Not that anybody reads this blog, but I felt like coming back to it because I had a lot of things I needed to get off my chest and stored somewhere else. So I'm putting those things here.
I felt moved to talk about so-called progressive Christians, even though this is largely a political/economic blog. They come in a variety of flavors. Many of them are downright heretical. These are your Shelby Spongs and others who merely dispense with whatever part of God's Word they do not like. Many others strive to maintain Biblical integrity while fostering intimate alliances with secular political movements that are inherently anti-Biblical.
So-called conservative Christians aren't perfect. But this post isn't about them.
What I'm getting at is that for the more serious leftist Christians who are pro-life, try to stay Biblically integral, etc., but happen to favor leftist politics and leftist means, I have a really hard time taking them seriously. I'm not questioning their faith, but I mean taking them seriously as the agents for good they think they are.
In the first place, if you are serious about minimizing poverty, your first step is to educate yourself on how affluent people and affluent countries achieved their affluence, and then try to make the rest of the impoverished world mimic those institutions and habits that brought about the affluence in the first place. Which means that you would be in favor of continuous maximized economic growth. While there is room for debate over particulars (especially as regards social services i.e. welfare state programs) in broad terms this means you are in favor of:
1) unfettered free trade between nations (not "fair" trade)
2) as little regulation as possible over the economy
3) no price floors or price ceilings, no monkeying around with the price system at all
4) sound monetary policy
5) maintaining law and order
6) maximizing market competition, minimizing government central planning
You don't have to take my word for it, you just have to ask reality. What's the track record of central planning, or interferences with free trade? The track record is crap. I'll save you the time of looking at the data, but feel free.
I see a lot of progressive Christians rooting for various schemes which undermine economic growth, foster dependency rather than stimulate productivity, and focus on wealth redistribution rather than wealth creation. That "fair trade" coffee you buy may have put some extra money in some impoverished African farmer's pocket, but you deprived his neighbor of a living by making the price for coffee artificially high and thus the demand artificially lower than it would be, which means his neighbor's supply of coffee goes unbought. Fair trade is like unionization: great for those few who actually get to participate, very bad for those who don't. It's econ 101, by keeping the price at higher-than-market levels, you stimulate oversupply, but since you are keeping the price high rather than allowing it to fluctuate with supply and demand, there is a surplus of coffee. This result's in many farmers having to sell their coffee to non-fair-trade buyers at a *lower* price than they otherwise would. Distorting the price system is never a good thing, except to the well-connected special interests.
It doesn't take a graduate degree to learn about this, all it takes is the curiosity and the drive to understand how an economy works so that we can alleviate poverty. It's the reason I studied economics in the first place. But too many progressive Christians blindly swallow the leftist line about fair trade rather than listening to what hundreds of years of economic thought has to say about truly free trade.
The other big issue is that progressive Christians mistake the Biblical call for charity as a mandate for a welfare state. Not at all. There is nothing charitable about the government spending other peoples' money. Charity is when I make a choice to give. Taxes aren't a choice, they are coerced from the tax-payers. Regardless of what you may think about the welfare state, do not blatantly misinterpret the Bible as an excuse. Do not say that more welfare spending is required because the Bible says so, because it doesn't say so. Defend or attack welfare on its own merits (or lack of).