It is an error of the highest order to assume morality has nothing to do with economics. The stewardship of resources, seemingly spiritually devoid things like monetary policy, and the economic indicator called inflation are directly tied to our moral decisions as a nation and as individuals. For those of religious faith, as many here in North Carolina are, economics are also a frequent, if not oft-ignored, subject of the biblical testaments.

Indeed, the 10h commandment — perhaps the most misunderstood of the Decalogue — is not a prohibition against a behavior like the rest. Instead, “Thou shalt not covet” is a command to check an attitude that leads to harmful consequences for self and society — the fallen human proclivity to envy the possessions of another. One could say the appeal of socialism is largely due to envy and the desire to make ours what we haven’t worked to earn.

Covetousness is a sin of the heart that gets at the motivation for entertaining the violation of the other nine. It is this “look under the hood” warning that was inherent to Jesus’ famous formula used in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43).

But what doth Galilee have to do with Jackson Hole? No disrespect intended towards Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve, but the connection is significant. Alfred Kahn, once President Carter’s “anti-inflation czar,” acknowledged:

“Inflation is a symptom and a reflection of a society that is, in some degree, in a state of dissolution — one in which the social limitations, the bounds that an orderly society has to accept, in large measure voluntarily, on individual action, are in the process of weakening.”

This observation by Carter’s inflation expert was not merely an attempt to justify the administration’s austere outlook (though such a conclusion seems logical). In his book “The History of Interest Rates” (1977), Sidney Homer evokes sentiments that transcend the book’s tedious title. Herbert Schlossberg made these concepts more accessible:

“The cultural level of a nation correlates inversely with its interest rates. The higher the moral and intellectual strength, the lower the interest rate and the greater the financial strength.”

Surprising summation from an economist and former CIA analyst? I would say, “No.” That economics depends on morality is clear for those who have eyes to see.

When we study economics and inflation, specifically, we come to realize that an observable virus of envy appears to infect people before any hint of monetary disasters. Whether pre-Revolutionary France or the Western nations’ obsession with leisure and pleasure (Exhibit A: “The Taylor Swift effect,” or Exhibit B: The “NIL mess” that threatens college football), centralized powers print more money to feed the greed. Schlossberg again: “All true needs are satiable. Illegitimate wants — pride, envy, greed — are insatiable.”

In North Carolina, we’ve been wise to build an economy based on real goods and services, to limit unnecessary spending and handouts from the government, and to plan for the future by storing away surpluses in Rainy-Day Funds. But the dollar we use for our everyday purposes is tied to a wider culture that is increasingly viewing money in immoral ways, believing their prosperity is owed to them, which fosters ingratitude and demands for entitlements, especially of the “insatiable” variety.

Central powers then attempt to satisfy these demands from depleted resources, resorting to tricks like “monetizing the debt.” This deceptive practice involves printing more dollars — or creating digital currency — to cover the interest on incurred debt, perpetuating a corrupting cycle.

However, without a return to a more moral approach to money, based in biblical principles, this unsustainable game will end. If only the consequences were as benign as bankruptcy. Yet, history shows otherwise. Better to pay heed to the ancient warning against societal decline driven by covetousness:

“You have planted much, and harvested little;

You eat, but never have enough;

You drink, but never have your fill;

And he who earns wages,

Does so to put them into a purse with holes” (Haggai 1:6 NKJV).

The crux of the matter extends beyond discussions of inflation, the World Bank, and intricate monetary policies designed to prolong the inevitable. It boils down to every individual’s fundamental choice: “Will you serve God or mammon?” A shift towards gratitude could starve the greed that is demanding the insatiable and unlock an economic dynamism rooted in contentment. After all, it’s not merely play money.