by Robert H. Nelson
Cato Institute
April 09, 2014
Religion traditionally has had little role in American professional economics, other than as a possible factor in shaping consumer preferences. In the past few years, however, several articles in top economics journals have argued that religion historically has had a significant influence on the levels of economic growth and development of nations. Different religions lead to different political preferences, and those political differences lead to economic differences. The lack of a greater understanding of religious considerations leaves economists exposed to being blindsided. The policy disagreements between economists and environmentalists, for example, are typically not primarily about technical matters but about the clashing core values of economic religion and environmental religion. Bringing religion into economic policy analysis would be no small change, but policy economists could start by developing a greater knowledge of religion and by examining religious factors in seeking to understand the workings of political and economic systems.

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