Author Archives: Meta Capitalism

About Meta Capitalism

Passion for studying history, philosophy, science, and religion and everything in between.

Dr Pangloss’s Economism

For a little over a century, a mere blink of the eye in human history, western and westernized leaders, politicians, policymaker, and the public have operated on the belief that there can be a scientific discipline of economics, a field of study separate from moral philosophy and the natural sciences. Never mind that economics coevolved with a political discourse driven by power. Economics seemingly explains how society should be organized and people should live. The modern economic world arose around ideas generated by economists, and this world has been supported by corresponding public economistic beliefs that I refer to as “economism”.

Fullbrook, Edward ; Morgan, Jamie. Post-Neoliberal Economics (p. 97). World Economics Association Books. Kindle Edition.

It is proved that things cannot be other than they are, for since everything was made for a purpose, it follows that everything is made for the best purpose.

—Pangloss, in Voltaire’s Candide, 1759

THE KEY TO ALL THINGS

This invocation of basic economics lessons to explain all social phenomena is economism.* It rests on the premise that people, companies, and markets behave according to the abstract, two-dimensional illustrations of an Economics 101 textbook, even though the assumptions behind those diagrams virtually never hold true in the real world. Economism is an interpretive lens through which people make sense of reality. Like any such framework, it also implies a certain set of value judgments and policy choices. For example, if a simple supply-and-demand model shows that taxes reduce employment, then it follows that high tax rates are bad and should be lowered. Because it claims the authority of “economics,” economism can be a powerful rhetorical tool. And while superficial economic arguments can serve multiple purposes, in today’s world they most often justify the existing social order—and the inequality that it generates—while explaining the futility of any attempt to change it. (Kwak, James. Economism (pp. 6-7). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

For every well-intentioned proposal to help ordinary working people, economism provides an answer. Raise the minimum wage so the working poor take home more money? That’s a nice idea, but that’s not how the world works. According to Jude Wanniski, one of the pillars of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page in the 1970s, “Every increase in the minimum wage induces a decline in real output and a decline in employment.” Wanniski was an adviser to Ronald Reagan, who echoed, “The minimum wage has caused more misery and unemployment than anything since the Great Depression.” Raise taxes on the rich to pay for services for everyone else? Good try, but, Gregory Mankiw (author of one of the world’s most popular economics textbooks) explains, “as [high-income taxpayers] face higher tax rates, their services will be in shorter supply.” Or, in the words of the 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, “if you want faster economic growth, more upward mobility, and faster job creation, lower tax rates across the board is the key.”16 The examples go on and on. The problems of financial markets, health care, education, and many other fields can all be reduced to economic first principles that dictate simple solutions. (Kwak, James. Economism (pp. 7-8). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

These claims are made so often in the media and by politicians that they appear to be a natural feature of the landscape. But they all come from somewhere. They are based on a lesson that economics students learn in their first semester: the model of a competitive market driven by supply and demand. In this model, the supply and demand for any product determine its price; prices create incentives for individuals and businesses; and those incentives ensure that consumers get what they want, companies are as efficient as possible, and resources are allocated optimally across the economy. As the pathbreaking economist Paul Samuelson wrote in 1948, this basic lesson is “all that some of our leading citizens remember, 30 years later, of their college course in economics.”17 (Samuelson was well aware of the power of introductory courses: “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws—or crafts its advanced treatises,” he once said, “if I can write its economics textbooks.”18) (Kwak, James. Economism (p. 8). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

This elegant model, however, rests on a set of highly unrealistic assumptions. The definition of a competitive market requires that all suppliers offer the same product—there are no differences in features, quality, or anything else—and that each company is so small that its behavior has no effect on overall supply. If this assumption does not hold—such as in the market for cell phone service, or air travel, or automobiles, or books, or almost anything—then supply and demand do not necessarily produce the optimal price, and the allocation of resources may be distorted.19 The argument that a minimum wage increases unemployment assumes that employees are currently being paid the entire value of their work; otherwise, employers would be willing to pay slightly higher wages in order to keep them. Again, this premise is unlikely to be true in the real world of fast-food restaurants or hotels, where workers have little bargaining power and companies are therefore able to claim most of the value that their employees create. (Kwak, James. Economism (pp. 8-9). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Economism ignores these uncooperative facts and assumes the necessary assumptions, reducing all real-world questions to simple models and answering them in the same terms. In this sense, economism is like an ideology. Communism explained industrial society as the product of class struggle, with the inevitable outcome of proletarian revolution. Nationalism, the other great European ideology of the nineteenth century, saw rivalry between groups of people with a common background as the motor of history. Its lesson was that each nation should achieve political unity to promote its interests in the world. (Kwak, James. Economism (p. 9). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

“Economism” is a somewhat obscure academic term, generally used to criticize someone for overvaluing economics—by overestimating the importance of material conditions, focusing exclusively on economic metrics, applying economic methodologies when they are inappropriate, or accepting economic theory too readily.14 In this book, I use “economism” in a more specific sense, as the belief that a few isolated Economics 101 lessons accurately describe the real world. The economist Noah Smith calls this phenomenon “101ism.”15 (Kwak, James. Economism (p. 17). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Commanders of Corruption

[C]apitalism is not a monolithic form of economic organization but rather that it takes many forms, which differ substantially in terms of their implications for economic growth and elimination of poverty. The implicit assumption underlying the idea of a homogenous capitalism, the notion that all capitalist economies are fundamentally the same, reflects something of the mentality common during the cold war when two superpowers, representing two great ideologies, were struggling for the hearts and minds of peoples of the world. On the one side were countries like the United States, whose economies rested on the foundation of the private ownership of property, and on the other were communist or socialist societies, whose economies essentially did not. This distinction seemed to divide the two economic systems, and not much thought was given to the possibility that there is much more to capitalism. (Baumol et. al. 2007, vii)

Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity

Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defense. It is patriotism, and it’s essential to the preservation of our democracy and our future.

—President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., June 3, 2021

Across the world, leaders of authoritarian governments, and their cronies, are robbing their people. These leaders are kleptocrats and they are pocketing staggering sums of cash, which they move through the world’s financial systems into investments in the wealthiest Western nations. These crimes perpetrated by the kleptocrats governing Russia, China, Iran, Egypt, Hungary, Nigeria, and many more nations not only impoverish their own citizens, but all of us. More gallingly, we are assisting them in their greed and their grand corruption. Even more worrying, we are complicit in their quest for ever greater power. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (p. 12). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Central to Western complicity with kleptocrats and their associates across the globe are the armies of financial and legal advisors, real estate and luxury yacht brokers, art dealers and auction house managers, diamond and gold traders, auditors, and consulting firms, based in London and in New York and in other important global business centers, who aid and abet the kleptocrats in return for handsome fees—these are the enablers. They are motivated not only by the substantial incomes they obtain but also by the widespread failures of law enforcement across the Western democracies to impose punishments that are sufficient to serve as meaningful disincentives. At the major banks, for example, who have been prosecuted at times for multi-billion-dollar laundering of dirty cash, not a single chairman or chief executive officer has personally faced criminal charges for such activities, while the fines that are agreed to settle legal actions appear, quite simply, to be viewed by bankers as just the costs of doing business. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (pp. 12-13). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

The short-term maximization of profits is at the core of the corporate cultures at many of the world’s largest banks and multinational corporations. They are giant enterprises and some of these banks have assets under management that dwarf the GDPs of many national economies. The drive for ever bigger and quicker profits, which translate into mounting bonuses for senior executives, push issues of integrity and accountability to the sidelines. Concerns for serving the public interest, which ought to be at the center of the cultures driving vast companies, have increased in recent times as public demands and leading groups of investors have called upon these companies to pay far greater attention to how their business practices impact climate change. Gradually, arguably too slowly, these pressures are generating positive developments. But when it comes to international corruption and the roles that major banks and other giant multinational firms play, then public pressures for reform are few, investor concerns are barely visible, and corporate boards of directors charged with risk management oversight are silent. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (pp. 13-14). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Some of the activities of the enablers are illegal. Many of their actions in service to their kleptocrat clients are legal, but they do not serve the public interests of citizens in democratic nations, and indeed well beyond. By supporting the power of the kleptocrats and their associates, the enablers contribute to risks to international security, to Western democracy, and to the stability of the international financial system. The threats are now so formidable that countering the kleptocrats and their money-laundering operations has to become a leading priority for the Biden administration, the US Congress, the British government, the Commission of the twenty-seven-country European Union (EU), and other public authorities, such as those in Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These authorities are now doing more to counter illicit finance than ever before, but their combined impact is modest when seen against the full magnitude of international grand corruption and money laundering today. The necessary actions need to embrace fully the roles played by the enablers who reside in our midst, who are subject to our domestic laws and regulations, and whose operations do us so much harm. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (p. 14). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Curbing the activities of the enablers will make it far more difficult for kleptocrats and their associates to launder their stolen loot and invest it safely and profitably. It will make it far harder for authoritarian governments to access the global capital markets and secure formidable sums of cash through new bond issues. Diminishing the activities of the enablers for their corrupt clients will make the financing of terrorist organizations more difficult. It will stymie the rising efforts of some regimes, notably Russian and Chinese, to channel funds to foreign governments and organizations in their quests to disrupt democracies and diminish Western geopolitical and commercial influence. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (pp. 14-15). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

The vested interests are well-entrenched, and securing reforms to counter corrupt practices in finance and commerce more generally will be intensely difficult. The starting point is increasing broad public understanding of the activities of the enablers and why these are so damaging. Too many politicians, journalists, and concerned citizens are poorly informed about how the kleptocrats operate, how the enablers serve their clients, how inadequate are current laws and the application of relevant financial regulations, and just how much cash we are now talking about. (Vogl, Frank; Vogl, Frank. The Enablers (p. 15). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

Respecting Truth

When liars lie people die

As America approaches a million deaths from COVID-19, many thousands of families have been left wondering whether available treatments and vaccines could have saved their loved ones. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 230,000 deaths could have been avoided if individuals had gotten vaccinated.

NPR: Their mom died of COVID. They say conspiracy theories are what really killed her, GEOFF BRUMFIEL

Ignorance is the lack of true knowledge. Willful ignorance is something more. It is ignorance coupled with the decision to remain ignorant. In saying this, it is tempting to believe that if one is willfully ignorant then one must know that one is ignorant, thereby revealing a bit of savvy whereby, presumably, one knows that there is some truth out there that one wants to be insulated from. A good example of this might be our suspicion that a vast majority of the people who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 did not actually believe the nonsense that they spouted about global warming, but instead merely pretended to believe it, so that they would appeal to those voters who were actually ignorant. But this is not willful ignorance; this is dishonesty. Instead, to be truly willfully ignorant, one could neither disbelieve in the truth (for, after all, one could simply think that one’s mistaken beliefs were correct), nor affect the mere pretense of disbelieving (for that is to look at the truth with one eye and pretend not to see it). Willful ignorance is instead marked by the conviction to shut both eyes against any further investigation, because one is so firm in one’s belief that any other sources of knowledge are not needed. Here one is not only ignorant but (like Euthyphro) prefers to remain so. One does not in any sense “know” the truth (even with one eye), even though one probably does suspect that there are further sources of contravening information out there. Yet these are rejected, because they might conflict with one’s favored beliefs; if there are other sources of information, they must be ignored. This is why the false beliefs cited in the polling results show more than just ignorance. For when there are such easily available sources of accurate information out there, the only excuse for such stunning ignorance is the desire to remain so; one has actively chosen not to investigate. More than mere scientific illiteracy, this sort of obstinacy reflects contempt. But why would someone embrace such a hostile attitude toward the truth?

Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age by Lee McIntyre

At what point does “skepticism” become crackpot? How long before the preference for anecdotal over scientific evidence tips the balance toward a conspiracy theory that ranks with AIDS deniers and those who believe that NASA faked the Moon landing? Conspiracy theories are one of the most insidious forms of disrespecting truth for, even while they profess to be guided by the fervent desire to discover a truth that someone else is hiding, they simultaneously undermine the process by which most truths are discovered. Conspiracy theorists are customarily proud to profess the highest standards of skepticism, even while expressing a naïve credulity that the most unlikely correlations are true. This is disrespect, if not outright contempt, for the truth. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 47). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

Finally, we turn to the problem of rumor. After the foregoing account, it may seem that belief in rumors has nothing much in common with the set of irrational beliefs that we have dismissed so far as “crackpot.” Yet rumors too can be dangerous and far-fetched. In the absence of reliable sources of information, rumors can tempt us to believe things that in less exigent circumstances we would be highly likely to dismiss. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 47). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

The best example in recent years is the list of atrocities that allegedly occurred in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina. Armed gangs were beating and raping tourists in the street. Snipers were shooting at rescue workers. Inside the Superdome—which was home to some 25,000 refugees—muzzle flashes were said to portend mass killings with bodies piling up in the basement. Children’s throats were slit. Women were being dragged away from their families and raped. A seven-year-old girl was raped and murdered. Two babies had their throats slit. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (pp. 47-48). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

The consequences of these reports were dire. When Governor Kathleen Blanco sent the National Guard in to restore order, she did so with a stark message to the perpetrators: “I have one message for these hoodlums: these troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary, and I expect they will.” She and Mayor Ray Nagin called off rescue efforts to focus on protecting private property. Helicopters were grounded. The sheriff of one suburb that had a bridge to New Orleans turned back stranded tourists and locals, firing bullets over their heads. New Orleans had become a prison city. A team of paramedics was barred from entering the suburb of Slidell for nearly ten hours based on a state trooper’s report that a mob of armed, marauding men had commandeered boats. An ambulance company was locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers. New Orleans police shot and killed several lawbreakers as they attempted to flee across the Danziger Bridge. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 48). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

The problem is that none of the reported atrocities just described actually occurred. None. Three weeks after the storm, police superintendent Edwin P. Compass III, who had initially provided some of the most graphic reports of violence, said “we have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault.” During the alleged six-day siege inside the Superdome, Lt. David Benelli (head of the New Orleans Police Department’s sex crimes unit) lived with his officers inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. At the final count, they had made two arrests, both for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other rumored attacks had not happened.44 (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 48). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28)

The snipers who were shooting at rescue workers turned out to be a relief valve on a gas tank that popped open every few minutes. The men commandeering boats turned out to be two refugees trying to escape their flooded street. The report of the robbery at the firehouse was simply false. When the giant refrigerated trucks backed up to the Superdome to haul out the bodies, there were only six: four had died of natural causes and one from suicide, with only one dying of gunshot wounds.45 The child who was raped—and indeed each of the rapes in the Superdome—turned out to be untrue. So did the story of the murdered babies. Despite police commitment to investigate, no witnesses, survivors, or survivors’ relatives ever came forward.46 (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 48). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

What was very real, however, was the aftermath of the city’s stalled rescue efforts and the crackdown on all those alleged lawbreakers. The people who were shot by police on the Danziger Bridge turned out to include a middle-aged African American mother who had her forearm blown off. The other was a mentally disabled forty-year-old man on his way to his brother’s dental office, who was shot five times and killed. A teenager was also killed.47 And thousands of people suffered with little food, water, or medical attention for days inside the Superdome. Yes, there were confirmed reports of widespread looting after the storm, mostly for food, water, and other necessities. And there was some violence. But how did such small incidents get so wildly exaggerated? How did we all become so easily seduced into believing the worst about the refugees in New Orleans? (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (pp. 48-49). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

In a city that was two-thirds African American before Katrina hit, and substantially less diverse in the population of refugees who could afford to put thirty gallons of gas in their SUVS and flee the approaching storm, one doesn’t need to take an IAT to understand that racial bias may have had something to do with it. Indeed, many experts now feel that the power of rumor to feed into pre-existing racial stereotypes likely led to one of the most tragic instances of “confirmation bias” ever to play out on the world stage. And the tragedy is that the effect of this bias was borne by the refugees themselves, who had done nothing wrong and were begging for help. They were stranded not merely due to poor federal disaster planning and lack of supplies, but also by the palpable hesitancy of public officials to expose rescue workers to the kind of “animals” who would commit such atrocities. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 49). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

What to say about those of us who were nowhere near New Orleans? Are we off the hook? Yet how many of us even to this day knew that the reports of violence in New Orleans were untrue? Although the press bears some responsibility for not reporting the retractions with as much vigor as the alleged atrocities, the corrected stories were out there. Yet how many of us read them? How many of us were sufficiently skeptical of such incredible claims even to look? Will Rogers famously quipped that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.” Yet if we respect truth, isn’t it important to engage our critical faculties and search out better information? (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 49). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

Rumor has the power to keep us from looking for the truth only if we are willing to suspend our critical faculties. In a life-threatening situation, it is probably understandable to take rumors seriously. If we do not know what is going on and we are scared, we may feel that we cannot afford the risk to be gullible. Survival comes first. But when the danger has passed, or we are far removed from it, don’t we have an obligation to try to replace rumor with fact? (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 49). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

Truth may be the first casualty of war, but respect for truth must survive the conflict. We may not like to think of ourselves among the “Seekers,” “Birthers,” “Truthers,” or other conspiracy theorists, but the fact is that we are all probably capable of believing in crackpot theories if the circumstances are right. We demonstrate respect for truth when we are willing to resist such pressure. (McIntyre, Lee. Respecting Truth (p. 49). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.)

~ ~ ~

[B]ullshit results from the adoption of lame methods of justification, whether intentionally, blamelessly or as a result of self-deception. The function of the term is to emphatically express that a given claim lacks any serious justification, whether or not the speaker realizes it. By calling bullshit, we express our disdain for the speaker’s lack of justification, and indignation for any harm we suffer as a result. 

On Letting it Slide: Bullshit and Philosophy

Suppose someone sits down where you are sitting right now and announces to you that he or she is Napoleon Bonaparte. The last thing we want to do with them is to get involved in a technical discussion of cavalry tactics at the battle of Austerlitz. If we do that, we’re getting tacitly drawn into the game that he or she is Napoleon. For those who espouse and believe conspiracist theories they would like nothing better than to drag everyone else down the rabbit hole into fruitless discussions of false claims of pseudo-evidence without a shred of fact or truth (real evidence); they are content disrespecting truth by repeating innuendo, outright falsehoods, rumors, and otherwise parroting hearsay and falsehoods they have heard or read on social media. To go down this conspiracist rabbit hole is to tacitly agree with their fundamental assumptions that there is something there to debate when there is nothing but empty falsehoods. Their goal is to draw you too into their bullshit and to distract you away from the scientific and rational methods of finding truth based upon evidence (fact). Thoughtful individuals who respect truth find such conspiratorial claims ludicrous and the most appropriate response is to treat them as ludicrous that is, by laughing at such falsehood mongering so as not to fall into the trap of giving the impression one takes such conspiratorial falsehoods seriously.

The Lady in Red

People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

—George Orwell

In the summer of 2009, many in the world’s media suddenly became aware of a new conspiracist phenomenon. A video shot by a citizen cameraperson sitting approximately halfway back in the auditorium at a town-hall meeting in Georgetown, Delaware, on June 30 was put on YouTube a week or so later, and within days went viral. (Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories (p. 296). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 8))

The clip begins with the rangy figure of Congressman Mike Castle, Delaware’s sole representative in the U.S. House, face to the camera, choosing a questioner from the audience. “This lady in red . . .” he says. From the back it is hard to make out anything about the woman who now stands up, except that she seems to wear glasses and have her hair in what might be called a Sarah Palin semi-bun. The woman in red is brandishing something. She announces, “I have a birth certificate here from the United States of America, saying I am an American citizen, with a seal on it, signed by a doctor, with a hospital administrator’s name, my parents, my date of birth, the time, the date. I want to go back to January 20, and I want to know why are you people ignoring his birth certificate.” There is a loud cry of “Yeah!!!” and some applause, and a little booing. The woman continues, without specifying whom she is talking about—perhaps because she does not need to. “He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of Kenya! My father fought in World War Two with the greatest generation in the Pacific theater for this country, and I don’t want this flag to change.” She waves a small American flag and shouts, “I want my country back!”1 And sits back down. (Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories (pp. 296-297). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Mr. Castle, a moderate Republican, seemingly taken aback by both the sentiment and the support for it, insists that “if you’re referring to the president there, he is a citizen of the United States.” Some catcalls follow. Apparently emboldened, the questioner rises and shouts out, “I think we should all stand up and pledge allegiance to the flag!” Several people yell, “Pledge allegiance!” and one loudly opines that Castle “probably doesn’t even know it!” Surreally, Castle then leads the people of Georgetown in this enforced act of loyalty, as though there had been a doubt about his patriotism that now needed to be expunged. (Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories (p. 297). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

The Lady in Red was many people’s first Birther. But for the next few weeks the question of whether Barack Obama was an American citizen at birth, and the fact that there was a debate about that question, were hotly discussed on mainstream news channels in the United States, and the peculiarity that a significant number of Americans thought that he wasn’t a citizen (and that he was therefore ineligible to be president) was featured widely outside the country. One of the earliest Birthers, the Philadelphia lawyer (and 9/11 Truth activist) Philip J. Berg, observed that until the Delaware eruption, “the coverage has been minuscule” and confined to Internet and marginal radio stations, but that the Georgetown meeting had set off “a vast uptick.” On his radio broadcast, the sonorous CNN host Lou Dobbs, in “only asking” mode, repeatedly suggested that Obama set minds at rest by producing his long-form birth certificate. The more pungent right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh argued that the new president had “yet to prove that he’s a citizen.” (Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories (p. 297). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

At the same time, a group of mostly Texan Republican congressmen sponsored a measure, drafted by Bill Posey of Florida, “to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee’s statement of organization a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate,” a requirement that had somehow been regarded as superfluous in the previous 230 years of the republic. By mid-August 2009, a quarter of Americans polled were of the opinion that Barack Obama was not an American citizen by birth, and another 14 percent were unsure, with 10 percent naming Indonesia as his place of birth, 7 percent opting for Kenya, and 6 percent agreeing that it was Hawaii, but a Hawaii that, in their opinion, was not part of the United States in 1961 when Obama was born. Twelve percent, when prompted by the mischievous pollsters, pronounced themselves unsure that Obama wasn’t French. There were political, gender, and ethnic disparities. Sixty-two percent of Birthers were Republicans (44 percent of Republicans believed that Obama was not a citizen, compared with 36 percent who thought he was), 57 percent were “conservative,” 56 percent were male, and 86 percent were white.2 (Aaronovitch, David. Voodoo Histories (pp. 297-298). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Stalin’s Ghost

The warning signs were ample. By the early spring of 1932, the peasants of Ukraine were beginning to starve. Secret police reports and letters from the grain-growing districts all across the Soviet Union—the North Caucases, the Volga region, western Siberia—spoke of children swollen with hunger; of families eating grass and acorns; of peasants fleeing their homes in search of food. In March a medical commission found corpses lying on the street in a village near Odessa. No one was strong enough to bury them. In another village local authorities were trying to conceal the mortality from outsiders. They denied what was happening, even as it was unfolding before their visitors’ eyes.1 (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxv). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Some wrote directly to the Kremlin, asking for an explanation:

Honourable Comrade Stalin, is there a Soviet government law stating that villagers should go hungry? Because we, collective farm workers, have not had a slice of bread in our farm since January 1…How can we build a socialist peoples’ economy when we are condemned to starving to death, as the harvest is still four months away? What did we die for on the battlefronts? To go hungry, to see our children die in pangs of hunger?2

Others found it impossible to believe the Soviet state could be responsible:

Every day, ten to twenty families die from famine in the villages, children run off and railway stations are overflowing with fleeing villagers. There are no horses or livestock left in the countryside…The bourgeoisie has created a genuine famine here, part of the capitalist plan to set the entire peasant class against the Soviet government.3 (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (pp. xxv-xxvi). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

But the bourgeoisie had not created the famine. The Soviet Union’s disastrous decision to force peasants to give up their land and join collective farms; the eviction of “kulaks,” the wealthier peasants, from their homes; the chaos that followed; these policies, all ultimately the responsibility of Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, had led the countryside to the brink of starvation. Throughout the spring and summer of 1932, many of Stalin’s colleagues sent him urgent messages from all around the USSR, describing the crisis. Communist Party leaders in Ukraine were especially desperate, and several wrote him long letters, begging him for help. (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxvi). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Many of them believed, in the late summer of 1932, that a greater tragedy could still be avoided. The regime could have asked for international assistance, as it had during a previous famine in 1921. It could have halted grain exports, or stopped the punishing grain requisitions altogether. It could have offered aid to peasants in starving regions—and to a degree it did, but not nearly enough. (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxvi). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Instead, in the autumn of 1932, the Soviet Politburo, the elite leadership of the Soviet Communist Party, took a series of decisions that widened and deepened the famine in the Ukrainian countryside and at the same time prevented peasants from leaving the republic in search of food. At the height of the crisis, organized teams of policemen and party activists, motivated by hunger, fear and a decade of hateful and conspiratorial rhetoric, entered peasant households and took everything edible: potatoes, beets, squash, beans, peas, anything in the oven and anything in the cupboard, farm animals and pets. (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxvi). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

The result was a catastrophe: At least 5 million people perished of hunger between 1931 and 1934 all across the Soviet Union. Among them were more than 3.9 million Ukrainians. In acknowledgement of its scale, the famine of 1932–3 was described in émigré publications at the time and later as the Holodomor, a term derived from the Ukrainian words for hunger—holod—and extermination—mor.4 (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxvi). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

But famine was only half the story. While peasants were dying in the countryside, the Soviet secret police simultaneously launched an attack on the Ukrainian intellectual and political elites. As the famine spread, a campaign of slander and repression was launched against Ukrainian intellectuals, professors, museum curators, writers, artists, priests, theologians, public officials and bureaucrats. Anyone connected to the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic, which had existed for a few months from June 1917, anyone who had promoted the Ukrainian language or Ukrainian history, anyone with an independent literary or artistic career, was liable to be publicly vilified, jailed, sent to a labour camp or executed. Unable to watch what was happening, Mykola Skrypnyk, one of the best-known leaders of the Ukrainian Communist Party, committed suicide in 1933. He was not alone. (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (pp. xxvi-xxvii). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Taken together, these two policies—the Holodomor in the winter and spring of 1933 and the repression of the Ukrainian intellectual and political class in the months that followed—brought about the Sovietization of Ukraine, the destruction of the Ukrainian national idea, and the neutering of any Ukrainian challenge to Soviet unity. Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who invented the word “genocide,” spoke of Ukraine in this era as the “classic example” of his concept: “It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation.” Since Lemkin first coined the term, “genocide” has come to be used in a narrower, more legalistic way. It has also become a controversial touchstone, a concept used by both Russians and Ukrainians, as well as by different groups within Ukraine, to make political arguments. For that reason, a separate discussion of the Holodomor as a “genocide”—as well as Lemkin’s Ukrainian connections and influences—forms part of the epilogue to this book. (Applebaum, Anne. Red Famine (p. xxvii). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Ukraine’s Road to Unfreedom

Soviet Ukraine was the second most populous republic of the USSR, after Soviet Russia. In Soviet Ukraine’s western districts, which had been part of Poland before the Second World War, Ukrainian nationalists resisted the imposition of Soviet rule. In a series of deportations in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they and their families were sent by the hundreds of thousands to the Soviet concentration camp system, the Gulag. In just a few days in October 1947, for example, 76,192 Ukrainians were transported to the Gulag in what was known as Operation West. Most of those who were still alive at the time of Stalin’s death in 1953 were released by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ukrainian communists joined their Russian comrades in governing the largest country in the world. During the cold war, southeastern Ukraine was a Soviet military heartland. Rockets were built in Dnipropetrovsk, not far from where the Cossacks once had their fortress. (Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom (p. 120). Crown. Kindle Edition.)

Though Soviet policy had been lethal to Ukrainians, Soviet leaders never denied that Ukraine was a nation. The governing idea was that nations would achieve their full potential under Soviet rule, and then dissolve once communism was achieved. In the early decades of the Soviet Union, the existence of a Ukrainian nation was taken for granted, from the journalism of Joseph Roth to the statistics of the League of Nations. The famine of 1932–1933 was also a war against the Ukrainian nation, in that it wrecked the social cohesion of villages and coincided with a bloody purge of Ukrainian national activists. Yet the vague idea remained that a Ukrainian nation would have a socialist future. It was really only in the 1970s, under Brezhnev, that Soviet policy officially dropped this pretense. In his myth of the “Great Fatherland War,” Russians and Ukrainians were merged as soldiers against fascism. When Brezhnev abandoned utopia for “really existing socialism,” he implied that the development of non-Russian nations was complete. Brezhnev urged that Russian become the language of communication for all Soviet elites, and a client of his ran Ukrainian affairs. Schools were russified, and universities were to follow. In the 1970s, Ukrainian opponents of the Soviet regime risked prison and the psychiatric hospital to protest on behalf of Ukrainian culture. (Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom (pp. 120-121). Crown. Kindle Edition.)

To be sure, Ukrainian communists joined wholeheartedly and in great numbers in the Soviet project, helping Russian communists to govern Asian regions of the USSR. After 1985, Gorbachev’s attempt to bypass the communist party alienated such people, while his policy of glasnost, or open discussion, encouraged Soviet citizens to air national grievances. In 1986, his silence after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl discredited him among many Ukrainians. Millions of inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine were needlessly exposed to high doses of radiation. It was hard to forgive his specific order that a May Day parade go forward under a deadly cloud. The senseless poisoning of 1986 prompted Ukrainians to begin to speak of the senseless mass starvation of 1933. (Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom (p. 121). Crown. Kindle Edition.)

In summer 1991, the failed coup against Gorbachev opened the way for Boris Yeltsin to lead Russia from the Soviet Union. Ukrainian communists and oppositionists alike agreed that Ukraine should follow suit. In a referendum, 92% of the inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine, including a majority in every Ukrainian region, voted for independence. (Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom (pp. 121-122). Crown. Kindle Edition.)

Power to Choose the Mismeasure of Humanity

If you push enough oats into a horse some will spill out and feed the sparrows.

Horse and Sparrow Economic Theory

The rich man may feast on caviar and champagne, while the poor women starves at his gate. And she may not even take the crumbs from his table, if that would deprive him of his pleasure in feeding them to his birds.

Gauthier 1986, 218, Morals by Agreement, Oxford University Press

If the rich could hire other people to die for them, the poor could make a wonderful living.

Yiddish Proverb

The power to choose the measure of success

The successful campaign to eliminate distributional issues from the core of the economic discipline has its mirror image in the popularity of GDP as the measure of economic success of a nation. While the pioneer of national accounting (i.e., GDP), Simon Kusnetz, explicitly said that GDP should not be used as a measure of welfare, and few economists would explicitly advocate such use, it is also true that economists as a group have done precious little to counter the popular opinion that growth, in the sense of maximization of GDP, should be the main goal of economic policy.

GDP is the money value of final goods and services that an economy produces in a quarter or a year (i.e., not including those goods and services used as inputs in production of other goods and services). This definition makes it … a reasonable yardstick of how much money moved around in a quarter or a year, and therefore captures to some extent how much economic activity in money terms there was in that period. It is a poor measure of actual activity in absolute terms due to using money rather than physically measuring human activity or indicators of human activity (e.g., how many tons of material were moving around in a year, or how many bits of information were exchanged in a year). Some activity that commands a large premium in money terms for institutional reasons, like investment banking, even if it is only one powerful person doing a moderate amount of work, will count the same as activities of hundreds of factory workers and much more than the activity of millions of housewives. Societal changes like providing more institutional childcare or reigning in the market power of investment banks can make a huge difference in terms of measured GDP, without significantly changing the actual activities performed. Because of this reliance on using money valuations, GDP has severe issues with accurately measuring technological progress. (Häring et. al. 2012, 28-29)

This method of measuring economic activity has two things going for it. It makes the mathematics a lot easier than measuring in a sensible way. And it conforms with the implicit assumptions if mainstream economics that an extra dollar is worth the same to a poor person than it is to a rich person, just as it makes no differentiation between types of activity, for instance whether they are good (i.e., charitable work) or bad (i.e. criminal activity). If a hedge fund manager makes five billion dollars in a good year, as John Paulson reportedly did in 2010 (Burton and Kishan 2011), this is must as good in GDP terms as 13.7 million people living on a dollar a day doubling their incomes. (Häring et. al. 2012, 29)

Policies that treat human beings as social creatures and try to reach the best results in the most important dimensions of human goals cannot flag their success with equally prominent and simple statistical measures like a single number where higher is “better.” The rich and wealthy benefit most from this way of measuring the economic success of a nation, since it de-emphasizes the gains of the mass low-income people relative to those of a minority if rich people. As far as nations are concerned, it benefits nations that champion the policies favored by this approach, with the US being foremost among these. (Häring, Norbert and Douglas Nial. Economists and the Powerful [Convenient Theories, Distorted Facts, Ample Rewards]. New York: Anthem Press; 2012; pp. 28-29.)

~ ~ ~

LET’S STOP PRETENDING UNEMPLOYMENT IS VOLUNTARY

Unless you have a PhD in economics, you probably think it uncontroversial to argue that we should be concerned about the unemployment rate. Those of you who lost a job, or who have struggled to find a job on leaving school, college, or a university, are well aware that unemployment is a painful and dehumanizing experience. You may be surprised to learn that, for the past thirty-five years, the models used by academic economists and central bankers to understand how the economy works have not included unemployment as a separate category. In almost every macroeconomic seminar I attended, from 1980 through 2007, it was accepted that all unemployment is voluntary. (Farmer 2017, 47)

In 1960, almost all macroeconomists talked about involuntary unemployment and they assumed, following Keynes, the quantity of labor demanded is not equal to the quantity of labor supplied. That view of economics was turned on its head, almost single-handedly, by Robert Lucas. Lucas persuaded macroeconomists that it makes no sense to talk about disequilibrium in any market and he initiated a revolution in macroeconomics that reformulated the discipline using pre-Keynesian classical assumptions. (Farmer 2017, 47)

The idea that all unemployment is voluntary is called the equilibrium approach to labor markets. Lucas wrote his first article on this idea in 1969 in a coauthored paper with Leonard Rapping. His ideas received a big boost during the 1980s when Finn Kydland, Edward C. Prescott, Charles Long, and Charles Plosser persuaded macroeconomists to use a mathematical approach, called the Ramsey growth model, as a new paradigm for business cycle theory. The theory of real business cycles, or RBCs, was born. According to this theory, we should think about consumption, investment, and employment “as if” they were the optimal choices of a single representative agent with superhuman perception of the probabilities of future events. (Farmer 2017, 47-48)

Toyohiko Kagawa (賀川 豊彦)

The Knowledge of God

There are very many religions in the world to-day. There are religions of self-interest, of tradition or convention, of authority, of sex desire, religions which worship a given social organization, an so forth…. But the religion which Jesus taught was a Way of Life, which experiences God intuitively through life and love. For that reason the teachings of Jesus cannot be understood through theory alone. The God of Jesus is not a theoretical God of the philosopher — “The Absolute,” “The Infinite”; the God of Jesus is Himself very Life (John i. 1-4). (Kagawa 1931: 19)

The religion of Jesus is a religion of life. People who are fully alive, people who are living strongly, can understand it; but those who deny life, who do not want to live, cannot get its meaning. The God of Jesus is a God of Action. People who stay at home and read their Bibles and pray and meditate, and do nothing for the poor, who beg help before their very doors–such people will find the God of Jesus unintelligible. His God is One who is naturally reflected in a man’s heart when he has saved even one suffering human being, or lifted up one who has been oppressed. The loveless do not know God. Only when a man has plunged into the blindly struggling crowd and tried to save them from their sins and failures, can he know this God. Only through the active movement of love will he intuitively come to know the God of Action. (Kagawa 1931: 19-20)

It is important to bear in mind this distinction between the God of idea and the God of Action. Jesus thought that when the conscience is keen, God will naturally grow in the soul. It will not be out of place therefore to examine some of those attitudes of soul which Jesus pointed out to be necessary to the knowledge of God: (Kagawa 1931: 20)

(1) The Mind of the Child (Matt. xi. 25, Luke x, 21, Luke xviii, 17). There are some very difficult religions in the world. For instance, the religion of Theosophy, recently so popular, could not be understood by babies. But Christianity can be comprehended in a wonderful way even by babes in their mothers’ arms. A child a year and a half old can pray. Or again, the study of the Zen philosophy in Buddhism is unsuitable for children two or three years old. If we had to read Spinoza, Bergson, Paul Natorp, or Riechelt, in order to know God, only a few of the intelligentsia could hope to be saved. But Jesus declared that his God is intelligible to children rather than to philosophers. The revelation of God in a child’s heart shows that God naturally lives in the hearts of human beings. If God really exists, there must be no time from babyhood till death when He is not with us. (Kagawa 1931: 20-21)

When the theory of Evolution was first introduced, people concluded that Evolution had conducted the funeral of God. When Rationalism was popular, people relied on reason and dispensed with God. But more recently, since religious psychology has been studied seriously, it has become clear that religion is deeply rooted in the heart of both the individual and the race…. Some say, “Karl Marx is enough for men. I have no use for religion.” However it may be for others, for me, since my birth, I could not help but be religious…. I was made in such a fashion that I could not help but worship God. I cannot possibly be satisfied with Materialism. A desire to believe God inevitably springs up in my heart, and I cannot help but seek Him. (Kagawa 1931: 21)

Religion is like one of the senses. It is the power of the perfect human being to perceive the ultimate values…. The experience of God is a growing as well as an intuitive one; Jesus pointed to the heart of a child, when speaking of how to know God…. God reveals Himself only in an innocent heart. (Kagawa 1931: 22)

(2) The Pure in Heart. (Matt. v. 8). This is but another description of the heart of the child. To see God, one’s heart must be clear. (Kagawa 1931: 23)

(3) The Heart of the Publicans and Sinners (Matt. xxi. 31). There is a special beauty in the return of a man who, confessing his sin in his wandering life, comes back to God. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Christianity possesses three essential elements, different from those of other religions: (1) Life, (2) Self (personality, character), and (3) Salvation. It is a characteristic of the religion of Jesus that through it people who have lost their personality through living an aimless life are once more able to share in the life with God. It is for this reason the religion of Jesus is called a religion of salvation. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Unless a man recognizes his need, that there is something lacking in himself, and longs to have that lack made up, no matter how much he reads his Bible and hears preaching, he will not understand Christianity. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

Faith acquired through reason only is liable to run away like water from an open sluice-pipe. (Kagawa 1931: 24)

But there is something strong and courageous in the man who comes straight back to God from a wandering life. Therefore Jesus said that traitors and prostitutes are quicker to enter the Kingdom of God. There is a deep meaning in the words of Jesus that the healthy do not desire a physician, but the sick. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

It [Jesus’ own religion] is not a one-way natural religion, it is a religion of salvation which makes a man right-about-face and be reborn again. Jesus pointed to himself as a revelation of this God of Salvation. As has been said already, Jesus thought of God as Spirit or Life. (Kagawa 1931: 25)

Again, Jesus said that God is One (Matt. xxiii. 9). (Kagawa 1931: 25)

God is our Father. Jesus felt intuitively that God is our Father. Jesus did not call God, as some Christian’s to-day do, “The Absolute” or “The Infinite.” He simply called Him the Father, or Holy Father, or Righteous Father. I do not know whether the Father is Absolute or not, but I do believe this Father. Christianity is a “Papa” religion, one that even children can understand. If God were a supplementary God, added on afterwards, He might be the Absolute and the Infinite; but since He is inborn, the God who grows in the very soul, He is “Abba Father.” Just as the baby calls his father, so Jesus called Him affectionately, “Abba, Father.” (Kagawa 1931: 25-26)

The God of Jesus is transcendent…. To sum up, the God of Jesus is the God who can be seen intuitively in life and love and conscience [service]. Unless there is a God of life and love there can be no religion of action. (Kagawa 1931: 26)

If we fully experience such a God, happiness such as we have never known before springs up in our hearts, or at least should do. Nevertheless, some people after they have become Christians are still pessimistic…. Such people know only the Cross of Jesus by not His Resurrection [more importantly, his life]. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

… many … know nothing about the powers of life and resurrection, they wander about seeking outside stimuli. But if you restore the freedom of God within, and the inner life springs up within you, outside stimuli become entirely unnecessary. Is there any stronger impetus in the world than that which we feel when our inner light shines out and the reviving power springs up from the bottom of our heart. (Kagawa 1931: 28)

There are two sides to religious experience: the one is man’s experience of God, the other God’s experience of man. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

To-day there are many theories as to the purpose of human life. Pater says that the purpose of human life is the aesthetic life. Epicurus said the real pleasure exists in pain. But, on the other hand, the Stoics asserted that the purpose of human life is self-denial. Still others say that the life of evolution is the true life. The Neo-Hegelian, Green, expounded the doctrine of perfection. It is not easy to read the hundreds of pages of his book of ethics. (Kagawa 1931: 31)

But Jesus taught us the doctrine of perfection long before Greed did. He taught us God as our ideal. “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Without referring to the works of Spencer and to Green, I find this teaching entirely sufficient. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

This ideal can be reached through prayer. God requires our prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Kagawa 1931: 32)

All religions can be divided into two classes: those which emphasize abstract meditation, and those which emphasize prayer. Examples of the first class are Zen, and medieval mysticism. Christianity from the first has been a religion of prayer…. The reason is that our God, that is, Life itself, works from within, through our personality. If we live within God, our prayers must be answered. (Kagawa 1931: 32)

Ask from your heart, through your personality, through all your life, and you will certainly get what you desire. It is never a mistake to ask of God. Therefore, if we pray from the bottom of our hearts for the reconstruction of mankind, our prayer will be heard…. But without reconstruction in the inner man society cannot be saved…. Social reconstruction is useless without the love of God. (Kagawa 1931: 33)

Bertrand Russell, in the last part of his book, Roads to Freedom, says that after all the various reforms have been carried out there will still remain a problem. That is, “even when Socialism or Communism is established, there are bound to be some people who revolt against society. It is a problem as to how to deal with such people.” The final problem of social reconstruction, and the one that is hardest to solve, is the problem of sin. The religion which cannot furnish a solution for this problem is useless to the human race. The God experienced through Jesus Christ is a God Who has power to solve this final problem of sin. (Kagawa 1931: 33-34)

But our religious experience through Jesus does not cease here…. There is another side to our religious experience; it is God’s experience as Man. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

A religion is not true which regards God simply as an ideal, towards whom we are pulled as by a cord. True religion says that God Himself possesses us. God Himself seeks man. There must be not only the experience of man going to God, but also of something coming back to man from God. The definition of religion has been rewritten by Jesus. It is not merely a question of man relying on God; it is also of God coming down to earth and experiencing man’s way of living. That is, God as Jesus, entered into man’s experience. God does not remain merely a god; He works inside man’s heart as the life of God. If this be true, then the Incarnation represents an event without parallel in human history. God’s incarnation in the body of Jesus–this is the supreme religious experience. When one thinks that God gave up His Throne and came down to live with man as Jesus, a labourer of Nazareth, for us to go and live in the slums is no great sacrifice. (Kagawa 1931: 34)

That is the sphere where God and man melt together. One is free to live either God’s life or man’s life. It is a life of the highest freedom. If we are taken hold of by God, we can go anywhere…. I have never been unsteady in my faith: this is not due to my holding on to God, but because God has possessed me. We must experience the “Abide with me” God, that is, the sphere where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

If through the experience of Jesus we come to live the life of oneness between God and man, how can we thereafter, degenerate? We have entered the sphere of the deepest religious experience, in which we reflect God’s image in our hearts and make our hearts communicate with the heart of God. Such religious life naturally becomes a matter of the inner life, and refuses all petrified formalism, though it may make use of symbolism…. Jesus relentlessly rejected all religious conventions which were obstacles in the way of genuine religious life. (Kagawa 1931: 35)

Fasting itself may not be bad…. But when fasting becomes only a religious form, with God absent from it, then it is a hindrance to religion. In the time of Jesus, some Pharisees observed this convention. Jesus mercilessly criticized their formalism. He made a point of eating with the common people without distinction, even though they called Him a gluttonous man for doing so…. But the religion of Jesus was concerned with the commonest of common things; in it God experienced man’s life, and purified the whole of daily life. Some may say that for a religious person to take part in a social movement is to cheapen religion, but we participate in it because we are disciples of Jesus…. It is the same with regard to prayer; it must not be a mere formality…. Jesus absolutely rejected such forms. (Kagawa 1931: 35-37)

Sometimes the Sabbath day becomes a convention, and dries up the real life of religion. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time had forty prohibitions about the Sabbath day. Some of those came from the Law of Moses and others were added by themselves. These latter mostly related to work. They thought it was sinful for tailors to use needles and for clerks to use pens after dark on Friday evenings; women were not allowed to look in a mirror lest they become guilty of pulling out their grey hairs, that would be work! (Kagawa 1931: 37)

… to value the seventh day and get together once a week to worship God. It was begun because people needed a regular stimulus for the development of their souls. It is in this that there is to be found the importance of Sundays. But to think of Sunday superstitiously or idolatrously is another thing. Jesus endeavored to break down such idolizing of time. He strenuously rejected convention and taught people to worship God with their whole selves. (Kagawa 1931: 37-38)

Some live only a busy, superficial life, others live only in books, and there is no real life in it. But if you dig down hundreds of feet, the water under the ground will spring up unceasingly and with tremendous power. If the ship is caught in the Gulf Stream, it will go all the faster, the speed of the current plus that of the ship. Unless we move with the stream of God springing up in our hearts, we have not yet reached true salvation. Push out into the deep! Go with the tide! Why do you everlastingly bustle about daily business, digging a narrow ditch for yourself, while God’s great Gulf Stream is trying to move you? (Kagawa 1931: 38)

Jesus and Men’s Failures

The ministry of Jesus had one peculiar feature: He limited His religious mission to the sick, the weak, the poor, the wanderers and the sinners. That is, Jesus penetrated into the essence of the universe from the pathological aspect. In this chapter we will consider how Jesus and the God of Jesus strive to remedy the failure and weakness of mankind. (Kagawa 1931: 39)

What then, is failure; and what is success? It is important to know the meaning of these words…. What definition did Jesus give to “success”? He said that true success is to complete one’s life. It is to attain to eternal life; all else is failure. (Kagawa 1931: 41)

When we lack faith, our enterprises often fail. The great achievements of the world’s history have almost always started from some great faith…. The first people who talked of Socialism, beginning with Saint-Simon, were all imbued with the religious spirit. In particular the disciples of Saint-Simon were deeply religious. And among them Enfantin especially thought that religion and science must be harmonized, and the ideal life is one in which this has been achieved. (Kagawa 1931: 41-42)

Paul taught us Christian omnipotence: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me.” We must learn faith-omnipotence. We must not too quickly accept “character-determinism.” …. Faith is a lever…. While we have this faith, we need have no fear of failure. But some people who have faith lack patience. Man’s works always needs time. Therefore we need patience. (Kagawa 1931: 42-43)

The Christian faith cannot be fully tasted in one or two years. Even a husband and wife, if they live together twenty or thirty years, and endure each other, will have a least a pleasant taste to one another. Justin Martyr was once called before Caesar in Rome and required to burn incense before an idol. He was an old man and almost dying, but he refused to do it. “What matter!” he cried, “I have believed in Jesus for a long time. How can I throw away my faith? I will follow Him to the end.” “Follow Him to the end!” Anyone who keeps his faith the end will surely be saved. (Kagawa 1931: 43-44)

Jesus Christ was crucified as a failure, and His disciples all ran away from Him. But, nevertheless, Jesus Christ did not call Himself defeated. Jesus was a success, though apparently a failure. There are many who think themselves successful, and do not realize that actually they are failures. (Kagawa 1931: 45)

Once I visited the home of a shipping millionaire with the chief editor of the Osaka Nichi Nichi newspaper. This house, a villa at Suma, was larger than a palace. It was said that the owner spent £600,000 to build this house in the style of Momoyama. It was a grand mansion, built of ancient cryptomeria wood. When I went to the house, I asked the editor, “What will the owner do with this house?” He replied, “He will confine himself in it!” At that time I was living in a house six feet square and found it quite comfortable. When Kropotkin was in prison, he walked five miles a day in his cell. This was because, in St. Petersburg, the air is damp, and he would run the risk of rheumatism if he took no exercise. When I was put in the Tachibana prison in Kobe, I followed Kropotkin’s example. My cell was about six feet square, and I could walk about six steps. I walked I the cell for about two miles every day. Thus I could think of my residence as being two miles wide! The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews could say, “Be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”; while St. Paul from prison wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content.” (Kagawa 1931: 45-46)

Jesus Christ spent his life in destitution and had nothing to the last moment. But nevertheless the Crucified One was the most successful man who ever lived. True success is to succeed in, to inherit, life. The truly successful man is the one who can enjoy the life of God. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

When Japanese Christians become dead in earnest enough to sell off even their house-mats for the sake of their religion, Christianity will have power. (Kagawa 1931: 46)

Man’s life comes from the very origin of life. (Kagawa 1931: 49)

Jesus pointed to the perfection of the Heavenly Father as our ideal of perfection. If I ought to climb up to a hundred feet high, and stop at thirty, I am a sinner to the degree of the difference. Anyone who is meant to be a king, and stops at being a village headman, I losing as much value as a king minus a village head. Jesus Christ said a tremendous thing. If the omnipotent God is our Father, and the perfection of the Heavenly Father is our ideal standard, we must not stupidly stop half-way. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

When God is loved, for the first time Nature seems to us a lovable thing. When God and man are fused together, then man can be fused to Nature. For people who live the life of perfection, and love God, sickness, persecution, imprisonment and any other things will never be irritating, because theirs is the life which lays hold on the power which controls all Nature. (Kagawa 1931: 52)

Everything is mine! The mountains, rivers, stars–all of them–the Centaurus, the constellation nearest the earth, is mine also…. This is much more progressive than Communism. Instead of Kyosan-shugi, common-possession-ism (=Communism), I call this Shinsanshugi, “God-possession-ism.” (Kagawa 1931: 52-53)

But if we have all these riches in God, at the same time we need to remember that human personality is by no means completed. “God is the one perfect Personality” (Lotze)…. It is difficult for an imperfect personality or a faulty personality to understand the personality of God. Since God is a perfect, completed personality, we can only indistinctly see Him through our broken personalities. In proportion to the completion of our personalities He is revealed to us. Our personalities are extremely imperfect. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

We have to learn that since we ourselves have faults we must also forgive one another. (Kagawa 1931: 53)

Many people do not see each other’s good points, but only their weak points, and speak ill of them saying, “But So-and-so has such-and-such faults.” The very word “but” is often used with this criticizing meaning in Japan. They think that unkind gossip is valuable criticism…. We must always be forgiving each other’s sins. This is the best way for the completion of personality. (Kagawa 1931: 54)

Whole generations often go astray. And if in such an age we do not have the revelation of God, the consciousness of the true way to live, and of sin, will become blurred. In such a time we must fix our eyes upon some pure personality and imitate it…. [A]nd people look to Jesus as the only personality Who never wandered, and as the revealed God, then the age is bound to be revived. Through imitation of Christ our way of life will once more return to the right track. (Kagawa 1931: 55)

We cannot see how far we are degenerated at present because we do not look to Jesus as our criterion. An insane person is one who does not recognize the condition of his own mind; he cannot do so until he has recovered from it. But many people to-day do not recognize how far they have gone astray from God, and think themselves to be righteous. It is the present condition of mankind to be terribly unconscious of their sins. (Kagawa 1931: 55-56)

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus Christ prayed very often. Some people think that strong persons need not pray; but Jesus at all events felt the necessity. As has been said above, the religions of the world can be divided psychologically into two kinds: the religion of meditation, and the religion of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 60)

We can have religious experience most in prayer. In Jesus’ experience, prayer and meditation were always one. Jesus usually prayed in a lonely place. This seems to have been His habit…. Jesus was not at all lonely when He was alone, but prayed always. We are strongest when we pray. We can know how earnest Jesus was in His attitude toward prayer through what He prayed about everything–and in every circumstance. (Kagawa 1931: 61)

We cannot be really religious until we have made our daily life and the problem of bread religious. Religious life is not something extraordinary, lie growing wings in order to fly up to heaven; it is simply to reveal God in our daily life, in the very problem of bread…. It is to be hoped that at our dinner tables there is always a deep religious atmosphere. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

… [I]f you eat in the mood of prayer, even though your meal is nothing but a rice-ball, you can eat pleasantly…. We cannot be said to be complete in religion until we come to handle even the problem of bread religiously in our daily life. Jesus often ate with His disciples. He made eating one of the religious rituals and added the problem of bread to the Lord’s Prayer. We need to remember this very clearly. (Kagawa 1931: 65)

On another occasion when the seventy disciples returned from their successful mission, Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Luke x. 21-22). Jesus prayed when he was glad. (Kagawa 1931: 66)

We want to be those who pray at all times. True prayer is conversation with God. We must have more of this conversation and more praise of God in our prayer…. If we have contact with children in the spirit of prayer and bless them with our whole hearts, the children will grow up to be great persons. (Kagawa 1931: 68)

Jesus … did not teach a form of prayer, but in compliance with the request of the disciples He showed them a model prayer. That is the Lord’s Prayer. It was originally given by Jesus to His disciples in order to educate them. Tolstoi went so far as to say about it, “Our prayer must not be more than this. It is selfish to pray beyond the limits of this prayer.” From whatever aspect it is viewed, the Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer: “Our Father in heaven, enable us to worship you; let the ideal kingdom come, and make your will completely accomplished.” If prayer be such a thing as this, how can it be called superstitious or contrary to reason? If we always had such a beautiful religious spirit, the purified spirit of prayer, we should never make a mistake. (Kagawa 1931: 69)

Again, Jesus knew the defects of mankind, and so in the next place He prayed that we might forgive one another. He did not forget to pray that in horizontal contacts–that is, socially–we should forgive one another’s sins; nor did He forget to pray that in vertical contacts–that is, in our relation to God–our daily lives might be protected from mistakes. (Kagawa 1931: 70)

“Thy will be done.” Do your very best, but after that leave the matter entirely to God. (Kagawa 1931: 71)

Prayer is a part of man’s original nature. He can never be satisfied with merely meditative religion, and naturally and involuntarily inclines to move on to the religion of prayer. For example, the Shin sect of Buddhism forbids prayer, but when the Emperor Meiji was dying, we saw that their formula of invocation was changed to prayer. Indeed this very formula, which they have to repeat countless times daily, already shows a transition from the religion of meditation to that of prayer. (Kagawa 1931: 73)

… if we think of prayer as the expression of our aspiration for God, we give up vain repetitions or forms…. Our prayers should be simple and to the purpose. Jesus warned the scribes who made long prayers for a show. Another feature of Jesus’ prayer in this connexion is that He used the simplest language. (Kagawa 1931: 74)

The important thing is that our daily life itself should become religious, and all religious life be woven into daily life. It is kind of malady that to-day our daily life is disunited into two or three compartments, and in some that there is not a religious compartment at all. In our life there ought not to be any such distinction as “the religious life,” “the artistic life,” etc. (Kagawa 1931: 74-75)

Some may think that unless a thing is difficult it is not deep; and so they may feel grateful for the Kegon Sutra, which common people cannot understand. But the deepest religion must be that which has most contact with our daily life, and is in closest touch with reality. The religion which is rooted in our original desire, and grows up from out of it, is the only real one. To pray we need not use artificial words. There is nothing wrong if we pray in our ordinary everyday language. (Kagawa 1931: 75-76)

But there are some folks who say they prefer a difficult religion. Religions of the world may be divided into two groups: religions centering round a person, and impersonal religions. In the former the emphasis is on God, but in impersonal religion the emphasis is on Law or Reason. Impersonal religion does not recognize personality or will, therefore it makes man’s desire itself an illusion and would destroy it. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

In India there originated a religion which emphasized the thought of nothingness. Many people are interested in it because their desires are not granted. In Japan there are many Nihilists to-day. From the view-point of “Mu no shisô” — Nothingness Idea — such a religion might be more interesting than the religion which starts from personality and self. This form of religion in its most purified form becomes pantheism. (Kagawa 1931: 76)

But the religion of personality starts first from myself, from me. Incidentally this is the most natural scientific method. It discovers the existence of psychological law in the universe where God and man, also man and man, stand face to face. A poet, Shiki Masaoka, left as his last poem one called “The Autumn Wind.” In it occurs the line:

“To me, no god, no buddha.” (Kagawa 1931: 77)

This is not merely a nihilistic idea; it seems to me to be his realization that there is some religious idea even in the depth of the void. But the religion Jesus taught was a religious life where prayer grows in the warm contacts of personality with personality. Jesus taught us to pray together. Prayer has a social aspect. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The world is opened by prayer. What one prays for is always accomplished. Prayer, at the very least, uplifts the heart of the one who prays, and develops high ideals in his mind…. His [Jesus’] daily life was worship…. We must take our gladness and sorrow and all of everything to God, and look into the world where God and man melt together. (Kagawa 1931: 77)

The Death of Jesus Its Before and After

The Apostle Paul said, “For those who are on the way to destruction the story of the Cross is nonsense, but to us who are being saved, it means all the power of God” (I Cor. i. 18). There have been few who express the issue so clearly. Nothing has been more discussed in the world than the problem of the Cross. There is a school of thought to-day which says that Christianity has become too doctrinal: that it has become a religion of the Cross — the worship of suffering: but this is not real Christianity: that real Christianity is the life of Jesus Himself: it is necessary therefore to emancipate Christianity from the religion of Paul, the religion of the Cross, and come back to Jesus Christ Himself. (Kagawa 1931: 78)

A religion which does not look at life, self and God squarely is easily corrupted by one or another of these forms of idolatry [space-idolatry or time-idolatry], and will never be thoroughly completed either in culture or in expression. (Kagawa 1931: 82)

The religion of Jesus is the religion of crucifixion, that is, of redemption. It is the religion of action which unites meditation and prayer. To walk in prayer, continually asking and receiving power from God, and again to transform this power into new actions of love, this was the religion of Jesus…. Jesus discovered this law and established the religion of redemption in which prayer and meditation are combined into one. (Kagawa 1931: 84-85)

The disciples of Jesus were blamed for picking ears of barley and rubbing them with their hands on the Sabbath, because it was the same as the labour of grinding them in a mill. Religion itself had become to that extent external and superficial. Jesus of course, strongly emphasized inward religion against such superficial and outward religion. (Kagawa 1931: 86)

It is undeniable that the disciples experienced something on this occasion. Ten or eleven different groups or disciples actually saw the risen Jesus. Some people criticize hastily, saying that such an extraordinary thing could not have happened; but Christianity is founded on this strange faith. The idea of resurrection has existed from the early days, but there have been no certain instances of resurrection except in the case of Christ. However people may deny the resurrection of Christ, they cannot deny the fact that by it the history of the world has been turned upside down…. Jesus was truly revived in the hearts of the disciples. (Kagawa 1931: 103)

Jesus’ disciples must be those who serve other people …. The true value of Christianity is shown in doing menial and subordinate work willingly. (Kagawa 1931: 116-117)

Jesus said, “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from the Father I have made known unto you.” (Kagawa 1931: 118)

Instead of having a special school building, He took His disciples to the mountains, to the beach, and to the park very frequently, and taught them while they were walking in the fields and mountains…. Moreover, Jesus’ school is a school of love. Modern schools teach us knowledge but not love. Jesus taught how to love people and how to serve community. (Kagawa 1931: 123)

It is not necessary to be intellectual, nor to practice self-mortification by going to the mountains or to the sea. Jesus’ religion is contained in the experience of the God of Action. “He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.” Whoever lacks love lacks religious feeling. We must love people before we argue with them. In that loving, God Himself will be revealed. (Kagawa 1931: 125)

A blind man came to see Mr. Juji Ishii, the Christian philanthropist. He was illiterate and could not read anything, but he asked Mr. Ishii to let him learn Christianity. Mr. Ishii said to him, “If, when you practice massage, and are paid for it, you give that money to the blind men poorer than yourself, then you will see God.” So then this blind man, practicing massage every evening in Okayama City, used to go after one o’clock in the morning to the place where many blind men came together after their work, and put 2-sen pieces secretly into the long kimono sleeves of the poorest. He continued this every night, and gradually the heart of this man with sightless eyes was opened. After two weeks he cam again to Mr. Ishii and said, “Teacher, I have come to understand. God is love.” This man learned to know God by himself by loving men. God, who is unintelligible when thought of in a room or a library, will become known when one loves people. (Kagawa 1931: 125-126)

Uchimura Kanzō (内村 鑑三)

Uchimura saw the origins of denominations … as reflections of secular history in the country concerned. He asked which of these teachings actually represented Jesus’ ideas as opposed to historical accretions of almost two millennia. (Howes 2005: 10)

To me, forms are not only not helps for worship, but positive hindrances. I worship God inwardly in spirit and serve him outwardly in ordinary human conduct. [This formless Christianity is called mukyokai-shugi-no-Kirisutokyo, Christianity of no-church principle.] It is not a negative faith but positive; else my countrymen would never have received it….

Faith and Thinking

Faith is not thinking; what a man thinks is not his faith. Faith is rather being; what a man is is his faith. Thinking is only part of being; rather a superficial part . The modern man thinks he can know God’s truth by thinking . [but] Faith is the soul in passive activity. It is the soul letting itself to be acted upon by the mighty power of God. Passive though faith is, it is intensely active because of the power that works in it. This is the paradox of faith . The Christian is a newly created soul which engenders special activity called faith. Faith is thus a Christian activity of far higher order than thinking. It is the whole soul in beneficent action. (Howes 2005: 336)

Christianity the enemy of Buddhism? Not so! Christianity is a sworn enemy of these warlike Westerners, and not of Buddha and his peace-loving disciples. To make Christianity represent the Warlike West, and make it an enemy of Buddhism, a religion of love and non-resistance, is the greatest possible misrepresentation that can be made of it. (Howes 2005: 337)