Thursday, April 30, 2015

Questions On Economics, The Poor, and Wealth Creation

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. –St Peter

I first became interested in economics during the Carter Administration. Yes, children, I am that old. The economy was in the toilet with inflation around 14+% and people were suffering, especially those on fixed incomes, such as the elderly. Some were advocating the Feds spending more (increasing the national debt, printing even more bogus-currency) while others, such as Governor Reagan, were calling for a decrease in federal spending and of taxes. In all honesty, my sentiments leaned toward Carter, probably because I had voted for the guy and saw his failures as an indictment of my intelligence and wisdom. My father suggested that I humble myself and admit that mine was a foolish vote.  My dad: ever the cheerleader!

During these years, there were a plethora of books being published on The Simple Life, suggesting that we live on only the money that was absolutely necessary for survival, and giving the rest away to the poor. (Actually, many of the authors called for the government to seize all “excess” money.) The part of my personality that leaned towards sentimentalism felt that this was probably the Christian thing to do. However, there was another part of me—the part that had been influenced by dad constantly telling me, “Your feelings are not an argument”—left me doubting the assertions of evangelists for The Simple Life, especially those whom were calling for forced “charity” via confiscatory taxation. There was just something about the oxymoron of “forced charity” that troubled me.

Around this same time, I was beginning to work in underdeveloped countries where people were being beaten to death by poverty; all while their political leaders were becoming astronomically wealthy. (El Presidente: “Keep that foreign aid coming!”) In my youthful Idealism, I was going to help solve this problem, wherever I could, with charity: raise money here in the US and give it away to the poor in other countries. But it wasn’t working out. I would give the poor food one month and, upon my return a few months later, they needed more food.

This was the milieu in which my studies on macroeconomics, as well as in wealth creation, began. I was looking for historically verified and validated principles – The Laws of Economics – that would guide me in my pursuits of helping the poor escape their poverty; in coaching entrepreneurs and businesspeople; and in engaging The Powers That Be in dialogues regarding how best to move societies toward capital expansion, within a moral framework that supported the dignity owed each individual within that society, whatever their net worth.

I recently ran across my original questions from1981, while in Manila, Philippines, witnessing the fraudulently wealthy President Marcos get his comeuppance by being voted out of office and replaced by a woman of great integrity, Ms Corazon Aquino.

Here are some of those questions

What is the definition of poverty/who are The Poor? From a historical perspective, prevailing common sense saw charity as a stopgap measure, not as a lifestyle: How do we truly help the poor escape poverty and provide for themselves?

If a major part of the solution to helping underdeveloped nations is foreign aid, why is it that after billions of dollars of such aid (today that number would be one trillion dollars), these nations are as poor as they were before receiving the aid? Are there correlations between the failures of foreign aid and the failures of US’ social programs?

The market place: what is the place of civil governments, other than keeping out force and fraud? Are there correlations between degrees of government involvement in the market place and the over-all prosperity, or lack thereof, of a nation?

How is wealth generated and sustained? What are the historically proven principles for success in the market place? Further: scanning the histories of other capitalist or even quasi-capitalistic nations and then comparing these nations with those that have adopted socialism/communism, what are the direct impacts of each economic system upon the poor?

[And, for me, this final question was and is the North Star of my studies]
Do the scriptures cast any light on the answers to the above questions? I can think of a few things: Don’t steal, which presupposes private property; honest weights and measures, which prohibits fraud; we are to work 6 days a week; we are to do all we can (Jesus’ story of the widow’s mite) for the poor, but not for the lazy-poor (Paul); harming or abusing the poor, widows, and orphans, incurs God’s wrath; and then all the passages in Proverbs about planning, seeking wisdom, the blessings that comes with faithfulness and diligence, avoiding get-rich-quick-schemes, and etc.

Over the years, other questions were added and answers sought, all while seeking to see how my answers-solutions worked out (or didn’t) in the real world, both in serving the poor and in coaching my clients toward success. These questions are not those of an economist or a professor, but of a man who wishes to provide for himself, care for the poor, and see our grandchildren and great-grand children doing the same, in a nation that, once again, sees the symbiotic relationship between freedom and prosperity.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2015

1 comment:

  1. I have many of your same sentiments. I'm 65 and find myself with a deep desire to assist in the economic growth of Africa.
    Back in a day, my family and I spent 15 years as protestant missionaries living in a tribe in southern Senegal. Hence, my leanings towards Africa.
    I believe I have some knowledge currency to lend to the overall effort.
    However, I really don't know where to start or whom to contact to get the ball rolling.
    Any thoughts?