Monday, May 26, 2008

Is the price worth it?

Was getting rid of Saddam Hussein worth it? I mean, Saddam was a brutal dictator. He murdered millions of Iraqi people. But he didn't hurt Americans, or even threaten to hurt us. Other dictators murdered millions of his own countrymen, and those dictators are friends of the U.S.A. So was getting rid of Saddam worth the price?

In 2003, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney said that invading Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam wouldn't cost that much. Among other terrible things in order to scare the people to attacking Iraq (WMD the most prominent), they said the Iraqi people could bear the brunt of this war.

That isn't so. After a year or so, it was obvious that either the Iraqis wouldn't handle the load, or they was too broke to do so.

Bush and Cheney also said Iraqi oil will pay for the majority.

But that isn't so either. According to an article in the Washington Post, Iraqi oil production went down after the invasion than before. Part of the reason for this is that Iraqi insurgents are skimming large portions of the oil profits to fund the insurgency, with bribes playing a major role in the operation.

In the mean time, it wasn't the "surge" that caused the casualty levels of U.S. troops to go down. It was the American officers bribing the Iraqi insurgency to switch sides and fight al-Qaeda. Better to pay Iraqis to fight al-Qaeda than to fight them yourselves! But those bribes are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, and obviously must go on indefinitely since everyone knows what will happen if the bribes stop.

So, what’s the cost of getting rid of Saddam Hussein?

For one, there are over 4,000 dead American soldiers since the war began. But those deaths are worth it, right?

And there is an estimated one million dead Iraqis in that time. But, according to retired general Tommy Franks, "We don't do [Iraqi] body counts." So those deaths are definitely worth it.

What about the over 30,000 injured, maimed, and disabled U.S. soldiers, and countless of Iraqis. Is the price worth it?

There is also the total destruction of Iraq and the millions of Iraqis who have had to flee the country. By and large, Americans feel that that cost has been worth it.

And now, the Federal Reserve, in obvious panic over the state of the financial markets, was working overtime to come up with a bailout plan for Bear Stearns, also using the opportunity to lower interest rates again rather than simply wait until its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

A Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has co-authored a book with Linda Bilmes, former assistant secretary of commerce, entitled The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. According to them, the U.S. government has spent $600 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As when Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, and as the dollar continues to crash in international markets, at least Saddam Hussein is dead.

Is the price worth it?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Freedom and God

I love liberty. I have a passion for being free. I want to live my life anyway I choose, as long as I don't hurt or interfere with anybody else, and I want others to live their lives as they choose, so long as they don't hurt or interfere with anybody else, including me. If I want to paint my house a different color, I should be free to make my decision. If my neighbor wants to move and sell his house, and another person wants to buy and move in next to me, I have no right. That decision is between my old and new neighbor, not me. And the government has no right to tell me what color my home ought to be, or what kind of neighbor ought to live in my neighborhood. In fact, the only role of government (in my utopia) is to secure each individual's rights, and the people have carte blanche on what their rights are (as long as our "rights" don't imply another's obligations). That is the epiphany of liberty.

I also love the Lord. I love God, His Son Jesus, and the Bible is God's Word. Even though I found libertarianism recently (in '02), I was a Christian as long as I remember (I was saved when I was 8 years old). As the definition of Christian means (literally) "like Christ", I follow the famous initials, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?; if Jesus would do it, then I would do it too). I follow the Ten Commandments, and all God's teachings through the Bible. And (in Matthew 22:37-40), the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all of my heart, sole, and mind, and the second is to love my neighbor (i.e., mankind) as myself, and I obey God's scripture. The Bible is just like a user's manual for my life. But, in reality, obeying God's teachings are irrelevant. The only thing God asks of you is to let God come inside your heart, confess your sins, and He will save you. And I did that when I was 8.

Did I sin after I have been saved? Unfortunately, yes. In Romans 3:23, all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, including me. The only man who didn't sin is Jesus, and Jesus died on the cross for our sins, past and the future. So if you confess your sins, and believe with your heart, God will forgive you. Combining freedom and God, I am a Christian libertarian.

Some will say that "Christianity" and "libertarianism" are an oxymoron. Christians, to them, means teaching God's word, and if someone refuse to obey God, those Christians want to force the unbeliever to "straighten the course" (the antithesis of libertarianism). And libertarians, to them, means conservatives who smoke pot, do other drugs, sleep with prostitutes, and do other victimless but immoral behavior (the antithesis of Christianity). In other words, the two don't mix.

But you know what? Jesus Christ is a libertarian! The Lord is an all powerful God Who is willing to permits humanity to turn its back on Him. Is there any better way to show tremendous respect for individual will and free choice than that? The greatest gift God bestows for all mankind is the gift of free will.

Do you remember in Matthew 19:16-22, and again in Mark 10:17-22 (et al), as Jesus was walking down the road, a young rich man approach Him and said is there anything he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the 1st thing is to know and follow the Ten Commandments. The young man replied he did that and will do that; what more? Jesus answered again and said to the man to sell his belongings, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Me. Unable to part with his possessions, the young man walked away sad.

What did Jesus do to the young rich man? Remember, He fed 5,000 men and women with five loaves of bread and two fish, walked on the sea, healed a girl from death, cured the sick, and made a deaf-mute hear and speak plainly. Do you recall the two greatest commandments are to love God and our neighbor. But the young rich man turned his back on his neighbor. What was Jesus' reaction? Did he cause the money to float in the air from the man to the poor and needy? When the rich young man was asleep, did Jesus cause his wealth to disappear and reappear in the arms of the poor?

On the contrary, when the young man made his choice, Jesus simply permitted it and then live with it. Isn't this what liberty is all about? Each person is free to love God...or not. He is free to love his neighbor...or not. If the government is permitted to interfere with the choices by coercing people, through fines and imprisonment, into loving God or their neighbors, then it diminishes God's gift of free will.

It all boils down to this: all mankind are endowed by God with unlimited freedoms, and all governments want to take their freedom back; different degrees with different governments.

The basic principle of libertarianism is not anarchic. There are real limits. My freedom will end where yours begins. Neither the community nor I have any claim whatsoever on your property or your life.

And what about the Christian element? Christianity is integral to the core philosophy of libertarianism, as without the spiritual core of its demand for individual liberty and personal responsibility, libertarianism has a tendency to devolve into simple utilitarianism, which eventually leads to the very collectivism it was conceived to oppose. Christianity is timeless and so provides the inexhaustible spring of moral refreshment that is necessary to any political ideology that hopes to resist corruption over time.

The link between Christianity and libertarianism is very simple. The Christian moral philosophy includes the libertarian principles that it is wrong to initiate violence and it is wrong to steal. Christianity is, therefore, a libertarian religion. Since Christians accept the premises of libertarianism, they should, logically, reach the same conclusions about the morality of government. If it is morally wrong for a Christian to steal or to initiate violence, it should also be morally wrong for a Christian to advocate, condone, recommend, approve, or authorize someone else committing these crimes in his or her behalf. So it is morally wrong for a Christian to advocate, condone, recommend, approve, or authorize government taxation, punishment, legislation, war, or violence of any kind. The only role of government is to secure people's unalienable rights. The rest is voluntary interaction with each other--there is no government.

To love Christ and to love liberty; that is what it means to be a Christian libertarian, and that is me.