The society honors other moral values

Although truthfulness and not stealing are the two most crucial moral standards with respect to economic productivity, other moral values taught in the Bible also have an important role. Our main examples will be taken from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.

The Bible teaches that children should honor their parents, for it says in the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12), and Paul writes, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). This is economically significant because respectful and obedient children will likely be more successful in school, will develop generally better work habits, and will be more productive throughout their lives. This value also affects future generations, because a stable family structure will be conducive to passing down the values of a culture from one generation to the next. In addition, respect for one’s parents generally will produce respect for governments, laws, teachers, and employers, all benefiting economic productivity.

Honoring one’s parents is a cultural value in which many African, Asian, and Latin American societies are stronger than many wealthy Western societies.

The Bible also says, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Murder is, of course, terribly destructive, for it takes away the productive contribution that the victim could have made to the economy and to other people. In addition, a high murder rate in a society forces people to spend their valuable time and resources protecting themselves against harm. They will be less likely to take risks in business and less confident that they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, even if their businesses succeed. In societies where murder is rampant, entrepreneurs might think that more success makes them more likely to become victims. All of this is detrimental to an economy.

What about laws concerning abortion? The command, “You shall not murder,” when understood in connection with other passages in the Bible (see Gen. 25:22-23; Ex. 21:22-25; Pss. 51:5; 139:13; Luke 1:4144), indicates that the life of an unborn (or pre-born) child should not be taken in an abortion.45 From an economic standpoint, an abortion takes away the economic productivity that the unborn child could have contributed to the nation when he or she grew to adulthood. A high abortion rate can lead to a significant decline in a nation’s population, so that eventually there will not be enough younger workers to support the older, retired people, creating a huge strain on the economy. Western Europe, Japan, Russia, and China will all pay a high price for producing too few children in the last few generations.

Another moral standard found in the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). From an economic standpoint, a society that honors faithfulness in marriage and disapproves of sexual intimacy outside of marriage tends to have more stable marriages and families. Stable marriages, in turn, generally lead to higher educational and economic achievement for children when they grow up.[1] Stable marriages also generally lead to higher economic productivity and stability for the individuals in those marriages.[2] And sexual faithfulness protects against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Honoring sexual purity and faithfulness in marriage is a cultural value in which some poor countries would assess themselves to be stronger than many wealthy Western societies because of the prevalent approval of sexual immorality in the dominant media, entertainment, and educational cultures in many wealthy societies.

The last of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17). In a society that is filled with envy and coveting, people will spend much of their emotional energy seeking ways to take things from other people or resenting what other people have. This is not economically productive. By contrast, in a society that is less covetous, people will spend more of their energies seeking personal economic advancement, with little regard for what other people have. This results in greater economic productivity, because people’s efforts are directed toward improving their own situations rather than destroying the situations of others.

In addition to these moral values taken directly from the Ten Commandments, we mentioned earlier that free markets tend to promote what Harrison calls the “lesser virtues” (see 201-202). These values also should be honored by every society. They have economic value, for as Harrison says: “A job well-done, tidiness, courtesy and punctuality are lubricants of both the economic and politico-social systems. The lesser virtues can translate into hard economic data: punctuality is practiced in all the top 15 countries on the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings.”[3] By contrast, he quotes The Economist as saying, “Punctuality is not a Latin American comparative advantage,” and notes one estimate that “tardiness costs Ecuador upwards of $700 million per year—more than 4 percent of GDP.”[4]

Maranz writes that he has often observed in African cultures “a spirit of just getting by,” which clashes with the importance of courtesy and a job well done:

The spirit of just getting by is quite pervasive. It is in evidence with masons, carpenters, electricians, and other tradesmen who do not come to work with even the basic tools they need to do a job properly. . . . It is largely an attitude of mind. . . . The roadways will often be almost so blocked that two vehicles cannot pass. . . . When a vehicle breaks down, it is often repaired right in the middle of the road or street where it stopped, with other vehicles passing with difficulty. Sometimes traffic is backed up for blocks. No attempt is made even to push the vehicle out of the middle of the street. Repairs on vehicles are minimally done, just enough to get by for a short time rather than make a repair that will last indefinitely. Even educated people typically do not pay attention to punctuation and proper spelling, even when they have had years of university study.

Souvenirs in many tourist markets are poorly made, revealing a lack of pride in fine craftsmanship. . . . Although the examples may be quite insignificant in themselves, they reveal characteristics of the cultures that are deep-seated and significant. . . . Perhaps experience has taught individuals and society that the future is so unsure that the best strategy in life is to seize the advantages of the moment, with little regard for the future. Whatever the reasons may be, society as a whole is the loser.[5]

Any economy that seeks to grow from poverty toward greater prosperity will regularly honor the moral values of respect for parents and

other authorities; protection of and respect for human life; respect for sexual purity and faithfulness; disapproval of coveting; and honoring of the “lesser virtues” of pride in a job well-done, tidiness, courtesy, and punctuality.

  • [1] See Mary Parke, “Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?” Center for Law and Social Policy(May 2003): 1-7, accessed March 17, 2013,; Robert I. Lerman, “Marriage and the Economic Well-Being of Families with Children: AReview of the Literature,” a report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services http://www.urban . org/publications/410541.html; Robert I. Lerman, “How Do Marriage, Cohabitation, andSingle Parenthood Affect the Material Hardships of Families With Children?” a report for the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.urban .org/publications/410539.html; RobertI. Lerman, “Married and Unmarried Parenthood and Economic Well-Being: A Dynamic Analysis of aRecent Cohort,” a report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.; W. Bradford Wilcox, Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions fromthe Social Sciences (New York: Institute for American Values, 2002); Judith S. Wallerstein and SandraBlakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women, & Children a Decade After Divorce (New York: Ticknor & Fields[Houghton Mifflin], 1989), 148-49; 156-57.
  • [2] See Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Casefor Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier,and Better Off Financially (New York: Doubleday, 2000), cited in Jeffley H. Larson, “The Verdict on Cohabitation vs. Marriage,” Marriage and Families, January 2001, aspx. See also the extensive data on the economic benefits of stable marriages cited in Grudem, Politics, 224-26.
  • [3] Harrison, Central Liberal Truth, 42.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Maranz, African Friends, 183-84.
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