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Mindful Economics: The Production, Consumption, and Value of Beliefs

ROLAND BÉNABOU AND JEAN TIROLE
THE JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES 30.3 (2016): 141-164

Abstract: In this paper, we provide a perspective into the main ideas and findings emerging from the growing literature on motivated beliefs and reasoning. This perspective emphasizes that beliefs often fulfill important psychological and functional needs of the individual. Economically relevant examples include confidence in ones’ abilities, moral self-esteem, hope and anxiety reduction, social identity, political ideology, and religious faith. People thus hold certain beliefs in part because they attach value to them, as a result of some (usually implicit) tradeoff between accuracy and desirability. In a sense, we propose to treat beliefs as regular economic goods and assets—which people consume, invest in, reap returns from, and produce, using the informational inputs they receive or have access to. Such beliefs will be resistant to many forms of evidence, with individuals displaying non-Bayesian behaviors such as not wanting to know, wishful thinking, and reality denial.

Filed under: Economics, Society

Two Concepts of Religious Liberty: The Natural Rights and Moral Autonomy Approaches to the Free Exercise of Religion

VINCENT PHILLIP MUÑOZ
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW 110.2 (2016): 369-381

Abstract: Due in part to the influence of Michael McConnell, free exercise exemptionism is generally thought to be compatible with, if not dictated by, the founders’ church-state political philosophy. This article rejects that position, arguing instead that America’s constitutional tradition offers two distinct conceptions of religious liberty: the founders’ natural rights free exercise and modern moral autonomy exemptionism. The article aims to distinguish these two approaches by clarifying how they are grounded upon divergent philosophical understandings of human freedom and by explaining how they advance different views of what religious liberty is, how it is threatened, and, accordingly, how it is best protected. The article also attempts to demonstrate how our modern approach expands the protection for religious liberty in some ways but limits it in others.

Filed under: History, Philosophy, Political Theory, Religion

Representation without Taxation, Taxation without Consent: The Legacy of Spanish Colonialism in America

ALEJANDRA IRIGOIN
REVISTA DE HISTORIA ECONÓMICA / JOURNAL OF IBERIAN AND LATIN AMERICAN ECONOMIC HISTORY, 34.2 (2016): 369-381

Abstract: The essay examines Spain’s colonial legacy in the long-run development of Spanish America. It surveys the fiscal and constitutional outcomes of independence and assesses the relative burden imposed by colonialism. Constitutional asymmetries between revenue collecting and spending agents constrained de facto governments’ power to tax. Inherent disparities embedded in the colonial fiscal system worsened with vaguely defined representation for subjects and territories and vexed their aggregation into a modern representative polity. Governments with limited fiscal capacity failed to deliver public goods and to distribute the costs and benefits of independence equitably. Growing indirect taxes, debt and money creation allowed them to transfer the fiscal burden to other constituents or future generations. Taxpayers became aware of the asymmetry between private contributions and public goods and hence favoured a low but regressive taxation. Comparisons with trajectories in the metropolis and the United States are offered to qualify this legacy.

Filed under: Economics, History

Locke On Toleration, (In)Civility and the Quest for Concord

T. M. BEJAN
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 37.3 (2016): 556-587

Abstract: Lockean toleration has long been criticized as ethically minimal and indifferent to the interactions of private individuals. Yet these criticisms ignore Locke’s lasting preoccupation with intolerance and incivility as obstacles to coexistence. These concerns were instrumental in the development of his understanding of toleration as a complex package of negative and positive virtues informed increasingly by a vision of concordia — a Christian ideal of unity in diversity. But by linking the outward virtue of civility ever more closely with sincere esteem and inward charity, Locke ultimately premised affective concord on an agreement between individuals more ‘fundamental’ than the disagreements that divided them. Re-interpreting Lockean toleration–and its limits–in this light has important implications for both its critics and its defenders, who likewise prefer concord to mere toleration while neglecting its exclusionary potential.

Filed under: Philosophy, Political Theory

Doux Commerce, Jew Commerce: Intolerance And Tolerance In Voltaire And Montesquieu

R. GOODMAN
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 37.3 (2016): 530-555

Abstract: Voltaire and Montesquieu both defended eighteenth-century commerce against its critics–but Voltaire did so as a vehement anti-Semite, while the comparatively tolerant Montesquieu internalized the most prevalent criticisms of commercial society. Voltaire’s strategic anti-Semitism projected the market’s unsavoury qualities onto an already despised minority, creating, in effect, two varieties of commerce: ‘our’ progressive mode and ‘their’ debased one. Montesquieu, by contrast, painted a more ambiguous picture, celebrating the market’s growth while often conceding the superiority of the pre-commercial world, a position of rhetorical self-doubt that minimized the need to manufacture scapegoats. Their clash stands as an object lesson in argumentative ethics: while Voltaire’s purism led to disturbing conclusions, Montesquieu’s self-critical approach endures as a compelling model.

Filed under: Political Theory

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