Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Religious-economic idealism is the belief that the free-market works because God is guiding it"

Paul Froese, in a Religion and Politics article, "How Your View of God Shapes Your View of the Economy" argues that the thesis of Thomas Frank's book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? is false.
Frank championed the narrative that working-class Americans vote against their economic interests, having been lured into the GOP tent largely with what he sees as insincere religious rhetoric. “The people at the top know what they have to do to stay there,” writes Frank, “and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.”
Instead, Froese, writes that there is no dichotomy between the economic and cultural interests of many Republicans.
 " . . . approximately 31 percent of Americans, many of whom are white evangelical men, believe that God is steering the United States economy, thus fusing their religious and economic interests. These individuals believe in what I call an “Authoritative God.” An Authoritative God is thought to be actively engaged in daily activities and historical outcomes. For those with an Authoritative God, value concerns are synonymous with economic concerns because God has a guiding hand in both. Around two-thirds of believers in an Authoritative God conjoin their theology with free-market economics, creating a new religious-economic idealism. Nearly one-fifth of American voters hold this viewpoint, signaling that it can be a major political force.

Religious-economic idealism is the belief that the free-market works because God is guiding it. (Its adherents are, of course, not your typical laissez-faire, Ayn Rand devotees.) The popularity of this ideology explains two supposed paradoxes. First, it indicates why some religious working-class Americans have embraced the GOP. It is not that these individuals ignore their class interests, but rather that they believe issues of abortion and gay marriage are linked to whether God is willing to help solve both social ills and their economic woes.

Second, the fact that income does not predict whether an American believes in an Authoritative God indicates that this is not a class-based ideology. Instead, it is a cosmic worldview, which appeals across economic divides. Most clearly, it benefits the wealthy because conservative economic policies tend to favor them. But wealthy Americans with an Authoritative God can also have a religious-like devotion to their economic conservatism. In this way, their economic pragmatism transforms into a type of religious dogmatism. And dogmatism does not bend to changing circumstances and outcomes, so that we can expect believers in religious-economic idealism to cling to laissez-faire policies even when they appear not to work.

It's an interesting explanation worth thinking about.  Thanks to J1 for the link. Here's Froese's whole article.


  1. We f**ked if Romney gets elected and these religious-polltical nuts pull his strings and control Congress/Supreme Court nominations...

    If only the OCCUPY contingent were as focused, got themselves elected to counteract the Teabaggers in Congress and then stuck to their beliefs as steadfastly as they do.

    How long before verbal threats to Democratic Senate women ("Throw acid their faces!") by a GOP candidate surrogate come to pass...

    Obama is the poltice that is bringing all this poison to the surface.
    It will get worse before it gets better. I see civil war and there will be blood.

  2. I read the article and have bookmarked one of Mr Froese's linked studies to read when I have time.
    It is indeed an interesting explanation to think about as it seems. on the face of it, to be grounded in where-people-live.
    Thank you Steve and J1 for something new to think about.
    Alaska Pi


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