I just got my new Spring 2009 issue of Faith and Economics, a journal from the Association of Christian Economists, of which I am a student member (which means I don’t really pay).
Kenneth G. Elzinga and Matthew R. Givens have a paper on Christianity and Hayek.
They define economic liberty (per Hayek, 1960) as the “state in which man is not subject to coercion by the arbitrary will of another or others.” So far, so good.
Then they define Biblical freedom as “being set free from the curse and destructiveness of human selfishness.” Okay.
So, can these be reconciled?
Economic liberty is inter-personal. Indeed nothing is economic until other people are involved (Wicksteed, 1914). Mises showed us that catallaxy is about exchange.
Biblical freedom is intra-personal.
Does the one affect the other?
The journal article is really an attempt to say Hayek’s definition of liberty and understanding of economics relies on a Judeo-Christian view of man – that is – self-interested. It goes further to say Hayek was influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview (ugh) it other ways as well.
Hayek’s liberty leaves every man free to destroy his own life, but prohibits him from destroying the life of anyone else.
Biblical freedom separates a man from his propensity to destroy his own life.
But how is that achieved?
I believe by regeneration. I believe a Christian has been liberated from slavery to sin, and left free to chose whether to sin or not. Which imposes upon unbelievers total depravity. Sorry.
The sacrifice by which Christ purchased our freedom obliges every Christian to forfeit his own life and improve the lives of everyone else!
Does this contrast economic liberty?
I don’t think it can upset it. It can make barriers to liberty, such as incumbant privileges, easier to overcome. I am tempted to say, that without the willing sacrifice of some, achieving economic liberty may take longer to achieve. How will we get rid of subsidies without injustice unless someone volunteers to buy them out?
Just some thoughts.
PS: the article cites Peter Boettke, Chris Coyne, and Bruce Caldwell, among others.