Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

"What should the role of the U.S. federal government be, internationally, with regard to justice for the poor?"

Peter Greer, Paul Chaplin


January 28, 2011

At its best, the US government exists to provide an environment enabling all individuals to truly flourish.  A significant part of this flourishing requires the prioritization of conditions necessary for wealth creation, including the rule of law, property rights, free trade, and rewarding hard work and appropriate risk taking.  As we think critically about how the US federal government can seek solutions to alleviate poverty globally, I believe the maximum impact would result from emphasizing these same elements.

This approach would seek to go beyond handouts; it would focus on enabling and empowering individuals—partnering with the poor and promoting entrepreneurship—as the best way to see sustainable change.  Instead of promoting a cycle of dependency on foreign aid, it would seek to build trading partners where creative growth is unleashed.

By endorsing and promoting the tools necessary for economic growth, we will find solutions building the basis for stable families and educated communities.  By encouraging creative freedom, we enable the poor to succeed.  This is the greatest way for the US government to alleviate significant global poverty and become a catalyst for a just, thriving society.

—Peter Greer is president of Hope International.

Christians concerned about justice for the poor worldwide should first ask their governments to reframe their international outlook away from language of “national interests” towards that of the flourishing of humanity. In the same way that parents have special responsibility for their own children, governments have special concern for their own residents; but in the same way that families should not only ensure their own safety and comfort while those in their community struggle, nations should consider the good life of those in brother and sister countries as their concern, too.

Second, Christians in wealthy countries should not let their governments forget or obscure the historic and ongoing injustices and oppressions that have variously caused or contributed to poverty around the world. In prosperous church communities we often bristle at the language of indebtedness, but we delude ourselves if we believe that all we have is that which we have earned for ourselves. Is all of what we enjoy stolen? Certainly not. But Scripture reminds us that everything on earth is from God. However we articulate this in national politics, we should promote an attitude to dealing with poverty that sees contribution (or, as will also be the case, correction) not as charity, but as responsibility.

—Paul Chaplin is a recent graduate of Calvin College, Michigan, currently living and working in Cambridge, England.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”