I saw that Stand to Reason’s Amy Hall blogged about a lecture by Jay Richards, a Christian expert in economics. Amy linked to this post by Justin Taylor which summarizes the talk (above).
Establish and maintain the rule of law.
Focus the jurisdiction of government on maintaining the rule of law, and limit its jurisdiction over the economy and the institutions of civil society.
Implement a formal property system with consistent and accessible means for securing a clear title to property one owns.
Encourage economic freedom: Allow people to trade goods and services unencumbered by tariffs, subsidies, price controls, undue regulation, and restrictive immigration policies.
Encourage stable families and other important private institutions that mediate between the individual and the state.
Encourage belief in the truth that the universe is purposeful and makes sense.
Encourage the right cultural mores—orientation to the future and the belief that progress but not utopia is possible in this life; willingness to save and delay gratification; willingness to risk, to respect the rights and property of others, to be diligent, to be thrifty.
Instill a proper understanding of the nature of wealth and poverty—that wealth is created, that free trade is win-win, that risk is essential to enterprise, that trade-offs are unavoidable, that the success of others need not come at your expense, and that you can pursue legitimate self-interest and the common good at the same time.
Focus on your comparative advantage rather than protecting what used to be your competitive advantage.
His book “Money, Greed and God” is a perfect introduction to economics and how it relates to the Christian worldview. I always encourage Christians to move beyond good intentions to good results by studying economics. We are supposed to be helping the poor, but how should we do it? Economics is the science that allows us to understand which policies we should support to do that.
Wilcox and Lerhman found that growing up in a two-parent family correlated with many positive outcomes for kids, well into adulthood. For example:
Growing up with both parents reduced the probability for dropping out of high school by 15 percent for men and 9 percent for women.
Growing up in an intact family reduced women’s chances of becoming single mothers by 12 percent and men’s chances of being nonresidential fathers by 5 percent.
Both men and women who grew up in intact families enjoyed substantial marriage premiums. Young men who grew up in intact families earned, on average, more than $6,500 more in personal income and more than $16,000 more in family income than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Young women from intact families earn more than $4,700 in personal income and more than $12,000 more than their peers from single-parent families.
Growing up with both parents also increased young adults chances of marrying themselves. Men who grew up in intact homes were 10 percent more likely to get married than their peers who grew up in single-parent families. Women who grew up in intact homes were 12 percent more likely to marry.
Individuals who grow up in intact homes are more likely to marry and once they do, they are the recipients of a host of benefits associated with being married.
Married men age 28–30 earn nearly $16,000 more, on average, than their single peers. Their family income is nearly $22,000 higher than their single peers. And the marriage premium for men extends to less-educated and minority men who are often at a disadvantage in the work force. Married young men with only high-school educations, for example, earned more than $17,000 more than their single peers.
I don’t like to blog about these things without solutions. I have some of my own (school choice, abstinence education funding, repeal no-fault divorce, defund Planned Parenthood, double the child tax credit for married couples, provide a carry forward tax credit to each married parent for ALL income earned by children before age 21, etc.).
But the new study has some solutions too:
Wilcox and Lehrman do make recommendations for strengthening lower and middle-class families. They recommend eliminating marriage penalties from the tax code, while increasing the child credit and the earned income credit maximum. They also recommend improving vocational training and launching a national campaign that encourages young adults to follow the ”success sequence”: education, job, marriage, children.
I think a lot of kids of my generation should be reading studies like this and wondering “what did the party of premarital sex, no-fault divorce, abortion and gay rights do for me?”. If your political party embraces policies that encourage people to see sex as recreational instead of a way of producing creatures who then become the responsibilities of parents, you are in the wrong political party. The Democrat party is the part of selfishness, and that’s why they attack marriage. Marriage is about restraining adults so that children benefit, and every selfish Democrat policy that damages marriage damages children.
Even today, after decades of feminism, most Americans agree that it is better for women and men — and society — when women and men marry. Yet when women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party; and when women do not marry, even after — or shall we say, especially after — having children, it is quite wonderful for the Democratic Party.
Married women vote Republican. Unmarried women lopsidedly vote Democrat. It is both silly and dishonest to deny that it is in the Democrats’ interest that women not marry.
They have no reason to strengthen marriage, and their policies (sex education, no-fault divorce, single mother welfare, gay marriage, etc.) don’t strengthen marriage. It sounds like such a nice thing to want to not shame people for premarital sex and divorce. After all, we want people to feel good no matter what they choose, right? But there is a price to pay for this “tolerance” of adult selfishness – it’s paid by their children. That’s what happens when we put feelings about moral boundaries.
If the underperformance of blacks and Hispanics in America were caused by racism by whites, then it follows that Asian-Americans would be underperforming as well. But Asian-Americans are outperforming whites. Let’s look at three reasons why, and see if blacks and Hispanics can learn how to succeed by looking at the Asian example.
Here is the summary of this post:
Asian Americans marry before they have children
Asian Americans save more of what they earn
Asian Americans monitor their children’s educational progress
Now let’s take a look at each of these in order.
1. Asian Americans marry before they have children
Eight in ten Asian-American kids live with married birth parents, compared with about seven in ten European-American kids, five in ten Hispanic-American kids, and only about three in ten African-American kids. Half of black children live with their mothers only, compared to three in ten Hispanic children, less than two in ten white children and less than one in ten Asian children.
Naturally, children who have two parents to look after them do better, because one parent alone cannot work and do household chores and monitor the children as easily as two parents can. The decision about whether to have sex before marriage is entirely under the control of the grown-ups. It cannot be blamed on racism, poverty and other non-moral pre-occupations of the secular left. Marriage is a moral issue, and Asian-Americans do the moral thing, and marry before they have children.
Asians have had higher median incomes than their white counterparts, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The typical Asian family has brought home more money for most of the past two decades.
[…][Asians] will surpass whites in net worth in the next decade or two, Fed researchers said.
[…]In 1989, the median Asian family had about half the net worth of its white peer. By 2013, they had more than two-thirds.
The gap between whites and blacks and Hispanics, meanwhile, remained little changed over that time period.
Asians have similar financial habits to whites, in terms of investing and borrowing. Both groups are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to invest in stocks and privately-owned businesses and to have more liquid assets, which serves as a buffer against financial shocks. And, on average, the former have about half as much debt as the later.
As a result, Asians and whites have more financial stability than blacks and Hispanics, which also allows the former to build more wealth.
Everyone has to earn and save money, but in some cultures, it becomes normal to not save part of what you earn. That needs to stop. But it has nothing to do with discrimination due to skin color. In Asian culture, there is no glorification of consumer spending on sparkles, bling and other ostentatious wealth. Asians don’t want to appear to be wealthy, they want to actually be wealthy – by saving money.
3. Asian Americans monitor their children’s educational progress
This article from Investors Business Daily explains how Asian parents don’t just make demands on their kids to learn, they actively monitor their progress and talk to their kids’ teachers:
Asian-American parents tend to oversee their children’s homework, hold them accountable for grades and demand hard work as the ticket to a better life. And it pays off: Their children are soaring academically.
[…]As a group, Americans need to take a page from the Asian parents’ playbook. American teens rank a dismal 28th in math and science knowledge, compared with teens in other countries, even poor countries.
Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are at the top. We’ve slumped. For the first time in 25 years, U.S. scores on the main test for elementary and middle school education (NAEP) fell. And SAT scores for college-bound students dropped significantly.
[…]Many [Asian students]from poor or immigrant families, but they outscore all other students by large margins on both tests, and their lead keeps widening.
In New York City, where Asian-Americans make up 13% of overall students, they win more than 50% of the coveted places each year at the city’s eight selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.
What’s at work here? It’s not a difference in IQ. It’s parenting. That’s confirmed by sociologists from City University of New York and the University of Michigan. Their study showed that parental oversight enabled Asian-American students to far outperform the others.
No wonder many successful charter schools require parents to sign a contract that they will supervise their children’s homework and inculcate a work ethic.
It’s not enough to just outsource the education of your children to a bunch of non-STEM education-degree-holding teachers. Teachers can be good, and some work very hard. But the Democrat teacher unions prevent the firing of teachers who underperform. This is especially true in non-right-to-work states (Democrat states). So, you cannot depend on teachers to educate your children, and Asian parents don’t. That’s why their kids learn. Performance of children in school is not affected by discrimination against skin color, it’s affected by the level of involvement of parents.
We have learned that the success of Asian-Americans in America is all earned. And this proves that there is no such thing as “racism” that holds back non-whites. If blacks and Hispanics imitated the behaviors of Asians (not whites, but Asians), then they would achieve just as well as Asians do. It’s not a race problem, it’s a behavior problem. It’s not a “racism” problem, it’s a behavior problem. It’s an us problem, it’s not a them problem.
My friend Kevin sent me this amazing article about socialism, which appeared at Desiring God (!!!), of all places. It was authored by Phillip Holmes, who – I see from his picture -has dark skin like me, which is awesome!
In the past, I have given Desiring God and John Piper a lot of heat for not connecting Christianity to the real world. This was especially annoying to me during elections, or when legislation of interest to conservatives was being debated. But I’ve noted that Piper is now much better than he was before.
Anyway, here’s the intro to the article:
Socialism is trending in the minds of many Americans. Some love it, some hate it, and others are indifferent to it. Some Christians argue that it’s evil, while others argue that it’s morally good or neutral. Those that argue for its wickedness often fail to condemn the crony capitalism and corporate welfare that is widespread in the United States; therefore, their arguments often fall on deaf ears with socialist sympathizers. The arguments for its moral good or neutrality typically appeals to emotion, rather than evidence, which is considered insufficient for those that oppose it.
Then they quote John Piper for the definition of socialism – and it’s a great definition, it really captures what is interesting for us as Christians about socialism:
A social and economic system that through legal or governmental or military coercion — in other words, you go to jail if you don’t do this — establishes social ownership at the expense of private or personal ownership and/or you could say where coercion is used to establish social control — if not ownership, at least control of the means of production in society. And thus, through control, you effectively eliminate many of the implications and motivations of private ownership.
In other words, Socialism borrows the compassionate aims of Christianity in meeting people’s needs while rejecting the Christian expectation that this compassion not be coerced or forced. Socialism, therefore, gets its attractiveness at certain points in history where people are drawn to the entitlements that Socialism brings, and where people are ignorant or forgetful of the coercion and the force required to implement it — and whether or not that coercion might, in fact, backfire and result in greater poverty or drab uniformity or, worse, the abuse of the coercion as we saw in the murderous states like USSR and Cambodia.
F. A. Hayek says that the rule of law and private property are the foundations for all other rights, even religious liberty. So, Piper’s focus on property rights is right on the money. This is what we should care about when it comes to socialism, because it impacts our other liberties. The more free the free market is, the most Christians can follow their consciences. But the more the government takes hold of private industry, the harder it is for Christians to earn a living without toeing the secular government’s line. Take a look at what is happening to doctors and nurses in socialist countries like Canada. They are forced to perform abortions, they are forced to assist with assisted suicide. Why? Because government is running the health care system, and there is no other company you can run to that will respect your views. There is no escape when a secular government takes over large parts of the private sector.
This part is my favorite part, the author quotes my favorite economist, Thomas Sowell:
Despite the good they seem to do in some cases, I can’t in good conscience embrace them as a necessary means to escaping poverty. In my experience, I’ve witnessed it hinder more families than it has helped. We give social programs too much credit and the importance of family and faith too little. As a matter of fact, some economists assert that it was during the welfare state the condition of a particular group of its recipients began to decelerate. As the black economist Thomas Sowell pointed out:
The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.
Sowell continues to attack the myth that social programs improved the conditions of blacks in America:
The economic rise of blacks began decades earlier, before any of the legislation and policies that are credited with producing that rise. The continuation of the rise of blacks out of poverty did not — repeat, did not — accelerate during the 1960s.
The poverty rate among black families fell from 87 percent in 1940 to 47 percent in 1960, during an era of virtually no major civil rights legislation or anti-poverty programs.
Evidence seems to suggest that the families that have eliminated the poverty cycle while on social programs would have very likely done the same without the programs. While there have been numerous instances of grave injustices towards minority groups in our country that have hindered progress (slavery, Jim Crow), social programs don’t seem to be the cause of any significant improvements. Therefore, I want to humbly provide three practical reasons, based on my Christian worldview, why more social programs could actually substitute the family, empower the government, and hinder the church.
This is correct. Attempts to help the poor by redistributing wealth from those who produce to those who cannot or will not actually make things worse – by drawing more people “on the margin” into dependency.
One last snip:
Social programs are a slippery slope that could lead to unjust governments, more broken homes, and dead churches. Therefore, I simply can’t embrace them. A free society under a just government gives us plenty of options. We love our neighbors by starting non-profits, building hospitals, and opening schools that address the needs of the people without using the force of the government. What I’m proposing is not easy, but it is a biblical alternative that will require sacrifice, vision, newfound conviction, and a radical shift in how we view church, family, and government.
See, he sees private, voluntary charity as an option to government-run redistribution. An option that encourages economic growth, while safeguarding liberty and conscience for Christians.
I really love this article. The problem with me is that I don’t think enough about how to make my views palatable to well-meaning people on the other side. The author of this article does know how to defuse potential objections gently and graciously.
There seems to be a lot of talk among Democrats and native young people to the effect that European countries have less “income inequality” thanks to bigger government, higher taxes, and more social spending. Is there a downside to this?
The battle over the assumed success of European socialism continues. Many European countries like Sweden have gained a reputation as being very wealthy in spite of their highly regulated and taxed economies. From there, many assume that the rest of Europe is more or less similar, even if slightly poorer. But if we look more closely at the data, a very different picture emerges, and we find that the median household in the US is better off (income-wise) than the median household in all but three European countries.
[…]Using the BEA’s regional price parity index, we can take now account for the different cost of living in different states…
[…]We now see that there’s less variation in the median income levels among the US states. That makes sense because many states with low median incomes also have a very low cost of living. At the same time, many states with high median incomes have a very high cost of living.
Now that we’ve accounted for the low cost of living in Mississippi, we find that Mississippi ($26,517) is no longer the state with the lowest median income in real terms. New York ($26,152) is now the state with the lowest median income due to its very high cost of living.
This has had the effect of giving us a more realistic view of the purchasing power of the median household in US states. It is also more helpful in comparing individual states to OECD members, many of which have much higher costs of living than places like the American south and midwest. Now that we recognize how inexpensive it is to live in places like Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, we find that residents in those states now have higher median incomes than Sweden (a place that’s 30% more expensive than the US) and most other OECD countries measured.
Once purchasing power among the US states is taken into account, we find that Sweden’s median income ($27,167) is higher than only six states: Arkansas ($26,804), Louisiana ($25,643), Mississippi ($26,517), New Mexico ($26,762), New York ($26,152) and North Carolina ($26,819).
We find something similar when we look at Germany, but in Germany’s case, every single US state shows a higher median income than Germany. Germany’s median income is $25,528. Things look even worse for the United Kingdom which has a median income of $21,033, compared to $26,517 in Mississippi.
Meanwhile, Colorado ($35,059) has a median income nearly identical to Switzerland ($35,083), and ten states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Washington State) show higher median incomes than Switzerland. Luxembourg ($38,502), on the other hand, shows a median income higher than every state except New Hampshire ($39,034).
None of this analysis should really surprise us. According to the OECD’s own numbers (which take into account taxes and social benefits, the US has higher median disposable income than all but three OECD countries. Sweden ranks below the US in this regard, as does Finland and Denmark.
The fact that the median level in the US is above most OECD countries thus makes it no surprise that most of these countries then rank below most US states. The US states that have income level above the median US level will, not surprisingly, outpace many OECD countries by a considerable margin.
What’s going on here? Well, it turns out that when you have fewer regulations on business, lower business taxes, and an emphasis on working rather collecting welfare, that people have more money in their pockets and a better standard of living. The trouble with Europe is that too many able-bodied people can get by without working. In the United States, we put more emphasis on making your own way, earning your own pay, and spending or saving your money as you please.
In America, the system is geared towards equipping each person to serve their fellows in the private sector workplace. More people working means more wealth is produced, and more wealth produced means that people have a higher standard of living. You wouldn’t have a higher standard of living in a country where most people didn’t work, and just relied on the few who did work. There isn’t enough to go around in society where most people don’t work.