Religion & Liberty Article Listing

A Splendid Education in Free Market Economics

Faith of Our Fathers
Mary Sennholz, editor
1997, 389 pp. Paper: $19.95

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The Morality of Capitalism
Mark W. Hendrickson, editor...

Religion, Morality, and the Private Property Order

R&L: You have been long involved in the late-twentieth-century revival of the freedom philosophy, especially with your involvement in the Foundation for Economic Education (fee). In addition, you are a Congregationalist minister. Why do you think it is important for ministers to be grounded in sound economic thinking?

Opitz: Ministers today are learned and dedicated men and women. They buy books and subscribe to serious journals, striving to keep abreast of trends that affect religion and the church. They are involved in civic affairs; they are liked and respected, even by those who never go near a church. They are good company and have friends in the other professions, especially businessmen. It therefore would not hurt if they improved their understanding of business...

Liberty and the Good Life

U-Turns may be prohibited on interstate highways, but it became the standard traffic pattern in the Republican Congress elected in 1996. Republicans did not contest President Clinton’s plan to balance the budget. They just wanted to do it earlier. They did not object to Clinton’s tax cuts. They just wanted more of them. Republicans want to help families educate their children. But not as expensively or intrusively as do the Democrats.

The new Republican drift is an inheritance from the last dreadful Presidential campaign. As the 1996 session of Congress drew to a close, the Republicans in Congress capitulated to President Clinton’s threat to shut down the government once more. Instead of cutting expenditures, instead of trimming regulations, the Republicans buckled. They no longer talked of...

Toward a New Liberty

The 1991 papal encyclical Centesimus Annus has been described as prompting a springtime in Christian social teaching because it makes it easier to see freedom, specifically economic freedom, as a moral mandate. The sad truth is that the two traditions that come together in Centesimus Annus–religious orthodoxy and classical liberal social theory–have appeared to be at odds with each other for the better part of three centuries.

Although the classical liberal tradition sprang out of a Christian humanism rooted in the scholastic tradition, some of the classical liberals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while keeping the scholastic’s habit of rigorous social thought, abandoned their high regard for ecclesiastical and social authority. And the Church, during certain...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith es aquel que más que nadie ha explicado qué es el capitalismo. Nació en Kirkaldy, en Escocia, una pequeña ciudad costera cerca de Edimburgo. Smith se formó en la Universidad de Glasgow y en el Ballioll College de Oxford, en Inglaterra. Más tarde,enseñó en Edimburgo y se convirtió en profesor de la Universidad de Glasgow. Poco después, Smith partió para Francia como preceptor del Duque de Buccleugh y allí se reunió con Quesnay, Turgot, y Voltaire. Durante el período francés, Smith comenzó a escribir La Riqueza de las Naciones...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith è colui che più di tutti ha spiegato che cos’è il capitalismo. Nacque a Kirkaldy, in Scozia, una piccola città costiera vicino Edimburgo. Smith si formò all’Università di Glasgow e al Ballioll College di Oxford, in Inghilterra. In seguito insegnò ad Edimburgo e divenne professore all’Università di Glasgow. Poco dopo, Smith partì per la Francia come precettore del Duca di Buccleugh e lì incontrò Quesnay, Turgot e Voltaire. Durante il periodo francese, Smith iniziò a scrivere La ricchezza delle nazioni che concluse dopo il suo ritorno in Scozia...

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is the most well-known expositor of capitalism of all time. He was born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, a small coastal town near Edinburgh. Smith was educated at Glasgow University and Ballioll College in Oxford, England. Later he lectured at Edinburgh and became a professor at Glasgow University. After a time, Smith went to France to tutor the Duke of Buccleugh and met Quesmay, Turgot, and Voltaire. While in France, Smith began to write The Wealth of Nations and continued writing it upon his return to Scotland. This influential work was published in 1776. In 1778 he followed in...


In the last century, every important economist aspired to write a complete treatise on economic thought. The idea was to build up an airtight theory, primarily by use of deductive logic, to explain how people overcome a central human predicament: Material desires always exceed resources, so what system should societies adopt in order to meet limitless needs and become prosperous? Building a theory from the ground up was the means of demonstrating a theory’s validity, allowing the reader to evaluate the merit of each step as the economist takes it.

These days, a systematic treatise such as Capitalism appears, at best, once every couple of generations. The last two on record are Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (1949) and Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State (...

Evangelical Political Activism: Faith and Prudence

The political resurgence of America’s evangelical community raises anew ever-important questions about religion and politics. In The Politics of Reason and Revelation, John West revisits some of those questions: “Does religion have a political role, and if so, what should it be? What are the advantages of religion in politics? What are the dangers? And how can people of faith bring their religious beliefs to bear on public issues without dividing citizens along religious lines and infringing on the liberty of conscience of those who do not share their religious views?” West addresses these questions by examining the American founding and nineteenth-century evangelical activism in a manner that sheds light on contemporary developments.

Recent evangelical political initiatives have been met...

Good Financial Stewardship Part of God's Economy

R&L: As a Christian financial advisor, how do you understand the connection between your faith and the world of economics and finances?

Burkett: I believe there is a direct link between faith and finances. In the New Testament, our Lord gives us, depending on how you count them, around thirty-four parables, two-thirds of which deal with the subject of money. I believe Jesus uses money as teaching tool to illustrate graphically this point: The way we handle financial matters is an indicator of the way we handle spiritual matters.

That is what Jesus meant when he said, “If you are not faithful with the smallest of things, you will not be faithful with larger things either.” Money is just one of those smaller things.


The Reformation Roots of Social Contract

Contrary to much secular thought, the historic emergence of a social contract that guarantees human liberty stems from the seedbed of Geneva’s Reformation. To be sure, a different social contract, the humanist one, had its cradle in the secular thinking of the Enlightenment. The one I refer to as the social covenant (to distinguish) has resisted tyranny, totalitarianism, and authoritarianism with consistent and irrepressible force; the other has led to oppression, large-scale loss of life, and the general diminution of liberty, both economic and personal.

Following is a brief review of five leading tracts from the Reformation period that had wide and enduring political impact in support of liberty: The Right of Magistrates (1574) by Theodore Beza, The Rights of the Crown of Scotland...

Scholastic Economics: Thomistic Value Theory

It has been seventy years since historian Richard Henry Tawney concluded in his Religion and the Rise of Capitalism that, “the true descendant of the doctrines of Aquinas is the labor theory of value.” By this, he appears to mean that Saint Thomas Aquinas’ writings in value theory entail the proposition that the basis of value of an economic good is the amount of human labor expended in producing it. Thus, Tawney adds, “the last of the Schoolmen was Karl Marx.” Tawney was, of course, mistaken.

From Aquinas to Marx

Economics, as understood in the modern sense, occupied a subordinate place in relation to ethics and law in Catholic medieval doctrine. Within this framework, economic value was not regarded as an intrinsic quality but, rather, as the physical, mental, and moral...

Of Markets and Morality

The great mantra of this prevailing culture of self-absorption is tolerance: If only everyone, everywhere, and under all circumstances could only be tolerant, we are assured, what a wonderful and peaceful world it would be. This kind of illiberal faith, this chic toleration, is so intolerant as to assert the truth claims of orthodox Judaism and Christianity. The problem with this arrogance (which always fails to see its own arrogance) is that it presumes that the Jewish and Christian reliance on the use of faith to apprehend some truths diminishes the importance of the mind, and hence, man himself.

This modern, liberal mindset begins by rejecting revelation, but in the course of its intellectual trajectory it must undermine not merely Biblical truth-claims but any claim to know truth. It does so to...

Lyman Beecher

In the early 1800s, Presbyterian divine Lyman Beecher faced a culture in crisis: Alcoholism, poverty, illiteracy, and other social ills were on the rise, and church attendance was in decline. Furthermore, the policy of state-funded, state-established churches was fading. How, then, was the United States-with a republican form of government that requires a virtuous society and a strong private sector-to respond to these challenges?

Lyman Beecher is remembered today primarily through the accomplishments of his children, among whom was abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, and author of ...

Renewing American Compassion

We hardly need another polemic about the failure of America’s “war on poverty.” After decades of bitter wrangling and torpid inaction, there is at last a broad consensus that the welfare system is a cure no less malignant than the disease it was intended to remedy. Liberals and conservatives, politicians and program administrators, social workers and taxpayers have all been forced to acknowledge that the poor are not best served by our current lumbering and impersonal entitlement bureaucracy. They never have been. They never will be. On this, we now all agree.

Thankfully, Marvin Olasky recognizes this remarkable fact and does not belabor the obvious. His book Renewing American Compassion is instead a survey and evaluation of contemporary poverty relief efforts—both privately...