These are pretty sharp reminders to Conservative Christians on the value of the bling that surrounds us. Please note that the conclusions apply no matter how much of that bling you, the poor or the rich have, need or want!
From Conservatives Are Often Materialistic, Too:
Progressives are not the only ones building arguments on the faulty foundation of materialism. Scrambling for a rebuttal to Occupy Wall Street and the Left’s focus on inequality, many right-of-center economists have fallen in love with data on economic consumption. This chorus, which includes some impressive conservative thinkers, argues that being poor is not as bad as liberals intimate because poor people have lots of cool stuff.
In a representative op-ed from 2013, economists Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry purport to debunk the myth of middle-class stagnation using consumption data. “While income inequality might be rising when measured in dollars,” they write, “it is falling when reckoned in what’s most important—our ability to consume.” Those last seven words are telling. The authors insist that the “food, appliances, clothing and cars” available to low-income people make inequality a moot point. A 2011 Heritage Foundation report offered the same general conclusion, as its title makes painfully obvious: “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” Plenty of other sharp economists, such as Scott Sumner, echo the point. These conservatives agree that consumption data deserve more attention than they receive.
As a matter of technical economics, they may well be right. But anyone who has glanced at the happiness literature—or interacted with real humans—can attest that high-quality possessions are no substitute for the deeply empowering sense that we are earning our own way. That we are adding value to the world around us. That we have the opportunity to climb as high as our ambitions and talents can take us. No matter what the consumption data show, trends in mobility and relative inequality will always have significant purchase on the human psyche. Any conservative wonks who think otherwise are only fooling themselves.
Both Left and Right owe America better than the false premise of materialism. Common sense, ancient wisdom, and modern research all converge to tell us that a thousand things are more important to people than the contents of our homes and our bank accounts. We should celebrate this fact. People are not money-crazed automatons. Politicians and pundits should stop talking as if we were.
From What Every Christian Should Know About Income Inequality:
As followers of Christ we must champion economic policies and principles that are rooted in biblical virtues and beneficial to the flourishing of our fellow man. To do that we must refocus on what matters and stop becoming distracted by envy-driven concerns that some people are earning more money than we are.
Envy and Relatavism mix far too well!