What is a “Christian” response to Australia’s foreign aid cuts?

Lets face it. I probably wouldn’t have voted for Labor at the next election anyway. Like millions of other Australians, I’m feeling completely disenfranchised by the major parties in Australian politics.

While part of this is because neither side is particularly likeable – and that goes double for the leaders of the parties. Another part of the problem driving my political apathy is that I don’t think it makes a huge difference who is in power in Australia.

Both major parties are essentially centrist. Both parties have pretty sound credentials. And while extremist pundits on either side of the spectrum want to run around saying that the sky is going to fall in if the other party gets/stays in power – it’s simply not true.

We’ve got it pretty good in Australia. Ridiculously good. Our first world conditions are improving. Yesterday’s luxuries are necessities, tomorrows luxuries are becoming necessary quicker than ever before. So complaining about the political scene in Australia where neither major party is out to oppress a minority, or start a war, is pretty much the epitome of a #firstworldproblem.

Because we’re a first world country there are many people – myself included – who think that the decent, and necessary, thing to do is to provide aid to developing countries to help raise the standard of living and save lives across the globe.

This is, if you’re not into altruism, good foreign policy. More stable countries around the globe means less wars, less refugees, less poverty. To channel Toby Ziegler’s “free trade stops wars” argument – we’re better off and more secure when other countries are better off and more secure.

The Labor party has been accused of back-pedalling away from their surplus promise faster than an off balance unicyclist. But at some point, a promise isn’t worth keeping. If the promise shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Sometimes you’ve just got to wear changing circumstances on the chin. Sometimes you’ve got to admit you were wrong – with a flat out mea culpa, a “deficit we had to have” speech, or an explanation that while economic times have changed, and while a surplus was the government’s best intention, certain other social and moral obligations have to be kept… any of these things is a better than the alternative the Australian Labor government has settled on.

How many foreign lives need to be cut short so that Labor gets its $1 surplus? What is it worth to gain that surplus, but forfeit our nation’s soul in the process.

Here’s what’s happening. Labor is cooking the books a little, to allocate $375 million of foreign aid spending to Australia’s refugee program. Ben Thurley, from the Micah Challenge, says this is allowable under Australia’s aid obligations.

He says:

“The Foreign Minister says this isn’t a cut to foreign aid, and in a strict sense he is right. Under Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rules (pdf), governments are allowed to report the first 12 months of in-country support costs for refugees – the official term for “aid”. The Foreign Minister even points to three donor countries who claim more refugee assistance as aid than Australia is reportedly planning to claim, the US ($895 million in 2010), France ($435 million in 2010) and Sweden ($397 million in 2010).”

While it might not “strictly” be the case, it’s pretty clear what the government’s intentions are – a member of their own back bench is speaking out against taking the politically expedient route to a surplus.

This aid saves lives. It improves the status quo in measurable ways. Here are some stats from World Vision, via the Micah Challenge again:

World Vision has estimated that in the last year alone Australian aid money saved at least 200,000 lives, provided education for more than half a million children and gave disaster assistance to more than 10 million people. It is these outcomes that are threatened by this plan.

Aid works. It’s not enough to throw this burden to Christian charities, and support them with your dollars – the same charities, who have people at the coal face in these countries, are calling for the government to be more generous, not less. Compassion has this useful mythbusting post on the benefits of foreign aid.

TEAR Australia is also speaking out against the proposed changes.

They’re calling people to take action – and providing some tips and easy(ish) ways to do it.

Tim Costello, World Vision CEO, wrote this piece in The Agesumming up the situation nicely in terms of how the Australian public at large should respond…

“They know that funds designated for poor communities beyond our shores should not be plundered to support the government’s own political interests. Australians will rightly view this decision as a sleight of hand, not least because it is driven by a desperate political imperative to reach a budget surplus.”

Both he, and the Micah Challenge, point out that there’s a bit of a mystery in terms of what programs are going to lose funding via this move.

Each of these groups is a Christian aid group. Doing good work in less fortunate countries, in the name of Jesus. And making a difference. You suspect if they could do the job without government aid, they wouldn’t be all that concerned about the cuts. But concerned they are.

The Australian Christian Lobby has also issued a statement – calling for the government to rethink.

“The government certainly has an obligation to fulfil its commitment to asylum- seekers and refugees in Australia but to do this at the expense of poverty-stricken communities overseas is unfair,” he said.

He said it’s the second time this year the government has not followed through on its commitment to foreign aid.

“In May the government announced it would delay increasing aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015,” he said.

“Australia’s current commitment stands at 0.35 per cent of GNI – well short of what is needed to eradicate poverty and help developing nations implement poverty-reducing policies,” he said.”

Should Christians respond to these cuts?

Evangelical Christians have been rightly scared by the “social justice” or “social gospel” movement – a product of the approach to mission adopted by the ecumenical movement in the mid-to-late 20th century. Basically people from a bunch of different Christian traditions got together – and because they couldn’t agree on what the gospel was, decided to focus on what they could agree on – looking after the poor. So they saw gospel work, God’s mission, as work on social transformation, the liberation of the poor and oppressed. That’s a little simplistic – there was also a group who genuinely think looking after the poor is all we’re cared to do, with a mantra that goes something like “preach the gospel always, never with words,” it seems they collapse these verses from Luke 4 into just the bits I’ve bolded:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Evangelicals – and I’m one of them – are right to emphasise that part of the church’s role – the defining part – is to proclaim the good news. That’s how poor people, and all of us, are truly liberated.

But as is the case with most correctives – the pendulum has swung to the point where evangelicals now don’t want to touch anything that looks like social justice. Preferring “just to do gospel work.” I read a tweet just yesterday that basically wrote the whole movement off.

This is silly. How can we claim to love people if we aren’t seen to be loving them. This, again, is where ethos – our character, how we live, has to form part of how we communicate our message. We love people because God loved us. But if we want to be loving people by sharing the gospel, part of that means living in a way that makes it clear that we believe our message. That it shapes and excites us.

Social justice – provided it is performed by Christians, operating as Christians, is gospel work. It underpins proclamation. Social justice without this intent is still good work.

Social justice is there, as an imperative, for the people of God, in both the Old and New Testament.

The Micah Challenge, for example, takes its name from a cracker of a Bible verse – from Micah 6:8.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Which, coupled with a little bit of James 1:27…

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jesus says looking after the poor is a sign that we belong to him… in Matthew 25.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Looking after the poor is part of how Christians serve our king.

How should Christians respond to these cuts

If the charities who look after the poor around the globe – in the name of Jesus – are saying that foreign aid is necessary for making change, saving lives, and caring for people, and if caring for people is something that we’re called to do, then it follows that we, as Christians, should do what we can to see that aid continue… doesn’t it?

But what should we do? As Christians?

Pray. Definitely.

Give. Absolutely. The charities mentioned above do great work, in different and creative ways. So by all means – give directly to these charities. But they’re saying that’s not enough. The small government libertarian in me wishes this was an issue that could be solved without government intervention. By individuals. And there are plenty of generous individuals out there. But it’s not a level playing field – and libertarianism needs a situation where people are treated as equals, and where opportunities are essentially equal across the board – and that’s not the situation here.

Speak out. This isn’t just about awareness raising. This is about participating in a democracy. As Christians, but also as citizens. This is a political decision. The charities I’ve mentioned above have pretty much unanimously suggested that we respond by contacting our local federal members, and the leaders of each major party – which is as simple as googling their name and sending an email.

I think this is a good idea.

I realise I’m turning into a complete lefty at times – which is weird. I’ve only ever voted conservative. But I like to think that there are certain political issues that transcend a really arbitrary political spectrum that has been imposed on us through lack of choice, and the political reality of a two party system. So much complexity gets lost in that pursuit of political simplicity.

I’m hesitant to push hard and fast political conclusions here – but a truly Christian response is shaped by Jesus – who sacrificially gave himself up for those who follow him, out of love. At great cost. We’re called to imitate him. He calls us to love the poor. If the best way to love the poor, around the world, is to encourage the government to spend money on doing that – then we should. Right? You may think there are better ways to do it – and I’m more than open to suggestions. Perhaps these charities are unanimously wrong.

But I think Tim Costello’s right – the public knows this is a politically expedient move to save a stupidly promised surplus – so I wonder if a bit of public pressure, in the media, is called for. So don’t just send your email to your MP, send it as a letter to the editor of your paper, call a talk back radio station when this topic comes up. And if you’re in a situation where you can send a media release, on behalf of a Christian organisation – do that.

Here’s a brief sample. To finish. It covers the bits I’ll be including in my own emails to local members and party leaders. But this sort of thing works best if people are putting their own thoughts into their own words.

I really like something that a very wise friend of mine said on this front recently – he said it’s a real shame that Christians have a reputation for being conservative when it comes to this sort of political or social issue – it’d be great if we could be seen to be progressive.

Church X calls for government to increase, not slash, foreign aid commitment

Church X is dismayed by recent reports that the Federal Government is looking to slash foreign aid spending by $375 million to fund refugee care and in a bid to deliver a surplus.

Church X recognises that economic times are tough both domestically, and internationally, and suggests that wealthy countries like Australia should see this as an opportunity to generously invest, and increase foreign aid.

Church X spokesperson X said that while foreign aid is a smart investment in global stability, it also saves lives.

“We believe in the sovereignty of nations, but we also believe that God has generously provided our nation with wealth, and that this wealth presents an opportunity for Australia to be generous to fellow humans around the world.”

“We are dismayed that the government is looking to cut aid when it is needed most. Times of economic instability are precisely the times when wealthy countries should be concerned about the poorest of the poor.”

“We believe that all human lives are of equal value, because all humans are made in the image of God, and that if it is in our power to save lives – and if this is something our nation is obliged to do – we should be using the resources God has provided our nation to be generous to others.”

“As Christians we believe the ultimate display of generosity has been offered to all of us, through the death of Jesus, on the cross, in our place. This sort of sacrifice for others is the model we seek to follow, and a model that has led to significant social transformation in the last two thousand years.”

“Australian charities, with workers on the ground in those countries Australia’s aid benefits say that foreign aid is essential for saving lives. Our charities do great work. But it’s not enough.”

“On this basis, Church X is calling on the Federal Government, and our local member NAME, to increase Australia’s commitment to foreign aid to a level that makes Australia the most generous nation in the world, not decrease our aid spend in pursuit of a politically expedient headline, or a victory in a weekly news cycle.”



Chris Ashton says:

Hi Nathan – I’m just sure you’re right about this. I mean, obviously you are right about the silly surplus business. But….

1. Christian charities should not accept government money. No way. It’s tainted and comes with conditions. We have seen over and over Christian groups expected to provide “family planning” services, etc, because the one that pays the piper calls the tune.

But I suppose that is not the worst thing. The worst is when, as you demonstrate in the article, they have really ceased to be charities, and are now merely part of the Foreign Aid Industrial Complex, crying foul like a dole bludger when their government money is cut off. And then to have Compassion engage in “myth busting” only exacerbates the matter. The Christian charities are not disinterested observers here, they are utterly reliant upon government funding and thus, on constituents writing to their MPs, to continue operating their business in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

Please don’t hear me questioning their underlying motives – I am happy to take them at their word when they say they want to “make poverty history,” or whatever – but they have become, perhaps unwittingly, consumed by the monster of government funding.

2. The underlying assumption here seems to be that foreign aid makes the world a less poverty ridden, and hence, more stable (economically, militarily, politically), place. That is just not the case. Toby Ziegler was right – “free trade stops wars” – and you were right too – “we’re better off and more secure when other countries are better off and more secure.” But foreign aid is not free trade, and foreign aid (in the way that it is being referred to here, at least) does not make countries better off. This week’s Spectator editorial puts it better than I could:

Governments across the world appear stuck in … an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular. Take global poverty. In 1990, the UN announced Millennium Development Goals, the first of which was to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. It emerged this year that the target was met in 2008. Yet the achievement did not merit an official announcement, presumably because it was not achieved by any government scheme but by the pace of global capitalism. Buying cheap plastic toys made in China really is helping to make poverty history. And global inequality? This, too, is lower now than any point in modern times. Globalisation means the world’s not just getting richer, but fairer too.

References provided here: http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-week/leading-article/8789981/glad-tidings/

Nathan Campbell says:

Hi Chris,

I agree with you on the dangers of government funding for Christian organisations – I’ve made the same case with regards to chaplaincy. I think you’re misrepresenting the charities in this case. And certainly the way I’ve described them in the post.

They don’t seem to be saying “the government is cutting our funding” they are saying “the government is cutting funding that is necessary to improve life in the countries we also work in”… None of them seem to be motivated by self-interest.

The Micah Challenge isn’t an aid group – they’re an advocacy group. They don’t list any government support on their list of sponsors, and I’d be surprised if the government gives them a portion of aid money so that they can lobby for an increase in aid money.

Compassion’s submission to the Australian Government’s tax reform panel explicitly states they receive no government funding. Their annual report seems to back that up. So I think it’s a little rich to attack their defence of aid spending.

TEAR does receive government grantsaccording to their annual financial statement for 2012 it’s about 30% of their funding. So does World Vision – they get 12% of their funding through the Australian Government’s aid program. But until the government indicates where the funding is being cut from – I don’t think it’s fair to see them operating in a self-interested way, rather than operating in a way that is consistent with seeing value in their platform. It’s also a bit of a misrepresentation to say either organisation is “utterly reliant” on government spending.

On your second point… I’m not out to defend the UN, or the foreign aid machine, or its existence in this post, or even to defend the aid based status quo. But I would argue it’s better to do that which is perceived as the good thing, that people seem to think is saving lives, though the system might be flawed and invite corruption, than to do no thing at all. And I’m not really interested in dealing with hypothetical different and improved methods of caring for the poor at this point. That’s not really what this post is about – and I think you can only really move to establish something new when you’re doing the existing thing better than anyone else.

The Spectator’s editorial is interesting, but I have a little less faith in capitalism not to screw over the little guy – it is, after all, essentially economic Darwinism, as in most cases, some of the outcomes of Darwinism are great – fitter, healthier, stronger people, countries, and economies. But we’re called to value the weak who this system casts aside. Aren’t we? Aid seems to be a way to build in some altruistic checks and balances.

Chris Ashton says:

Hi Nathan,

1. The problems with government sponsored foreign aid are obviously quite different to the concerns we share over school chaplaincy. But surely when an aid agency assumes the moniker “Christian” the issue of government sponsored “ministry” arises again (a quick google search confirms that ministry is a term all the above organisations use in connection with their work).

In terms of misrepresenting the charities, that charge is perhaps partially true. “Utterly reliant” does, I suppose have absolute connotations. But when an organisation gets 12 to 30 per cent of its income from the government, I submit that “utterly” is allowable hyperbole.

2. I’m not at all suggesting that “nothing at all” be done. Quite the opposite. I give to certain organisations which provide aid to people overseas. My church does too. Likewise many of my Christian and non-Christian friends give considerable amounts, and some of them take a particularly keen interest in ensuring the organisations remain efficient and accountable – something that is not possible with the federal government aid program, and this is difficult with foreign aid behemoths, the likes of which are mentioned above.

But since you mention it, doing nothing may be worse than perpetuating the incompetence, corruption, and systemic self-interest of the current system, but only just.

As for the charge of economic Darwinism, etc, the charities I support (including the secular ones), and those who donate to them (even the pagans) do not operate on that principle. But even so, I would suggest that free markets help more people out of poverty than any kind of state assistance. And the little guy getting screwed over by capitalism? Who are the Chinese and Indian workers that have been rescued from poverty if they are not little guys?

Keagan Chisnall says:

Hey Nathan,
I am a little apprehensive about the topic because of the separation of church and state. What is the point of (our) government? More importantly, what is the point of (our) taxes? If it is to help every human, then I agree with you whole heartedly. If, however, it is to develop the community and people whom have put it in that position (which I tend to lean towards), then it is a little more tricky.
Personally, my wife and I give to several charities, as well as pay our taxes. Now if the government increase taxes* to fund charities, would it be expected to reduce my giving by the same amount to remain on budget**?
Why I ask this is from a deeper question of: What is the function of the government, and what is it that they look after? I haven’t thought about it before, but should foreign aid be a government responsibility, or an individual’s responsibility?
Right now we share responsibility, but is forced charity (through taxes) something to be sought?

Curious on your thoughts. Cheers.

*In my view, the goal of a surplus should never be abandoned, and thus to spend more, we need to collect more. Dropping the surplus goal is how rich nations become poor nations. Eventually someone has to pay the bill, and this idea of an endless supply of wealth is ridiculous. I have a saying that wealth can neither be created or destroyed, but only move from one person to another.
**Or should I take a loan, and aim to die with debt?

Nathan Campbell says:

Hey Keags,

Like Chris, who commented above, I’m a bit of a fan of the two kingdoms approach to politics, with a couple of modifications. I think the Westminster Confession pretty much nails how church and state function – but I suspect when the church operates well it naturally impacts the priorities of the state because more people are wanting to live their lives following the Lordship of Jesus. Which shapes their concerns. Which shapes a democracy. And many of the things we take for granted as the government doing its job well in the second kingdom – the state – are the products of Christianity being brought to bear on social issues and projects of redemption.

Here are the relevant chapters from the WCF.


“God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”


I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.

II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.

III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethres, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.

At this point you’ve got to ask who our public is. I think we’ve also got to mind the historical gap – the Reformers, and the Westminster Assembly, were operating in a different context, where it was expected that most of the people participating in society were at least nominally Christian.

Also – while I think national boundaries are useful, I’m not sure I elevate them to being divinely ordained for the purpose of limiting good – particularly given that Christians are called to spread the gospel to the end of the earth. So I think our public is bigger than us. Australia. And is probably global.

I’m also not a fan of the cultural imperialism of western Christian nations that says this task means making western Christendom work in other areas. I think you can do aid, and do good, without wanting to impose western standards.

More importantly, what is the point of (our) taxes?

I don’t want to draw too many principles on how Australia should be spending its taxes from the OT, because we’re not a theocracy. But there are some ethical principles there, I think, that show what sort of concerns a government should have. Israel spent a portion of their tithes building parts of the temple for the nations to use and enjoy – and some of their tithes went to care for the poor (eg Deut 14:27-29) but I’m not sure how much bearing that should have on 21st century Australia.

I guess I’d say the New Testament principle “give to Caesar what is Caesars” is the best account of how we’re to think of our taxes, I’d say they’re to be used by the state as the state sees fit.

Which means, given the nature of a democracy, that we pay our taxes as the government determines, but also have some role to play in advocating for how those taxes are spent.

“I haven’t thought about it before, but should foreign aid be a government responsibility, or an individual’s responsibility?”

Both. Not just for Christians – for anyone who is vaguely humanist. It’s definitely an individual’s responsibility, but I think, at times (especially in a democracy), the government’s job is to function for the people, collectively. It’s an economies of scale thing (not simply a socialist thing). I think the foreign policy benefits are such that looking after foreign people isn’t just in their interest, but in ours as well. Domestically, I’m a big fan of a small government. I don’t want my money wasted on programs that are going to benefit people who could pay for them. But that’s the luxury of living in a pretty developed country where we have a vast array of options. My thinking changes when we’re talking about the provision of basic standards, that are well within our power to give, and sacrificially giving up some of what we have been given – as individuals, or as people providentially born in the resource rich nation of Australia – to help keep other people alive. Because we love them. Capitalism doesn’t really account for love and charity – except when it comes to the benefits such acts provide to the market. I think we’re called to go a little further than that, and sacrifice of our comfort and security for the sake of others.

Re your borrowing to give conundrum – I’d say people borrow to make money all the time, or borrow to invest. I’d say your wealth statement is kind of true – but a little limited. We do create new matter to trade by digging it up. Wealth isn’t constant. Unless all the untapped stuff that is still in the ground is part of your equation and is currently not really held by anybody. If wealth creation is based on digging stuff up from the ground, and borrowing to invest is legitimate – then who better to invest in than people? If wealth is just rocks in the ground, that we’re good at digging up, and seem to have a lot of, then at what point do we start making those rocks more important?

Keagan Chisnall says:

Thanks Nathan. The give to Caesar what is Caesar’s reference is a good way to look at it.

Only a small grip, mostly off topic:
I respectfully disagree that you borrow to make money. Generally you lend to make money, but for the most of us (talking general populous and government), you borrow to obtain things you aren’t able to (or choose not to) fund with what you have. The lending side is critical for the small number of players in the market who borrow to lend at a higher rate, but for majority of people who just borrow and then work to pay it off, you are trading money (interest for example) for luxuries, not money for more money.

I wrote an expansion on my wealth comment, but it was again, very off-topic, so I will leave it for another day. Thanks for listening and replying!

Chris Ashton says:

Just a slight (yet important) disagreement re: national boundaries. Surely a government’s responsibility is limited to that area or group of people over which it claims sovereignty.

It would require an interesting reading of the relevant parts of Scripture to understand it to be saying otherwise. It would require even more hermeneutic and historical gymnastics to read the Divines’ understanding of a particular government’s role in the “public good” as crossing national boundaries (at least, not without a Solemn League and Covenant!).

Alan Wood says:

Keagan, you’re wrong.

At the foundations of the western financial system lie several ideas, among them that money can generate an income, and that wealth can be created.

Money can generate an income, not just by lending it out. Banks lend to ‘make’ money – but in fact, they don’t make the money, they just collect it. The debtor has to go and make the money. How does he/she do that? Buy a fishing boat and use it to catch fish. Buy a better net and use it to catch fish and not dolphins, so you can sell your fish to a western nation for a better price. Buy a sonar system and use it to find the fish more quickly. Buy a fish farm and use it to grow fish, so you can sell the boat. (BTW Nathan, you’ll notice that all the decisions I described, after the first one, involve less ‘digging up’ of fish, not more.) As long as the increased debt for all these business decisions is balanced by income-generating assets, and you’ve worked up a decent wedge of accrued extra capital between each reborrowing, the bank won’t quibble. This is the standard pattern of all commercial lending in Australia, from Sally borrowing from Mum and Dad to get through Uni, to Woolworths issuing debt certificates to a super fund.

Wealth can be created. If you go and, say, write an app for a smartphone that translates, orally, in real-time, from one language to another (I’ve picked this because it is right out at the limits of feasibility, I think, but I can imagine how to do it), then will you have created something. And if you make many copies of the app and sell them, then you will have become wealthy without even making a single physical commodity. And each of those buyers, assuming they are rational buyers, will be better off than before they gave you the money. You will have created wealth, and as you traded with it you will have turned it into money at your end, and new abilities for the purchasers. Now, they will be able to order new sonar equipment over the phone in Danish, even though they speak Swahili. And they will say, ‘Thank the God of those Christians, who organised this micro-finance scheme that allowed me to invest in my fishing business in the first place. And I’m so glad their government is leaning on my government, through their foreign aid budget, and government-to-government, to reduce corruption in our Fisheries and Customs Departments.’

Investment and innovation are drivers of wealth. Borrowing to build a big house is not smart. But borrowing to move away from a filthy open sewer, which was making you too sick to work, is a good investment in your fishing business. Don’t tar rational business borrowing with your sense of what the general populace does with their McMansions – it’s nothing like the whole story.

Investment and innovation are done by sensible, well-informed people who believe that the future prospects are okay. Corruption, crime, massive external economic shocks, sickness, old age, famine, ecosystem constraints… these all stymie investment and innovation. There is a lot of government that needs to happen to give sensible, well-informed people the sense that the future is going to be ok. So the ‘small-government’ argument doesn’t work well in the Third World. It’s only the ‘Developing World’ if someone is providing certainty – and that can be done nicely by governments, or less nicely by other means.

Happily, this all gives selfish Australians selfish reasons to send ‘our’ money overseas. If we send it wisely and well, it comes back indirectly as the world we trade with grows wealthier overall.

Sadly, we generally don’t send it wisely and well, because we’re dumb, and our governments are lazy. We need to get smarter, and we need to call on our governments to do better. This is our government being as lazy as it can. Let’s not be dumb.

Keagan Chisnall says:

Thanks for the comment Adam. I fear this is simply going to come down to the definition of wealth.

While someone who has traveled the world can be in a sense considered more wealthy than a billionaire who has never left his home town, I wouldn’t in the context of the subject at hand.

In both your examples you are looking at an individual getting wealthier, which I don’t question. The fisherman however would be taking business (or wealth) from the other fisherman around him, or else depressing the price of fish through oversupply, which is effectively the same thing. In the app example the maker is taking wealth (in the form of money) from the buyers. While the buyers may use the app to “create” wealth, they will be doing it by selling a product or service to others, who will do the same, eventually accumulating in someone trading wealth for experience. While they may use experience to transfer wealth from another to themselves, some will not, or atleast won’t be able to turn all experience into a wealth gaining activity.

Wealth can be stored as well, which you may view our natural resources as, or the mega-mansions. The current rage is buying precious metals (like gold and silver) instead of using banks where money remains in circulation. Look at the great depression, and the GFC, both of which thought they were “creating wealth”.
Really good video if you have 45mins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp1CttLLR0k

I guess that you can argue that we are ever increasing our wealth, comparing medieval times to now, but in my opinion, relative wealth just changes hands. I have read some things on the Production Possibility Frontier, which states that wealth can be created through technology, but that I don’t think we can’t all be rich at the same time, even if only through the definition of rich.

I’m not an economist, so I’m happy to be corrected on the subject.

Sorry to hijack this Nathan ;)

Nathan Campbell says:

Hijack away. There’s no comment policy that says things have to be strictly on topic here.

Joel Saunders says:

few points:

“neither major party is out to oppress a minority, or start a war” – Both major parties initiated and continue to support what is arguably oppression of Indigenous Australian in the Nortern Territory under the intervention/stronger future. You only need to listen to the words of Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, a Ylongu Elder/Ordained ministers, to hear how these policies oppress and disempower our brothers and sisters in the territory.

Words like charity and aid I think miss the point of what groups like TEAR, World Vision and others do. It is aid AND development, more justice than charity. Aid responds (appropriately) to crisis (war, droughts, floods). Development responds to systemic issues resulting from injustice (women’s education/employment/empowerment.

Should aid (and development) be a personal/state/church based response?
We need to look to Jesus, who living under the Roman empire, responded in the three ways you pointed out Nathan.

He gave, and acted, healing the sick, providing food for the poor (or rather creating an alternative economy of abundance having those present share their possession and pass it around so that there was left overs).

He prayed to his Father for divine intervention and guidence

And he confronted the powers (both church and state) that created and benefited from the injustice in society. His direct action against the state and church was less polite than letter writing (not that we shouldn’t do that). He disrupted temple meetings, persuaded the oppressors to change their lifestyle (Zacheus), stood alongside the oppressed (the non-jew woman, the prostitue etc) and spoke ‘truth to power’ of the authorities.

Finally, to the conversation on whether aid/development is good and helps the poor (something which DeadAid is an interesting read on) – I suspect the majority of people hold this view as it comforts them in their place.
Where is the evidence that the MDG have been reached already? I don’t see the evidence of that in the world we live.
More importantly, God is not (so) concerned with our effect, but our heart and action. Have we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the prisoner, welcomed the refugee. We are called to obedience, to follow him – which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be questioning and critical of how aid/development money is spent, and how we chose to fed the hungry/naked/etc – but we must do it if we claim Christ is in us, and us in him.

Nathan Campbell says:

“neither major party is out to oppress a minority, or start a war” – Both major parties initiated and continue to support what is arguably oppression of Indigenous Australian in the Nortern Territory under the intervention/stronger future.”

That may be the result of their actions – but I don’t think it’s what they’re out to do. But good point.

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