The slow growth of the American economy has inspired a number of new studies that speculate about the future. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research expects less than 1 percent economic growth per year for many years ahead. That is not enough to provide a future of opportunity for generations to come.
So where does economic growth come from? Well, it certainly doesn't come from the state. Judaism and Christianity have always affirmed that the ultimate source of the created universe is a loving God, and that one of humanity's great charges – even before the Fall – is to help unfold the fullness of God's original Creative Act. That position was directly contrary to the rather static economic world view of the pagan mind and its fundamental irrational theology. It also helps explains why Judeo-Christianity has played such an indispensible role in the West's economic development.
To be creative and entrepreneurial in the economy requires us to be free and living in societies that affirm and support such liberty and its key supports such as rule of law and a moral culture of virtue. Most of the world's great inventions that have done so much to help us fulfill the commandment to love our neighbor by assisting them to rise out of poverty came about in times of economic freedom. In free societies, people can exercise their God-given reason, creativity and liberty in ways that are either profoundly inhibited or simply forbidden in closed economies. In free societies, entrepreneurs can innovate and experiment. They can seek out investors ready to back them with capital. And they can allow the market-place to judge the economic value and price of new and improved goods and services.
This issue of economic freedom is even more important today. It is rising in some parts of the world, thereby enabling, as Acton's Michael Miller demonstrates in the PovertyCure initiative (www.povertycure.org) millions to escape poverty. Yet it is falling in America. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, America has now fallen to the 18th slot on the list. That reflects growing regulation, high taxation (especially corporate taxes), and failure to advance a free trade agenda.
The mission of the Acton Institute is to integrate sound economic thinking into the full truth about the human person that is ultimately revealed to us in Biblically-grounded faith. Your help enables us to continue with this pioneering work, and build a free and virtuous society.
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