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Who is Art Carden?

If the name “Art Carden” sounds familiar, you may be one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have watched his Learn Liberty videos produced by the Institute for Humane Studies on YouTube. In addition to his YouTube habit, Dr. Art Carden is an assistant professor of economics at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., a research fellow with the Independent Institute, a senior fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a regular contributor to Forbes.com and Mises.org. Dr. Carden’s videos are popular for the same reason why he is a highly sought-after lecturer around the country, which is because he brings a signature quirkiness and incredible clarity to the often complicated questions of economics. Here is a great example:  One might expect that such success and self-promotion would be what drives Dr. Carden, but when I recently sat down with him over a cup of coffee he said that what drives him is his Christian love for the poor:
I want to see poor people made richer. A lot of ways that people go about doing that are wrong. I want to move people past simply meaning well, get them past thinking of benevolence only as hand-outs … We need to get meaningfully involved in other people’s lives.
Dr. Carden casually uses economic terminology when discussing questions of faith. He wants to know how, in light of F.A. Hayek’s knowledge problem, we can truly know what good deeds are. He says that when we do what we think are good deeds, we are signaling to other people and to God that we are good people. And he argues that many of the attempts people make at good deeds have negative externalities and unintended consequences. There is a great fallacy, he believes, to which most Christians have succumb, in thinking that they can solve the problems of poverty and unfairness in our fallen world. In his many efforts, he says the single most important lesson he wants his students to learn and people to take away from his lectures, videos and articles, is that “there are no solutions, only trade-offs.” A couple of books that Dr. Carden recommends reading are Generous Justice by Tim Keller and When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.