Monday, July 2, 2012

Christians & Poverty

There is no doubt in my mind that Christians should be concerned with poverty. We should be concerned about eliminating it.

But often times such statement too quickly assumes that the best way to eliminate poverty is through government intervention, programs and redistribution. Equally it is often assumed that the cause of poverty is free markets.

I do not believe that we should slander the poor and assume that all poverty is caused by laziness. That's not to say that there aren't some poor people who remain poor because of genuine laziness (as opposed to other causes like lack of opportunity)--rather it is to argue that life is not always black and white. Causes and solutions are not always monotone.

Christians should be concerned with poverty, aiding the poor, and helping to eliminate poverty. I however think that free markets in distinction from government intervention is the best way to aid the poor and increase income mobility. This is hardly the notion of "pull yourself up by your own boot straps" --nor should it be. Rather it is more like teaching someone to fish and aiding them personally rather than fishing for them.

Here is a good video that outlines this "alternative" perspective on poverty and how best to help the poor.

I am personally not an economist, more of someone with a passing interest when it comes to this area. Perhaps this is the most dangerous kind--a little knowledge in any field can sometimes be more dangerous than someone with no knowledge.

That said my plea would be this: Christians should be concerned about poverty but that should not necessary mandate we take one position on how best to deal with it. In fact, because we care about poverty we should investigate and make arguments into the best and most effective way to deal with the issues.

Thus, I have often read the arguments that make the leap from "care for the poor" to the assumption that this will/must entail government solutions. But in these cases one assumes the latter in order to justify it as the necessary consequence of the former. But you have to make the argument rather than assuming it. Even more, you cannot slander other Christians as not caring for the former because they reject the later as the most viable and effective means. This is indeed a bridge to far.

If time permits, this post will serve as a set up for dealing with the arguments here by Michael Bird and here by my good friend Jim McGahey as economics relates to healthcare and Christian theology.

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