Writing recently in the Wall Street Journal, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, brought some clarity to an increasingly opaque discussion about the national debt: “this … is a moral fight, not an economic one.”
The economic dimension is clear enough, as he enumerates:
- Government spending is up from 27% of GDP in 1960 to 37% today
- The share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5% of earners has risen from 43% in 1986 to 59% today.
- The percentage of Americans who pay zero or negative income tax has shot from 18.5% in 1986 to 51% today.
- The national debt has rocketed from 42% of GDP in 1980 to 100% today.
Brooks argues that incremental adjustments cannot solve such drastic troubles. As he puts it, “structural change will only succeed if it’s accompanied by a moral argument.” He appeals to the fact that “America’s founders knew the importance of moral language” and laments the decline of “free enterprise advocates” into “the language of economic efficiency.”
The irony of this is that those who believe in free enterprise, whether they know it or not, are building on a biblical theme. Yes, of all citizens, Christians have a compelling contribution to make on the moral argument. We have the Bible.
The Bible tells us that at the creation, God put man – the imago Dei whose mind and heart are the greatest assets for creating wealth, into the garden – a resource for immeasurable wealth generation, and gave him the responsibility to develop it, to cultivate the fertile soil, to plant the seeds He had invested with virtually infinite power for reproduction. Man was to bring from the ground the marvelous abundance with which people, created in His image, are to care for their families and give to the needy. This Cultural Mandate preceded the fall (Genesis 1:28-29), and was restated after the flood (Genesis 8:21; 9:1,7).
All of this, of course, comes in the moral context of the worship of God, obedience to His commands, stewardship of creation, and humble service toward our fellow humans.
Our economic woes surely cannot be cured without recovering the Bible’s morality and the Bible’s view of reality.
– Gary Brumbelow