This is the second post of my insights from the book Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution.
The authors of the book aim for a sustainable solution not based on humanly-manufactured speculations, but on real economic history and Biblical teachings.
The word sustainable was used because it connotes a long-term solution that has worked for those who faithfully lived with its principles. They also went on to clarify that the solutions they are providing in this book does claim that everyone becomes well-off, considering the fact that some people will always be richer than others, and therefore some will rather be relatively poorer.
Practical steps are offered in this book that even the poor can benefit, and permanently open opportunities and gain increasing prosperity.
As a young man growing in a Christian background and mentality here in the Philippines, I don’t know if it is only within the realms of Bible-believing Christian, or a general mindset of my country, that somehow non-verbally creates a mindset that being a Christian means not to pursue prosperity. To pursue financial prosperity connotes to something that is unacceptable and something to be ashamed of. A factor I see is the mindset of dirty business especially in third world countries. But somehow, this book gives an idea that prosperity is a biblical and godly pursuit.
I also understand the recurring and trending threat of the so-called Prosperity Gospel which emphasizes wealth and money as the assurance of following God. Here in this book, it’s not the spirit of prosperity that I can see, but a spirit of Biblical pursuit to living. The hook of the gospel is not the glamor and power of wealth, but the healing and beauty of Christ. Prosperity Gospel sugar-coats the gospel to woo people to follow a religion, whereas the Gospel of Christ pierces man’s heart through the preaching of the law, and pours out oil through the healing balm of the gospel.
The authors go on to say that there solution is not new, since many nations have put them into practice for 240 years and have experienced exponential and amazing results. And I would go with the authors who said “it can still bring remarkable results in every nation today.”
Why Focus on a the National Scale?
The authors also clarify that the solutions they propose apply with the national scope in general. The main target is not merely individuality mindset but rather an overview and national cultural values. I am surprised to know that the national economic performance of a country is proportionate to its values. Take that to an individual level and that is the same also.
They also differentiated the difference of focus between the gist of this book and the focus of projects and foundations for micro-to-macro scale development efforts. Many Christian organizations and charitable institutions may have had greater wisdom with regards to economic support, but this book focuses on a national scale.
The analysis that has been taken by the authors is two-fold. First, historical analysis of 200 plus years of economic history that led to success, and theological analysis based on Biblical principles of Economics and Biblical policies.
Steps from within a nation
The authors are aware that countless organizations have approached the problem in a Paternalistic Method, by that we mean, that givers come and give aid making the recipients too dependent to external support. They also emphasized that leadership must start from within. The hope is that this book will become an encouragement for the leaders within the poor nations.
I believe this approach as logical and smart. The usual tendency prosperous entities would be to give direct aid to countries, and the solution is not sustainable. The solution is only for the meantime ,and does not prolong to a long-term solution. Patchwork tendency is a big possibility when we try to apply solutions that are not Biblical and that we think can solve the problem sustainably.
The tendency is that the leaders within poor nations are depending on others to the point that almost all solution comes from the outside. This is a very familiar within the Philippines. It is so vivid to me, having seen and experienced this kind of set-up as I grow up. Filipinos within the nation, although not all, have this tendency to depend totally on outside support. It could be their loved ones working abroad, or foreigners who they have connection. The point is not a short-term economic support, but long-term, if not lifetime, dependence.
Outside sources are also quoted and one of them is a senior economist of World Bank. The statement from this highly-knowledgeable economist regarding the solution “it is not just about giving these countries our money. . . . Change in the societies at the very bottom must come predominately from within;”
The authors outline seventy-eight solutions in this book that poor nations must pursue.
Not a simple solution
There is no such thing as a quick fix especially when dealing with economy. The system of exchange is composed of millions and billions of intelligent creatures making decisions everyday.
The authors are also aware the the 78 factors could be seen as overwhelming to leaders of poor countries, but they went on to suggest that it has to be approached with the mindset of identifying first their strengths in that list, and also identifying in which factor they need to improve.
They also employ the positive approach consistent with the concept of Corbett and Fikkert which was called “asset-based community development.” This type of approach considers first what kind of gifts God has endowed to an individual/ community. From there, that is where right stewardship is employed. The “ABCD” approach consists of these main questions:
1. What is right with you?
2. What gifts has God given you to improve your life and the life of those around you?
3. How can the individuals and organizations in your community work together to improve your community?