Religion & Liberty Article Listing

Three New Testament Roots of Economic Liberty

We do not often think that Jesus Christ and the New Testament justifies capitalism. To the extent that capitalism means greed and self-indulgence, I should think not! Greed and self-indulgence are root human sins and will be manifested in any economic system

But if you think of capitalism as economic liberty, then there are several New Testament passages that argue in favor of it. I want to explore three passages that bring out foundational issues regarding the nature of economic justice and demonstrate a biblical sympathy with liberty and the market.

Stones into Bread

“The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread’” (Luke 4:3).

The Son of God certainly had the power to...

The Bishops' Big Economic Tent

To the joy of Catholics who support capitalist institutions, the U.S. Bishops have at long last applied the principle of ecumenism to economic issues. The vehicle is a short ten-point “Catholic Framework for Economic Life,” passed unanimously at this year’s meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. It comes ten years after “Economic Justice for All” the Bishops’ controversial pastoral letter that disappointed so many businesspeople.

The new document departs from years of confusion, in which the Bishops appeared to side only with the left on economics. The statement is broader in its approach and more consistent with the Bishops’ primary realm of competency: moral instruction. It is much sounder from an economic perspective, allowing ample room for holding the business economy...

William Ewart Gladstone

William Ewart Gladstone, British statesman and prime minister, was perhaps the most eminent of eminent Victorians. During his studies at Oxford he felt strongly drawn to the ministry, and had his father not insisted he enter the political arena, Gladstone would have sought a lifelong position as a church leader. He instead entered Parliament in 1832, but always felt that his political career was second best to a church vocation.

Gladstone's profound piety, manifest in his daily study of the Bible and regular church attendance, was central to his approach to politics. Over the course of his career, he came to...

Gentility Recalled

With crime and illegitimacy soaring, and cities often resembling Hobbes’s state of nature, where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” our policy wonks are hoping that national service, tax credits, etc. will manipulate us into coexisting decently again.

But social order depends far more on attitudes and conduct than on legislation. Gentility Recalled lucidly and thoughtfully explores the enormous role of manners in creating a decent, orderly society and shows that, indeed, it’s the little things that count.

As editor Digby Anderson observes, “It is only when one starts to recall the various sophisticated aspects of manners, the essential tasks they perform, and the millions of tiny incidents that make up that performance, that one...

In Praise of the Heroic Entrepreneur

Over the last fifty years, the dogma of “corporate social responsibility” has become the favorite tool of American liberals to cajole and shame the owners and managers of corporations into adopting major features of their liberal social agenda. John Hood has written this book to attack this dogma and defend the moral way in which the vast majority of American businesses are run.

One assumption behind the liberal dogma is the alleged conflict between a corporation’s commitment to profit-seeking for its shareholders and what liberals view as the business world’s propensity to overlook or reject important ethical and social responsibilities. Liberals seem to believe that the people who own and manage corporations will do almost anything to make a profit, including destroying the environment,...

Economics Raises Profoundly Moral Questions

R&L: You are a professor of economics and a Christian. How do you understand the relationship between your faith and your field of study?

Loury: I am also a teacher, so I see the interaction between my faith and my work as a professor manifest itself not only in my scholarly research and writing, but also in the conduct of my daily affairs in the classroom. So if I can cast your question somewhat more broadly, this is an issue about the nature of my relationships in my university and in my classroom and the sensibility that I bring to the issue of the stewardship of those responsibilities, which are very powerful in the lives of the young people who are looking up to me for intellectual and moral guidance.

R&L: Would you say...

C.S. Lewis and Materialism

“You say the materialist universe is ‘ugly,’” wrote C. S. Lewis to a young skeptic in 1950. “…If you are really a product of the materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there?”

Nearly half-a-century later, Lewis’s question still resonates. Modern society continues to operate largely on the materialistic premises of such thinkers as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud. Yet few today feel at home in the materialist universe where God does not exist, where ideas do not matter, and where every human behavior is reduced to non-rational causes.

C. S. Lewis spent much of his life debunking the sterility of materialist thinking; and his insights are as relevant now as when they were first offered, because our culture remains...

The Church and the Market

At a conference given in Vienna in 1985, Friedrich von Hayek stated that the moral systems and institutions as “Guardians of Tradition” had a decisive influence in the formation of the “extended order” which is characterized by the market. In his last book, The Fatal Conceit, he wrote an important sentence full of controversy: The survival of our civilization “may rest on the question of how people conceive the relation between the moral traditions and a personal God.”

I do not want to comment on that statement, but I would like to concentrate on the question which underlies the statements of Friedrich von Hayek: How do religions and churches interpret the essential institutions of our modern society–in our case the market–and what can they contribute to its function? It is obvious...

Tugging the Entrepreneur Homeward

During the holiday season, business people are routinely excoriated for being greedy and not doing enough for society. In the model of Scrooge before his conversion, they are said to be selfish when they should be looking out for others. Yet in my pastoral experience, I have found this to be untrue. For several years, I have conducted seminars for entrepreneurs, some of whom run America’s largest companies, to help them reconcile their faith with their business life. And what I have learned about these people belies the stereotype.

Consistently successful business people are not self-consumed. In fact, their personal attention, and indeed the whole of their lives, tends to be oriented toward the service of others. Successful entrepreneurs are acutely, and often excessively, interested in the...

Rose Wilder Lane

A pesar de que provenía de modestos comienzos como innovadora, la escritora y periodista Rose Wilder Lane alcanzó la prominencia al final de la Segunda Guerra Mundial como una firme defensora de la libertad. Lane es mejor conocida por su libro The Discovery of Freedom ("El Descubrimiento de la Libertad"), publicado en 1943, que traza una historia del desarrollo de la libertad en los seis mil años desde sus orígenes arraigados en la tradición judeo-cristiana hasta la edad contemporánea. A pesar de que posteriormente llegaría a despreciar su libro – pensaba de haberlo escrito...

Rose Wilder Lane

Sebbene venisse da esordi in sordina e pionieristici, l’autrice e giornalista Rose Wilder Lane salì alle luci della ribalta solo a ridosso della II Guerra Mondiale come strenua sostenitrice della libertà. Sicuramente é meglio nota per il suo libro The Discovery of Freedom (“La scoperta della libertà”), pubblicato nel 1943, che traccia una storia dello sviluppo della libertà nell’arco di seimila anni, dalle sue origini che affondano nella tradizione giudaico-cristiana fino all’età contemporanea. Sebbene in seguito giungerà anche a disprezzare il suo libro - pensava di averlo scritto troppo frettolosamente - quest’ultimo...

Rose Wilder Lane

Although she came from humble, pioneer beginnings, author and journalist Rose Wider Lane came to prominence at the close of World War II as a staunch defender of freedom. Lane is best known for her book The Discovery of Freedom, published in 1943, which traces the six-thousand year development of freedom from its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition to the present day. Though Lane later came to dislike the book-she thought it too hastily written-it became an underground classic and one of the foundational documents of the modern libertarian movement. She is less...

The Pope's Divisions

The collapse of Communism as a world ideological force occasions not only a thorough reassessment of many of the economic and political presuppositions which were fundamental to the post-World War II world, but also a reevaluation of many of the historical interpretations founded on these same presuppositions and widespread during the same period. In fact, one of the major criticisms of the caste of professional historians and political scientists in the United States is their failure as a group, with a few notable exceptions, to take measure of the ideological stakes in both the World War and the ensuing Cold War. Rather, they introduced–or passively allowed to be introduced–Marxist-Leninist interpretations into the contemporary discourse. Moreover, the conditions of conflict made it all the easier to circulate various...

Christianity, Classical Liberalism are Liberty's Foundations

R&L: Explain the difference between classical liberalism and modern liberalism.

Liggio: Modern liberals have tried to steal the cloak of classical liberalism. Classical liberalism was the dominant philosophy in the United States and England, really, until about the First World War. The war, unfortunately, was a disaster for liberalism, because it disrupted constitutional order. All the countries at war used extreme measures of repression. Even England and America created police states on the model of Germany or their Czarist allies and trampled liberty underfoot. At the same time, they trampled economic liberty by allocating resources through central planning, again modeled on the German desperation as they were cut off by the wartime blockade. In fact, Lenin viewed the...

To Reduce Wealth or Poverty?

This essay–originally printed in Swedish in 1994–was prompted by the 1993 pastoral letter, “On the Rich and the Poor,” from the bishops of the Church of Sweden, formerly the established church. The following was written as a letter in reply, not to attack the bishops or the church, but to clarify what has been distorted by some of the bishops’ formulations.

The bishops’ pastoral letter was given considerable attention in Sweden when it was published, as was this reply. It appears here in English for the first time. The first half appeared last issue; the second half appears this issue.

Man was given freedom and ate of the fruit of knowledge. Only one who is free can do right and wrong. This capacity to will is what separates mankind from the...