We believe that the pressing moral, theological, and economic questions of our time warrant deep exploration. This show features interviews with thoughtful scholars working at this intersection. The podcast is produced by the Association of Christian Economists. It is hosted by Steven McMullen, Associate Professor of Economics at Hope College and Editor of the journal Faith & Economics. Find out more at christianeconomists.org.
This episode features a conversation with Rob Tatum, an economist that has been doing some interesting writing about theology and economic policy. The paper we discuss in some detail here recently came out in the new Journal of Economics, Theology and Religion. The title of the article is “To What Ends for Theology-Oriented Economic Policymaking.” The article is available for free on the journal website, and I encourage you to check out the article, and the whole inaugural issue of the journal, which is excellent.
What is great about this paper is that it dives into an important but difficult area of interdisciplinary work. That is, Tatum uses the historical Social Gospel movement to examine how eschatology can influence the kinds of goals we aim for in economic policy. Eschatology has to do with the “end times” but also with the more general direction that history is heading. While theologians often make connections between eschatology and ethics, most of us who are not theologians or bible-scholars get scared off by debates about pre-millenial vs. post-millenial theologies, and leave eschatology alone.
You might not agree with the overall perspective that Rob brings to the topic, but he wants to take scripture seriously, and he does a nice job thinking about a difficult topic.
Rob current holds the Cary Caperton Owen Chair in Economics and is Professor of Economics at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He has published research on international trade, teaching, economic development, and, as we discuss here, a series of papers on theology and economics.
Rob Tatum’s University Profile (https://www.unca.edu/person/robert-tatum-ph-d)
“A Theology of Economic Reform” Faith & Economics, 2017. (http://christianeconomists.org/2017/08/02/a-theology-of-economic-reform-tatum/)
“To What Ends for Theology-Oriented Economic Policymaking.” (https://j-etr.org/2020/12/14/to-what-ends-for-theology-oriented-economic-policymaking/)
On January 9th, the American Enterprise Institute’s Initiative on Faith and Public Life hosted their annual retreat for faculty. This year the theme was a question: "What would a truly humane economy look like in the United States?" The retreat was cosponsored with the Association of Christian Economists.
There were some great conversations over the day, some of which will show up as papers in the forthcoming issue of Faith & Economics. The session shared here had the title: "The Promise and Limits of Economics." The panel consisted of three top interdisciplinary Christian scholars: Mary Hirschfeld, Samuel Gregg, and William Cavanaugh.
Over the course of this conversation, we talk primarily about the way economists think, and not as much about the content of economics. It is important to be mindful of those blind spots that we have because of our background and training. We are all trained to think in particular categories, and ask a certain set of questions. Talking to theologians and philosophers, as well as studying history, can help us think critically about those things that we, sometimes inappropriately take for granted, and it helps us think more carefully about even the things we are sure about. The same, of course, is also true in reverse: philosophers and theologians have much to gain from conversation with economists. The conversation covers a lot of ground quickly, as you might expect with such a broad topic. These kinds of events serve us best as opportunities to spur thinking, and to start an inquiry, rather than as a final word on a topic. I hope you will find this to be true here.
American Enterprise Institute’s Initiative on Faith & Public Life (https://faithandpubliclife.com/)
In this final episode of 2020, we decided to do a retrospective episode about the best recently published books we had read this year. I am joined by Jamin Hübner, a friend, scholar, and voracious reader who has regularly writes book reviews for Faith & Economics. Over the course of our conversation, we take turns recommending books and talking about the big ideas in them. We cover over a dozen books in the hour, and all the titles are available here in the show notes.
I wanted to have this conversation with Jamin for a number of reasons, one of which is that he is an accomplished book reviewer. Despite his young age, he has written over 70 published book reviews. Perhaps more importantly, he comes from a different ideological position than I do, and reads different books. You will see in our conversation, sometimes he sounds like a libertarian and sometimes he sounds like a socialist, and his book choices reflect his decision to research socialism and historic social democratic movements.
Jamin’s background is interesting too. He has graduate degrees in Religion, Theology and applied economics, he has written multiple books, and has been, among other things, a professor of Christian studies, business, and economics, and the founding editor of the Christian Libertarian Review. Today he is a Research Fellow at the Center for Faith and Human Flourishing at LCC international university and is teaching at the University of the People and at Western Dakota Technical Institute.
Our list of books was too long to include all the links. A list with Amazon links can be found here. (http://christianeconomists.org/2020/12/31/end-of-the-year-book-recommendations-with-jamin-hubner/)
Mary Hirschfeld, Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy
Ezra Klein, Why We're Polarized
T.M. Scanlon, Why Does Inequality Matter?
Michael Tanner, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor
Heather Boushey, Unbound: How Inequality Constricts our Economy and What we Can Do about It
Jonathan Rothwell, Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society
David Smith, Kara Sevensma, Marjorie Terpstra and Steven McMullen, Digital Life Together: The Challenge of Technology for Christian Schools
Brandon Sanderson, The Stormlight Archives
Nomi Prins, Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World
Yanis Varoufakis, Talking to My Daughter About the Economy, or, How Capitalism Works and How it Fails
Jeremy Courtney, Love Anyway: An Invitation Beyond a World that’s Scary as Hell
Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard, The Making of a Democratic Economy
Gary Dorrien, Social Democracy in the Making: Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism
Richard Wolff, Understanding Socialism
Joseph Blasi et. al., The Citizen's Share: Reducing Inequality in the 21st Century
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
John Restakis, Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital
This episode features a lecture given by economist and historian Edd Noell titled “Smith and the Scholastic Tradition on Markets and Their Moral Rationale.” This lecture was part of a session on new thinking about Adam Smith jointly sponsored by the Association of Christian Economists and the History of Economics Society at the ASSA meetings almost a year ago in San Diego.
Economists are not often great at studying our own history, and when we are, we too often give Every thinker before the 1700’s only a brief mention before jumping straight to the classical economists. When we think this way, it is easy to imagine that everything Adam Smith wrote was totally original, or that we should read him only in the context of those that came after. In this lecture, Noell walks through a number of different ways in which Adam Smith’s writing fit into the moral philosophy of his time, building on the conversations that had been ongoing among the scholastics for many years. If you are interested in the connections between Christian moral philosophy and the work of Adam Smith, this is a great lecture to listen to.
Edd Noell is a professor of economics at Westmont College who specializes in the history of economic thought, labor market regulation, and Christian thought about economics. He is also the current president of ACE.
Here is an older paper by Noell, published in the History of Political Economy on a related topic. (https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-38-1-151)
Reckoning with Markets: Moral Reflection in Economics by Edd Noell and James Halteman (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/reckoning-with-markets-9780199763702)
Remember to check out the ACE sessions at the upcoming online ASSA meetings. (http://christianeconomists.org/2020/08/29/ace-sessions-at-the-assa-meetings-online/)
This week we have a recording of a lecture delivered at the 2020 ASSA meetings in San Diego. At that conference, the association of Christian economists sponsored two sessions, and the one I will highlight here was a series of talks on Adam Smith and religion. The session was co-sponsored by the History of Economics Society. In this episode, I will share the lecture by Paul Oslington about Adam Smith’s writing about the economics of religion.
Oslington argues that while Smith did not formulate a comprehensive theory of the economics of religion, that if you gather his writing about the state church, religious competition, clergy pay, and related topics, a surprisingly sophisticated account emerges. For those of you who are interested in Adam Smith’s thinking, or in the economics of religion, this short talk will be intriguing.
Paul Oslington is a longtime member of the Association of Christian Economics, is a member of the editorial board for Faith & Economics, and is an important name for those working at the intersection of economics and theology. He is currently Dean of Business and professor of economics at Alphacrucis College in Sydney Australia.
This lecture comes out of a chapter that was written for the Routledge Handbook of Economic Theology. (https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Economic-Theology/Schwarzkopf/p/book/9781138288850)
An early draft of this chapter can be found here. (http://christianeconomists.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Oslington-Smith-Economics-of-the-Church-ASSA-2020.pdf)
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations provides an economic analysis of the provision of religious education and aspects of the church, picking up on his friend David Hume’s discussion of church establishment in his History of England. Smith and Hume of course are not alone, for economic arguments about church establishment, toleration of other religious groups, financial support of clergy, and related issues, were deployed by Richard Hooker, William Warburton, William Paley, Josiah Tucker, Jeremy Bentham, Edmund Burke, Richard Whately, Thomas Chalmers, and others. Their philosophical framework and arguments, however are quite different to those employed in the contemporary rational choice economics of religion. Smith argues, against Hume, for the virtues of religious competition, for voluntary contributions alongside state support of religion, and limited democracy in relation to church appointments. A properly constituted religious market Smith suggests will generate benefits for society. Smith’s arguments about religious competition are connected to his larger philosophical framework, in particular his understanding of the fall and divine providence.
Also, check out the sessions that ACE is organizing for this coming ASSA meetings, which will be online, and so will cost participants only the conference registration fee. (http://christianeconomists.org/2020/08/29/ace-sessions-at-the-assa-meetings-online/)
This episode features Denise Daniels from Wheaton college talking about Christian Higher education. The impetus for this conversation was a paper that she published with Caleb Henry and Bradley Jensen Murg in the Journal of Markets and Morality. Their thesis is that the current demographic and economic challenges that face Christian liberal arts colleges can push institutions toward secularization.
Our conversation covers a number of interesting topics, including the financial and demographic pressures on higher education, the balance of traditional liberal arts with professional programs, the good and the bad of cultural pressure on traditional institutions, and a bit about free speech on a Christian college campus. This episode is sure to spark conversation and be of great interest to anyone with an interest in higher education.
Denise Daniels is the Hudson T. Harrison Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Business and Economics at Wheaton College in Illinois. Her research has focused on the role of faith and ethics in the workplace, organizational behavior, and the theology of work. She is an accomplished scholar and teacher. For the purposes of this conversation, it is also worth noting that she has long experience with Christian higher education. Her undergraduate degree was from Wheaton, she worked for some time at Seattle Pacific University, including as a faculty member, and as an administrator, and has just recently moved to Wheaton College.
Denise Daniels at Wheaton College (https://www.wheaton.edu/academics/faculty/denise-daniels/)
“The Future of Christian Higher Education: A Political Economy Analysis,” by Denise Daniels, Caleb Henry, and Bradley Jensen Murg. Journal of Markets and Morality. Fall 2019. (https://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1436)
This episode is a conversation with Art Carden from Samford University. Art is an excellent scholar and a great popularizer of economic ideas. The occasion for our conversation is a new book that he has just published with the great economic historian Deidre McCloskey. The title is Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. This book grows out of McCloskey’s 3-volume series on the Bourgeois Era but is aimed at a more popular audience. The book makes an entertaining and broad defense of liberalism writ large, both on material and spiritual grounds. It is provocative and thought-provoking, particularly if you are in the habit of thinking about economics only in material terms.
Art Carden is a professor of economics at Samford University, senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, the beacon Center of Tennessee, and research fellow at the Independent Institute and at the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. He has written numerous scholarly articles and chapters about economic history, Walmart, economic freedom, and numerous other topics.
Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich (https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/L/bo61545999.html)
Art Carden’s Website (http://artcarden.com/)
Carden’s writing at Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/artcarden/)
Deidre McCloskey’s Website (https://www.deirdremccloskey.com/books/index.php)
This episode features a conversation with Jordan Ballor, a senior research fellow at the Acton Institute. We take a deep dive into the ways that theologians and economists tend to disagree. Our starting point is an essay that Ballor wrote about the different interpretations of the word “scarcity.” We talk at length about the different starting assumptions that scholars work with, the differences in language, the difficulty of separating facts from value judgments, and more. This conversation is a bit specialized, but it is really important for understanding the foundational differences between economic thinking and theological thinking. Hopefully, this will serve as an accessible introduction to some of the thornier issues.
Jordan Ballor is a historian and a theologian, with a deep knowledge of reformation theologians, but his writing has covered many topics, including a fair bit of writing about economics and collaboration with economists. For the last few years, he has also been a postdoctoral fellow with the Moral Markets project, which we talk about a bit near the end of the show. He is the author of three books, numerous articles and essays, and editor of a series of English translations of Abraham Kuyper’s work.
Here are some links to work that we reference in this episode:
Interdisciplinary Dialogue and Scarcity in Economic Terminology, by Jordan Ballor, Journal of Markets and Morality (https://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1491)
Theology and Economics: A Match Made in Heaven? By Jordan Ballor, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Jordan J. Ballor’s work on Academia.edu (https://vu-nl.academia.edu/JordanBallor)
The Moral Markets Project (https://www.moralmarkets.org/)
A Value Judgement on Value Judgements Wilhelm Röpke. 1941. (https://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/1120)
Reckoning with Markets by James Halteman and Edd Noell, Oxford University Press, 2012.
Abraham Kuyper on “para-equality” in:
Christ and Material Needs (1895) [this will also appear in the final volume of the Kuyper series, On Charity and Justice] (https://www.marketsandmorality.com/index.php/mandm/article/view/74)
Jesus and the Economics of Scarcity by Grazina Bielousova, The Political Theology Network. (https://politicaltheology.com/jesus-and-the-economics-of-scarcity/)
In this episode, Steven McMullen interviews Greg Forster about two recent books that he has published. Greg is a political philosopher by training, but his work has spanned history, theology, economics, and political theory. He is the director of the Oikonomia Network, an organization that helps Christians think about theology and work. He is the author of a number of books and is also an assistant professor of faith and culture at Trinity International University.
As you will see as we talk, Greg is skeptical of the naturalistic or materialist framing that we economists often use in our work. That doesn’t mean that he wants to get rid of modern economics, though, he draws heavily and appreciatively on the work of social scientists in his writing and is a particular fan of the economics discipline.
Over the course of our conversation about his recent books, we talk about the kinds of theological themes that show up in the work of economists, the importance of history, the nature of political ideology, Keynesian thought, and consumerism.
Links to items mentioned in this podcast:
Economics: A Student’s Guide, Crossway, 2019 (Faith & Economics Review by Ken Elzinga, http://christianeconomists.org/2020/07/08/review-of-economics-a-students-guide/)
The Keynesian Revolution and Our Empty Economy: We’re All Dead, written with Victor Claar, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019 (Review Symposium in Faith & Economics, http://christianeconomists.org/2020/07/08/faith-economics-spring-2020/)
Video introducing the Oikonomia Network (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n60FAd_CeBc)
Oikonomia Network Website (https://oikonomianetwork.org/)
Reckoning with Markets: Moral Reflection in Economics, by James Halteman and Edd Noell, Oxford Univ. Press, 2012.
McMullen, Steven, and Todd P. Steen. “Does Current Economic Methodology Impose a Materialistic View of Work? Journal of Markets and Morality, 2017
Greg's latest book Human Flourishing: Economic Wisdom For a Fruitful Christian Vision of the Good Life (Wipf and Stock, 2020)
This episode is an introduction to the Association of Christian Economists. We talk about the history of the organization, including some of the big conversations that have animated scholars over the last 40 years, and a bit about what the Association is doing today. The guests are Edd Noell, current president of ACE, and Michael Anderson, our past president.
Edd Noell is a professor of economics at Westmont College, and specializes in the history of economic thought, labor market regulation, and Christian thought about economics. He is a longtime member and leader in the association of Christian Economists and has served on the editorial board of Faith & Economics, including as the book review editor for 22 years. He is the current president of ACE.
Michael Anderson is the Robert E. Sadler, Jr. Professor of economics and associate dean of the Williams School at Washington and Lee University. He specializes in international economics and trade. Also a longtime ACE member and contributor, Michael is a member of the editorial board of Faith & Economics was president of ACE from 2015 to 2018.
At one or two points in this conversation, we reference some of the debates that took place between economists in the association about the posture that Christian economists should have toward NeoClassical economic methodology. The best place to start to understand those conversations is the Spring 1994 issue of Faith & Economics (http://christianeconomists.org/1994/06/28/faith-economics-spring-1994/).
We also reference Paul Oslington's recent article critiquing Kuyperian economics, from the most recent issue, the article is currently available only to members.
This episode features an interview with Scott Cunningham about markets for prostitution and his book on causal inference.
Cunningham is a thoughtful scholar working at the cutting edge of empirical microeconomics. He is a professor of economics at Baylor University, a research fellow at the texas Hunger Initiative and at the Computational Justice Lab. He is also an associate editor at the Journal of Human Resources. He is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on the Economics of Prostitution, and as we discuss, the author of Causal Inference: The Mixtape, forthcoming from Yale University Press.
Our conversation covers his research on the changing technology of prostitution markets, the difficulty regulating these markets, and some discussion about what a Christian response should look like. We also discuss his forthcoming textbook on causal inference.
Scott Cunningham’s Website, which includes links to the papers we discuss in the episode. (https://www.scunning.com/)
The free early version of his causal inference textbook. (https://www.scunning.com/mixtape.html)
The website for Causal Inference: The Mixtape at Yale University Press, available for order in January 2021. (https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300251685/causal-inference)
This episode features Stephen Smith from Hope College. Smith talks about the place of China in the global economy, U.S. policy toward China, changes in Chinese governance, and the Chinese church. Smith grew up in Hong Kong and has visited China numerous times in adulthood, often traveling with undergraduate students. He is a close observer of Chinese politics, economics, and culture. With all of the China-related news over the last year, it seemed like a great time to corner Stephen and get his perspective on a whole range of related questions.
As a scholar, Smith specializes in international trade, growth, and development. He is also a leader in the Association of Christian Economists, currently serving as Vice President.
Stephen Smith's Hope College webpage. (https://hope.edu/directory/people/smith-stephen/index.html)
Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing, by Stephen Smith, Edd Noell, and Bruce Webb. (AEI Press, 2013) (https://www.amazon.com/Economic-Growth-Unleashing-Flourishing-Capitalism/dp/0844772569/)
Over the course of our conversation we referenced the following:
A Republic of Equals by Jonathan Rothwell (Princeton, 2019)
“A Letter from Hong Kong” by Peter Baehr (Quillette, 9/3/2016) (https://quillette.com/2019/09/03/a-letter-from-hong-kong/)
In this episode, Steven McMullen interviews economist Bruce Wydick about his recent book Shrewd Samaritan: Faith, Economics, and the Road to Loving our Global Neighbor (Thomas Nelson, 2019). (https://www.thomasnelson.com/9780785221524/shrewd-samaritan/)
Bruce is a Professor of Economics and the director of the Program in International and Development Economics at the University of San Francisco. He is also affiliated with the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, the Center for effective global action at Berkley, and is helping build an institute for poverty and development studies with Westmont College in San Francisco. He is also a founding director of the non-profit Mayan partners.
Wydick is a real leader and exemplar for Christians in the economics profession. His work is focused on improving the lives of those in poverty around the world, and he has made a name for himself as a creative scholar.
In this episode, we talk broadly about what works and what doesn't work in global economic development. Wydick makes a strong case for holistic interventions that support the whole person, and he aptly connects this approach with his Christian faith.
For a guide to much of Bruce's work, check out his personal webpage. (https://sites.google.com/a/usfca.edu/wydick/home)
Here is the study about child sponsorships that we discuss in this conversation (https://bit.ly/3cIeNdL), see also a blog post about it at the World Bank (https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/does-child-sponsorship-pay-adulthood).
And finally, a recent paper by Bruce that I have found valuable in my own work. (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6xb8f996)