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The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution

Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus
Published by Crossway in 2013

Distant Markets, Distant Harms: Economic Complicity & Christian Ethics

Daniel K. Finn, ed.
Published by Oxford University Press in 2014

The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade

Deborah Cowen
Published by University of Minnesota Press in 2014

Jordan J. Ballor is a research fellow at the Acton Institute and serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

“We have been so buffeted by international hatred, so discomfited by an almost masochistic domestic criticism and so demoralized by fraud and chicanery in government and business that we question the beneficence of the economic system which produced abundance.”1 These words were not penned in response to the angst over inequality recently stoked by the phenomenon of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.2 Rather, they were written 40 years earlier by the Marquette University economist Peter L. Danner in his article, “Personal Values and the Anguish of Affluence.” One of the remarkable things about Danner’s analysis is that he takes for granted the phenomenon that animated John K. Galbraith’s earlier 1958 work, The Affluent Society.3 As Hunter Baker has written, in recognizing “a mountainous rise in well-being,” Galbraith “implicitly conceded that earlier critics of the free economy had been wrong in their repeated assertions that competitive capitalism failed to yield broad benefits to the public.”4 A half-century later, however, that concession is under increasing scrutiny.

Consider, for instance, the verdict rendered by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. In the context of praiseworthy “advances being made in so many fields,” Francis writes,

At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident.5

This sentiment echoes the judgment of Pope Benedict XVI in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate: “The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase.6 Most recently Francis I penned a letter sharpening the papal critique of modern economic development, in which he writes,

We should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.7

Three recent books of a diverse provenance take up the good, the bad, and the ugly of globalization, economic development, and inequality. The theologian Wayne Grudem and economist Barry Asmus argue in The Poverty of Nations that the developing world needs to focus on sustainable growth in gross domestic product (GDP).8 The Roman Catholic economist and theologian Daniel K. Finn edited an interdisciplinary collection of essays, Distant Markets, Distant Harms, arising out of a conference focused on the moral challenges of global markets, and Deborah Cowen, a professor of geography at the University of Toronto, brings a critical and transgressive perspective to bear on contemporary “logistics capitalism” in The Deadly Life of Logistics.9

A Mountainous Rise in Well-Being

Within days of the release of Evangelium Gaudii, along with its now-famous assertion that “inequality is the root of social ills,” First Things published on its website an essay by James R. Rogers, “What’s Behind the Stunning Decrease in Global Poverty?”10 Rogers examines studies from a variety of sources, including the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, all of which “confirmed the overall conclusion that the rate of extreme poverty in the world has undergone a stunning decline.”11 These studies were primarily looking at figures like the number of people living on $1/day, a typical measure of “extreme poverty.” But this “mountainous rise in well-being,” as Galbraith identified it and in which hundreds of millions of people moved out of extreme poverty over the past 30 years, is attested to by other measures as well.

One of the more popular is what has been called “the most important economic chart in Western civilization,” which measures Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gains per capita over hundreds of years of human history.12 A version of this graph appears below in what is a kind of economic analog to the more famous “hockey stick” associated with global climate change.13

Figure 1

This kind of chart is helpful for showing, in a clear way that cannot be ignored, just how real this “mountainous rise of well-being” has been over the last two centuries. What makes these economic gains even more astounding is that they have happened simultaneously with enormous growth in population. There are many more “capita” included in the “per capita” as the chart moves to the right, and even still we see enormous gains in per person GDP. As the economist Deirdre McCloskey puts it, “Never had such a thing happened. Count it in your head: eight and half times more actual food and clothing and housing and education and travel and books for the average human being—even though there were six times more of them.”14 As powerful as this GDP per capita chart is, on its own it fails to capture this aspect of the unprecedented period of global economic growth.

A Barna Group survey released in April of 2014 found that most Americans remain unaware of these economic gains: “more than eight in 10 Americans (84%) are unaware global poverty has reduced so drastically. More than two-thirds (67%) say they thought global poverty was on the rise over the past three decades.”15 Clearly not only the reality of global poverty (1.2 billion people remain in extreme poverty despite these recent economic gains) but also the perception of poverty’s pervasiveness and intractability are of great contemporary significance.

The Poverty of Nations

In the midst of all this angst over the extent of affluence in the world today, Grudem and Asmus addresses the ongoing challenges of increasing affluence in the developed and developing world in The Poverty of Nations. Grudem and Asmus aim to provide a comprehensive contemporary account of the nature and causes of the poverty and wealth of nations. The title of the book can rightly be understood as inspired by the famous treatise by Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), more commonly referred to as The Wealth of Nations.16 Grudem and Asmus are focused primarily on addressing Christian leaders in various social spheres in developing nations, although they affirm that their message is relevant to non-Christians and those in the developed world as well.

The Poverty of Nations pursues two basic purposes, the first of which it accomplishes admirably and the second of which it leaves ultimately unresolved.

First, Grudem and Asmus attempt to provide a summary of the state of insight into development economics, particularly in the larger conversation about the role of aid, enterprise, trade, and institutions. In this regard, The Poverty of Nations is a helpful entry point into some of the best literature and analysis in recent decades. Grudem and Asmus engage and deploy insights from significant works like Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson and The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier.17 Many of these works attempt to tell the story of the “mountainous rise in well-being” in the developed world and what we can learn from this phenomenon in tackling the poverty of other nations.

It is in the second, synthetic aspect of The Poverty of Nations that Grudem and Asmus strive to make their most original and ambitious contribution. Even though there have been many fine books about global poverty and development, “something is still needed,” write Grudem and Asmus, something they aim to provide in this work: “a focus on the nationwide laws, policies, and cultural values and habits that determine so much of the course of economic development in a nation.”18

The Causes of Wealth and Poverty

There is synthetic work being done at a number of levels in The Poverty of Nations. Grudem and Asmus attempt to collate all of the factors that influence economic development and present them in a coherent package that might undergird reform efforts in poor nations. Grudem and Asmus cull together the various insights of the best of the development experts and combine them into a more comprehensive vision of development. The result is “a composite list of factors that will enable a nation to overcome poverty,” consisting of 78 different factors across four categories: the national economic system; the national political system; the nation’s freedoms; and the nation’s values. Rather than reducing the relevant phenomena for economic development to one or two key considerations, as many studies are wont to do, Grudem and Asmus have compiled a diverse set of considerations. They do recognize the resulting challenge: “The solution we propose is complex because economic systems are complex. That is because economic systems are the result of millions of human beings making millions of choices every day. Who can ever expect to understand all of this?”19 Grudem and Asmus have done their best to help their readers, particularly leaders within poor nations, come to grips with the scale of the challenge associated with moving “from poverty to prosperity.”

At the level of economic analysis, however, the synthesis that Grudem and Asmus aim for is not complete. In aiming to be comprehensive, Grudem and Asmus have often ended up speaking in generalities that provide little practical guidance for navigating the 78 key “factors.” Where might the reform-minded churchman, political leader, or business executive in the developing world begin? Grudem and Asmus do make clear that in some real sense the cultural factors relating to “values” are the most fundamental:

These cultural values are therefore the most strategic matters that we discuss in this book, because they will ultimately determine all the other factors. The cultural values of a nation determine what kind of economic system it adopts, what kinds of laws and policies the government enacts, whether corruption is tolerated, whether freedoms are protected, and what kinds of goals individual set for their personal lives.20

But The Poverty of Nations lists no fewer than 35 cultural values that a nation needs to develop economically, with little information about how to prioritize or relate these to other potentially significant factors. In other places Grudem and Asmus seem to indicate that legal institutions are equally foundational, as they argue that “leaders of poor nations need to consider all of the factors explained in chapters 3 to 9 [where these are developed]. Some of these factors (such as property rights and the rule of law) are more influential than others, but every one of them has some effect, for good or ill, on a nation’s economy.”21 The difficulty for the reader in assessing which factors warrant more or less weight is exacerbated by the frustrating level of internal referencing in the main text, as more extensive treatments of various issues are quite often put off toward a later section of the book.

Grudem and Asmus do provide a guiding principle of sorts that might serve as a kind of ordering mechanism for the various factors, but in doing this they have risked the opposite extreme of reducing the terms of development and truncating our vision for wealth and prosperity. Thus Grudem and Asmus argue that “The correct goal for a poor nation, then, is to become a nation that continually produces more goods and services each year.”22 We might properly observe that this might be the appropriate goal for the economic institutions of a nation, but the lack of specificity and nuance on this point are illustrative of the simple conflation of economic goods with human good simpliciter. This larger problem is also manifest when Grudem and Asmus identify economic productivity with the outputs measured in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In The Poverty of Nations, GDP functions as the main proxy for these goods and services. Thus, write Grudem and Asmus, “the goal must be to increase a nation’s GDP.”23 In this way human good is simply conflated with economic good, which is in turn simplified into GDP.

This emphasis on maximization of GDP is advocated with no apparent recognition of the limitations of the measure itself and the implications of such limitations for a social order that places GDP as its leading light. To use a recent example from Canada, women who leave the full-time paid workforce to stay home and care for children are seen as a drag on GDP: “With female participation stagnating, potential growth isn’t rising as quickly.”24 But as the economist Shawn Ritenour observes, “What this analysis fails to recognize is that leisure time spent raising children is an economic good.”25 GDP figures include the cost of paid childcare workers as part of its calculation, but when a mother, who receives no direct remuneration for her work, cares for her children, there is nothing added to GDP. A consequence of prioritizing GDP growth as the highest economic and even national goal would be the institution of policies and incentives, whether legal, customary, or some combination, to induce women to work outside the home and professionalize the provision of childcare. As a measure, GDP tends to incentivize specialization and the division of labor, since such transactions are the only things taken into account. This is the kind of phenomena Joseph E. Davis describes when he writes, “The very act of creating measures and benchmarks and rating scales can badly distort the nature of the thing being audited, throwing off all sorts of unintended consequences.”26

Such examples of the limits of GDP as a proxy for human flourishing could easily be multiplied, and as Ritenour concludes, “We ought not give into the temptation that all of human welfare is encapsulated in GDP.” In a subtle way, measuring GDP can even play into a kind of economic planning mentality, since it can give the illusion that human flourishing is identical with economic growth and that economic growth is reducible to GDP. This is what led Sir John James Cowperthwaite, the financial secretary in Hong Kong from 1961 to 1971, to resist such economic measures so strongly. As the Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn writes of a conversation between Cowperthwaite and the economist Milton Friedman in 1963,

Asked why he forbade officials from keeping numbers even for things such as gross domestic product, Cowperthwaite told Friedman a version of what he would tell me over lunch at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Hotel three decades later. “If I let them keep statistics,” he said, “they can only misuse them.”27

Now to be fair to Grudem and Asmus and as we have seen from the chart above, GDP is a useful, if limited, measure. But it cannot simply be taken to be a direct proxy for economic development, much less human flourishing, and it needs to be complemented by other welfare measures as well as considerations of realities that are not so easily measurable.28

Norms and Civilization

Where Grudem and Asmus do not deal significantly with the imbalances of power and opportunity inherent in relationships between the developed world and those in the developing world, the works edited by Finn and authored by Cowen are focused directly on these sorts of moral challenges. Finn’s volume includes interdisciplinary perspectives from sociologists, economists, and theologians, and thus represents a unique attempt at bringing to bear perspectives that simultaneously complement and challenge one another. Cowen’s work, although focused specifically on many of the concerns that animate the Finn volume, works out of a more secular Marxist and liberationist paradigm.

Part of the challenge of approaching contemporary mainstream economic thought involves the discipline’s claims of being a positive or value-free science. One way of stating this is to say that economics is agnostic concerning ends and only takes up questions of means, such as efficiency. Pierpalo Donati summarizes the problem well: “The morality of actions in the market is essentially a problem of civilizing the market, considered as a system of interdependences and interactions.”29

The goal for each of the authors in these volumes is such “civilizing” of the market, or even civilization as such. The differences are in how each understands the means for that goal to be achieved and the content of that construction. For Cowen, the goal is the transformation of “logistics capitalism” through transgressive social action into a system that is less violent and destructive. The confusions apparent in Grudem and Asmus’s identification of GDP maximization not merely as the main economic but also the main political goal of a nation represent an important example of the problems Cowen identifies with neoliberalism.30 In her own way and through her own disciplinary perspectives, Cowen is responding to the truncating of human good that such conflation represents and seeking its correction: “That the same infrastructures of oppression may be creatively reused toward their transformation is a hallmark of activism in an era of global circulation.”31 Cowen’s work is, in this way, although deeply and fundamentally critical of the contemporary order, deeply hopeful that such transformation might occur.

Perhaps the greatest disconnect between Cowen’s work and the others is the values that undergird the analysis. For Cowen, the means of transforming the global economy are transgressive, or in her words consist of an attempt at “queering logistics.” Thus she writes,

That the term rough trade is already in play in myriad ways in popular culture and sexual slang itself suggests a kind of queer engagement with the organization of power and its signs. A refusal of the nature of things by taking them up differently and with desire is precisely the power of BDSM play and culture.32

She continues:

The promise of refiguring sexual selection and so too desire, unhinging it from the impera- tives of efficient war anchored in permanent accumulation, is profound in a time of logistics space. BDSM may thus offer a kind of queer method for constructing countercartographies of logistics space.33

Such quotations are representative of the prosaic argument Cowen makes and make apparent that Cowen’s work is transgressive of traditional cultural norms not only in terms of its content but also in its very use of language.

Transcending “imperial pedagogies of species survivalism and reproductive heteronormativity” may be the mark of civilizational development for Cowen, but for Grudem and Asmus as well as the authors contributing to Distant Markets, Distant Harms, rather different understandings of the humane economy are envisioned.34

The Synthesis of Theology and Economics

A related aspect of the synthesis Grudem and Asmus seek to achieve that ultimately does not achieve its goal is the integration of theological insights into the economic analysis. Grudem and Asmus are to be praised for attempting what few others do: a collaboration between a theologian and an economist to grapple with a complex social phenomenon like poverty. Unfortunately, there is too much facility in the move from Scripture to prescription in The Poverty of Nations. The theology does not provide a comprehensive enough check on the triumphalism of the economic analysis. The free market, for instance, often seems self-sufficient, even miraculous. A “fair” and “just” wage is simply “the price at which workers are willing to work in the labor market.”35 Although it needs to enforce “appropriate restraints on crime,” in the context of “a free market, no government officials have to force people to work. The government simply has to get out of the way and let the free market work all by itself.”36 The free market “is a complex, brain-like organism that evolves over decades.”37 One might think that what the market produces “could only happen in a utopian dream. But the free market is such a system, even though no one controls it.”38

In other places, the language is more restrained. Grudem and Asmus write that they “are going to list several moral virtues that are encouraged by free-market systems. But we do not believe that free markets make morally perfect people!”39 Similarly, the market is not perfect: “Compared to perfection, the free market is easy to criticize. Utopia is always a better idea.” And yet they argue that, “compared to any real-world example ever tried in the past, its virtues of greater economic productivity, of lifting the masses from poverty, of promoting virtuous behavior, and of frequent personal benevolence are unsurpassed.”40 It is not so much that Grudem and Asmus are congenitally wrong about the merits of the market system, even where their rhetoric waxes ecstatic. It is that theology and Scripture are more often invoked to justify the free market than used to temper and critique all worldly powers and principalities, economics included.

Grudem and Asmus’ efforts at bringing theology and economics together into a comprehensive account of the poverty of nations exhibit the incompleteness that the economist Victor V. Claar describes as symptomatic of so many similar endeavors. As Claar writes, “the resulting product is not a cohesive synthesis of economic and theological thinking and tradition.”41 Rather,

the theologians do a little talking, and then the economists do some talking. Even if the theologians and the economists happen to be writing from the same economic policy point of view, the theologians seldom know enough about basic economics to do it justice. And it is even less likely that an economist knows enough theology to meaningfully employ it in his research program.42

The point is not to say that Grudem, the theologian, knows little economics, or that Asmus, the economist, knows little theology. It is simply to say that in this particular project the two are not adequately synthesized into a coherent argument that would be convincing for anyone who is not already enamored with the virtues of the free market.43

Throughout the Finn volume, the contributors likewise consistently note the difficulty of such interdisciplinary integration. In his conclusion Finn thus notes that “the single most intractable methodological problem facing Christian economic ethics is how to account for the causally rooted moral responsibility of market participants for harms that markets cause to distant others.”44 Distant Markets, Distant Harms takes up the challenge in an admirable way, and provides a number of important resources for addressing this pressing moral problem. Here it is worth highlighting two illustrative examples.

First, Douglas V. Porpora provides a compelling statement of the dynamic between individuals and social institutions, combining a sense of the uniqueness of each individual Christian’s calling within the context of a diverse matrix of social relations:

From a sociological point of view, we are who we are not just as isolated individuals. Instead, we are who we are in relation to both social space and moral space. In social space, we are the occupants of certain ontologically real social positions, apart from which we would not be who we are.45

In this statement we see how personal haecceity (the uniqueness or “this-ness” of something) and Christian vocation come together. A second important takeaway from Distant Markets, Distant Harms comes as Albino Barrera attunes us to a basic criterion for human development and a reliable indicator for sensitizing us to ongoing injustice. In this regard Barrera writes, “Whenever people are chronically unable to satisfy even their most basic needs, not to mention their higher needs, we have a telltale sign that there are systemic problems in our shared economic life that need to be rectified.”46 The problem with the “mountainous rise in well-being” in the developed world may thus largely consist in that it has not yet been enjoyed and extended to all.

First and Third World Problems

As Alexander Hamilton observed in The Federalist Papers,

The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes. Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the nature of the government, the genius of the citizens—the degree of information they possess—the state of commerce, of arts, of industry—these circumstances and many more, too complex, minute, or adventitious to admit of a particular specification, occasion differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches of different countries.47

The attempts to reduce the causes of the wealth and poverty of nations to one or two factors is more problematic than an approach like that of Grudem and Asmus, who narrow down infinite causes to a mere 78.

Perhaps the greatest service that these volumes render is communicating that poverty is a very complex phenomenon, and that material factors are not the only relevant considerations. As Grudem and Asmus conclude, “institutions modify cultural values, but cultural values also create and modify institutions.”48 This is a point at which all three works converge: institutions matter. Margaret S. Archer’s contribution to Distant Markets, Distant Harms is representative of the critical realist perspective of sociology that contributes to an understanding of how individuals, as part of their inherent cultural activity, create institutions and how these institutions in turn perdure through time. As Archer writes,

At any given time, structures are the results of past social interaction, including the results of previous results of such interactions, and those resulting structures may have been unintended, unwanted, or even unacknowledged. As such, they are dependent on past activity and irreducible to current activity alone.49

There is a dialectic of sorts then between human action and cultural institutions, and sorting out the proper means for pursuing reform in a particular context requires great prudence, perseverance, and patience. When these authors are at their best in these volumes, they remind their readers that human welfare is not reducible to material realities, as necessary and important as such realities are to human life.

This echoes some of the most salient insights from the Christian tradition, from Augustine, who observed the divine orientation of the human person in his formulation that “our heart is unquiet until it rests in you,” to the wisdom writer who wrote that God “has set eternity in the human heart,” and to Jesus himself, who warned that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”50

When we understand that economic development, much less a limited measure like GDP, is a necessary but not sufficient indicator of what it means for human beings to develop and grow, we can better understand the juxtaposition between those who see great progress over the last 200 years and those, like the current pope, who continue to see those who are excluded, marginalized, and suffering. Perhaps these are, in fact, two different perspectives on the same phenomenon, one which sees the aggregate increase in material wealth from above, while the other perceives the material poverty of the poor and the spiritual poverty of the affluent from below.

This essay opened with Peter Danner’s astute observation about the spiritual dilemmas facing affluent societies. As economics tends to focus on the needs of the body, and theology tends to worry about the needs of the soul, it is worth noting Danner’s own prescription for the spiritual and social dangers of affluence: the recovery of the ideal of “Christian poverty,” which is a more theologically and historically substantive rendering of the “worldly asceticism” described by Max Weber at the beginning of the 20th century.51 It is precisely in the midst of the wealth and poverty of nations today that we need this integral perspective of what it means to be human.

Cite this article
Jordan J. Ballor, “Affluence Agonistes —A Review Essay”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 45:3 , 273-286


  1. Peter L. Danner, “Personal Values and the Anguish of Affluence,” Review of Social Economy 32.1 (April 1974): 16.
  2. Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2014).
  3. John K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1958).
  4. Hunter Baker, The System Has a Soul: Essays on Christianity, Liberty, and Political Life (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2014), 9. However James K. Galbraith, the son of John K. Galbraith, has written a recent book on the social consequences of inequality, Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just before the Great Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
  5. Francis I, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (November 24, 2013), 52.
  6. Benedict XVI, encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009), 22 (emphasis original).
  7. Francis I, encyclical letter Laudato si’ (May 24, 2015), 90.
  8. Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013). This essay integrates elements from a shorter review that appeared as Jordan J. Ballor, “Life to the Full: The Dangers of Material Wealth and Spiritual Poverty,” Public Discourse, September 25, 2014, available at: http://www.thepublicdiscourse. com/2014/09/13341/.
  9. Daniel K. Finn, ed., Distant Markets, Distant Harms: Economic Complicity & Christian Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Deborah Cowen, The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
  10. Francis I, Evangelii Gaudium, 202; James R. Rogers, “What’s Behind the Stunning Decrease in Global Poverty?” First Things, November 26, 2013, available at: http://www.firstthings. com/web-exclusives/2013/11/whats-behind-the-stunning-decrease-in-global-poverty.
  11. Ibid.
  12. See, for instance, James Pethokoukis, “The Most Important Economic Chart in Western Civilization—and How it Happened,” AEI Ideas, April 23, 2013, available at:
  13. Victor V. Claar, “The Urgency of Poverty and the Hope of Genuinely Fair Trade,” Journal of Markets & Morality 16.1 (Spring 2013): 274. GDP figures taken from J. Bradford DeLong, “Estimates of World GDP, One Million B.C.—Present.”
  14. Deirdre N. McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 16.
  15. “Global Poverty Is on the Decline, But Almost No One Believes It,” Barna, April 28, 2014, available at:
  16. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 vols. (London: Strahan and Cadell, 1776).
  17. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown, 2012); Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  18. Grudem and Asmus, The Poverty of Nations, 26.
  19. Ibid., 30.
  20. Ibid., 309.
  21. Ibid., 107.
  22. Ibid., 48.
  23. Ibid., 49.
  24. Greg Quin, “To Work or Not to Work? Women’s Dilemma Cuts Growth: Jobs,” Bloomberg Business, June 5, 2014, available at:
  25. Shawn Ritenour, “Leisure Time for Mothers Is an Economic Good,” Foundations of Economics, June 7, 2014, available at:
  26. Joseph E. Davis, “Measuring Virtue in an Audit Society,” The Hedgehog Review, April 2014, available at: For more on the limits and unintended consequences of economic models, see D. Glenn Butner Jr., “Transformative Models: Economic Models, Relational Ontology, and the Image of God,” Journal of Markets & Morality 17.2 (Fall 2014): 355-379. For a defense of the utility of neoclassical economic modeling for Christians as well as more generally, see John Lunn and Robin Klay, “The Neoclassical Economic Model in a Postmodern World,” Christian Scholar’s Review 24.2 (1994): 143-163.
  27. William McGurn, “Go for Bust, Mr. Romney,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2012, available at:
  28. See, for example, the diversity of approaches analyzed and synthesized in approaching human development in an integral way in Héctor Rocha, “Dominant Development Paradigms: A Review and Integration,” Journal of Markets & Morality 16.1 (Spring 2013): 7-24.
  29. Pierpaolo Donati, “The Morality of Action, Reflexivity, and the Relationship Subject,” in Distant Markets, Distant Harms, 77.
  30. For a more traditional critique of this paradigm, see James W. Skillen, “Doing Justice to Entrepreneurial (and Other) Responsibilities,” Journal of Markets & Morality 13.2 (Fall 2010): 319-344.
  31. Cowen, The Deadly Life of Logistics, 229.
  32. Ibid., 227.
  33. Ibid., 226.
  34. Ibid., 211.
  35. Grudem and Asmus, The Poverty of Nations, 104.
  36. Ibid., 133.
  37. Ibid., 164.
  38. Ibid., 174.
  39. Ibid., 187.
  40. Ibid., 207.
  41. Victor V. Claar, “Joyful Economics,” Econ Journal Watch 11.2 (May 2014): 132.
  42. Ibid.
  43. As John Lunn puts it, Grudem and Asmus “claim that the free market is a God-given process,” and in so doing “the authors overstate their case, which may turn off many Christians who are not already advocates of free markets.” See John Lunn, “review of Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution,The Independent Review 20.1 (Summer 2015). On the opportunities and challenges of relating economics and theology, see Jordan J. Ballor, “Theology and Economics: A Match Made in Heaven?” Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (2014): 115-134.
  44. Daniel K. Finn, “Social Causality and Market Complicity: Specifying the Causal Roles of Persons and Structures,” in Distant Markets, Distant Harms, 243.
  45. Douglas V. Porpora, “Who is Responsible? Critical Realism, Market Harms, and Collective Responsibility,” in Distant Markets, Distant Harms, 17.
  46. Albino Barrera, “Individuating Collective Responsibility,” in Distant Markets, Distant Harms, 228.
  47. Publius, No. 21, “Further Defects of the Present Constitution,” in The Federalist, a collection of essays, 2 vols. (New York: McLean, 1788), 1:130.
  48. Grudem and Asmus, The Poverty of Nations, 310.
  49. Margaret S. Archer, “Structural Conditional and Personal Reflexivity: Sources of Market Complicity, Critique, and Change,” in Distant Markets, Distant Harms, 30.
  50. Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding (New York: New City Press, 1997), 1.1.1; Ecc. 3:11 (NIV); Luke 12:15 (NIV).
  51. Danner, “Personal Values and the Anguish of Affluence,” 26-31. See also Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Routledge, 1992 [1930]).

Jordan J. Ballor

Calvin Theological Seminary
Jordan J. Ballor is a research fellow at the Acton Institute and serves as executive editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.