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This is where I will be next week. Never been to Grand Rapids, MI before.
Posted by Peter Boettke on June 09, 2012 at 03:41 PM | Permalink
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You'll enjoy Grand Rapids, Pete, it's a nice city!
Anne Leeson |
June 09, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I was an attendee a few years ago. It was great fun. I attended a lecture of Jeff Tucker before I knew who he was.
Troy Camplin |
June 09, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I don't know about Acton, but GR is a good town. It was one of the few places in Michigan that did relatively well economically in the last decade.
Kevin L |
June 09, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I realize this may be beside the point. Nevertheless, I often wonder what religion has to do with economics. True, everyone, including the religious, should learn some economics before they start "pontificating" on economic policy. But Jesus's message was an individual message, not a social policy. I agree with Frank Knight that there is no social gospel that has anything to do with what Christ or St. Paul taught. This should be the message to Christians.
But the idea that there is some relationship between economics and religion is a perversion, in part invented by the popes.
The social gospel is just an accommodation to the prejudices of the day -- an effort to make the Church relevant. They need this because almost no one cares what the Church thinks about such metaphysical issues like the Trinity, trans-substantiation, purgatory and the like.
I believe that some one should make this case to the Acton crowd. They need to hear it.
Mario Rizzo |
June 10, 2012 at 08:30 PM
It seems to me the only way one can say there is no social gospel is if you already believe that commands to individuals are separate from commands to individuals to act collectively.
This is indeed the assumption of many people, so it's no wonder that you might say this. But I think you have more work to do to demonstrate that that was Christ or Paul's assumption.
Daniel Kuehn |
June 11, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Frank Knight discusses this in greater detail. But if you are talking about conscious assumptions, social democratic welfare states were totally beyond their world-views. But a hint is given by the early Christians who practiced a communism of consumption goods in voluntary communities. (This is all the more interesting in a world where the distribution of wealth was often based on conquest, theft and slavery. They did not speak of expropriation.)
Mario Rizzo |
June 11, 2012 at 08:58 AM
In general, I argree with you. But when arguing about the institutional foundations of a market order, religous presumptions have often been present.
For instance, the Ten Commandments say don't kill, don't steal, and don't bear false witness (lie, cheat, defraud).
Historically, this has served as an important rationale for many to NOT endorse a "social gosple" of redistribution and political paternalism.
Perhaps it would be better to distinguish between "economics" (a formal, logical, "value-free" discipline) and "political economy" (concerned with the social and political order in which market activities occur, and is an area in which matters of ethical and philosophical and "religious" rationales besides utilitarian ones enter the realm of discussion and debate).
Richard Ebeling |
June 11, 2012 at 09:54 AM
It is true that Hayek's rules of just conduct parallel many of the Ten Commandments. All I would say is that the social gospel goes beyond that and even violates that. Now while we might talk about Christianity's New Covenant, it never sought to annul the Ten Commandments. So we are in agreement on this point.
I would simply argue that teaching religious people good economics is not inherently different from teaching non-religious people good economics. There may be useful differences in presentation and tone. But I would offer a prediction: The characteristics of a good economy, for better of worse, will not differ systematically as between religious and non-religious people.
Mario Rizzo |
June 11, 2012 at 10:37 AM
That is the point. That is what Acton is all about. They believe that good intentions are not enough -- one also has to do the right things to accomplish one's goals. Well, even the religious need to know what actions to take to accomplish their goals, meaning they need to know some praxeology. Also, keep in mind that nature abhors a vacuum. If one does not fill Catholic thought with Austrian economics, it will get filled by some other form -- say, Marxism (as in liberation theology).
The fact of the matter is that part of Christian theology is taking care of the poor. That should require more than just alms for the poor. It should also encompass understanding good economics to understand how to create a civil society that does in fact take good care of the poor -- by making the poor rich.
Troy Camplin |
June 11, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Often religious believers are persuaded that their faith and its doctrines are inconsistent with free markets and limited government.
That a concern for others requires a "activist" government to implement the "good works" their faith considers necessary.
I am not religious, but I consider it important in a country like the United States where so many do identify themselves as "believers" that they have an opportunity to understand that free market liberalism is not inconsistent with their faith.
Indeed, that it can be argued that it is the political-economic system most consistent with the pursuit of their faith as matters of individual conscience and moral responsibility.
And can be an avenue for the success of the "good works" and concerns for others that their conscience calls them to far better than through the coercive powers (and misuses and abuses) of political paternalism.
Richard Ebeling |
June 11, 2012 at 01:38 PM
As usual I agree completely with Richard Ebeling. When Mario says that the religious and non-religious should be taught good economics just the same, I doubt anyone would disagree.
However as Jim Buchanan likes to say, markets function, but only within a system of good rules. This is why political economy and sociology are vital companions to value free economics.
In order for genuine trade to occur which is uncoerced and mutually benefical to the traders, it must be done within a system of rules and institutions that 1) allow us to predict the behaviors of others, and 2)occur within a system of legal protections.
The Christian ethic, especially of a particular strand running through St. Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism, but interestingly likewise embraced by many 16th century Calvinists (carefully read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian religion to gain an appreciation for the intellectual strand running from the scholastics), historically provided such a system where the benefits of trade under the division of labour could be recognized in a way not experienced throughout most of larger world. As my teenage son and I have been discussing, this first seems to have arisen in earlier times under stoic philosphy in ancient Greece, and in places embraced by the Romans. 1st Century Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity occur within this broad strand of Greek thought.
Even Austrians draw a intellectual connection to Max Weber and his The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism. Consider the institutions that allowed a modern economy to crop up first in the Dutch Republic, then in the British Isles, then in Puritan New England.
Perhaps this is a coincidence, but it does not seem out of bounds for intellectuals operating under a western and distinctively Christian worldview to ponder why the modern market economy emerged largely in a caldron of Christian religion, and occured uniquely in the world only under these institutions.
K Sralla |
June 11, 2012 at 03:21 PM
The social gospel is a relatively recent doctrine invented to by the Church to oppose classical liberalism. Pius IX included liberalism as one of the errors of the modern world in his Syllabus of Errors. I say again that the social gospels of the past 150 years have no relationship to the ethics of individual conduct in the teachings of Christ and of Moses. Christianity is an religion of individual, not collective, salvation.
Knight argues that the Church has usually made its peace with whatever the dominant social institutions were. The Roman Empire both before and after Constantine, feudalism, and the divine right of kings (so long as they knelt before Rome). The Church initially opposed democracy and religious toleration until it was forced upon them.
All I am saying is that, regardless of what people think, the doctrines of Jesus have no bearing on the institutional structure of society. Jesus's disciples thought his return was imminent. The world would be transformed. Scarcity would be gone and so forth.
The principles of a good society are due to liberalism, not Christianity or the Catholic Church. The Church fought liberalism every step of the way. Jesus, however, did not fight liberalism. He was concerned about individual salvation.
Now it may be the case that following the ethics of Moses or Christ might have good social consequences. But clearly they would not always have good consequences if applied to the behavior of government -- eg, forcing people to keep the Sabbath.
Mario Rizzo |
June 11, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I find myself drawn into a discussion and expressing a point-of-view that is one that normally is not of much relevancy to me, personally. That is, Christian doctrine and faith.
First, it is very clear that one of the most important contributions of Judaism to the "Western tradition" of freedom was the emphasis on a "higher authority" from whom all laws come, and to which even lowest "commoners" could have recourse from the abuses of earthly kings and princes. Since even they were answerable to that higher law given to man by that higher authority.
This has been an important (historical) root to that philosophy that argued so eloquently in the 17th and 18th centuries that man has certain "natural rights" that precede government. Indeed, this is part of the foundation of the American principles of liberty.
As for Christianity, it is in the New Testament that we see the break from the Old Testament idea of a "Chosen People" who may share collective guilt and reward.
Jesus comes as the savior of all men, as INDIVIDUALS. The sins of the father do not fall upon the son. Each person must personally accept (or not) salvation as a matter of individual conscience. And no human authority can claim the right to interfere with this most intimate of matters -- the human soul.
Hence, there arises an important philosophical root to respect for freedom of conscience and freedom of choice by an act of free well.
Nowhere in the Gospels does the story run like the following:
Jesus says to someone, "Follow me."
That person replies: "Well, Jesus, what your offering is really tempting, but this evening my buddies and I are going to go out drinking, gambling, and there are those 'ladies of the evening' above the tavern. So, sorry, Jesus the flesh is 'weak.'"
Jesus turns to his disciples and commands, "Arrest him. Five to ten in the 'big house' for not following me."
Acceptance or rejection of salvation and "eternal life" is a matter of free, voluntary choice. Here we have another important (historical) root for the political-philosophical idea of the sanctity and dignity of the individual's freedom of choice and action.
In your comments, Mario, all your examples relate to the actions, corruptions, and power-lusting of the men of institutional Christianity (especially though not exclusively the Catholic Church). Not the fundamental ideas derivable from the Gospels, themselves.
And, again, I point out that I say this from my readings of the history of the West, and as someone who is not religious and has no theological axe to grind.
Richard Ebeling |
June 11, 2012 at 07:33 PM
First of all, the very discussion we are having I think demonstrates that questions which arise regarding the role of Christianity and liberalism deserve scholarly exploration. In that sense, I think your last very thoughtful comment disproves your own thesis in your first few comments.
It seems that Richard Ebeling and I are generally in violent agreement with you regarding your analysis of the social gospel, and how it parts from an emphasis on individual conscience and salvation clearly stressed by the writers of the New Testament.
However, I think you paint Christendom with too broad a brush. The Roman Catholic tradition was very large, with many schools of thought represented by different groups and monastical orders within the church. Some of these tended to be quite hostile to liberalism, while I think it could be argued that others fostered liberal ideas within their own ranks.
But to some extent I am confused by your comments, since the evidence you sight at first glance appears somewhat inconsistent with your conclusions (you state: "Jesus, however, did not fight liberalism. He was concerned about individual salvation","Christianity is an religion of individual, not collective, salvation")
You concede above that Jesus (and in earlier comments perhaps St. Paul)teach a type of individual responsibility before God which was radical in their own day.
As I interpret your remarks, they may be tantamount to an admission that indeed these men were types of ancient liberals.
FWIW, much mainstream NT research now consider both Jesus and St. Paul radical theological liberals of first Century Judaism (they did not kill these guys because they were conservatives towing the standard line), and perhaps part of a broader Hellenistic line of Cynics and Stoics.
The question then becomes whether certain historical schools of thought within Christendom applied the theological liberalism of the New Testament primary characters beyond the Church. Who were these thinkers, and what influence did they have on the development of liberalism and ultimately the use of economic science? How is this thought woven into the primary institutions of the West?
Maybe we will disagree with the interpretation of the evidence, but it seems to me worth some deep exploration if for no other reason than to dispell myths.
K Sralla |
June 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
(they did not kill these guys because they were conservatives towing the standard line),
I do not mean to imply anything in the comment about who was responsible for the death of Jesus and Paul. Insert your favorite Roman tyrant for "they" and the point is still the same.
It sounded a lot like I meant to blame this on Judaism, but that was not my intent.
K Sralla |
June 12, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Loathe as I am to challenge my friend Richard on the history of ideas, especially on religion, I think he strongly overstates the "collectivism" of Judaism. The notion of a Chosen People should not wipe out the very Jewish idea that one's relationship with God is as an individual. More important: it is in Judaism that we find the emphasis on one's *actions* not one's faith. God is more concerned about what people do as opposed to what they say or belief.
The Jewish God is not interested in cheap talk.
I think there is much more liberalism in the Jewish tradition than Richard implies here.
Steve Horwitz |
June 13, 2012 at 08:07 AM
Hmmm. I am reluctant, in turn, to challenge or disagree with Steve on these matters.
So let me first say that I agree, in general, with him about the relationship between the individual and God in the Jewish faith.
But . . . nonetheless the God of the Old Testament is not everyone's God. He is the Hebrew people's God, selected by God for a "special relationship" with Him compared to other people's.
After all, when the time had past during which the Hebrews had wondered in the desert for disobeying God (and by the way, everyone wonders for all that time, not just the one's who had worshiped the graven image), they are now allowed to enter into the "promised land."
But to claim this territorial gift from God the Hebrews must drive out or kill all those who had been living there before. In more modern times this would probably go under the term, "ethnic cleansing." And the Hebrew God would probably be hunted down and put on trial at the Hague for ordering and/or condoning "crimes against humanity."
This is the type of "collectivism" which I meant in my earlier post when referring to the Old Testament. And, besides, there are all those rules ("regulations") about don't eat this, don't eat that; cook your food this way, don't cook it that way, etc.
Mayor Bloomberg seems to be taking a few pages out the Old Testament as inspiration for his recent proposals and restrictions on people's eating and drinking preferences in New York City!! After all, politicians often seem to suffer from the delusion that they are "like gods."
Richard Ebeling |
June 13, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Fair enough Richard.
Consider, though, that the purpose of those rules was not simply to do what God says but rather to serve functional roles in ensuring a good society. Now the OT may be *wrong* about whether those rules were necessary and proper, but they were not to be obeyed for the sake of obedience. That's what "tikkun olam" (repair the world) means in the Jewish tradition: find the things that don't fit and correct them to make the rules better. The Jewish tradition allowed the learned to challenge God and revisit those rules if they didn't actually function well.
Seems to me that's a lot more liberal, in our sense, than the idea that rules are there just to please God, or that the people are helpless to develop their own. (RIP, Lin, eh?)
(Couple of atheist/agnostic Jews debating religion...)
Steve Horwitz |
June 14, 2012 at 09:11 AM
Oy, here I am. Because what this debate about religion and economics really needs is an agnostic Jewish Unitarian with a literature degree, right?
I think Richard is very right to note the extremely problematic nature, for classical liberals/ libertarians, of the covenant between God and the Jews--not so much as convenant qua covenant (after all, it's a private contract) but in the way it requires that slaughter and driving out of those who are not within the covenant. It is chilling to be faced with passages like this from Psalm 137, for example:
"Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks."
That said, within the covenant there is considerable space for the individual relationship with God that Steve has noted. And that individual relationship is often used to moderate the harshness of what it means to be outside the covenant. Abraham, after all, trucks barters and exchanges with God in order to save the people of Sodom. And many have argued that Noah is damned with faint praise when he is called "a righteous man within his generation" as a way of contrasting his unarguing acceptance of the destruction of humanity with Abraham's far more righteous protestations.
God also is capable of showing mercy to people other than his chosen people when he feels like it. In the book of Jonah, after all, he changes his mind about flattening the city of Nineveh (in which are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also many cattle).
It seems to me, at least, that the OT is the story of a large covenant that allows these tricky personal relationships with the divine to function and to fluctuate. And it seems, as well, that the covenant is tested, retested, and renegotiated almost from the moment it is made.
The rules oriented nature of the OT...I'll leave that for after I've had more tea.
Sarah Skwire |
June 14, 2012 at 09:36 AM
One follow up on Sarah's comment:
One of the more interesting things Jews are reminded of at Passover is the story of the Egyptians being drowned in the Red Sea. When the waters took the Egyptians, the fleeing Jews began to celebrate. God immediately castigates them for celebrating the death of their enemies. God says to them "they are my people too."
If God really were the vengeful SOB that is often connected with critical views of the OT, why would the authors make a point of God scolding the Jews for celebrating the (necessary, perhaps, but still regretful) death of the Egyptians? The Pharoah et al were bad guys, but even their deaths are not to be "celebrated." That this is important enough to be part of the condensed Exodus story we read at Passover probably says something. For certain, the OT is a lot more complex, as Sarah suggests, than the lightning-bolt wielding God who goes around killing babies.
And as I commented about the rather gross celebrations when bin Laden was killed, the American public could learn a thing or two from the OT God as well.
Steve Horwitz |
June 14, 2012 at 09:43 AM
One more, while I'm in the mood...
The God of the OT also praises and rewards Jews who resist earthly tyrannies by recognizing that God's law is above earthly politics. (Again, we might disagree with the content of God's law, but the notion that there is something above politics to which owe moral allegiance is an important part of the liberal tradition.) One of my favorite examples of this is the story of the midwives Shifrah and Puah who ignore Pharoah's command to kill the first-born male Jews. It is another story often told at Passover.
A good account of these two women, acknowledged as two of the first spiritual resisters to tyranny, can be found here: http://www.torah.org/learning/women/class45.html#
Steve Horwitz |
June 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Following on those observations about God's law and its distinction from earthly politics, of course, is one of the most debated political passages in the OT, where the Jews ask God to give them a King so they can "be like other nations." God explicitly characterizes that request as a rejection of him. And the prophet Samuel tells them that, "This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day."
On that, I have two comments.
1) While I cannot think of a clearer OT distinction between divine law and political law, this passage has often been used as support for divine right theory of monarchy.
2) A TENTH? We should be so lucky.
Sarah Skwire |
June 14, 2012 at 10:18 AM
FWIW, I agree with Steve H.
If convenant theology is a problem for Judaism, it is also a problem for historical Protestant Christianity of the Reformed variety, since they took "covenant theology" straight from Moses and the Prophets and applied it as the systematic theology of the NT. The Puritan theologians were fixated on a "chosen people". At the heart of Presbyterianism is conventant theology.
K Sralla |
June 14, 2012 at 04:59 PM
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Paul Heyne, Peter Boettke, David Prychitko: Economic Way of Thinking, The (12th Edition)
Steven Horwitz: Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective
Boettke & Aligica: Challenging Institutional Analysis and Development: The Bloomington School
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Peter T. Leeson: The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
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Philippe Lacoude and Frederic Sautet (Eds.): Action ou Taxation
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