The Economics of Jesus Christ

Right-wingers are most notably the guilty ones when it comes to wrapping their social policies in Christianity, hence their opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and certain forms of contraception. But they don’t have a monopoly in assuming they know WWJD.

An article in this week’s Bremer County (IA) Independent by Stephanie Schwinn asks if the US is really a Christian nation. In Ms. Schwinn’s view, a truly Christian nation’s “primary purpose [is] the care and protection of its most vulnerable through policy, programs, and legislation.” These “Christian” programs and policies include Medicare, Medicaid, social security, Head Start, and safety net programs that prevent “abject poverty.” Instead of pursuing these programs, we’re outsourcing jobs, gutting unions, opposing a raise in the minimum wage, and in the state of Iowa, opposing the expansion of Medicaid.

In these scenarios, we’re supposed to assume Jesus would govern solely based on the good intentions of these initiatives, but not concern Himself with the likely results.

I’ve recently posted about Medicare & Social Security and will let the links in that post stand for themselves. But also consider the following:

-There is no evidence that Medicaid improves health outcomes. There is evidence that Medicaid increases health care costs and discourages work and upward income mobility.

-For all the money spent, Head Start does not have any lasting value.

World poverty has declined thanks to expanding trade, while expanding the standard of living in the US (a point I’ll expand on with an upcoming book review). Protectionism, on the other hand, hurts developing countries.

The welfare state creates perverse outcomes with regards to poverty, unemployment, crime, abortion, and births to single moms.

-While unions may be good for those fortunate enough to hold a union job, they tend to have a negative trickle-down impact on the economy as a whole, increasing unemployment and pushing non-union wages down. That said, unions may have themselves to blame for declining membership.

-Increases in the minimum wage have an adverse effect on unskilled entry-level labor.

The Bible urges charity. Indeed, Americans are pretty charitable. But to equate government laws, programs and regulations with a biblical call to charity is insulting, especially considering the unintended consequences produced by these actions. Is a robust welfare state really what Jesus would do? I find that dubious.

I don’t presume to know what Jesus’ economic policies are. At the very least, I’m postive He would have opposed our corporate welfare state. But far from showing support for government programs, an argument can be made that certain authors of biblical scripture would frown upon just how expansive our “safety net” has grown.

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