Facing Down Inflation

My reading this year has included some healthy doses on economics from the likes of Adam Smith, George Gilder, Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and David Bahnsen. Inflation simply means that consumers are paying more dollars for the same goods and services, leaving many families gasping for financial air. It is certainly reasonable for folks to be concerned about inflation, but believers are not to live in fear. Out of the following observations written to help the Average Joe have confidence as he faces an inflationary environment, only 1 out of 3 comes from the world of economics. The first two, which are more certain and immutable, come from the pages of Scripture. So here are 3 things that will help you face down inflation with confidence.

God is Still Your Heavenly Father

It’s not as though God could provide for you when gas was under $2 a gallon but can’t when it rises about that mark. God does not suddenly throw up His hands in despair when faced with providing for His children in an inflationary period. Some of the greatest miracles in the Bible were miracles of provision. The Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness and it was perfectly human to think, “Sure, God could bless our crops when we actually had them, but can God provide food when there isn’t any?” Yes He can. Paul tells us that the whole Jewish sojourn is filled with examples that were written for us.

The Son of God became a man during a time when many were poor and sick and hungry, and He taught them to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Sometimes He was the direct agent of miraculous provision, feeding thousands with just a boy’s sack lunch. Are our circumstances worse than the circumstances faced by the Jews in that age? Probably not, but even if they were we can and should ask for God to provide our daily bread. Our Father is a good Father and will not give His children stones when they ask Him for bread. We do not want to be guilty of not having simply because we are not asking.

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread

Psalm 37:25

Wisdom Works Even During Inflationary Periods

Of course, God commits Himself to providing for our needs, not our wants. The average poor person in the USA is better off than many rich people of other places or eras. We are accustomed to an easy life (I type as I hide from the heat in my air conditioned office). Having God as our heavenly Father is no more reason to live life as profligates than having a rich earthly father is a reason to live as profligates. Scripture is full of wonderfully helpful counsel regarding matters of material possession.

Two significant attitudes are highlighted in Scripture that we ought to keep in mind. The first is the concept of stewardship, whereby I recognize that everything I possess actually belongs to God. I am to steward my possessions for good in this world. This attitude keeps me responsible and accountable for my money. The second significant counsel the Scriptures recommend is one of generosity. There are those who give and yet have, and there are those who grasp and have not. There are those who steal from the labors of others while there are those who labor that they might have to give to others. The spirit of generosity forces me to always think of myself as a producer and a giver, which changes how I approach financial difficulties.

Beyond attitudes, there are certain types of financial habits that are recommended by Scripture. For example, debt is discouraged while savings are encouraged. (Proverbs 22:7 vs Proverbs 10:5). Slothfulness is discouraged while hard work is encouraged. (Proverbs 6:16 vs Proverbs 14:23). The virtuous woman is extolled for her wisdom, labor, thrift, and fruitfulness.

Inflation is a stress test of your financial attitudes and acumen. Do you demand a certain standard of living and use debt to achieve it? Do you refuse to make personal sacrifices and so rob the Church of your generosity? Is your life filled with anxiety because you don’t know how much money you have or where it is going?

If this is the case, maybe you need a financial organization like Crown to help you grow in this area. Or you can become a cage stage Dave Ramsey acolyte for a year or two. The point is that you should not blame inflation for financial woes that are caused by mismanaging your finances.

Not All Bad News

So this last point is a bit of wisdom garnered from my study of economics. I think we all need to be careful about making “Inflation” the terrifying boogeyman of our nightmares. It’s true that your grandpa used to get a cup of coffee for a dime, but he’ll turn right around and tell you that his first job only payed $1.50 an hour. Wages rise with prices. Inflation is a feature (although some argue an unnecessary feature) of modern economics. And while inflation is currently outpacing wage growth, there are still plenty of opportunities for the resourceful, the industrious, the skilled, and the lucky to increase their material wealth in times of inflation.

I would also caution against the trend of dog-piling on the President, despite my aversion to all Biden policies. The first reason is because if the expansion of the money supply is the sole reason for inflation, then it seems to me that we should have started this process years ago under President Trump, who loved to send out checks. In recent times, the difference between a conservative and a liberal has just been the speed at which each would like to take us over the fiscal cliff. There’s no doubt that the profligate habits of Washington have hurt our economy, but that extends to both political parties. So I find it a bit hypocritical.

The second reason is a little more pragmatic. If inflation gets hung on Biden alone, then Biden could claim an economic turnaround before the 2024 presidential election when production increases and reduces the high rate of inflation. You note that I’m allowing for the possibility that inflation is transitory. Yeah, yeah, I know that was Biden’s line, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. I think it’s possible that inflation will remain high on certain types of items where shortages are projected for several years while others products will normalize as production capacities increase. There, I have thrown my prognostication into the arena where I shall preen if proved right and forget I ever wrote this paragraph if I’m wrong.

Lastly, it’s good to remember that we are now paying for those checks that came in the mail just a few years ago. For a simple (which I needed) explanation of inflation, check out David Bahnsen’s Responses to Doug Wilson’s questions.


So yes, gas prices stink and your grocery bill is going up. This is a challenge to face, not a monster to blame. And while we are facing down inflation, we ought to take some time to face our own personal financial attitudes and the financial repercussions of our political leaders. I am wholly sympathetic to families who are struggling financially, but I am not in despair. We should face inflation with the same hope, the same endurance, and the same acumen with which we face all of life’s trials.


Capitalism and Evolution

This post is inspired by George Gilder’s brilliant prologue to Wealth and Poverty, and as I am only a couple of chapters into the book I cannot comment on it as a whole. But the prologue is noteworthy not only for for its defense of capitalism, but for its verve. Is that still a word? It should be, because that’s the spirit of the prologue. He may be wrong, but if he is wrong he is wrong with panache. If his outfit is a fashion disaster, it is not for lack of color and embroidery. You may dislike his ruffles, but you cannot but admire his boldness in wearing them. If you don’t like the number his orchestra is playing, you must concede that it is not for lack of trumpets.

One of the relatively shocking approaches that Gilder takes is to defend capitalism not as a “best among worst” options nor as an approach to mitigate the general awfulness of humanity in the economic realm, but as intrinsically good and generous. Gilder is impatient with those who see the history of capitalism as a series of robber barons out to increase their own wealth at the expense of others, and he upbraids modern (and modern-ish) proponents with acquiescing to that historical perception.

If the argument goes “capitalism really was a terrible state of affairs involving slavery and oppression and the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, but it somehow yielded us a 21st century system that really isn’t half bad” then we can say that there is nothing essentially better about capitalism than any other system of economics. At the battlefront of the terrible clash between capitalism and socialism, Gilder accuses the generals of motivating their men with a pathetic patriotism that amounts to “Men, it’s true that our country has been pretty terrible, but it’s not so bad right now so you should really try to put up a good fight.”

This is actually reminiscent of the evolutionary model of biological life. In evolution, given enough time something can come from nothing and then turn into everything. But that process (the past) must necessarily involve a massive amount of awfulness. Sure, what we wound up with is pretty darn functional: an ecosystem filled with symbiotic relationships, a humanity with a consciousness and rationality, etc… And because what we wound up with is pretty darn good, there’s no sense worrying about all the mountains of suffering and death that Evolution’s aborted offspring had to endure to get us to this point. If we buy into Evolution (as a macro-explanation for the existence and diversity of biological life) then we accept that Death is the mechanism from which Life comes. In the same way, if we go along with the story of capitalism as a story of self serving greed, then we accept that the mechanism for Prosperity is Greed. Gilder says that this is wrong and that greed is actually the death of capitalism.

What is so compelling about Gilder’s take is that you don’t have to be any kind of economic expert to understand in your bones that he is right, just as you don’t have to be a biologist (who alone can discern the mystical differences between male and female) to reject evolution. Evolution is manifestly backwards: life must precede death. The story of capitalism, as told by its opponents as well as its half-hearted defenders, is manifestly backwards: generosity must produce wealth. According to Gilder, that is what lies at the heart of capitalism.