Bad Samaritans

Ha-Joon Chang argues in Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism that highly developed economies impose unfair and hypocritical demands on developing economies.  In particular, the nations that control the international trade and monetary agencies require . . . . Continue Reading »

Byzantine economics

A discussion this morning concerning the economic impact of the gospel got me to thinking about Byzantium.  What kind of economic system did the Eastern Christian empire, with its centralized state and luxurious capital, have? I found some help in Angeliki Laiou and Cecile . . . . Continue Reading »

Tight Fists, Open Hands

David L. Baker’s recent Tight Fists or Open Hands?: Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Law is a thorough and judicious introduction to the Pentateuch’s teaching on economics. The book has a limited scope. Baker largely ignores the contemporary economic situation, and gives . . . . Continue Reading »


Angeliki E. Laiou has another revealing article in the Wealth and Poverty volume cited earlier. She notes the regular warnings and even condemnations of commerce in the patristic literature, and goes on to examine medieval and Byzantine hagiography for the same themes. She is surprised to find a . . . . Continue Reading »

Poverty and Splendor

An article by A. Edward Siecienski (in Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society (Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History) ) raises the question of the balance between liturgical splendor and poverty relief in the early church. He points out that even John Chrysostom, who . . . . Continue Reading »

Economies, Advanced and Primitive

Christopher Caldwell ends an intriguing article on William Bagehot ( Weekly Standard , 12/22) with this: “To be blunt, credit is successfully reestablished when financial elites say, ‘When.’ Credit is close to a synonym for the mood of the ruling class. To say an economy is based . . . . Continue Reading »

Markets and People, II

Reader Jay Horne writes in response to my earlier post quoting Charles Morris, “After working on mechanical trading systems for the past several years (and having some success), I would suggest that it is the lumpiness, the human factors, that exactly create the opportunity for success with a . . . . Continue Reading »

Markets and people

Charles Morris (in The Trillion Dollar Meltdown ) says that one of the dangerous trends emerging in the 80s and 90s, and lurking behind the current financial crisis, is the “increased dominance of investment decisions by mathematical constructs.” He admits that “Large securities . . . . Continue Reading »

Augustine the Marginalist

In City of God, 11.16, Augustine observes the reality of marginal utility: “So far as the freedom of judgment is concerned . . . the reason of the thoughtful man is far different from the necessity of one who is in need, or the desire of the pleasure-seeker. For reason considers what value a . . . . Continue Reading »

Consumerism again

Heath and Potter find Thorstein Veblen’s critique of consumerism much more persuasive, “far more penetrating than any of the theories developed in the 20th century.” Veblen argued that while poor societies devote every increase in production to meeting basic needs, richer . . . . Continue Reading »