December 18, 2005

Evangelical Economics

I ran across an interesting weblog post the other day that eventually pointed me to an essay entitled Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain that modern economic theories were too Christian. Too secular, too rational, too unloving, too selfish—but never too Christian. Yet, that’s precisely what this author does.

He also makes some interesting assertions along the way. For the sake of argument, I’ll assume that the historical examples that he cites are true. (Does anyone with more knowledge in this area than I care to comment on them?) Interestingly, however, despite using the apparently “Christian” roots of economic theory as his primary justification for his ideas, his primary argument seems to boil down to this:

What is entirely missing from the economic view of modern life is an understanding of the social world.

I’m trying to unravel what entirely he means by this statement.

He first explains his assertion by saying that “in reality even our purely ‘economic’ choices are not made on the basis of pure autonomous selfhood; all of our choices are born out of layers of experience in contact with other people.” That’s an argument for an economist, not for me. That doesn’t really seem to be his point, however. He goes on to dig into businessmen, evangelical Christians, and even mathematics—blaming them for grasping economic theory in a stranglehold that has caused the biggest socio-economic problem this world has: the poor.

They are interesting arguments. I’m not schooled enough in either economics or history to know how much merit they really hold. I certainly think that his scoffing at Christian caricatures is shallow at best—although probably a good time for Christians to see how much we, individually and as the Church Herself, resemble what he describes.

Any other thoughts?

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