Anne Rathbone Bradley on Christianity and Capitalism
Date: September 10th, 2017

Does capitalism get a bad rap?  Was Jesus and his followers socialists?  These questions and more frame our discussion this week as we invite Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley onto the show to discuss her latest co-edited volume Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.   Dr. Bradley is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.  We begin with an overview of this relatively new institute and what it does, and then turn to the question of what motivated an edited volume on Christianity and capitalism.  This leads us to a discussion of how capitalism often gets a bad image, often viewed as synonymous with greed, materialism, and the rich taking from the poor.  Anne provides a different working definition of capitalism that rests upon who makes decisions about how the means of production are used (which is a wide swathe of people), and a system of exchange through the mechanisms of profit and loss.  We then take a look at the chapter written by Joy Buchanan and Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith about who benefits from capitalism and review the progress humanity has made over the past 200 years as markets have become historically more free.  Anne points out that commoners can enjoy such luxuries today that would have only been reserved for a small hereditary class in the past.  We move to Jonathan Pennington’s chapter on the topic of human flourishing in both the Old and New Testaments, noting that enjoying life (and the gifts of God) is an important goal here on Earth.  This is contrasted to “Kantian altruism,” that tends to wallow in asceticism that often subverts enjoyment of material things.  We further talk about how free markets allow us to trade with strangers and the role that trust plays in society, springboarding ourselves into the chapter written the late Michael Novak on how democratic capitalism also  helps to raise human dignity.  Art Lindsley’s chapter falls next on the docket.  He argues that while the New Testament does not specifically call for a capitalist system, neither does it endorse the socialist alternative.  The “sharing economy” described in Acts 2-5 is put into context, and Anne introduces the importance of the concept of “ownership of self.”  The last portion of our interview is spent discussion one of Dr. Bradley’s specialties — inequality (of both income and wealth).  We talk about “good” and “bad” inequality, how inequality is measured, and how God has gifted individuals with different talents  that manifest themselves in different returns.  Tony notes that this does not undermine the inherent dignity of a person, comparing Bill Gates and his bartenders equally.  At this point, Anne relays a personal story about the survival of her daughter immediately after a premature birth and how much she not only benefited from a feeding tube patent introduced by Henry Turkel in the early 1950s, but all the other people that brought the all the technology together that saved a precious life.  We also bring up Jesus’s Parable of the Talents that this point.  Anne offers some thoughts about what Christians can and should do about inequality, specifically denouncing “cronyism” — the use of government coercion to direct social resources towards one’s personal gain.  The interview ends with some of Dr. Bradley’s thoughts on what she has learned over the course of a couple decades studying economics while being a practicing question.  She has enjoyed how her spiritual faith has always put her “economic way of thinking” to the test.  Recorded: August 18, 2018.


Anne Rathbone’s bio at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.

Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism, edited by Art Lindsley and Anne R. Bradley.

For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, edited by Anne R. Bradley and Art Lindsley.


Art Carden on Christian Ethics and Economics.

Robert Sirico on Markets, Morality, Faith, and Freedom.

Bob Subrick on Religion and Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, and Vernon Smith.

Is Religious Freedom Good for Growth? A Panel Discussion.

Samuel Gregg on Pope Francis, Argentina, and Economics.

Maureen Fitzgerald on Irish Nuns and Welfare.

Martin Barrett on Sozo Friends and For-Profit Charity.

John Rees on International Development and Faith-Based Organizations.

Brian Grim on Religious Liberty and Business.

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