Thursday, August 28, 2014

Princess Navina visits....

Libertarian James Payne is using storybooks to teach teens why big government can be a big problem

The most important of topics aren't always the most interesting. That's why, instead of writing a textbook on the subject of "how government policy goes bad," James Payne decided to craft a series of four storybooks.

The heroine, Princess Navina, is the heir apparent to the throne of the Duchy of Pancratia, and her father, the king, wants her to learn how best to govern by seeing how governments are run in other countries. So in each book Princess Navina visits a different country, four in all, and in three out of four instances, her visit serves only to teach her how not to govern. These big, bad governments are scary, hurtful... and familiar. And, of course, that is the point: Payne is using Princess Navina to teach teens how in the real world many government policies, even those implemented with the best of intentions, can be oppressive and harmful.

Princess Navina visits Malvolia

by James Payne
54 pages / 1990

In the opening book the princess visits the country of Malvolia, where the ruling magog tells his visitors that in his country "rulers have one principle and one principle only, and that is to make everyone as unhappy as possible." The princess finds this a shocking ambition, but more shocking is the clear parallel between the magog's policies, introduced with the worst of intentions, and our own government's policies, which were passed with the best of intentions.

For example, the magog offers generous benefits to those in misery, but his intent isn't to help, but rather to sap their initiative, and to foster sloth. This in turn made the recipients surly and discontent, much to the magog's delight!

Our intent is quite different, but when people turn to the government to provide for their retirement income, healthcare needs, unemployment insurance, rent assistance, food stamps, and much more, the government largesse does sap our initiative. Why would a Canadian look for a cheaper healthcare provider when the government is footing the bill? Why would an unemployed American take the first decent job they can find if their unemployment insurance is going to last them half a year?

The princess also learns of the country's "prosperity fines," meant to vex the wealthy by fining them more and more the richer they become. It is, the magog crows, an excellent way to discourage "production, innovation and saving."
"The manner in which we collect the prosperity fine," he continued, "adds a further nuance of frustration. We require that each person calculate his own fine, which might not be too difficult except for one thing." He paused, his eyes brimming with sneaky delight. "Except for the fact that the rules and regulation for computing the fines are immensely complex and illogical! This means that everyone has to work long and hard to try to figure out what their fine is, always haunted by the fear of doing it incorrectly and going to jail."
In the end the kind-hearted princess can't hold back her outrage, but manages to escape from the magog, and continue on her journey.

Princess Navina visits Mandaat
by James Payne
55 pages / 1994

The next country on her world tour is Mandaat, where "legislation is the leading industry, and, as a result, they have a plentitude of laws." The princess's tour guide is happy to explain how their laws are crafted:
"...we weigh all our legislation here. That is how we evaluate our progress. Last year the Salon approved twenty-nine point three tons of laws, up by nearly a ton over last year...." 
"Are these gentlemen able to read the law they are approving?" asked the princess. "Why that pile alone must be four feet high."
"Of course not," replied the doctor. "No human being could read so much."
"But should they understand the laws they are approving?"
"My dear, that would never do. If they waited until they knew what they were voting on, they would never get anything done."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fiction that teaches

Can a book be average and also brilliant? The collection shared here proves it can be done. These are all novels, and as novels the very best of them are entertaining, but not notably so. And the worst of them are quite bad. But it would be more accurate to think of these as textbooks masquerading as novels, because their intention is very much to educate rather than entertain.

And as textbooks, they are brilliant! Teaching us by way of story is a great way to make learning a little less painful, and more memorable. Dry dusty facts are hard to memorizeInstead of dry dusty facts in column after column, we get these same ideas packaged in a story form

There is a tradeoff: the information isn't presented as systematically or concisely as it might be in a traditional textbook. However, if you want to being exploring a subject like philosophy or counseling, or the Christian perspective on euthanasia and abortion, these make for great, engaging introductions.

In the list below I've ordered them by their entertainment value, even though the strength of each of them lies in their educational value. The reason I've gone this route is because they are all excellent educationally, but vary widely as far as how entertaining they are, with the very last quite bad, and the first several quite good.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

World Winding Down:

Understanding the 'Law of Disorder' - And How It Demands a Creator
by Carl Wieland
2012, 95 pages

How does a car accident show the scientists' need to acknowledge God as the Creator?

Creationists often misuse the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which basically states that everything tends toward disorder. (You'll get a much better definition of it in this book.) Unwary Christians may say that since evolution involves increasing order and complexity over a long period of time, this makes it impossible. Of course, if that were true, no-one could build a house or a computer or an airplane, since this process also involves increasing order and complexity.

What Carl Wieland's book shows us, in only 95 pages, is why the Second Law of Thermodynamics, also called the Law of Increasing Entropy (entropy = disorder) is still a hugely important argument against evolutionism. He starts by giving some definitions of the Second Law, explaining how it shows how chance and time relate to how much usable energy is available in a system (always less than what we started with). He gives several examples of how the Second Law plays out in real life: car accidents (including his own personally disastrous head-on collision), perpetual motion machines (that can't work), and different water temperatures at either end of your bathtub (that can't happen). He explains why crystalization and fluids unmixing are not examples of increasing order; and how we can, in the short term, beat the Second Law (sort of); but why simply bringing energy into a system simply makes things worse, unless...

It's the "unless" that is most important. What brings order out of randomness and energy is intelligence and information, which evolutionary theory denies can influence its processes, since intelligence is a personal quality, the kind of thing that belongs to a Creator and Designer. As well, Wieland shows how the Second Law both implies a definite beginning to the universe and the need for a new beginning before everything simply winds down. Not only does the Second Law point to the creative work of God at the beginning of all things, but also to the renewing work of God at the end of our present world. Ironically, the seemingly depressing Second Law of Thermodynamics (the groaning of creation: Romans 8:20-23) reminds the Spirit-led believer of the good news of Jesus Christ.

This is just one example of the many excellent resources from Creation Ministries International, which you can visit at You can also purchase World Winding Down at by clicking here.