Updated: Jul 22
(Updated July, 2023)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (US Declaration of Independence, 1776)
The US Founders as Deists (not Religionists, not bound to any specific creed or theology) saw a role for the Creator (many refer to as God). So, as a Metaecon, and in this Blog exploring the role of the Creator (and God) in economic framing, I took the liberty to draft The Creator's Prayer, giving the backgrounding as Metaeconomic Sensibility in the rest of the Blog.
The Creator's Prayer
Our Creator, which art in the Universe, Hallowed be Thou. Thy Universe come. Thy will be done on Spaceship Earth, As it is in the Universe. Help us build an efficient and stable political economy for provision of daily bread for we Travelers on the Spaceship. And forgive us for the arrogance of ego, the I, the self-interest only, As we join in empathy-with a shared other-interest reflecting that which the other, the We, can go along with. And lead me not into ego-driven temptation, But deliver me from the evil of not being in empathy-with the other, as we seek to live in peace as in I & We, Self & Other, Person & Community, Me & Us, I & Thou. For thine Universe is economically efficient and politically stable, Giving a system of humane capitalism and inclusive democracy, Giving peace and happiness, For ever and ever. Amen.
The image is from the cover of the book by Hirschfeld (2018: great read, I highly recommend it), who draws on the theology of Thomas Aquinas (Catholic-theology). The book points to the need to bring the empathy-based influence pointed to in that theology and religion (one such source of being in empathy-with) to temper and otherwise influence the Market, nudging it toward supporting a Humane Economy. The same argument --- albeit not theology and religion based, but it does not preclude religion --- about the essential need to temper the Market by being in empathy-with the other is made in Lynne (2020): The argument is given analytical substance by Dual Interest Theory, in the proposition that a Humane Capitalism --- a Humane Market & Inclusive Government --- points to a person being able to pursue the own-interest, which is a balanced yet joint self (ego-based) & other (empathy-based, so shared in community) interest.
Dual interest theory has a place holder for religion --- as another source of shared other-interest --- but does not require religion and/or belief in a Divinity to use the Theory. The shared other-interest of Dual Interest Theory is sourced in empathy-with consideration with others, which can come from many sources, religion among same.
As Hirschfeld (2018) argues, and Dual Interest Theory in Metaeconomics (after Lynne 2020) can help make analytical sense of it, a good (ethics is key) religion can play a role in forming that shared other-interest (it is about the virtues) and, as a result, helping build a Humane Economy. Also, overall, a Humane Economy --- as Metaeconomics makes clear, and seemingly the Hirschfeld (2018) frame would support --- is built on an empirical foundation of facts (science plays the main role) & ethics (religion can play a role in finding that which reasoned people can go along with).
Unfortunately, it is not happening. Instead, a form of largely unscientific framing & unethical religion is moving into the political economy through the entry of religionism into politics in several places on the Spaceship (Orban in Hungary; Putin in Russia; Natanyahu in Israel; DeSantis in Florida, as well as way too many Right Wing Governors and Legislators in Other US States), and it is becoming integrated with authoritarianism.
Overturning of Roe v Wade by the SCOTUS (through jointly applying religionism & originalism, close relatives: See Blog about the Alito Brief)) is on such grounds, as strict authoritarians integrated with old religious claims from the 1100s and medical science from the 1700s, step forward to ban even the extraction of a fertilized egg, which modern science and ethics makes clear is not a Human. Claims that Climate Change (but not the carbon regulations) and a Covid Pandemic (but not the vaccine) is in some sense God’s Will are a couple of others. Turmoil in the public schools over teaching about the lack of empathy-with others (as empirical testing of CRT demonstrates, and such matters as the historical reality of slavery and the holocaust, make clear is real), and demanding “balance” in teaching the biblical version of evolution, and requiring teachers to not recognize the gender continuum, represent other cases. The move to private school vouchers to spend public school tax dollars often has the same flavor, especially in banning books. And, it seems way too many politicians and courts are now gaining evermore power to impose said views, as joint authoritarianism & religionism come on-line. And, at the core of it, fundamentalism is afoot, the worst kind of shared other-interest.
Also, originalism in law seems to be gaining way too much influence, in that it makes (implicitly, hidden in the legal reasoning, the legal brief) that the understanding of science & ethics (that which reasoned, empathy framed people could go along with) in 1787, the year of the US Constitution, can somehow be legitimately (factual & ethical) used to control what reasoned people (operating on sufficient reason) do in 2022? Originalism seems inherently, almost by definition, unscientific & unethical as being revealed in the recent rulings by the US Supreme Court on abortion and what the EPA can regulate as related to the overloading of the Spaceship Earths atmosphere with greenhouse gases (especially carbon).
The Blog explores religionism (and the often intertwined authoritarianism, and sometimes overlapping originalism) by addressing the matter of whether God is a MetaEcon or not. And while Metaconomics lays no claim to whether there is a divinity or not, another way to frame it, after Ahmari (2021): For the people who believe in a divinity, perhaps one God, and the religion associated with said God, does 2 + 2 = 4 only in science (and philosophy) while 2 + 2 = 5 according to God and the religion built on that God? Or, is it about a reasoned God (Ahmari 2021, p. 57), a God and religion that sees a joint and nonseparable science & religion, within which 2 + 2 = 4 in both domains?
If it is about a reasoned God, said God is quite likely a MetaEcon, in that a MetaEcon (click here for the definiton of MetaEcon ) sees the foundation of a Humane Economy as built on science (facts, data, empirical testing of all propositions) & ethics (which for the believers, said ethics are influenced by God and the religion built around same). Also, a MetaEcon (who can just as easily be a non-believer or agnostic: Dual Interest Theory accommodates everyone) sees the need to temper the primal drive of ego-based self-interest with the empathy-based other (shared)-interest. For believers in the Christian God, it is about good balance in a strict & nurturant parent (the Father) tempering the path to good balance in a free & adapted child (the Son), with the controller, the balancer (the life force represented in the Holy Ghost) in charge. Bottomline: For believers who see a reasoned God, God is a Metaecon. For non-believers and agnostics as MetaEcon, whether a believer or not, including one still seeking empirical evidence of a divinity, one arrives at the same place, as long as facts & ethics are at play in a tempered (by empathy-based ethics) economy.
What think? And, read on, if intrigued.
Making sense of the role of religion and religionism using Dual Interest Theory filled a chapter in the first draft of Lynne (2020). It pointed to the possible relation of religion sourced other (shared with the other)-interest to the economy and economic efficiency. It also explored how religion interacted with chaos (perhaps even causing it) in the political (economic) system. Reviewers and editors were at play, space was limited, and, well, the Chapter was eventually cut from the book.
It is now time to bring it back, in that religion has come into substantive play, almost with a vengeance, with a seemingly growing role played in US politics and the political economy. It is also playing dramatic roles in other places around the Spaceship, such as in Orban’s Hungary, and in the Eastern Orthodox Religion based support for Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine, as a couple of especially prominent uses of religion to frame and drive politics. In fact, politics represented in alternative political ideologies influenced by religions terms, phrases, and frames (like the opposition being framed as evil, demonic) has become a form of religion (Lewis 2022; Fattal 2022) --- as related to many contemporary US issues framed on both Left and Right, including abortion, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, race relations, what can be taught in public education, greenhouse gas overloading of the atmosphere driving extreme weather from rising temperatures (the Right of Isle framed “climate change” which the religion of the Right considers good), social justice, and wokeness. The Evangelical movement, too, has in many cases become a political movement, a political party rather than a religious group, albeit said movement is undergoing a lot of chaos within same at the current time (based on the Ezra Klein Podcast, interviewing Russell Moore, August, 2022).
Conservative Catholics are also holding sway, as in the recent overruling of Roe v Wade by the SCOTUS. Alito (2022), the legal brief used to make claim that Roe V Wade had to be overruled, too, is framed in religionism (and the close relative represented in originalism) going back to the pre-Enlightenment, pre-Classical Liberalism principles being applied. Also, see Deneen (2018), a Conservative Catholic applying political science, where the case is made that moving away from religious (especially the Conservative Catholic Christian variety) framing is a main reason as to Why (Classical) Liberalism Failed. It is time to try to make sense of the role of religionists and religionism.
Dual interest theory can help make sense of the recent developments in bringing religion into politics, pointing to both the likely (empirical questions here) dangerously high costs and limited low benefits of doing so. It can also help make sense of why organized religion is seemingly being replaced by fundamentalism and fascism rather than widely representing what reasonable people can go along with, in everything from abortion to environmental (carbon regulation) law. And, the content of the new political economy, the new political religion undergirding same, is also squaring off on Left vs Right of the political isle, with little overlap. But, we are getting a bit ahead. It is essential to first establish the possible connection between economics & religion, suggested through a Dual Interest Theory interpretation of the proposition of Ich & Du.
Buber on Ich and Du Suggests the Connection
TO MAN THE WORLD IS TWOFOLD, in accordance with his twofold attitude. The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks. The primary words are not isolated words, but combined words. The one primary word is the combination I-Thou. The other primary word is the combination I-It; wherein, without a change in the primary word, one of the words He and She can replace It. Hence the I of man is also twofold. For the I of man is also twofold. For the I of the primary word I-Thou is a different I from that of the primary word I-It. . . . Primary words do not describe something that might exist independently of them, but being spoken they bring about existence. Primary words are spoken from the being. If Thou is said, the I of the combination I-Thou is said along with it. If It is said, the I of the combination I-It is said with it. The primary word I-Thou can only be spoken with the whole being. The primary word I-It can never be spoken with the whole being. (Buber, Martin, 1923, R.G. Smith translation, 1958, p. 3).
Some have attributed the Buber (1923) notion of Ich-Du, translated usually as I-Thou, to characterizing a person in relationship with a God, some divine entity. Interpreted in said way --- which is not essential for considering the notion of I-Thou, I-We, Me-We, I-It(He, She), Person-Community, Self-Other, but it is one way --- Metaeconomics can be used to make sense of the possible role for religion in the economy.
· I-Thou overlays with the same phenomenon as the Distinct Entity, a concept offered by economist Elias Khalil (1990), with such Entity being a person tempered by ethics, the influence of the larger community, represented analytically in the Dual Interest Theory of Metaeconomics in the notion of a joint and nonseparable self & other-interest. Adam Smith, too, saw the need for the self-interest to be tempered, arriving at a different state, after having been to the Station of the Impartial Spectator, and reflecting the arrogance of self-love (self-interest only) and tempering same with the Sentiments (empathy-based, as in Smith 1759/1790).
· I-It overlays with the usual practice of Single Interest Theory, the self-interest only focus, in standard Microeconomics.
· I-It (both I-He and I-She versions) overlays with the null type of sociality (Fiske, 1992) that is in effect presumed in the practice of Single Interest Theory in Microeconomics, where the Community of shared-interest represented in the other-interest has been removed from consideration (also see Marglin, 2008).
Replacing the “-“ with the “&” to clarify it is about inherent jointness and nonseparability, Metaeconomics focuses on the Distinct Entity to include the inherent Sociality of I & Thou.
Easy sense is made of Buber (1923) using Figure 1. The notion of Ich or I is represented on the selfish path 0G, the path of ego-based self-interest in Single Interest Theory of Microeconomics. To Buber, one needs to take command over actions beyond the focus in Microeconomics on Self-interest (I & It, and the I & He and I & She versions), with the influence of the Thou, perhaps a Divinity, the God, on path 0M. Finding the best balance in the joint I & Thou on some path 0Z would also be influenced, again, but it is important:
Paying attention to Adam Smith’s Impartial Spectator (Smith, 1759/1790) arriving in the state of a Distinct Entity (Khalil, 1999). So, Religion represented in the Thou could play at least some role in nudging a person to being that Entity, in that state of mind --- finding that which the other can go along with, the ethics, finding the sufficient reason --- same onto the best path 0Z, with economic efficiency and less political economic chaos.
And, how is Thou manifested? Figure 2 illustrates the frontier relationship between the selfish (the Ich or I) and the selfless (the Du or Thou) found by tracing the payoffs along RoRo in Figure 1 which produces the frontier RoRo in Figure 2. The value V --- priceless value --- from the Thou is illustrated by value Vo. The tangency at point B in Figure 2 locates the path 0Z in Figure 1, and points to the best point B on path 0Z. Notice how efficiency, peace, and happiness is only attainable on path 0Z, with the "We" (for believers, including the Thou of a God; for everyone, believer or not, it is about empathy-with the other) serving to temper the excesses of the "I."
Value V is the priceless value in Figure 2 coming out of community, perhaps with the Thou of a God (if a believer) playing a role, albeit other considerations would also play a role, which works to temper the price P in Figure 1 space. It is also clear that using unscientific & unethical religion from a flawed value V will ensure economic inefficiency such as in forcing people onto "thou shalt not " path 0M, not allowing even extracting a fertilized egg, and criminalizing even the ethical --- that which the other can go along with --- abortion.
It can also now be made clear where the long list of contentious issues fits. As noted, Dual Interest Theory has a placeholder for the wide variety of shared other-interests, represented in the issues of abortion, LGBTQ and the gender continuum, what is to be taught in the public schools, the fossil fuel industry shared interest in stopping all carbon regulation, social justice, and wokeness in various forms. All said issues give content to the shared other-interest on path 0M, and, each issue might have its own path 0M. So, it can get complex, but, as Dual Interest Theory clarifies, each said shared other-interest works to influence the best path 0Z, hopefully freely chosen.
Unfortunately, often the best path 0Z cannot be followed, as it is not allowed, sometimes controlled as in authoritarianism & religionism, especially if shored-up by fundamentalism, which might force people onto a path 0M of that shared interest. Forcing people onto such a path (being both unscientific & unethical) ignores the widely shared other-interest that everyone could go along with (e.g., the latter being based in science & ethics, the widely shared interest in stopping the progress of a fertilized egg before it is a zygote, and, then, the widely shared interest in the ethics of aborting what could eventually be a viable infant once the zygote is formed).
Berne on the Free and Adapted Child Interacting with the Critical (Strict Father) and Nurturant Parent
And, such framing by Buber (1923), whether read as representing a divinity or not, can be easily connected with psychology, and how the Human (not the Econ of Single Interest Theory, but the Human of Dual Interest Theory) is configured. Berne (1961) provides some of the earliest thinking in psychology about the tripartite nature of Human nature: Child, Parent, and a Rational Controller and Balancer in Charge, the Adult. So, the ego-based Child is on path 0G, either acting as a Free Child being free to choose to do whatever tips the fancy, or an Adaptive Child complying with dictates of the Critical (generally the Strict Father) Parent on path 0M, moving onto an alternative path 0G below the one illustrated, not happy, but compliant. Alternatively, the Free Child might be encouraged to self-expression on path 0G by the Nurturant Parent (Father and/or Mother) on path 0M, perhaps moving to a freely chosen path 0Z of happiness.
Lakoff (2004/2014) has gone on to point out how the Strict Father morality system with the associated Adapted Child, do as one is told, be compliant --- and, some are willing to do so, The Handmaids Tale comes to mind, a theocracy, authoritarianism & religionism, to which a few comply --- which tends to influence and seems ever more dominant in political thinking on the Right. In contrast, the Nurturant Parent (with the associated Free Child, do as one wants to do without influence and constraint) morality system tends to influence if not dominate political thinking on the Left. As Metaeconomics clarifies (and Lakoff 2004/2014 goes to that point, too), neither morality system produces the best outcomes, which requires good balance in Free & Adapted, Nurturing & Strict along some best path 0Z.
Mattox on Martin Luther --- and the Trinity
Threading on ground about which I know little, as I have only casually read a few researchers in theology like Mattox (2006), it has always fascinated me as to how the ancients developed and elaborated on God as a Trinity. Said God, as the Christians eventually framed it, was represented in the Father & Son, wrapped under the Holy Ghost. The triad interacted, resolved problems, and took-action, with the Holy Ghost (the very life-process) in charge.
It would seem the ancients, continuing to the time of Martin Luther (see Mattox 2006), writing about Christianity had perhaps just made an early discovery of the Berne (1961) “trinity” of the Parent & Child, wrapped under the Adult. The latter contentions are also generally supported in modern neuroscience and neuroeconomics about the two main tendencies represented in the Ego (the Child, mainly Free, but also Adapted as necessary) and the Empathy (the Parent, although the Parent can also be quite Critical and Strict, as well as engaged in empathy-based Nurturing) needing to be managed by the Controller in charge, using sufficient self-control (See Singer, 2009).
And, intriguingly (and, again, an amateur theologian, here, at best), it seems the Old Testament Father was very much a Critical (Strict Father) Parent taking control over an Adapted Child, who was to comply or else, as in “thou shalt not.” In contrast, the New Testament God (Father) is very much a Nurturing Parent working to influence the Free Child, and, in Lutheran (Protestant) Theology, said Child was saved by Grace alone. And, then, the Holy Ghost? Well, it seems the construct is about the matter of taking charge, managing the more primal Child with the help of the Father, represented in self-control and self-discipline, and, overall, as represented in the Life Force itself.
It is also intriguing, as Lakoff (2004/2014) makes clear, how the Strict Father Morality system (arguably coming mainly from the Strict Father of the Old Testament) has been adopted by many on the Right of the Political Isle. The Strict Father frame also now dominates the US Supreme Court, especially made clear in the recent ruling on Roe v Wade, and as Lakoff (2004/2014) makes clear, many on the Right are working to impose the Strict Father Morality system on everyone. And, by itself, it is an extreme religious based ideology, which tends to lead to authoritarianism. In contrast, the Nurturant (Father and Mother) Parent from the New Testament is more prominent on the Left of the Political Isle (see Lakoff 2004/2014). The latter is more about the shared other-interest evolved to that which the other can go along with in Community. And, again, it is important: Neither one works well by itself. What works is Strict & Nurturing, in good balance.
Marglin on Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community
Marglin (2008) makes it clear that Neoclassical Economics, especially the Neoliberal application of it, which uses Microeconomics Framing and Single Interest (Self-interest only) Theory, has extricated Community --- all manner of Thou, Religion and other forms of Community have been removed. Bromley (2019) makes a similar point, in the notion of Possessive Individualism, a kind of free-for-all existence, not tempered by the background Institution in place. Neoliberal framing clearly supports Possessive Individualism, and, ignoring the role of the Community writ large. Neoliberalism focuses completely on the narrowly shared other-interest, narrower Community of people who manage to take control on the path to oligarchism and the power it can buy in the political system.
Indeed, Marglin (2008) claims the use of Single Interest Theory in Microeconomics continues to undermine all forms of Community: Path 0M considerations are at best left to the Invisible Hand of the Market, as Community and the Government representing same is minimized, neutralized, defunded (other than funding the police power to enforce private property for the few that eventually own all of it), and set-aside. Dual Interest Theory in Metaeconomics puts Community (including the influence of a God on said Community, if the user so believes, and clearly puts Government) back into the framework and theory.
It is essential to put Community, and the Government representing same, back into the frame. As Fukuyama (2022, p. 146) says it, the classical liberalism based principles need to be amended, in that the “… classical liberals need to acknowledge the need for government, and get past the neoliberal era in which the state was demonized as an inevitable enemy of economic growth and individual freedom … for a modern liberal democracy to work properly, there has to be a high level of trust in government—not blind trust, but a trust borne out of recognition that government serves critical public purposes.” Perhaps religion, too, needs to be put back to some extent, as long as it works to give good and ethical content to Community and Government, but, dangers lurk in such a move.
Hirschfeld on Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy
Hirschfeld (2018), as economist & theologian, points to how theological constructs from St. Thomas Aquinas point to a Spiritual (and Religion-based) side of economics through the notion of Virtue, which is the only way to achieve Happiness. A MetaEcon can see the point about Happiness, and that Virtue arising out of a good and ethical religion is essential not only to Happiness, but also to Peace (eliminate political economic chaos), and Economic Efficiency. Hirschfeld (2018) in effect argues the economy needs to go beyond the virtue of Prudence (self-interest)-only, which is represented in it being Prudent to maximize profit and the utility it can purchase, and be tempered by the other virtues (Hirschfeld, 2018, p. 105): Temperance, Fortitude (Courage in McCloskey, 2006), Justice, Faith, Hope and Charity (Love in McCloskey, 2006). In effect, the price P of the Market must be tempered by the value V of the Other Forums.
Metaeconomics uses the analytical machinery of Dual Interest Theory to represent Prudence in the Self-interest and the other 6-virtues in the Other-interest (or, one shared Other-interest for each of the other 6-virtues, if you prefer). Happiness, including peace which goes beyond political economic chaos, can only be achieved through tempering the pursuit of profit and utility, which Metaeconomics characterizes as maximizing the joint self&other-interest, which is the facts & ethics based own-interest (see Lynne 2020). There is a good, virtuous level of profit and utility for each person in a good and humane (shared community-wide) capitalism, requiring the search for sufficient reason using facts & ethics.
Bromley on Sufficient Reason
Using framing from (Bromley 2006, loc 2201; for Reviews, see Lynne 2007; 2009) which is all about the basis for Sufficient Reason, it involves applying a volitional pragmatism, which is “… concerned with the explanation of individual and collective action and with economic outcomes. In that sense, volitional pragmatism concerns the asking for and giving of reasons.” It is about finding sufficient reason to take virtuous --- ethics are key --- action at point B on path 0Z: Dual interest theory facilitates framing the process on the path to the point of finding said sufficient reason. And, while religion can play a role in finding that which is ethical, it is not the only force. It is, though, about reasoned people, using facts drawn out of science and the applications of the scientific methods.
Ahmari on Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition
Ahmari (2022, pp. 51-52) quotes the Christian Bible, looking to said book as a religion based source to apply in working through political (economic) chaos:
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God” (John 1:1). The Greek Logos in this verse is usually rendered in English as “the Word,” but to a Greek speaker, it also would have meant “reason.” “In the beginning was reason, and reason was with God, and reason was God.” Reason was God (to the Greeks, to Socrates, to philosophers, to scientists)… a God who satisfied reason, a reasonable God.
A religion built on the notion of Reason was God, and God is reasoned, could work to help finding the sufficient reason to choose point B on path 0Z. Such a God, with a theology and religion based on same, would see the jointness and nonseparability of science & religion, facts & ethics being essential to each other. As Ahmari (2022, pp. 57) argues, with the notion of a reasoned God in a reasoned religion, 2 + 2 = 4 in both realms, moving away from (especially the fundamentalist thinking) that 2 +2 = 4 in science while 2 + 2 = 5 in religion: Not. So, in said frame, science is about working find out the “mind of God,” which is reasoned, so it is about a joint and nonseparable (Metaeconomic Sensibility here) science & religion.
It is the presumption of science and religion operating in totally unrelated realms that turns the search for reason to a frame of “VS” and “OR” rather than what it more likely is, an “&.” It is the OR and VS kind of thinking that tries to put religion in charge over science, or science in charge over religion, when the reality is likely the joint and nonseparable frame of science & religion. The divorce of science and revelation (undergirding religion) in the latter kind of thinking causes everyone to be in effect “…the children of (a) cruel divorce, caught between the horns of scientistic (frames) and cranky (pointing to Evangelical) pastors (Ahmari 2022 , p. 65).” It would seem more productive to see the horns, instead, as the tusk of a hippo.
The Metaeconomic Sensibility is to see the tusk, even if one is an atheist or an agnostic. Why? Well, it must be about facts & ethics, with science giving the facts, and ethics coming out of an empathy-based pursuit of what is the best thing to do. The latter can draw on theology and religion, among other sources including secular philosophy, and Human experience in making things work, for help in finding same. The Sensibility points to finding sufficient reason, with pragmatism --- what works best --- playing a substantive role.
Lewis on How Social Justice Became a New Religion
It just may be that the organized religions have been replaced (that which is the shared other-interest within the organized religion, the content), by the view of social justice on each side of the political isle, a new religion of Left and Right replacing mainstream religions. Lewis (2022, with this quote coming out of an interview in Fattal, 2022), makes the point, starting with the observation that the Right was perhaps always more religious (as Hedges 2007 says it, more prone to believing in magic, conspiracy, and, yes, in miracles) while:
… the left is less overtly religious … being on the left means you’re skeptical and rational—driven by reason, not these old superstitions … On the right, there is a much more obvious synthesis: overt displays of religion into which politics gets woven. It’s not a substitute so much as it is a complement. Something like QAnon is an example.
Intriguingly, magic also plays a role in Neoliberal economic framing which sees the magical Invisible Hand of the Market (encouraged by Single Interest Theory in Microeconomics, which also points to the Invisible Hand) as the best and only way to build a system. So, the Visible Hand of Government is denigrated, defunded, and minimized while the magical Invisible Hand of the Market is applauded and embraced. That seems like magic, rather than empirical data and testing, and science based.
Hedges on The Christian Right and the War on America
Hedges (2007 ) points to a quite perverse kind of “Christianity” that has come into play in the US, especially operant and mixed with politics in both extreme and not so extreme elements (even some ostensibly “moderate” politicians seem to embrace a rather perverse Christianity, a hypocrisy of huge proportions, lacking in empathy-with the citizenry who are not favored by same) on the Right. As alluded to earlier, one explanation is the psychological tendency for the religious Right to believe in magic (Hedges 2007, many locations in the book).
Hedges (2007) sees it as a kind of Christian Fascism, where small groups represented in the fundamentalists, who are often also Evangelicals, come to believe the version of Christianity ascribed too within said group, the shared other interest of that group. Fascists are all knowing. So, Fascists seek to control (heteronomous, outside control of) the other. Another way to say it: Authoritarianism is a main feature --- even if unethical, not empathy-based as in true Christianity, as the other cannot reasonably go along with it. Hedges (2007) is pointing to a dangerous move to a joint Authoritarianism & Religionism.
Said framing is reminiscent of the pre-Enlightenment period, reminiscent of the Dark Ages into the Middle Ages period, with remnants of same still around even into the late-1600s. Said Religionism, which along with the often attendant Authoritarianism -- and Oligarchism in tow if not in direct support --- gives rise to the deadly triad of said three “isms” unless it is tempered. The Enlightenment, starting in the late-1600s --- especially in play about the time the US was formed and the US Constitution was written in 1787 --- did a great deal to temper the excesses of the triad, with classical liberalism freeing the person from the “isms.”
The problem is, while Enligtenment thinking leading to the classical principles --- which freed the person from heteronomous control --- and tempered the excesses of the wealthy and powerful in the triad, it failed to temper the excesses of each person who was now more free to choose to act without any kind of restraint, self-imposed included. A kind of excess of the person has come to dominate --- encouraged by Single Interest Theory in Microeconomics, especially the Neoliberal application of same --- as argued in Bromley (2019: see a Review in Lynne 2021), Deneen (2018; see Review in Lynne 2022 ), and Fukuyama (2022) among many others, including me, in Lynne (2020). The citizen has been replaced by the consumer.
And, while reducing control coming out of Authoritarianism & Religionism & Oligarchism in the pre-Enlightenment period led to good things, completely autonomous choice by a person without homonomous influence from the Community (perhaps including Religion), causes system failure, and, also, minimizing the role of Government such as through de-regulation. Autonomous choice without empathy (without ethical reflection)-based shared, homonomous other-interest working to temper the self-interest (and some heteronomous control when self-control breaks-down), well, the system goes into political economic chaos. Balance, please.
D. S. Wilson on Does Altruism Exist
It would seem that theology in most if not all religions would contend that altruism --- which arises out of being in empathy-with the other --- is a desirable trait, perhaps touted by a reasoned God? Well, it is not so clear cut.
As Wilson (2015, p. 89 ) says it:
“Most enduring religions are impressively designed to motivate altruism at the level of action by promoting behaviors that are for the good of the group and suppressing disruptive self-serving behaviors within the group… Yet religions typically do not draw upon altruism at the level of thoughts and feelings to motivate altruistic actions, as strange as this might seem. One reason might be that altruism is a messy category to think about because it inherently pits self- and other-regarding preferences against each other.”
So, it is indeed not so clear cut, albeit some religions, Christianity especially, puts being in empathy-with (mindful thoughts on the way to feelings) the other, on the path to joining in sympathy-with, and having compassion-for the other as a key piece of theology. Getting to the point of compassion-for would likely bring altruist action. Overall, such empathy-with framing (as in Christianity, but not exclusive to it, e.g., empathy has a prominent role in Buddhism) is the precursor to altruism, as made clear at everyone point on path 0Z in the Metaeconomics framework. And, notice how pitting self against other takes on a far more reasoned meaning in Metaeconomics, in that self & other are both internalized within the own-self on that best path 0Z. Also, altruism now means a bit of sacrifice by a person within both domains of interest, as demonstated at every point on path 0Z.
And it is an old issue. Wilson (2015, pp. 90-91) points to French Philosopher Auguste Comte, who is considered the founder of modern sociology. Comte wanted to form a new religion with altruism a centerpiece, claiming that most religions (he was pointing especially at Christianity) needed to be changed to accommodate that innate characteristic of humans:
“Comte (claimed that science already in play by the mid-1800s) had discovered the innateness of the altruistic sentiments (which) ranked alongside the discovery of the motion of the earth as one of the two most important results of modern science. … (and, commenting on religion of the day, innate altruism) was a direct contradiction of Catholic (Christian) doctrine, which taught that human nature was entirely sinful and that love of others was only available through divine grace. … that what theologians described as the struggle between the law of the flesh and the law of God could be replaced by the scientific distinction between egoistic instincts located in the posterior part of the brain and altruistic instincts located in the anterior part of the brain … The ‘great problem of human life’ for Comte was how to organize society so that egoism would be subordinated to altruism … “
Sounds like Metaeconomics: Comte would likely have approved. Comte saw the need for a new kind of religion, and, in general, saw a need for community influence to temper the primal excesses of humans, and perhaps the government representing said community in that tempering process, all emphasizing empathy-based altruism. And, while the locations of ego & empathy in the brain do not exactly match that found by modern neuroscience, the fact that both ego & empathy are innate to the human brain, a brain having both ego & empathy tendencies, is on target. It seems a reasoned God may have organized the brain in said manner? So, God is a MetaEcon?
Metaeconomic Sensibilities on the Role of a Reasoned God
Whether one believes in a divinity, a God or Gods, or not, or is an agnostic, which is quite common among scientists and others who look at data and empirical test, Metaeconomics Sensibility can help make sense of the notion of a reasoned God, and religionism which does not see same. The possibility of a reasoned God is especially intriguing for an agnostic who is still open to the question of whether there is even a God, reasoned or not, and is searching for the answer (the Webb Telescope comes to mind, which is in many ways a search for the origins of the Universe, which may involve a God? Empirical question, it seems).
And, again pointing to Ahmari (2021), the matter is about 2+2 = 4 in both scientific & religious framing (not 2 + 2 = 5, in religionism as practiced by religionists, separate from and devoid of science). The following turns attention to looking at the 2+2 = 4 frame in a number of currently contentious areas, contentious as in scientists OR religionists and scientists VS religionists, with perhaps way too many politicians currently in the “OR” and “VS” positions, rather than the “&” frame of science & religion. For more detail on the matter of Metaeconomic Sensibilities about the following, see Lynne (2020). Also, as the cases are read, keep in mind that unscientific & unethical religion (e.g., as revealed in Alito 2022) ensures unhappiness, chaos, and, most important to economists, economic inefficiency on some path like 0G or 0M and not path 0Z (in Figures 1 and 2).
The recent SCOTUS ruling on Roe v Wade is a clear example of religionists ignoring science, as in the Alito (2022) brief, as in unscientific & unethical. The science points, with substantive empirical support, to a fertilized egg as not in any sense being a Human. It takes a substantive amount of time after the merger of the --- also alive, so, seemingly both all sperm and all eggs must also, then, be saved (like ban contraception) --- sperm and egg. The religionists, like Alito (2022) and several others on the SCOTUS, draw on old Catholic theology and the limited understanding of what is actually at play in a fertilized egg (i.e., science of that time was extremely limited) going back to the 1000-1500s period.
Alito (2022) even claims, the 1787 US Constitution reflects same, and, as an Originalist, well one has do what the founders supposedly (all conjecture without empirical evidence) intended. So, then, when Originalism is also brought into consort with Religionism, as represented in Alito (2022) and acted on by the SCOTUS, the right to eliminate a fertilized egg, to stop it well before a Human has been formed, is even banned. And, notice, eliminating a fertilized egg, and otherwise stopping the progression of said fertilized egg, is not an abortion, as no Human is being aborted: Just a fertilized egg is stopped from going any further, as in 2 + 2 = 4.
Yet, clearly the matter of an abortion (only a Human can be aborted) after the fertilized egg is developed far enough to be considered a Human, has ethical considerations: The moral dimension now appears. And, religion has, and perhaps always will, play a role in the ethics (the moral dimension) of an abortion. And, said moral dimension arising out of the empathy-based pursuit of that which the other can go along with, especially being in empathy-with the woman who is pregnant, is complex. It is not some simplistic “thou shalt not” dictum handed down by a Strict Father (including the Catholic Priest who is often referred to as Father); it is, rather, a nuanced search for the best thing to do --- the ethical and moral thing to do --- heavily influenced by a Nurturant Parent mindset. Such things as incest --- recent case in the news of a 10-year old impregnated by the father --- and rape come to mind.
So, what is the Metaeconomic Sensibility? And, for the believer, and the agnostic, what would a reasoned God say and do? Well, it is simple in the framing, although still complex in the implementation. The framing is that eliminating a fertilized egg makes both science & religion based (including Metaeconomic) sense: 2+2 = 4 on both fronts. Aborting a Human, well now many complexities come to play, such as dealing with matters like incest and rape, an infant that will be stillborn, cases where the mother will die unless the abortion is completed, and many other nuanced cases. Yet, again, it is about science & religion, viewed as joint and nonseparable, especially for a reasoned God, and, for most reasonable people (empathy-based ethics, also drawing on the science, in the search for sufficient reason to abort) whether a believer, not a believer, or an agnostic.
For more on the abortion question, as a MetaEcon explains it, see the Blog https://www.metaeconomics.info/post/supreme-court-claims-eggs-for-breakfast-were-actually-chicken . Also, it seems a reasoned God is also a MetaEcon: More on the claim, later.
The extreme leftward shift in the supply of US school teachers, especially at the elementary level, is in part explained by the fact a substantive number of parents are working to keep science out of the classroom. Classroom teachers are being harassed, and required to teach material that does not fit the standards defined by facts found with the scientific method. The goal is to fill the then open gap with religion based stories, like creationism rather than the well-documented science of evolution, supposedly sourced in revelation by a God, and written down in old religious books and sources by the people who supposedly (again, empirical evidence, please) were simply reporting what God claimed.
The Metaeconomic Sensibility, consistent with a reasoned God for the believers, is to teach that which is based in facts. It is about facts & ethics, and, to the extent religion helps build an empathy-based ethical system, and brings a moral dimension into the framing, it can be present (visible, not invisible) in the curriculum. Moral education is a key part of a good education defined as a facts & ethics, science & ethics framed education, as Nill (2021) makes clear. And, religion based in reality --- in the reasoned God frame --- can play a role, but it is not the only way.
Scientists have found that gender is a complex, nuanced continuum. Religionists claim it is not, drawing on claimed revelation by a God, pointing to the simple explanation of “look at the baby when it is born.” Also, scientists fully understand that gender is both mind & body, involving far more than a simplistic examination of body parts. A reasoned God would agree with the Scientists. So, the matter of LGBTQ framing needs consideration of both science & religion, facts and ethics. The Metaeconomic Sensibility points especially to the need to apply empathy-with framing to every person somewhere on the LGBTQ continuum --- especially asking how would I wish to be treated if I was at said point --- and not just empathy-with the person at either extreme end of it.
Environment (to include “Climate Change”)
Scientists have substantive data and empirical testing of same that points to the fact that the atmosphere and ecosystem of the Spaceship on which we Travel together around the Sun, and through the Universe, has a limited capacity to hold and absorb greenhouse gases. Religionists claim God is just fine with overloading the Spaceship with said gases, especially the carbon dioxide from burning excessive amounts of carbon fuels, and in fact is in some sense directing the destruction of the Spaceship. It is somehow God’s Will to destroy the Spaceship, if we Humans so decide to do so.
An old story comes to mind of a minister (I was raised in a progressive Lutheran branch named the American Lutheran Church, and, we referred to the pastor, the person in charge on Sunday mornings, as the minister) visiting an extremely well cared for farm. The livestock are healthy. The crops are planted in straight rows and doing well. The buildings and fences are painted and otherwise in good order. The story goes, the minister says, “You and God have an amazing place here.” The farmer, after some thought responds, “Hmm, well, yes, but you should have seen it when God had it alone.” It seems said farmer, and perhaps the minister would come around to it (the ALC encouraged questioning in the search for reason), saw a reasoned God.
So, for the believers, it is time to bring the reasoned God to play in addressing the overloading of the Spaceship system capacity to handle excess releases of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. For everyone, believers or not, it is time to bring science & ethics to bear in building renewable energy systems to operate in consort with supplements to energy production using carbon fuels. It is only Metaeconomic Sensibility, and, for the believers, it is consistent with God being a MetaEcon, reasoned, operating on sufficient reason.
As an aside, the framing of the matter as a problem in climate change was done purposely by the fossil fuel industry (much like the tobacco industry framed cancer causing cigarette smoking as a good thing), and, in general by Neoliberals, and, seeminlgy applauded by the religionists who believe a God is in charge of the climate. The frame of climate change sounds normal, God-like for the religionist, and, nothing to be concerned about. It is the “Don’t Look Up (after the movie by said title)” mindset: Reframe the real problem as something that no one can do anything about, it is just natural, and even God-ordained, and, Don’t Look Up. Said frame is religionist, with an ideological (Neoliberal, do as I please, a Libertarian) twist, and is not based in science & ethics.
Health (to include Medicare )
The recent Compassionomics book by two medical doctors (Trzeciak and Mazzarelli 2019), who did a huge amount of data collection and empirical testing relating to the best kind of medical care system, came to the conclusion that the egoistic-based self-interest in profit which drives the US health care system needs to be tempered by the empathy-based shared interest among patients and medical providers. Both patients and doctors, and all the medical support staff working in consort with both, well, everyone is better off.
It seems a reasoned God would agree: It is about medical science & empathy-based ethics (perhaps also drawing on religious understanding of the role of a God in healing) in applying said science. Yet, one does not have to believe in a divinity to get to the same place. A MetaEcon makes clear that peace, happiness, and, yes, economic efficiency all arise on some path 0Z, where ego is tempered by empathy, no matter if divinely inspired or not.
Pointing to path 0Z, whether divinely driven or not, also points to the fact a reasoned God, and a MetaEcon would likely find in empirical test, would likely strike a good balance in private & public health care. It is not likely a reasoned God would support a private market only health care system, because it would have a tendency to eventually focus only on the profit of such a system, and getting through the head of pin while patients suffer and die is problematic: Empathy would be eliminated, and, as Trzeciak and Mazzarelli (2019) argue, it perhaps already has been largely dampened, and almost entirely eliminated, in the US Health Care system, which operates largely on a path 0G. A reasoned God, and a MetaEcon, would work to nudge it onto path 0Z, using path 0M (some of which may be religion based) considerations.
The same kind of framing also applies to the public good coming out of the Medicare system. It would seem a reasoned God would very much support said system (including a Social Security System), in that, again, it comes out of empathy-with the elderly, while still facilitating the private good of private doctors and private insurance companies (Medicare patients buy supplementary insurance), keeping same very much in play. And, one does not need to believe in a divinity to get to the same point. More data collection and testing framed by Dual Interest Theory as applied by a MetaEcon would likely find the Trzeciak and Mazzarelli (2019) argument compelling: Compassionomics is about empathy tempering ego, shared other-interest tempering self-interest, with everyone better off as a result of it. It is about finding balance in the joint private & public good
The Covid Pandemic is another case in point. See the Chapter on Health Policy in Lynne (2020) for elaboration, but the bottom line is that seeing the jointness in the private & public good of isolation, masking, and, most importantly, wide-spread vaccination was essential. Way too many people, and especially way too many politicians on the Right, saw the Pandemic challenge as private VS public, and, at best, private OR public, rather than a private & public good problem. It seems a reasoned God, and, a MetaEcon whether a believer or not, saw it the same way, and, in said case, a couple hundred thousand Americans would still be alive.
Wealth (to include Income and Power)
A reasoned God would likely see the matter of the extreme concentration of income, wealth, and the power it buys, as problematic, especially in the frame of the New Testament Nurturing God: The Christian Bible story about the challenge of an extremely wealthy (and powerful) person making it through the eye of a needle comes to mind. It would also likely be the case that a reasoned God, especially the Old Testament Strict Father God, would not want any laggards sitting around on the dole. So, incentives matter, in order to adequately stir the ego-based self-interest. Yet, extreme divergencies in income, wealth, and power also matter so one needs to stir the empathy-based shared (with others) interest.
A reasoned God would likely very much approve of the notion of optimal inequality, and described in the Metaeconomics Blog about how even Adam Smith saw the need to address the inexorable move to extreme concentration in a not tempered capitalism (https://www.metaeconomics.info/post/adam-smith-on-income-and-wealth-inequality ). Optimal inequality works in sports teams, and it works on factory floors, where adequate incentives are played-off (literally in sports teams) against a reasonable sharing of the income and wealth, decided at the outset by pay scales: It is not about redistribution after the fact, using taxes, but rather is about developing an optimal pay scale that everyone can go along with (labor unions and cooperatives can play a key role): Ethics matter. The incentive to stir the self-interest must be weighed against the resentment which arises when the high income and wealth (and power it buys) is only available to a few: Getting through the eye in the needle, anyone?
Another way to frame the problem of finding optimal inequality is to consciously work at avoiding Scroogism. A counter to it is Socialism. The Right often screams out “Socialism” every time someone on the Left tries to temper it: The Left needs to start screaming “Scroogism” every time someone the Right cuts taxes for the wealthy and otherwise opposes any kind attempt to temper it. As a Metaeconomics Blog makes clear, https://www.metaeconomics.info/post/now-that-the-election-is-over (also see https://www.metaeconomics.info/post/synthesizing-classical-liberalism-and-socialism-to-save-capitalism ), it is really about finding good balance in a joint Scroogism & Socialism economy. And, said Socialism would also see the key role Social Security has played, in bringing good balance in private & public retirement funds.
Conclusion: God is a MetaEcon
It seems that whether a person is a believer in a divinity, a God or Gods, or not, and, clearly for a curious agnostic who is open to collecting data and doing empirical research (again, the Webb Telescope comes to mind), well, a reasoned God would rely on the latest findings in science, and, temper same with the ethics of applying same. Such a God would encourage economic efficiency on a volitional path 0Z, tempered by a science & religion suitable to a reasoned God. So, even if not a believer, one arrives at the same place, said volitional path 0Z, building on data and empirical science, and, then, the ongoing empathy-based evolution of that which the other can go along with, as in science & ethical religion. The empathy-based evolution of the shared other-interest, shared with the (reasoned) other, would work to temper the application of the science, which is mainly self-interest focused. So, yes, if there is a God, and, that entity is a reasoned God, said entity is also a MetaEcon, and favors the science & ethics based path 0Z.
Dual interest theory in Metaeconomics is built on the same empirical foundation as would be used by a reasoned God, and, empathy-based ethics is recognized as key, the latter at least partially sourced in religion. It would seem that the empathy of Christianity, as delineated in the Nurturing Parent frame of the New Testament (in contrast to the Strict Father frame of the Old Testament), would be especially useful. Other religions and philosophies, like Buddhism within which empathy plays a key role, would also likely prove instrumental. Yet, one does not have to believe in a divinity to be a MetaEcon, even though a reasoned God would so be. It is your choice.
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