The acorn has the potential to cover the earth in wood. A million dollars has the potential to end world hunger. A construction company has the potential to house all those that are homeless. We have the potential to incredible feats of good.
But you need the right soil—the right institutions. (Sure, I guess you need an undamaged acorn, but work with me here.)
Similar to the acorn, economic growth (assuming this is a good thing) requires the right soil. What good is a cash injection or a top notch construction company if the institutions are laden with unnecessary regulations, perverse incentives, and instability?
Planners often scratch their head when the foreign aid aimed at developing economies fail to reach the desired outcomes of sustainable economic growth. They fall back onto the default rationale: it just wasn’t enough money. More money, more personnel, more resources are necessary to achieve the desired outcome. However, more of anything might produce more output, but will it produce the desired outcomes? For example, will providing students with more computers achieve higher levels of learning? Will it enable students to have a better quality of life, higher lifetime earnings, and a more fulfilling life? From the looks of it, not really.
In developing countries, massive investments into education have increased enrollment in school, provided students with more resources, and shaped up the buildings. But, “good” teachers are not around and the technology sits around gathering dust as it takes more to run a computer than just electricity. Network infrastructure, updates, and troubleshooting knowledge is needed to successfully use the high-tech equipment being dropped off in these underserved regions.
Perhaps, we can do more by doing less?
If foreign aid were to suddenly stop, sure it would shake up these economies that have become dependent on these cash injections. But, through time, I would venture to say that these economies would adapt and find ways to till their institutions in a way that will allow for more growth. Tilling the institutions would require reforming trade policies, the political arena, financial practices, human rights, labor and migration regulations. This isn’t done by doing more, but by putting the institutions to the test by doing less.
Similar to the acorn, our own personal growth as humans, also requires the right soil. We constantly ask God to guide us down the right path, but due to how flooded with “things to do” we have on our calendars, we often cannot move. What good is it to ask for guidance if we don’t act on that guidance?
In today’s world, we are inundated with things to do, things to buy, and things to believe. There is always a new product being released, either an updated cell phone, computer, or car. By simply scrolling down a social media newsfeed, we are able to experience a plethora of “facts” and opinions, constantly daring our minds to choose which to believe.
We take on more jobs or tasks with the hopes of being able to acquire one or a combination of money, happiness, and meaning in our lives.
We figure with more output we will have better outcomes.
Minimalists have figured this out. The way to real freedom is to get rid of all the “stuff” that cloud our ability to capitalize on our true priorities. The problem of today has a lot to do with the meaning we assign to what we own, often forsaking our health, relationships, passions, growth, and the desire to contribute beyond ourselves.
By doing less, we can do more.
Pastor Adrian Rogers said, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Being busy, owning a lot of stuff, and doing more will keep us off track from exploiting our true meaning and purpose in life.
By doing less we can till the soil of our own institutions that can help us flourish into what we were put on this Earth to do. We can focus and hang on to what is permanent, sustainable. We can find our desired outcomes.
There are some interesting parallels here, yea?