Fiscal conservatism seems to work for Germany and social justice needs to work

I am not an economist nor do I have any expertise whatsoever in the world of finance. My comments on these matters should therefore be taken worth a grain of salt. But I can’t help but notice how well Germany is doing compared to the rest of Europe. Americans love to compare themselves with Europe, particularly when discussing the merits of various social positions or of the welfare state. But within Europe itself, fiscally conservative Germany is the only thing keeping the Eurozone from recession.

There is all sorts of talk about the longstanding tension between the German and French visions for the EU. And Francois Hollande, the new French president, has vowed to confront Angela Merkel and the German “austerity” model by promoting public spending driven “growth” as a way out of the current economic crisis. But why should anyone listen to the French? France is not doing well at all, and if current trends continue, it will go the way of Greece, Spain, and Italy. True, the United Kingdom is an example of the reality that austerity bites in the short-run too. But in the long-run it seems quite clear which model works best.

One thing that is clear is that economic prosperity matters. We could have the most just social welfare system in the world on paper, and if the country cannot afford it and the economy cannot sustain it, the poor will be much worse off. That doesn’t mean we should cast off the poor and turn to laissez-faire economics. But it does suggest that what works matters just as much as what sounds right. This is one of the reasons why American Christians are rightly skeptical when their pastors claim the authority to speak on fiscal and economic policy. This is clearly an area in which human experience and wisdom – natural law if you will – has significant authority. Rather than shout economic and political orthodoxies at one another, and use the pulpit to do so, we should work together to figure out what works best, and what works best for all.


About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on May 16, 2012, in Two Kingdoms and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Fiscal conservatism seems to work for Germany and social justice needs to work.

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