If you ask a child where babies come from, you can get a lot of interesting answers, but traditionally the most common answer is that they come by stork. Children tend to have a similar understanding of economics. If you ask them where their allowance comes from, the two most likely responses are Daddys wallet and Mommys purse. In both cases, nothing is created, just transferred. Babies are transferred by storks, and wealth is transferred by parents.
If a child is blessed with good parents, they will soon learn that God makes babies and gives them as gifts to their families. Likewise, God has given riches and wealth . . . this is the gift of God (Eccl. 5:19). Most of us grow up to understand that God allows us to participate in the procreation of babies, but unfortunately very few ever realize that God allows us to participate in the procreation of wealth. Rather than procreation, most people assume what is commonly referred to as a zero-sum view of economics. In this view, wealth can neither be created nor destroyed but only transferred from one person to another. This, essentially, is stork economics.
It would be very sad if someone reached adulthood still believing that babies are delivered by stork. (This is the consummate fear of the comprehensive sex-ed lobby.) It could make it very difficult to start a family, at least without kidnapping or adoption. In the same manner, those who still believe in stork economics often find it very difficult to acquire wealth, or at least to create it.
While the method for procreating babies is extremely popular, the methods for procreating wealth are, unfortunately, much less attractive. The first method, hard work, is particularly unappealing. The second, ingenuity (both in technological development and efficient procedures), has its appeal but is not something that people like to have expected of them. The third, risk (the investment of time and resources), has glamor but obviously often leads to great disappointment. Nevertheless, these are the three things that have raised the wealth of humanity to the present age from a time when nearly the entire population of the planet was preoccupied with daily sustenance.
Since these methods for procreating wealth are relatively unattractive, there has to be some motivation¯an expectation of fair recompense¯for wealth to be created. When policymakers subscribe to stork economics, they inevitably deal serious damage to their economy. In their efforts to fairly distribute wealth, they remove the incentives for hard work, ingenuity, and risk and thus undermine the creation of the wealth they are attempting to allocate. This has happened repeatedly in varying degrees virtually everywhere¯from the Soviet Union to the American welfare state to modern-day North Korea¯but it always leaves the advocates of stork economics confused about the sudden absence of wealth. As John Chancellor once said of the Soviet Union on the NBC Nightly News: The problem isnt communism . . . the problem is shortages.
Wealth, like life, can also be destroyed. If hard work, ingenuity, and risk are capable of carrying mankind away from sustenance living, then sloth, ignorance, and recklessness are just as capable of taking him back to it. Wealth should not be the preeminent concern of the Christian, and it is certainly of less importance than the immortal souls of our children. But if you should chance upon someone preaching that the gospel of social justice demands wealth equity, please take him aside and gently explain. I assure you, hes old enough.
James Kerian is a mechanical engineer and small-business owner in Grafton, North Dakota.
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