by: Jeff Poppinga
THE POVERTY OF NATIONS: A Sustainable Solution is written by Wayne Grudem (a theologian) and Barry Asmus (an economist). I bought this book last year after I had seen it promoted in World Magazine. It was published by Crossway in 2013.
The title caught my attention because I personally struggle with the issues surrounding poverty and poverty alleviation. As a Christian I feel personally compelled to help the poor. As a pastor I feel compelled to equip the church to help the poor. So when I saw the book I added it to my library and as of today can say I have finished it.
I appreciated the fact that a theologian and economist came together to write this book as stated in the preface on page 21, "One of us (Barry) is an economics professor with decades of experience bringing economic analysis to national economic problems. The other (Wayne) is a theology professor with decades of experience in demonstrating how a detailed analysis of the teachings of the Bible can apply to modern-day real-life situations."
As the title suggests, this book is not about helping poor individuals but about providing a sustainable solution to nations as a whole. As nations move from poverty to prosperity individuals will be impacted for good. The book is structured to focus on "national laws, national economic policies, and national cultural values and habits," because the authors are convinced, "the primary causes of poverty are factors that affect an entire nation" (pg 25).
Prior to reading this book I have read (several times) When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, Toxic Charity by Lupton, and Money, Possessions and Eternity by Alcorn. I have also watched the DVD series (several times) Poverty Cure produced by the Acton Institute. I have read these books in an attempt to equip myself to help alleviate poverty and help those who are hurting but also to equip me to be an equipper of others who are seeking the same goal.
I have worked in local ministries but have also been to Haiti. One of my daughters has been in Haiti for over a year helping the "hurting". My wife has been there twice now and is beginning a non profit organization called The Denim Project to help uplift women through education, job creation and orphan prevention. With these life circumstances as a backdrop, I found the book very valuable.
The greatest value of reading The Poverty of Nations for me was found in the explanation of economics based upon biblical truths and principles. For much of my ministry I have thought in terms of individuals rather than nations; personal situations rather than national policies, so this book was helpful in broadening my perspectives on poverty and poverty alleviation. This book helped open my eyes to the proverbial forest rather than spending my time in the trees.
In particular I found Chapter Three and Four to be informative as Economic Systems That Did Not Produce Prosperity were discussed. Systems discussed were: Hunting and Gathering, Subsistence Farming, Slavery, Tribal Ownership, Feudalism, Mercantilism, Socialism and Communism, The Welfare State and Equality. Each of these systems were shown to be ineffective in promoting national prosperity. In Chapter Four the economic system that has shown itself to be superior to all others was discussed in detail: The Free Market.
If you are looking for a good resource to defend the Free Market and Capitalism this book would be helpful and insightful.
If you are involved in ministry in general and especially if you are involved in any poverty alleviation ministry I would heartily recommend this book for your study.
This book makes it on my re-read list. Every time I read a book I deem it either "one and done" or a "re-read indeed". One and done's are the first to go when I purge my shelves but re-read indeed's become part of my permanent library.
Glory and Praise to God
Grace and Peace to you,