Sustained Wealth – P.J. Hill

From Vol 1, Issue 2, 2017


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 particular 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.

Perhaps you could start by talking to us a little bit about a subject I think you’re pretty familiar with: sustained economic growth. Could you tell the reader what that is?

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’s always been some people that have been able to do pretty well, but 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,Also Western Europe. Then, finally, it gets to other places in the world; Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and then, most lately, China, also to 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 wellbeing. Part of that is measured by change in life expectancy, life expectancy around the world was, 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.So that alone is a pretty good indicator that something has happened to allow people to live better.

Absolutely. So in a way, it is kind of like someone has passed on wealth, because they lived to be thirty, so it’d be three generations. Now, people are living old enough to have passed it on to themselves, in a way, right?

Right, yeah. Part of it is passing on the technology, passing on the capital, the know how 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 almost very difficult to get our minds around — how much change there has been.

Yes, absolutely, phenomenal really. So, America obviously is now part of the developed world — its one of the leaders. Understandably, in the current economic state, there is a lot of unemployment or underemployment, underpay, but the bottom line is, we still have a lot more wealth than most. Correct? 

Right. There are certainly some economic problems — issues —some people are not doing as well as others. The economic recession that started in 2008 caused a lot of hardship for people. But, even then, people were still above— considerably above — the levels they would have been a hundred years or two hundred years before. So, we don’t want to overlook the problems, the present issues that we have, but we also need some sort 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 everybody except for a select few. So, we do need to be aware of those sorts of real benefits for us.

Right. You know, I heard one of your lectures not too long ago and it was an interesting fact that you brought up — I believe that it was if someone makes $40,000 dollars a year, which isn’t that uncommon in the U.S., they’re in the top one-percent of the world, right?


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