Join the Harvard Club of Naples for a Zoom presentation and conversation with Harvard Economist Benjamin M. Friedman discussing his new book, “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.” The book is a major reassessment of the foundations of modern economic thinking that explores the profound influence of an until-now unrecognized force – religion. Illuminating the origins of the relationship between religious thinking and economic thinking, together with its ongoing consequences, Professor Friedman will provide insights into our current economic policy debates and the ways it shapes more functional policies for all citizens.
Critics of contemporary economics complain that belief in free markets – among economists as well as many ordinary citizens – is a form of religion. In a deeper, more historically grounded sense, there is something to that idea. Contrary to the conventional historical view of economics as an entirely secular product of the Enlightenment, Professor Friedman demonstrates that religion exerted a powerful influence from the outset. Friedman makes clear how the foundational transition in thinking about what we now call economics, beginning in the eighteenth century, was decisively shaped by the hotly contended lines of religious thought within the English-speaking Protestant world. Beliefs about God-given human character, about the after-life, and about the purpose of our existence, were all under scrutiny in the world in which Adam Smith and his contemporaries lived. Friedman explores how those debates go far in explaining the puzzling behavior of so many of our fellow citizens whose views about economic policies–and whose voting behavior–seems sharply at odds with what would be to their own economic benefit.
Professor Benjamin M. Friedman is the William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, and formerly Chairman of the Department of Economics, at Harvard University. He has written extensively on economic policy, and in particular on the role of the financial markets in shaping how monetary and fiscal policies affect overall economic activity. His book Day of Reckoning: The Consequences of American Economic Policy Under Reagan and After (Random House, 1988) received the George S. Eccles Prize, awarded annually by Columbia University for excellence in writing about economics. Professor Friedman serves as a director and member of the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a director of the Private Export Funding Corporation, a trustee of the Pioneer Funds and a director of the National Council on Economic Education.