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Finders keepers

Popular wisdom isn't usually the best teacher of economics

Issue: "2010 News of the Year," Jan. 1, 2011

Out of all the economic wisdom you've accumulated over your lifetime, how much of it came by the time you were 13 years old?

I ask that because of the remarkable number of folks I've talked to recently who tell me-with rueful sadness-how they had to wait until they were otherwise mature adults before learning some important things about managing their money and finance. That lateness, they say, was often costly.

It's not that little kids learn nothing about economics. From the time that you as a kid heard the old saying that "finders are keepers, losers are weepers," you've been stashing away various kinds of wisdom that have shaped your thinking on the subject. Sometimes that wisdom is helpful and constructive; sometimes (as in the "finders/losers" ditty) it's unethical, ungodly, and destructive.

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So if we fill a child through his or her formative elementary years with a sort of shapeless popular wisdom, and simultaneously do little or nothing to construct a consciously Godly worldview on money and finance, why should we be surprised a few years later to find young adults filled with the former and void of the latter? Why should we be surprised when at election time evangelical young people flock to the false ideologies of liberal collectivism and overweening governments?

There's more involved than simple home economics-although I'm thankful for a growing body of wisdom on that front. Crown Financial Ministries, for example, deserves enormous credit for helping rescue many Christian families from financial disaster. Crown's solid teaching on the subjects of income, budgeting, saving, debt, tithing, and charitable giving has been critical for many in recapturing fiscal balance at the household level-and such wisdom, built with care and integrity into our Christian families, will have a beneficial impact on both our nation's and the world's economic welfare.

I am urgently proposing here, though, that we must go a huge step farther. The children who will be tomorrow's voters need to know more than simply how to balance their own family checkbooks. They need to be learning the principles, even at this stage in their lives, of what it takes to keep a nation economically afloat. The elementary classroom is not too early a setting for teaching boys and girls the sober meaning of terms like "trillion dollar deficits" (if indeed we adults understand such wording); of the benefits and the costs of "compound interest"; of the "welfare state"; of "collectivism"; of the "free market"; of "wealth creation"; of the "nanny state"; and maybe a hundred other key terms and concepts.

No way can we allow another generation of young Christians to grow up largely ignorant of the truths, principles, and concepts that govern and shape macroeconomics. Instead, from the earliest years, we need to be preparing them to inherit the land, well instructed in such matters.

So here's a proposal: Sometime in the next 10 days, you share with me no more than three such truths or principles that you think are critical for the next generation to comprehend and implement in the national and world economy. State each concept in no more than 30 words-and make your statement simple enough that a fourth-grader (typically a 10-year-old) can understand what you're saying.

Send your submission to me (be sure to include your own name, address, and phone number) no later than Jan. 10. I'll be eagerly reviewing what you have to say, and I'll compile what I judge to be the 10 most pertinent and best expressed 30-word ideas. I'll report back here in this column. But the ultimate goal will not be simply to satisfy our own intellectual curiosity, but to find a way actually to get such wisdom into the thinking of thousands of boys and girls.

Send your submission to me personally either by email or by mail to Joel Belz, WORLD Magazine, Box 2330, Asheville, NC 28802. For each item I end up publishing, the sender will get a free one-year extension of his or her WORLD subscription. I'm making that offer because I think the issue is critical-and because I think market economics work.
Email Joel Belz

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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