I meant to write part two of my series answering the question, “Does Jesus Want You To Be A Conservative?” yesterday but I spent most of the day in the hospital with complications from a recent surgery (sympathy points, anyone?). I was also going to review James Rochford’s Evidence Unseen (New Paradigm 2013) but the book I just finished fit in perfectly with the post I was going to write. So, here at the Pastor Matt blog today, you get two posts for the price of one…no need to thank me! So, I’ll review Rochford’s fine book next week but for now, let me return to the question I asked last week, does Jesus want you to be a conservative. My preliminary answer was yes and here is the first reason why…conservative policies help the poor.
Now, please understand that I was a very reluctant convert to conservatism. At the time I became a “right-winger,” I was a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, skirt chasing, partying, Hunter S. Thompson reading, Guns N’ Roses listening, atheist! But in 1991 I read P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores (Atlantic Monthly Press 1991) (mainly because of the title) and it set me on the course to become a conservative. O’Rourke uncovered how absolutely inefficient government is as opposed to the private sector and the one you place faith in determines whether you are a conservative or a liberal.
O’Rourke led me to work for then Congressman Bob McEwen who cogently summarized economist Milton Friedman on the problem of third-party purchases. Congressman McEwen taught me the following: If you buy something with your own money for yourself, you care about price and quality. This is a first party purchase; if you buy something for someone else with your own money, you care about price but not as much about quality. This is a second party purchase; but if you buy something for someone else with somebody’s else’s money, you don’t really care about price or quality. This is a third-party purchase and by definition ALL government expenditures are third-party purchases including all welfare payments. Thus, it shouldn’t really surprise us that the left’s government sponsored “War on Poverty” was a complete failure. In fact, as Charles Murray pointed out in his groundbreaking book Losing Ground (Basic Books 1994 ed.), the poverty rate in America stayed exactly the same after fifteen years of massive government spending intended to eradicate it and, in fact, has now increased from 13% in 1965 to more than 15% now.
So, the present system doesn’t work. But as a grandchild of barely educated Kentucky sharecroppers, as a preacher’s kid raised in one of the poorest parts of Appalachia and now as an inner-city pastor committed to helping the poor in fulfillment of King Jesus’ command to aid the “least among us” (Matthew 25:31-46), I want to know one thing about politics–what policies truly help the impoverished?
Theologian Wayne Grudem and economist Barry Asmus have recently written the wonderful new book The Poverty of Nations (Crossway 2013), which, after a comprehensive study of the relevant literature by both, demonstrates that the only way to truly lift people out of poverty is to increase the wealth of the society. The only way to increase wealth is to increase the amount of goods and services produced by a nation. How does a country do that?
Grudem and Asmus present dozens of factors that generally increase the wealth of a nation and lift the most citizens of that nation out of poverty. The book is both so well-researched and well-written that I will leave the factors for you to discover by buying the work itself, suffice to say the answer is–evangelical Christian faith (so much for the argument that Christianity oppresses the poor!), limited government and the free market!
The distinct value of The Poverty of Nations is its scope. Many economic works point out the value of true capitalism (distinct from crony capitalism), many books outline the merits of a limited, republican form of government and a few set forth the advantage to all of the pervasive effect of evangelical Christianity but none that I am aware of does all of the above and with a global purview.
I highly recommend it. In fact, it should be required reading for all pastors and all Christians interested in public policy and apologetics. It is the best overview of the reason why Christians should be conservatives–because faith and the free market are the best tools for combating poverty and all the evils that accompany it.
Tune back next week for more. Until then, grace and peace.