On the Right we like to think that President Obama is dragging down the economy with uncertainty. By threatening more spending and more regulation, our story goes, he has frozen capital and stymied entrepeneurship. Put in a President (ours) and a party (ours) that is predictable in not making the business and tax environment worse, and, boom, instant economic sunshine. I think Amity Schlaes, The Forgotten Man, originated the story. As a loyal son of the Right, I, of course, accept that uncertainty about tax increases and regulation increases retards the economy. However . . .
It occurs to me that Americans are constitutionally tempted to believe that freedom, peace, and prosperity are natural states. Repression and recession are directly caused by bad people implementing bad policies. Removethe people, reverse the policies, and the good times roll again. Incidentally, liberals’ shiny utopianism is one manifestation of this American trait and is the best proof that much as we might like to deny it, they are as authentic American types as we.
Now, we should never be too sophisticated to think that sometimes bad things happen for straightforward reasons that can be easily fixed. No doubt regulatory and tax uncertainty is responsible for some healthy part of the economy’s doldrum.
But underneath the ephemera of administrations move vast social and economic forces that no one quite caused and no one can quite control. Our debt mounts above the sky because of deep fixtures of our political structures. Regulation and litigation increase automatically without leadership from the top. No one quite knows how to fix this. American family structure isn’t what it once was. No one knows how to fix that either. Finally, there is demography, the life of nations, and the secret history of economies. Our birth rates keep dropping, as they are doing around the world. No one, let alone a conservative, should expect that the a Tea Party wave in the 2012 election would fix things sure as shooting. Put not Your Trust in Princes, the scripture says, and maybe we should believe it. The rise and fall of nations is ultimately in God’s hands.
That homily delivered, lets back up to the original insight that uncertainty about what the future holds can freeze up investment and entrepeneurship. Its no revelation that economies work best when there is a stable economic order. Yet in the gospel uncertainty seems to be a desirable thing. Faith, after all, is pretty much a virtue that can *only* exist where there is uncertainty, right?
Perhaps not. Faith is not action in the face of uncertainty. That’s existentialism. Faith is certainty in the face of apparent uncertainty. Faith is stepping into the uncertain dark knowing that God will shut the mouth of the pit that opens against you.
Uncertainty seems desirable in the gospel in another sense, though. In uncertain economic times, people turn to God. We know this from both experience and from scripture. So should we be in favor of economic turmoil? Well, no. Trying to blow up the economy to help religion is a species of doing evil that good may result. Trials will come, and are probably necessary, but woe unto him by whom they come.