Acton Institute Powerblog

The Largest Anti-Poverty Campaign in The World

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The problem and pain of poverty garners a prolific amount of attention in the Church today, and rightfully so. In Evangelical Christian Churches, poverty awareness, discussion, and action has risen to new heights. Much of this has to do with the rapid speed of communication, increase in education, and a reaction against social conservatives, who in the past, have emphasized much of their focus on more specific social and moral issues such as abortion.

While I was in seminary, during an annual event which was supposed to raise awareness of issues of poverty, some students pretended to be homeless, they lived in cardboard boxes and any form of materialistic – luxury was denounced. Much of the problem solving initiatives called for increased government regulation and programs to solve issues of justice and fairness in society.

Big corporations in some seminary classes were also denounced from time to time, mostly by the endless examples of Enron, the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, and of course anybody in “big oil.” In addition, some professors would throw in Halliburton because of its ties to the current Executive Branch. Another problem which was highlighted often on campus was Western exploitation of developing nations. Understandably, I did not agree with many of the caricatures of business and the endless stereotypes of institutions and people with capital.

Professor Mark Hendrickson of Grove City College, reminds us of the positive aspects business plays in reducing poverty. In his piece titled The Liberal Temptation, Hendrickson notes how the political left does a disservice to anti-poverty initiatives. A few quotes from the article are provided below:

The liberal approach to poverty is also rendered problematical by their anti-capitalist, anti-business mentality. Liberals regard themselves as the good guys for initiating government programs to help Americans of modest means, while disdaining businessmen as selfish, less-than-moral beings who are engaged in the selfish and morally inferior pursuit of profits. This is an unduly harsh assessment of businessmen; in fact, it is spectacularly ignorant and perversely unfair. A person may not like the daily tussle of business or individual businesspersons who behave abusively, and they are fully justified in being repulsed by illegal conduct. However, there is a vital historical fact that anti-business liberals generally overlook: business’ role in reducing poverty.

Throughout most of human history, the masses of human beings were wretchedly poor. Only in the last few centuries have large numbers of people climbed out of poverty. What has been the agent of such a fundamental change? Profit-seeking business. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, business has lifted more people out of poverty than all the churches, charities, and government programs (national or multilateral—like the World Bank) combined. Look at the history of Great Britain, the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chile, South Korea, and now China and India. Wherever you look, standards of living rise where business is allowed to flourish.

In contemporary Evangelical Christianity and in the political world there are a lot of poverty traps present. Too many Christians do not move beyond reactionary action for aiding and assisting the poor. One of the great characteristics of America is the number of immigrants who came here, with little or no material or capital wealth, and succeeded with their new life. One of the reasons there was such an abundance of opportunity was because of the lack of excessive regulation and taxation.

It’s important to take a look at Hendrickson’s article, because it’s a reminder just how much human initiative, free markets, and business plays a powerful role in reducing the sad state of human misery in the world. Often times, people who identify with a conservative world-view on economic issues are labeled as being against something, because they might be against a new government program, or a regulatory act. But this is simply not the case, if you are for free markets, deregulation, lower taxes, and other pro business initiatives, you truly are a part of the largest anti-poverty campaign in the history of the world.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • Wingnut


    What you’re seeing with those “anti-capitalist attitudes”, is actually anti-capitalISM attitudes mixed-in with a good amount of competitive linch-mob mentality. Capitalism is a giant pyramid scheme, infested with servitude, inequality, and controlism… but it is a SYSTEMIC problem, and its inventors are long-ago dead. (See backside of U.S. one dollar bill for pyramid scheme symbol.)

    There’s nobody to hang for capitalism’s attrociousness. Gramma told us NOT to stack the children into farmyard pyramids… because the children on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world’s knee’s in their backs. We (as a humankind) seem to have decided to ignore that simple farmyard lesson.

    We all know better than to stack people into competitive, rat-racing, pyramid empowerment structures…. so we are ALL to blame. Americans have a serious shopping/enjoyments addiction, and we need the Center for Disease Control to publicly announce it. Lets just stop the rank-by-gouging-abils RIGHT NOW, and get back to rank-by-intelligence and rank-by-morals. Pyramid schemes are illegal… so get the U.S. Dept of Justice to investigate it for being such. Abolish titles of ownership, and all classing RIGHT NOW. Its that simple. Nobody should EVER work “FOR” someone else… only “WITH” someone else…. and by request, not by “order”.

    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    Bessemer MI

  • marc


    Fill in the blank: Capitalism is so atrocious, it must be gotten rid of. As such, I propose that we replace it with _________________.

  • Having a connection to measureless resources concerned with this is solid gold.