Cover Story

ECON 101

"ECON 101" Continued...

Issue: "All tied up," Sept. 24, 2011

1. We all make choices.

2. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

3. All choices have consequences.

4. Economic systems influence choices.

5. Incentives produce "predictable" responses.

6. Do what you do best; trade for the rest.

7. Economic thinking is marginal thinking.

8. Quantity and quality of available resources impact living standards.

9. Prices are determined by the market forces of supply and demand-and are constantly changing.

Changing the financial culture

Economis software developer Scott Arnold found a way to give kids more

By Joel Belz

Scott Arnold isn't the sort of fellow you'd expect to produce a complex piece of financial software. He didn't expect it himself: "I'm probably missing a few brain cells," he says in a self-deprecating moment.

Arnold arrived here on the near west side of Columbus, Ohio, in 1992, committed to a ministry of evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development. He had all sorts of opportunities for "social ministry," but that wasn't his calling: "I had ringing in my ears that if I got involved in 'social ministry,' it meant I was going liberal."

But after three or four years, "I hollered 'uncle.'" All Arnold could see at that point were families without dads and young moms whose worlds offered nothing but illegal and immoral ways to support their needy families: "The kids who were in my Bible studies all faced internal struggles over whether to follow God-or this other path. And time after time, the other path won out. Time after time, I'd watch helplessly as they withdrew from the Bible studies."

What was missing? Arnold realized the kids needed to learn what the economic drivers were all about. They needed to find ways to generate more "financial hitting power." They needed to learn how to manage what they generated.

Arnold remembers one family's winning $60,000 in a lottery-and before anybody knew what happened, the $60,000 was gone. The family couldn't afford summer camp for their daughter. It was a wake-up call.

"I knew a banker, and I knew a stockbroker. Maybe they could tell the kids what they needed to learn. But kids have an aversion to talking heads." Arnold's undergraduate background was in psychology, and he knew that abstractions were futile. The kids he sought to influence were "tactile learners," so Arnold asked, "'Could we replicate a paycheck? Could we help the kids deposit that paycheck-minus taxes and insurance?' A friend suggested a time clock to promote accountability. Pretty soon, we were weaving all these things together."

A charitable foundation gave $150,000-and later, a good bit more. "We were up and running, and after a whole lot of testing and debugging, we were ready to try the software in a small variety of settings."

But Arnold stresses that the big challenge is not the development, installation, and use of the Economis software. "The big challenge is a shift in thinking by leaders, teachers, and administrators. It changes the culture of a place," he said. "It's very much God's reality. It's God's grid for seeing things-but it's a good bit different from what a lot of people are used to."

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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