What I'm Reading
By Arnold Kling
The New Holy Wars, by Robert H. Nelson. He seeks to interpret various economic and environmental ideologies in religious terms. Some excerpts follow.
In the broadest view, one might say that, intellectually and theologically speaking, much of American history has reflected a struggle between the pessimistic Puritan view of fallen, sinful man and the optimistic Enlightenment view of rational, utilitarian man. If the great majority of American economists have fallen on the Enlightenment and progressive side of this divide, Knight was one of the rare exceptions.
In general, his chapter on Frank Knight is among the most interesting in the book.
The basic premise of progressivism was that there must be a central coordinating intelligence for all of American society, and that it would fall to the federal government to fulfill this role.
Murray Rothbard was the Karl Marx of the American libertarian movement…Both heirs to the Jewish prophetic tradition, they delivered their messages in economic rather than biblical language. Rothbard, like Marx, wrote and spoke as though he was Moses handing down the Ten Commandments, seldom if ever showing a trace of doubt in his own pronouncements.
In general, I felt that I lacked a firm enough grounding in religious doctrine to be able to determine how well Nelson’s assessment of the religious character of economic and environmental doctrines represents a fair treatment. My main takeaway is that one should beware of any participant in the policy debate who claims that his opponent is ultimately talking religion but he is not.