#127 The Christian Economics of School Shootings

the christian economist dave arnott

#127 The Christian Economics of School Shootings


America is rich in part because we have built an economy that is based on trust that springs from the Judeo-Christian value system.  In a post-Christian era, we can expect the cost of everything to go up: More cops requires more taxes and steals labor from productive sectors of the economy. 


Someone posted a question on Facebook that asked, “Can’t we get beyond politics and find a solution to school shootings?”  Oh, it’s a political problem?  Because I thought it was a spiritual problem.  We live in a broken, fallen world.  We expect bad things to happen.  The killing of 19 innocent victims at a school in Uvalde, Texas is abhorrent.  It is a reminder that we live in an evil world.  God loves us so he gives us freedom.  Some evil people use that freedom to perform heinous acts of violence.  We are saddened, but we should not be surprised.  Where did this evil come from?


The Fall

We live in a fallen world.  The Christian worldview says that God created a perfect world.  Fallen humans have messed it up.  We believe there is redemption in that fallen world by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior.  That’s sometimes called the “Three Chapter Gospel.”  The four-chapter gospel includes restoration, when Christ returns.  I unpack more on that subject in podcast #112 titled The Great Reset.

For now, we live in a fallen world, where bad people perform evil acts.  It’s only that we live in such a peaceful time that school shootings shock us.  If 46,000 died of auto accidents in 1920, there would have been an outrage and automobiles would not have been allowed.  But, 100 years later, 46,000 are killed and no one notices.  That’s because what we gain – the ability to move about – is greater than what we lose – 46,000 people each year.  Don’t get me started on smoking.  Try introducing a product that costs $300 billion in healthcare and lost labor, and takes 480,000 lives each year.  That would not happen.  But, since we’re about 450 years since Sir Walter Raleigh grew the industry, we continue to let tobacco products be sold.

Calling for gun control won’t work.  Taking away guns won’t limit evil.  Because guns are simply the tool that evil human beings use.  Calls for gun control are mostly a mistaken call for a utopian society, which the Judeo-Christian belief system does not recognize.  We can make a BETTER world, which we should do by controlling weapons as much as practically possible.  But we can’t make a utopian world, because those calling for the collection of guns, and those collecting the guns, are fallen also. 


Comparative Statistics

This is a story I tell in the classroom at Dallas Baptist University every semester.  Each fall, a couple of Texas High School football players die of heat prostration, and someone calls for the end of high school football.  But, I extend one long arm and say, “There’s never been a one-armed economist, because…..On the other hand…”  And what is on THE OTHER HAND?  Deaths among the category of high school boys would go UP if you eliminated football, because they wouldn’t just go sit in the library.  They would be out drinking, driving fast cars, and chasing women.  Sometimes all three at the same time.  And the death rate would go UP, not down.  So we accept a few deaths among high school football players, because the gain is greater than the loss.

About a hundred children die in bicycle accidents each year.  Should we outlaw bicycles?

37-188 die from the flu.

 You probably know that during the two years of Covid-19, more children died of pneumonia than Covid-19.

2000 children died from accidents in the home last year.

In a dangerous world, school is the safest place for children to be for about 6-8 hours a day.   But loud-mouthed commentators want a perfect world.  I’m sorry, we are East of Eden and West of Heaven.  I don’t know where I got that “West of heaven” line, but it seems to make sense to me.  We are between two great “resets”. When Christ came the first time, and when he returns the second time.  In the meantime, we should try to find peace and happiness in a fallen world.  I’ll say for at least the second time, and I will repeat it a third: Not for the families in Uvalde.  That sinful, terrible, horrific event has made life Hell on earth for now.  Remember: The title of today’s podcast is about Christian Economics, not personal Christian counseling, which is the proper response for the Uvalde families.



The Value of a Life

I unpack more details in podcast #23 The Value of Life.  Political entities make decisions based on the cost of a live.  I recount the statistics in podcast #23.  The Dept of Transportation calculates the cost of a life at $9.6 million. The FDA, just under $8 million, and the EPA, just over $9 million.

My friend Kevin spent his entire career as a Ft. Worth Policeman.  He’s never spent one day in an economics classroom, but he’s a pretty good economist.  He once said to me, “You get the crime you pay for.”  Huh?  I asked.  He explained that you could continue to hire cops.  The more you hire, the lower the crime rate would get.  When you had a cop on every block, the crime rate would be near zero, but the cost of maintaining that police force would be enormous.  So, you hire cops until the crime rate gets where you’re happy with it, and you stop hiring them.  Imagine that: A perfect explanation of diminishing marginal utility from a guy who claims to know nothing about economics. 

The solution: I’ll take a shot at the statistics, but don’t expect me to get them correct.  There are a total of 130,000 school buildings in America.  If you assign two, full time cops to each school for the entire school day, at $50 an hour, the total cost comes to just over $100 million.  That would pretty much end school shootings.  To tell you the truth, I’m rather astounded that the number is that low.  As a country, we’re probably already spending half that, so the marginal cost is only about $50 million.  Seems pretty cheap on an economic basis. 

But….on the OTHER hand.  That’s what I warn my DBU students when we complete chapter six about Government control via price-controls and taxes.  Because, in the next chapter, we learn about deadweight loss.  There are two deadweights involved in hiring cops.  The first is the tax that is withdrawn from productive sectors of society to pay their wages.  The second is the loss of labor among cops.  They are like Certified Public Accountants: Neither CREATES value, they both PROTECT value.  We need them, but we want to get by with as few as possible, because their labor is transferred from productive to non-productive parts of society.  Think of it this way: Each time you hire an additional policeman, that is one less person to make computers and sell shoes and bake bread.  Thus, the cost of computers, shoes, and bread goes up.  See why America is such a rich place?  It’s partly because we have built an economy that is mostly based on trust that springs from the Judeo-Christian value system.  So we don’t need as many IRS agents, nor CPA’s, nor cops, because people mostly self-police.  In a post-Christian era, we can expect the cost of everything to go up: More cops requires more taxes and steals labor from productive sectors of the economy.


The Cause

Let’s take a look around society and see where this evil comes from.

Politics: No.  Politicians compete, but they mostly graciously concede when they lose.  They don’t go out and kill the opponent.

Government: No.  My fellow Christian Economist Art Lindsley says that the Government should punish evil, but not do good.  The Church should do good, but not punish evil.  That’s worth replaying the video to hear it a second time.  But the conclusion is: The government does not encourage evil, it punishes it.

The church: Are you kidding?  The church teaches that Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, and that’s what folks are encouraged to practice at church.  All religions have some element of peace-making at their heart.

The family: Ok, some families are more violent than others, but to assume that violence comes out of a family structure is not correct.  Families work together and defend each other.  They are not taught to kill each other.

Media: Here’s our culprit.  I wrote this podcast while on an airplane.  The guy a few rows in front of me was watching a violent movie with lots of hand-to-hand fighting and a guy shooting people with an automatic rifle.  The movies.  They are extremely violent, and as far as I can tell, they are the ONLY source of violence in society.  You can add in video games as well.  At the last Oscar awards, the hosts repeated in ad nauseum: Gay, gay, gay gay.  Because they disagreed with a Florida law that was mis-named the “Don’t say gay bill” but is ACTUALLY named the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.  By the way, while they were saying “Gay, gay, gay, gay,” their producers across town were removing gay scenes from movies that were scheduled for China.  The market works.  But, back to our culprit: The movies are extremely violent.  Do you suppose the hosts of next year’s Oscars will call repeatedly for “No violence.  No violence.  No violence?”  Why not?  Their industry is the source of violence in our society.  Of course, the root is the fallen nature, but the movies ENCOURAGE the fallen nature.  Markets, by the way, punish the fallen nature.  There’s more about that in podcast #105 The Free Market Feeds the Poor and #78 Are we Born Good?


Where was God?

The book by rabbi Harold Kushner is often mis-titled Why Bad Things Happen to Good people.  The actual title is WHEN bad things happen to good people.  His message is that WHEN bad things happen to good people, God is there, to support, to help, to heal, to encourage forgiveness.  He shows His grace through others, who care for hurting people.

Believers around the world are praying for the victims and their families in Uvalde, Texas this week.  That’s what God wants us to do in difficult times.  God’s economy of prayer is not understandable by feeble humans like you and me.  But, we are commanded to pray.  And to care for one another in times of trouble.  God’s economy is not limited by scarcity like the human economy.  I can’t explain it by drawing supply and demand curves.  But I can follow His direction to pray and care for victims of evil, as Christians have done for thousands of years.