« Back to Results

Explorations in Christian Thought and Economic Analysis

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Hilton Atlanta, 224
Hosted By: Association of Christian Economists
  • Chair: Andrew M. Yuengert, Catholic University of America

Catholic Social Thought and the Definition of Progress

Mary Hirschfeld
Villanova University


Pope John Paul II argues that progress is desirable, but cautions that progress should be understood as advancement in “being” rather than advancement in “having”. In this paper I explore the Pope’s distinction and discuss how the normative orientation of economic policy making would change if we adopted the pope’s definition of progress.

Regression Analysis and Human Dependence

Catherine Pakaluk
Catholic University of America


What does it mean if we learn that the well-being of children depends upon the behaviors or choices of parents in a simple (or sophisticated) empirical study? What does it mean if we learn that the labor market hours of married women depends upon the behaviors or choices of their husbands? This paper aims to trace out the relation between these kinds of 'structural' dependences observed in social science (typically drawn from simple and complex regression analysis) and normative considerations about liberation and human flourishing. This paper is part of an ongoing investigation into the tension between freedom and dependence, particularly as it relates to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the project of contemporary social science.

The Problem of Virtue in Economics

Andrew M. Yuengert
Catholic University of America


Catholic Social Teaching regularly points out the incompleteness of the economic account of the person. A discussion of the virtues as described in the Neo-Aristotelian tradition highlights potential normative defects in positive economic models. Abstract models of decision making and value abstract away from the personal, first-person nature of human choice, which must integrate the pursuit of ends and the evaluation of means, and grapple with irreducible and unformalizable uncertainty. Because economic models cannot include these aspects of decision making, they cannot evaluate the importance of the virtues which address contingency and synthesize facts, contingency, and morals into a clear decision. This does not render economic analysis useless, but it does suggest that its incorporation into normative projects requires more than a specification of policy ends.

Economic (Christian) Humanism

Gordon Menzies
University of Technology Sydney


Critics of rational choice theory have come from all sides, with constructive conservatives drawing on pre-modern ideas such as virtue ethics (Finnis) or the ancient patterns of biology and society (Vernon Smith). Christian thinkers additionally draw on the past via biblical texts, and stand against all that is fallen in humanity - what we call radical conservatism (Stott), since the conserving applies to the revealed image of God, rather than the past per se. Applied to economics, what we call ‘Economic Humanism’ (1) adopts a view of human nature which includes biblical doctrines of creation, fall, redemption and consummation; (2) applies Christian conceptions of the person (C. Stephen Evans) to economics (Hay), rather than asserts that human flourishing can be described using a single utility metric (Bentham and Layard), and that people can be described entirely by their actions (Skinner); (3) affirms Trinitarian-based society, rather than society entirely conceived as bargaining and markets; and (4) asserts money is a means of gift and a potential idol, in addition to its standard economic meaning. In this paper we discuss this nascent framework and give some modelling examples of its application.
Aurélien Philippot
Laval University
Jaselyn Taubel
University of Illinois-Chicago
Doug Norton
Florida State University
Clara Jace
George Mason University
JEL Classifications
  • B4 - Economic Methodology
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches