FAITH & ECONOMICS
NUMBER 69, Spring 2017
Abstract: Christians have many reasons to care about the harms that occur in the lives of others, but does buying a product generate any moral responsibility for injustices suffered by those who produced it? Economics cannot decide whether first world consumers have any moral responsibility for problems far abroad, but as a science, economics should be able to decide whether there is any causal connection between consumers and the harms caused by markets to distant others. The neoclassical paradigm does not equip an economist to do this, but applying the insights of critical realist sociology to economics makes it possible, providing heterodox economists a view of markets better tailored to their needs. A social structure is a system of relations between pre-existing social positions. Social structures have causal impact on the persons within them by generating restrictions, opportunities, and incentives that shape their decisions. This essay begins with the example of the market for textiles and understands it as a social structure, a long chain of relations among positions from consumer and department store clerk all the way up the chain of production to the relation between factory manager and seamstress half a world
away. Each link in this chain is causally related to all the others and this causal connection can then form the scientific basis for a moral decision, outside of economics, concerning the degree of moral responsibility that consumers may have for the harms which markets cause to distant others.
Abstract: Transformational development—integrating the three goals of positive material, social, and spiritual change—is a popular concept among organizations and individuals who work in faith-based development.Despite broad agreement about the theory of transformational development, very little research empirically investigates how to best achieve these goals. By using a difference-in-differences empirical strategy, this study provides an example of a simple yet rigorous evaluation approach for measuring real progress toward meeting the goals of material, social, and spiritual change. This study finds effects after one year that are only marginal in their statistical significance but relatively large in their average impact. Thus, while economically meaningful impacts may be present, this study encounters difficulty with statistical identification due to a relatively small sample size. Nevertheless, this paper provides a useful example, with suggestions for improvement, for future research evaluating transformational development programs.
A Theology of Economic Reform
Robert C. Tatum
Abstract: For the interdisciplinary field of theological economics to grow and flourish, four questions must be answered. First, whose theology and scholarship are relevant? Second, to what ends may theological economics be undertaken? Third, does theology support its own use and application in economics? Fourth, what code of conduct should theological economics scholars follow? These questions arise precisely because theology may place its own bounds on how it can be utilized in economics. However, each religion’s theology or theologies may answer these questions differently. Accordingly, this paper seeks to answer these questions from a Christian theological perspective.
The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization
Steve R. Weisman
Reviewed by Michael Anderson
Theology and Economics: A Christian Vision of the Common Good
Jeremy Kidwell & Sean Doherty, eds.
Reviewed by Kim Hawtrey
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
James K. A. Smith
Reviewed by Art Carden
Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict
Reviewed by Sara Helms McCarty
The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future
John Milbank & Adrian Pabst
Reviewed by Steven McMullen & John Lunn