Book Plunge: Money, Greed, and God

What do I think of this book by Jay Wesley Richards? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Economics I find to be an interesting field. I had my first entry into the field with Ron Nash’s lectures on Christian ethics. I then proceeded to read Henry Hazlitt’s book which I still consider essential reading for anyone interested in the topic. I read some of Nash’s other books on the topic as well and would listen to podcasts especially coming from the Austrian school of economics. Apologetics has been my forte, but I wanted to educate myself at least a little bit on economics.

After all, such thinking I understand improves your thinking overall. If you learn to think wise economically, you’re likely to be a wise thinker in many other fields. It requires learning to look at the big picture and think beyond the immediate effects and think instead of the long-term effects. You don’t look at just what the intentions of an action are, for those are quite normally good, but what the actual outcome will be.

When I was given a copy of this book on Kindle by a friend then, I was eager to jump into it. I found it to be an absolute delight. I generally read my Kindle at night and the book got me looking forward to the night time so I could read more of Richards’s book.

Richards starts off with a confession that once he bought into the economic worldview of socialism. He had all the reasons he needed for despising capitalism based on his education. He could also see it based on his Christianity. Doesn’t capitalism encourage greed? Does it not keep the poor poor and the rich rich?

Besides, aren’t Christians people of equality? How can one support a system that produces such inequality and keeps the gap there? Especially if this is a system that is exploiting the poor and in fact, those in third world countries.

Richards was convinced, but then problems started developing in his worldview and he looked closer at the system he had been believing and took a closer look at the capitalistic view that he had rejected and found that lo and behold, the capitalists were the ones that had the best method.

Richards does admit that the world is not perfect economically, but that’s for a good reason. People are not perfect. The problem is not capitalism. The problem is sin. Capitalism is the idea that for Richards best contains the sin problem and the greed problem and enables a society to move forward and help the poor.

It does not work to just give the poor money. Of course, every now and then, someone does need financial support, but we will not get the third world out of the third world by dumping money on them. We will not cure poverty in this country by dumping money on the poor. The way to help the poor is by enabling them to produce their own wealth.

This is simple enough to see. If you give me $1,000,000 and let me do with it what I want, I could go out and buy that much worth of books. I could be said to help the economy a little by putting more money in circulation, but to get somewhere where I am earning back for that, well I’ll still be poor. I could sell the books, but what will I do with the money?

Now let’s suppose instead that I use that money and start my own business and then through that business I start producing wealth. While it won’t be immediately, I will reach the point eventually if I work hard enough that I could surpass the $1,000,000 that you gave me. Not only that, I will likely be hiring people to work with my business so I will be helping them to earn wealth as well. Furthermore, I will be supplying a good or service for people in need so once again, I will be helping others out.

In fact, this is what we call a win-win game. If I sell you something, I get the money that I want from you. On the other hand, you get the product or service that you want from me. Each one of us gets what we want the most. I want the money more than the good or service. You want the good or service more than you want the money.

In all of this, Richards also deals with some myths that are out there and practices believed to help the poor. These include ideas such as why we should buy fair-trade products are why we should be wanting to grant people a living wage. Richards points out that these problems only damage the market and thus buyers and sellers in the long run.

He also deals with biblical objections. Wasn’t the community in Acts 2 communistic? Didn’t Jesus make many statements about freely giving that go against Capitalism? Doesn’t Capitalism in fact encourage greed and isn’t greed necessary for Capitalism? Hasn’t the church always condemned usury?

No. I won’t give you the answers that he gives. I encourage you to read them for yourself, and it should be a good read for you. This book is an easy read and does not use difficult language and terminology that is hard to understand. The examples are every day examples and Richards explains things the best way that he can.

It is with zero hesitation then that I recommend this book. This is the kind of book Christians should read before they say anything about economic theory. The reader of this book will be getting an excellent start in dealing with many of the myths in economics out there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters