I look up toward the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Creator of heaven and earth! (Psalm 121:1–2)
Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? (Matthew 6:26)
Two articles in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about economics reveal a lot about our spiritual and moral condition as a nation. The first, from the economy section, reported that consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2004. The second, from the editorial section, reports that taxpayers are leaving Illinois in record numbers.
The rise in consumer confidence confirms the natural tendency of people to freely exchange goods and services and to want to do so without outside interference. The article said the rise in consumer confidence is based on high expectations of economic growth during the new Trump administration. Just the hope that the government might take its hands off the economy stimulates the economy more than years of "quantitative easing." (Quantitative easing: inflation, fiat money, unjust and immoral monetary policy.) The Illinois case illustrates that economic democracy is much more efficient and effective than political democracy.
Consumer confidence may backfire according to the WSJ. First, Trump's policies will be measured against these expectations. If they don't deliver the goods, consumer confidence will tank. Second, while freedom from excess regulation will encourage productivity, tariffs could easily close overseas markets. Barriers to imports are also barriers to exports. Third, it puts the central bank in a quandary because an increase in the interest rate, the Fed's main tool of monetary policy, could also kill consumer confidence.
But consumer confidence is only important because the establishment, including the WSJ, is ruled by Keynesians. The theory is that economic growth depends on consumers spending like there was no tomorrow. The chickens never come home to roost, or at least not before the economists die. So said Keynes himself and he is dead. So we have been taught and so most of us believe. We are living with the aftermath and don't know why or what to do.
The chickens have certainly come home to roost in Illinois. The state leads the nation in depopulation. To complicate matters further, those who left earned an average of $20,000 more per year than those who moved to the state. What happened? In 2011 the state raised the personal income tax from 3% to 5% and the corporate income tax from 7.3% to 9.5%. Illinois is deep in debt because it made promises no government should make, promises it cannot keep.
The two articles illustrate that we are ruled by an ethically corrupt and bankrupt theory of economics. It also illustrates that the disease has infected the general populace as well as the elite. The rise in consumer confidence rests in the government, what Trump will do, not so much in individual freedom, much less in our Creator. Like a spoiled teenager, we want dad to give us our freedom and we want him to pay for it too. But there is no free lunch. When the productive class is forced to pay with no return, they leave if they can, stop producing if they can't.
Of course I'm oversimplifying. The schizophrenia that runs through our hearts to some degree also divides the population. Not everyone nor every economist is quite as divided or sans any sense of ethics. Nevertheless, it is a malady that has the economy in its grip. Until we judge ourselves and our economic activity by God's standards, we will remain in Mammon's golden handcuffs. We have the key to free ourselves. Question is, will we?
But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
- Roger Oliver
Roger Oliver serves as a missionary in Puebla, Mexico. He and his wife, Marcy spend most of their time at the Pierre Viret Learning Center, a Christian academy, preschool through high school. Their local church meets in the Learning Center. They sponsor a web page www.visionamericalatina.com to promote Christian reconstruction in Latin America. Roger is a partner in a furniture manufacturing company. The business exists to provide employment to the families in the community, to help the community become independent, to generate capital for other family businesses and as a venue for vocational discipleship. He retired from the US Army in 1992. He earned his MBA at Syracuse University for the Army and completed a ThM in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.