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View Full Version : David Brat's Hand of God Economics



Cuyahoga Chuck
07-14-2014, 09:39 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/magazine/david-brats-hand-of-god-economics.html?_r=0 Some of of who have a better understanding of economics than me may get a tickle from this guy's agenda.

David G
07-14-2014, 11:06 PM
<sigh>

Keith Wilson
07-14-2014, 11:44 PM
Sure. If people were more virtuous, there'd be less need for government. So? Mostly we're not. Hardly new.


James Madison, from Federalist #51, February 6, 1788:

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Osborne Russell
07-15-2014, 09:38 AM
The founders warned against the foolishness at the foundation of the modern American right.

BrianY
07-15-2014, 11:36 AM
I think that there may be a small kernal of truth among a very large amount of BS in that article. The strereotyipcal "Puritan Work Ethic" is - or rather, was real in that the Puritan settlers of this country believed that salvation was achieved through work and that the measure of that work, and therefore one's chance at salvation, was economic sucess. I think that this notion became ingrained in much of WASP culture in this country and that in a general sense, hard work as measured by economic success is seen as a virtuous attribute. There was for a time (that's was ) also a general feeling among the very wealthy (i.e. "hard workers") that they owed some obligation to give back to the general welfare of society so that less fortunate citizens could have their moral characters improved and refined through exposure to "proper" social and cultural institutions. Such sentiments were also common in England. Of course, by this time (late 19th and early 20th centuries in the USA ) the motivation behind such sentiments was implicitly and not explictly religious. .

It is interesting to note that the greatest advances in mechanical technology until recently have taken place in predominantly Christian countries and of those , the biggest achievements were made in Protestant countries. Now, I am NOT suggesting that religion by itself is the reason for this. Believing in God does not make one a better inventor than someone who is an atheist or a Hindu. Instead, I believe that religion is a state of mind, a conception of the world and man's place in it and that conception creates cultural forces that produce different levels of "internal pressure" for technological innovation and creatviity.

For example, compare the technolgical innovation between New England Protestants and Catholics in the American Southwest in the 17th and 18th centuries. To put it very generally and very crudely, Catholicism emphasizes salvation through spirtiutal piety and purity while the New Engalnd Protestants were all about salvation through self-improvement/hard work as manifested by material gain. This desire for material gain created great incentive for industrial technological advances - incentives that were apparently lacking in the Southwest. It's not that New England Protestants were smarter or better than Southwest Catholics. Instead, these two groups had different religion-based worldviews which influenced cultural pressures to innovate and create.

An even more dramtic contrast can be seen when considering the cultures of the East, with their cyclical religous views (karma, reincarnation, etc) and the near absence of technological and economic development during the same period.

Of course, there were/are many MANY other factors at work - environment, geography, population, natural resources. etc.. However, I think it's indisputable that religion influences culture, including economonic philosphy and people's feelings about social responsibility. Where this breaks down is at the level of the individual. At that level, the influence of religious beliefs varies widely and it is foolish to assert that the presence or absence of relgious faith and the particular variety of that faith (ie. Christain, Jewish, Hindu ) alone determines how altruistic/socially responsible any individual is.

David G
07-15-2014, 11:54 AM
There are several kernels of truth. He even strikes me as approaching the study of this topic from admirable motives. Then he manages to misinterpret much of economic history, and build layers of perverse rationalizations for his twisting of things. That's part of what makes it so frustrating. And aggravating.

Osborne Russell
07-15-2014, 03:36 PM
I think that there may be a small kernal of truth among a very large amount of BS in that article. The strereotyipcal "Puritan Work Ethic" is - or rather, was real in that the Puritan settlers of this country believed that salvation was achieved through work and that the measure of that work . . .

As I understand it, the Puritan settlers and their European ancestors believed in salvation through pre-destination. Salvation through works is post-independence American.



Of course, by this time (late 19th and early 20th centuries in the USA ) the motivation behind such sentiments was implicitly and not explictly religious. .

Only after WW2 was it anything but explicitly religious and mostly still is.


For example, compare the technolgical innovation between New England Protestants and Catholics in the American Southwest in the 17th and 18th centuries.

There were only a handful of NEP's in the SW until the California gold rush. Spain had never supported Mexico which is one big reason why they revolted. Mexico, having gained independence, never supported the north. The trade between the eastern US and Europe was growing steadily even during the Revolution.


Of course, there were/are many MANY other factors at work - environment, geography, population, natural resources. etc.. However, I think it's indisputable that religion influences culture, including economonic philosphy and people's feelings about social responsibility. Where this breaks down is at the level of the individual. At that level, the influence of religious beliefs varies widely and it is foolish to assert that the presence or absence of relgious faith and the particular variety of that faith (ie. Christain, Jewish, Hindu ) alone determines how altruistic/socially responsible any individual is.

I guess, but I don't think that's the argument, "religion alone" that is. The point is that religion ties the individual and the group together, such that despite such differences as may exist, individuals and the group are assured of each other's allegiance. If someone has a belief materially different from the "religion" of the majority, he keeps it to himself, so you would never know. And if he doesn't express it, much less act on it, what difference does it make? Talk is cheap, but that isn't even talk. Some guy thinks different, so what? The religion governs them all into orthodoxy and conformity.