What happens when economics becomes religion?

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Economics is the new American religion. If you disagree with the mainstream narrative surrounding it, you are a heathen in need of a quick conversion. It is no longer seen as a social science requiring impartial examination: it is about giving people what they think they want, whatever the cost.

And the cost they incur in doing so is significant: people’s prosperity.

I recently sat down with Dr. Peter Boettke, Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University, to discuss what needs to happen to reverse the problem of people turning “to politics for a sense of truth,” as he puts it. He explains the problem this way: “When my truth is not listened to, my only recourse is to impose the truth on others who peddle lies.

He is right. This desperate need for control is what causes government to be placed on a pedestal as an all-powerful solution rather than seen as a tool to preserve freedom. And it is necessary to use the economy to compromise on the proposed solutions. When people aren’t allowed to disagree on the economy and more politics is thrust upon them as the gospel, Americans end up with fewer opportunities to do extraordinary things.

Instead of getting sucked into the culture regarding the economy, we need to go back to the four pillars as defined by Boettke that underpin this social science and contain the basis for achieving prosperity.

First pillar: truth and light

The truth is that we live in a world of scarcity. This reality highlights the truth that due to scarcity, we have to compromise to achieve our goals. For the most part, it’s like trading your little time to work and earn money for scarce goods. Today, many argue that not everyone can or should be required to work, leading to calls on Capitol Hill to enact policies that reduce the need to work.

Lawmakers may pass one policy after another, but that will never change the inherent “dignity of labor,” as Boettke puts it. And respecting people’s agency gives them dignity.

Pillar two: beauty and admiration

We live in a world of spontaneous order. In every century it is beautiful and awe-inspiring to see how voluntary activity resulted in the spontaneous order that paved the way for the formation of the global markets through which we thrive today.

To achieve this, it is essential that individuals are empowered to work and contribute to society. Government policies that impose economic barriers cannot produce the same orderly result that emerges when people are allowed to realize their hopes and dreams through a system of free markets and limited government.

By clinging to the cultural ideology that the government and not the individual must work to solve all economic problems, we move further away from personal responsibility and sink deeper into the mentality of crippling dependency. A mindset that convinces people they are helpless instead of possessing the tools to thrive.

Pillar three: Hope

The economy gives us hope to change our situation. Through capitalism and entrepreneurship, we can have hope in civil society as the first resort while government is the last resort to alleviate poverty by encouraging long-term self-sufficiency.

It was one of the major downfalls of governments across the country in 2020.

By shutting down the economy and deciding which businesses were essential, small business owners and entrepreneurs were sidelined, leaving them with fewer opportunities and less hope to emerge from the government-imposed economic crisis. . And less hope for those locked in their path to bondage.

Pillar four: Compassion

Grassroots economics has compassion for the poor and disadvantaged, seeking to uplift them. “It’s not about improving the lot of the rich but how we can uplift the poor [so that] the poor get richer even faster than the rich get richer,” says Boettke.

If people understood economics under these four pillars, rather than viewing it as a list of technicalities with which to control people, more progress would prevail.

Government barriers imposed in our lives may be in high demand, but they are not the solution offered by the American entrepreneurs who fuel the economy. As Matt Ridley writes, “Innovation is the child of freedom and the mother of prosperity.”

When looking for economic solutions for the nation, the way forward should be how best to provide opportunities for people to thrive by removing barriers, respecting individual agency, and allowing hope and compassion to be cultivated in communities. This is achieved by strengthening and preserving freedom through limited government and a thriving civil society. Otherwise, we are doomed to fail the lessons of economics.


Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is founder and president of Ginn Economic Consulting, LLC. He is chief economist at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and senior fellow at Young Americans for Liberty. He previously served as Associate Director of Economic Policy for the White House Office of Management and Budget, 2019-20.

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