Saturday, November 22, 2008


There are a couple of interesting responses to some recent posts on our Feedback page. Please check it out.

A number of readers replied to the post What's Love Got to Do With it? and many of them expressed frustration with the opposite sex. This is not new, of course, but I suspect that the erosion of traditional moral constraints on male/female relationships has made what was always a tense situation much worse. I didn't find in the replies I received to this post much disagreement with this.


Gimme Money

All the talk about bailouts reminds me of a song first done by Barrett Strong in 1959 and later reissued by a dozen other groups including The Beatles. It was called Gimme Money and went like this:

The best things in life are free, but you can give 'em to the birds and bees. Now gimme money (That's what I want), that's what I want (That's what I want), that's what I want, yeah, that's what I want.

Money don't get everything it's true, but what it don't get I can't use. So gimme money (That's what I want), a little money (That's what I want), that's what I want, yeah, that's what I want.

Yeah, gimme money (That's what I want). A little money (That's what I want), that's what I want (That's what I want). So gimme money (That's what I want), that's what I want, yeah, that's what I want.

And so forth.

I thought of this catchy little tune while watching the automaker execs go before Congress hat in hand asking for a couple of billion dollars of taxpayer money to compensate them for doing such a lousy job of running their industry.

We've heard that the auto industry cannot be allowed to fail, that it's "too big to fail", that millions of people will be out of work if it fails. Well, maybe, but into this maelstrom of claims and counterclaims strides Dan Weil of NewsMax with a refreshingly lucid column titled Ten Reasons Why the Auto Bailout Is a Bad Idea. Here are the first three:

1. A bailout would provide money only for short-term survival. It wouldn't alter car makers' flawed business models. GM is running through cash at the rate of $2 billion a month. So $10 billion from the government would give it only five months' breathing room. Can they turn over their business practices in that period? Please. The temptation would be simply to come back to taxpayers for more.

2. A government handout would allow the Big Three to avoid necessary cost cutting. Because of a strong union, the average GM employee received $70 an hour in combined pay and benefits last year. And it's not just line workers who are making too much. GM chief executive Richard Wagoner garnered about $24 million a year in 2006 and 2007, while leading his company toward oblivion.

3. Bankruptcy isn't all bad. It doesn't mean liquidation. It means taking the painful steps the companies have been unwilling to contemplate to date. The real losers in such a deal are car makers, equity shareholders and creditors. Bankruptcy would give the automakers the chance to throw out existing employee contracts with their onerous health and pension systems. The unions would be forced to temper their demands if they want the car companies to survive. In the case of GM, it could also dump some of its uncompetitive product lines such as Pontiac and Saturn. Discontinuing five of GM's eight domestic brands would save the company $5 billion annually.

You can read the remaining seven reasons at the link. Weil and a lot of others are saying that the auto execs can sing Gimme Money all they want, but it doesn't make it a prudent thing to do. Why should the beleaguered public subsidize poor leadership and exorbitant worker salaries and benefits when the average taxpayer makes less than any of these guys? Management and labor have a right to make whatever they can get on the market or in contract negotiations, of course, but they don't have a right to expect us to open our wallets to compensate them for their avarice and incompetence.

Let them file for bankruptcy, reorganize, and get competitive.


Re: Atheist Charities

Some readers thought that it was a bit of an exaggeration to suggest in Atheist Charities that atheists are not as compassionate as Christians. They also thought that any implication that Christian compassion arises out of sense of duty makes it seem as Christian charity is simply a hoop that must be jumped through in order to get to heaven.

These are misapprehensions. The difference between atheists and Christians is not that atheists don't have the capacity for compassion and Christians do; it's that atheists, if their belief about God is true, have no reason to exercise that capacity. There simply is no reason to be compassionate in a Godless world except the inclinations urged upon one by her own personality. If she weren't compassionate, if she lacked kindness, she wouldn't be morally wrong or defective. She'd just be different than others who are compassionate.

Compassion is a duty for the Christian, to be sure. Indeed, it's commanded, but the motive for fulfilling that obligation is not the hope of heaven. The Christian already has that. The motive is love for God and gratitude for what He's done. We love others, or should, because God loves them and we love and are grateful to Him. To love Him is to love what He loves. If God does not exist there's no reason whatsoever why anyone should treat others, especially people he doesn't know (like poor Africans, for instance), with kindness.

That's why there are so few atheist charities, if indeed there are any at all. The atheist has no real reason to sacrifice his own resources for the benefit of complete strangers, but the Christian has several: The Christian believes his resources are not his but God's, to be employed in the service of God's kingdom and to help God's children. The Christian also believes that we are our brother's keeper and are responsible for doing what we can to help him. The Christian believes that each life is precious because it is valued by God and that each life has the potential to exist for eternity. The help we give a person today could shape and influence him not just for a few more years, but forever. The Christian believes that others have dignity which can only derive from their being made in the image of God and loved by Him and they are therefore worth our sacrifice.

The atheist, of course, believes none of this. The atheist may value other people but, if so, her decision to do so is completely arbitrary and subjective. It's not based on anything more substantial than her own feelings and the decision to value others, if atheism is true, is neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. It's qualitatively similar to the decision to buy a Toyota rather than a Honda.

This being the case, as society grows increasingly secular it's reasonable to expect that acts of charity, including charitable giving, will decline.

This post (which is based on this one) compares charitable giving among conservatives and liberals and, since Christians tend to be conservative and atheists tend to be liberals, these posts might offer some insight into the relative benevolence of atheists and Christians.