This dissertation considers two intellectual impediments to interdisciplinary dialogue between Christian theologians, ethicists, and economists: scarcity and the status of economics as a wertfrei science. Using the landmark methodological work of Lionel Robbins, An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economics Science, to frame the discussion, this dissertation seeks to remove these two intellectual impediments to interdisciplinary dialogue by considering three nested questions. They are:
(1) Is scarcity—as defined by Robbins—an accurate description of the world?
(2) If scarcity, as defined by Robbins, is an accurate description of the world, how is this to be justified theologically, and what are the implications for the demarcation of economics?
(3) Is economics a wertfrei science, and, if it is, what are the implications for interdisciplinary dialogue?
Chapter 1 elucidates these questions by outlining Robbins’s conception of scarcity, his scarcity definition of economics, and his understanding of economics as a wertfrei science. The first part of Chapter 2 considers question (1) by examining various challenges that have been leveled at Robbins’s understanding of scarcity as a description of the world. Having shown that the various challenges fail to overturn Robbins’s understanding of scarcity as a description of the world, the second part of Chapter 2 begins to consider question (2) by framing Robbins’s understanding of scarcity in terminology more familiar to the Christian theologian and ethicist. Chapter 3 continues to consider question (2) by developing a theodicy that accounts for why humans find themselves in a world in which the degree of scarcity is such that human needs, at times, go unmet. Chapters 2 and 3, then, provide a theological rationale for scarcity and a theological rationale for the existence of economics as the study of scarcity-constrained choice.
Chapter 4 turns to question (3), returning to Robbins’s understanding of economics as a wertfrei science as presented within An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economics Science, and what this means for the relationship between economic science and ethics. This chapter also introduces a later essay written by Robbins, Economics and Political Economy, to further elucidate Robbins’s understanding of the relationship between economic science and ethics, and his advocacy for political economy as the discipline that seeks to integrate the deliverances of both economic science and ethics with a view to offering policy advice. This chapter argues for a retrieval of political economy, but (contra Robbins) based on a realist meta-ethics.
Chapter 5, which is the culminating and capstone chapter, argues for Christian political economy as the site for interdisciplinary dialogue between Christian theologians, ethicists, and economists, now that the intellectual impediments of scarcity and economics as a wertfrei science have been overcome. As a particular instantiation of political economy, Christian political economy draws on the deliverances of both Christian ethics and economic science. In doing so, it respects and understands the scope and nature of economic science and seeks to maintain its theological integrity by drawing from Christian ethics.
Robin W. Lovin
William J. Abraham
Charles E. Curran
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McLellan, Nathan, "Christian Political Economy and Economic Science: A Pathway for Interdisciplinary Dialogue" (2018). Religious Studies Theses and Dissertations. 5.