Seminar Series: History of Economic Thought & Christian Faith

Many aspects of our lives are determined or at least conditioned by money. Our participation in society, art, education, even the Church, depends on it. In capitalism, money has become a measure not only of economic value but a universal gauge of human activity, life, and well-being. Thus, the economy and economics affect us all. They are much too important for our daily lives as to leave them to the specialists, because if things go wrong we all have to foot the bill. Taking responsibility for the common good as mature citizens requires understanding the consequences of the decisions that set the course of our economic life.

Reality is more important than ideas, but human reality is shaped by actions and these are rooted in ideas. Business is part of society, and as such is guided by ideas, as the economist John Maynard Keynes has famously put it: “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Without reflection on the ideas that guide business, we become easy prey to manipulation, populists and ideology.

With this in mind, in the interdisciplinary triennial seminar “The History of Economic Thought and Christian Faith” we wish to explore past and present economic ideas, proposals, and systems. Over the next three years, we will integrate economic models with the Catholic tradition, and build bridges between disciplines, convictions, and political divides.

The Christian faith over the centuries has developed a social tradition with core principles and values for society that also affect the economy. The Catholic social tradition will be the framework, in which we discuss and evaluate economic proposals.

Next in the Series

Tuesday, November 27

Conspicuous Consumption & the Economic Theory of Thorstein Veblen

Presented by Dr. Monica Hartmann, Chair of Economics Department at the University of St. Thomas

Click here for more . . . 

Past Lectures

Past lectures of the series have included:

Presented February 27, 2018 by Msgr. Dr. Martin Schlag of the University of St. Thomas

Adam Smith is considered the father of modern economics.  His book An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of the WEalth of Nations is a classic and probably one of the most widely read and translated books in English.  Over the centuries, his theory repeatedly was reduced to slogans.  The Catholic Church reacted to Adam Smith and his economic and political liberalism mainly in a negative way.  However, did she do Adam Smith justice?  Is the Church aware of Smith's hidden influence in Catholic social teaching?  How should we position ourselves in an atmosphere of growing rejection of capitalism and free market economy?

Presented April 17, 2018 by Dr. Joe Kaboski and Dr. Kirk Doran of the University of Notre Dame

Robert Malthus, one of the most influential writers in classical political economy, was also an Anglican minister. In 1798, his An Essay on the Principle of Population was an argument against the Enlightenment thinkers of the time who promoted Utopian visions based the on the presumed perfectibility of man and society. He reminded these thinkers that population growth and the economy’s limited ability to produce food to feed everyone had always kept the mass of humanity in poverty. Perhaps the first of many famous erroneous predictions by economics, he asserted that this would always be the case, helping to give economics the moniker of the “dismal science”. However, in addressing population growth, he urged “moral restraint” as a better alternative to “misery and vice”. With the environmental concerns at an all-time high, and fears of overpopulation as a confounding factor, the influence of his ideas are quite prominent in both economics and the public sphere. What do we know from economics about these issues, and how do these relate to Catholic social teachings?

Presented Spetmeber 25, 2018 by Dr. Andy Yuengert of The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.

The memories of the Cold War and communism have faded, and inequality is growing both in our country and between nations. The prophecies of Karl Marx that capitalism would become globalized and then destroy itself seem to be coming true. Marxism seems to allure people in all generations, also ours. However, very few people have actually read Marx and studied him as an economist. If they had, they would realize that his promises are void. Marx’s system is “a most ingeniously conceived structure, built up by a fabulous power of combination, of innumerable stories of thought, held together by a marvelous mental grasp, but—a house of cards.” (Böhm-Bawerk, Karl Marx and the Close of His System, 1896)