Leadership “When the Treasuries are Empty”

Pragmatism, Collapsed

From North’s article When The Treasuries Are Empty, from his Biblical Economics Today series.

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The secular world today is religiously committed to pragmatism. If something “works,” meaning survives for over a decade, then it is considered valid until it subsequently fails. The trouble is, some policies take over a century to fail. Witness the collapse of the public education system in England and the United States. Witness the collapse of the so-called Social Gospel. It takes a long, long time to convince pragmatic secularists, who believe in the substitute god of the State, that their god has failed. Even with disintegration all around them, the secularists will not abandon government-financed educational institutions. If anything, they want to increase the monopoly by stamping out all private education, either directly or through licensing and certification. They refuse to learn precisely because they are not neutral observers; they are religiously committed to secular humanism, and they cloak this religious commitment in the language of pragmatism.

What will it take for the scholars, bureaucrats, and politicians to abandon the present system? Collapse. Total, unmistakable, universal bankruptcy is the price of their education. This is not to say that a majority of present-day Keynesian apologists will actually abandon their present principles. It is to say that they will find it far more difficult to get anyone to listen to them, finance them, or put more of their visibly disastrous programs into effect. In short, in the long run, Keynesians are all dead. They will be forcibly retired from public “service.” They will go away muttering to themselves that things would have been all right if politicians, consumer, voters, and speculators had only imposed more Keynesianism. But no one will be listening.

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People committed to their evil don’t repent. Usually, they just get ground down – or hammered flat – by reality.

“In the long run, Keynesians are all dead… They will go away muttering to themselves that things would have been all right if politicians, consumer, voters, and speculators had only imposed more Keynesianism. But no one will be listening. ”

That’s a keeper.

They can greet the National Socialists and the Communists, in the dustbin of history.

People Decide for the Nation

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What is far more significant is the attitude of the general public. The average voter knows nothing about economic theory. He is a Keynesian by default. He likes free lunches. He likes all the talk about depressions being impossible today. He likes to live in a world of government-guaranteed security. What he is living in is a world of government slogans. When the treasuries are empty in the various socialist states throughout the world, or the money is worthless, men will no longer be able to rely on government slogans. The calorie content of slogans is remarkably low.

What then? Will he abandon his false slogans for valid principles, like those Prof. Sennholz outlines in the next essay? Will he accept a very basic principle, namely, that no man has the right to confiscate another man’s wealth for his own benefit, or the benefit of those whose favor he is courting? You don’t need graphs and equations to make a decision concerning the legitimacy of ballot-box plunder. You don’t need a course in econometrics to get your hand out of your neighbor’s wallet.

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The public will only know the right way when someone tells them of it. This will happen, but it’s going to take time to convince the ordinary man, at least a generation.

Where Leadership Must Come From

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[…] serious Christians must get involved in political economy. Political economy will be the battlefield of the early decades of the next century. Political economy will be the arena of confrontation between humanism and orthodoxy. If Christians today succeed in rethinking the crucial questions of the State and its role, then there will be a foundation of Christian ethics which will serve society well. But if the present-day trend of pietism, with its head-in-the-sand, pie-in-the-sky theology, continues to dominate the churches, then there will be no immediate confrontation. The “new, improved humanism” of the would-be Caesars will go without a direct challenge.

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The coming internet-based collectivists – like the radio-based collectivists of old – must be challenged. And defeated.

Fortunately, it will be easier to fight and defeat them than last time: today’s internet web is easier to work with than a centralized transmission point, routinely controlled by men with guns.

Note: the bold below belongs to North.

Socialism, Slumping

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When the treasuries are empty, the public will get a glimpse of the reality of truly bad economics. At that point, who will offer the public an alternative? Will it be the Marxists? Will it be the anarchists? Will it be the guild socialists? Will it be the Bible-believing covenantal economists? Obviously, it will not be the defeated Keynesians. It will not be the pietists. So who will pick up the pieces? Or more to the point, in your local community, who will pick up the pieces?

My feeling is that in each local community, different people will be influential. Different working arrangements will be discovered. Most of these discoveries will be based on reaction: how to avoid the immediately preceding disaster? A sort of trial-and-error process of experimentation will take place in thousands of local regions. I do not believe that any central government can impose its will over every nook and cranny of a nation. There will be pockets of resistance to socialism in local communities and inside big cities (fraternal groups. churches. secret societies. etc.). This is why it is absolutely crucial to train up a small cadre of informed people in each local community. The world will be crying for leadership, and orthodoxy must provide it. But to be realistic, we have to say that orthodoxy will not immediately step forward with a fully developed, generally agreed-upon alternative to the empty treasuries of Keynesianism. It will be a long, slow process of education.

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I actually think that the resistance to socialism will be larger than North thought in 1978, when this article was written (and the Soviet Union still existed!)

Things have improved in economic education — thanks to Mises.org, LewRockwell.com, and the spread of non-establishment information networks.

As well as the lessons of reality.

People Who Will Not Lead

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We know where the leadership will not come from. It will not come from the nation’s conservative seminaries. They are normally controlled by administrators who are, at best, committed to pietistic pragmatism. The Calvinist seminaries are headed by men who are in some cases committed to political liberalism (“we must be relevant”) and theological conservatism. The Roman Catholic seminaries are so few and far between, and so divided theologically and politically, that no one can guess what will come forth, but one thing looks certain: not many celibate, traditional priests will. The liberal seminaries are a dying lot anyway, and the public will not be interested in baptized Keynesianism by then. (Baptized Marxism may be a problem, however.)

We know that the leadership will not come from the struggling, schizophrenic Christian colleges, with their secular textbooks, their divided faculties, and their pitiful libraries. They will, as always, play follow-the-leader. They will, as always, play it safe. They may, God willing, go bankrupt. So it is up to local congregations, local Christian day-schools, independent publishing houses, and other local Christian voluntary organizations to create the necessary leadership in each community. A local church which is not systematically training its members to take principled leadership in a time of crisis is little more than a pleasant social club. Social clubs have a place in society, but they are not much good for Christian reconstruction. When times get tough, churches will either change, finally becoming relevant, or die.

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I am confident that most churches & denominations would rather die than leave their comfort zone, become relevant – and then face the scrutiny and challenge of a hostile culture.

There might be a minority of churches (and maybe a tiny denomination or three) who will seize the bull by the horns. They may well be gored… but at least they have the possibility of gaining the victory over the enemy, and thereby inheriting the future.

I think that some version of internet churches and groups are where God’s voice will be heard, and where His Will will be first made manifest.

Christian leadership in the real world will — I believe — be sparked by Spirit-filled leadership on the internet, imparted to thousands of keen and active believers, ready to put God’s Word to work in the physical reality outside of the computer screens.

For more, see Worthless Salt and Old Wineskins, or the original article by Stephen C. Perks, Christian Renaissance: Why There Was Never a Reformation.

Leadership Starters

Also, read

The Fathers in the Wilderness

“Think back to 1940, or even 1960. Where were the serious scientific books based on the six-day creation? From George McCready Price’s ineffective efforts in the 1920’s until Morris and Whitcomb published The Genesis Flood in 1961, what was there? Genesis Flood had to be published by tiny and unknown Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., since all the other Christian publishing houses to which the manuscript was sent insisted that the authors make at least a few friendly references to non-six-day creationist positions. They refused.

What about social theory? Prior to Rushdoony’s Foundations of Social Order (1969), what was there? What about Christian economics? What about Christian politics? What about Christian legal theory? Biblical law? In short, until the 1960’s, there was nothing but a vast wasteland–a wilderness–as far as serious Christian scholarship on questions relating to society was concerned. There was no leadership.”

How to Become a Christian Leader

The Structure of Leadership

Leadership Through Discipleship, Part 3: Prophets, Leaders, Followers, Losers

“Christians in this century have not experienced a significant political or cultural victory. They have never served under a leader who has successfully mobilized men for this kind of long-term fight for a new civilization. Instead, Christian leaders have invented new theories of law, sanctions, and time that conform to the humanists’ vision. Christians preach natural law, the absence of God’s sanctions in history, and the defeat of Christianity in history. Thus, Christian leaders are capable at best only of launching short-term resistance projects against the most outrageous public evils. They do not preach victory in history, for they do not believe in victory in history. American Christian leaders preach some version of “Let’s just get back to 1955.” They believe that James Madison was God’s political prophet and Dwight Eisenhower was his legitimate heir. They do not acknowledge to themselves that what we have today is a consistent extension of the political humanism of 1955, and that 1955 was a consistent extension of the political humanism of 1787.

The modern Christian leader has no contemporary role models. He has no biographies of successful Christian political or cultural reformers other than William Wilberforce, whose work to abolish slavery in the British commonwealth ended in victory in 1838. The best way to learn how to lead is to serve under a successful leader, but Christians have shunned leadership positions in the twentieth century. About the only secular office that fundamentalist Christians have believed is worth pursuing is being elected Grand Master of the local Masonic lodge.

The modern Christian leader is therefore forced to bootstrap his unfamiliar calling. He must discover the truth, proclaim the truth, and mobilize others to extend and defend the truth. He must live the truth and recruit others to live the truth. The only models we have for this are missionaries and Communists. What Douglas Hyde described in Dedication and Leadership (Notre Dame University Press, 1956) is not found in Protestant evangelicalism except among a handful of missionaries, who are too far distant to provide role models for national leaders.”


“Christians are to exercise leadership in the world. The lowest sheep, Paul said, is a more reliable judge of disputes between Christians than the most skilled pagan judge (I Cor. 6:4). But we must learn to exercise righteous judgment before we serve as judges. This is true in every area of life. We are required to start at the bottom. Societies that are under God’s curse are afflicted with amateurs. “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isa. 3:12). Although baptism has made judicial equals of men and women except in church offices that must reflect God’s masculinity, Isaiah’s warning is valid: amateurs make poor rulers. It is the task of Christians to serve as low-level followers until God raises them to positions of authority. They are not to seek such positions apart from the discipline involved in years of hard service in lower jobs and ceilings.”

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