God and the global markets

Is God to blame for the global market meltdown? Charles Kenny writing in Foreign Policy magazine looks at the current discussion of God’s involvement in economics and the “prosperity gospel:”

For many people, the wild fluctuations of global markets over the past few weeks were simply bad luck or a sign of the looming and dreaded double-dip recession. But for a large number of Americans, apparently, they were a sign from God. A recent survey by Baylor University shows that around 20 percent of Americans see God’s hand at work in the economy — even if they also strongly support a market free of all non-divine influence. “They think the economy works because God wants it to work. It’s a new religious economic idealism,” study co-author Paul Froese told USA Today.


Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, for example, has gained new popularity among economists trying to explain why some countries are rich and others poor. But before we begin a search for an unindicted evangelist of the prosperity gospel to replace Ben Bernanke at the Fed, it might be worth having a closer look at the real relationship between God and mammon.

Steven Durlauf of the National Bureau of Economic Research and colleagues have pointed out, the evidence of a link is far from clear-cut. Take one example: According to World Values Survey data, only 19 percent of Norwegians believe in hell, compared with 72 percent of Americans, and yet the World Bank suggests the average Norwegian has $5,000 more a year in income (not to mention the universal health care and long paid maternity leaves).

Is there a connection between faith and prosperity – the conclusion – NO. (at least not as measured by $$ in your pocket)

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