Part 1 of this essay outlined Obama’s current economic aspirations and the current, seemingly unrelated economic injustices America perpetrates in its dealings.
Liberty and Justice for All… Americans
And this is where I wanted to take this. For rapid supply-side economic investment to work, there needs to be people not only “demanding” your American-made exports, but people that can actually purchase them! Obama’s export plan is meant to boost America productivity while he travels all over the world, signing economic deals with other nations (as he mentioned the other night in his State of the Union address).
A President cannot create demand; countries can want our products as much as they want, but if, because of American protectionist economic policies, they do not have the resources to purchase these things, then we will only succeed in flooding the market with useless manufactured goods and therefore lowering the global cost of these goods, which will end up hurting America.
So What Now? The Gospel, Perhaps?
So what’s a solution? Well, what I’m thinking is something that actually looks a whole lot like the Christian Gospel itself. We need to create demand not by producing more, and not by “forging alliances”, but by increasing the global “supply” that belongs to those who we want to buy our products. We exalt other nations, esteeming them more highly than ourselves, knowing that this would be for our long-term ultimate good. We seek the good of others, and it works for our benefit.
Ease the loan burden of developing countries that have more than paid back their loans. Pass the legislation the has currently been stalled in House Committees for over a year that would forgive a huge portion of this debt. Slowly ease farmers off of subsidies, helping them find alternative means of doing their business well (starting co-ops, organic farming, farming for the needs of third-world countries overseas, local produce farming, or community supported agriculture [here’s a documentary for more info]).
Easing the debt burden would allow nations at the Federal level to help build the infrastructure for their people, and easing back the artificial cost controls of American subsidies would allow those individuals at the local level to compete fairly and justly on a global stage. This would raise them out of their developing stages, giving them resources and drive to purchase our exports.
These are just a couple of ways that Christians (and others) can begin to think more clearly and justly about their world and themselves. We are by nature political beings, forming institutions and authorities endowed with resources and responsibilities which we then desire to work for our good.
But this goes beyond partisan politics. This challenges both Republican and Democratic economic thinking. Republicans need to move away from their addiction to American exceptionalism and protectionism (and doing this is, ironically, the only way to keep America truly exceptional), and seek more Free Trade and global economic prosperity. Democrats need to move away from meddling with the market forces that drive these opportunities for justice.
I feel like this post might be a little anti-climactic. Yesterday I threw out there the problems, and as far as solutions go, I pretty much just said let’s stop doing those things. That certainly falls short of crafting some beautiful singular political perspective on all these things. If only it were that easy. If I only showed people one tiny example of how to think theologically and justly about one economic issue in a way that did not fit neatly into the partisan boxes, then I feel that this was a success.
So let us press forward, issue by issue, using our principals as theological beings to inform us how to bring justice, ethics, and jubilee to a broken world, with broken people, which form broken institutions, all longing for redemption. For more theologically informed, justice-oriented economic ideas, I cannot highly enough suggest William Cavanaugh’s short book, Being Consumed: Economics & Christian Desire (I wrote some about it here) or (as mentioned earlier) Julie Clawson’s Everday Justice.