Dr. Anne Bradley recently concluded the two-part webinar series “The Christian Economic Model,” hosted in partnership with Praxis Circle.
While part one offered a survey of the theological and economic ideas that inform societies and empower the most people to flourish, part two focused on practical, contemporary examples and opportunities.
The World Population Just Reached Eight Billion
On November 15, 2022, one day before the live webinar, the United Nations announced that the world had reached a population of eight billion people.
Dr. Bradley celebrated, reminding listeners that population growth, rather than bringing doom and gloom, has expanded overall wealth and human flourishing.
How do we make sure that the eight billion (and counting) residents of our planet thrive? We look to the principles that fuel prosperous nations, and we try to replicate that success so that every corner of the globe is a place of shalom.
Catallaxy: The Bridge Between Our Identities & Our Institutions
Dr. Bradley explained that proper economic systems encourage us to cooperate and trade. This forms positive and mutually-beneficial relationships with others, which fulfills our purpose as human beings. (Note: Review our summary of her first talk for more on this topic).
This brings to mind the idea of catallaxy, a Greek term F.A. Hayek adopted, which means “more than economic exchange.” According to Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Catallaxy, or catallactics, also means “to admit into a community” or to “change from an enemy to a friend.”
In scripture, our neighbor is not the person who is most like us or who lives next door. Our true neighbors are our fellow human beings. And it is our calling to not only love them, but, through our work and talents, to make their lives better.
Measuring the Economic Freedom of the World
Milton Friedman dedicated his life to spreading the right institutions that advance prosperity, but he also knew it was hard to measure progress. That’s why he partnered with the Fraser Institute to create the annual Economic Freedom of the World Index.
The index ranks each nation’s relative economic freedom based on data points such as:
- Sound money
- Free international trade
- Low regulatory burden
- Property rights
- A small central government
The Fraser Institute’s 2020 Index was just released, and Dr. Bradley explained and contextualized the major findings.
The first was that economic freedom took a big hit in 2020. Because of the way global governments responded to COVID-19, we lost about ten years of progress. For those whose opportunities were already restricted, greater government control—and less access to trade—harmed those who needed it the most.
This illustrates an important second point: today’s prosperous nations are not necessarily tomorrow’s. Countries can move up and down on this index according to policy changes their governments make. You can look at the interactive map with data from 1970 to see which countries are making gains and, sadly, losing ground.
Dr. Bradley made the passionate point that Christians should care about this. In her words, “people don’t disagree that Christians are called to care for the poor. They disagree about how.”
To Dr. Bradley, Christians should be doing what they can to make every nation on earth more free. “Blue” nations on the map, or those with higher economic freedom scores and rankings, are far better places for human beings to flourish. “Red” nations, or those with less freedom, are places where our neighbors are fighting for survival.
Higher GDP doesn’t just mean fuller purses, it also means higher educational attainment, lower infant mortality, better housing, greater nutritional variety and overall food abundance, access to life-critical medical care, and more opportunities to trade goods, services, and labor.
Where nations score on this index isn’t just academic, it’s a matter of life and death.
Saving Baby Bailey: Permissionless Innovation at Work
Dr. Bradley concluded her talk with a real-life example of how permissionless innovation saved a life she holds very dear: her baby girl, Bailey.
Little Bailey was born at a point of fetal development where, until very recently, she would not have survived. But, due to God’s grace and catallaxy in practice, Bailey made it.
In the 1950’s, a doctor invented a tiny feeding tube for babies born with Down Syndrome. It was not used for preemies until decades later when other advances in medical technology made it possible for premature babies to survive.
In 2013, that tiny feeding tube, which was the fruit of countless people’s contributions—from the original inventor to the janitor who unloaded Bailey’s feeding tube to put in a sterile storage closet—saved her life.
Gains in life expectancy for premature babies, cancer patients, and victims of famine don’t happen by chance. Free markets create opportunities for strangers to unknowingly coordinate their time, talents, and labor to invent new technology, share critical knowledge, and transport goods and services to arrive at the times and places they’re most needed to save lives—young and old—created in God’s image.
If you ask Dr. Bradley and her family, they would tell you that that is what shalom looks like.