"The Comparative Endurance
and Efficiency of Religion: A Public Choice Approach."
Despite being the
neglected child of the social sciences, the world's major religious
institutions and faith traditions have managed to survive longer than any
secular political regime, dynasty, or empire in world history. The Roman
Catholic Church (and its Orthodox counterparts) have existed as formal
hierarchical institutions for nearly two millennia, and the Vatican counts
roughly one billion adherents among its contemporary constituency. Hinduism,
Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam have persisted in less hierarchical form for
equally long (if not longer) periods of time with no prospect of disappearing
soon. Why? And why wouldn't social scientists want to explore this
obvious fact? I argue that religious institutions provide critical public
goods (including social trust and order) without falling prey to what James
Buchanan calls the "paradox of being governed." By having an
external, non-partisan judge (God) as the final arbitrator of conflict, a
system of justice that allows for flexibility, and autonomy for local
congregations to provide public goods, religious institutions are less subject
to injurious forms of rent-seeking that bedevil (and destroy) secular states.
A caveat about "state-sponsored churches" is provided and
explains why connection to political power weakens the institutional efficiency
and endurance of religious groups.
- Anthony Gill Lecture (free)
04/10/2019 03:30 PM
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