10 episodes

The Christian Economist discusses Christian economics, conservative economics, and how they relate to current events.

The Christian Economist by Dave Arnott Dave Arnott

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.9 • 54 Ratings

The Christian Economist discusses Christian economics, conservative economics, and how they relate to current events.

    Christianity is Good for You

    Christianity is Good for You

    #141 Christianity is Good for You

    An “investment” in Christianity pays twice: Here on Earth, AND in Heaven.

    As the Christian Economist, I operate in two camps: Christians are concerned about the means, and economists are concerned about the ends.  It just happens that being a Christian is good for both.  The ends are good because we “end up” in heaven, and the means, here on Earth, are a bonus.  The apostle Paul said “To live is Christ.  To die is gain.”  We win either way.  



    Christianity is a “Two-For”

    CS Lewis quipped, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in.  Aim at Earth, and you will get neither.”  Ginger and I sometimes call this a “twofer.”  You get twice what you expect.  Some call Christianity “fire insurance,” because it keeps you out of hell.  But, it’s a very different kind of insurance, because, instead of paying premiums, you receive premiums.  Let me explain.

    As Dennis Prager asked me in an interview this summer, “If people are not getting their ideas from the Bible, where ARE they getting them?”  Well, the answer is: Their answers DO come from the Bible, and more specifically from the Christian view of the Bible.  They just don’t know it.  So much of the cultural water that we swim in, comes from Christianity.

    In the book titled Martin Luther, Eric Metaxes makes it clear that there would have been NO American revolution, without the Protestant Reformation.  He’s right.  So the outcome of America itself is a testimony to the power of Christianity.

    William Wilberforce said, “God has set before me two great objects:  The suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”  By manners, he meant morality.  I like the book titled Amazing Grace, but there are other Wilberforce books that are good also.  You may have noticed I cited two Eric Metaxes books in a row.  He has a gift, and his writing IS a gift to current-day Christians.  A member of the royal family was keeping track of how many women he slept with.  The number was in the thousands.  The point is: That was acceptable until the very committed Christian named Wilberforce changed culture’s view of “manners” as he called them.  While caring for the poor has a long history in Christendom, Wilberforce also renewed that call.  

    Oh, and about slavery: William Wilberforce was a devout Christian who ended slavery in the UK 30 years before we did in the US.  His crusade was clearly an expression of his Christian belief system.  And, his counterpart who ended it in the United States, Abraham Lincoln said “God told me to free the slaves.”  



    Economics

    In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber did what all good social scientists do: He showed a difference.  After the reformation in 1517, northern Italy went protestant and capitalist.  Southern Europe remained Catholic and feudal.  There are still remnants of this difference.  Simply looking at a map of Europe, you can draw a straight line through the four countries that struggle in the EU.  They are the PIGS countries: Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain.  I often express it this way, “How I see God determines how I see my fellow man.”  There, a Baptist just crossed himself.

    Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the masses.”  Well, it’s better than taking real opium.  It does enable us to live in a fallen world with greater joy, that’s absolutely clear.  But while opium only helps you FORGET your troubles, while disabling you from fixing the world, Christianity BOTH heals your current wounds and gives you the impetus to go out and do something about the fallen world.  It’s a two-for!  

    John Stonestreet at the Colson center is one of the smartest people I know, operating in the Christ and Culture space.

    • 11 min
    The IRS Targets the Proletariat

    The IRS Targets the Proletariat

    #140 The IRS Targets the Proletariat

    The IRS is getting 87,000 new agents.  It would take only 25,000 to audit every millionaire, and the bottom 57% pay no taxes.  They will target the middle class.

     

    The terribly misnamed Inflation Reduction Act contained an $80 billion increase in the IRS budget.  

    The IRS says they will hire 87,000 new agents with the money.  In defense of those hirings, they claim they will increase government revenue by $204 billion.  As I often say in the classroom, “on the other hand…” you could properly say they hope to remove $204 billion from the productive sector of the economy.  In economics we often use the phrase “opportunity cost.”  We want to know where that $204 billion would be if the IRS did not extract it from the productive part of society. 

    The purpose of taxing is to maintain a civil society in a fallen world.  One of my fellow Christian economists, Art Lindsley says it this way, “The government should punish evil but not do good.  The church should do good, but not punish evil.”  If the $204 billion is being used to punish evil, Christians would be pleased about it.  But, it’s not.  Remember, it’s the government, not the givernment.  Their role is to govern.  But instead of governing, the money will be used to perform the federal government’s view of good.  For more on that, take a listen to podcast #69 titled, Who Cares?

    So, if the church’s purpose is to “do good,” how does your church increase revenue?  When’s the last time your church hired more “fund-raisers?”  Uh-huh, just what I thought.  Your church operates by free-will giving, not by forcibly extracting revenue from its parishioners.  It seems like your church is raising money the right way, don’t you think?  Isn’t society better when we reduce the use of power?

    In I Samuel 8, the Israelites asked Samuel to appoint a King.  Apparently, they wanted to be just like the other countries.  Samuel warned them that a King would take their sons and make them serve in the army.  He continued his warning in verse 16: “ Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”  Seems like that’s what’s happening, when the IRS takes 87,000 of the best workers out of the productive economy. 

     

    Three Buckets

    OK, let’s make this simple.  Money can go only three places: Saving, spending, or taxes.  We’ll include giving in the spending bucket for simplicity’s sake.  Saving is the best place for your money, because it lowers the interest rate and encourages the development of the economy.  It happens to be Biblical also.  Spending is the second-best place, because the money gets multiplied throughout the economy.  If you buy a new dress, the shop pays rent and labor and the supplier of the dress.  They, in turn, pay their rent, employees, etc, and the money gets multiplied.  Taxes is the worst bucket.  As mentioned earlier, it gets diverted from the other two buckets and put into the “protection” economy.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Police and accountants consume wealth, they don’t create it.  They consume value that is created by others.  We need police and accountants – and you can add IRS agents in that mix – because we live in a fallen world.  But the less we spend on them, the richer we all become.  Keeping money in the value creating system, and out of the value consuming system, is good for the economy.

    • 11 min
    The Economics of Virtue Signaling

    The Economics of Virtue Signaling

    #139 The Economics of Virtue Signaling

    We’re all bad men. Some bad men have good policies, some bad men have bad policies, but the policy of virtue signaling is always “bad” economics.

     

    Virtue signaling became popular during the waning days of Covid, when people would wear a mask as a way of indicating they were better than others.  One definition of virtue signaling is “A public act with very little associated cost that is intended to inform others of one’s socially acceptable behavior.” 

     

    Christians should use ONE virtue signal: We identify as followers of Christ.  

    In a recent article in the Epoch Times, Philip Carl Salzman wrote that “Woke’ Ideology Is the Way the Elite Says They’re Superior to You.”  He continued, “What do you think “virtue signaling” is about? The point of it is to claim superiority for the speaker, and inferiority for the listener. It means “I am a good person, and, if you do not agree with me enthusiastically, you are a bad person.”  When Hilary Clinton said that half of Trump voters were “a basket of deplorables”: she was saying, “They are bad people, very different from us, who are good people.”

    Virtue signaling is a component of status competition. Those who aspire to power and fame will strive to be seen as having more virtue than others, and thus worthy of special esteem and status.  What a silly, junior high concept. 

    In supplying demand, marketers rely heavily on virtue signaling. 

     

    Curing Disease

    Marketers take advantage of consumers’ “disease.”  Except it’s broken into two words: DIS EASE.  They try to tell consumers, “You have dis-ease, which can be cured by this car, or this dress, or this lipstick or this beer.”  It’s such a simple appeal, I’m surprised people still fall for it. 

    Marketers know that consumers buy products to establish their identity.  That’s stupid.  Ginger likes to quote Dave Ramsey saying, “You borrow money to buy a car you can’t afford to impress people you don’t know.”  Meaning, those people you pass on the freeway.  Such is the strength of our fallen need to be better than others.  We want a better house and car, vacations, and education.  But Christians are supposed to find their identity in their relationship with Christ, not from their affiliation with a car or a perfume or wine.  Almost the entire luxury product industry exists as virtue-signaling.  While some luxury products deliver marginal increases in economic utility, most of the extra price is justified by status. 

    This is the trick that the Democratic party is trying to foist on us this week, when President Biden claimed that MAGA Republicans are semi-fascist.  He was virtue-signaling the following message: If you want to be a GOOD person, come over to the democrat party.  Really?!  Democrats are good people?

    A few words from Lance Morrow.  He authored the book titled God and Mammon, but don’t bother reading it.  There are some interesting details of political intrigue over his 50 years in Washington, but his publisher just slapped the title God and Mammon on the cover for some reason.  But here’s what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week: “Mr. Biden’s opinions have hardened into absolute faith that any party or political belief system except their own is illegitimate—impermissible, inhuman, monstrous and (a nice touch) a threat to democracy.” And then Mr. Morrow mentions the economic source of this idea, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Or against the party. (People forget, if they ever knew it,

    • 10 min
    The Soul of a Nation

    The Soul of a Nation

    #138 The Soul of a Nation

    In the Christian worldview, nations don’t have a soul, only individuals do.  There is no soul in Socialism, only power. 

     

    President Biden gave a speech recently addressing the “Soul of the Nation.”  President Biden said, in part, “The soul is what makes us, us.”  Well, it doesn’t.  It’s a singular, not a plural term.  

    The first definition of soul is “The spiritual part of a human being that is immortal.”  Another definition more specifically says “…in an individual life.”   Based on that definition, the nation does not have a soul.  One theologian goes as far as to say that the word “soul” means “the individual.”    

    There are at least 95 citations for soul in the Bible.  One of the verses I use the most in Christian Economics includes the term “soul:” In Matthew 22:37-39:  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.   This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  That second commandment forms the heart of free market economics, because it’s only in free markets that we can love others and ourselves at the same time. 

    My PhD dissertation was on US-Russian joint ventures.  I’ve visited the country three times, and know something about the Russians, although I should not be considered an expert on Russian culture.  I am fascinated by the phrase “The Russian Soul.”  I tend to think it has something to do with an inner strength that I see in the Babushkas, a demographic of middle-to-older aged women who tend to control the culture.  I don’t have much evidence on this, but I think Russia withdrew from Afghanistan because Babushkas protested the death of their young sons in a meaningless war.  But I digress.  Oh, I would also say there’s something in the Russian soul that grows out of centuries of struggle: Both physical, emotional, and economic.

    Often, when counting people aboard a ship, they will say “2000 souls on board.”  Why do they use that phrase?  Because they often refer to passengers and crew as different categories, but they all have “souls” so that if something terrible happens, they want the rescuers to know how many people to look for. 

    Does a Country have a Soul?

    So what about the American soul?  Do we have one?  There is no American people group.   There are Russian people, German people, French people, and even Native American people, but there is no American people group.  We are all immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants.  President Biden was correct when in the speech, he said, “America is an idea.”  He’s right.  America is not a people, it is an idea.  It’s an idea that anyone, from any people group can get in on, by stating their agreement with the American idea.  What is it?  Dennis Prager says the idea is contained on the coin in your pocket or purse: Liberty, In God we Trust, and E Pluribus Unum. 

    A country can have a culture and societal norms, but it can’t have a soul. 

    President Biden tried to degrade E Pluribus Unum in his Soul of the Nation Speech.  He proclaimed that there are people who support the soul, and those who don’t.  Thus, he tried to change E Pluribus Unum to E Pluribus Pluribus.

    • 9 min
    Student Loan Forgiveness

    Student Loan Forgiveness

    #137 Student Loan Forgiveness



    Student loan forgiveness decreases the incentive to work: it is regressive.  It makes the Federal Government the owner of the education of 40 Million Americans.  What will the government expect in return?

     

    Christians tend to believe that only God can forgive sin.  But increasingly, it’s looking like government officials think they can.  An article in the WSJ this week titled, “Biden’s Half-Trillion-Dollar Student-Loan Forgiveness Coup,” explains how student debt will be forgiven for some 40 million borrowers. The government will cancel $10,000 for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and $20,000 for students who received Pell grants. 

     

    I analyzed the student debt problem almost two years ago in podcast #57 titled Canceling Student Debt.  I seldom write about the same subject twice, but this new development demands another analysis by the Christian Economist. 

    Policies that Promote Production

    Think about a person with student loans, making $120,000 a year who is offered a raise to $130,000.  She would turn it down, to keep her salary below the $125,000, so she could get the student debt forgiveness.  

    As I explain in podcast #27 there is only one thing that separates rich from poor nations: Policies that promote production.  As we’ve seen in this example, student debt forgiveness is a policy that encourages sloth, not production. 

    Oh, another part of the announcement that didn’t get as much attention is that President Biden is cutting undergrad payments to a mere 5% of discretionary income.  So that means student debt holders are further encouraged to under-produce.  If you keep your income low, it decreases your loan payment.  That’s a formula for making the country poorer.   



    There is no Free Lunch

    Nina Turner’s view of canceling student debt is as follows:  “FYI—Student debt cancelation isn’t paid for by the taxpayers, the federal government is the lender.”  Wow.  That level of ignorance is just frightening.  I unpack this idea in more detail in podcast #79 titled, There is no Free Manna.

    The government has no money!!!  This is stealing, which is a violation of the eighth commandment.  When Sergiy Saydometov and I wrote Biblical Economic Policy, we found ten Biblical Commandments of Economics, and “Don’t Steal,” is one of them. 

    Let’s check our definition here:  “Taking another person’s property without permission or legal right.”  Yes, President Biden’s decision to move the debt from one person to another person will require stealing the second person’s money to pay for it.  I repeat: The government has no money.  

    Think about this with me: As government subsidies increase, will the price charged by the supplier increase or decrease?  Government subsidies PUSH the supplier price higher.  So we can fully expect tuition rates to increase as a result of the student debt forgiveness, just as they increased when government provided the subsidy.  

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board explained it this way,

    • 12 min
    Global Warming is Good

    Global Warming is Good

    #136 Global Warming is Good

    The Christian Economist looks at “The other hand” of global warming, and finds some good effects.

     

    The Inflation reduction plan signed by President Biden recently will reduce inflation by…..wait for it….are you ready?  I’m an academic, so I’ll use three citations: First, The Congressional Budget Office says the effect will be “negligible at best,” second, the Bipartisan Policy Center predicts “small impacts one way or the other.”  Third, and finally, the Penn Wharton Budget Model says the effect on inflation will be “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

    So the inflation reduction plan might INCREASE inflation?!  George Orwell’s 1984 predictions have arrived in 2022, in the form of “Newspeak.”  Newspeak is the fictional language of Oceania, a totalitarian super state that is the setting of the 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by Mr. Orwell.

    The Inflation Reduction Plan contains $430 billion in one legislative bill.  That bill would be the 36th largest country in the world.  Larger than the GDP of South Africa, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  The only COMPANY with a larger revenue is Wal-Mart at $560 billion.  Think about it: That ONE spending bill is greater than the revenue of every other company in the world.  Amazon’s annual revenue is only $386 billion, Apple takes in $275 billion.  And Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, has annual revenue of $256 billion.  

    Of that $430 billion, 90% of the spending is on green energy programs for the expressed purpose of slowing global warming.

    OK, here’s the strength of economic thinking.  I often stand in front of my class and proclaim: There are no...

    • 12 min

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