The Relationship Between Economics and Religion

This website is dedicated to post-economic learning. In line with that type of learning, although it may seem contrary to some, I often write about religious or philosophical issues. This article will make clear that this type of writing is related to economics for at least 4 reasons:

  1. Economic Morality
  2. The Economic Argument for God
  3. The Philosophical Underpinnings of All Science
  4. The Special Role of Philosophy in Economics

Economic Morality

“Economic Morality” is not an economic concept. It is a philosophical concept, and one which I am not strongly convinced of as a matter of necessity. It is very useful in most activities, however, and that is why many people abide by it and are interested in it. Economic Morality is the idea that we should do that which is most efficient. Perhaps closely related is an idea I would call Economic Inevitability, which is the idea that in the long run everything will be done in the way that is most efficient by reasons of Economic Law, regardless of the preferential or moral questions.

The idea of Economic Morality calls into the discussion greater questions of morality and philosophy because it is an interesting and complex issue. Should we do that which is most efficient? The answer is often yes, but the possibility of the answer being no is quite interesting and not clear cut.

The relationship between economics and libertarianism is an example of the relationship between economics and counterpart morality.

Lastly, the point of After Econ is to answer the question, “After I have learned economics, what should I do?” Prima facie this a question of how to derive morality from economics. At second glance, however, this is easily a much more general question of morality.

The Economic Argument for God

Related to the idea of Economic Law is the Economic Argument for God. This argument is a variant of the Fine-Tuning Argument. This argument holds that Economic Law is finely tuned and teleological, much like the various laws of physics are argued to be. This argument is not to be confused with Pascal’s Argument, variants of which are something like a rational actor argument.

The Economic Argument for God, or the Argument from Economic Law, may be frequently or clearly discussed, but it is a subject which greatly intrigues me. It is an argument which is at once both subject to economic, logical, and religious interest.

The Philosophical Underpinnings of All Science

All science is in a sense merely Applied Philosophy. Most hard sciences are almost exclusively examples of Applied Positivism. Other schools of philosophy swirl around the other branches of academia and soft science. Economics, of course, has a foot in each world. Some schools of economics are purely positive while other are built on mostly or perhaps entirely subjectivist, non-positivist, grounds. Taken holistically, then, economics is at once a hard and a soft science, depending on the particular applied approach.

The philosophical underpinnings of all science is no small matter and it is nothing to be ignored in anything which amounts to a serious discussion of science, or economics in particular. Positivism itself is an interesting issue, not without objection. Even without objection, however, it is still something to take note of. Having a proper understanding of positivism is important to properly interpret the outcomes of any scientific endeavor, just as understanding any framework is important for carrying out any application of that knowledge. To do otherwise would be akin to join in a football game with no knowledge of the rules. You may get lucky and learn on the fly, purely by application with no special study, but you will almost certainly be better off taking the other approach which is to learn beforehand by specifically knowing the formal rules, best practices, and so forth.

Science, then, is a subset of philosophy. It makes sense to extend a discussion of economics into a greater discussion of philosophy in some cases.

The Special Role of Philosophy in Economics

As I said, Economics has a foot in each world. That is, the world of hard and soft science. Related to this fact is the other fact that philosophy plays a special role in economics. It is a role which philosophy does not play in most other sciences.

In some schools of economics, though not all, economic questions can be purely answered through a priori reasoning and deductive logic. In Austrian Economics this is a major practice. Praxeology, a foundation of Austrian Economics, is built on axiomatic logic.

While it is not the mainstream approach of the science, Austrian Economics does compromise a significant player in the world of economics and therefore philosophy comes into proper discussion significantly more often, in my opinion, than it would in something like Chemistry.

Moreover, while I am not an Austrian, I am specifically and personally interested in possible unification of the ideas of the Austrians with Friedmanian thought. Perhaps for that reason we get into a bit more philosophy here than the average economist might, while the average economist is perhaps already involved with philosophy more often than the average scientist for reasons previously discussed.


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