Religious perspectives on money-lending

So, I had an encounter with a rather unreasonable libertarian atheist who insisted the Church held back economic development for centuries by outlawing usury, which he said to be a clear indicator of an anti-capitalist worldview. This position is simplistic, contains error in basic facts, and a possible example of anachrony in narrating historical events.

While there existed since Gratian a broad principle that the lending of money for profit is sinful, often overlooked is the fact that canon lawyers used the word “interest” to mean a lawful charge for the loan of money. Generally this was seen as a fair charge to cover factors like risk and opportunity cost. “Usury” then and today has connotations of an unreasonable charge on borrowing money. In the Church, the law on this was often unclear and for a long time not systematized. Many inveighed against charging interest on personal loans, but not commercial ones. Some condemned both.

The Medieval Church proclaimed blanket prohibitions on usury in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. However, this must be seen in light of the economic structure of the time. Borrowing prior to the twelfth century was almost entirely for consumption rather than production or investment. In an agrarian society, tillers of the soil tend to simply borrow to get through hungry periods before the harvest.

With the rapid development of commerce in the 11th and 12th centuries, however, the Church began to properly systematize the law on usury and declared many for-profit financing operations and credit devices as non-usurious. The Church and the Papacy were themselves borrowers and lenders of large sums of money at interest, and Church institutions themselves pioneered strategies for investing the large sums of money they had lying idle in deposit.

Today, governments are borrowing large amounts of money to cover day-to-day operations, like the welfare bill, that they cannot pay off with direct tax collections in the course of a fiscal year. That cannot be justified like borrowing for large, expensive infrastructure projects with long-term benefits. So we might want to consider the nuances of the Medieval Church’s position on borrowing and debt.

The Jewish perspective on this is very similar with some interesting differences. Rabbi Baruch Epstein of Belarus, writing in the early 20th century, says that with economic development in the latter Middle Ages, offering a loan to a neighbour was no longer only to offer him some of your surplus to get him through bad days. It was now handing over capital and ultimately the main tool by which one earns a livelihood. This can be classed as an investment, which enjoys greater esteem in Jewish law than the acceptable interest-free loans and the totally forbidden act of usury.

However, Jewish law, unlike the Church and other systems, never drew a distinction between taking interest and usury. Thus there is the legal category called iksa, where the lender becomes a silent partner in the business so it is not considered a loan at all but an investment.

As is said in the Talmud:

He who lends money is greater than he who performs charity; and he who forms a partnership is greater than all (Talmud Shabbat 63a).

I used to disparage the iksa system as a legal fiction to justify usury but lately I see a beautiful consistency in it.

Good sources on this are Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition by Harold Berman, and Judaism, Law, and the Free Market by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz.

On the Proposed EU Boycott of the Yesha

Israeli settlements are one of those things considered beyond respectability by international community and foreign observers. Even most of Israel’s supporters will issue condemnations of the enterprise, or at least the extent of them. Settlements are seen as an ogre, a villainous enterprise, as beloved as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I have respectable acquaintances that boycott goods produced by settlers, some of whom I would describe as in no way anti-Zionist or anti-Jewish. They may not be reflective of the type of people that generally boycott such goods, but I actually respect their decision. I don’t want Israel to continue ruling over a people that don’t want them there, a situation that has brought out the worst in some Israelis and is a massive burden on the populace (let alone the legitimate grievances this situation creates for the Arabs).

I don’t support efforts by anyone who boycotts anything Israeli or tries to blacklist the country. I believe its fair to say that the majority of those who do so are utter swine; the sinister scum of the earth, whether they be misguided Communists or demented Islamists. Firstly, and most importantly, a peace process needs to be inclusive, not focused on demonizing one side. Then there are plenty of other overlooked aspects of boycotts directed at Israel. Israelis are very aware of being singled out, which increases the popularity of the right-wing and more nationalists parties who present themselves as better protectors of the nation. Thanks, Western leftists! Looking at the statistics, it seems the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign hasn’t much of an effect either way. Israeli exports are going strong, and stronger every year. Its the boycotters themselves who have gotten poorer by depriving themselves of alternate voices; for instance, from the ban on speakers who defend Israel in many European universities.

Now, on May 15th of this year Eamon Gilmore, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, suggested he may lobby for an EU-wide ban of Israeli settlement goods. While I may not have a problem with reasonable individuals with decent intentions boycotting settlement goods, for a number of reasons I do not support this state effort. As a libertarian, I don’t want any government making demands on another unless the countries in question are in an actual conflict with each other. Governments also shouldn’t be deciding what I can or cannot buy in stores or import from elsewhere. This is particularly true when there is no such boycott directed against other countries with similar problems, from Turkish-occupied Cyprus, Western Sahara, Tibet and China or West Papua New Guinea. Justice cannot be administered in a checkerboard manner.

It must also be said that the situation with settlements is not as black and white as some make it out to be. There are areas within the territories captured by Israel in 1967 that make far more sense to be in the Jewish State, such as the Western Wall, Mount Scopus (the original home of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Mount Scopus was actually agreed to be Israeli territory in the 1949 Armistice Agreement, but was cut off from Israel by the Jordanians contrary to the deal. UN officers and Israeli police were fired upon and killed trying to reach it. There are Jewish holy sites in the region that are in serious danger without Israeli or some other kind of supervision. Joseph’s Tomb has been set on fire by Arab mobs, and Jewish worshipers have been shot by Palestinian police there in recent years. There may need to be an area of Hevron set aside for Jewish pilgrims no matter what kind of peace settlement occurs. The idea of land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state have been agreed upon by all sides already. This would incorporate some settlement blocs into Israel, such as Gush Etzion (which existed prior to 1848) in exchange for predominantly Arab areas of Israel.

Withdrawal from the territories may be desirable, but it cannot be done in a way that will require Israeli incursion there in the future, should it become a base for missile attacks against vulnerable targets within Israel; particularly the Gush Dan region and Ben Gurion Airport.

Thus, for the sake of small, unintrusive government and a sensible peace process, I heartily recommend signing the below petition against this proposed boycott. This is a recently-started second petition, to replace one that passed 1000 signatures in the last few days but was removed for reasons not yet known.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs: No to an EU ban on Israeli Goods

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UPDATE (May 23rd): It appears that Avaaz, the site that hosted the original petition before it was removed, is part of the Soros Shadow Empire and should not be confused with normal petition sites that host grassroots demands for change.

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The Hypocrisy of the Anti-Zionist Left: Relations With Neturei Karta

If you are a friend of Israel online, chances are that an opponent has at some time has given you a link to the little anti-Zionist Haredi sect known as Neturei Karta. That person, who generally knows nothing about Judaism, might then lecture you that Zionism is an affront to Judaism. If you observe anti-Israel demonstrations in London, no doubt you will see a handful of this bunch put on prominent display. Our old friend David Norris even gave them a positive mention in the Irish Senate.

In recent days you will probably have encountered anti-Israel activists express horror over extremism in Israel, pointing to the group of Neanderthals harassing girls of elementary school age in Beit Shemesh. You have no doubt been warned about the route Israel is supposedly going down. You have no doubt been told that Israel is just as bad as Iran or Afghanistan.

What you wont be told is that the Haredim engaged in these atrocities are an anti-Zionist grouping known as the Sikrikim, affiliated with Neturei Karta and composed mainly of anti-Zionist Hasidic fanatics. You wont be told that this group vandalizes religious Jewish bookstores that sell what they consider to be Zionist material, and consider licking ice-cream cones an affront to Judaism. You wont be told that they even beat up other Haredi Jews who enter their ‘turf’ in Mea Shearim.

Similarly, you wont be told that Neturei Karta claimed the Hasidic Jewish couple and their guests murdered in the infamous Mumbai attacks deserved it, or that these Neturei Karta people sound awfully like a Jewish equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church. You can see for yourself videos of anti-Zionist Sikrikim calling eight-year old girls ‘whores’ and ‘abominations’. Despite the fact that other Orthodox Jews, from the Haredi or Religious Zionist camps, are often victims of Sikrikim behavior, judging by the internet forms they will be linked to it because some people outside Israel are unable to distinguish fanatical anti-Zionist Haredim from the average observant Jew.

You wont be told all this because the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Socialist Workers Party and Anti-War Movement want to continue to march with Neturei Karta. You wouldn’t want the supposedly progressive anti-Zionist left to feel a bit awkward or hypocritical marching with people less sophisticated than most Jews were in Medieval times. No doubt that George Galloway will continue to speak at conferences with Neturei Karta and give them a warm reception on his radio shows.

P.S. The Neturei Karta website is particularly bizarre, recycling many anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic canards. They assert such gems as a supposed offer by Hitler to let all the Jews of Europe leave through Spain, provided they did not go to the British Mandate of Palestine. Those notorious softies in the Nazi Party apparently backed down because Ben Gurion opposed it. It should come as no surprise what the people who believe this stuff, David Norris’s favorite Jews, are capable of doing, even to their fellow Jews.

Saving Gilad Shalit

One has to admire the dedication among Israelis for safeguarding their people. Some people I know have balked at the numbers: over a thousand convicted enemy leaders and fighters for a single captured Israeli soldier (Islamists must surely be comforted at the thought that one of them is worth about 70 grams of a single Israeli). I expected so much. Israel has a record of lopsided prisoner exchanges: the vile Samir Kuntar and several other terrorists freed for two Israeli corpses in 2008;  5,500 Egyptian soldiers following the Sinai campaign of 1956 for the lives of the four Israeli captured Israelis; and the over 8,000 Egyptians following the 1973 Yom Kippur War given in exchange for 240 Israeli soldiers.

The policy has deep roots in Jewish history. Jewish communities were often vulnerable to bandits and governments who kidnapped for high ransom. Duty to a captured Jew always prevailed over fears of encouraging future kidnappings and the financial burden. From Israel Abraham’s classic Jewish Life in the Middle Ages:

When toward the end of the fifteenth century Alfonso V of Portugal captured the African seaports, Arzilla and Tangier, he carried off 250 Jews of both sexes and every age, and sold them as slaves throughout the kingdom. The Portuguese Jews applied to Yechiel of Pisa, financier and philanthropist, and he generously assisted his brethren. Lisbon Jews formed a representative committee of twelve members, and the famous statesman-scholar Don Isaac Abrabanel himself travelled over the whole country and redeemed the Jewish slaves, often at a high price. The ransomed Jews and Jewesses, adults and children, were clothed, lodged, and maintained until they had learned the language of the country and were able to support themselves.

Such acts are the definition of people-hood, of a nation. It is similarly good policy in a country where most of its Jewish youth must sacrifice years of their lives in its defense. I always knew Shalit would come home, no matter what the price. Gilad is everyone’s son, everyone’s brother. It was impossible not to get emotional on seeing the footage of a son embracing his father for the first time in five years.

Gilad looked gaunt. “He suffers from several light wounds that persisted as result of lacking treatment, shrapnel injuries and the implications of not being exposed to sunlight,” Noam Shalit said. “He came out of some dark pit or dark cellar and encountered such commotion out here.” The Israelis were dignified in their treatment of a young man who hadn’t even seen sunlight in several years. There was no intensive questioning, and he was quickly escorted to his home in northern Israel.

That was a great contrast to the unscrupulous Egyptian television reporters and the awful BBC (which should really adopt a more accurate name, like Palestine Update or PUTV). The Jerusalem Post reports that Gilad’s interview was used as propaganda. Behind him was an intimidating minder in a balaclava and a Qassam Brigade green headband. The journalist interviewing him sat by an Egyptian flag. He had already fainted once on his journey to Egypt. Yet he faced bizarre, intense questioning and had his answers deliberately mistranslated by both Egyptian and BBC/Palestine Update interpreters.

‘“During all that time of captivity, you did just one video to tell the world and your family that you’re alive,” she tells the soldier. “Why just once? Why didn’t it happen again?”  Rather than letting him answer, however, Schalit’s Hamas minder-cum-interpreter scolds Amin for asking the same question twice (a peculiar accusation, given the footage shows the question hadn’t been asked before).

‘The resulting argument between interviewer and minder is one of the interview’s more regrettable scenes. Amin says Schalit appears unwell, and “that’s why I’m asking the question again” – as if drilling him repeatedly will have a salutary effect. The question is itself absurd, roughly tantamount to asking a hostage victim why he or she didn’t escape sooner.

‘… Amin proceeds to ask Schalit what “lessons” he learned in captivity. After asking for the question to be repeated, he says he believes a deal could have been reached sooner. Here the Hamas minder renders his response as praise for reaching a deal “in such short time”- a mistranslation repeated by the BBC’s own interpreter.

‘”Gilad, you know what it’s like to be in captivity,” Amin continues as the painful charade drags on. “There are more than 4,000 Palestinians still languishing in Israeli jails. Will you help campaign for their release?”

‘Schalit’s answer, after a few seconds’ stunned silence, is superior: “I’d be very happy if they were released,””he says, then adds the caveat, “provided they don’t return to fighting Israel.”’

‘Again, the Egyptian interpreter fails to translate the sentence’s second clause, and again the omission is repeated by the BBC’s translator, though he too was apparently translating from Hebrew in real-time. ‘I will be very happy for the prisoners to go free, so that they can be able to go back to their families, loved ones and territory. It will give me great happiness if this happens,’ the BBC’s interpreter relays.’

The bias of the BBC/Palestine Update was just as evident when Jon Donnison interviewed one of the freed Hamas terrorists, Ahmad Abu Taha, and says to him:

You are 31 years old, ten years in prison, serving a life sentence for being a member of Hamas. I mean, how do you feel today?

Well, Abu Taha was in fact involved in preparing explosives for Hamas terrorists in Ramallah, including the car bomb that exploded in Giva’at Ze’ev in Jerusalem on 29 July 2001. A member of the Ibrahim Abu Rub and Ballal Baraguti organizations, he transported the suicide bomber Ra’ad Baraguti from Ramallah to Jerusalem, where he exploded on Hanevi’im Street on 4 September 2001 and injured 14 people. Yet on the planet of the BBC/Palestine Update he was arrested just for ‘being a member of Hamas’.

Still, it has been an inspiring couple of days. Gilad, I wish you well and I am delighted you have slept in your own home for the first time in almost 2000 days. Congratulations are also due to all those who played a part in Gilad’s release, and to the Israeli people, who never abandoned him.

Ron Paul Victory at the Values Voter Summit

Economic historian Tom DiLorenzo writes:

“After Ron Paul’s decisive victory in the Value Voters straw poll in which his nearest competitor was eleven percentage points behind, Faux News had this running headline on the screen to announce the results:

“Herman Cain Comes in Second in Value Voters Straw Poll.” The anchorette did manage to mention that Ron Paul “also did well” without mentioning any details about the vote totals”.

Nevertheless, Ron Paul’s speech was powerful and worth reading. It reminds us of the biblical view of big government and of how the state undermines the family. He certainly deserved this latest victory.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL (R-TX): Thank you. Thank you. So early in the morning, too. I appreciate that. Thank you very much for coming.

And I appreciate very much this opportunity to visit with you to talk about families. Obviously family values are very, very important. And, as was mentioned in the introduction, I have delivered a few babies. And that does contribute to family, let me tell you. (Laughs.)

But also I’m from a rather large family. I have four brothers. But we have five children and 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren as well. (Cheers, applause.)

But, you know, the one thing that is fascinating to me when we bring new life into the world or a new baby comes into the family has always been the reaction of the siblings – maybe one, two, or three, four years old. I’m always fascinated with the intrigue of the siblings looking at a small baby. And I thought, well, that was natural and good and really symbolizes what the family is all about.

Unfortunately, our families have been under attack. And I have a few ideas about why that has occurred and what we might do about it. But the value of the family was something that was early described in the Bible. And there’s one reference to the family that I thought was very important. That was in Samuel, 1 Samuel, chapter eight. And this is when the people, not the elders, came to Samuel when he was very old and they knew he would be passing on, so the people came and said to Samuel, what we need is a king. We need a king to take care of us. We want to be safe and secure.

And Samuel, although he knew he wasn’t going to be around long, he advised the people of Israel not to accept the king, because the king, he warned, would not be generous. He would undermine their liberties. There would be more wars. There would be more taxes. And besides, accepting the notion of a king would reject the notion that, up until that time, since they had left Egypt, their true king was their God and the guidance from their God.

But the governing body was the family. And they did not have kings, but they had judges. And that’s what Samuel was. But this was the time there was a shift away from the judges and the family into a king. And I think a lot of that has happened to us in this country. We have too often relied on our king in Washington, and we have to change that. (Cheers, applause.)

Samuel warned that the king would want to make servants of the people. And he even talked about taxes going up and he talked about the use of young men being drafted and he talked about the women and young women being used by the king. And the warning was not heeded, as Samuel didn’t expect it to be heeded. But he also said that if you depend on the king, the morality of the people will be rejected, the emphasis on the people themselves; the morality should come from the people and not from the king. And generally it doesn’t work that way.

You know, morality of the people or the lack of morality of the people can be reflected in the law. But the law never can change the morality of the people. And that is very important. (Cheers, applause.)

In the 1960s and the 1970s, there were dramatic changes in our country. During the Vietnam War there was a lot of antiwar sentiment. There were a lot of drugs. This was the decade that abortion was done flagrantly against the law. And, lo and behold, the laws got changed after the morality changed.

But it was also – about the time we had Roe versus Wade, we also had the breakdown of our monetary system, the rejection of the biblical admonition that we have honest weights and measures and honest money. And not to have honest weights and measures meant we were counterfeiting the money and destroying the value of the money, which implies, even in biblical times, they weren’t looking for a central bank that was going to counterfeit our currency. (Cheers, applause.)

But the culture certainly changed. The work ethics changed. The welfare state grew. And it wasn’t only for the poor who were looking to be taken care of, but we finally ended up with a system where the lobbyists were from the rich corporations and the banks that would come to Washington and expect to get their benefits. And the whole idea of a moral society changed.

But, you know, biblically there’s a lot of admonitions about what the family should be in charge of. Certainly the 10th commandment tells us something about honoring our parents and caring for them. It didn’t say work out a system where the government will take care of us from cradle to grave. No, it was an admonition for us to honor our parents and be responsible for them, not put them into a nursing home and say the federal government can take care of them. Besides, sometimes that leads to bankruptcies and the government can’t do it anyway. So that responsibility really falls on us.

In the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, Christ was recognized to be the prince of peace. He was never to be recognized as the promoter of war. And he even said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the children of God.” He never said blessed are the war makers. It was the peacemakers that we must honor and protect. (Cheers, applause.)

Christ was very, very clear on how we should treat our enemies. And some days I think we quite frequently forget about that. Early in the history of Christianity, they struggled with the issue of war and peace, because Christ taught about peace. Did that mean Christ was advocating pacifism? The early church struggled with this and came to the conclusion, at least in those early years, that Christ was not a pacifist, but he was not a war promoter.

And this is when they came up with the just-war principles, saying, yes, war could be necessary, but only under dire circumstances, and it should be done with great caution. All other efforts should be exhausted before we go to war, and always under the proper authority. And today I think the proper authority is not the U.N. or the NATO forces to take us to war. (Cheers, applause.)

We are taught in the New Testament about caring for the poor and caring for our families and our neighbors and friends. But never did Christ say, you know, let’s go and lobby Rome to make sure we’re taken care of. It was a personal responsibility for us. Christ was confronted at one time by a prostitute, but he didn’t call for the centurions. He didn’t call for more laws. But he was very direct and thought that stoning was not the solution to the problem of prostitution.

So do laws take care of these things, or do we need a better understanding of our Christian values and our moral principles?

Life is most precious. I talk about life and liberty. I defend liberty to the nth degree, as long people aren’t hurting and killing each other and stealing and robbing. But you cannot defend liberty unless you have a clear understanding of life. And believe me, as an experienced physician and knowing the responsibility of taking care of life, from the earliest sign of life – I know, legally and morally, I have a responsibility to take care of two lives. And therefore you cannot be a great defender of liberty if you do not defend and understand what life is all about and where it comes from. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, many great religions, and especially both the Old and New Testament, talks about a golden rule. And I think it’s an important rule. We want to treat – we should treat other people the way we want to be treated. And I would like to suggest that possibly we should be thinking about having a foreign policy of the golden rule and not treat other countries any way other than the way we want to be treated. (Cheers, applause.)

There were great dreams by Isaiah in the Old Testament about the time that would come when the swords would be bent into plowshares and spears into pruning forks, the dream of ending the wars and to the point where peace is prosperous. And I have come to a strong conviction that one of the most greatest threats to the family is war. It undermines the family. (Cheers, applause.)

Just in our last decade, an undeclared war that we’re dealing with, we’ve lost over 80,000 – 8,500 men and women in our armed services. We have 40,000 who have returned, many of them with severe amputations. And it’s, in essence, forgotten by the general population of this country. We have literally hundreds of thousands begging and pleading for help.

I talked to a young man the other day and he was telling me about losing all his buddies and his frustration with the war and not having a goal of winning the war and not knowing when it would end. And yet his conclusion was – almost in tears he said to me, he says, I lost my buddies over there, but now I’m losing many of them to suicide.

And when you think of this, of what the consequences of war, the death and destruction, what does it do to the families? What does it do to the husbands and the wives and the mothers and the daughters who have to deal with these problems? So, yes, it is very, very damaging. War costs a lot of money. It causes a lot of poverty. Poverty and the economic crisis in this country is undermining the family. But $4 trillion of debt has been added in the last 10 years to fight a war that seems to have no end.

Wars generally lead to inflation, the destruction of money. We don’t honor the biblical principles of honest money. We invite this idea that we can spend endlessly and we can print the money, and literally it undermines the family and undermines the economic system. When you lose a job, it’s harder to keep the family together.

Divorce rates are very, very high among the military, because these young men are being sent back two and three and four times. And there was one story told me about a little boy, a little boy who was 10 years old, and his dad was getting ready to go back again. He was screaming, I hate you, daddy, I hate you, daddy, because he was leaving him.

So this is why, in the early church, they talk about being very careful about going into war, and also to be thinking about the admonition that peace is far superior to war. That should be our goal. (Cheers, applause.)

The goal of a free society, from my viewpoint, is to seek virtue and excellence. And only we as individuals can do that. When we turn this over to the government, when we seek our king and depend on our king, it can only be done at the sacrifice of liberty. And that means eventually all liberties – our personal liberties, our civil liberties, our religious liberties, our right to teach our children and our responsibility to teach our children, whether it’s home schooling or religious school – it’s always under attack.

The more we turn it over to the government – it was a sad day in this country when we went this full measure about acknowledging the authority of the federal government to educate our children. There was a time when the Republican Party said that we shouldn’t even have a Department of Education. And I believe it should go back to the family, not the federal government. (Cheers, applause.)

If we – if we do not get our moral values from our government, which I think it’s impossible to get it from them, where does it come from? First, it comes from us as individuals. We have the responsibility for dealing with our eternity and salvation. But we have our responsibility to ourselves to do the best we can with our own lives.

But then our next step is our families; you know, our children and our parents, and then our neighbors and our churches. That’s where the moral values should come from. And, quite frankly, that is where I think we have slipped. So you can pass all the laws that you want. You can fight more wars than ever that’s going to bring us peace and prosperity. But if the basic morality of the people does not change, it will not matter. We must change our hearts if we expect to change our family and treat our family values as they should be. (Applause.)

We have been blessed in this country by having the freest and the most prosperous. We’ve had a good Constitution, far from perfect. But today we are living way beyond our means. We are living in debt. And debt is not a biblical principle, whether it’s personal debt or whether it’s a national debt. We owe $3 trillion to people overseas. We are suffering from a mountain of debt because we have accepted this idea that we have this responsibility to mold the world, mold the people and mold the economy.

Government is incapable of doing that. The responsibility of the government is to provide the environment which is proper to allow us to thrive, for us to work hard and have the incentive. If we have our right to – (applause) – if we have a right to our life and liberty, why is it that we don’t fight for the right to keep the fruits of our labor? (Cheers, applause.)

If we accepted that, there would be no demands for the king. The people – the early Israelites demanded the king to be taken care of. But we have too, and we have accepted this notion as a country and as a whole that the king will take care of us.

But I prefer the different king, the original king, the instruction that comes from our creator, not from our government. Our government should be strictly limited to the protection of the liberties that allow us to thrive. (Cheers, applause.) And our liberties and our economy, they are under attack today. There is no doubt about it.

So we will have to meet up and make these decisions. To me, the most important decision that we have to ask, just as they asked, you know, in biblical times, as well as at the time of our founding of this country, what should be government like? What should the role of government be? It isn’t, you know, where do you cut this penny or this penny, and what do we do here and there, and tinker around the edges. It should be what should the role of government be? The founders said the role of government ought to be the protection of liberty. That is what the role of government ought to be. (Cheers, applause.)

But the experiment is about to end unless we reverse this trend. I would say that we have gone downhill nearly for 100 years, especially for the last 10, and especially for the last four, when we think of our economy. But the real challenge is, are we going to transition from the republic to the empire and to dictatorship? And there are so many signs that we are, you know, transforming into empire and dictatorship. And just think of the bearing down on our personal liberties today. Think about what happens when we go to the airports. Think about now you have no privacy whatsoever. Now the government can look into every single thing.

So we are living in an age when government is way too big. And it’s time this government act properly, and that is to protect our freedoms. (Cheers, applause.) The – if you read the Constitution carefully, you will find out that the Constitution is directed at the government. There aren’t restraints placed in the Constitution on you. The restraints are that you don’t hurt and kill people, that you fulfill your promise that you’re honest and you fulfill your moral obligation. The restraints are placed on the federal government.

So as long as we allow the federal government to grow and we don’t obey those restraints, things will get worse. But the good news is there’s a whole generation of Americans right now rising up and saying we were on the right track at the right time. Let’s get back on that track. Let’s restore liberty to this country and prosperity and peace. (Cheers, applause.)

Thank you.

(Music.)

(END)

Fugitive Slaves in Ancient Israel

How great it is to incorporate some lessons and issues from the Bible into this blog, even for a short post tying in with something I wrote here earlier. I couldn’t resist bringing this up after studying some of the Laws of Deuteronomy earlier today. In Deuteronomy 23:16-17, Israel is given an obligation concerning the treatment of escaped slaves, reading (from the Tanakh of the Jewish Publication Society):

You shall not turn over to his master a slave who seeks refuge with you from his master. He shall live with you in any place he may choose among the settlements in your midst, wherever he pleases; you must not ill-treat him.

What a remarkable departure this is from the norm of the Ancient World. The Code of Hammurabi stipulated that all escaped slaves be returned to their owners, on pain of stiff penalties. The Fugitive Slave Law in America lasted until the end of the War Between the States. In his excellent Pentateuch & Haftorahs, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Joseph H. Hertz, noted in his commentary that despite the noticeable laws surrounding slaves in the Torah, slavery in Ancient Israel & Judah was appears to have been very rare. Throughout Scripture, there are no references to slave markets in the Land, and scant indeed are mentions of slaves among Israelite society.

The obligation to shelter escaped slaves and treat them kindly might explain this situation, along with the commandment to free slaves on the Jubilee year, as well as to release a slave upon his seventh year of service (Exodus chap. 21 and Deuteronomy chap. 15). This relates to the libertarian and humanitarian arguments I mentioned in favor of the Secession of the Confederate States of America. In the libertarian scholar Jeffery Rogers Hummel’s Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War’, the author argues that slavery would not have lasted very long in the Confederacy, given that the United States would no doubt have quickly repealed the widely hated Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This in turn would have created a flood of runaway slaves from the South in the direction of freedom, making slavery more costly to maintain where it existed. Famous abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison actually advocated before and during the war years that the free states secede from the slave states for this to happen. Hummel uses the example of Brazil, where slavery was outlawed in some areas but not in others. Free regions became such a haven for runaways that the costs of runaways on slave-owners became far too much to bear. Slavery was abandoned all over Brazil in 1888, without a shot fired. Human beings forced into slavery simply don’t start acting like cattle or pieces of furniture.

Interestingly, if unexpectedly, it seems that there is good evidence to support the position of Hummel and Garrison from the Bible itself.