Strangers with Candy: Observations from the Ordinary Business of Life
Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Ironically, a lot of the things we do to help people actually harm them, and a lot of the things we do without much thought to their global ramifications actually feed, clothe, and shelter the world. Economics studies people’s choices and their unintended consequences, and Strangers with Candy collects dozens of articles in which an economist in early middle age explains and reflects on those unintended consequences. In its pages, we learn that there are no meaningful limits to economic progress, office workers around the world get paid in money and drugs, prohibitionists should eat more Grape-Nuts if they want people to drink less beer, and people who want to help the poor should be working to repeal minimum wages, not raise them.
Economics is everywhere, and its implications are subtle and beautiful. The world’s population has gotten much larger, richer, and healthier since the world started embracing freedom and free markets. There is no reason to think it won’t continue, and if we embrace the economic way of thinking we can understand when we should and shouldn’t worry. Should we worry about preserving the institutions of a free and prosperous society? Yes. Should we worry about “overpopulation”? No.
Readers will learn how Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” directs our concern for our own interest toward others’ interests, and they will see how economists don’t need to make any unrealistic assumptions about selfishness or virtue for their simple principles to have a lot of explanatory power. Economists know that there is a big gap between meaning to help people and actually helping people. More Christians need to learn this, and Strangers With Candy modestly (?) tries to teach them by exploring and testifying to the glory of God as it manifests itself in the social world as well as in the heavens.
Clear economic analysis, vivid examples, and sober biblical reflection inspire the essays that make up Strangers With Candy. The book offers a fresh perspective on what we can do to welcome the stranger, or at least help him. It also helps readers understand why we can trust him.