Acton Institute Powerblog

The ‘Greed Myth’ and other economic illusions

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illusionsConfusion about economics is rampant both among elected officials and the electorate. Fortunately, as Jay Richards says, it doesn’t take an advance degree to understand how innovation and free markets lead to flourishing. All it takes is dispelling a few economic illusions:

1. Can’t we build a just society?

In seeking a more just society, we must avoid the “Nirvana Myth,” that is, comparing the market economy with an unrealizable ideal.

hough the kingdom of God is already present in some sense, we can’t fully bring it about ourselves. That’s God’s job.
So when we ask whether we can build a just society, we need to ask: Just compared to what? It doesn’t do anyone any good to tear down a society that is “unjust” compared to the kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.

2. And then what will happen?

We all want to do the right things for the right reasons. Economically, though, only what you do is important, whatever your reason.

That’s why, when it comes to economic policy, we have to avoid the “Piety Myth” — focusing on our good intentions, rather than on the real and often-unintended consequences of an act or policy.

Well-meaning people have supported all manner of bad policy — price and rent controls that create shortages, high minimum wage laws that harm the poorest of the poor, foreign aid that funds dictators — for noble motives. The motives didn’t change the result.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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