Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Biblical defense of Keynes

I've listened with interest as commentators have talked about the revival of Keynes-ian economics. Not being an economist myself, I guess I didn't realize he had fallen so far out of favor. The notion that a government can spend in lean years from the excess from the good years as a way to ease economic hardship just seemed fairly obvious to me. But then, I was raised with a thorough knowledge of the Bible.

Of course, the Bible doesn't talk a lot about government fiscal policy. But one of the most famous stories of the Bible seems to be a pretty clear endorsement of Keynes' ideas. I'm talking about the story of Joseph in Pharoah's court. Long story short: Joseph was a government official who advised Pharoah to save up grain for several years. After years of saving grain, a famine hit. There wasn't enough grain to go around and the government used the reserves it had been saving to get the people through the lean years. Joseph was a hero, the nation was saved, everybody lived happily ever after...more or less.

Today things are more complicated. We deal in dollars and other currencies, not just grain. The world of finance has allowed us to borrow "grain" from future years to consume today. But when you get right down to it, the Keynes-ian notion of government spending to ease economic hardship is a notion nearly as old as government itself and endorsed by the Bible.

Oddly enough, some of the loudest remaining critics of these ideas are Christians conservatives. I just saw where some Christians are going so far as to point out "un-Christian" elements of the recovery plan in their wild efforts to oppose it. Of course, many of these same Christian conservatives were also opposed to the government saving up during the good years, preferring tax cuts and deficit-spending even when the economy was growing.

Maybe they should try reading their Bibles...


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