The World Bank concluded that most of the world’s wealth concentrated in the wealthy nations is in ‘social capital” such as ‘intangible capital’ like ‘trust” and education.

The World Bank concluded that most of the world’s wealth concentrated in the wealthy nations is in ‘social capital” such as ‘intangible capital’ like ‘trust” and education. Included in this category are a very efficient judicial system, very clear property rights, effective government, human capital and skills obtainable through education, and intangible capital like degree of trust among people in a society and their ability to work together for common purpose. Having these enables a country to have higher total wealth. Effective governance includes rule of law and control of corruption, regulatory effectiveness, political stability and absence of violence, and voice and accountability.

The variable most prominent in this analysis , the one central to global conferences and treaties today is ‘rule of law’ meaning the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions which govern their interactions which captures particularly well some of the features of a country’s social capital. The correlation between generalized trust and rule of law is high.[1]

In the recent, definitive study of national wealth the authors identified economic systems as responsible for national wealth but specified that they will exist only if preceded by political systems creating the conditions for accumulating wealth. They then identify social “institutions” necessary for the formation of such political conditions. They assume these institutions without explaining their origins! These institutions are necessary, exist in only the developed nations, yet assumed rather than explained how they came to be in some but not other countries. [2]

Francis Fukuyama explains the origin of these crucial ‘institutions.’ Spontaneous sociability that allows strangers to work together with what economists label low “transaction costs.” Institutions like contract and commercial law are necessary preconditions for the emergence of a modern industrial economy.

Trust reduces the ‘transaction costs’ of these economic exchanges increasing their efficiency by permitting cooperation among unrelated individuals. This economic term needs an example. Imagine how efficient it is for retail stores to leave their merchandise exposed for the taking without patting down customers when they leave in order to prevent shoplifting. They can simply ‘trust’ most customers to not steal. Imagine the ‘transaction costs’ if entry and exist in Wal-Mart were similar to airport security procedures! These ethical habits cannot be taken for granted. This trust didn’t occur by spontaneous conception! Advanced economies were able to develop because they had healthy endowments of social capital and spontaneous sociability..[3]

Ancient Israel

The astonishing truth about social capital , the necessary but not sufficient set of social preconditions of development of nations was present in ancient Israel 3500 years ago! As Israel escaped from Egypt God gave them a remarkable promise, “ If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to the commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.” [Ex.15:26]

`In fact, Israel was given numerous public sanitation measures to observe for then unknown reasons. They were ordered to obey the Ten Commandments which alone account for preconditions of honest and efficient commerce. Burying their excrement “outside the camp” saved them from multiple diseases carried by flies and polluted water. [Deut.23:12] Circumcision saved Jewish women from cervical and uterine cancer. Fidelity in marriage avoided STD’s—the ancient scourge of mankind. Hand washing rituals prescribed for those handling dead bodies avoided puerperal fever that killed so many women in child birth.[Numbers 19] It was the early 1840’s before Ignaz Semmelweis discovered this scientific truth. [Had the germ theory of disease underlying these commands been understood during the Civil War, one-half the deaths from dirty surgery could have been avoided.] The Jewish people were healthier for unknown scientific reasons not discovered for another 3,000 years![4]

In Jesus’s time Caesar allowed the local Sanhedrin to handle municipal government and law. [“Justice in the gate” was local elders assembling at the city gates each day to handle legal matters.] Equality before God rationalized democracy. As long as the Jews did not attempt to revolt they enjoyed and incorporated aspects of renowned Roman laws which were then passed on through the early Christian church to the West. Jews enjoyed secure real property rights—something few Chinese and Russians enjoy even now.

If you look at a globe and identify the most advanced nations of the world, you will observe that they flow west from Israel through Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and to Japan from the U.S. Yes, that was due to political and economic systems possible because of the existence of the ‘institutions” or social capital..”

Our source ultimately derived from Israel’s foundational covenant, “ I will make you into a great nation, and you will be a blessing to all peoples on earth who will be blessed through you.” [Gen.:12:1-3 History is witness to how Israel through Christianity blessed individuals spiritually and nations economically and politically.

[1] Where is the Wealth of Nations?, World Bank: 2006, xviii, Ch.7.

[2] Acemoglu, Daron, James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, NY: Crown, 2012,78.

[3] Fukuyama, Francis, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, NY: Free Press, 1995; p10,150-1.

[4] McMillen, S.I., M.D., None of these Diseases, Charlotte: Commission Press, 1963.