On Brian Griffiths, Mrs. Thatchers Christian Economic Advisor
April 1992By Charles K. Wilber & Laura M. Grimes
Charles K. Wilber is Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. Laura M. Grimes is a doctoral student in Theology at the University of Notre Dame. The first part of this series, on Gary North, appeared in our previous issue. The last part, on Michael Novak, will appear in our next issue.
Brian Griffiths has been Dean of the City University Business School in London, a director of the Bank of England, and personal economic adviser to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In The Creation of Wealth, he addresses a mainline Protestant audience. He recognizes that many Christians have criticized free market capitalism, and attempts to show its superiority to other forms of economic organization on economic, theological, and moral grounds. Griffiths grants that free market capitalism is not without its problems, and that it does not stem directly from Christian principles. But he does argue that it is compatible with Scripture and Christian theology, and attempts to provide a rationale for a distinctively Christian capitalism.
Griffiths states that the central purpose of economic activity is wealth creation, which is due to resources and the efficiency with which they are used. Resources include the traditional ones of land/ natural resources, labor, and capital. But Griffiths argues that capital should be viewed in the broad sense, as the accumulated knowledge and talent of a societys people and not just as machinery and physical equipment. To create wealth from resources, people have to work and plan. They must delay present consumption and immediate gratification in order to increase their human capital and future earning power. The possibility of future profit is the motivation for the suffering and work involved in the process; therefore, the profit motive is necessary for wealth creation.
Griffiths then gives his view of the history of wealth creation in the West over the past several centuries. He argues that the dramatic increase in prosperity since the Industrial Revolution is due more to the increasingly efficient use of resources than to the discovery of new resources themselves, that market economies have been more efficient in wealth creation than state planned economies, and that Protestant Christianity has made significant contributions to the rapid industrialization of the West in the past two centuries.
This historical analysis leads Griffiths to specify four important factors in wealth creation. The first is ownership. He argues that private ownership of property is an incentive to productivity because it provides motivation for hard work and the investment of resources.
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