No Free Lunch: Economics for a Fallen World: Third Edition, Revised

Chapter Eighteen: The “macro” view of the economy 444 WHO’S RIGHT? 1 Chronicles 21:1-8 (NASB) ¹Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. ²So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number.” ³Joab said, “May the Lord add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” ⁴Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. ⁵Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword. ⁶But he did not number Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab. ⁷God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel. ⁸David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” So what’s wrong with a little census? Not included in the scripture above is God’s response— a choice of three different (and severe) punishments. To answer this question we have to ask, “why would David need a census at all?” The answer may lie in the report of the census, expressed in terms of “men who drew the sword.” King David’s question of the census is totally prudent from the perspective of a military commander who needs to determine the strength of his forces. But in the case of Israel, their strength was never in the number of their people, as God clearly said in Deuteronomy 7:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” It was the hand of the Lord that defeated the Egyptians. How many times did God remind the Israelites that He was the God who “brought them out of Egypt?” In essence, David’s action was a lack of trust in God and seeking to have a way to control Israel’s fate without relying solely on God. We see a similar fault in macroeconomic theory. Rather than asking for a census (which we do also), we collect statistics on numerous economics variables to allow economic policymakers to control the economy. We are not content to trust in the market but rather try to do better with economic technocrats. As with David, our efforts to control the economy often don’t meet with our expectations. In this chapter, we will examine macroeconomic data and analytical tools used to control our economy.