Free-market principles based in a Christian worldview?

Here’s my recent comment at Econtalk.org about statements made in today’s podcast with Russ Roberts and Arnold Kling:

Drs. Kling and Roberts,

Excellent podcast, as usual…

I’ve found Russ’ comment about the religious commitments of “free-market believers” to be remarkably true. Some writers whom I’d consider my ideological soulmates are my exact religious opposites.

As Russ said, there are those who see evidence of design in nature and are led to believe in a Creator, but who also acknowledge the wonderful emergent orders produced by a free market. I would place myself in this category, and I see no inherent logical contradiction between these ideas.

The two key differences between the two ideas are the rules of the systems in which “agents” live (institutional constraints, I suppose), and the participants in the systems themselves.

The constraints in which a “free market” produces order are principles like private property, protection from involuntary imposition of cost, individual liberty, etc. The participants are human beings with rational and creative capacity.

I find it more difficult to believe that the constraints (laws of chemistry and physics) and the participants (matter itself, with no rational capacity) in the natural process could produce such biological order as Darwinian evolution would predict.

I don’t want to debate the scientific merits of different evolutionary theories. I do assert that the aforementioned principles and institutions that make the free market work come from a broadly Christian-theistic worldview. When human beings behave rationally and creatively, they reflect the nature of the God in whose image they were created.

At the very least, one must acknowledge the significant difference between random movement of atoms producing macroevolution across species, and the free, rational choices of human beings producing desirable social outcomes.

P.S.: This is partially a response to some statements made in the podcast with Bryan Caplan as well.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, exiled to the land of Phillies fans…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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