Edge of Faith May 2017 - Page 4

SUSTAINED WEALTH P.J. Hill is a renowned scholar, prolific author and sought out speaker.In this interview he discusses the history of sus- tained wealth, who has it and who does not, and our respon- sibility as Christians. P.J. HILL THE HISTORY OF SUSTAINED WEALTH Have you ever struggled with the concepts laid out in Act 2:35, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Does this mean you shouldn’t own things? What is your responsibility to others who are poor and in par- ticular fellow Christians? Are you supposed to be guilty because you make money? Well, read on and see what P.J. Hill, a renowned Christian economist has to say about sustainable wealth and a Christian’s mind set. AOF: Dr. Hill, thank you for talking to us today. Perhaps you could start by talking to us a little bit about a subject I think you are pretty familiar with: Sustained economic growth. Could you tell the reader what that is? HILL: Right, it is when economic growth has an impact on the ordinary person, just a regular, run-of-the-mill person. We’ve had wealth throughout history. You can look back and you can see some people were pretty well off. You can look at palaces, you can look at rulers of empires, you can look at architectural features and there has always been some people that have been able to do pretty well. The idea of economic growth that effects everybody, or almost everybody, really starts around 1800. It starts in England and the Netherlands, then it goes to North America and Western Europe. Then, finally, it gets to other places in 4 • The Art of Faith Magazine • www.aofmag.com the world: Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and then, most lately, China and India. When we say “sustained economic growth,” we mean that it increases the living standard of just regular people, all people throughout the economy. Sometimes a few people may be left out, but the amazing thing is that for the last couple to three hundred years, depending on which society you are talking about, some groups of people have just had enormous increases in their material wellbe- ing. Part of that is measured by change in life expectancy. Life expectancy around the world in 1800 was around 30 years. In England and the Netherlands it might have been around 35 years. Now, in almost all of the developed world, it’s around 75 or 80 years. That alone is a pretty good indi- cator that something has happened to allow people to live better. In a way, it is like someone had passed wealth on because they only lived to be thirty, so it would span three genera- tions. Now, people are living long enough to pass it on to themselves. Right. Part of it is passing on the technology, passing on the capital, the knowhow to organize production. It is certainly, say for somebody living in North America, compared to where standards of living were two hundred years ago. It is very difficult to get our minds around how much change there has been. America obviously is now part of the developed world, one of the leaders. In the current economic state, there is a We need to remem- ber that when you go back to the year 1600 or 1500, the whole world was poor. Poverty was just the name of the game ” lot of unemployment or underemploy- ment, underpay, but the bottom line is, we still have a lot more wealth than most. of a historical perspective. We need to remember that when you go back to the year 1600 or 1500, the whole world was poor. Poverty was just the name of the game for almost every- There are certainly some economic body except for a select few. We need problems wherein some people are not to be aware of those sorts of real doing as well as others. The economic benefits for us. recession that started in 2008 caused a lot of hardship for people. But even I heard one of your lectures not too then, people were still above, consider- long ago and there was an inter- ably above, the levels they would have esting fact that you brought up. If been a hundred years or two hundred someone makes $40,000 dollars a years before. We don’t want to overlook year, which isn’t that uncommon in the problems, the present issues that the U.S., they’re in the top one-per- we have, but we also need some sort cent of the world. Correct. I found that absolutely fascinating. I think you even mentioned that at $19,000 a year, you’d still be in the top five percent. That puts perspective on how underdeveloped countries live. It gives us some feel for the gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It also raises very interest- ing issues. There’s a lot of concern for the top one percent. Are they morally reprehensible? Are they culpable for doing wrong sorts of things? When I The Art of Faith Magazine • www.aofmag.com • 5