ELECTION 2020 SERIES: AMERICA & PROSPERITY
Updated: May 27, 2020
The interesting thing about America's founding is that the economic trial and error of one of its first colonies, Jamestown, forged a free system that would drive it to prosperity in the centuries ahead. At Jamestown it quickly became evident that its 'ideal socialist' setup didn't lead to surplus or even subsistence, but rather lack and poverty. A new system of personal responsibility was implemented and it transformed the colony from one that was deteriorating to one that was thriving.
Prosperity, wealth, hard work, and even profit aren't bad words or bad ideas. All of these things are undoubtably Biblical. The myth that anyone is entitled to reap wealth without sowing the things necessary to get wealth must die.
This school of thought often confuses America's path to prosperity. Greed, power, and oppression are often the preferred variables in academic circles and certain think tanks. This is largely untrue.
There are three main economic reasons, and likewise three timeless Biblical principles that propelled our country from an overtaxed, overburdened, & domineered colony to a powerhouse in the space of a few dozen years. These tenets hold true still today.
1. Unflinching property rights – Economic theorists, since economic theory was even a practice, have held that private property rights are the most crucial element of both a free society and a strong economy. The classical liberals like Mill, Locke, Mises, & Hayek all agreed on this point, and economists long before them, like the famous Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations), held to this belief. History, too, has shown its application and importance in thriving societies. The importance of private property is a longstanding societal fact for those societies that aren't in chaos. It's an implied and obvious way of life and order in the Bible as well. You need not go past the 10 commandments to see that taking or coveting someone else's things aren't just improper, they're sinful.
2. Limited regulation – It’s just a rule of life, especially if you’re a business owner, that the more hoops you must jump through to comply with governmental bodies, the costlier it is to actually provide your product or service to the public. Extra cost and time, shouldered by the business, always equals less profit, less opportunity for employees, less cash to invest in improving the product or service, and less ability to lower the price of the product or service, which, of course, hurts the consumer. Excessive regulation is closely associated with big government, which is neither an effective system nor a Biblically feasible one. The best example Biblically for how things "ought to be" from a governmental standpoint is the picture we see in Genesis when God hands over the dominion of the garden to Adam. Adam doesn't get a mile-long list of rules, he gets a few guidelines and jobs, like naming animals and NOT eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is an important lesson that freedom and limited government really do work by design.
3. Low taxes – The act of lowering taxes has ALWAYS benefitted the economy. And low taxes, as a general rule, will always provide more opportunity and financial freedom for consumers. As a consequence, too, lower taxes spark consumer spending, which helps businesses of all types. It has even proven true, too, that lower taxes CAN ACTUALLY INCREASE TAX REVENUE! Although taxes are necessary, and Jesus did NOT suggest we shirk them, the obligation to limit the tax burden on society is a Biblical one. God only required a tithe (10%) from the Jewish people, who operated under a theocracy, and we see in Deuteronomy 30 that the financial obligation of the Jewish people was meant to be simple and easy. Compared to other eastern kingdoms in Biblical times, which required more from its people, often times to feed a lust for power or wealth, the Jewish system was uncomplicated and light.
BIBLICAL TENETS The book of Proverbs is a treasure trove of wise sayings for all aspects of life. It offers a lot about money and wealth particularly. These principles apply to individuals and they can apply to nations. There are at least three major ingredients, according to Proverbs, for having wealth. They are:
1. Giving/Generosity - In Proverbs 11 we see the promise that those who are generous will prosper. How does that stack up to how we as a nation give of our money?
This can be measured in two ways: how American individuals give to charities, non-profits, and other causes, and how the government gives to countries in need through foreign aid. In both categories America is #1 in the world and has been for some time. The graphic to the right offers a sense for the top givers to charity in the world in the last decade. To give you an idea how much American individuals give, consider numbers provided by Giving USA for 2018.
- Individuals gave a total of $292 Billion
- Corporations accounted for over $20 Billion
- Foundations & Bequests gave just short of $116 Billion TOTAL: $428 Billion
In terms of foreign aid, consider the foreign aid numbers from the year 2015, provided by the OECD. The United States is clearly at the top, having given $31B in aid, $10B more than 2nd place France.
"One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." | PROVERBS 11:24-25
2. Work Hard - Working hard has been the American way since its inception. It seems to be an innate characteristic of the American worker. Alexis de Tocqueville admired both the American system of government and the American work ethic as he observed America in his 1835 book "Democracy in America." Still today the output of the American worker is 2nd to none. And, as Proverbs 14:23 states, our hard work as a nation has led to much profit.
"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." | PROVERBS 14:23
3. Righteous Living - Righteousness is a quality that's rewarded in reality and in scripture, specifically in the book of Proverbs. With righteousness comes the promises of life, prosperity, & honor. As a nation, and as a collection of individuals that make up that nation, we have pursued righteousness to a degree that surpasses all other nations. Our form of government is predicated on freedom, justice, the aversion to abuse of power & corruption, and the value of natural rights. This shouldn't be a surprise since our country was founded upon God and the Bible and still today nearly 2/3 of Americans identify as "Christians," by far the highest proportion of any country globally.
"Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor." | PROVERBS 21:21
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