Virtual Voices

Faith-based budgeting

Economy

If the governor of your state called you into his or her office and asked you how to address a massive budget shortfall, what would you suggest? Would you cut spending, raise taxes, or try to find new sources of revenue? Your answer, like those in elected office, will be a faith-based solution.

California has a gaping $11 billion budget deficit and lawmakers there recently voted down spending cuts to balance their budget. Pennsylvania's governor just completed a bus tour promoting a 16 percent personal income tax increase to help with its $3.2 billion shortfall. To his credit, a few days after the bus tour he proposed $500 million in budget cuts. Some of the commonwealth's legislators want to allow poker and craps tables at Keystone State casinos, in addition to the 61,000 slot machines they approved, to increase state tax revenue. Clearly, legislators in California and Pennsylvania legislators have faith in big government.

"Many thinkers throughout the ages have noted that we face a choice between holding a robust faith in God or putting faith in man and institutions such as the state," said the Rev. Robert Sirico of the Michigan-based Acton Institute last May.

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When referring to "man," Sirico was talking about government officials and central planners.

Continuing his message, Sirico cited Nobel laureate economist Friedrich Hayek, who was gravely concerned about politicians who believe they can gather enough information to manage complex structures like state and national economies. Think about it: Is it possible for legislators and bureaucrats to gather, and accurately process and analyze, the information behind the billions of economic decisions that individuals in a state or nation make every day?

  • Is it time to buy a new vehicle or fix the old one?
  • Hybrid, diesel, or gasoline engine?
  • Which box of cereal should I buy?
  • Chablis or cabernet?
  • Which detergent works best for my family?
  • Which replacement windows are best for my home?
  • Cable TV or a digital antenna?
  • Should I invest in real estate, stocks, bonds annuities, or commodities?
  • Remodel the bathroom, build a deck, or save for a rainy day?
  • Take on a part-time job to make ends meet or go to school in the evening?
  • Buy or rent office space?

Faith in government to manage economies well seems misplaced, doesn't it?

If the governor of your state called you into his or her office, would you suggest more taxes or trimming the budget in areas where the private sector has a better track record? Would you place your faith in citizens to spend and invest their money based on their knowledge of what is best for them, thereby generating real wealth and . . . increased tax receipts for their governments?

I know that I'm stating this simplistically. Government does have a proper and moral role in society, which is to enforce the rule of law thereby promoting societal order. And yes, this costs money.

But governments like those in Washington, D.C., and in California and Pennsylvania go way beyond their area of expertise when they try to manage and stimulate economies. And we misplace our faith in them when we expect them to do a good job.

So where does God figure in all of this as the Rev. Sirico suggests? If you believe in God, you're likely to believe that God created mankind in His image. And you'll recall that God gave mankind dominion over the earth and charged us to be fruitful and multiply. Government's role from an economic perspective is to use its power, given to it by its people, to create and enforce laws so that individuals can use their talents to the fullest to create a thriving society. Do you have enough faith in God to believe this is the best plan?

Take another look at Washington, D.C., California, and Pennsylvania before you respond to the governor.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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