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Christians, Economics, and Public Choice
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024
2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (CST)
Association of Christian Economists
“Economics is What Economists Do:” Why Developing an Index from Statutory Law Requires Economic Science
Abstract: Statistical index projects are proliferating, covering a broader swath of topics and employing various methodological approaches, some more scholarly than others. High-quality indexes with the most clearly economic subject matter, for example, about economic freedom or the ease of starting businesses within a regulatory framework, seem most obviously to require the insights of economic thinking and professional economists. Even when an index aims to measure something that is not economic, per se-were one to define economics as the study of human action within systems of exchange-the systematic approaches of positive economics are still invaluable. A new index measuring the statutory safeguards of religious liberty codified in US states makes extensive use of economic methodology to translate the language of states’ laws into quantitative data that is appropriate for aggregation. Religious Liberty in the States, in its 2022 and 2023 editions, contributes both to a data-informed understanding of interstate variation in liberty-enhancing provisions and, this paper argues, to an appreciation for the economic way of doing as “what economists do” and do well.
Godly Economics: Public Theology for an Age of Innovism
One can be a serious Christian, favoring for all a turn towards God, and at the same time, without serious contradiction, a serious economic liberal, favoring for all an equality of permission under law. That is, one can be serious all round, advocating both for the divinity of Jesus and for the liberty of commerce. One can reject Satan in all his ever-popular forms, and yet also reject coerced collectivism in most of its own ever-popular forms. Christianity can entail obedience to a modest state pursuing a few reasonable public purposes. But it does not approve of top-down, all-wise, infantilizing governance by masterful humans of your economic or spiritual or any other life. And economic and political liberalism can contribute mightily to our Christianity. God’s economy does not undermine God’s will.
The Comparative Endurance of Religion: A Public Choice Approach
Throughout most of the 20th century, mainstream political economy has focused on the market-state dichotomy in the discussion social welfare; market failure frequently gives rise to coercive government proposals (e.g., Pigouvian taxes, subsidies) to fix misallocations. In recent decades, however, more attention has been paid to the role of community self-governance thanks to the work of Elinor Ostrom and scholars investigating how social norms govern society. Interestingly, the role of religious institutions has often been overlooked in these discussions despite the fact that classical liberal and mainline economic thinkers such as Adam Smith (see Book V of Wealth of Nations) and Alexis de Tocqueville saw them as essential components of a well-functioning society. Extending my work on religious endurance (Gill 2021), currently a book project, I argue that religious institutions offer a flexible form of social governance that enhance market transactions and overcome the unintended consequences of government, partially solving Buchanan’s “paradox of government” (1975). Running parallel to government, religious self-governance is a critical component of flourishing societies. Allowing for religious freedom is critically important for the smooth functioning of markets. Historical and contemporary evidence is pulled from Protestant evangelicalism, Mormonism, Islam, and underground churches in China.
University of Washington
Edd S. Noell
Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
Z1 - Cultural Economics; Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology