It seems that every time an election season comes around, candidates decry growing economic inequality and demand for solutions to "make things more equal." In addition, it is not uncommon to hear about our economic system being rigged to favor the rich and powerful. Join us for this stimulating conversation with economist Dr. Anne Bradley, who put inequality in theological perspective and addresses the problems associated with crony capitalism.

More About Our Guest

Portrait of Anne Bradley

Dr. Anne Bradley, Ph.D. is Vice President for Economic Initiatives for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics in Washington, DC. She also serves as visiting Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and George Mason University. She the author/editor of Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty and Be Fruitful and Multiply: Why Economics is Necessary for Making God-Pleasing Decisions.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically, Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

We're here with our guest today, economist Dr. Anne Bradley, who serves in a variety of different roles. She is the academic director for the Fund for American Studies. She's the vice president of economic initiatives at the Institute for Faith Work and Economics, both of those in Washington DC. She has taught at George Mason University, Georgetown University, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. She's got a number of other things on her resume that would take much too long to go into in detail.

She is the editor and contributor of two terrific books. One is called Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism and the other is entitled For the Least of These: The Biblical Answer to Poverty, both. I've read them both, they're both terrific books and I know that the job of editing is sometimes a lot more complicated than actually writing or contributing to these.

So Anne, thank you so much for being with us. I really appreciate you taking time to come on with us today.

Anne Bradley: Thanks for having me, Scott. I'm excited to be here.

Scott Rae: Now you've spent a lot of time thinking about economic inequality. This is a very controversial subject and as the election season starts to get rolling again, we're going to hear a lot of people talking about economic inequality from a variety of different perspectives. So maybe this would be the good place to start. Are you troubled by what some people say is a growing economic inequality? Maybe the first place to start with is, is economic inequality growing today? And if so, is that something that troubles you as an economist?

Anne Bradley: A good question. I think a good place to start. So any quality as we measure it, we use something called the Gini coefficient, so we don't have to get too technical, but it's a statistical measure based on tax returns that lets us understand the disparities in income or the equalities in income. And it's going up a little bit in the United States, but overall across the globe, it's going down. So I think the bigger picture is a different story and it's a good story, but I even think the smaller picture, which is, how are we doing in the United States? We have to really get into the weeds to answer that question. So I will say this, I am not concerned about slight growth in inequality per se. It doesn't have to mean that more people are poor than they were before and it doesn't imply necessarily that the rich somehow have more power than they did before.

So of course, to really understand this, we have to understand who's getting rich, how are they earning their money, which is something that the Gini coefficient cannot tell us. So I think we need to have a bigger kind of conversation around what's really going on here in the United States and how concerned should we be about it. I have some thoughts on some of those things, but I just think strictly looking at the inequality numbers, I don't think there's something to be alarmed about per se.

Scott Rae: Okay. You made an interesting comment about globally inequality is decreasing.

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: How do you account for that? Because we still see lots of places around the world that seem stuck in intractable poverty.

Anne Bradley: Very poor. Right. And that's true. And I think there's a lot of work to do in the world, but it is an amazing time to be alive, I think for a lot of reasons. But if you look at the past 250 years of human history, it's really been an amazing story of human progress. Of course, we don't care about progress just for material things. We don't care about money for its own sake, but money is really important for people to be able to care for their families, live longer lives, live healthier lives, and then be generous with their income. So of course we know all that's important.

But if you look at the globe, the poorest countries today, which still tend to be clustered in sub-Saharan Africa, are richer today than they were 50 years ago. So we're just seeing this tide of global wealth that's been unleashed because human creativity has been unleashed and so inequality globally is going down and the rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer faster than the rich are getting richer. That's exciting.

Scott Rae: Okay. Yeah, that's very good news.

Anne Bradley: It's good news.

Scott Rae: You don't hear it a lot.

Anne Bradley: No.

Scott Rae: I find that really encouraging. Back to the US ...

Anne Bradley: Sure.

Scott Rae: Why do you think the subject of inequality is this an emotional thing? Because when politicians talk about it, it's like a moral crusade to rid the world of economic inequality. Why does this tug it our emotional heartstrings like it does?

Anne Bradley: That's a good question. I don't know if I have a full answer, but I don't think it's new. If you go back and read Shakespeare, definitely, this the pitting of the rich against the poor is not a new idea. I think it's a very emotional idea as you say. And to be frank, I think politicians capitalize on that emotion because most people don't understand why equality is changing. I don't mean that in an arrogant way, it's just that most people haven't done digging into the statistics on what's really going on and how are things changing. I think we need to hold politicians accountable for the things they're saying.

One thing at the core of this, to answer your question that I think is really important, is politicians jump on this and people tend to do this also in their own thinking, which is that we treat poverty and inequality as the same. There are two sides of the same coin and that is absolutely false. You can live in a world where there's large disparities between a Jeff Bezos and the poorest person, or I should say the person with the least amount of income, but that the person with the least amount of income has a lot of things and lives a good life.

So inequality doesn't necessarily mean that some people are poor. I think we need to separate those conversations. We've done a very bad job of that politically, but I think in our own thinking as Christians, we are called to care for the poor. I've never met a Christian who disagrees with that command, but what we disagree on is the how. If you think that changing inequality is the way to care for the poor, you're actually going to run uphill forever. You can never get equality. And so the bigger question I think is, what do we do to help the poor transition into greater productivity and figure out what it is they're supposed to do? How do we help them unleash their own human agency? Those are the real questions in poverty.

Scott Rae: Sometimes we forget, I think, that for most of the history of civilization, people were incredibly equal. They were just equally poor, wretched and miserable at the same time.

Anne Bradley: Yes, it's true.

Scott Rae: So with progress you're going to see people who will move socioeconomic classes at a different pace than others.

Anne Bradley: Yes.

Scott Rae: But I think there's still, I think, something that eats away at most people when they see these vast differences. I wonder if it relates to how ... You made a statement that just because there's inequality doesn't mean that necessarily the rich have more power than the poor.

Anne Bradley: Right.

Scott Rae: I wonder if that is a misperception that's at the heart of why people are getting so bent out of shape about growing inequality because I think it's widely assumed that money equals power.

Anne Bradley: Yes.

Scott Rae: So how do you support the claim that maybe that's not necessarily so?

Anne Bradley: Yeah, that's a good question, and I do think that you're right, it gets to the heart of why we feel like it's wrong somehow. So think about Amazon headquarters, there's multiple now, but if Jeff Bezos is in the office that day and there's a janitor that cleans the bathrooms, that's a lot of inequality in one building. I think we feel like maybe there's too much money. Maybe Jeff doesn't need all that money. And so therefore we should take some of it. Right? So I think that. eats at us.

And if you look, as you mentioned, the scope of human history has been a lot of equality and a lot of poverty. So they have historically gone together. There's been ... Might has made right? And so people have lived very exploited, short, poor lives, and so maybe that's part of why we feel a visceral response to, we just think that's the way it used to be.

But I actually think in one of our books, For the Least of These, theologian Walter Kaiser writes about old Testament, wealth in the old Testament and he says, if you look at the prophets and the things they were saying about wealth, it wasn't that wealth was bad. It was how you earned your wealth that mattered. So if wealth was earned by exploitation, by taking political power and being able to prevent other people from rising or they're growing their own incomes, that was morally and biblically wrong, but earning money because you're creating something and selling it to people and people have to buy it, you can't force them to buy it, that's not coercive power.

So I do think you're right. There's a misconception that economic wealth translates always into political influence and political power. That is not inherent to a market economy, but it is a problem with our current political system.

Scott Rae: Right. I think that's a great observation. And I think sometimes we miss that when we read the scripture about wealth and possessions. I think Kaiser is right on target, I think, in that the vast majority of wealth that was gained in the ancient world was done through incredibly faith compromising, morally compromised means. It was wealth, theft, extortion or some sort of abuse of power.

Anne Bradley: Right.

Scott Rae: In the ancient world, it wasn't the money brought power, it was the power brought money to people in ways that were almost always morally questionable, which is one of the reasons why I think Jesus said that it's harder for a rich man in the kingdom than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Not because there's anything intrinsically wrong with having wealth, but the way it was gained was so problematic.

Anne Bradley: Right.

Scott Rae: One other thing just to clarify this, is there a difference between measuring inequality based on income and measuring it based on wealth? Because I could see where people might go in and out of income classes quite a lot over their lifetime.

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: We were both grad students. We were among the poorest of the poor, I think for ... And roughly, there's a large part of the population that is below the poverty line for at least some point of their lives.

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: But is that different when you consider wealth as the measuring stick and not the income?

Anne Bradley: Yes. So that's a really good technical point because when we're looking at income inequality, that's what we're measuring is income holdings. Wealth is a different ballgame because we're measuring things that are assets. The other thing that's really hard to measure about wealth is how you feel about your ... So if you have a Picasso on the wall at home, that's worth a lot, but very few people would sell it to actually gain the income. So wealth is a harder thing to measure, but when we do measure it, we actually still see disparities, right, between wealth and income. I like your point about being a graduate student, which is I didn't have a lot of extra money, but I always had a roof over my head and I ate several times a day. It might not have been the best food, ramen noodles and packets of oatmeal, but I ate every day and I didn't worry about not eating.

Scott Rae: That's right.

Anne Bradley: And so again, I think that takes back to I had a safety net, a family safety net. I knew I could be poor for a little bit because I was going to be able to grow my income later. People who are born into poverty, whether it's in the United States or in the world, don't always have that hope. They don't have the safety net. And so those are, I think the questions Christians have to dedicate themselves to. And what we forget a lot ... And your point about Jesus not condemning wealth on the whole is important.

Market based economies provide an avenue for us to work, which is what God commands us to do, but also to serve people through our work in the process of buying and selling and that process makes us all better off. So that has got to be part of the poverty conversation. We can't just give aid. Aid is necessary, it's just, it's not sufficient. Aid plus helping people cultivate their skills and open businesses and go to school and all those things.

Scott Rae: I don't know the numbers specifically, but I would guess that if aid were the solution, we would have solved this sometime ago.

Anne Bradley: You're right, we would have solved it because, and I don't mean this to sound arrogant, but aid is easy in some ways, right?

Scott Rae: Well, that's right.

Anne Bradley: You can say we have a lot of money. People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo don't. It's very easy for us to transfer cash. It's also very easy to transfer water and food and vaccines. I mean easy in the sense that we can identify the problems and move resources around. But that's not enough. And you're right, we've done that for years, years and years and years. Not just the US, but other allied organizations, and we haven't solved poverty through aid. I think aid provides the short term help, but we have to walk along people for the longer term to help them figure out not only what they're going to do, but how to fix the broken environment that they live in. So that's part of it too.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Now on the issue of inequality, how do you persuade people that the way a market economy works today is different than it worked in the ancient world and that it works in some parts of the developing world too. You used the term crony capitalism to describe it in some parts of developing the world and in the US, but I think it's widely viewed that the growing inequality is because the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor.

Anne Bradley: Right.

Scott Rae: So how did you ... That can be a fairly technical point to talk about that, but how do you put that in layman's terms to persuade people that that's not the case today?

Anne Bradley: I think we just have to go back to the basics of ... The way I think about economics is absolutely entrenched in an understanding of scripture. So when I in fact talk about the economic way of thinking, I start and I spend the first 20 minutes of an hour lecture talking about Genesis, which is people think, "What is she doing?" And I'm not a theologian. I've learned from them. But the point is, if you look at Genesis, you get an understanding of what God desired for his creation and his designs of his creation and of us.

Okay? So that gives us purpose, our marching orders. But it also tells us about our limitations and why we need each other. And so I think we have to go back to those basics. That's a harder story to tell. So you need time with people, but I think that's the way to do it because people like that message because it's true. We like to hear the message that we all are created to do something special and there's never been another one of us. We're not replicable. And so we're God's ... We're in imago dei.

So all of that is what I start with because then I think you can get people to say, "Okay, if that's true, then what type of society best suits that." I don't think we should be apologists for capitalism in the way that we would say maybe the Bible advocates for capitalism because the Bible is not an economics textbook and capitalism wasn't practiced in ancient times, but markets were there as you said. People have always traded. They've had to. If you don't trade, you die. So you have to trade. But large scale markets are new in the scope of human history. So I think we need to talk about human agency, human dignity and how trade and commerce fit into that.

Scott Rae: Yeah, I think your point about markets, broad scale markets being new, I think is a great point because we've always said markets even if they were very primitive, but the sophisticated sort of widespread ubiquitous markets that we have today are, I think, relatively new in the last, what, 200, 300 years.

Anne Bradley: Right.

Scott Rae: And so the idea that the size of the pie is not necessarily fixed, but it is consistently growing ... Now, it may be that you're getting a bigger slice of the pie than I am, and that may be just the way it goes or it may be the result of merit or it may be the result of an injustice that there's inequality, but just the fact that you can do well financially and be doing good at the same time, serving and loving your neighbor, I think is something that is brand new that wasn't a part of life in biblical times as we understand it.

Anne Bradley: Yeah. The way I asked my students this question is, when you go to work in the morning, whether you're working in the college cafeteria or you work at Starbucks or you babysit or whatever you do to make money, when you go to work and you put your Starbucks apron on, do you view that as taking an opportunity away from another person? And they all say, "No." They say, "I'm working hard. I'm paying my bills. I'm putting myself through college." Well, what Jeff Bezos does, and Bill Gates, is the same thing. It's on a different scale, but they're going and they're using their human creativity and they're creating a product that people like or creating a service that people like.

And so the economy can be zero sum. And the worst performing economies today are economies where global trade and kind of global commerce are not pertinent to those people, and so they have to find very primitive ways to trade and they're exploited and plundered by their governments. That's the very problem, is they don't have access to these markets that could enable them to be better off. I think that's the story we have to tell, because as Christians, I always also say, "Don't we want the poor to be not poor anymore? And if we mean that, then we want them to grow in their income." On that side of things, we are for growing wealth and growing incomes.

Scott Rae: By zero sum you mean that pie is fixed.

Anne Bradley: The pie is fixed, sorry. Yeah. So if I win, it's because I've taken an opportunity or if my income is income that you are not getting when rather, again in a market economy, my income is providing a service. So if I want that income, I need to be good at what I do and if I'm not good at what I do, then I have to find something else to do. So there's a discipline to that.

Scott Rae: Anne, you've done a lot of thinking about the various things that get in the way of markets working like they were intended to do, things like you write about corporate welfare, you write about the phenomenon of crony capitalism, which you claim is ... What's the best term for that? I was going to say a bastardized view.

Anne Bradley: Yeah, no, I think that's right.

Scott Rae: I'm not sure. I'm not sure we can say that publicly.

Anne Bradley: Distortion. It's a distortion of the markets.

Scott Rae: Distortion, that's a good way to put it.

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: So what exactly do you mean by the term crony capitalism?

Anne Bradley: Well, if I can say this, I prefer cronyism because I think crony capitalism implies that there are alternate versions of capitalism and some are better than others. So for me, cronyism is using economic wealth to change political outcomes or what we might say in economics, the rules of the game, right? You're rigging the system in some way or another to benefit yourself at the expense of other people. How has this facilitated? In many cases it's through corporate welfare, which is perks, benefits to large corporations, or it's done through regulations. So regulations, which might make it hard. Let's say you're a new entrepreneur and I'm in the industry and I don't want you to be in the industry because it means I have to work harder, so I might go to the state legislature and say, "Hey, I don't want Scott on my turf, so can we make it harder for him to open a business," because I don't really like competition.

So those types of things really get in the way. They distort the market process and they rig the game. The very problem, the reason I talk about this in the same conversation as inequality, is because this is where I think people have a point about inequality, which is that any quality that's born from that rigging the game to protect your own interests is very distortionary and harmful.

One more thing I'll say about that is it disproportionately harms the poor. If you're running a small business and you don't have the access to have lobbyists and million dollar lawyers who can litigate these regulations on your behalf and spend time on Capitol Hill or whatever they're doing, you can't play the game. So the little guys get swamped by the big guys who can afford to do those things.

Scott Rae: So Anne, give me some examples of what you would consider to be corporate welfare in ways that distort market mechanisms.

Anne Bradley: Okay. So there's many of course, but I can think of a couple.

Scott Rae: Can you start with the most egregious ones?

Anne Bradley: Okay. So there's a good example, which is a little bit dated at this point, but Solyndra, which was an energy firm and it received a very large check from the federal government and the state of California, hundreds of millions of dollars. The idea was what? The idea was, We're going to create alternative energy sources, right, so solar power. The federal government was interested in facilitating alternative energy sources, so they assisted this large company.

What Solyndra was telling, especially the state of California, it's going to create a thousand jobs just to create the building, this big plant that we need. And of course the building was built, but at the end of the day, the technology and solar panels was changing so much that Solyndra was being out competed by its rivals. So that cash was really just a hail Mary to stay in business. Of course that story ends with the FBI raiding the offices and the homes of Solyndra executives who then later went to jail. You didn't have a productive business that was creating jobs. You actually had nothing. You had wasted millions of dollars. So that's an example.

Another example that I think helps us understand how this disproportionately harms the poor ... The Institute for Justice is a really important nonprofit that spearheads some of these campaigns. So it's the case of the hair braiders is basically what we call it. This tends to be limited, but not always to African American women. And they braid hair. Sometimes they'll do this in a busy tourist street on the sidewalk, but often they'll do it in their home. They're not using scissors and they're not using chemicals. So there's no kind of claim you can make about public health or public safety.

But what we've seen is across 32 States is that existing salons and hairdressing places, they are going to their state legislatures and lobbying for these hair braiders to have to go to cosmetology school. Now I want you to think about if you're a woman, maybe you're supporting your children in your husband, or maybe you don't have a husband and you're a single mom and you want to braid hair in your basement, it's a way for you to earn income for your family. The whole point is that you just need the skills, a table, a mirror and some Combs. You don't need a lot of capital. I call it micro entrepreneurship.

But if you have to go to cosmetology school, that makes it much harder for you to do this. That's exactly what we've seen in States that have the most hours in some cases, 2200 hours of cosmetology school, which costs thousands and thousands of dollars and they're deciding not to do it, so you've now destroyed an opportunity for people at the bottom of the income distribution. So Institute for Justice is actually taking this up and trying to fight for them, but those are two, I think, egregious examples.

Scott Rae: Okay, good. No, those are both good examples. You write in some of your work about the candle makers petition as an really early example of corporate welfare. What's that example historically?

Anne Bradley: So this is a legend. This is written by a famous economist Basquiat, Frederick Basquiat. And he basically said this is the candlemakers petition to this Congress. If you read the petition, it says, "On behalf of all candlemakers, wax makers, tapers, streetlamps and the people who provide the alcohol and the kerosene and all the things that go into candle making, we would like you to find a way to stop the sun because the sun is our competition."

So obviously you don't need a candle during the day because you have the sun. And so it's silly, right? But the whole idea is that that's exactly ... Why would we want to block the sun? The sun is the closest example to free that we have. It's free energy. It's free light. Why would you want to block free? You'd hurt a lot of people, but you would save the candlemakers.

So he writes this to show the absurdity of these kinds of protectionist claims to protect one industry at the expense of the others. But the lengths that people will go to to try to get those benefits because the benefits are real for a small group of people.

Scott Rae: Yeah. I could see somebody saying that lots of governments around the world help out their industries. Airbus for example, is a good example. So Boeing having to compete against Airbus is a pretty un-level playing field. So if that's happening in other parts of the world, why shouldn't the US also be supporting and subsidizing many of its key industries so that they can compete better or more fairly on a global basis?

Anne Bradley: Yeah, and I agree with you. Other governments around the world including ours, do a lot of things that are bad economic choices, but I think just because one country is making a bad economic choice does not mean that we can or should follow suit. The reason I say that is your point about the level playing field is understandable and well taken. But I'm not even sure it levels the playing field because the problem is that it sets not only a precedent for more cronyism and more kind of petitioning for corporate welfare down the road, but I actually think that it doesn't inject the competition which these industries so desperately need.

So Boeing is certainly a beneficiary of lots of corporate welfare. It's not like Airbus has corporate welfare and they don't. I just looked up the other day, I can't remember what their benefits are from the military industrial complex, but it's in the order of billions.

So it's not like a free market is competing with an unfree market. I think unfree markets are competing against each other. The point is the world would be better off, in terms of the prices that consumers pay for their goods and services and the safety of those goods and services, if we didn't have that because what you're doing in terms of the market process is you're disrupting the quest for profit.

So why economists like the profit mechanism and that maximization of profit is that if you're maximizing profit, you're always trying to be a good steward about the costs. You're trying to lower them while giving consumers what they want, which when you're riding in an airplane, you don't just want good Wifi. You want to get there safely. And of course with these situations with Boeing recently, mistakes were made and those kinds of mistakes can be fatal.

So anyway, I think the point here is that you don't want to go down the road of distorting the market process because I think it does two things: it interrupts the efficiency and safety of what the market would bring, but it also changes the game. So now what we see people doing is they'll make a government plan for their business before they make a business plan because the precedent has been set that you have to play that game to survive. I think it's actually going to be really hard in the US to disentangle ourselves from the cronyism that we're in. I don't have a good answer of how we do that other than raising awareness about it because I think that there's an injustice to it.

Scott Rae: You wonder, how would we disentangle farm subsidies for example, without putting tons of farmers out of business who have become dependent on that. I think it's right to say if it's a problem that they become dependent on that and have not done what they could have done in terms of remaining competitive, but how would you disentangle it without causing a lot of hardship?

Anne Bradley: I think you'll cause some unrest and disruption of course. Anytime you undo a benefit that somebody's used to, that's hard. But I think there's an ethical case that we can make that it's right to do so. This is not 1800 anymore either, right? So I think it's under 3% of the American population is as actually involved in the production of agriculture. It used to be at the 97%, so you would have a disruption. Some people would be harmed. Most people that would be harmed are large corporate farms, so this idea of kind of the mom and pop farmer, it's the exception. It's not the norm of how large scale agriculture is produced. That's mostly local farmer's markets and things like that. I think you could still have those things. I still think it's the right thing to do. But yes, anytime we go in and change the benefits, people will have to sink or swim.

Scott Rae: So let me take that sink or swim one step further. Back 10 years ago when the global banking system nearly froze up, would you have supported the government bailing out the big banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis?

Anne Bradley: I would not have supported that. That's my short answer. My longer answer is that if you look back at the history on this, there's a really good little booklet you can get called, The House That Uncle Sam Built, on this issue, and if you look at the way the government was involved in the loan process, but also in just the encouraging of home ownership at all costs is what led to this demise in the first place. So there were ended up being a very few people on Wall Street that understood the complexities of the system and used that for their own gain at the expense of every one else. So I actually think it's a regulatory ... A failure of the regulations to make what was clear, a lot more opaque and that allows for bad behavior.

If you bail out banks you basically ... it's like a child I have little kids, right? If I never follow through with what I say I'm going to do from a discipline point of view, they don't ever change their behavior. It's my job as a parent to govern them in an appropriate way, in the same way that the market governs behavior. You are going to sink sometimes and I think the big banks could have failed. I think there would have been short term economic consequences and I think the longer term economy would have been just fine.

I think we get absolutely paralyzed with fear about these things and I don't think that fear is always well founded. Is the whole US banking system going to collapse because we let GM fail? No, I don't think so. There's no evidence to suggest that's true, but I think what's more dangerous is bailing out people who behave badly because they go back to the drugs, to use that metaphor right? They just go back.

Scott Rae: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: Anne, one final question.

Anne Bradley: Sure.

Scott Rae: This has been really insightful and I hope our listeners appreciate the the good lesson in economics that they'd gotten from somebody who's also very interested in integrating a Christian worldview to this too. So I appreciate both of those components, but what are you encouraged about, about the spread of prosperity around the world? Tell us a little bit about what gives you hope and what sort of keeps you getting up in the morning to pursue the things you do?

Anne Bradley: Yeah, what a great question. I love this question and I'm a natural optimist, but I'm also an economist who I think I have good reason to be optimistic. If you look at the world over the past 250 years, it's an amazing thing. So for most of human history, people lived around $100 to $400 per person per year and they died very young and they lived very difficult lives. So, just getting a staph infection could kill you, right? Because you don't have antibiotics and the things that we take for granted.

So when I look across the world, what I'm excited about is the chance for the world's poor to get access to that type of prosperity, that prosperity that's mutual is not only exciting, but it's something you could bet on. So world poverty has been cut in half since 1980 and by 2030 we think that global poverty rate will be under 3%.

Scott Rae: Nice.

Anne Bradley: In 1820 it was 95%, so that's your great, great, great grandparents maybe. It's not that long ago. I'm very hopeful for that and I'm hopeful for it, not just because I care about, again, money for its own sake, but I think this allows us to live into who God wants us to be. I think that should give all of us hope because I do believe that what we do here is eternally significant. I'm not a theologian and even the probably the best theologians don't know what that means in terms of, I don't know how this is going to be redeemed in the new heaven and new earth, but I don't think all of the stuff we do every day, the classes we teach, the accounting advice we give, the coaching of little leagues, all this stuff matters. And so we need to be enabled to do it well. And I think the abundance that we can have is God's blessing to us and he wants that for his people. I'm very hopeful that we can get more of that. So I'm excited about the future.

Scott Rae: That's really helpful and what a good note to end this conversation on because it's theologically integrated, it's economically sound and I think it's historically accurate too, to see the progress that's been made over the last couple of hundred years. To hear you forecast that by 2030 that the world's poverty rate might be down in single digits is unbelievably exciting.

Anne Bradley: It is.

Scott Rae: Now, a daunting task to make that happen, but very encouraging stuff.

Anne Bradley: Yeah.

Scott Rae: This has been so helpful, so insightful. We're going to have to have a part two at some point, so we would look forward to that. But Anne, thank you so much for coming on with us. I think our listeners have gotten a really good lesson in economics, but one that's theologically well framed and well-formed. I really appreciate your role as an economist, but also really serious about integrating Christian faith into your discipline.

Anne Bradley: Thank you. It was fun to be here, Scott. Thanks for having me.

Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically, Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Dr. Anne Bradley, and to find more episodes, go to That's by If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend.

Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.