Pilot Letter: A promise to heal


The letter evangelizes a Bible selection. I’m glad for it.

Evangelical missives have shown up in Pilot letters from time to time for as long as I can remember. That they routinely inspired abusive Christian bashing in the now discontinued comments is one reason I’m not sorry to see that feature go away.

I don’t read the Bible much, nor any other religious material, nor even go to worship, but I’m always happy to consider recommended readings for their relevance to current events. My view is that the Bible is a compendium of human knowledge that is accessible to religious and non-religious thinking alike.

Specifically, an old rule of classical argument holds that a truly thorough interpretation of any text must address four distinct levels of analysis:

  • Literal
  • Metaphorical
  • Metaphysical
  • Mystical

Where the Bible and other spiritual works are concerned, the literal analysis typically requires the most subtlety and sophistication. Consider, for example, the Old Testament claim that God created the world in six days. This cannot be literally true in a physical way, but it can be literally true in the sense that the number six was the base of the number system the authors of Genesis knew. The claim can otherwise be stated as, “The creation of the world conformed to natural laws, which are revealed through the mathematics of the number six.”

In contrast, Christian and Bible bashing tends to focus on the metaphysical, or analysis of first principles. This requires little subtlety or sophistication. Anyone can do it. Just proclaim that it is stupid to believe in God, as if the stupidity of the belief were obvious. (It isn’t, but that’s another topic.)

All of that is a roundabout way to make a basic point: Evangelism in the Letters feature is legitimate. Although I am not a proponent of Judaism or Islam or Zen, for that matter, I would approach references to their texts in the same way, because I think of religion as a repository for human knowledge of a long proven kind.

28 thoughts on “Pilot Letter: A promise to heal

  1. Or they could read “I Pencil,” “That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen” and ATLAS SHRUGGED and accomplish just as much toward healing the country, and they are marginally better reads.


    1. Come to think of it, you could substitute Harry Browne’s “A Gift for my Daughter” for ATLAS SHJRUGGED and save a lot of time. Everything needed to bring peace to our country is in those three short works.


        1. I didn’t write ‘world peace’ I wrote peace for our country. There is no world peace with Islam or with fascism.

          But if people understood the lessons of those three short works we could end strife in our country.

          “I Pencil” explains the spontaneous order of markets organized by price signals. If you understand that, you will see the absolute futility of central planning and that simply left alone, markets will organize themselves.

          “That Which is Seen…” explains the broken window fallacy, and how every intervention in the spontaneous order of markets will have both the direct and intended effects and many more unintended and not necessarily favorable consequences. 80% of the folly in government is the result of that fallacy, and if voters understood, we would not elect politicians who put us hopelessly in debt.

          “A Gift for my Daughter” is for peace of mind. People go to great lengths trying to collect debts that are not owed and bear a lot of anger toward others that is simply unjustified.

          Much like the spontaneous order of markets, people who do not engage in magical thinking and who understand that the world does not owe them a living will live in a society at peace with itself.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The magical thinking is entirely by the doctrinaire ideologues who – in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary – continue to believe that markets unfettered by government always produce optimal results. They simply don’t. Unless, of course, the suffering of other people means nothing in your value system. Then, maybe.

            Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: “Everything needed to bring peace to our country is in those three short works.”

        Perhaps, but then the Bible is a pretty good text for economic theory, too. Though not mentioned specifically in The Wealth of Nations (to my knowledge), the Bible was certainly part of the foundation of Adam Smith’s formal training in moral philosophy.

        In any case, I propose only that evangelizing in the Letters forum is legitimate, not superior. I’m open to all comers.


        1. RE: “The Bible? As a good text for economic theory? No response required.”

          So you say. But without justification, saying so is just a waste of time.

          For edification, there’s a passage in Mathew that reads, “Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!”

          I take this passage to be a prototypical description of Adam Smith’s unseen hand.

          There are many other examples, such as the passages which condemn usury. This, too, reflects a basic principle of economics: that it is reasonable for an investor to share in the profits that result from production, but too large a share must come at the expense of other interests in the enterprise, leading to discontent.


    2. Interesting you should mention “I, Pencil”. An essay that praises the interconnectedness of everything we do. Including infrastructure.

      No one person could build a pencil.

      That is, you alone did not build that.

      Gosh, that sounds familiar.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Len, it is hard to believe you could so completely misread ‘I Pencil’

        The whole point is that markets organize spontaneously with no conscious interconnection.

        The latex farmer doesn’t know the graphite miner, doesn’t care if he eats or not, and maybe his enemy on religious grounds, but each does his little part of making that pencil.

        Markets work because each person in the market pursues his own self interest, guided by price signals, and the pencil is there at the drugstore for a couple of cents, while NASA could not make one from scratch on its best day.

        And just around the corner at the grocery, you can get fresh strawberries at a reasonable price any day of the year. And Maine lobster.

        But Venezuela can’t get gasoline with the largest proven oil reserves in the world.


        1. The farmer doesn’t know the road builders either. And maybe he hates the government and the taxes that pay for the infrastructure. But he needs them nonetheless.

          I’m afraid you are the one missing the point (of the pencil…😃).

          Yes, the markets are amazing, but they don’t operate in isolation. Without infrastructure, courts, police, fire departments, banking regulations, stock markets that are honest, ships that sail unimpeded, etc., businesses can’t survive.

          People built those institutions long ago. On those shoulders our economy thrives.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. RE: “Yes, the markets are amazing, but they don’t operate in isolation.”

          Actually, they can and they do. Virtually all public goods and infrastructure are produced by the same industries that make up the private economy. They are produced in markets that are indistinguishable from “private” markets except for the fact that government is the contracted buyer. It is not the case that businesses cannot survive without government.


        3. “I Pencil” presents the concept of Adam Smith’s unseen hand rather well, but not quite as brilliantly as Smith’s own example of the pin factory. In the singular context of the pin factory management and process technology (or, the division of labor) stand out more prominently as co-equal factors of production. They operate together to produce wealth in an undifferentiated way.

          This is the exact concept Karl Marx fumbles in his own analysis of economic production. To Marx, production creates value and surplus value. Surplus value is that part of the total wealth which production creates for which labor deserves proportionate credit, and which the capitalist immorally appropriates. In this Marx commits a logical fallacy, but so be it.

          Perhaps this is where some liberals fall into error. They may not conceive of the unseen hand as having the material reality Adam Smith ascribes to it because (a la Marx) they sees wealth itself as inherently corrupt. And if wealth itself is inherently corrupt, the origin of social good must be found outside of mere economic production: You, pencil maker/pin maker, didn’t build that.


          1. Of your three references I Pencil is the most interesting and generally required reading in most Macro Econ classes. It is an excellent beginning point for discussions on the negative effect(s) of government intervention on the dynamics of supply and demand.

            Friedman was a big fan…

            Liked by 1 person

      1. I read SHRUGGED when I was 19 and thought Galt (perhaps your hero) was an idealistic lunatic then.

        I was referring to the Bible, but now that you mention it, the mental illness part does come into play.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. I’m not surprised you don’t see the hero in Willers.

            Willers is a competent manager , but he doesn’t have the talent or drive of Rand’s superpersons, Galt, or Reardon, or his employer Dagney. But he recognizes their greatness, and unburdened by envy he does what he can to support Dagney in her greatness.

            He is not as brilliant as the supers, but in many ways he is their moral superior, struggling against the inevitable collapse to the end. He was loyal to Dagney to a degree that she did not return. She should not have left him out at the end, Galt’s Gulch would have benefited from his presence.


          2. Just because someone interprets something in a manner different from your own doesn’t mean they didn’t get it. It just means they interpret it differently.


          3. Paul questioned why I see Willers as the hero.

            I tried to explain why, but I didn’t really expect him to understand.

            I have been interacting with Paul a long time, so I have good idea of his view of the world and of people.

            Paul is not capable of understanding a person free of envy or willing to voluntarily serve a cause that he sees as greater than himself.

            Paul’s response is exactly what I expected of him.


          4. “Paul is not capable of understanding”…

            This appears to be on the “un” side of civil, Don. It seems attacky. (Wow, I really expected to see red squiggly lines under that word.)

            Also it comes off as only you can understand things properly and Paul (or anyone else for that matter) is incapable of understanding unless they agree with YOU.

            Just an observation in a civil manner.


          5. Well, that would be why we need more than one person moderating.

            But note that I did not say he wasn’t smart enough to get it.

            It is an observation based on years of reading what he writes, and he simply has a blind spot when it comes to a person not motivated by envy and he does not understand the inherent nobility of being a good follower.

            He probably does even understand that the hero in DON QUIXOTE is Sancho Panza.


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