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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12524/the-story-of-foundations-of-economics/

The Story of Foundations of Economics

April 21, 2010 by

The seeds of my new book, Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, were sown at the Ludwig von Mises Institute back in the winter of 1999, which was definitely not the winter of our discontent. FULL ARTICLE by Shawn Ritenour


David Roemer April 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

I wonder if your book examines the nature of private property in the light of Christian revelation. The following is a quote from Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum):

“The fact that God gave the whole human race the earth to use and enjoy cannot indeed in any manner serve as an objection against private possessions. For God is said to have given the earth to mankind in common, not because He intended indiscriminate ownership of it by all, but because He assigned no part to anyone in ownership, leaving the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and the institutions of peoples.”

The Pope is saying that property rights do not come from natural law, that is, cannot be arrived at by reason. Since God gave us free will, the moral laws against murder and theft can be derived from reason and logic. Hence, someone who “mixes his labor” with the land clearly owns the food produced. Likewise, a capitalist clearly owns his factory. But what about the practice in the West of giving title deeds for land to individuals? This is why a farmer, for example, can sell his land to a real estate developer. My own opinion is that there is nothing logical about this at all. It is not a matter of reason, but is simply generally agreed that this is a good way of deciding how land should be used. It is just as logical to say the Government should own all the land, earn all the rent, and decide how to use the land. It seems to me that it is governments that have decided that land should be owned by individuals.

If your book sheds light on this question, I’d like to read it.

Shawn Ritenour April 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm

I think it does. Although not a book that focuses on ethics, in pages 76-84, I do outline a brief sketch of the Christian ethic of private property from the perspective of Christian theology and the Scriptures from which that theology is derived. I don’t go into any great detail on any single theological tradition, but instead attempt to demonstrate that private property was a concept that is taught in the Bible and, therefore not surprisingly, part of Christian ethics throughout the Church’s history, regardless of theological tradition.

newson April 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

to shawn ritenour:
i presume you explode the widely-held view that the scriptures support taxation?

Daniel Hewitt April 21, 2010 at 10:33 am

David Roemer,King Ahab taking Naboth’s vineyard, and God’s condemnation of Ahab is a good counter-example to the above quote.1 Kings 21:17-19

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’

Daniel April 22, 2010 at 12:50 am

Dear Mr. Ritentour, I cannot disagree with the mustache

Ernesto Selman April 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Excellent initiative!!! As a Christian and an Austrian Economist, I have studied and seen the parallels of Christianity and Austrian Economics. Congratulations on putting this two together in one book. I just bought two of “Foundations of Economics: A Christian View”, one for my Baptist Pastor and one for myself. I had to buy it from Amazon, though, as I could not find it on the Mises Store. God bless you and I pray for this book to be widely read across the Christian Community.

Daniel Hewitt April 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Ernesto, if you haven’t read it already, I recommend Guido Hulsmann’s The Ethics Of Money Production.

Ken Zahringer April 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Highest congratulations, Shawn! The Christian world has needed this book for a long time.
I agree with everything you said, so you must be right! :-)

Bruce Koerber April 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

There is no doubt that the force behind equilibrium, just like the force behind magnetism, is God. There is no doubt that the economy exists only because humans exist and since humans are ‘created in His Image’ the economy is a divine institution.

jason4liberty April 23, 2010 at 7:22 am

I apologize that I can’t treat this in sufficient depth, I need to leave for work. There are a number of Old Testament passages where the Israelites plunder and dispossess foreign nations (Canaan, various others). There are also passages, in Deuteronomy I believe, where the rules of war are outlined and the bounds of the death penalty are drawn. Do you consider such passages when you relate a Biblical support for private property?

Gary April 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Interesting article, I as an austrian atheist hold the exact opposite view on this, to me the argument between socialists and capitalists is very similar to the argument between atheists and creationists. Socialists and creationists hold the belief that there has to be a creator, or the market has to be controlled, but Free market capitalists and atheists use science and economics to explain how things can evolve into a complicated system without anyone controlling or planning it. But each to their own I guess! now we just need a book on the Foundation of economics from an atheists view.

G8R HED April 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Gary -
“Socialists and creationists hold the belief that there has to be a creator, or the market has to be controlled” – is an inaccurate blanket statement.

It may be true that there are some creationists who believe what you believe of them. Your faith in what you believe about all creationists is off the mark. The problem with your belief is that you cannot account for creationist/market-capitalists or Christian/ancaps.

Is it not possible from the creationist standpoint that God created man with the very reason from which market capitalism is deduced?

Perhaps it would be more clear to state that the only contention between some creationist/market-capitalists and athiest/market-capitalists may be the origin of reason.

Jaycephus April 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Without private property, how could one be asked to sacrifice from his own ‘increase’ to God?

Gary, you made a blunder in your logic. There is no parallel between intelligent agents seeking their own happiness through free trade, and the resulting systems that might arise from their intelligently-guided actions, and the ‘evolution’ of complex life from rock through nothing but impersonal natural forces and chance. I have yet to hear a ‘Theory of Entrepreneurial Genes’.

Gary April 24, 2010 at 8:07 am

After reading my earlier comment I can see that it can be easily misunderstood, I did not intend to sound like I thought every christian was a socialist or every capitalist was a atheist. Its the opposite if anything, most of the atheists I know are socialists, and most of the free market capitalists I know or read about are christian. I was just trying to point out my own personal view, how I see a parallel between the laws of nature and the laws of economics that is very opposite to how the author see’s a parallel between economics and the christian faith. But as G8R HED said: Perhaps it would be more clear to state that the only contention between some creationist/market-capitalists and atheist/market-capitalists may be the origin of reason.

“Is it not possible from the creationist standpoint that God created man with the very reason from which market capitalism is deduced?”- Possible? yes, but is it my belief? no. I have no intent to go further into that topic because that would just start a religious argument, I have my hands full doing that elsewhere :) The only thing I meant to do was to point out how I had a different view on the topic we all share interest in, Economics. I am not by any means trying to say that the authors viewpoint on economics is therefore wrong, just pointing out the difference. But ain’t that the beauty of free market economics, acknowledging that society is nothing but a group of different individuals with different viewpoints on life, even we austrians obviously disagree on many things so the only way is to agree to disagree, live our lives the way we want without it hurting other people and make everyone’s life better through voluntary exchange. Anyway I hope I managed to clear up any misunderstanding, Take care!

G8R HED April 24, 2010 at 10:09 am

I, too, am still learning to discern faith and reason, ends and means.

I am thankful that there is a place like LVMI to help sort things out.
“Theory and History” was one of the books that really helped me a lot. I read it online a few years ago and have ordered several hard copies since then. This place has that effect on me.

“Choosing ultimate ends is a personal, subjective, individual affair. Choosing means is a matter of reason, choosing ultimate ends a matter of the soul and the will.” – LVM

Scott Finley April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

How is it that this book isn’t available from the Mises store and there is no link to buy it in your article? I see amazon has it. Is there any better place to buy it (ie you get more of the money)? Do you have a free pdf or other electronic version? (If not, you should!)

Anders Mikkelsen March 31, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I agree with Scott, the article should have a link to buy the book and links to get PDFs of the book.

I agree too – The Moustache plays.

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