19 August 2015

Bonds and Bondage: Cashing in at the expense of others



The stadiums may present an extreme but very pertinent example of this. I am tired of hearing about financial advisors pushing and plugging municipal bonds. I'm wearing my economic minimalism on my sleeve here, but it seems to me that simply having money to invest shouldn't grant a person the right to make money off other taxpayers in order to get a return.

I know that under many bond schemes there's a projection of increased revenue that will pay for the project and the interest due the investors (often tax free at that) but how often does this really pan out? If not, the investors are effectively capitalising on the poor planning/projections of bureaucrats at the expense of fellow members of the community. Not quite loving one's neighbour, never mind the fact that this sort of thing is wide open to abuse, corruption and conflict of interest.

I know of some financial advisors who really push annuities and municipal bonds. It drove me to look into both, not because I have any interest whatsoever in investing, but instead to learn more about how it works and why they're pushing it so hard.


Of course it's no surprise that the same people who decry labeling tax-credits as subsidies often have no problem with this scheme. Tax credits aren't subsidies (they argue) because they (personally) determine what is legitimate taxation, and what isn't. So if they take the tax credit, as far as they are concerned they shouldn't have had to pay it anyway and if someone else does, that's simply because of bad governance or policy.

So once again in the case of bonds, if they get to cash in at the expense of others, well, caveat emptor right? Except the public can't do that with the tax man. They have little choice in the matter and if they do, they're barraged with propaganda. Lucky for you, you had the security to take some of your money to throw out there and invest.

I understand the worldly-mindset that generates these kinds of financial schemes and arrangements. I understand the system functions as a series of symbiotic relationships.

But I am not a little troubled that so many seem to identify this system (and thus this aspect of it) as somehow Christian or reflecting Christian values and/or worldview. It is based off some very dubious and suspect exegesis, a lot of eisegesis and a good deal of syncretism.

Typical of this is the piece from a Heritage Foundation 'fellow' attempting to explain (via smoke and mirrors) how Mortgage Interest Deductions aren't subsidies.


It's worth reading the handful of comments.

God legitimised taxation as a means to support the state in the Common Grace order. We're not told to like it. We're told to pay it. The only way to escape Paul's words in Romans 13 is to play bait-and-switch with the powers that be and decide who you think are the legitimate powers. Not a few Christian Libertarians attempt this failing to realize they've just negated the passage.

And they are encouraging God's people to sin when they label all taxation as theft. That is not the view of Scripture. It doesn't mean that taxation is righteous or Kingdom related, but it serves a purpose.

Rome used tax money for evil wars, pagan temples, gladiatorial shows, bread and circuses.

So what? Rome as beastly and evil as it was, still offered some social order. We're not looking for utopia or anything approaching it. The gospel functions better in the venue of society as opposed to chaos.

Libertarians seem to recognize the sinful nature of man when it comes to government but they fail to understand that the alternative is actually much worse. There are indeed a few circumstances when people can live in a society with minimal government but those situations are few and far between, and rest on clan ties or some kind of social consensus that is simply not possible in most parts of this country let alone the world.

Overall, libertarian political and economic schemes reflect a perilously low if not Pelagian view of sin and live in a delusion that somehow fallen man will voluntarily 'play by the rules' and not seek to exercise power over others. There will always be a government, and business will happily step into that role if the 'state' fails to do so. A true anarchic society is not possible because at that point it is no longer a society at all. Hyper-individualism will not lead to a countering of collective power. It will lead to instability and chaos and in the end people will happily give up their 'freedom' for security. It will in the end lead to a pendulum swing and in fact a great collective concentration of power. Ask the Weimar Germans or the post-Soviet era Russians. They got a heavy dose of anarchism in the 1990's and many people were actually fondly looking back to the stability of the USSR. Many were quite happy to see Putin wield a strong arm in restraining the abuses of society and the consolidation of power by the Uber-Capitalist Oligarchs.

Left-wing Anarchism argues that freedom isn't about rugged individualist autonomy. They would argue that leads to a 'Survival of the Fittest' type system where the few will dominate the many. This is at the core of their critique of the Capitalist system. Leftist Anarchism is socialistic in the sense that they believe that only under a collectivised and regulated system can the individual even begin to hope for and experience freedom and self-expression. They are anarchic in terms of personal liberties and in terms of society they believe in voluntarism that will grant not 'rugged individualism' (freedom for me at the expense of others) but 'universal access'. They would argue that their system is the only one that will bring about and preserve democracy. They are also dreaming, and though their view of sin is deficient in many ways (and with no little irony) it must be acknowledged their anthropology is closer to reflecting the view of Scripture than the Right-Libertarianism many Christians embrace. They at least understand that men are by nature (sinful nature we would say) selfish and bestial and given to individualism at the expense of others.

The Roman, British or American beasts are given power to tax and to be good 'citizens' we are to obey the laws and pay our taxes. We don't give them spiritual and/or ideological veneration or obedience. We show respect and honour offices, we pray, and mind our own business, as the Scripture commands. We don't 'play the game' and cash in. We're not looking for security, we're not trying to 'beat the market'. Christ makes it abundantly clear these are the things the Gentiles, the lost worldlings seek after. We lay up our treasures in heaven and certainly not by trying to find ways to beat the system especially when the system is rigged to strengthen the hands of power, the same hands that crush the weak. There's something really sick about the world system. Shouldn't we expect that?  It makes me both angry and ill that so many Christians support this model.

This does not mean we embrace socialism and redistribution. We don't have to embrace any man-made system. Our message is the gospel of the Kingdom, a message proclaiming the need to repent and believe or you will all likewise perish. The Church will always be a minority, even a remnant. We don't offer an alternative system because there is no system that will work in this fallen world. Man will destroy and corrupt it within minutes. Rather than argue about which paper castle/house of cards will work better, we instead should expose the lies of all systems and tell the truth. How do we flourish? Who said we're to expect that or even seek it?

Thus, I can utilize arguments from the Left to critique the Libertarian Right. Does the Left have a faulty worldview? Certainly. But they raise valid criticisms when it comes to the Right. Does that work the other way? Yes.

On some points the Left may be closer to the truth and on other points I will probably agree more with those on the economic or political Right.

But that doesn't make me a Centrist. We ought to be outside the system, offering the commentary of pilgrims, strangers and exiles.

If Christians aren't willing to transcend the world system but insist on trying to capture it and beat it, then they've missed the nature of God's Kingdom and how it functions in This Age.


How many 401k's and portfolio's cashed in on this type of activity? This is moral? This is using your money to the glory of God? This is what Christ was teaching in the parable of the talents? That's the worldling read I'm afraid. The parable of the talents wasn't about investment ethics, it was about Kingdom grace and gifts. Luke 8 reads:

Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”

10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that

‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’

Is this really the most equitable and efficient way to raise funds? It looks better, feels better, a way for government to raise money without necessarily or overtly raising taxes, a form of voluntarism that ostensibly invests engaged citizens in infrastructure, local govt. etc....

But, is it the most efficient way? Is it even honest to view it this way when in the case of something like municipal bonds it is only the investor class that benefits? Is it right to put projected tax revenue 'on the market' as it were, at risk?

It's no surprise this has been subject to such massive abuse. It's a greed driven system, subject to speculation and manipulation as is evidenced by the generation of parasitic opportunist insurance schemes etc...


Of course most people don't seem to realize that in many cases, (lease revenue bonds etc...) the payout to bond investors isn't directly related to the project for which the bonds were issued. It's all bundled into a large managed investment fund and you're being paid out of that. Thus since the money is effectively being gambled and entrenched in speculation, there's a market for insurance. And every step along the road there are a host of financial advisors and agents that earn their 'fees' for doing little more than moving the money around from one account to another often for their own benefit rather than the benefit of those they purport to advise and represent.

It's a far cry from earning your money by working with your hands and minding your own business. Instead it's earning by sleight of hand and at the expense of others. This is the world system. It strikes me as illegitimate and though I cannot bind the consciences of other believers in this matter my own is convinced.

For many of the same ethical reasons I would refuse to purchase war bonds, I find myself critical of such investment schemes. And indeed in many cases these investments are acts of low-grade war on others.


The concept of Fictitious Capital comes to mind. Granted there are many who criticize the concept of fiat currency and central banking but in modern integrated techno-industrial societies (as opposed to agrarian) a strong argument can be made against commodity backed currencies and their subjugation to market forces. Such systems place whole economies, social order and geo-political balance at risk. Market purists cannot seem to understand the Establishment will never willingly subject the integrity of their power to market forces. In every society the powers that be view the markets as a strategic interest and that will never change because they understand something ivory tower economists don't. Economics and politics are inseparable. You cannot study one without learning about the other.

The integrated economy and the intrinsic inflationary scheme benefit the wealthy once again at the expense of those who are the bottom of the social spectrum. The investors 'beat' the market while the lower classes are driven toward poverty, wage and debt bondage. Beating the market, keeping your pile of amorphous money ahead of the rate of inflation requires heavy investment in the system and is the means of attaining what society call 'success'.

Of course it also means that your parameters and your access are defined by tools of the system, credit scores and ratings, credit lines and investment capital.

The Mark of the Beast is spiritual but at a basic temporal level it is to be identified with the world system. If you're not of the world, then you will not flourish in the world system. These two are put in opposition as Christ declares... You cannot serve God and Mammon.

The Mark is more than economics but has an economic aspect. Those who refuse to take it, those who follow Christ as opposed to Satan, those who are unwilling to 'play the game' are guaranteed suffering, alienation and ostracisation. Those who refuse to subject themselves to the criteria of success laid out by the world system will be all but excluded. Exclusion is fluid, at times literal, and at times symbolic. The passage in Revelation 13 is probably best understood in a symbolic fashion which at times can take on hyperbolic aspects, again the point being spiritual.

The Sacral Church and its Dominionist doctrine have found a happy home in the bed of Neoliberal economics and has sought diligently to wed these Enlightenment doctrines to Biblical Theology through the dubious synthesis of Worldview as opposed to the truly Biblical mandate of Antithesis.

And thus we find almost desperate attempts to justify the system as a whole by appealing to purist if not ivory-tower forms. Academic definitions are employed divorced from the ethics central to all economic considerations. Economics is ethics. Central banking in particular comes under attack and yet time and again Neoliberal predictions and analysis concerning the coming collapse are proven to be simplistic and flawed. This has been happening for decades and was most recently demonstrated by all the discourse over the implemented phases of Quantitative Easing decreed by the Federal Reserve. By no means do I wish to defend the practice or the system it assumes yet it's worth noting that Quantative Easing is often misunderstood as the following article aptly demonstrates:


While this explanation can help in understanding why the hyper-inflation predicted by Libertarians hasn't happened, at the same time it demonstrates the rigging of the whole system, its 'fictitious' nature and once again, who benefits the most... the banking and investment class. They create money to be lent out at interest and take their cut all along the way.

So many critics of this system nevertheless invest in it and profit very nicely from it. If they have a problem with the creation of money by fiat, it's hard to see why. They have no difficulty with the notion that money just appeared out of nowhere because of how the market 'felt' that day or a projection or perception of increased value. That type of money is just as fictitious or 'created' as that which is established by policy. Doctrinally because it's supposedly market driven it's deemed legitimate but again I suggest this represents Neo-liberalism's deficient and reductionist presentation of what defines a market.

I urge Christians to ignore the so-called financial experts and in particular those who purport to represent a Christian or 'Biblical' worldview and yet support the overall system or seek ways to synthesize it with Scripture.

It is a basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old. Start in the New Testament with the words of Christ Himself and then do a study through the Epistles and learn what they teach about money. Then, return to the Proverbs, read them Christocentrically understanding what true wealth and riches are in the New Testament context. The financial perspective completely changes. Kingdom living and ethics presents us with a very different attitude regarding money and power. Judaizing Dominionism has inverted and all but negated what the New Testament teaches. We are to negate the world but sadly they have all but canceled out what the New Testament teaches and have fallen into the very traps Christ and His Apostles warned us about... the deceitfulness of riches. It chokes and destroys salvation by leading people to stray from the faith. It drowns them in destruction and perdition.