Sunday, December 25, 2005

The mostly forgotten role of big government in the first Christmas

I liked Scott Johnson's Power Line entry last year on Mary and Joseph hardly being homeless, where he refuted the claims of the ever-ignorant Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I myself get pretty annoyed by apparent non-Christians (especially self-righteous state-worshippers) who accuse me and other Christians of lacking compassion for the poor just because we advocate limited government. One of my atheist friends used to insist I'm a hypocrite because I stated that government has no role in welfare or other forms of "public charity," that charity must come privately. It stems from a confusion (or worse) that when I say "It's not government's role or duty," it does not mean I oppose private charity.

Scott also reminded us that Herod ordered the inhuman slaughter of all male babies younger than two years old. So when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt, it wasn't after Joseph lost his job or because of any other economic hardship. It was purely because big government, feeling its power threatened, put countless male children to the sword. Having been warned by an angel, Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped and became refugees.

Until that Power Line entry a year ago, I didn't realize just how much big government -- tyrannical government -- played a part in Jesus' early years. First, Luke 2:1-3 tells how the absolute ruler of the highly centralized, imperialist government decided to perform a census:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
This was no ordinary census, hardly like those the U.S. Constitution mandates. Augustus' census required each person to return to his town of birth, which was a great inconvenience to many. Not only would they incur great expenses in traveling, but they wouldn't be earning income.

However, as most everyone knows, Mary and Joseph couldn't find a room. Scott was along the right track to say it was like trying to find a hotel room during the Super Bowl, but Jesus wasn't born in a manger because people in a normal market economy were competing for a limited resource. Jesus wasn't born in a manger because government didn't subsidize housing for the poor, or enact price-controls; there literally were no rooms available, apparently at any price. Like Reagan said, government was the problem. By requiring people to travel to their hometowns, the government had artificially created the scarcity of housing! And this has become all but unknown for the last two millenia.

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