The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

You are here

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

Eighteenth-century British economist Adam Smith (1723-90) first wrote of the connection between freedom and national economic success. In his monumental work An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, Smith showed that national prosperity would naturally follow if governments allowed their peoples the freedom to succeed financially. This is still the foundational principle of what is often referred to as the Anglo-American economic model. A recent survey showed that eight of the ten most prosperous countries on earth have one thing in common—they are all former colonies of Great Britain.

Nineteenth-century economist Karl Marx taught that the state should control the means of production, thereby ensuring a fair distribution of wealth. His model was the foundation of the communist system, which failed miserably to either produce wealth or distribute it fairly. This did not stop countries from embracing his economic philosophy, usually nations accustomed to strong centralization.

What is often referred to as the “third way” is a mix of both systems, with some economic freedoms but a big role for central government.

Certainly the Anglo-American model, though not perfect, has produced the greatest degree of wealth for the maximum number of people.

The ancient book of Genesis showed this would be the case. In chapter 49 Jacob (Israel) called his 12 sons together and told them what would “befall them in the last days” (verse 1), the time leading up to the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Speaking specifically of the United States and Britain, whose common ancestor is Joseph, Jacob said: “Joseph shall be a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall.” History bears this out. Wherever the British and American peoples have gone, prosperity has followed, both for themselves and for those living with them.

Sometimes, however, this prosperity has led to resentment. An early illustration of this can be found in Genesis 26.

Isaac, Abraham’s son and the father of Jacob, was dwelling among the Philistines (verse 8), where he “began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous” (verse 13). Verse 14 adds: “So the Philistines envied him.”

As a result of this envy, they forced Isaac off the land. Isaac simply moved away and started prospering elsewhere—and was again resented by the Philistines. Eventually, they allowed him to stay, which was in their best interests because his wealth improved their conditions as well as his own, exactly as was promised to his father, Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3 Genesis 12:3And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×
).

Great prosperity was brought to the world through the British Empire and later the United States. But, as the British retreated from their empire, many of their former colonies suffered rapid economic decline as successor governments tried a different model, that of controlling everything.

The result is a whole generation of people who remember nothing of the fairly prosperous past but see the former imperial master wealthy while they are poor. To them, logic dictates that the British and the Americans must have stolen their wealth from the poor of the world. Hence, the increasing hatred directed toward the two Western nations.

Sadly, this is unlikely to be rectified until Jesus Christ returns and fulfills some specific Bible prophecies. In Micah 4:1-4 Micah 4:1-4 1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
American King James Version×
, for example, we read that “many nations” will “go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; [where] He will teach us His Ways and we shall walk in His paths.”

One of His ways is an economic system built on private-property rights and family farming, as shown in verse 4: “But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.” There will be no corrupt governments trying to take the wealth for themselves. Today it is the lack of respect for private property that discourages investment and the creation of wealth in many backward nations.

An essential prerequisite for removing the threat to private wealth is an independent judiciary, one of the contributing factors to the success of the Anglo-American model.

In one respect, though, the United States and Britain have deviated from Smith’s model, and that is in the accumulation of debt, both corporate and private. This is a fundamental weakness of recent experience that should not be copied. It does not bode well for the future of the two greatest English-speaking nations. GN

You might also be interested in...