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Myths and money

Books | Books that defend capitalism will help inoculate against the socialist flu

Issue: "Homegrown terror," Dec. 5, 2009

Many of us have had flu shots this fall, but what about an inoculation against the hate-America economics that many colleges teach? Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and not the Problem, by Jay Richards (Harper One, 2009), undercuts myths that students might otherwise accept as facts.

Among the myths Richards demolishes: The Nirvana Myth (contrasting capitalism with an unrealizable ideal rather than with its real alternatives), the Piety Myth (focusing on good intentions rather than results), and the Materialist and Zero-Sum Game Myths (believing that wealth is not created but simply transferred).

Richards, one of that rare breed with a theology doctorate but an understanding of economics, also points out the errors of the Greed Myth (believing that the essence of capitalism is greed), the Usury Myth (that charging interest on money is immoral), and the Freeze-Frame Myth (that what's happening now regarding population, income, natural resources, or so on, will always happen).

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After knocking down the concept of Christ against capitalism, Richards summarizes proven ways to alleviate poverty: Teach that the universe is meaningful, thrift is good, and the rule of law is essential. He discusses the importance of delaying gratification, establishing property rights, and building stable families. An appendix helpful to libertarians shows why "spontaneous order" in economics does not argue against Intelligent Design in biology.

Another new defense of free markets, Guy Sorman's Economics Does Not Lie (Encounter, 2009), lacks Christian understanding but shows how economic freedom has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty: He notes that our goal now should be "to secure and protect the system that has served humanity so well, not to change it for the worse" because it is not perfect.

Sorman outlines in the process what true compassionate conservatism in economics would look like. The wrong way to go: propping up clunker managements and companies, "a protectionist course that guarantees only economic decline." The right way: Government "should help the losers change jobs more easily by improving educational opportunities and by facilitating new investment, which creates more employment."

Sorman over-optimistically argues that economics is a "science that will never rediscover the virtues of hyperinflation or industrial nationalization." Some mad scientists in Washington, and their enablers on university perches and in magazine offices, do not agree. They produce stories that create guilt and suggest that heroic support for the poor means fighting capitalism. It's important, therefore, that books like My Business, My Mission by Doug Seebeck and Timothy Stone (Partners Worldwide, 2009) tell good stories about entrepreneurs who serve Christ and their neighbor by using business skills to help poor people in developing countries.

On burning and bashing

By Marvin Olasky

The Yale University Press, though fearful of offending Muslims by publishing any depictions of Muhammad, has come out with a revisionist history of Bloody Mary's burning to death of more than 280 English Protestants from 1555 through 1558. Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor (2009) states "that the received perception of the campaign of burnings, as manifestly unsuccessful and self-defeating, is quite mistaken. In sixteenth-century terms, the burnings were inevitable . . . efficiently carried out and tellingly defended."

The list of nations the United States has rescued from tyranny, including many in Europe, is still long. Nevertheless, Carol Gould found ample material for Don't Tread on Me: Anti-Americanism Abroad (Encounter, 2009), and travelers should be aware that Europeans who forget history may harass them. Can America save Afghanistan from Taliban tyranny? Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers (Scribner, 2009) is an exciting nonfiction story of American heroism in the first battle of the 2001 war in Afghanistan.

Angelo Codevilla's Advice to War Presidents (Basic Books, 2009) argues that today's over-their-head leaders (that's just about everyone) spend too little time on the statecraft that can avoid wars and too much time justifying erratic paths to war by speculating about 20th-century clichés like "the interests of mankind" and "world opinion."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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