Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The American Poor

I've mentioned a couple of times in previous postings how I don't really think that the poor in America are poor in any absolute sense. My friends have even mocked me by saying that I "hate the poor".

In a real sense, it's true. I hate that poverty exists. I hate that there's no simple solution to defeating it. But the poverty that I hate doesn't really exist in the U.S. Don't believe me? Go to this site and enter your salary. Then enter 10% of your salary. Then enter $1000.

Then consider this: the biggest reason that poverty persists in the world is bad government. If you want to fight poverty in the world, you can't be sanguine about the role that government plays. You also can't be sanguine about the role that our government plays. Every effort, by both democrats and republicans, to increase the control of the government - and consequently remove individual freedom - has the impact of increasing poverty.

Freedom is the most potent weapon against poverty. It seems unintuitive, but well meaning calls to the government, will very likely have a chilling effect on freedom. Calls for the government to provide health care, to increase military spending, to provide prescription drug programs to the elderly, or to do mostly anything have the impact of reducing freedom within a society. Kill freedom, impoverish the world.

Personally, I think that this is why freedom is such a recurring theme within the Bible. The Bible detests slavery and lauds freedom. God even gave us the freedom to reject him. This is how valuable freedom is to God. Trampling freedom is IMHO the work of Satan, whether done by the Republicans when they create a government entitlement program, or by the democrats who seem to think that universal healthcare is a good idea.


The Mother Load said...

Wow Mark, I like this! What a great message and just a few days before the government does what? Oh yea, bail out huge companies with money it doesn't have. I wish you could have been on that advisory board!!

TGGP said...

the biggest reason that poverty persists in the world is bad government
Are you familiar with Greg Clark's "Farewell to Alms"?

mjh said...

Nope. But it's now in my queue at the library.

mjh said...

Ok. Still haven't read it, but I suspect I'm not going to be convinced to change my mind about the role that government plays in poverty.

Here are some of the critiques that made sense to me:

1: Bryan Caplan
2: Arnold Kling

Niffer said...

That website really makes one think, doesn't it? Wow. Money can go a long way if you apply it correctly. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

God by definition is sovreign and even a willfully limited sovreignty results in a deity. While I appreciate the desire to affirm the reality that we are not mere puppets on a string, I think one needs to discuss human freedom of the will in a bit more nuanced fashion than simply declaring that God loves freedom so much that He gave us freedom to reject Him. It really is not that simple as you well know because Scripture mentions much more than this.

All that aside, I'm not so sure that the Bible mentions temporal earthly freedom as any "recurring theme." More accurately, Scripture tells us how to live with God and fellow man and live joyfully and righteously in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. "Slaves obey your masters" "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." These passages don't inspire any sense of establishing the primacy of freedom in my estimation.

The Bible speaks of freedom in Christ. Scripture tells us how we are by nature "slaves to sin" and how we can only be freed by the redemptive work of Christ. I've no doubt that our situation in the here and now and our creature comforts and freedoms matter to God but it certainly isn't any major theme in Scripture.

That said, the rest of your post is pretty spot-on. Reality and history bear out the fact that maximized freedom results in maximized prosperity and minimized poverty. In all of this however we must not forget the purpose of those around us that are in need- the purpose is for us to minister to them.

Anonymous said...

edit last post- results in a lesser deity

mjh said...

dmbsc101: You and I have had many discussions on this. And I simply am unable to understand the nuance that you've mentioned previously. I really do think that God loves freedom. And I think the biggest evidence for that is that we *can* reject him.

But you are welcome to try again to persuade me. Two possibilities:

a) I might be mis-interpreting the Bible and you are in fact correct. Which is why I think it's important for you to keep trying to persuade me.

b) You might be mis-interpreting the Bible. Which is why I'm not going to simply acquiesce to what you believe. You must actually persuade me.

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