Archive for July, 2008
Walter Williams has an excellent column this week about the ways in which the environmental movement affects politics.
I care about the environment–no one wants to live with dirty air and polluted water. But there are always costs to environmental restrictions. A smaller, more fuel-efficient car is also less likely to protect its occupants in an accident. Lowering arsenic in drinking water that is already at an acceptable level may save a few dozen lives in America each year–but could that extra money have been spent by struggling families, or on cancer research, or by a businessman to employ poor workers?
Many environmental restrictions come with few or unknown benefits and present exorbitant public cost, which is really cost to individuals.
On Jeremiah 16:1-15, Keil writes, “Yet we must not fail to be sure that the prospect held out of a future deliverance of Israel from the lands into which it is soon to be scattered, and of its restoration again to the land of its fathers, has, in the first and foremost place, a comforting import….Because the Lord will, for their idolatry, cast forth his people into the land of the heathen, just for that very reason will their redemption not fail to follow, and this deliverance surpass in gloriousness the greatest of all former deeds of blessing, the rescue of Israel from Egypt.” (271)
In the midst of predictions of judgment on his people for their sin, this promise of restoration is stark. The sin of Israel is compounded by the giving of Torah. Indeed, the rabbis speak of the Golden Calf incident as the “fall of Israel.” Because the sin is greater, the punishment is more severe–so the rescue will be that much more heroic.
Praise YHWH for the new exodus!
Why do I love economics so much? Economics is the study of human choices, not just financial decisions, but the cost-benefit analyses that go on in your mind every second of every day. You are choosing to read this meandering muse, but you could be utilizing your time differently — playing a game, talking to someone, or practicing the bagpipes. Why aren’t you? Because you’ve judged, rightly or wrongly, that this will give you more satisfaction than the alternatives, given the fact that you are already sitting here and at this site (transition cost) and you may be a friend of mine, so when I bug you about reading my blog, you can politely say that you checked it.
The field of economics gives us the tools to better understand human psychology, politics, religion, romance, and even baseball.
Economics should inform Christianity, as well. If John Piper’s Christian hedonism is anything like a good model, Christians have done the ultimate cost-benefit analysis, deciding that serving YHWH satisfies our deepest longings. Every Christian should be an economist.
As we seek a biblical model of economics, we must first examine what is perhaps the most basic idea in economics: the tension between scarcity and insatiability. Scarcity is simply the truth that all physical resources are finite. Insatiability is the idea that human beings are always in want, trying to get something more. In other words, “we can’t always git what we want.”
It should not be surprising that these observations about the world and human nature are taught as truths in Scripture. First, there are many verses that talk about the desire to accumulate possessions, some with a positive spin and some with a negative. Much of the Old Testament narratives are concerned with the acquisition of the Promised Land and the blessings that accompany the Davidic kingdom. Secondly, however, many teachings of Scripture take for granted the human desire for self-interest. Paul, for example, appeals to the Christians’ desire to receive the blessings given to Christ and the rewards of His kingdom as he urges them to press on in their faith. Pursuit of true self-interest is not condemned by Scripture but accepted as a part of being human, with the understanding that what is truly in one’s best interest is to obey God.
When God begins His creative program, He begins with a “wild and waste” earth. By the process of creation, He “tames” the earth, first by creating light, then by putting the chaotic waters in order, and then further pulling back the waters to reveal land. God’s creation is His cultivation of order. He then gives Adam, as His representative, the mandate to continue and finish the project. God placed Adam in a paradise, but it was a work in-progress-Adam was to name the animals and cultivate the plants. It should not be thought that insatiability-Man’s quest to fulfill his desires-is a product of the Fall, but rather the original state of Man’s creation. Had Adam sat and twiddled his thumbs, he would presumably have starved! Through obedience to God, Adam’s needs and wants would have been met. Only the Creator can truly sate the hunger of the Creation.
In the post-Fall world, scarcity is more acute. The ground will only produce by Man’s sweat and toil. Given Man’s desire to live and prosper, he must find new ways of getting what he needs to stay alive.