A serious Christmas

We’ve been shaken by the death of our former colleague Kristine Luken. I’ve known lots of people who have died–by disease, by accidents–but I can’t think of anyone I’ve known who has been murdered. And as a missionary at the hands of terrorists of whatever variety. Also strange has been the “international incident” dimension, so that I’m reading about this in newspapers from all over the world.

Now we’ve learned that the father-in-law of my brother Jimmy (who has been making appearances on this blog) is dying of cancer. He’s in the hospital in critical condition and probably won’t make it to Christmas. I didn’t really know him, but I’m sad for my sister-in-law and the whole family. (Please pray for them in this hour of extremity and need.)

And yet, all this bad news by no means is taking away the joy of Christmas. It is just making my feelings more complex. The combination of soberness and joy is fitting, maybe making my Christmas more meaningful than usual. The tinsel sentimentality and nostalgia are stripped away, and I am reminded more powerfully why the Christ child came, to deliver us from precisely these maladies that are troubling me; namely, sin and death.

So I wish you a merry Christmas. Also, a serious Christmas, such as the one that I am having, only without the tragedies.

Someone I know has been martyred!

That American tourist who was murdered in Israel–I knew her!  Kristine Luken.  She worked for Patrick Henry College for awhile, helping us with accreditation issues.  (She had previously worked for the Department of Education as a liason with colleges.)  She became friends with my wife.  A Jewish convert to Christianity, Kristine began to feel a strong calling to go to England to work with a ministry there involved with evangelizing Jews.  That was surely a calling to her martyrdom.

Kristine was gentle, sensitive, and extremely devout.  One account I read said that police were investigating if she had any sinister dealings of any kind, and I can assure them that she most certainly did not.  I’d stake my life on that.

The first assumption was that she was killed by Muslim terrorists, but I’m not so sure.  Judging from the detail about the Star of David necklace, recounted by another woman who survived the attack, I’m thinking it sounds like the two assailants might have been Jewish radicals who attacked her for evangelizing Jews.  At any rate, I have no doubt that she was murdered for her Christian faith.

And I have no doubt she has joined this number:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

American Tourist Kristine Luken Killed in Israel, No Arrests Made, Say Police – Crimesider – CBS News.

Another conversation with my brother

In case you missed it on the George Bush & Aids post, my brother and I had another exchange, in the course of which I formulate what I consider a truly conservative economic ideology:

He says: OK. I (“Dr. Veith’s” younger brother who is still and always will be a Democrat) hereby give George Bush credit for saving millions of lives as a result of his AIDS initiative. Hey, that felt kind of good!

Now for you conservatives, isn’t it about time to give President Obama credit for the bailout of General Motors?

I say: Jimmy (my brother) @3: Thank you for that concession. That was all I wanted. But what you want from conservatives shows that liberals do not understand the many different ideologies that they lump together under that label. Most people on this blog, I daresay, are suspicious of BOTH big government AND big business.

We do believe in free markets. To return to your earlier illustration, if doctors and pharmaceutical companies and everyone else in the health care professions could not make a lot of money from their work, we soon would be back to what you decried in the primitive health care endured by Adam Smith back in 1776.

However, the really big companies hate free markets. They don’t want competition that brings prices down and increases supply. This is the lesson of Monopoly, at which I beat you so many times, the object of which is not prosperity and abundance for everybody, but one person putting everybody else out of business and getting–with the state-run socialist bank–ALL of everyone’s money.

And even worse for us crunchy-conservatives or front-porch conservatives or social conservatives or whatever you want to call us than big government and big business is when both of those behemoths combine together into something that so gargantuan that it crowds out everybody! This is why we don’t like Obama’s bailout of the big banks and his merger with General Motors. This is also why we don’t like Obama’s health care system, which is a marriage of big government with the big insurance companies.

Then he says:

To my big brother,”Dr. Veith”. Thanks for reminding me how often you beat me at Monopoly.

I agree with much of what you said in your comments at #26. I agree that the individual can be harmed by both BIG government and BIG business. My question for you is how can we check the powers of BIG business?

Historically, it has been done in two ways, with unions and government. With the decline of unions, government is the principal way we can check the powers of big business. When conservatives reject any government role in a “free market system” as a mater of ideology, they are left with nothing to check the powers of big business.

I don’t think that a corporation should be allowed to make money any way it pleases. Corporations are fictional “persons” created under the law. Corporations exist to serve the people, we do not exist to serve the corporation. It is perfectly appropriate that the government that created corporations can and should regulate its activites. For example, the government should prohibit companies from selling dangerous products to the public, and should protect the safety of the company employees. I acknowledge that rules and regulations imposed by government on business can be too burdensome and heavy handed. So the rules and regulations imposed by government should be smart and pragmatic. But I think it is insane to reject the role of government in a modern free market economy on purely ideological grounds.

This is why I support Obama’s health care, because I think it is perfectly appropriate for government to prohibit insurance companies from denying people coverage for a pre-existing condition. Allowing insurance companies to only insure healthy people is a business model that does not benefit the public and is not sustainable in the long run.

Now I don’t want to start another debate on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of Obama’s health care. Time will tell. My point is that we should not reject the power of government to regulate the health care insurance industry as a matter of principal.

Does this make me a soci@list? I don’t think so.

I repost these exchanges because my brother is actually very perceptive, liberal though he is, and because they demonstrate the lesson I have been trying to impose on you all, that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, to remain one big happy family through it all, and that it is possible to use discussions consisting of different opinions to come to actual insights.

Anyway, who is with me in this suspicion of big government and big business and, especially, their marriage with their hideous spawn?

And can anyone answer Jimmy?  What can limit both big government and big business?

More from my brother

I am so glad that my brother started reading and commenting on my blog. In case you missed it, here is more of what he said on that state bank post, in dialogue with tODD:

Thank you Todd. It is true that I am new to this blog thing, but I am starting to really get into it now. So much so that I am becoming unproductive at work.

On a personal note, my brother (“Dr. Veith”) is four years older than
myself and my twin sister. We have always acknowledged that he is the smartest person in the family. However, we are so confident in the little bit that we do know, that we can have some vigorous debates. They are always civil. We use Risk and Monopoly to vent our sibling aggression.

[tODD boos Monopoly and recommends Settlers of Catan.]

Thanks Todd for the suggestion. But don’t knock Monopoly. It is the game that taught my big brother (“Dr. Veith”) to become a capitalist. Come to think of it, he always won! I was always the big loser, which might also explain why I became a socialist. (Just Kidding.) But I did grow up to become a consumer bankruptcy lawyer.

Hey, my life is starting to make sense.

The reason our arguments are civil is that we always make them humorous. Maybe I’ll get my brother to be a guest blogger one of these days when I’m gone. That would balance out this blog, making it fair and balanced, like FOX News. My brother is both a lefty and a Southern Baptist.

Reviving the Nonpartisan Party

I don’t know if you noticed, but my brother Jimmy finally read my blog and commented on the State Bank post a few days ago (a topic that he alerted me to). Here is what he said:

The history of the Bank of North Dakota is very interesting. It is a product of a populist political organization known as the Nonpartisan League, which was formed in 1915 by a former socialist. It soon took over the Republican party in North Dakota and even elected a governor, Lynn Frazier. In 1921, he became the first governor to be recalled after an investigation of the bank showed it to be insolvent.

(Which goes to show you that any institution can become corrupted by incompetent or dishonest executives, but at least with a state owned bank you have the ability to have them removed. What can we do to the CEO’s of privately owned companies that do the same? I believe that most of them are still in charge and doing quite well with their generous bonuses.)

In 1956, the Nonpartisan League broke away from Republican party and merged with the democratic party.

Despite these early problems, the Bank of North Dakota survived. I think it would be a good model for the rest of the country. I don’t think that a state owned bank needs to replace large commercial lenders or the federal reserve, but would be kind of like a “public option” for individuals and small businesses who want a low interest real estate loan, student loan or small business loan. the growth of state owned banks would provide a certain amount of stability in the economy and would also benefit the states that have them.

However, the “establishment” would certainly resist having to compete with a state owned bank that did not have to give dividends to its stockholders. I can hear Glen Beck now, standing in front of his chalkboard decrying the “socialist” origins of state owned banks.

It would take a true populist movement to establish state owned banks, not the tea party types that are too ideological and anti-government. Power to the People!

See, he is an example of what I had posted about earlier, the old-school populist Democrat. He raises at least two points worth discussing:

(1) Can a genuinely populist movement be too ideological and anti-government?

(2) I think we should revive the third party he refers to: the Nonpartisan Party. It only ceased to exist because it first merged with the Republican Party and then merged with the Democratic Party.

59

That’s how old I am today. I am at the end of the middle ages and one year from being ancient. (Notice how that goes through time backwards.) I remember the advent of the personal computer, the video-recorder, the microwave oven. I went off to college before my parents bought a color TV. I remember the collapse of communism, the moon landing, the assassination of JFK (and RFK and MLK). On the days after one memorable birthday, my 11th, I found myself, young as I was, preoccupied with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I have dim memories of seeing Elvis on Ed Sullivan. I saw Jimi Hendrix in concert. I have actually seen and heard and done and experienced quite a lot during my six decades. Unlike those who say they have no regrets and would do everything all over again, I do have lots of regrets and would do plenty of things differently. Through it all, I have been blessed with a wonderful family, both growing up and now the one of my own. And I have found what I was looking for in my spiritual pilgrimage, or, rather, been found. So my life has been plenty full enough. I could shuffle off my mortal coil at any time, and it would be OK.


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