George Graham

The Curse of Economic Ignorance

The Bible thumping zealots who dedicate their lives to fighting progress should read their Bibles once in a while. They might come across the Parable of the Talents. I’m sure you know the story that Jesus told his disciples. It goes something like this:

A wealthy man is going on a trip and before he leaves he distributes some money to his three servants. One gets five talents, the other two and the third one. (A talent was a sum of money equal to about a day’s work.)

When the rich man came home, he found the first servant had doubled his five talents through investment, and the second had also doubled his two talents. But the third was apparently an austerity economist. He buried his one talent in the ground for safekeeping.

The rich man was so mad at the servant who buried his money that he took back the one talent and gave it to the servant who had doubled his five talents.

I know, we are told that Jesus was talking about the abilities with which humans are endowed, not actual cash. But the parable works with money, too.

Inflation is constantly with us, and money that’s sitting idle gradually evaporates over time. Just to maintain its value, it must be invested.

Of course investment implies risk. But if you bury your money, you’re sure to lose; if you invest it, you might win.

And burying the nation’s wealth is what the Republican boneheads in Congress are trying to do.

A healthy economic system is dependent on growth. As the economy expands and more people go to work, the government’s tax revenue increases, facilitating further investment that fuels further employment . And this brings in more tax revenue. It’s a cycle of prosperity.

With austerity, the opposite happens. A shrinking economy brings in less tax revenue, which causes further shrinkage. It’s a vicious cycle that leads inexorably to disaster.

Naturally, as the servants in the parable could have found out, investment means risk. Buy shares in some harebrained scheme and you will certainly lose. The key to success is knowing where to invest. Ask Warren Buffet.

Sadly, elected representatives don’t always have the interests of their country at heart. Some of them are not interested in growing the economy. They use their positions to divert tax money to their pals and supporters – and to enrich themselves.

But that doesn’t mean all government spending is wasteful.

Who can deny the wisdom of repairing America’s tottering bridges and crumbling roads? Who can argue against developing “green” energy? Who would insist that education is wasteful? Who would starve the kids who could become tomorrow’s taxpayers or entrepreneurs? And who would fight so desperately to block implementation of a system that would ensure a healthy and productive labor force?

You know who, of course.


About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for