Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Sweden turning to capitalism as money for government spending runs out

I hear a lot of people in my office predicting doom and gloom for the United States. Rubbish. The worst that’s going to happen is that we have the kind of slow economy that France has, and that will only last until we run out of money to borrow.

Yahoo News explains what happens when socialists run out of money.

Excerpt:

The Nordic model, known for high taxes and its cradle-to-grave welfare system, is getting a radical makeover as nations find themselves cash-strapped.

[...]In the wake of a banking crisis in the early nineties, Stockholm scrapped housing subsidies, reformed the pension system and slashed the healthcare budget.

A voucher-based system that allows for-profit schools to compete with state schools was introduced, and has drawn attention from right-wing politicians elsewhere, including Britain’s Conservative Party.

In 2006, conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s government accelerated the pace of reform, tightening the criteria for unemployment benefits and sick pay while lowering taxes.

Income tax in Sweden is now lower than in France, Belgium and Denmark, and public spending as a share of GDP has declined from a record 71.0 percent in 1993 to 53.3 percent last year.

Just so you know, his numbers might be out of date.

The latest Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom says this:

The top individual income tax rate is 57 percent, and the top corporate tax rate has been cut to 22 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) and a capital gains tax. The overall tax burden is 44.5 percent of GDP. Public expenditures make up about half of GDP, and public debt is below 40 percent of GDP. The government is attempting to expand investment in infrastructure and research while reining in welfare spending.

The United States had this:

The top individual income tax rate has risen to 39.6 percent, and the top corporate tax rate remains at 35 percent. Other taxes include a capital gains tax and excise taxes. The payroll tax holiday expired at the beginning of 2013. The overall tax burden amounts to 25.1 percent of gross domestic income. General government expenditures are slightly over 40 percent of GDP. Total public debt equals over 100 percent of the size of the economy.

So we are actually worse than Sweden now, in terms of government spending as a percent of GDP.

Denmark, too

More from the Yahoo News article:

If Sweden is the Nordic country to have gone the furthest in shrinking its welfare state, Denmark has moved the fastest.

When her Social Democratic government took power in 2011, there was little to suggest Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt would make any dramatic changes to the country’s cherished welfare state — funded by the world’s highest tax burden.

After a centre-right government had raised the retirement age and reduced the unemployment benefits period from four to two years, “Gucci Helle” — as she is known among her detractors — went on to cut corporate taxes to 22 percent from 25 percent.

Other reforms have included requiring young people on benefits to undertake training, and withdrawing student aid to those taking too long to finish their studies.

Denmark has been spurred into action by a persistently sluggish economy since a housing bubble imploded in 2007, leading to anaemic household spending.

But among Danes there is also a sense that the welfare state was ballooning out of control.

In 2011, a TV report aiming to show what life was like for the poor in Denmark visited the home of a single mother on benefits, whose disposable income turned out to be 15,728 kroner (2,107 euros, $2,860) per month.

“Poor Carina”, as she was later nicknamed, sparked a national debate on the level of unemployment benefits, with one pollster crediting her with fuelling a rise in the number of people who felt benefits were too high.

It would be nice if we had journalists who could do a story like that.

A different article from a Swedish newspaper called The Local has more on the new Sweden.

Excerpt:

One in ten Swedes now has private health insurance, often through their employers, with some recipients stating it makes business sense to be seen quickly rather than languish in national health care queues.

More than half a million Swedes now have private health insurance, showed a new review from industry organization Swedish Insurance (Svensk Försäkring). In eight out of ten cases, the person’s employer had offered them the private insurance deal.

“It’s quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks’ time rather than having to wait for a year,” privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. “It’s terrible that I, as a young person, don’t feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me.”

The insurance plan guarantees that she can see a specialist within four working days, and get a time for surgery, if needed, within 15.

I used to make fun of Sweden for being so socialist, but then I started to read more about them on Reason.com and from the Cato Institute (two libertarian sites) and my mind changed. These new articles confirm for me  that Sweden is improving their economy by embracing the free market system and rejecting socialism. Obviously, there is more to do, but the trend is good, and the results cannot be questioned. What could the United States do if we acted more like Sweden? It seems like just as they are moving away from government control of health care, we are moving towards it! We are embracing old ideas, and we need something new.

I am still worried about the European countries because of the breakdown of the family, the disrespect of marraige and the low fertility rates. But still, this is a good sign for those of us who are worrying that we need to cheer up. This is how socialism ends. We’ll get there.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Ryan T. Anderson defends traditional marriage at Boston College

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

The Boston College student newspaper reports. I won’t go over Anderson’s case for traditional marriage, because you all know that from reading my previous posts. I want to highlight what went on at the lecture itself.

Excerpt:

Students sat on the floor, wedged between backpacks and pressed back against the walls. Brightly colored “Support Love” t-shirts were sprinkled liberally throughout the audience in Cushing 001 on Thursday night, as students gathered to hear—and question—Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation.

Titled “A Case Against Gay Marriage,” Anderson’s presentation was arranged by the St. Thomas More Society (STM), a student-run group at Boston College. Rev. Ronald Tacelli, S.J., the group’s faculty advisor and a professor in the philosophy department, introduced Anderson, stating that the event would be more question-and-answer based, as opposed to the panel that had originally been planned. “When I see the size of the crowd, I think it was a better idea,” he said, eliciting laughter.

The large turnout for the talk can be attributed in part to a Facebook event created earlier in the week by BC Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH). The event, formed in opposition to Anderson’s talk after an email about it was sent out to students on the philosophy and theology departments’ listservs, encouraged students to show up wearing Support Love shirts and to participate in the discussion. “This is not the type of programming that fosters an accepting environment for students,” the event description read. “This event is going to have to rely on the audience for any hope of a balancing opinion presence.”

After Tacelli’s introduction, Anderson began by running down a list of things upon which he would not be basing his argument: morality, sexual orientation/homosexuality, religion, tradition. “I think frequently people have an expectation of what they’re going to hear,” he said. “I make a philosophical and policy argument about marriage.”

He then asked a question of the crowd. “From the looks of the t-shirts, this is probably a challenge for most of the audience,” he said. “I want to know what you think marriage is … that’s actually the question that people in favor of redefining marriage refuse to answer. And they refuse to answer that question by hiding behind what I think is a rather sloppy slogan: marriage equality.”

Anderson said that everyone involved in the debate over marriage is ultimately in favor of equality. “We all want the government to treat all real marriages in the same way. The question is, what type of relationship is a marriage?”

Eventually, they had to move to a bigger room and then they continued:

Tacelli interrupted to inform the crowd that BCPD had requested that the event be moved to a larger auditorium, McGuinn 121. The audience left Cushing slightly before 8 p.m., and Anderson resumed his point on government interest in marriage less than 10 minutes later.

[...]Anderson then concluded his talk and commenced nearly an hour of question and answer, with Tacellimoderating.

Nine students asked questions, with many challenging Anderson on various aspects of his argument, to applause from much of the audience. Most questions focused on his central point—that children who were raised by a heterosexual, married couple were better off than those raised by same-sex couples.

And the Q&A was interesting – it shows that even liberal Boston College students could be civil:

“If further studies came out that show these children are fine—they’re healthy, they grow up to be responsible adults and members of society—would you change your mind?” asked one student

Anderson replied that if the studies showed that there was no difference based on family arrangement, then he would not think that government should be in the marriage business. “I don’t think the government should be recognizing consenting adult love if ultimately it doesn’t make a difference one way or another to the common good,” he said. “If the science came back saying, actually, it’s a wash … then yeah, I wouldn’t care what the law or public policy would be about marriage. I would be surprised—and let me say that it wouldn’t change my opinion about what marriage is, that would just be a study of parenting arrangements.”

Brandon Stone, A&S ’14, asked whether, if the end goal was providing the best environment in which to raise children, that would also necessitate defining marriage along economic or class lines.

“The idea here is not that we should only recognize marriages that are socially valuable,” Anderson said. “The idea here is that marriage as an institution is a socially valuable institution, therefore the state tries to promote it. But when the state promotes marriage, it has to promote the truth about marriage. Poor people can get married, right—they can form the reality of that comprehensive unit. So it would be unjust to deny poor people the opportunity if they’re actually capable of forming a marriage.”

Further questions centered around legal rights, such as the transferal of property after death; the specific definitions of  “mothering” and “fathering”; and whether a non-child-producing heterosexual relationship could be considered a marriage.

Post-lecture discussion organized by the campus gay student group:

After Tacelli ended the question and answer period, Alex Taratuta, chair of the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) and A&S ’14, stood up to announce that GLC would be hosting an after-event discussion for any students who wanted to keep talking.

“Going into the event, GLC’s main priority was the mental health and safety of the students,” Taratuta said in an email. “This is one of the reasons that we held a post-event discussion afterwards; we wanted people to have some time to digest the conversation before going back to their dorms … I think it went better than I expected. I knew it would be well attended, but the amount of support from the student body for the GLBTQ community on campus and even the community as a whole, exceeded my expectations.”

Mike Villafranca, co-president of STM and A&S ’14, stopped by the GLC discussion to speak with the students there.

“I was concerned going into tonight’s talk because I knew nothing about Mr. Anderson, and I was worried that the student reaction would be visceral and angry,” Villafranca said later in an email. “Instead of that, I was impressed by the way that the students from GLC and BCSSH reacted to what Mr. Anderson said. It was clear that they came with ideas about what they wanted to ask, but that they listened to what he had to say, and they challenged him in terms of what he said rather than what they came expecting to hear. I’m glad that the Q&A stayed on an intellectual level and didn’t descend into emotional outbursts, which it easily and justifiably could have done.”

I think if you are going to discuss marriage face-to-face with people who are pro-SSM, then it’s probably a good idea to just stick with the Anderson script. I don’t think it’s safe to discuss this issue unless you are careful about who you talk to and how you talk to them. That’s why I am posting about this lecture – to show you how it’s done in hostile environments. We’ve had a whole slew of people from photographers, to sportscasters, to bakers getting into trouble for telling gay peope directly that they disagree with gay marriage. I don’t think you want to take a chance on that approach of “The Bible says…” because it doesn’t work. Ryan Anderson’s approach seems to work a lot better. The people who get hammered are the ones who don’t take the time to study anything except the Bible, who discriminate by appealing to the Bible, and who are not talking to people who have chosen to hear what they have to say – especially in an academic setting where they are there to learn. “The Bible says” ought to be perfectly legitimate in the United States, but thanks to the people in government, it’s not working any more, and we have to adapt.

If you’re going to discuss marriage with a pro-SSM person, then you should do it like Ryan Anderson does it. An academic setting is best. Talking about principles and policies instead of specific people is best. And a secular case for marriage is best. It’s better if your employer won’t be pressured to fire you. It’s best to stick with public policy and secular reasons for marriage, instead of quoting the Bible to non-Christians – that just makes them angry. When you base your position in facts and arguments, they are less likely to get angry because they can disagree with you more easily by arguing against your facts and arguments. Be ready to show  the public, peer-reviewed data that supports your view of marriage. So again, if you insist on doing it, do it like Ryan.

Warning: your comment is probably not going to be approved, so don’t even bother, regardless of what side you’re on.

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Millionaire gay couple sues Church of England to get gay wedding in a church

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

The UK Daily Mail reports.

Excerpt:

The first legal challenge to the Church of England’s ban on same-sex marriage was launched today – months before the first gay wedding can take place.

Gay father Barrie Drewitt-Barlow declared: ‘I want to go into my church and marry my husband.’ He added: ‘The only way forward for us now is to make a challenge in the courts against the Church.’

The legal move means an early test for David Cameron’s promise to the CofE and Roman Catholic bishops that no church would be forced to conduct same-sex weddings against the will of its leaders and its faithful.

Ministers set down a ‘quadruple lock’ in the new same sex marriage law – which received Royal Assent last month – which is supposed to protect those churches which oppose gay marriage.

However the guarantees will have to be tested in the courts and gay rights groups have been expecting to bring an early challenge.

How is the suit likely to be resolved?

The article notes that:

[A] succession of past court cases have resulted in defeats for Christians who were in disputes over equality laws, and in particular courts have always found in favour of gays who have challenged Christians.

In recent years notable cases have ended in the sacking of a town hall registrar who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies, the sack for a Relate counsellor who said he would not give sex advice to gay couples, and defeat for a couple who declined to let a room in their hotel to a gay couple on the grounds that they were unmarried.

Colin Hart, of the Coalition for Marriage said: ‘The ink’s not even dry on the Bill and churches are already facing litigation. We warned Mr Cameron this would happen, we told him he was making promises that he couldn’t possibly keep.

‘He didn’t listen. He didn’t care. He’s the one who has created this mess. Mr Cameron’s chickens are coming home to roost and it will be ordinary people with a religious belief who yet again fall victim to the totalitarian forces of political correctness.’

Mr Hart added: ‘We now face the real prospect of churches having to choose between stopping conducting weddings, or vicars, and priests defying the law and finding themselves languishing in the dock.’

Yesterday, I blogged about how gay activists are already infringing on religious liberty in the United States. It’s happening here. Isn’t interesting that many people who falsely claim to be Christian nevertheless voted for a President who is in favor of gay marriage? And now we are getting the consequences of gay marriage – the end of religions liberty.

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Ryan Anderson explains how gay marriage is already infringing on religious liberty

Dr. Ryan Anderson writes about the threat to religious liberty in National Review.

Excerpt:

Thomas Messner, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has documented multiple instances in which laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as laws redefining marriage, have already eroded religious liberty and the rights of conscience.

After Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, Catholic Charities of Boston faced a mandate to place children with same-sex couples. Rather than go against its principles, Catholic Charities decided to get out of the adoption business — a move that helps neither the orphans nor society. When Massachusetts public schools began teaching grade-school students about same-sex marriage, the town of Lexington’s school superintendent, Paul Ash, defended the decision to the Boston Globe with this statement: “Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.” A Massachusetts appellate court ruled that parents have no right to exempt their children from these classes.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” Doctors in California were successfully sued for declining to perform an artificial insemination on a woman in a same-sex relationship. Owners of a bed-and-breakfast in Illinois who declined to rent their facility for a same-sex civil-union ceremony and reception were sued for violating the state nondiscrimination law. A Georgia wellness counselor was fired after she referred someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor.

In fact, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”

In a letter sent to priests, deacons, and pastoral facilitators in 131 parishes, the Catholic bishop of Springfield, Ill., explains that a same-sex-marriage bill state lawmakers are considering this year does not include meaningful protections for religious liberty:

[It] would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex “weddings.” It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally “married” to someone of the same sex. This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so “married” from senior leadership positions. . . . This “religious freedom” law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government. We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois. . . . There is no possible way– none whatsoever — for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. Why should we expect it be otherwise? After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an “unfair” view of marriage. The state would have equated our view with bigotry — which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.

Georgetown University law professor Chai Feldblum, an appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, argues that the push to redefine marriage trumps religious-liberty concerns:

For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed-and-breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making that decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.

Indeed, for many supporters of redefining marriage, such infringements on religious liberty are not flaws but virtues of the movement.

Now, I have previously written that a good case can be made against same-sex marriage on secular grounds alone, but make no mistake – the more gay rights advance, the more religious liberty declines. This issue is not about equality, it’s about trampling on the rights of anyone who voices any disagreement with the gay lifestyle.

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Good News: The Bible is number one on the bestseller list in Norway

From the Washington Times.

Excerpt:

Bibles have been flying off the book shelves in Norway, a country hailed more for its adherence to secular politics and culture than spiritual development. And while religious leaders aren’t quite calling the strong biblical book sales proof positive of a spiritual awakening, they are seeing it as a sign of the nation’s more public embrace of God and a continuing quiet growth in biblical teachings.

A new Norwegian-language version of the Bible has become the country’s No. 1 best-seller, The Associated Press reported. And its popularity has been evidenced for some time. The Blaze reported that the version has been in the top 15 best-seller list for 54 of the past 56 weeks.

As The Guardian noted, Bible sales in Norway have topped the charts for longer the pop star Justin Bieber’s autobiography or the hugely popular “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Meanwhile, Norwegians are taking their faith to the stage, too. A six-hour play called “Bibelen,” which means “The Bible” in Norwegian, has been drawing thousands. In a three-month span, more than 16,000 people saw the production, The Blaze reported.

Leaders of the Lutheran Church of Norway say it’s not quite an awakening. After all, they say, only 1 percent of the country’s 5 million residents attend church. And others, such as biblical scholars, say the furor is over nothing — that Norwegians are traditionally quiet followers of the faith who don’t necessarily need to go to church as part of their belief system. But the sales are significant, nonetheless. If nothing else, they show the mindset of the nation.

“Thoughts and images from the Bible still have an impact on how we experience reality,” said Karl Ove Knausgaard, one of the Norwegian authors who helped translate the popular Bible version, in the AP report.

Norway actually was one of the more conservative countries in Europe, and one of the last to have the big decline of the family that we see in the other Scandinavian countries.

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