Friday 21 May 2021

Passing The Torch.

Moving On From Neoliberalism: To hear Finance Minister, Grant Robertson invoke the memory of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”: delivered 30 years ago as the final crushing blow against Mickey Savage’s welfare state; before announcing significant rises in social welfare benefits across-the-board; was to witness this generation of Labour politicians do what Clark and her colleagues either could not, or would not, do.

“LET THE WORD go forth from this time and place,” declaimed President John F. Kennedy on a freezing January day in 1961, “that the torch has been passed to a new generation.” Those words kept running through my mind as I listened to Grant Robertson deliver his Budget Speech to Parliament on Thursday. (20/5/21) Except, I thought, that torch is not being passed from my generation to his. The legacy Robertson and his colleagues have accepted from the past is not the legacy of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen but of Norman Kirk and Bill Rowling. The torch which the Baby Boom Generation refused to accept, has been grasped by their children.

To hear Robertson invoke the memory of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”: delivered 30 years ago as the final crushing blow against Mickey Savage’s welfare state; before announcing significant rises in social welfare benefits across-the-board; was to witness this generation of Labour politicians do what Clark and her colleagues either could not, or would not, do.

Not only was Robertson honouring what he frankly acknowledged to be a moral obligation to the poorest and most marginalised New Zealanders, but he was also delivering a stimulatory spending boost to the entire domestic economy. This was democratic-socialism with Keynesian characteristics. The political love which, for more than 30 years, has dared not speak its name.

The love which David Lange, when it mattered, turned his face from. The love which Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and Michael Bassett did everything within their power to convince New Zealanders was actually evil in disguise. The love which Clark and Cullen, overawed by the seemingly unchallengeable power of neoliberalism, could not look in the eye as they passed by on the other side. The love which Jacinda Ardern’s 30- and 40-somethings have, like dizzy Christian converts, let into their hearts. Determined, now, that by their deeds we shall recognise Labour once again as Labour.

I wish it had been different. I wish that the NewLabour Party, the Alliance and the Greens had been able to redeem the Boomer generation. That what the worst of us had done, the best of us had undone. That comrades like Matt McCarten, Laila Harré, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald had rekindled the torch that the Fourth Labour Government extinguished. How I longed to see it blaze anew in the hands of the most fortunate generation in human history – ready to light the way to a better world for those who came after us.

But, the tragic truth of the matter is that there just wasn’t that much love in us. We Boomers ascended steadily the great ladder our parents had built to help us reach a future better than theirs. And then, having completed our free education and purchased our first house/s, we dismantled the ladder and threw the pieces down upon the heads of our children and grandchildren. Did we experience the pangs of conscience? Yes, of course. But we assuaged them by telling ourselves that the younger generations were a feckless bunch upon whom the freedom and prosperity we enjoyed would have been wasted.

But God and the Spirit of History are not mocked. The Boomers’ greed proved their undoing. With the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09, the first cracks in neoliberalism began to appear. By 2017, even an old tusker like Winston Peters could see that free-market capitalism was failing. His last, great, exculpatory gift to New Zealand was “Jacinda”. And then, as if to reinforce Peters’ gift, History gave Jacinda a global pandemic to vanquish.

And so, there they sat: this majority Labour Government, as Robertson rolled out a genuinely left-wing budget. A budget inspired by Labour’s original economic and social principles. Giddy on the champagne of genuine radicalism: finally aware that the only permission their generation needs to govern New Zealand is their own; they lifted high the torch that now was theirs, determined not to rest easy on what their country has given them, but to give something back to their country.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 21 May 2021.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's good to see benefits increased, though I just read that supplementary benefits are going to be cut, so it may not be as good as everyone thinks. But it's about time the government shook up the whole benefit thing, and particularly shook up the way beneficiaries are treated by the people who deal with them. There was a time when – just before Roger Douglas – Labour believed that the benefit should enable people to take a full part in society rather than just scrape by. Having said that – I posted this following in the Guardian today.

They're doing nothing about the housing crisis. My son has done everything right, got qualifications got a job, worked all hours shifts the whole works trying to save enough money for a deposit on a house. When he went to the mortgage people he found out he could afford a $350,000 house – in Wellington. So we decided that the only way he was going to get a house as if we sold our house and bought something on a section that was capable of being subdivided, and he could build on that. We put in a bid on a house that was meant to go for somewhere in the high $800,000s low $900,000s. Almost to the limit of what we could afford – $950,000. Contingent on us selling our house. We didn't even get close. Someone came in and plonked $1.5 million down – Cash. We looked at a section hoping we could do something with that. Developers bought it for $1.2 million. How the hell can ordinary people compete with that. And what the hell are Labour doing about it? Seems to me nothing much. So who do I vote for? National and ACT won't do anything, because they're on the side of the developers. The Greens might do something that they haven't really got a lot of traction. I guess for the first time in my reasonably long life, I'm not going to vote. Certainly not going to vote for Labour.

Cliopedant said...

I think you are being a little unfair with your swingeing generalised criticism of the Baby Boomers Chris. Many of my generation were appalled by the Rogernomics revolution and Ruth Richardson’s scorched earth policy imposed on NZ without democratic approval, and voted and agitated against it ever since. There has been a regrettable tendency to engage in generation-blaming in recent times, which generates more heat than light. While the latest budget is a step in the right direction in correcting the economic policy of the last 30 years, expecting Olympian transformational shifts within one budget is simply unrealistic. Some may want more revolutionary policies, but a study of revolutions in recent history shows that they don’t always achieve what they set out to do, and damage lots of innocent people along the way.

oneblokesview said...

Do I detect a couple of glasses of red in the preparation of this rather flowery puff piece?

Tom Hunter said...

A couple of notes:
First: By 2017, even an old tusker like Winston Peters....
As the current POTUS says, "C'mon Man'. WP was a protege of Muldoon in many ways, including his scepticism of the Rogernomics revolution. It's just that he never did anything about it when he had the chance, as with almost every one of his "beliefs", because why let that interfere with a good glass of red and a cigar while enjoying a cosy political life.

Benefits to sole mothers were not cut by 25%. From Tim Garlick's 'Social Developments': "Lone parents faced significant cuts: 10.7 percent for beneficiaries with one child; 8.9 percent for those with two children."

At the same time means-tested Family Support for beneficiary children was increased and Community Services cards were introduced to subsidise health services for low income.

In addition the maximum Child Care subsidy increased from $32 to $65 per week to assist parents to take employment.

Social welfare worked from the 1930's to the 1960's because it was applied to a generation that had known real hardship during The Slump and who appreciated the true hand-up that enabled to get on to better things. But they key is that they regarded it only as a temporary handup, and they passed those attitudes on to their Boomer kids.

But in the time-honoured manner of such programs it's own success has created generations of New Zealanders who simply regard such things as a right that should continue forever irrespective of whether they get a job to help it all keep moving.

Naturally you don't believe this so we'll just have to wait and see whether the proportion of the population on welfare increases steadily over the next few years or declines. I'm reckon on the former.

Third, it's actually a good thing that the apparent adoption of Modern Monetary Theory has happened, since that means taxes won't be going up any time soon. But in the long term, such as with our kids and grandkids, they will have too. I'll still be here to see it happen, but I doubt they will be.

John Hurley said...

If you look at Core Logics graph of house prices under 6 Prime Ministers it correlates nicely with immigration. Winston's boomers stood against that Labour left were all for it.

Barry said...

Chris - the Boomers (Im one) made the best of what we were given. We built on the foundation that our parents built for us. And our parents built on what their parents built.
I fear that wont happen with the current under 30's who seem to disown the opportunity they have.
We werent greedy. Too trusting -yes. Those investment advisors who cost so many so much in the GFC has directed everyone into property.
And as for the changes made by Douglas etc - that was stupid from day 1. The gutting of the railways - where enginers and electricians and carpenters etc all did their training. we are paying for that even now with not enough tradesmen.
Further we have become a low pay economy as a result. Yes everyone thought it was great that we could now get TVs for $200 instead of $800 but little did Douglas etc tell us that we would be getting Chinese wages so the $200 TV was just as costly in terms of hours worked as the $800 onedid before Globalisation.

wilfandnora said...

As I commented on TDB, I thought this article was an example of very heavy irony. In hindsight I now think not.

Arden and Robertson should not be given such a kind reception by you. They have had three and a half year to get to know the ropes and form plans. They have not let go the neo-liberal mindset. The only way to get them to change their ways and deliver a decent Left programme, is to keep up the pressure and the severe criticism. They are delivering bugger all, and yet (contrary to those ignorant of economics) they have the fiscal capacity to deliver. Unfortunately, as you have at times pointed out (vis your suggestion of using China to help build the houses we need), there may be severe resource constraints - it's not just a question of funding. Let the Government be honest and open about these, and let them then get on with visibly resolving these constraints. But at least let us have some real action.

David George said...

The budget seeks to address need, fair enough, but there's little, if anything to encourage the innovation and investment required to pay for it.
The overemphasis on Maori issues is politically and practically an error for two reasons;
The problems besetting the bottom quintile are hardly unique to Maori, surely it would be better and more fair to address need directly regardless of race.
Consequently it's politically alienating. The folk that voted for (and have continued to support) the New Zealand Labour Party will be beginning to think they were duped into voting for Te Pati Maori instead.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Chris Trotter said: "To hear Robertson invoke the memory of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”: delivered 30 years ago as the final crushing blow against Mickey Savage’s welfare state..."

Is that a joke? The welfare state Savage designed was stringently policed. There was no benefit for any individual who caused their own incapacity to work. Criminals and drunks had no eligibility. Single women who became mothers had no eligibility. Even deserted married women struggled to access assistance.

By 1991 Savage's welfare state had metamorphosised into a massive mess with sixteen percent of the working age population on a benefit. Until 1970 there was never more than two percent. Savage would have approved of Richardson's reforms (numerically exaggerated in the re-telling) intended to undo the intergenerational dependence and dysfunction that had developed.

Now the country is running headlong into free-for-all, no-questions-asked reliance on the state. As you point out, Clark and Cullen resisted this. And they were right to do so. They consistently maintained work was the best way out of poverty (which includes child poverty).

The kind of values needed to raise children with their wellbeing absolutely utmost cannot be learned from a government. They cannot be replaced by unearned income.

Savage understood human hardship but he also understood human motivation.

Trev1 said...

I'm a boomer. I was raised in a Labour household. My father was secretary of the local branch. I put up election posters with him. But I have never voted Labour again since 1984. Rogernomics was a betrayal and began our long slide as a nation to low productivity and intractable social problems.

Welfare is for those who can't work, the disabled, the mentally ill, the infirm. It was never meant to be a bloody lifestyle but that is what it has become. Fruit rot in the fields while people sit on their backsides.

My wife and I have owned the one home for 40 years, into which we have put all our savings. We detest this government which is pushing New Zealand into a spiral of hopelessness and dependence.

Nick J said...

GS, same story for my eldest, he and wife can get to around $350k, they will be unable to afford to buy in metro NZ. So they looked at the provincial centres, seems the same moneyed classes are forcing prices up there too. Rents in small town NZ are up in the $500 per week range for old dumps.

Meanwhile my daughter has no show of buying a flat in Wellington, I kick myself that we didnt buy four years ago at half the price. Rents again are outlandish.

Like yourself its going to be hard to vote Labour, if at all. Housing is a bubble, Labour may get lucky if that pops on their watch. Nothing would please me more than to see the speculative moneyed classes take a bath, and our young able to build a future as a result.

Brendan McNeill said...

Tom Hunter is correct, “Social welfare worked from the 1930's to the 1960's because it was applied to a generation that had known real hardship.”

This was my parents generation. My dad would never have gone on ‘the dole’ because in his own words, “He would never bludge off his mates.” This is how my father understood welfare. He had fought alongside his mates in North Africa and Italy and he was not about to betray them, the living or the dead.

State sponsored welfare ‘worked’ amongst my parents generation; one that was self reliant, individually responsible, and somewhat religious. It will destroy the entitled, the indolent, and those who have embraced a sense of victimhood.

Long term welfare robs people of individual agency, and creates in them a learned dependency. It is not kind, it is cruel. It locks individuals and their children into a life of State funded poverty. This Labour government (unlike its recent predecessors) fails to grasp this because it refuses to recognise the power of perverse incentives on individual behaviour. Even Helen Clark understood that you will always get more of the behaviours you reward.

Jens Meder said...

But Chris - unfortunately love alone does not help to reduce or eliminate poverty in a sustainable way, unless that love is backed by productivity which is profitable enough (in surpluses) to feed the poor adequately without becoming an intolerable, unsustainable burden on the productive sector of the population, and possibly impoverishing society as a whole through not enough capital being saved for new investments and (e.g. infrastructure) maintenance needs.

In other words, putting wealth redistribution before wealth creation is the wrong way, because obviously if no wealth is created, how can there be any wealth for "redistribution"?

The most natural way of child poverty reduction is through parental poverty elimination, and for moving in this direction we should not forget that even the poorest welfare beneficiaries can at least in principle increase their wealth ownership creative productivity by having a fraction of their benefit saved for longer term investment ownership.

With widening wealth ownership transfers through inheriting more of it by more (and generally increased productivity with higher wages through more capital investment and ownership per employed and unemployed citizen) -

any still occurring parenthood in poverty can be taken better care of than what we can achieve on this at present.

David George said...

I agree with Lindsay, Trev and Brendan; you can't genuinely solve poverty with handouts. There does seem to be a lack of awareness of, or the courage to confront, the unintended consequences.
Just where do you draw the line between individual and collective responsibility. Nowhere?

Let's have a look at "Life at the bottom". Dr. Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) and Jordan discussed a variety of topics relating to distinct differences in culture and mindset in the poor “Underclass” in Britain. They examine many stories from Dr. Daniel's time as a consulting physician in a prison and hospital in one of the poorest areas of London and draw conclusions on similarities in violence, domestic abuse, learned helplessness, education, monogamy, the disintegration of the family, and more.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Fruit rot in the fields while people sit on their backsides."

Yeah right. So someone is meant to pack up and leave their family, pay rent on their home, which even if they are single and don't have family that have to to live there, I doubt the landlord is going to give them a rent holiday, move to some reasonably remote place and pick fruit for six weeks or so while at the same time finding somewhere to live in said remote place assuming there is no bunkhouse or whatever, and work for about $20 an hour. Hoping to Christ you don't get one of those employers that ignores all the rules and regulations.
I don't think that's going to fly, particularly as fruit picking which I did as a student is damn hard work and not everyone can do it. Even so, some people have done it.

Some growers seem to recognise this.

“The key learning from industry is that it’s not actually that simple to ask people to pick up and move their lives to another place. Often they're paying rent in another city and they can't just stop.”

Others just go on about the lack of work ethic. For far too long now, New Zealand industry and agriculture have been living off the back of cheap imported labour when they should be investing in efficiencies that would provide fewer but much better paid and more skilled jobs.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan, I'm sorry you know nothing about unemployed people. I worked with them for quite some time, and the number of people actually didn't want a job was tiny. It's not that they want to sit around on their arse all day and be rewarded by a minuscule amount of money. They want a job for self-respect, they want a job because it will give them a future. And of course now thanks to people like you, we do have intergenerational unemployment, but even so the kids I worked with were still desperate for jobs. In fact, I can only remember one person who truly was happy to sit around collecting the dole and they were in organised crime.
But some of them have known nothing else, and of course you'll blame them for this but they have tried and tried to get jobs, and have become beaten down by the constant rejection – their self-esteem is at rock bottom. Some of them have psychiatric problems, some of them for various reasons have not been able to achieve any qualifications.
And if we're talking about relatives, my grandfather fought all the way through World War I, and was unemployed for a number of years in the 1930s and was glad to get the unemployment, because otherwise he could not feed his family.
Just as a matter of interest Brendan, what you expect people to do if there are a no jobs? Grandad was a skilled workman, couldn't get work for love nor money. What would you have expected him to do? I mean he had a couple of choices without the dole right? Beg in the streets. Commit crimes. Because there was no way he was going to let his family starve. The dole was tiny, and it was means tested. There were all sorts of caveats. But if my grandmother hadn't finally found a part-time job, my father would have been brought up on bread and marge. As it was, he never grew to his full potential, partly due to his poor diet early in life.
You know sometimes Brendan I get so frustrated with the smug, self-satisfied attitude of people like you. It would do you good to walk a mile in some poor unemployed bastard's shoes.

sumsuch said...

Thanks, Chris, our trumpeter. I was excited when I heard the budget. Hadn't thought it was on the cards, hadn't thought about the budget at all. Decided to take the next day off to celebrate this thing so near to my heart. Found no one much on the Left blogs to celebrate with, so sour evening in the end. The heart is there but the political movement is gone. Just foot-noters now.

Bit Mills and Boone though about Grant and Jacinda's heart. I think more we last of the welfare staters fucked these know-nothing CVers into glory while getting zero material reward for ourselves. On which point I object to you describing yourself as 'we boomers'. Very severely.

Coming home budget day I visited my local Four Square. They have a whole wall of suspected shoplifters. All, fkn Maori. Good people own the place but I felt like asking these Indians to take the photos down to symbolise our new start. Politics has died away to nothing among most modern individualistic people, and, more terribly, among the lower middle class down.

Benefit increases -- yeeee hah!

And may Jenny Shipley go to Hell.

sumsuch said...

Just looked at the comments here!

Chomsky has described the Republican Party as the most evil organisation in human history for its non-recognition of climate change to the point of fascism, which they may well succeed in carrying to power. Apart from the plutocrats who run it the heart of their necessary electoral support is literal bible believers. I'm a bit tired of other christians taking offense at my dislike of these bombs in our midst. Their preference for Chaldean 'science' over the actual.

You believe in climate change and evolution.

Now then, Oz relies on mines, so these people can make their way with the catamaran off-sider of self-interest, to capturing govt. Here in NZ they are trying to take over the National Party one MP selection at a time. What is the right response? I consider them 'bombs in our midst', and say so.

sumsuch said...

Passing the torch is good rhetoric, but that's not how it was. It was 30 years of a joint crime by Labour and National against the least able to defend themselves. Extending the persecution of Maori by 37 years for white folks' self-serving crap. Leaving aside Pasifika, who actually get it worse.
Don't consider Grant and Jacinda as in any way heroes taking the torch of social democracy. Do consider we 50 ups who spoke up, last to grow to adulthood in the Welfare State, as heroes.

Kat said...

Incredible reading the comments here, its very simple folks we need a reinstated 21st Century MoW. The govt has more pressure than ever to provide jobs, income, dignity by way of a fair days pay for a fair days work. No one in this country should be unemployed or hungry.

If you want to see the dole gone then support real jobs for all, only way that is going to happen is via a modern day govt run MoW.

The govt is the govt is the govt is the that Brendon, or if you haven't and refuse to, then join Mike Hosking on his flight to Oz.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear GS

Grace and peace to you.

I have no problem with the State providing temporary support for those who become unemployed through no fault of their own. What I object to is those who for reasons of their own choose not to work, and expect the taxpayer to front up and support them. I also have problems with the State funding solo mothers and their children into a life of poverty and disadvantage in the name of kindness and compassion, but that's for another time.

Jessie interviewed one such person, Apanui Koopu on National Radio on Friday afternoon. Now I listened to this interview in full, and Apanui presents as a likeable guy, who is focused on supporting and homeschooling his 14 year old daughter. His complaints with the system are numerous including a time when he invites the daughter's mother to come and live with them to help the daughter resolve some personal issues. Work and Income insist their benefits are adjusted (downwards) accordingly. Apparently that's unacceptable. But the really interesting bit to me, is when Jessie asks him if could could work. He hedges around this saying he could possibly get a job, but he really wants to home school his daughter.

It was at this point my empathy drained somewhat, as I thought of those hundreds of thousands of working dads who would dearly love to spend that kind of quality time with their 14 year old daughters but who also accept their responsibility to provide financially for their families. Remember the girl's mother is also now a member of this household, but Apanui feels disinclined to work and support this family unit.

I say again, Apanui is articulate and sounds likeable, but he's just not interested in working for a living. And so he's not working. He thinks it is perfectly acceptable that we support him.

Have a listen and tell me if you think his excuse is justifiable.

Nick J said...

Brendan, are you proposing an end to Welfare? Your arguments bear merit re long term effects BUT dont address the reason unemployment occurs.

I've run companies, when we laid off staff it was because market conditions were adverse. People in jobs don't ask to become unemployed. Taking on people is also problematic because of peoples varying abilities. If you propose a market economy there is a price for market variations. It is welfare.

Doug Longmire said...

Sorry Chris, I disagree with much of what you say. I feel you have too highly politicized the population of New Zealand.
Also - your attack on "boomers" is out of line, and I would have expected better of you. I am a boomer, and for myself, and all the boomers that I know, we are just hard working, responsible, decent people who have a personal set of what I can loosely call Christian values.

CXH said...

Considering the republican party hasn't built lots more coal fired power stations around the world, I wonder what Chomsky thinks of the PRC. Or do they get a pass on being evil because of political leanings. Plus of course China does siphon large donations to both National and Labour which must also give them a pass from criticism.

David George said...

"Last week's Budget chose to run the largest deliberate cyclically-adjusted primary deficits in NZ since at least WW2, which risks skewing the economy further inwards and jeopardising NZ's hard-won largely-bipartisan record of sensible fiscal stewardship." …

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I also have problems with the State funding solo mothers and their children into a life of poverty and disadvantage in the name of kindness and compassion"

So you prefer to let them starve? Christians always seem to assume that a solo mother is somehow promiscuous and willful. But fair point, the benefit does fund them into a life of poverty and disadvantage. If only it were enough for them to get out of poverty and live something approaching a normal life. You should perhaps read something by JK Rowling, who hasn't forgotten what it's like to be a poor solo mother.

Up to your old tricks again though I see Brendan. Find an outlier, and assume that everyone is like them. You people always assume that there are millions of people in New Zealand just itching to rip the system off and live a life of ease.
1. Why don't you try and live on a benefit – not just for a week with all your cupboards stopped full of food and no extra expenses like school shoes, but for a year or so without any help whatsoever.
2. People like this are relatively few and far between. And on the whole I would condemn them, would I wouldn't rush to judgement without knowing their exact circumstances.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Nick J

I said in my post: "I have no problem with the State providing temporary support for those who become unemployed through no fault of their own." That's hardly proposing an end to welfare.

I also have no problem with the State providing temporary assistance to women (or men) who have dependent children and have been living in a relationship in the form of marriage for at least two years, who are abused or abandoned by their partner. Conversely I take considerable exception to the State financially incentivising young women to have children to feckless fathers who refuse to accept responsibility for the children they produce.

Mike Yardley comments in Stuff today about an expanding underclass of welfare dependents created during Labours term of office. This has come about in part by Labours winding back the level of accountability required of beneficiaries towards the tax payers that fund them, including not having to name the father of their child and subsequent children conceived while on welfare. Does anyone believe increasing welfare benefits is going to turn this trend around?

Does Labour even have a plan to turn this around?

sumsuch said...

Keep voting on the side of the rich, Brendan, that'll really convince us of the message of christ.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Brendan. It was Thatcher, Reagan, and Douglas that created this so-called "underclass". And I think it needs a little more done about it than hoping to Christ their families will be able to take care of them. After all, if the economy doesn't provide the means of support and maintenance for people's families, what the hell use is it?

The message of Christ as sumsuch has said doesn't seem to have a great deal to do with your thinking. Funny, I know numerous Christians, but none of them have sold all their shit and given it to the poor. As Gandhi is alleged to have said something like:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
"The Christians above all others are seeking after wealth. Their aim is to be rich at the expense of their neighbors. They come among aliens to exploit them for their own good and cheat them to do so. Their prosperity is far more essential to them than the life, liberty, and happiness of others.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Sumsuch (whoever you may be)

As one who has become very familiar with the gospels over many years, and including the parables of Jesus, I find them remarkably lacking in any political nuance. That said I’m sure there are some parables that as (presumably) as a socialist or a person of the left you will not like:

The parable of the workers in the Vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16

In this parable Jesus appears to be affirming an employer who paid labourers who worked just a very short time in the vineyard the same as those whom he employed first thing in the morning, and who put in the entire day labouring. Ending with the statement to those who complained about their wages: "Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

The Parable of the Talents - Matthew 25:14-30

Finishing up with the following words: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

And for the sake of balance:

The Parable of the Rich Fool - Luke 12:16-21

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

I know of Christians on both the left and the right of the political spectrum, and have long since given up thinking you could determine the sincerity of someone's faith by the colour of their voting preferences. That said, love and largess with other people's money are not necessarily the same thing, just as compassion and coercion are not the same thing.

greywarbler said...

Doug Longmire...'we are just hard working, responsible, decent people who have a personal set of what I can loosely call Christian values.'

I'm a Christian too, The Christianity that I see around me in the wide community seems to be more about respectability and middle-class values which I think you have summarised in your sentence above. The charity that is shown tends to be cold charity, or maybe warm but just to the particular recipients chosen. Materialist values have crept in and the churches are more clubs with rituals to many of the regular adherents.

This has led to churches being the focus of poor people wanting to get out of poverty and the Jim Jones and Waco type cult, have gained charismatic status, and Prosperity Churches based on materialism with the promise of God smiling on the loyal and true adherents taking the place of real Christianity; which is humbler and people-supporting than what these other churches are offering, in fact they are more personal charities for the leader' benefit than otherwise. However many do offer solidarity and a step towards better personal status and living conditions, so they aren't all bad.

But it seems to me that smug middle-class Christianity can be a thin web easily torn. Over the centuries various theologians and philosophers have placed their own interpretations on what Christianity is, for instance John Calvin 1509-1564, with his idea of original sin, leading to thoughts of people's total depravity. Another explanation: He taught that original sin eradicated free will in people. Only by God's initiative can anyone begin to have faith and thus experience assurance of salvation.

I think that puts a different slant on Jesus Christ's message which I understood on reading him. I thought that everyone is accepted but that maintaining good behaviour and loyalty of belief are essential features, and one must be humble and question oneself about ones own faults, not smugly estimating yourself as exemplary. It seems that many people place the interpretation that suits them on Jesus' teaching, so I hope that mine is right.

Some interesting thoughts about Christian direction are in this link:
One part that is obviously correct:
[Blaise] Pascal also describes how our imagination distracts us from an accurate view of our own reality. Because Western society believes reason is supreme, it is difficult for people to see its limitations and how easily it is diverted from what is real.

Pascal mounts a vigorous challenge to Descartes’s Cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”). No single phrase has done more to challenge God’s revelation than this famous maxim and the confidence it expresses in human reason, especially in the new scientific method that marked the seventeenth century. Pascal helps us see that we are not creatures ruled exclusively by reason but are in fact equally influenced by instincts and habits—many of which are highly irrational.

greywarbler said...

Brendan McNeil I think you are a capitalist Christian. The vineyard story isn't about money at all. It is about people coming to Christianity, and whether they have long been believers or just for a short time, they are of equal standing with the Lord, and he decides this, not some legal customary opinion.

The talents is about making use of your wealth, not sitting on it to keep it safe from use by anybody. And such persons will receive more benefits, they will be advantaged though I don't think this will necessarily be in capital terms. At present what is happening in the world? The rich are piling up the credits and not using it gainfully to share with others and the planet. Such people apparently will get short shrift, and I hope they'll get theirs soon!

As you say about Luke - this is about not trying to keep all largesse that one receives.

sumsuch said...

Your mothership of evangelicals, Brendan O'Neil, is America, where they are the voter heart of the virulently anti-democratic Republicans. The real heart is plutocrats.

I judge them 'by their fruits'. Having your sort spouting at me since I was 14 I know you backward and forward. Reality has to come first and if it denies 'faith' the latter has to go. You literal bible believers have been in the wrong since Darwin. Read Edmund Gosse's 'Father and Son' from the mid 1800s. You're just 'useful fools' now.

KJT said...

The comments mostly seem to reflect right wing myths about those on welfare.
Most of which are absolute BS.

In the late eighties, early nineties there was a huge increase in those on welfare, when unemployment benefits were being reduced by the way, due to the "reforms" at the time putting thousands out of work.

Properly supporting parents, and their children, makes intergenerational "welfare dependency" less, not more, likely as kids grow up secure and well housed and fed.

Contrary to the beliefs expressed in the comments above, most people apart from those with medical or mental issues which prevent them getting a job, as you would expect, average less than two years on welfare in their lifetime.

The "Young women breeding" for a living are about 3% of those on the DPB. So hardly a popular lifestyle choice. One. Where are the Dad's? Two. If you are all so bloody concerned about that, how about offering them better options. Such as being able to grow up well housed, well educated and well fed. The right's attitude to Young mothers seems to be more about their own strange attitudes to sex and Young women than anything to do with youngsters having kids. Which could have been any of us.