Economics 101

The Biblical Foundations of Economic Principles

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We have spent a lot of time over the last year on our blog talking about some basic economic principles and why they are important for Christians to understand.

At IFWE, we talk about whole-life stewardship, which is the concept that stewardship extends far beyond how you spend your money or perhaps how you care for the environment.

This is often how Christians think of stewardship. These are good places to start. But at IFWE, we think stewardship, as God has called us to it, is so much more. In fact, God has called us to live out our entire lives for his purposes.

This means that every choice we make requires intentionality and purpose, and that means we must always count the costs of our actions.

Colossians 3:23-24 tells us:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Our view is that economics can help us be better stewards by helping us count the expected and unexpected costs of our choices.  As Thomas Sowell famously said:

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.

Economics helps us to unearth some of the ignorance that surrounds us. It helps us to consider what the unintended consequences of our actions might be, and thus make better choices.

This requires a shift in our thinking, one that incorporates an economic way of thinking. I can’t think of a better way to kick off 2013 than to start with principles of economics and go through each in depth from a biblical perspective.

The best way to start is with a book I use in almost every course I teach, Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about Wealth and Prosperity by James Gwartney, Richard Stroup, Dwight Lee and Tawni Ferrarini. You might remember that I highlighted this in my post on the Top Ten Economic Books for Beginners earlier this year.

These authors do an incredible job of breaking down economic thinking into twelve key elements. We will study one element per week for the next twelve weeks. I will begin by listing them all here to give a sense of what is to come:

  1. Incentives matter.
  2. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
  3. Decisions are made at the margin.
  4. Trade promotes economic progress.
  5. Transactions costs are an obstacle to trade.
  6. Prices bring the choices of buyers and sellers into balance.
  7. Profits direct business toward activities that increase wealth.
  8. People earn income by helping others.
  9. Production of goods and services people value, not just jobs, provides the source of high living standards.
  10. Economic progress comes primarily through trade, investment, better ways of doing things, and sound economic institutions.
  11. The “invisible hand” of market prices directs buyers and sellers toward activities that promote the general welfare.
  12. Too often the long-term consequences, or the secondary effects, of an action are ignored.

These can get you started thinking about an economic way of thinking in general. We will discuss each element in detail and attempt to understand them from a biblical perspective.

I believe these principles will help us become better stewards, and become more intentional with all of our life choices so we can fully live into the life to which God has called us.

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