A little too much coffee and Roberts' Rules.


17 January 2021

Ben Friedman on Religion and Economics

by Jon

WSJ posts an "adaptation" of Ben Friedman's new book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Amazon). He argues that, contrary to Max Weber, American economics is tied to mainline optimism about human action:

By Adam Smith’s time, however, Protestant thought had turned away from the idea of predestination. The English and Scottish clergy began to preach instead that men and women are endowed with reason and that human character is inherently good. John Tillotson, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 17th century, argued that far from being predestined to heaven or hell, people can “cooperate” with God in effecting their salvation. As the philosopher John Locke put it in a famous metaphor, people have “the candle of the Lord” by which to see and then act.

... In broader terms as well, our economic thinking reflects its optimistic religious origins. The respect we attach to economic self-improvement as an expression of political liberty; our commitment to economic development on the national and even world scale; our belief that economic progress leads to moral progress too; above all, our trust in competitive markets as a way to harness individual economic energies for the broader good—all of these bedrock principles show that the influence of religious thinking on American capitalism isn’t just historical but ongoing.

You can begin to see how American "woke" capitalism continues this theme. By and large, American capitalism wants social and economic progress to be companions, not competitors, and our latest Great Awokening is no exception.