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Posted July 31, 2009

Book: Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem
Author: Jay W. Richards
Harper One. New York. 2009. Pp. 255

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The current crisis on Wall Street showcases how this country has distanced itself from the fundamental values of the free market and betrayed the spirit of democratic capitalism. Richards presents a new approach to capitalism that will offer Americans reason to hope for renewed economic vigor while allowing us to faithfully address the challenges we face in accordance with Jesus’ teachings and Christian tradition.

Abuses and fraudulent practices dominate the news, but it is an entrepreneurial enterprise based on hard work, honesty, and trust that fuel creativity and growth. Christians have long employed these spiritual resources to create wealth and alleviate poverty.

Money, Greed, and God exposes eight myths about capitalism including:

* Capitalism is based on greed and excess consumption

* If someone becomes rich that automatically means someone else will become poor.

Richards also reveals the surprising ways that capitalism is the best system to alleviate poverty and protect the environment and equips readers to take practical steps to conduct business, worship God, and serve others.

An Excerpt from the Book:

When facts contradict expectations, we should reexamine our expectations. What falsehood are we assuming that makes us expect the wrong thing? Remember the zero-sum game and materialist myths? They make spectacular encore appearances in debates about resources, and almost everyone stays to watch. That’s probably because we’re thinking of the material part of a resource. We fear that we’re running out of resources because we’re thinking of them merely as some finite amount of physical stuff. That seems like common sense; but it’s wrong. Resources aren’t just there in a tank or in the ground. On the contrary. We create resources.

Sound crazy? Think about it. For centuries, oil was viewed mainly as an irritating pollutant. No one even knew about all the oil deposits thousands of feet under Texas ranches and five or six feet under the Arabian deserts. When people did find some of it bubbling to the surface, they were none too pleased. But in the 1840s, someone figured out how to refine oil into kerosene, and someone else figured out that kerosene was useful in lamps and furnaces. Whales were pleased with these developments, since kerosene replaced whale oil.

Suddenly, there was a demand for petroleum. . . .

Black gold really took off with the invention of cars and the internal combustion engine. Since then, we have devised all sorts of ways to explore, refine, and use it more and more efficiently. Think how different oil is now than when it was first gurgling up and making a mess in Mr. McIlhaney’s cornfield. The differences lie not so much in the nature of oil but in the vision and ingenuity of man.

. . .That’s only part of the story. We don’t just figure out how to use resources more efficiently. We discover, and create, fundamentally different types of resources. At every stage, some doomster can do a little math and predict that the current resource will soon be depleted. And he almost be right.

. . .History again and again teaches a basic lesson: the fact that there’s a fixed supply of wood or coal or oil or uranium doesn’t mean that we are doomed to run out of energy supplies.

Table of Contents:

1. Can’t we build a just society?

Myth 1: the Nirvana myth (contrasting capitalism with an unrealizable ideal rather than with its live alternatives)

2. The Piety Myth (focusing on our good intentions rather than on the unintended consequences of our actions)

3. Doesn’t capitalism foster unfair competition?

The zero-sum game myth (believing that trade requires a winner and a loser)

4. If I become rich, won’t someone else become poor?

The materialist myth (believing that wealth isn’t created, it’s simply transferred)

5. Isn’t capitalism based on greed?

The greed myth (believing that the essence of capitalism is greed)

6. Hasn’t Christianity always opposed capitalism?

The usury myth (believing that working with money is inherently immoral or that charging interest on money is always exploitive)

7. Doesn’t capitalism lead to an ugly consumerist culture?

The artsy myth (confusing aesthetic judgments with economic arguments)

8. Are we going to use up all the resources?

The freeze-frame myth (believing that things always stay the same – for example, assuming that population trends will continue indefinitely, or treating a current “natural resource” as if it will always be needed)