The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution
By Wayne Gruden and Barry Asmus
Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2013.
Pp. 398. $30 paperback.
The goal of The Poverty of Nations is bold and ambitious. The authors present a series of steps or factors that can enable poor countries to escape poverty. The issue is not the poverty of individuals and how some individuals might be helped. Instead, the goal is to provide solutions to poverty at the national level. Barry Asmus is an economist, Wayne Gruden a theologian, and they collaborate on the belief that sustainable solutions must be both economically sound and supported by the Bible's moral teachings. An appendix summarizes the book's findings in a list of seventy-nine factors that would enable a country to pull out of poverty.
The organization of the book presents the authors' argument. Gruden and Asmus begin by identifying the goal a nation needs to pursue--to increase production of goods and services. Then they identify some goals that others have suggested for helping poor countries and argue that these goals are ineffective. They claim instead that a movement to free markets will enable a nation to develop economically. They examine the mechanics of a system of free markets and what governments can do to help implement and protect markets, and they identify the values free markets rely on that can aid in achieving this goal. The authors write in a nontechnical way and utilize quotations from various authors and the Bible to support their case. Most of the sources cited are books and articles written for the general public rather than for specialists. For example, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson's book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power; Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown, 2012) is cited often, but their articles in the scientific journals are not.
The first chapter identifies the goal a nation must have if it is to solve the problem of poverty'. The goal is to increase per capita income, which implies the nation must find a way to produce more goods and services. Gruden and Asmus reject a number of other paths that some suggest can alleviate poverty--increased aid, greater income equality, and debt forgiveness, among others. They go into greater detail on why these paths are wrong and why they will not help a nation develop economically. For instance, foreign aid leads to dependency, and income redistribution is unproductive when the resulting higher incomes are due to the...