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Unformatted text preview: FUNDAMENTALISM AND ECONOMICS IN THE U.S.* Laurence R. Iannaccone Santa Clara University Santa Clara, CA 95053 * I have benefited from many people's comments and suggestions, particularly those of E. Calvin Beisner, Otto Bremmer, Craig Gay, John Mason, Robert Mateer, Carrie Miles, and Dan Olson. I have benefited also from the support of the Hoover Institution's National Fellows Program. 1. INTRODUCTION If one were to have the average American describe the economic views of fundamentalists in a single word, that word would undoubtedly be "conservative." If one were to elicit a more elaborate description it would probably read as follows: "Theological and economic conservatism go hand in hand. Theologically conservative Protestants are staunch defenders of market capitalism. They denounce every form of som, reject paternalistic government spending programs, and advocate free enterprise as the solution to virtually every economic problem." The truth, however, is both different and more complex. Theologically conservative Protestant leaders espouse a variety of economic positions. A free market consensus is at best a prospect for the future, and an unlikely prospect at that. Most rank and file fundamentalists and evangelicals are not economic conservatives and would probably reject any free market consensus that did emerge from their leaders. And, despite well-publicized and extensive lobbying of social and moral issues, even such avowedly conservative groups as the Moral Majority have never seriously attempted to implement an economic agenda. This essay attempts to document and explain this surprising state of affairs. THE SCOPE OF THIS STUDY The word "economics" has many meanings in everyday speech. This study concerns what might be termed formal economics. It investigates what theologically conservative Protestants have to say about the production of commodities, the nature of markets, the economic impact of government, and the growth and distribution of a society's income. The informal aspects of everyday financial activity, the specific problems associated with running a business or managing one's money, are of secondary concern. Hence, this study does not review sermons and writings that counsel Christians against personal indebtedness, or admonish them to contribute liberally, or instruct them on spiritual guidelines for money management. 1 These are omitted, not because they are insignificant, but simply because they are, in the words of one Christian economist, "light years from the mainstream" of formal economic thinking. 2 The word "fundamentalism," like the word "economics," means different things to different people. Studies that presume one meaning arrive at conclusions inapplicable to the other meanings. To avoid confusion, I must therefore explain how the term fundamentalism is used, and why it is often avoided, throughout this study....
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