Tag Archives: Poverty

Wayne Grudem debates Richard Glover on the Bible, poverty and foreign aid

Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!
Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!

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.


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.



  • 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


  • What’s your thesis in the book?


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • What’s wrong with Grudem’s book?


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • What about foreign aid?


  • 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


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


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


  • Should we stop foreign aid completely?


  • 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


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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • Does the Bible support this focus on work?


  • 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


  • 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


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


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


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


  • I can’t think of one right now.


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • Is this free enterprise system supported by the Bible?


  • 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?)


  • 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


  • 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)


  • 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

Democrat policies hurt the poor, and actually increase income inequality

Two articles from Investors Business Daily. The first discusses how big government tax policies actually encourage poor people not to work. The second one looks at major cities, and finds that 9 out of the top 10 cities with the most “inequality” are run by Democrats.

Let’s start with the first article.

It says:

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has put out a new report titled “Income Tax Illustrated .” OK, cue the jokes. But it isn’t boring. Really.

[…]”As low-income households earn more money, not only do their tax burdens grow rapidly, but they also receive fewer benefits from federal social assistance programs,” the report said. “In fact, individuals who move to higher-paying jobs sometimes end up with less overall disposable income, after taxes and transfers.”

The report uses two examples, as noted by the Washington Beacon. In one, a single parent earns $4,800 in salary before taxes. That’s not much, but because of entitlements such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, and Housing Choice Vouchers, that person’s take-home pay for the year jumps to $22,090 — not a lot, granted, but it’s more than 4-1/2 times greater than what that person actually earned working.

That compares to someone who earns $21,000 before taxes but, because of taxes and entitlements, takes home $24,057 for the year.

Yes, that person earns $16,200 more from work, but takes home just $1,967 more, thanks to the tax code and generous benefits to those with less income.

“As low-income households earn more money, not only do their tax burdens grow rapidly, but they also receive fewer benefits from federal social assistance programs,” the report said.

“In fact, individuals who move to higher-paying jobs sometimes end up with less overall disposable income, after taxes and transfers.”

[…]Believe it or not, this bizarre distortion gets worse when you consider a married couple with two kids.

Because the Earned Income Tax Credit is phased out at higher incomes, a family of four making $48,000 faces a marginal tax burden of 43.7% — an absurd disincentive to work harder and earn more for families.

When Republican presidential candidates like Jindal, Cruz and Rubio talk about simplifying the tax code, their intent is to solve these perverse incentives that keep poor people dependent on government. We have make changes to the tax code so that people who are able to work can do better by working, rather than by not working. Republicans are in favor of encourage people to work, marry and have kids. Democrats… just want them to keep voting for dependence on big government.

On to the second article.

Which states have the most income inequality?

The Washington Post looked into the numbers and found that 5 of the top 7 states are decidedly blue — New York, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

And Washington, D.C., which is ground zero of big government liberalism, has the highest level of income inequality of all.

At the other end of the spectrum, the three states with the lowest levels of income inequality are solid red: Utah, Wyoming and Alaska. Nebraska comes in fifth and Nevada ninth.

And what about down at the city level?

The liberal-leaning Brookings Institution looked at inequality by city, and the results show that 9 of the top 10 are run by Democratic mayors — including San Francisco, Boston, D.C., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

In contrast, 7 of the 10 least unequal cities are run by Republican mayors, and 9 of 10 are in red states.

And what about Obama, has he helped to reduce income inequality, or has it increased under his watch?

Now take a look at the national level. As the chart above shows, income inequality as measured by the Census Bureau was flat over the course of the George W. Bush years. But under President Obama, it’s been on the rise.

Under Obama, the poor have gotten poorer and the rich richer. Incomes for the bottom 20% have fallen in each of the past four years and are now 8% below where they stood when Obama took office. Meanwhile, incomes of the wealthiest 5% have climbed under Obama, after adjusting for inflation.

IBD had a nice graph for that last point:

The Gini index measures income inequality
The Gini index measures income inequality

So, why is this happening? Why does taking money from “the rich” and giving it to “the poor” makes income inequality worse?

IBD explains:

As we’ve seen over the past seven years, higher taxes, vast new regulations and sharp increases in spending primarily benefit a relatively small number of well-connected people and those companies that can afford an army of lobbyists. In other words, the rich.

At the same time, higher taxes, more mandates and onerous new regulations stifle innovation and make it harder to start up new companies — the sort of companies that create new jobs and new opportunities. The Kauffman Index of business startups, for example, has been below average since 2011.

Incomes are down, because there aren’t enough job creators. We have a 38-year LOW in labor force participation. People rise when there are lots of job offers from job creators. The more people looking to hire, the more people can shop around and get the most salary and benefits for their labor. But wages have not gone up under Obama. He punished job creators with taxes and regulations, so they are creating fewer jobs. Fewer jobs means less competition. Less competition means lower wages and fewer worker benefits.

Seven policies that conservatives oppose, because they cause poverty

Women for bigger government, higher taxes
Women for bigger government, higher taxes

The list is from John Hawkins, who runs Right Wing News. It’s posted at Townhall.com, though. (H/T Lindsay)


Keeping Americans poor in a prosperous country like America is not as easy as you think. After all, this is the “land of opportunity.” Legal immigrants pay tens of thousands of dollars and wait years for the opportunity to come legally and illegal immigrants often risk their lives just so they can get here and do menial work. This is the country that made Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and even OPRAH into billionaires and it’s a nation where you can have everything from hoverboards to medicine for your pet delivered right to your door. So when there’s so much wealth and opulence everywhere, how do you lock Americans out of that success?

No matter what you do, there will always be a few poor people around, but to really maximize those numbers there are very specific government policies abetted by a few cultural attitudes that will make all the difference.

Here’s the list of policies that make people poor:

  1. Making Sure Taxes And Regulations Are Sky High
  2. Encouraging Dependency
  3. Encouraging People To Have Babies Out Of Wedlock
  4. Demonizing Success
  5. Screwing Up The Education System
  6. Having Massive Immigration
  7. Ratcheting Up Their Expenses

I partially disagree with him on #6, where he goes after skilled immigrants. I think it’s right to go after unskilled immigrants, and immigration through family sponsors, since those people may use more social programs than they pay for in taxes. I don’t mind if they come, so long as they are barred from social programs. Failing that, we should only allow skilled immigrants to come – they pay in more than they use up.

However, if he was talking about illegal alias, and not skilled workers, I agree 100%. Everyone who is here should be here legally with a work permit, and there should be enforcement to punish employers who cheat.

Here’s the one I really like, though – the one I think my Democrat co-workers would not be surprised by:

7. Ratcheting Up Their Expenses: Of course, if you want to create more poor Americans, it’s best to tax the middle class as much as possible, but in a country where they can vote you out of office, you have to be careful about directly reaching into their wallets. So, how do you take their money without their realizing that you’re responsible?

Have the Federal Reserve print money non-stop, which drives up inflation. Over time, that reduces the purchasing power of the middle class as the cost of everything seems to creep up. It’s also important to go after cheap sources of energy like oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear power. Not only does that drive up the cost the middle class pays across the board for products, it also hits people directly when they heat and cool their homes. Exploding medical costs are also helpful and Obamacare has done an amazing job of this. Medical costs are skyrocketing for the middle class and helping to drive them towards poverty. As an extra added bonus, middle class Americans who can no longer afford to pay for their medical care because of Obamacare will also be hit with a tax penalty. If your goal is to hurt middle class Americans financially, you could not do much better than Obamacare.

There are many ways to impoverish working people more than just raising their taxes. Just make them pay more for everything by regulating and taxing the people who create the services and products that people buy.

The link between single mother welfare, fatherlessness, poverty, crime and school shootings

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
Government pays people welfare not to get married before having kids

We now know that the shooter in the Oregon shooting did not have a close relationship with his father – he was fatherless.

According to reports, Harper-Mercer was born in the UK to a British father before the family moved to the US in the mid-90s. His parents divorced in 2006 and he had lived most recently with his mother in Oregon, OregonLive reported.

My friends Patrick C. and William B. both messaged me about this article by sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who points out the link between fatherlessness and crime.

The article appears in National Review.

Wilcox writes:

Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father. From shootings at MIT (i.e., theTsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.

[…]The social scientific evidence about the connection between violence and broken homes could not be clearer. My own research suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father. Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has written that “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” His views are echoed by the eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, who have written that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”

Why is fatherlessness such a big deal for our boys (almost all of these incidents involve boys)? Putting the argument positively, sociologist David Popenoe notes that “fathers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.” Boys, then, who did not grow up with an engaged, attentive, and firm father are more vulnerable to getting swept up in the Sturm und Drang of adolescence and young adulthood, and in the worst possible way.

So where do fatherless children come from? It turns out that government programs incentivize women to make them.

Dr. Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute explains how welfare causes fatherlessness in his testimony to Congress:

Welfare contributes to crime in several ways. First, children from single-parent families are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. According to one study, children raised in single-parent families are one-third more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior.(3) Moreover, O’Neill found that, holding other variables constant, black children from single- parent households are twice as likely to commit crimes as black children from a family where the father is present. Nearly 70 percent of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes, as do 43 percent of prison inmates.(4) Research indicates a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of single-parent families in a neighborhood.(5)

As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noted in her seminal article for The Atlantic Monthly:

The relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation’s mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers, and court officials, consistently point to family break up as the most important source of rising rates of crime.(6)

At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

The secular left in this country believes that fathers need to be separated away from their children, and that’s why they support welfare programs that redirect money from husbands in intact families to single mothers. They believe that fathers are harmful because they set boundaries on children, and judge them and punish them when they act immorally. To the secular left, boundaries, judgments and punishments on children are bad, and must be stopped. So how can the secular left discourage men from marrying and teaching their own children morality? Well, they can tax married men, and they can give the money to single mothers.

Not only is crime caused by fatherlessness, but poverty is. as well.

Here is Dr. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation to explain:

Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families. [24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

People on the left claim that poverty causes crime, but they don’t look for the root cause of poverty. The root cause of poverty is the decline of marriage, which produces fatherless children.

EPA: Obama’s energy plan raises electricity rates but has no effect on climate

Atmospheric temperature measurements though April 2015
Atmospheric temperature measurements though April 2015

This article from Investors Business Daily. It talks about Obama’s plan to save the planet from global warming. The plan is called the “Clean Power Plan”.


Unveiled in August, this sweeping regulation will force states to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by between 7% and 48%, potentially costing families and businesses some $366 billion in higher electricity costs over the next 15 years. Yet EPA-funded models show that it will have no detectable impact on climate, if it has any impact at all.

E&E Legal unearthed documents showing systemic collusion to promote this scheme. The coordination involves the White House, state governors and attorneys general, and a host of nongovernmental organizations affiliated with “major environmental donors” — especially billionaire Tom Steyer.

The campaign quietly began in December 2013, when the White House met with aides to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif.; Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.; and then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, D-Ore. (Kitzhaber has since resigned following revelations about his office’s unethical conduct while promoting green energy policies.)

They wanted to ensure that states governed by Republicans felt significant pressure to implement this dubious federal mandate. They even hoped to “compel” utility companies operating across blue and red state lines to bring Republicans around.

This plan required hiring so-called “orchestrators” in key states. These positions, underwritten by private benefactors, would be “closely tied to each governor.” Their ultimate goal was to organize state-based campaigns involving renewable-energy companies, nongovernmental organizations, state officeholders and more.

As the White House wrote at the time, “We’ve got a few other tracks with private sector and unusual allies.” They included an extended campaign to enlist public officeholders beyond coastal liberal enclaves — the “flyover states,” as one email called them. More than a dozen governors’ offices were brought on board. Some are particularly surprising.

For example, Kentucky’s governor is now on record publicly saying that the president’s plan would be economically “disastrous,” yet the documents show his office among the “core group” and one of five that “welcomed quiet engagement” but couldn’t “commit … publicly.”

Other states keeping their interest under wraps included Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Tennessee.

Wow. If the global warming alarmists at the EPA don’t think that Obama’s plan will do anything to the climate, then why would we raise our own electricity rates to achieve nothing? What is most striking to me is some of the supposedly red states that are showing interest in this crap sandwich. Tennessee? Arkansas? Those two states have Republican governors. What is going on here?