#134 Be Fruitful & Multiply

the christian economist dave arnott

#134 Be Fruitful and Multiply

Americans are not having enough babies.  This is a departure from the Christian Worldview which harms the economy.  


Another day, another Malthusian.  Now I know what the Apostle Paul was writing about when he mentioned the thorn in his side.  This time, it’s the White House claiming that we have to continue abortion so women can remain in the workforce.  Which first: Do I explain the Christian view or the economic view, because they both support having more children. 


The Economy

OK, I’ll talk about the economy first.  

What the Malthusians miss, in economics, is called Creative Destruction.  The concept was created by Joseph Schumpeter who said, “Creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”  You may have noticed the two variations of the word “create” in the last few sentences.  You see, creative destruction ties together the first two terms of the three-chapter gospel: Creation, Fall, Redemption.  It says that creative human beings come up with ways of destroying old industries.  I wrote this podcast on a computer that creatively destroyed the typewriter industry.  That’s good, by the way.  Ginger and I attended a Hindu wedding recently, and I was reminded of the three-part god system: Brahma is the creator god, Vishnu is the sustainer god, and Shiva is the destroyer god.  Hindus are quick to point out that Shiva performs GOOD destruction, so that new creation can replace it.  Creative destruction is good, because it allows us to put resources to their highest use.  You have a greater selection of videos to watch on your computer than you did on your old TV set.  The examples go on and on.

James Freeman, writing in the Wall Street Journal points out, “With states and voters now free to decide abortion policies, it’s understandable that pro-choice politicians would be rolling out arguments for the broadest possible availability of the procedure. But what’s harder to understand is the recent phenomenon of Biden administration officials arguing not just that abortion access is a right but also that it’s a benefit to the U.S. economy.”  He goes on to point out how short-sighted that view is.  It’s sort of like burning your furniture to stay warm.  It feels good while you’re doing it, but where are you going to get a new supply of furniture?  Same with women working and not having children: The women produce value while they are in the workforce, but where are you going to get a new labor source?


I’ve just revealed, by the way, why the US Chamber of Commerce favors opening the southern border.  They know the US needs a greater supply of labor, and they see it crossing the Rio Grande.  But that’s not my subject today.


Labor Source

Economics author Julian Simon makes the point that human beings create more than they destroy.  The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus – seems like a bad idea, but I guess they didn’t believe He was God – so they asked if his disciples paid the temple tax.  His response became a classic in Christian economics, when he asked in Matthew 22:20, “Whose image is on the coin?”  While his answer, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” may justify taxing, we often miss the most important part of his answer, the last phrase, where he says, “….and render unto God what is God’s.”  By that he meant YOU.  You are made in God’s image.  I unpack more on that topic in podcast #32 with that title.  It’s as if Caesar’s image is on the front of the coin, and your face is on the back.  Humans made in God’s image become co-creators with Him.  God made something out of nothing, our job is to make something out of something.  We do this via creative destruction.  We take resources and put them together in a way they have not been commingled in the past.  Think about it: Every element to make this smartphone was in the earth when Moses was here.  He didn’t have the intellectual capital to know how to dig it out, refine it, and put it together to make this item.  And, 50 years from now, my great-grandchildren will be watching this video and they will be laughing about how primitive we were in 2022.  That’s because we are made in God’s image, and we have a creative nature.  I’ve often mused in class at DBU, “I wonder how they explain creativity in a secular classroom.”  Because for Christians, it’s easy: We are creative because we were created.  And, we are commanded to procreate.


Not enough Multiplying

A fertility rate of 2.1 is necessary to maintain the current population.  The US number last year was 1.6, up from 1.4 the previous year.  By the way, that’s the lowest rate since the number has been tracked, starting in the 1930’s.  We’re simply not procreating enough to maintain the population.  In economics terms, we are not supplying the demand for humans. 


In 2018 Marian Tupy wrote for the Cato Institute:

Many people believe that global population growth leads to greater poverty and more famines, but evidence suggests otherwise. Between 1960 and 2016, the world’s population increased by 145 percent. Over the same time period, real average annual per capita income in the world rose by 183 percent.  He goes on to point out, “Instead of a rise in poverty rates, the world saw the greatest poverty reduction in human history.”  There are more details in his book Superabundance.  The subtitle reads, The story of population growth, innovation, and human flourishing on an infinitely bountiful planet.  By the way, the forward was written by one of my favorite authors and thinkers, George Gilder.

Mouths to feed, or hands to work?  In an information society, it’s more properly stated, “Mouths to feed or MINDS to work.”  But, clearly, Mr. Tupy is correct: The more people we have, the more minds there are to work on the world’s problems. 

We’ve broken through food supply issues time and time again, and we will again.  I point out the folly of maintaining farmland in podcast #128 titled Limiting Urban Sprawl.

Thanks for allowing me just one minute to cite another Malthusian idea.  One of my favorite books of all time is titled The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb.  He chronicles Roger Banister’s path to running the first four-minute mile in 1954.  Some Malthusians thought it was humanly impossible.  The first line of book reads, “What if he dies?”  Well, he didn’t die, and the current world record is 3:43.  In the same vein, Malthusians today are asking, “What if we die?”  Or, to quote the title of Thomas Friedman’s book Hot, Flat, and crowded.  There is clearly an over-supply of Malthusians, who take the opposite view of my most popular podcast #88 Don’t Fear the Future.


Christian Worldview

I’ll start the Christian explanation with an insight from a Jew.  When Dennis Prager visited Dallas Baptist University, he publicized one of my least-favorite DBU phrases.  On the radio show broadcast from our campus, he proclaimed, “They have this phrase here, ring by Spring.”  Ouch.  If a famous guy is coming to campus to tell the world about DBU, that’s the last phrase I want him to publicize.  It means that a woman wants to get engaged before Spring break of her senior year in college.  The phrase was more popular thirty years ago when I joined the faculty at DBU, and it’s a little cringe-worthy.  BUT Mr. Prager made a fascinating comparison.  He read from an article in the Atlantic where three women were explaining their reticence to have children, because the child would use up the world’s resources, and/or the child would die an early death because the world’s population would cause the world to burn up.  So, he was in praise of the DBU women who told him on his radio show that they wanted to get married and have children.  And why…..wait for it…….because they believed God COMMANDED them to.  Now, that’s pretty interesting.  When compared to the Atlantic interviewees, the DBU women are following God’s command and the Atlantic women and saying they are smarter than God.  That seldom turns out well.

In a recent article in the Epoch Times titled “Birth Dearth about values, not economics, Star Parker points out the results of a Pew research study showing that “22 percent of women said having children is essential for a fulfilling life, and 46 percent said “having a job or career they enjoy” is essential for a fulfilling life.”  Sorry to be personal about this, but I will just state that if you asked me, or Ginger, what gives us the greatest happiness, Grandchildren would be one of our first answers.  Oh…sudden thought.  In the movie, Yentl, two rabinacle students are arguing a point in the Torah.  When the rabbi comes by and rings a bell, they have to switch arguments.  Ok, I’ve made the argument that grandchildren make grandparents happier.  DING!  You want to make the opposite argument?  I’ve never heard it expressed that grandchildren make grandparents LESS happy.

Again, like the shortsighted economists who favor women working over giving birth, these women are thinking short-term.  A career will end at some point.  Then, what are you gonna do?  By the way, Arthur Brooks latest book titled From Strength to Strength has something to say about this, but that’s a topic for another podcast.  The summary of his book is that we have different strengths at different points in our lives.  For everything, there is a season….yes, that idea from Ecclesiastes 3.     

Quoting Star Parker again, “The collapse of marriage, family, and the national birth rate is the result of the secularization of our culture.  Faith and values have been displaced by materialism and egotism.”  Her prescription for solving this problem aligns with Dennis Prager: Students who leave secular education and get a religious education.  You’re welcome to notice the self-interest in quoting those statements, because I’m on the faculty of a Christian educational institution.

The graying of the population is a concern for all developed countries.  Japan and Germany are in worse shape than the US.  In 1945 there were over 40 workers supporting every American retiree.  It’s now 2.8, and getting worse.  This is a clear example of a worldview problem, causing an economic problem.  But, don’t miss the point: The problem is based in our country’s divergence from the Christian worldview: Creation, fall, redemption.  If you believe you are created, and you are made in the image of God, then your role is to be a co-creator with God and produce children.  There are obvious God-granted exceptions to the rule – and the afore-mentioned Apostle Paul is a classic case.  But in general, we want to be a society that reproduces.  

I point out in podcast #27 that only one thing makes a nation richer: Policies that promote production.  As I’ve pointed out in this podcast, you have to have policies that produce producers.




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