Theologian and economist duo Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus drew a crowd of Cedarville students and locals Tuesday night to the Dixon Ministry Center. Talking about their co-authored book “The Poverty of Nations,” the two advocated a different approach to tackling the issue of world poverty.
Grudem and Asmus believe that their book is the first biblically sound approach to not only solve poverty of the individual but of entire countries. They hope that their proposals will ultimately raise per capita income and gross domestic product in order to fight world poverty.
Though the book contains 79 indicators of the direction of a nation’s economy, the ideas were summarized into three groupings: if the free market system is permitted, if the government is fair and for the people, and if the culture is consistent with biblical morality, not materialistic.
Grudem and Asmus didn’t shy away from calling for revolutionary change. They listed government-to-government aid as a progress-resistant practice. When reviewing the history of foreign aid, they said that no country has escaped poverty through aid from another country.
But they made it clear that this should not in any way discourage Christians to keep giving to the individual by meeting urgent needs for the present time like food, clothing and housing.
Grudem says the pitfall of classical foreign aid is that corrupt and insecure governments are given the money. This leads to the money often being mishandled or the cause of yet another conflict. While governments giving aid always has seemed rational, Grudem said this approach doesn’t have a history of success.
“I think that creating wealth is not morally evil or materialism,” Grudem said in calling on each nation to work toward producing its own wealth. “Nor do I think it’s morally neutral. I think it is a morally positive activity. I think it is divinely commanded by God when He told Adam and Eve fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it.”
Grudem went on to discuss how producing to the point of self-sufficiency isn’t purely an economics and policies issue.
Gruden and Asmus said they believe a common misconception of our day is that the poor exist because of the inequality present in the world. They said that the modern era is the first where many people can go beyond mere subsistence living. They hold that the key is to encourage everyone to prosper and fight oppression.
Grudem said, “Tragically today, millions of people around the world remain trapped in lifelong poverty, not because people in other nations are rich, but because the poor nations in which they live are living under oppression. And ultimately, I think, it’s a spiritual kind of oppression… They are oppressed by laws and governments that cannot bring prosperity except for a tiny group of privileged rulers and they are oppressed by dominant cultural beliefs and values that perpetuate poverty and cannot produce prosperity.”
Asmus said the first step to economic change is cultural change. When a people invests in education, literature and teachers, they are taking steps to improve their culture. Although these are quality investments he recommends, Asmus said there is one even better.
“Freedom is virus for which there is no antidote,” Asmus said. “Freedom is a country’s best, best investment.” He also emphasized, “Don’t shut trade down, open trade up!”
Asmus went on to describe the transformations of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. These countries rose from despondent poverty to now being considered wealthy countries within the last 50 years. The change did not come from significant foreign aid donations or even the discovery of major natural resources. The revolution came from the economy evolving beyond basic agrarian styles, creating new systems of production and making moves towards the specialization of labor.
By laying out the faults of traditional methods of foreign aid and dispelling the associated myths, Grudem and Asmus maintain their belief that all nations of the earth, despite their economic and cultural hindrances, have the opportunity to move beyond poverty and dependence to being prosperous.
Brandon Best is a freshman English major and writer for Cedars. He enjoys writing, life and all the seasons of the year.