By Dr. Ted Baehr, Founder/Publisher
From India to Africa to the Philippines to South America, there are many different conditions that contribute to the problem of poverty, but the one problem that is common to all these countries is the ownership question, because ownership guarantees freedom. The companies rightly complain, “Why should we invest if our plant, property or machinery may be taken away by the government?”
Karl Marx espoused the politics of envy and condemned private ownership, but the outright ownership of property is the basic building block of all economic success.
The Bible protects ownership with commandments like “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet.” This protection is not to protect King Ahab or the government, but to protect little Naboth’s vineyard from Queen Jezebel’s greed. When Naboth can own and work his vineyard, he can prosper. If he is only temporarily residing on the vineyard, he will be deterred from investing his energy and resources. After all, if he makes too many improvements, the owner may take the vineyard away from him. Moreover, if Naboth is not naturally industrious and/or if he feels oppressed by the owner (whether the owner is the state or another party), he may just let the vineyard go to pot rather than expend any energy or resources on it.
This is the pattern in too many countries where the ultimate owner is the impersonal, transitory state that imposes undue legal and tax burdens on people’s private property, as well as constantly threatens to seize people’s property for its own nefarious, misguided purposes. Of course, the state is usually not as brazen as the wicked Queen Jezebel, but the effect on Naboth is just the same, and the ultimate effect on the economy is just the same.
Before any country can proceed toward the road of prosperity, it has to discover something that the late great Western Civilization discovered many years ago: that fee simple ownership of property gives the individual peace, security, the ability to pursue happiness, and the freedom to make the best of what he and his family owns. Of course, not every individual will take advantage of this freedom, but the incentive is there, an incentive that’s missing in all other systems.
At the famous Battle of Agincourt, the English yeomen under Henry V beat the overwhelming French forces that were at least ten times more numerous in part because the English were fighting for their property, not some abstract hierarchical scheme of big government.
Naturally, the importance of private property doesn’t only apply to third world nations. Regrettably, it now applies more and more to first world nations like England and the United States.
Already, some of my neighbors have lost their property to increasing taxes. One neighborhood family, who had lived on their property for generations, had their property devalued by zoning.
When your neighbors are losing their property to the state, you can see the handwriting on the wall. You begin to ask yourself, “Have we lost the clarity of vision of the Founding Fathers and the Ten Commandments? Have we been so consumed by the politics of envy that we are going to go the way of other socialist societies – sacrificing fee simple ownership and inalienable rights for mobocracy and statist oppression?”
The excellent book THE POVERTY OF NATIONS by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway, 2013) offers one of the clearest, best-researched, and most comprehensive comparisons of economic systems. It explores what makes a country rich or poor and realizes the answer to that question is more than a measure of wealth or property.
Grudem effectively communicates the difference between teaching someone to fish versus giving them a fish, although he doesn’t use those simplistic terms. He supplies a tremendously detailed overview of economic systems including mercantilism, subsistence, feudalism, socialism, and communism – all supported by rock solid research.
THE POVERTY OF NATIONS shows that the free market system is, by and large, the best system to help a country flourish. Furthermore, it demonstrates how virtue and morality are essential to a free market.
In their article, “The only way for poor to escape from poverty” (published January 24, 2014FoxNews.com), Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem note:
“The only way any nation has ever escaped from poverty is by gradually producing its own prosperity. Japan grew from being a poor agricultural economy in the early 1900s to the world’s second-largest economy in the late 20th Century by manufacturing cars, computers, TVs, cameras, steel, and ships.
“South Korea went from being one of the world’s poorest nations in the 1950s to the twelfth richest nation today by manufacturing products like TVs, cars, and microwaves.
“The only way any nation has ever escaped from poverty is by gradually producing its own prosperity. . . .
“No nation has ever escaped poverty by means of foreign aid. Foreign aid that is given through the governments of poor countries usually does more harm than good because it entrenches corrupt rulers in power, fattens their personal bank accounts, and foments civil wars over control of the big prize: access to the nation’s treasury and all the aid money.
“Forgiveness of a poor nation’s debts is not the answer either because it is just more foreign aid carried out by a two-step process (first the loan, then its cancellation). . . .
“Abundant natural resources are not the answer for poor nations today because many African and Latin American nations have immense resources but they remain poor, while nations such as Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, all lack significant resources but have become wealthy by creating productive economies. They have produced their own prosperity.
“But the key question remains: What must a nation do to become more productive and move from poverty toward increasing prosperity? Because human actions have complex motivations, the answer is multi-faceted and includes multiple changes in three areas, changes that can only be implemented by heroic leaders in the poor countries themselves:
“1. The only economic system that will lead to national prosperity is a free market system with effective rule of law, not a welfare state or socialism or communism.
“In addition, to keep the market genuinely “free” (in other words, based on voluntary transactions), government must punish crimes like theft, fraud, selling defective goods, violation of contracts, and violence.
“2. A government that leads to prosperity is one in which leaders are not acclimated to systemic corruption but are committed to using their power for the benefit of the people as a whole. (3) At a deeper level, there must be good and wise cultural beliefs.
“We believe the Bible is the best source of such beliefs. To become truly productive, a society must share a widespread belief in not stealing, telling the truth, working productively and diligently, conducting business transactions so as to benefit both parties, using time wisely, and developing the earth’s resources with wisdom, not with superstition or fear.
“We do not believe that material prosperity is the most important issue in the world, for Jesus taught that love for God and love for neighbor are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39). However, if we are talking about how to solve world poverty, the solution can only come through increased economic productivity within poor nations themselves.”
To produce prosperity, a nation’s economic system must honor: 1) a free-market economy; 2) fee simple ownership of private property; 3) a stable currency; 4) a limited government; and, 5) low tax rates.
To have a limited government, a nation needs to have a separation of powers, impartial justice, accountability, religious freedom, and a police/military that protects citizens against crime, foreign enemies, and a despotic government. Furthermore, a nation needs to respect the freedom to buy and sell goods, the freedom to work, the freedom of employers to hire workers of their choosing, and the freedom of workers to be rewarded for their labors. Finally, a nation must hold that individuals are responsible for their actions; that private ownership of property be respected; that marriage is between a man and a woman; that the natural resources are treated respectfully; that a higher value is placed on saving than on spending; and that society honors productivity and discourages sloth.
Of course, the rule of law presupposes a moral authority, derived from higher principles. Belief in God, rooted in the basic principles of the Bible and biblical tradition, has been the bulwark of guaranteeing our freedoms and rights. Even the king is under God and His law. This is, of course, the Christian teaching of the state. Making the king and his officials subject to God and God’s Law in the Bible is an essential part of any true and good society. It’s also the one that has made the West so successful, fair, free, and prosperous.
In those nations where the rulers are above the law, however, society becomes not so good. Under such government, corruption, bribery and graft are endemic, and the masses usually remain impoverished. On the other hand, in nations with a well-established rule of law, the rulers themselves are kept in check. Indeed, limited government is crucial here.
God is very much concerned about wealth and poverty, and wants us to help those who are trapped in deprivation, hardship, and poverty. On an international level, the principles enunciated and detailed in THE POVERTY OF NATIONS will help to achieve those ends, offering sustainable solutions to these perennial problems.
The graph following chart from THE POVERTY OF NATIONS (pages 320-321) shows the importance of values and prosperity:
|Religious background to culture of nations||
Per capita GDP
Only an informed electorate can stem the terrible tide of socialist, totalitarian tyranny. Thus, we must redeem the values of the educational institutions, churches, and mass media outlets who have become part of the destructive socialist juggernaut.
We also must become better ambassadors of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Following the Ten Commandments and protecting the private property rights ordained by God doesn’t mean we have to abandon the poor, the disabled, and low-income workers to debilitating poverty, but helping the poor, the disabled, and low-income workers does mean we mustn’t hand over our freedom, and our money, to misguided socialist bureaucrats led by phony limousine liberals, radical leftists, crypto-commie traitors, and confused marshmallow moderates.
The real solution to poverty is so simple – the Bible is the answer. The Word of God tells us that voluntary charity, vocational training, and private education by churches, businesses, families, individuals, and private groups working through the Holy Spirit can greatly reduce poverty, if not eliminate it. Let us go forth and be willing to preach and practice this divine message of hope in spirit and in truth, in boldness and in grace.