Here's one exchange from their interview:
On page 35, you write "Spiritually you're better off a little mixed up about economics than indifferent to human suffering. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason." This seems to be a very important point for the book. What are you trying to say in these two sentences?Read the whole thing.
When I wrote: "Spiritually you're better off a little mixed up about economics than indifferent to human suffering. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason," I was trying to balance but capture Gilson's "Piety is no substitute for technique." To me, this is one of most important points I've tried to make. Motivation IS important when we're considering our spiritual state before God. It's just that our motivation for a policy has nothing to do with the real world effects of the policy. I think that Christians often weight our (and others') motivations far too heavily on economic matters. It's as if we think feeling bad about poverty is more obligatory than actually doing something that helps the poor. For instance, several times in churches I've pointed out why minimum wage laws don't really help the poor in the long run. I've never had anyone try to debunk the argument, but several times I've received the complaint that my argument shows that I'm not really concerned about the poor. It doesn't of course. But even if it were evidence that I weren't concerned about the poor, the argument's validity (or lack thereof) would remain the same.
Reading Richards' book and Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy would help to dispel a lot of bad economics among Christians, would actually lead to serving the poor more effectively and efficiently, and would help people realize that folks like Jim Wallis frequently offer arguments that are nothing more than demagoguery (cf. pp. 37-38 of Richards's book).
Finally, here's a quote from Richards's book:
. . . [H]aving the right intentions, being oriented in the right way, doesn't take the place of doing things right. A pilot's caring deeply for his passengers and wanting to land a plane safely are no substitute for his learning how to actually land plans safely. . . . I hope you already have a heart for the poor. Lots of Christians do. But do you have a mind for the poor? Unfortunately that's in rather short supply. (p. 35)