Christian Living

How to Alleviate Poverty

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 03/18/2014

Impact 360 Institute recently had Jay Richards, author of the excellent Money, Greed, and God, speak on “How to End Poverty in Ten Tough Steps.” He began by clarifying where the disagreement on poverty really lies:

I won’t spend a lot of time on the question of whether we should care about the poor. I take this for granted that this is a non-negotiable as Christians, that we are supposed to care about our fellow human beings. God cares about the poor, and he expects us to care about the poor....

[In the culture today,] we don’t actually argue about whether we should be concerned about the poor. In fact, atheists, and secularists, and liberals, and conservatives, we all actually agree on that point.... What do we disagree on? We disagree on what to do about it....

What’s frustrating about this to me is that it would be one thing if we were disagreeing with how to develop cold fusion, or something like that.... That’s an understandable disagreement that people could have, because we have no idea how to do that, right? It’s unknown. But poverty, and poverty alleviation, and wealth creation are not unknowns. We actually know the answer to these questions. They’re tough, but we actually know what it is that causes cultures to prosper and what it is that prevents cultures from prospering....

So my question is, as Christians, if we’re supposed to care about the poor, and we’re supposed to care about the poor in the developing world, and we actually know the way in which cultures create wealth and alleviate poverty, why would we try something different? ... I think, as Christians, if we’re really serious about poverty alleviation, what we need to do is focus on the known steps.

Justin Taylor summarizes the ten steps cited by Dr. Richards:

  1. Establish and maintain the rule of law.
  2. Focus the jurisdiction of government on maintaining the rule of law, and limit its jurisdiction over the economy and the institutions of civil society.
  3. Implement a formal property system with consistent and accessible means for securing a clear title to property one owns.
  4. Encourage economic freedom: Allow people to trade goods and services unencumbered by tariffs, subsidies, price controls, undue regulation, and restrictive immigration policies.
  5. Encourage stable families and other important private institutions that mediate between the individual and the state.
  6. Encourage belief in the truth that the universe is purposeful and makes sense.
  7. Encourage the right cultural mores—orientation to the future and the belief that progress but not utopia is possible in this life; willingness to save and delay gratification; willingness to risk, to respect the rights and property of others, to be diligent, to be thrifty.
  8. Instill a proper understanding of the nature of wealth and poverty—that wealth is created, that free trade is win-win, that risk is essential to enterprise, that trade-offs are unavoidable, that the success of others need not come at your expense, and that you can pursue legitimate self-interest and the common good at the same time.
  9. Focus on your comparative advantage rather than protecting what used to be your competitive advantage.
  10. Work hard.

Because economics is the study of human decisions, it’s unbelievably fascinating; and because economic policies have the power to either help or hurt real people, we need to know something about it. Watch the full lecture below.