Economics 101 & Public Square & Theology 101

The Connection Between Flourishing and Economic Freedom

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On Tuesday I shared some of the best articles for beginners wanting to dig deeper into economics. Economics is tied to flourishing, but what’s the connection?

Establishing Flourishing

We have talked before about what flourishing means for Christians. In a previous post, we established that:

Flourishing occurs when we fulfill our original job description, the cultural mandate, as given to Adam and Eve in Genesis. It is what we bring about when we use our gifts and talents to serve others by taking dominion over our natural and human resources. Flourishing is the glimpse of what could be when God restores the new heavens and new earth. 

Here are some diverse characteristics that can indicate flourishing, and that can be measured among individuals and nations:

  • Lower poverty rates
  • Higher life expectancy
  • Higher per capita income
  • Less political oppression and corruption
  • Better environmental performance
  • Higher levels of happiness
  • Well-protected civil liberties

Although these are some physical indicators of flourishing, a full definition must include spiritual aspects, which have been detailed in posts here and here. It is important not to confuse flourishing with any kind of prosperity gospel.

The Connection Between Flourishing and Economic Freedom

So what does economic freedom have to do with flourishing?

If economics is a tool which allows us to better steward our scarce resources, we can think about economic freedom as an objective measurement of how we are doing as stewards working towards flourishing.

The Economic Freedom of the World report is an empirical measurement of the level of opportunity across countries. Each year data is collected and measured which tells us how they are doing on the road to increasing flourishing.

The data collected in the report is an effort to objectively understand how each country is doing in terms of providing an opportunity-based society for its members.

Data are measured along these categories, referred to as the five pillars of economic freedom:

  1. Size of government relative to the size of the economy
  2. Rule of law
  3. Regulation of business
  4. Protection of private property
  5. Sound money

Measuring these five dimensions helps us to better understand whether the government is helping to provide a sound institutional environment in which people can use their gifts to serve others. We can imagine that when a government engages in excessive monetary inflation, people lose their wealth holdings and are less able to do things like provide for their families and open businesses.

Similarly, when the government engages in excessive regulation it becomes difficult for everyone, but in particular poorer income families, to start businesses like painting, house cleaning or food trucks businesses.

An environment characterized by a smaller government relative to the economy, low levels of regulation, a robust rule of law, sound property rights and sound money will provide the greatest opportunities for all income groups to better their lives and to serve the common good.

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