Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem

For some time now I've been looking forward to the publication of Jay Richards's book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem, which has just been published by HarperOne.

Dr. Richards (M.Div.; Union Theological Seminary in Virginia; Th.M.; Calvin Theological Seminary; Ph.D. in philosophy and theology, Princeton Theological Seminary) is a clear writer and a sharp thinker. (His expertise is wide-ranging; a previous book, published by IVP, was a philosophical defense of classical theism; another one was a co-authored defense of intelligent design.)

Here are a couple of blurbs for this new book:
"In Money, Greed, and God, Jay Richards has written the definitive case for capitalism, a crisply written and incisive discourse on wealth and poverty, money and morality for the 21st Century."
--George Gilder, co-founder of the Discovery Institute and author of Wealth and Poverty

"Jay Richards understands the objections to capitalism, and here explains why they do not convince him. The empirical findings revealed in Money, Greed, and God run against those objections."
--Michael Novak, Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
Here is the publisher's description:
Does capitalism promote greed? Can a person follow Jesus's call to love others and also support capitalism? Was our recent economic crisis caused by flaws inherent to our free market system? Jay Richards presents a new approach to capitalism, revealing how it's fully consistent with Jesus's teachings and the Christian tradition, while also showing why this system is our best bet for renewed economic vigor.

The church is bombarded with two competing messages about money and capitalism:

  • wealth is bad and causes much of the world's suffering
  • wealth is good and God wants you to prosper and be rich

Richards exposes these myths, and other common misconceptions about capitalism, and reveals the surprising ways that capitalism is, in fact, the best system to respond to the biblical mandates of alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Money, Greed, and God equips readers to take practical steps in their own lives to conduct business, worship God, and serve others without falling into the "prosperity gospel" trap.

And here is the table of contents, setting forth the case that Richards seek to make, disspelling a number of popular myths:

  1. Can't We Build a Just Society? Myth no. 1: The Nirvana Myth (contrasting capitalism with an unrealizable ideal rather than with its live alternatives)
  2. What Would Jesus Do? Myth no. 2: The Piety Myth (focusing on our good intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions)
  3. Doesn't Capitalism Foster Unfair Competition? Myth no. 3: The Zero-sum Game Myth (believing that trade requires a winner and a loser)
  4. If I Become Rich, Won't Someone Else Become Poor? Myth no. 3: The Materialist Myth (believing that intellect cannot create new wealth)
  5. Isn't Capitalism Based on Greed? Myth no. 4: The Greed Myth (believing that the essence of capitalism is greed)
  6. Hasn't Christianity Always Opposed Capitalism? Myth no. 5: The Usury Myth (believing that charging interest on money is always exploitive)
  7. Doesn't Capitalism Always Lead to an Ugly Consumerist Culture? Myth no. 7: The Artsy Myth (confusing aesthetic judgments with economic arguments)
  8. Are We Going to Use Up All the Resources? Myth no. 8: The Freeze Frame Myth (believing that things always stay the same—for example, assuming population trends will continue indefinitely or treating “rich” and “poor” as static categories)
  9. Conclusion: Working All Things Together for Good
  10. Appendix: Is the "Spontaneous Order" of the Market Evidence of a Universe without Purpose?

Finally, you can listen to a 2008 Acton University lecture by Dr. Richards on the themes of this book: Don’t Just Care – Think: Myths Christians Believe About Wealth and Poverty.

You can also watch a video of Richards lecturing on this from last week:

I haven't yet read the book--it's on its way--but I look forward to it. I think it will be an important book for evangelicals to read, especially since Christians seem especially naive and receptive to the myths on both the right and the left with regard to capitalism.