Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Christian Antropology and Economic Method

My article "Christian Anthropology and Economic Method" has just been published in the most recent (Fall 2010) issue of Areopagus Journal. The issue is devoted to the theme Christian economics and in addition to my article includes work by Paul A. Cleveland on the natural law case for the free market, Eric Schansberg on a Christian understanding of economics, and Thomas Tacker on the importance of private property for life and liberty.

In many ways, I think the theme is really more like Christianity and economics. Some people who hear of a Christian perspective of economics respond, "What's next? A Christian view of dentistry? Automobile maintenance?" Such a response misses the point. Good economics is good economics whether its done by Christians or unbelievers. Christianity does come to bear, however, on epistemology, our understanding of what it means to be human, and economic policy. It is there that Christian doctrine touches how and why we do economics and also for what end.

My article sets forth some of the implications of the Christian view of man and the method best used to discover economic truth. I lay out the Scriptural doctrine that man is made in God's image and is, therefore, a rational actor. Humans engage in purposeful behavior. I then explain:
The Christian view of man as a rational actor has certain important implications for economic method. Any sound economics that is relevant for the created order in which God has placed us must take human action fully into account. In fact the very starting point for economic analysis is human action. The first task of economics, consequently, is to logically unpack the implications of human action. Sound economics, therefore, discovers truth by beginning with the premise that humans act and then deduce implications of their actions.

The economic method described here is praxeology. It is the method used by the Misesian, causal-realist tradition of economics. This fidelity of praxeology to the Christian view of man is what solidified my conviction that economics is a legitimate calling. It is a vocation worthy of devoting my life to. Because good economics discovers real truths about the created order, such praxeological economics reveals something of the glory of God.

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