Saturday, January 26, 2013

Preference, Action, and Living Out the Christian Faith

A correspondent recently asked me a question about parallels between faith and the Austrian conception of human action. He asked that when in my book I say that people use means to achieve ends according to ideas do I include faith as part of the ideas? He suggested that the Christian doctrine relating faith to works seems to parallel the Austrian doctrine relating subjective value to actual exchange. He suggested that a person can show others his subjective valuation of something only by what he actually exchanges for it. We also show others our faith only by what we actually do.

I would say that there are some parallels as my correspondent described, because human action is motivated in part by everything we truly believe. In the context of our action, I would suggest, however, that our faith is more something that affects both the ends we choose and the means we use to achieve those ends.

Those who believe in, trust, and follow Christ will be motivated to act in certain ways. Indeed we must. It is impossible to both follow Christ and live a life as a persistent thief, for example. His question reminds me of James 2:18: 
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 
This is similar to a concept used by economists called “demonstrated preference.” We cannot know what people truly prefer by reading their minds or by even asking them. We only can observe this by watching what they actually do. Someone might say that he prefers apples to bananas, but if he always buys bananas and never buys apples (even though the price is the same for both), that indicates that, at the time of his purchases,  he really prefers bananas. We demonstrate what we truly believe and how much we truly trust and love Christ through our actual actions.

This is also verified by Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats:

  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)
Note that Jesus judges the people's love for him based on how they acted.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains in section 2 of Chapter 16 "Of Good Works:

These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.
So works we do, while not the root, cause, or source or our faith, are "the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rothbard on Austrian Textbooks

Robert Wenzel at Economic Policy Journal has provided us with an excerpt from a question and answer period following a public address made by Murray Rothbard. The excerpt is devoted to a question about economic textbooks ignoring Austrian economics.

Toward the end of his response, Rothbard notes that, given the state of economic education when he was speaking, "You can't have an Austrian textbook, because no college would use it." Thankfully that is no longer the case. A number of professors teaching introductory economics courses in various college and universities are having success using Foundations of Economics, which uses an explicitly Misesian framework in its analysis. To better understand when my book fits in the tradition of Austrian economics, I recommend Jeffrey Herbener's review.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mises Quote of the Day: On Interventionism

Interventionism is not an economic system, that is, it is not a method which enables people to achieve their aims. It is merely a system of procedures which disturb and eventually destroy the market economy. It hampers production and impairs satisfaction of needs. It does not make people richer; it makes people poorer.

Concededly, the interventionist measures may give certain individuals or certain groups of individuals advantages at the expense of others. Minorities may obtain privileges which enrich them at the expense of their fellow citizens. But the majority, or the whole nation, stands only to lose by interventionism.

From Chapter IV, "The Economic, Social, and Political Consequences of Interventionism" in his book Interventionism: An Economic Analysis. Written in 1940, the work is an excellent investigation into the nature and consequences of government intervention in the economy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hulsmann on Europe and Economics

My thanks to the Ludwig von Mises Institute for alerting me to this interview of Jorg Guido Hulsmann by Mises Romania. In this wide-ranging interview, Hulsmann presents his thoughts on the Eurozone's monetary problems, prospects for monetary reform, austerity, prospects for economic expansion, and economic and political statesmanship.

Hulsmann gave the Mises Memorial Lecture at last year's Austrian Student Scholars Conference hosted by Grove City College.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lord Acton

John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, or Lord Acton as he is more well known, was born this day in 1834. He is most likely best remembered for his oft-quoted "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

What is less well known is that Acton was not a pithy journalist, but a scholar and historian who made it his life work to trace out the history of liberty. He traced the origin of liberty back to Jesus Christ. On February 26, 1877 he delivered his lecture "The History of Liberty in Antiquity," to the members of the Bridgnorth Institution at the Agricultural Hall. After tracing out various ultimately failed attempts by ancient thinkers to reign in the state, he cites Jesus' response to the Pharisees, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's" as the moral impetus necessary for winning liberty in Western Civilization.

As Acton explained,

All that Socrates could effect by way of protest against the tyranny of the reformed democracy was to die for his convictions. The Stoics could only advise the wise man to hold aloof from politics, keeping the unwritten law in his heart. But when Christ said: “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” those words, spoken on His last visit to the Temple, three days before His death, gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged; and they were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of freedom. For our Lord not only delivered the precept, but created the force to execute it. To maintain the necessary immunity in one supreme sphere, to reduce all political authority within defined limits, ceased to be an aspiration of patient reasoners, and was made the perpetual charge and care of the most energetic institution and the most universal association in the world. The new law, the new spirit, the new authority, gave to liberty a meaning and a value it had not possessed in the philosophy or in the constitution of Greece or Rome before the knowledge of the truth that makes us free.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Salerno on Money, Sound and Unsound

Here is an address Joseph Salerno gave to the Property and Freedom Society this past fall. Salerno provides an excellent brief explanation of the distinctions between sound money and what we have now as well as provide a possible solution for our unsound monetary mess.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ron Paul's Monetary Policy Anthology

Ron Paul's Monetary Policy Anthology is a treasure trove of material about the nature, consequences, and prospects for sound and unsound money. The entire anthology is available free for downloading now from his Congressional website. Get it while it's hot!!

The anthology is derived from the numerous Congressional committee hearings Ron Paul conducted about monetary policy and features work by Paul himself, Roger Garrison, Jim Grant, Jeffrey Herbener, Jesus Huretra de Soto, Peter Klein, Lewis Lehrman, Lawrence Parks, Alice Rivlin, Joe Salerno, George Selgin, John Taylor, Larry White, Walter Williams, and Tom Woods among others. All told, this tremendous document encompasses over 1400 pages plus appendices!