Interview With Benjamin Friedman On Religion, Economic Growth, And Much Else

Tyler Cowen has one of his "Conversations" with "Benjamin Friedman on the Origins of Economic Belief" (January 27, 2021, audio, video, and transcript at the link). It starts from Friedman's recent book, Religion and the Rise of Capitalismbut then expands to touch on many other topics. Here are some snippets: 

On American belief in religion and markets

[C]ompared to other high-income countries, Americans are more inclined to say they believe in religious doctrines, and the Americans are much more likely to participate in religious activities — going to church, for example.

I think this is not at all unrelated to the fact that Americans have a deeper and more active commitment to the ideas of market competition. It goes back to the question that I was raising a minute ago of where do our ideas of market competition come from in the first place? What I suggest in my book is that we got those ideas 200, 300 years ago from what were then new and hotly contended ideas about religion, theology within the English-speaking Protestant world, in which people like Adam Smith and David Hume lived. ...

[T]here’s a part of the story that you’re missing, and that has to do with the coming together at mid–20th century in America, of religious conservatism and economic conservatism. I think the catalyst that brought them together was the existential fear of world communism. ... Communism, at least as advocated at that time, had a unique feature of being simultaneously the existential enemy of lots of things that we hold dear. It was the enemy of Western-style political democracy, but it was also the enemy of Western-style market capitalism, and importantly for purposes of this line of argument, it was the enemy of Western-style religion.

I think the religious conservatives and the economic conservatives realized that they had an enemy in common, and they took the threat seriously, and this led them to come together. The person I think who played the greatest role in bringing them together was Bill Buckley. ... [U]nder the leadership of Buckley and also ministers — I think of Billy Graham as being very active in this process, but others too — religious conservatism and economic conservatism came together at mid–20th century America, and I think they’ve been together ever since.
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