Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Wayne Grudem debates Richard Glover on economics and the Bible

A great episode of the Unbelievable podcast. This is a great debate. I really enjoyed it. All three speakers were excellent putting forward their points. It’s nice to hear an American voice, a British voice and an Australian voice debating an important issue. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Details:

Wayne Grudem is a theologian known for his conservative approach to both doctrine and economics. His new book “The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution” (co-authored with economist Barry Asmus) makes the case that pouring aid into developing countries is a failed strategy. Grudem debates whether the Bible supports free market, capitalist economics with Australian economist and theologian Richard Glover who wrote a critique of the book for the Australian Bible Society.

 The MP3 file is here.

Summary:

Grudem:

  • The Bible speaks to all of life, including economics, stewardship, government
  • The study of economics helps us to understand how to take care of the poor
  • My job is to apply the teachings of the Bible to all of life

Brierley:

  • What’s your thesis in the book?

Grudem:

  • A good system is one where the poor have the opportunity to earn and save from their labor
  • Book is a response to a Kenyan couple Grudem met at a London conference on business and Christianity
  • Book is not concerned with how individuals and groups can do charity to help the poor
  • Our church already does that and we support individuals and groups doing charity
  • The book is concerned with how should nations be transformed in order to grow economically
  • What should the laws, policies and cultural beliefs of a nation be in order for it to not be poor?
  • The book lists factors that have moved nations from poverty to prosperity in different times and places
  • The thesis of the book is this: government should set their people free to be able to produce more
  • We advocate freedom in economics: freedom to work, freedom to save, freedom to start businesses
  • We believe that this free enterprise view is consistent with the Bible in a number of places
  • E.g. – private property is good for prosperity (thou shall not steal) but forbidden by communism

Brierley:

  • What about the church sharing in communities in Acts 2 and Acts 4?

Grudem:

  • That is not redistribution of wealth among individuals and businesses by a secular government
  • Those passages showed that there was voluntary sharing among Christians, which is not communism

Brierley:

  • What’s wrong with Grudem’s book?

Glover:

  • The book emphasizes the Bible and the goal is to help the poor in poor countries
  • Criticism 1: the book doesn’t engage with non-free-market perspectives on economics
  • Criticism 2: the book doesn’t survey all that the Bible says about economics

Brierly:

  • For 1) what is one of the views that is not considered?

Glover:

  • Jeffrey Sachs says that nations need a leg up before they can grow economically
  • Ha-Joon Chang says that free enterprise was not how the wealthy nations became wealthy

Grudem:

  • We do engage with other points of view, especially Jeffrey Sachs in the book
  • The trouble with leftist views on economic development is that it does not work in practice
  • NO COUNTRY has even been lifted out of poverty by foreign aid
  • He says we don’t cite enough from the wisdom literature: we have 64 citations in the index
  • He says we don’t cite enough from the gospels: we have 42 citations in the index
  • He says we don’t cite enough from the epistles: we cite 22 of 27 epistles in the index
  • Some economists won’t criticize cultural and moral values that hurt prosperity
  • As Christians, we think that moral and cultural values are part of the problem that needs solving

Brierley:

  • What about foreign aid?

Grudem:

  • Foreign aid doesn’t help: a lot of the money goes into government and rulers can be corrupt
  • Instead of encouraging people to start businesses, it tells people to go into government to get aid money
  • Economists (lists 3) are saying that foreign aid entrenches corrupt government in power, does no good

Brierley:

  • If it’s not working, should we keep doing it?

Glover:

  • When there is an immediate need, we should do it, even if it is not a long-term solution: we need both

Brierley:

  • Should we stop foreign aid completely?

Grudem:

  • Voluntary charitable giving from individuals and churches to help poor countries is good
  • Me and my co-author are both active on our church board that helps poor countries with urgent needs
  • Food and doctors are urgent needs, and we should help, but it doesn’t lift countries out of poverty
  • We need a long-term solution that helps poor countries produce their own food and doctors
  • We are criticizing 1) government to government aid and 2) IMF/World bank to government aid
  • We have had pushback because 500,000 people make a living from this foreign aid industry
  • No country has ever been lifted out of poverty into sustainable prosperity
  • That’s the definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing that has never worked

Brierley:

  • Does the Bible support free enterprise as a way of creating sustainable prosperity?

Glover:

  • When I said the Bible was absent from his book, absent was a bad choice of words
  • But the hundreds of references he listed were not dealth with *in depth*
  • In the Scriptures, God is the one who provides (e.g. – in Ephesians, Sermon on the Mount)
  • The Bible is less focused on his people making money, and more focus on sharing basics, like food
  • Secular governments should just take it from people who have food and give it to hungry people
  • In 2 Cor 8-9, Paul talks about voluntary sharing so everyone will be equal

Brierley:

  • Does 2 Cor 8-9 undermine the free enterprise system you champion in the book?

Grudem:

  • The sharing in the Bible solves cases of urgent need, it does not lift countries from poverty to sustainable prosperity
  • Some older translations say “equality” in 2 Cor 8:13-14, but newer translations (e.g. – ESV) say “fairness”
  • The Greek word is translated as “fairly” the only other place it appears in the NT (Col 4:1), in every translation
  • God uses the means of human work and productivity to provide (daily bread is baked, doesn’t just fall from Heaven)
  • In general, there’s no provision in Scripture for a person to be dependent on donations for their entire lives
  • God promises Israel fields and mountains to tend and mine, but prosperity is from work, not depending on others

Brierley:

  • Does the Bible support this focus on work?

Grudem:

  • Working is highly praised in Scripture, (lists Bible passages that favor work over dependency)
  • Countries that were exposed to this notion of work and productivity have been more prosperous

Glover:

  • Jeffrey Sachs and other development economists don’t say you can be prosperous through dependence
  • They say that it is a necessary part of leading to nations out of poverty into poverty

Grudem:

  • It’s never worked. What nation has become prosperous through foreign aid?

Glover:

  • There are lots of nations, especially in Africa, where foreign aid has helped lift them out of poverty

Grudem:

  • Name one country in Africa where foreign aud has lifted them out of poverty into sustainable prosperity

Glover:

  • I can’t think of one right now.

Grudem:

  • Our book contains a map of Africa and we looked at every nation’s per capita income
  • No nation has been able to rise out of poverty through dependence on foreign aid
  • The only close one is Botswana, but they have abundant freedoms, Christian morals, less corrupt government
  • So Botswana is the best case and they became prosperous through becoming productive, not foreign aid

Brierley:

  • Is he right to say that charity is a short-term solution, but that it’s not good long-term for prosperity?

Glover:

  • Yes, and work is a very important focus in the Scriptures as he says.
  • But since the Fall work has been much harder, and may not have the outcomes that we would like

Grudem:

  • I also believe in emergency aid for when catastrophies happen, like floods and famines
  • But dependence on foreign aid enriches corrupt rulers and does not create the productivity that leads to sustained prosperity

Brierley:

  • Can foreign aid be used to give poor nations a leg up on becoming prosperous?

Grudem:

  • Dambisa Moyo, Oxford-educated economist from Zambia, says stop the aid, it’s doing more harm than good
  • Jeffrey Sachs’ view is that foreign aid hasn’t worked yet, but just keep trying a bit more
  • What works: limited government, rule of law, fair courts, documented property rights, low taxes, stable currency
  • People are creative and want to work, we just have to get government out of the way and let people work, earn and save

Brierley:

  • Is this free enterprise system supported by the Bible?

Glover:

  • The wealthy nations of the world did not become wealthy through productive work and free enterprise policies
  • Ha-Joon Chang: free enterprise policies have never brought a country from poverty to wealth
  • E.g. – wealth is created through tariffs (not by innovating and by economic freedom?)

Grudem:

  • I’ve read Ha-Joon Chang’s book, and his examples are very selective and limited
  • Index of Economic Freedom: the freest countries are the most prosperous, the least free countries are the most poor
  • When you look at macro data, instead of very selective examples, the free enterprise system is best for prosperity

Glover:

  • The book doesn’t do enough to engage with leftist economists (he doesn’t say which ones)
  • Just because nations who are free are rich, doesn’t mean freedom causes productivity
  • There are parts of the Bible that doesn’t support the free enterprise system (he names none)

Grudem:

  • The Bible is focused on work not dependency, and charity not government redistribution
  • The best way to help the poor in other countries is by encouraging work and productivity

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Why do liberals constantly talk about sexism, racism, homophobia and so on?

Here is a must-read post from Lindsay, writing at her Lindsay’s Logic blog.

She writes:

Many people don’t notice this, but liberals always speak of people by the group they belong to – African Americans, gays, whites, Hispanics, women, poor people, etc. They talk about the rights of people as a function of belonging to a group – gay rights, women’s rights, etc. They don’t speak of people as just people in general. The liberals are not color blind. Far from it. They are keenly aware of race and gender and other group statuses because they are the ones promoting separate factions and pitting groups against each other for their own ends. If you don’t believe me, just listen to them sometime. They can hardly talk about anything without making it all about special groups. And in the irony of ironies, they have somehow managed to convince a lot of people that it’s the conservatives who are racist and sexist.

Liberals don’t really care about gays or women or children or poor people. They just want votes and to be thought inclusive and tolerant. It’s all part of their image. But they don’t actually want to help anyone or stop hatred. In fact, they’re very good at promoting hatred (especially against Christianity and conservatism) and drumming it up where it doesn’t exist. They survive on the hatred and misunderstanding between groups. They want the country splintered into different groups that all have grudges against each other. That way, they can pretend to commiserate with all the separate groups and promise them help in exchange for votes and money. They need people to be riled up and upset so that they can swoop down with their promises of change and trade people a “government solution” in exchange for their freedom.

How do we know liberals don’t really want to help? Because they don’t actually help. Liberal policies don’t produce good results. They don’t cure poverty or stop racism or protect rights. Their policies are carefully crafted to look good on the surface, but not stop the evils of society, because it is the existence of those evils that keeps everyone coming back to liberals for “solutions.” To cover this failure of their policies, liberals are very good at turning the conversation away from the actual results of their policies and talking instead about all their good motives.

I recommend reading the rest, there’s more nutritious wisdom there.

But I wanted to talk about one of the ways that liberal policies hurt the poor, so we have a concrete example of what she is talking about.

Black marriage rates from 1970

Black marriage rates from 1970

This is a study from the National Center for Policy Analysis. (PDF)

Democrat president Lyndon B. Johson passed a massive program of wealth redistribution in 1964.

Here’s what happened:

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964 and followed up a year later with an avalanche of domestic social and antipoverty programs known collectively as the Great Society. Johnson persuaded Congress to support his welfare agenda — sending him more than 80 pieces of legislation to sign in a short period of time. Among the plethora of poverty-alleviating Great Society programs were food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, federal educational funding, housing assistance, increased welfare spending and other income transfer programs. The Great Society was intended not only to reduce poverty, but also to better peoples’ lives across the board. Ironically, the Great Society legislation seemed to simultaneously both ignore — and hinder — the most effective antipoverty program: marriage.

Indeed, this “War on Marriage” is a major reason for the lack of progress on poverty over the past 50 years!

[…]And President Obama’s signature piece of legislation — the Affordable Care Act — has only exacerbated federal marriage penalties. The Great Society without Marriage. Marriage has been on the decline for decades.

According to the Pew Research Center:

  • Around 1970, about 84 percent of native-born 30-to-44-year-old adults were married.
  • By 2007, this proportion had fallen by nearly one-third to 60 percent.
  • The marriage rate is even lower for men and women who lack a college degree (56 percent in 2007).

And the marriage rate is even lower still for some racial demographics.

According to Pew:

  • Only one-third of black women ages 30 to 44 were married in 2007, compared to 62 percent in 1970.
  • For black men, the corresponding rates are 44 percent (2007), down from 74 percent in 1970.

Why do more low-to-moderate income couples skip the wedding bells? The reasons are partially economic: Financial penalties in the tax code kick in when couples get married. According to research from the Brookings-Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, the combined marriage penalty is signi?cant for families earning less than $40,000.

The method used to calculate income eligibility and antipoverty programs is the primary culprit: the so-called federal poverty level (FPL). The FPL’s income thresholds are for individuals or families of various sizes, and those with incomes below the FPL are by definition in poverty. The FPL is used to determine both eligibility and the amount of benefits for many different programs.

That’s how the left “helps” the poor, by making it worse, by blaming conservatives, and by demanding higher taxes and more power to redistribute wealth.

This is not even controversial – think tanks on both sides of the political spectrum (e. g. – Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation) agree. Marriage is essential to stopping poverty. Period. And the left killed it by taxing it and giving welfare to single mothers by choice, as well as by passing laws like no-fault divorce, which discourage men from marrying because of the punishment they take if there is a frivolous divorce.

Advice for Christians on economics

You can’t be a Christian and just leave your Christianity at the level of Bible study, A. W. Tozer, early Church Fathers, and other spiritual stuff. A person who reads the Bible and focuses on having a “heart for God” and being “godly” and spending all their time reading devotions and doing Bible study is not going to be able to do what the Bible says. To do what the Bible says means to achieve the aims of the God of the Bible. We are supposed to care about the poor. But in order to know what to do to be obedient to that command, we have to go outside the Bible for the method – we have to study economics and understand how to achieve the good results.

I would recommend that we not be overly impressed by people who focus more on spirituality and Bible study and church over practical concerns like actually making sound financial decisions so that they can help others (charity) and not be a burden on others. The goal of a Christian is not to know the truth and feel good. The goal of the Christian is to know the truth and do good.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

New study: being raised by married parents has huge positive effect on economic well-being

Here’s some of the findings from the Institute for Family Studies.

Excerpt:

Wilcox and Lerhman found that growing up in a two-parent family correlated with many positive outcomes for kids, well into adulthood. For example:

  • Growing up with both parents reduced the probability for dropping out of high school by 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women.
  • Growing up in an intact family reduced women’s chances of becoming single mothers by 12 percent and men’s chances of being nonresidential fathers by 5 percent.
  • Both men and women who grew up in intact families enjoyed substantial marriage premiums. Young men who grew up in intact families earned, on average, more than $6,500 more in personal income and more than $16,000 more in family income than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Young women from intact families earn more than $4,700 in personal income and more than $12,000 more than their peers from single-parent families.
  • Growing up with both parents also increased young adults chances of marrying themselves. Men who grew up in intact homes were 10 percent more likely to get married than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Women who grew up in intact homes were 12 percent more likely to marry.

Individuals who grow up in intact homes are more likely to marry and once they do, they are the recipients of a host of benefits associated with being married.

  • Married men age 28–30 earn nearly $16,000 more, on average, than their single peers. Their family income is nearly $22,000 higher than their single peers. And the marriage premium for men extends to less-educated and minority men who are often at a disadvantage in the work force. Married young men with only high-school educations, for example, earned more than $17,000 more than their single peers.

I don’t like to blog about these things without solutions. I have some of my own (school choice, abstinence education funding, repeal no-fault divorce, defund Planned Parenthood, double the child tax credit for married couples, provide a carry forward tax credit to each married parent for ALL income earned by children before age 21, etc.).

But the new study has some solutions too:

Wilcox and Lehrman do make recommendations for strengthening lower and middle-class families. They recommend eliminating marriage penalties from the tax code, while increasing the child credit and the earned income credit maximum. They also recommend improving vocational training and launching a national campaign that encourages young adults to follow the ”success sequence”: education, job, marriage, children.

I think a lot of kids of my generation should be reading studies like this and wondering “what did the party of premarital sex, no-fault divorce, abortion and gay rights do for me?”. If your political party embraces policies that encourage people to see sex as recreational instead of a way of producing creatures who then become the responsibilities of parents, you are in the wrong political party. The Democrat party is the part of selfishness, and that’s why they attack marriage. Marriage is about restraining adults so that children benefit, and every selfish Democrat policy that damages marriage damages children.

As Dennis Prager says:

Even today, after decades of feminism, most Americans agree that it is better for women and men — and society — when women and men marry. Yet when women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party; and when women do not marry, even after — or shall we say, especially after — having children, it is quite wonderful for the Democratic Party.

Married women vote Republican. Unmarried women lopsidedly vote Democrat. It is both silly and dishonest to deny that it is in the Democrats’ interest that women not marry.

They have no reason to strengthen marriage, and their policies (sex education, no-fault divorce, single mother welfare, gay marriage, etc.) don’t strengthen marriage. It sounds like such a nice thing to want to not shame people for premarital sex and divorce. After all, we want people to feel good no matter what they choose, right? But there is a price to pay for this “tolerance” of adult selfishness – it’s paid by their children. That’s what happens when we put feelings about moral boundaries.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

If you care about the poor, must you vote for bigger government?

Here’s an article on the Daily Signal that traces the history of big government “solutions” to poverty, and argues that big government has not been able to solve the poverty problem no matter how much money they’ve taken from taxpayers.

Excerpt:

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty. This report is noteworthy because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty. Liberals claim that the War on Poverty has failed because we didn’t spend enough money. Their answer is just to spend more. But the facts show otherwise.

[…]Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.

But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

The answer is it isn’t possible.  Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

[…]According to government surveys, the typical family that Census identifies as poor has air conditioning, cable or satellite TV, and a computer in his home. Forty percent have a wide screen HDTV and another 40 percent have internet access. Three quarters of the poor own a car and roughly a third have two or more cars. (These numbers are not the result of the current bad economy pushing middle class families into poverty; instead, they reflect a steady improvement in living conditions among the poor for many decades.)

The intake of protein, vitamins and minerals by poor children is virtually identical with upper middle class kids. According to surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the overwhelming majority of poor people report they were not hungry even for a single day during the prior year.

The article goes on t make the point that if the purpose of government social programs is to make people more independent so they can get off the welfare, then the government has failed to achieve that goal. In fact, they’ve made even more people dependent on government since they started to try to make them independent of government.

According to a Congressional Research Service study, we spend more on welfare per year (1.03 trillion) than we do on Social Security (725 billion) or Medicare (480 billion) or non-war defense (540 billion). And what do we get? More dependency on government, not less.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , ,

New study: men’s success and well-being determined by relationships with parents and siblings

Astonishing post from the Art of Manliness blog. (H/T Free Northerner)

Excerpt:

Vaillant found that the men who had the best scores in these areas during their youth and mid-life, were the happiest, most successful, and best adjusted in their latter years. This is the finding of the Grant Study that has emerged most prominently: “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”

The powerful effect of intimate relationships can be seen in a variety of factors in a man’s life, including their income levels:

  • Men with at least one good relationship with a sibling growing up made $51,000 more per year than men who had poor relationships with their siblings, or no siblings at all
  • Men who grew up in cohesive homes made $66,000 more per year than men from unstable ones
  • Men with warm mothers took home $87,000 more than those men whose mothers were uncaring
  • The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made almost $150,000 more per year than the 31 men with the worst scores

[…]When the outcomes of the men’s lives were analyzed, and compared to this set of criteria, it became quite clear that “for good or ill, the effects of childhood last a long time.” A warm childhood proved a much stronger predictor of many aspects of a man’s flourishing later in life, including his overall contentment in his late seventies, than either his parent’s social class or his own income. These effects are particularly striking when the men with the warmest childhoods (who were dubbed “the Cherished”) are compared with those in the bottom tenth (who were called “the Loveless”):

  • The Cherished made 50% more money than the Loveless
  • The Cherished were 5X more likely to enjoy rich friendships and warm social supports at age seventy
  • The Loveless were 3.5X more likely to be diagnosed as mentally ill (which includes serious depression, abuse of drugs and alcohol, and need for extended psychiatric care)
  • The Loveless were 5X more likely to be unusually anxious
  • The Loveless took more prescription drugs of all kinds, and were twice as likely to seek medical attention for minor physical complaints

A loving, supportive upbringing seemed to both bolster a man’s chances for success in his relationships and career, and inoculate him against future psychological distress.

[…]While parenting pundits at various times in our history have worried that a household full of unwavering love and support could turn out a young man who was too coddled and dependent,the Grant Study found that abundant familial love, when coupled with an emphasis on autonomy and initiative, actually produced the most stoical (able to keep a stiff upper lip) and independent men. Such men, Vaillant explains, had learned to be comfortable with their feelings, and “that they could put their trust in life, which gave them courage to go out and face it.” In contrast, the men from the worst childhoods turned out to be the most dependent, and struggled with taking initiative.

And most interestingly:

One of the findings of the study that I personally found most interesting, was that “a mother who could enjoy her son’s initiative and autonomy was a tremendous boon to his future.” Mothers of men who scored highly on the Decathlon of Flourishing admired their sons’ assertiveness, and boasted to researchers that their boys were “fearless to the point of being reckless,” “could fight any kid on the block,” and “is a tyrant in a way that I adore.” In other words, mothers who celebrated their boys’ boyishness bolstered their chances of achieving a successful, mature manhood.

I really recommend that everyone read this post, especially if you know a young man who you want to be influential and effective. And men who are not yet married but want to should understand that who you pick to be the child’s mother is going to have an ENORMOUS effect on their emotional well-being and their ability to succeed and provide. Good men require good mothers.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

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