Top TEN Quotes from “The Poverty of Nations”

Poverty Rochester NY

I read "The Poverty of Nations" by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus while in Chad earlier this year. It was a book on providing biblical and economic solutions to poverty. I really enjoyed it as it deals with things I hadn't really considered.

Here are my favorite quotes – hoping it will interest some of you to read the book:

  • Due to the shortage of clear, biblical teaching on economics, many believers have, without thinking, subscribed to the most common unbiblical approaches to poverty, economic justice, and wealth. The results have been devastating. (p 19)
  • Big government is certainly not the solution. In many countries, it has made the problems worse. Unfortunately, so have many well-meaning, but misguided, Christian humanitarian programs. Having traveled the globe for thirty years and trained leaders in 164 countries, I've witnessed firsthand that almost every government and NGO (non-profit) poverty program is actually harmful to the poor, hurting them in the long run rather than helping them. The typical poverty program creates dependency, robs people of dignity, stifles initiative, and can foster a "What have you done for me lately?" sense of entitlement. (pp. 19-20)
  • A good rule of thumb that cuts through much of the complexity of alleviating poverty: Avoid Paternalism! That is, do not do things for people that they can do for themselves. Memorize this, recite it under your breath all day long, and wear it like a garland around your neck… it can keep you from doing all sorts of harm. (pp. 27-28)
  • Others seem to think that the solution is to persuade Starbucks customers to buy "fair-trade" coffee, and then to expand "fair-trade" agreements to other products and other companies… Most economists believe that the fair-trade movement mostly benefits a small number of producers while it harms others, and very little of the higher retail price actually reaches the farmers themselves… (p. 51)
  • At first, such a simple system (fair trade) seems to be a sensible way to help poor coffee growers earn more money. But the general consensus of economists is that it does not do much good and might even do some harm… Paying some growers a higher price than the world market price for coffee encourages them to grow more coffee than the market actually demands.. The larger supply of coffee then depresses the price of other coffee growers that are not part of the fair-trade movement.  (p. 94)
  • No poor nation in history has grown wealthy by depending on donations from other nations. (p. 65)
  • The West spent $2.3 trillion on foreign aid over the last five decades and still had not managed to get twelve-cent medicines to children to prevent half of all malaria deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get four-dollar bed nets to poor families. The West spent $2.3 trillion and still had not managed to get three dollars to each new mother to prevent five million deaths. The West spent $2.3 trillion, and children are still carrying firewood and not going to school. It's a tragedy that so much well-meaning compassion did not bring these results for needy people. (p. 66) (There are reasons for this, and the book discusses them.)
  • The fact that God spoke of a loan (even one without interest) assumed that it would be repaid, not that the recipient would depend on donations year after year… The important point is this: there is no thought in the Bible that poor people would become permanent recipients of gifts of money, year after year, or would become dependent on such gifts. The only exceptions were people who were completely unable to work due to permanent disabilities, such as a blind beggar or a lame beggar… The Bible's expectations that people must work to earn their living should not be seen as harsh or unkind. (p. 73)
  • (Occasionally we are asked if helping Chad is really good. "Aren't they just as good off before we come in?") We simply do not know that people living by means of subsistence farming (those in Chad) were happier. We tend to paint an idealized picture in our minds, forgetting the short life spans (often under thirty years), the crippling diseases and frequent deaths, the anxiety of never knowing whether there would be enough to eat next month, the weariness of dawn-to-dusk manual labor for one's entire lifetime, the unfulfilled longing of parents for better lives for their children, the yearning after the option of choosing another way of life, and so on. (p. 111)
  • One of the most important factors for predicting poverty status in the United States is whether a child grows up in a single-parent home. (p. 256)

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