28 am

(Part 22, Silvia Beach and the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore) June 30, 2011 – 12:58 am

(Part 21,Versailles and the French Revolution) June 29, 2011 – 5:34 am

(Part 16, Josephine Baker) June 24, 2011 – 5:18 am

(Part 15, Luis Bunuel) June 23, 2011 – 5:37 am

(Part 1 William Faulkner) June 13, 2011 – 3:19 pm

I love Woody Allen’s latest movie “Midnight in Paris”, June 12, 2011 – 11:52 pm

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Not Your Father’s L’Abri The Swiss retreat now tends less to philosophical skeptics than to disaffected evangelicals. Molly Worthen

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L’Abri : Sounds & Sites of a Shelter

Uploaded by on Nov 12, 2006

A fun video of the day in the life at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. I made this video in 2003 while there and I was trying to capture the sounds and everyday life of it. Was on the Labri.org site for quite sometime. Not meant to be the end all video of what L’Abri is like today, but trying to make an entertaining video for the students and people who are curious about what L’Abri is.

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L’Abri crew in the Vaud Alps

Uploaded on Jun 10, 2006

hiking up high – the sound is a little behind the picture for some reason

SOUNDWORD LABRI CONFERENCE VIDEO – Five Ideas – An Introduction to L’Abri – DICK KEYES – 1984

Published on Jan 27, 2014

This video is part of the Sound Word L’Abri Conference videos from the last two years of Dr. Schaeffer’s life. Here Dick Keyes gives five points of emphasis that describe the work of L’Abri Fellowship.

Read more about this series here: http://francisschaefferstudies.blogsp…

A Day at Swiss L’Abri – pt 1

Uploaded on Nov 20, 2007

This is part one of a series of videos I made during one day at Swiss L’Abri in Huemoz, Switzerland. If you want to know more about L’Abri you can go to http://www.labri.org or my blog at iamchrismartin.blogspot.com

A Day at Swiss L’Abri – pt 2

A Day at Swiss L’Abri – pt 3

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A Day at Swiss L’Abri – pt 5

A Day at Swiss L’Abri – pt 6

L’abri

Swiss L’abri

Uploaded on Jul 22, 2006

L’abri is many things–a shelter, a community, a thinktank, study center, and a home. I lived here for two months in the summer of 2006, and this video is an attempt to capture some of the memories.

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L’Abri: 6 Months

Uploaded on Jan 27, 2007

Video I made for the L’Abri website with music by Jozef Luptak. It’s a montage of the people and the day in the life of at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. Music performed live by Jozef Luptak in the Chapel in Huemoz.

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I love the works of Francis Schaeffer and I have been on the internet reading several blogs that talk about Schaeffer’s work and the work below by Molly Worthen   was really helpful. Schaeffer’s film series “How should we then live?  Wikipedia notes, “According to Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live traces Western history from Ancient Rome until the time of writing (1976) along three lines: the philosophic, scientific, and religious.[3] He also makes extensive references to art and architecture as a means of showing how these movements reflected changing patterns of thought through time. Schaeffer’s central premise is: when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken,[4] this provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society.  Here are some posts I have done on this series: Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age”  episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” .

In the film series “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE?” the arguments are presented  against abortion (Episode 1),  infanticide (Episode 2),   euthanasia (Episode 3), and then there is a discussion of the Christian versus Humanist worldview concerning the issue of “the basis for human dignity” in Episode 4 and then in the last episode a close look at the truth claims of the Bible.

Francis Schaeffer

Not Your Father’s L’Abri

The Swiss retreat now tends less to philosophical skeptics than to disaffected evangelicals.
Molly Worthen
[ posted 3/28/2008 8:48AM ]

Amelia Hendrix, a tall brunette and the daughter of a Presbyterian Church in America minister, has spent her life as “a poster child for the church.” Toward the end of her four years at the University of Tennessee, however, that role proved harder to play. Her “Christian bubble” dissipated as friends from church got married, and she found herself befriending people with different values: non-Christians, gay students, and pot smokers at the record store where she worked.

At university, Amelia took classes on modern American religion. “That was eye-opening,” she said. “I did a lot on Jerry Falwell, the conservative party, and the consolidating of the Christian right. It made me question everything I’d been taught. I was raised conservative, pro-life, anti-gay; I was taught that Christians should be in power. I came out thinking nothing I was taught had been right.”

When Amelia graduated last December, she told her father she was thinking of going to L’Abri, the Christian study center and commune in the Swiss Alps founded by celebrity apologist Francis Schaeffer. “When I brought up the idea, Dad said, ‘That’s great, I love Schaeffer,'” she said.

If her father remembers L’Abri as it was when Schaeffer was alive—a place where thoughtful young Christians went to breathe the fortifying Alpine air and to sit at the feet of their goateed guru—Amelia embodies what L’Abri has become: a community ambivalent about Schaeffer’s legacy and ill at ease with mainstream evangelical culture. Half a century after L’Abri’s founding and more than 20 years after Schaeffer’s death, students come with very different questions, and they look askance at the politicized faith that Schaeffer helped create.

From Radical to Politico

Shortly after Francis and Edith Schaeffer came to Switzerland as Presbyterian missionaries, their eldest daughter, Prisca, began bringing college friends home to talk with her father about religion. Word spread of Edith’s hospitality and Francis’s willingness to take on questions that many Christians avoided. The stream of visitors grew, and L’Abri was born.

Between L’Abri’s 1955 founding and the early 1970s, the ministry attracted European students schooled in modern philosophy and existentialism, as well as young Americans backpacking through Europe. “At that time, you would have found a countercultural temperament at L’Abri,” said Ronald Wells, professor emeritus at Calvin College, who visited three times in the late 1960s. “You know the old joke—ten ponytails, but only three women.”

Once a fundamentalist who worked with Carl McIntire, Schaeffer at this time believed a true Christian spirit demanded that he and Edith welcome into their home—and admit that they might learn from—young people trying to square the Bible with Sartre and Kierkegaard. Timothy Leary, countercultural icon and proponent of lsd’s spiritual benefits, visited twice.

The atmosphere at L’Abri changed as Schaeffer’s profile among evangelical Americans rose. In 1965, Harold O. J. Brown, then minister at Park Street Church in Boston, arranged for Schaeffer to give a series of lectures in the area, followed by a visit to Wheaton College. The lectures were unlike anything his audiences had heard before. Using his famous “line of despair” diagram to trace the decline of the West, Schaeffer wove thinkers as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci and Karl Barth into a confident narrative that sought to demolish modern secular philosophy and vindicate Christianity.

“He was talking about [filmmakers] Fellini and Bergman when Wheaton required students not to see films,” said Greg Laughery, L’Abri’s current director. Wells recalled, “We didn’t so much listen as levitate.”

Schaeffer’s fame grew. He spent more and more time lecturing in America, published bestselling books, and—when he could get back to Switzerland—entertained a flood of fawning pilgrims. By the mid-1970s, the dynamic at L’Abri had changed radically.

“Students argued quite a bit with him in the early days,” said John Sandri, who eventually married Prisca after a mutual friend invited him to visit the Schaeffers. “But later, you’d ask a question and get a 40-minute monologue. It was just not possible to argue.” Laughery, who first visited L’Abri in 1980 after a misspent youth in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, spent his time listening to reel-to-reel recordings of bygone days’ lively debates. Most of his peers came to L’Abri not seeking healthy debate, he said, but “to get filled up with apologetic ammunition.”

By this time, some of the young evangelicals whom Schaeffer had inspired to pursue the life of the mind had become respected scholars—and had developed a jaundiced view of their old intellectual hero. Those who knew Schaeffer agree that he considered himself an evangelist, not a scholar. “Schaeffer didn’t read books,” said Sandri. “He got his material from magazines. Newsweek, Time—he’d take them to the beach. He did go to seminary, too, so he had that. … [But] he was out to give broad strokes. It was not necessary to give you the details of Kierkegaard.”

Many evangelical scholars distanced themselves from Schaeffer during the last years of his career—the time when he most fervently demanded their loyalty. Beginning in the early 1970s, Schaeffer began to make connections with conservative politicians. The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision pushed him further. In 1974, his son, Frank, persuaded him to collaborate on a documentary film series conceived as a Christian answer to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation—a series that would depict legalized abortion as the final act in the West’s moral erosion.

Following the massive success of the series How Should We Then Live?, Schaeffer continued his pattern of cutting scholarly corners and reshaping history to support his own arguments. In the early 1980s, he hired John Whitehead, founder of the Christian libertarian Rutherford Institute, to research a book about the Christian foundation of America. The result was a historically dubious but highly influential volume entitled A Christian Manifesto (1981).

Schaeffer was outraged by evangelical historians’ refusal to support the book’s claim that the Founding Fathers had acted out of explicitly Christian motivations. “He had written Manifesto not as a dispassionate historical treatise,” historian Barry Hankins wrote, “but as a tract in the culture wars.”

Schaeffer continued lecturing and writing against abortion and Christian political apathy until his death in 1984. Workers and family members at L’Abri worried about the political turn that their leader’s career had taken. “I talked to Schaeffer about his cobelligerency with the Moral Majority,” said Laughery, who has a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Fribourg. “From my perspective, that was a mistake.”

There was little trace of the open-minded, countercultural Schaeffer that had entertained flocks of skeptical hippies in decades past. By the 1980s, he had little tolerance for anyone who deviated from his notion of Christian orthodoxy. When John Sandri’s studies in literature led him to reread the Bible through the lens of narrative theology, Schaeffer was appalled. “He wanted me to withdraw from a teaching role in the community,” said Sandri, who is bronzed and wiry at 71, thanks to his hobby of long-distance Alpine running. Sandri had come to question everything from the Trinity to predestination, “but the one that broke the camel’s back was [biblical] inerrancy. Schaeffer felt this was the issue of the day, where Christians have to dig into the trenches,” Sandri said. “I’m not an inerrantist, but I’m not an ‘errantist’ either. Both are wrong. Man makes these opposing points of view. The modernist agenda is behind both.”

Sandri, who still lives at L’Abri with his wife, calls himself a “radical.” Twenty-three years after Schaeffer’s death, his unorthodox views are a telling expression of what L’Abri has become.

Recovering Evangelicals

To reach L’Abri, I rode a train along the coast of Lake Geneva to the winery town of Aigle, where I caught a bus into the mountains. After a stomach-lurching ride along switchback roads, the bus deposited me in front of an imposing chalet built of dark pine and white stucco. Geraniums hung over the porch railings beneath the second and third-floor windows. Laundry fluttered on clotheslines. Down the mountain, smaller chalets sat nestled between vegetable gardens and cow pastures. On that clear afternoon, I could see miles across the valley to mountains whiskered with snow.

I met Chris Martin over supper on the first night of fall term. A lanky 23-year-old whose hair hung in a shaggy curtain over his eyes, Chris first heard of L’Abri during his junior year at the University of South Carolina, when a L’Abri worker came to speak. Like Amelia, Chris had felt paralyzed by expectations at home. His leadership role in Campus Crusade left him no time to sort out his spiritual doubts. When he got here last spring, Laughery recommended that he read Schaeffer’s He Is There and He Is Not Silent (1972). Chris wasn’t impressed. “Schaeffer seemed to make a ton of assumptions, and he didn’t back up many,” Chris said. “It was too didactic.”

Neither Amelia nor Chris knew exactly what they wanted out of their experience at L’Abri, but they had a word for it: “authenticity.” That idea is far more important to today’s L’Abri students than winning debates with secular intellectuals or strategizing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Though most hold firmly to conservative social values, they resent the assumption that their faith is chained to a prescribed political position. As Amelia said, “I don’t want to be a white American girl who votes for Bush.”

The personal spiritual quest has always been a priority for those who come to L’Abri. The daily routine has changed little over the years, a combination of communal interaction and private study meant to facilitate personal growth. Chores occupy half of each day, and students spend the other half reading and listening to recorded lectures at Farel House, the clapboard chalet that serves as L’Abri’s chapel and houses a modest library. There, students hunch over tables and lean against the ledge of the stone fireplace in the wood-paneled room, adjusting their headphones and taking notes. In cold weather, Farel House is drafty, and they wrap themselves in blankets. In the summertime, they pull their chairs onto the balcony, prop their feet on the railing, and watch the mountains over the edges of their books.

Alumni from decades past who have visited recently say they notice a change. “The people here when I’ve been visiting are not as serious,” said Kyle McCormick, who first came in 1982. Of course, everyone seems to believe that L’Abri was at its best when they were there. The faddish intellectualism of L’Abri’s earliest years must be taken with a grain of salt. But current workers agree that, as Laughery put it, “the emphasis has shifted to personal issues, which people less readily see as related to ideas.”

The workers, who meet with students one-on-one each week to guide their studies, struggle to pull them out of their own heads. “For a lot of people, [L’Abri] is more about personal spirituality, which makes sense—that’s the way religion is branded in the U.S.,” said Jasie Peltier, a tall blonde from Houston who became a Christian at L’Abri when she came four years ago. Peltier tutors mostly female students, and though she’d prefer to talk about philosophy and theology, she usually ends up talking about boys. “No one has a clue what ‘authenticity’ is,” she said. “They think it’s spilling your guts, purging. They think, I’m going to be real here, and being real means sharing, over-sharing.” In the evenings, students crowd into the small office on the first floor, which houses a single computer open for use after dinner. They squeeze onto the futon and sit cross-legged on the floor, swapping stories about past romances, crushes, and relationships gone sour.

Workers say this slumber-party atmosphere often fades a month or so after the start of each term, as students settle in and begin to confront their real reasons for taking several months off from school or work to come to L’Abri. Between peeling potatoes, hacking at weeds, and laughing through volleyball games on the grassy court overlooking the valley, students explore their faith (or lack of it—the occasional atheist finds his way here) by means very different from the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. Those few students who have read any of his books consider him largely obsolete. The modernist philosophy that he targeted in most of his writings, the bogeyman of existentialism, is passé. “Now the question is, Is there truth at all?” said worker Thomas Rauchenstein, a soft-spoken Canadian with sandy brown hair and a close-cropped beard. “Postmodernism’s critique of truth is more of a factor in students’ thinking.”

During one lunch at L’Abri, Rauchenstein led a discussion of biblical inerrancy over ham sandwiches on homemade bread (despite its meager budget of 2 Swiss Francs per person, per meal, L’Abri feeds visitors well). Students hunched forward in their chairs. They offered ideas about what it meant to interpret the Bible literally or call Scripture inerrant. Some strayed into fairly liberal territory; a quiet Presbyterian boy sitting across from me, fresh out of Southeastern Bible College, looked stricken.

No one, however, challenged the idea that the central events of the Gospels are literally true. Indeed, a few of the students told me afterward that they wished more atheists were around, like in the old days. Rachel Davies, 23, a Seventh-day Adventist from Washington State who heard about L’Abri from a pastor who came in the 1970s, said she’d expected “a backpacker atmosphere and hippies. … When I walked in, I was taken aback by all the Christian people. I saw the crosses dangling around their necks, and I thought, This will be different from what I expected.

Though they sometimes come seeking debate, students and workers today have no use for Schaeffer’s presuppositionalist apologetics, which he adapted from the teachings of his professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Cornelius Van Til. Van Til’s aim “was to show the non-Christian that his worldview in toto and in all its parts must logically lead back to full irrationalism, and then to show him that the Christian system provides the universal which gives a valid explanation of the universe.

“It is Christianity or nothing,” Schaeffer explained in a 1964 lecture at L’Abri. He believed that a Christian could reason with a nonbeliever, but only because nonbelievers’ worldviews were inconsistent. Without realizing it, Schaeffer believed, they operated from uniquely Christian presuppositions, such as universal morality, an orderly universe, and ultimate meaning in life. If they were logically consistent, Schaeffer said, cynics would reject these assumptions and commit suicide.

“Presuppositionalism can appear to be humble, but actually it’s quite arrogant,” said Rauchenstein as we sat in an alcove off the dining room, surrounded by shelves of glossy art books. “It says, ‘You can’t critique my assumptions.’ Students today have the despair of having lost that certainty.” The postmodern critique of objectivity has saturated them. “We’re at a transition point, philosophically,” said Peltier. “People talk in the language of postmodernism, but what they want from Christianity is very much modern.”

In other words, when students say they seek authenticity, what they really want is certainty, an inner knowing. Convinced that they won’t find it intellectually, many pursue that feeling of conviction through experience: in the communal life and worship at L’Abri; in the books by emerging church authors that are popular with many students, and in the charismatic worship style, that—though Pentecostals have never been a significant presence —is no longer taboo here.

Uncertain Legacy

L’Abri’s remote location has always provided a haven for Christians who feel exhausted by the culture that raised them. To Charlie Hamill, a blond 31-year-old who wanted a break after a decade of post-college bartending in Missouri, L’Abri offered an opportunity to “get away from American life—the culture of ‘I’ve got to have everything and be doing everything,'” he said. Nichole Mick, from outside Vancouver, felt “really tired of North American evangelical culture,” she said. “One of the worst times in my faith was at a Christian university. You see a lot of phoniness. … We go to church, do the handshake, smile, but inside we don’t know.”

Even during his final years, Schaeffer remained a critic of mainstream evangelicalism, which he considered unconscionably apathetic. But the political action that he advocated turns off most current L’Abri students, and the workers are pointedly critical of American culture and national policy. They try to awaken students to the underlying assumptions that frame how they see the world, just as Schaeffer did, and to explore the arts and sciences without worrying that such realms are “anti-Christian.”

“I don’t necessarily agree with [Schaeffer],” said George Diepstra, who taught biology courses at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago before retiring to L’Abri to work with students. “He opened doors for us to engage with culture more, but I’m not sure he often did it himself.”

A quarter-century after the death of its charismatic founder, during a new era in which—largely due to Schaeffer’s influence—L’Abri is far from the only or the best place for a budding Christian intellectual to go, the peculiar Alpine retreat is unsure of its role. For one thing, it is not the sole arbiter of Schaeffer’s legacy. Shortly after L’Abri was founded, Schaeffer’s daughter Susan and her husband, Ranald Macaulay, established a branch outside of Cambridge, England. More recently, L’Abris have popped up as far afield as Massachusetts, Sweden, and Korea. Members of the L’Abri Fellowship are far from agreement on their obligations to their heritage.

Laughery, who was cagey on the subject, implied that other branches have remained more conservative. Shortly after Schaeffer’s death, the family divided over leadership of the original L’Abri: Prisca’s younger sister Deborah and her husband, Udo Middelmann, left to found the Schaeffer Foundation across the valley in Gryon, Switzerland. They have told mutual acquaintances that “our theology is bad,” said Prisca. “They think John [Sandri] doesn’t believe in inerrancy the way they do—but I know they’ve liberalized on some things, too.”

The staff would like to believe that L’Abri is “ahead of culture, the vanguard, a light to Christians,” said Greg Laughery. But they admit that their community is a marginal place: a safety valve for the few who find their way to it. “L’Abri will continue to exist as long as the evangelical church is putting off so much of its youth,” said Sandri. “Ninety percent of the students are [saying]: I believe all the right things, but there’s no reality to my faith.”

Molly Worthen, a New Haven, Connecticut–based writer, is working on a book about evangelical intellectual life.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

Related Elsewhere:

L’Abri’s website hosts blogs from its Switzerland and England sites.

Previous articles on the Schaeffers and L’Abri include:

Francis Schaeffer, the Pastor-Evangelist | Bryan A. Follis on his book, Truth with Love. (May 22, 2007)

Learning to Cry for the Culture | Let’s remember Francis Schaeffer’s most crucial legacy — tears. (March 19, 2007)

L’Abri Turns 50 | Francis Schaeffer’s ministry is bigger than ever. (May, 2005)

The Book Report: Things We Ought to Know | Charles Colson’s apologetic—and call to action—is in the tradition of Francis Schaeffer. (January 10, 2000)

The Dissatisfaction of Francis Schaeffer (Parts 1 and 2) | Thirteen years after his death, Schaeffer’s vision and frustrations continue to haunt evangelicalism. (March 1997)

Inside CT: Midwives of Francis Schaeffer | March 3, 1997

Books & Culture recently hosted a discussion between Os Guinness and Frank Schaeffer on Schaeffer’s new book about his parents.

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States should vote down federal spending on farm bill and return more control to states!!!!

States should vote down federal spending on farm bill and return more control to states!!!!

Some say here in Arkansas that we have to do whatever it takes to support Riceland Foods, but in other states they try to protect federal government handouts to their biggest companies. We need politicians to stop looking out for just their states selfishness wants and vote for what is good for the country. It is in the best interest of all 50 states that we cut back on excessive federal spending and return more dollars to the local states for them to spend. Ronald Reagan rightly pointed out that the founding fathers favored more local control and a more limited federal government for good reason.

The Rich and Famous at the Farm Bill Trough

May 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Joe Sohm Visions of America/Newscom

Joe Sohm Visions of America/Newscom

Congress is considering the renewal of massive agriculture subsidies that proponents characterize as a crucial “safety net” for struggling family farms. In fact, most of the taxpayer support is actually pocketed by the well-to-do, including former President Jimmy Carter, the current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the families of members currently serving on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

Subsidies flowing to the likes of Carter, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and other relatively wealthy farm owners demonstrate just how incoherent the subsidy regime has become. New legislation in both the House and the Senate would eliminate some long-standing “direct” payments, but both bills would also establish new, potentially more costly revenue and price “protections.”

Despite record-high farm income and record-low debt, farm-state politicians and agriculture lobbyists insist that taxpayers continue to forfeit their earnings to highly successful agricultural enterprises such as Carter’s Farms, Inc., of Plains, Georgia. According to government data compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the farm owned by former President Carter and his family collected $272,288 in subsidy payments from 1995 through 2012.

During that same period, Vilsack received $82,874 in USDA benefits for his 592-acre farm in Davis County, Iowa. And USDA Under Secretary Michael T. Scuse owns 20.8 percent of a farm in New Castle County, Delaware, upon which taxpayers have lavished $1,051,107 from 1995 through 2012.

There are no farms in Manhattan, but residents there have collected subsidies totaling nearly $9 million in the past seven years. Recipients also include Mark F. Rockefeller ($356,018) and David Rockefeller ($591,057). Yes, the Rockefeller family (Standard Oil, Chase Manhattan Bank, etc.).

Over on the West Coast, in Beverly Hills 90210, the estate of comedian Jack Benny has collected $18,120 for a farm in Madera County, California, while $142,933 was paid to Mary Ann Mobley (Miss America of 1959) for a farm in Madison County, Mississippi.

These examples are not exceptions but the norm. The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that two-thirds of the farms with income exceeding $1 million annually received government payments averaging $54,745 in 2011. Meanwhile, just 27 percent of farms with income of less than $100,000 received payments—averaging just $4,420 in 2011.

The top recipient of subsidies in the EWG data base is Riceland Foods, Inc., self-described as “the world’s largest miller and marketer of rice.” It collected $554,343,039 between 1995 and 2012. According to news reports, Riceland reported sales of $1.16 billion during 2011–2012, the fifth consecutive year of billion-plus revenues for the company.

The subsidies collected by large enterprises make it more difficult for small farms to stay in business. The flow of free dollars to big farms increases demand for farmland, which, in turn, raises the price of property. Smaller players and newcomers are priced out or left to compete in niche markets.

Members of Congress and their families routinely collect subsidies as well. For example, Lynda L. Lucas, the wife of House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R–OK), collected $40,613 in payments for their farm in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma. (Lucas has served on the Agriculture Committee since he was first elected in 1994. He became chairman in 2011. Lynda Lucas has received four payments between 1999 and 2003, a fifth in 2007, a sixth in 2011, and a seventh in 2012.)

Likewise, the Iowa family farm of Senator Charles Grassley (R–IA) has collected $955,192 in taxpayer subsidies from 1995 through 2012. (Grassley served on the Agriculture Committee since 1992. The Grassley farm has received payments each year from 1995 to 2012, according to the EWG.)

The payments have proved irresistible even to environmental groups that openly criticize the impact of subsidies on land use. For example, the Nature Conservancy accumulated a whopping $4,795,786 from 1995 through 2012 despite its own findings that such payments promote the conversion of natural habitat to cropland—threatening wildlife in the process. The National Audubon Society collected $932,801 from 1995 through 2012, according to the EWG.

Serious reform is obviously needed, and the time for an overhaul is ripe. The USDA forecasts that net farm income will reach $128.2 billion this year, the highest level in four decades. At the same time, farmers’ debt levels have dropped to historic lows. This means agriculture is well insulated against the risks associated with commodity production, including adverse weather and economic fluctuations.

There are a host of nongovernmental methods with which farmers can manage risk, including futures contracts and hedging, crop diversification, credit reserves, and private insurance. Given the enormous burdens already shouldered by taxpayers, there is no justification for robbing millions of middle-class Peters to subsidize Jimmy, Tom, David, and all the other hugely successful owners of farmland.

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