Is Religious Freedom Good for Growth? A Panel Discussion
Date: February 5th, 2017

Can religious freedom promote economic growth in the long- and/or short-term?  This was the general question posed to a number of scholars on November 15, 2016 at a symposium entitled “Religious Freedom and the Common Good” hosted by the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs (Georgetown University).  Wow! That’s a mouthful!  Brian Grim (Religious Freedom & Business Foundation) moderates a conversation with Ilan Alon (University of Agder), Timur Kuran (Duke University), Rachel McCleary (Harvard University and Hoover Institution), and your own lovable host Anthony Gill (University of Washington).  The discussion that develops is broad-ranging, covering countries as far-flung as Guatemala and China, and eras from the Ottoman Empire to contemporary Russia.  Anthony Gill asserts that religious liberty is good for long-term economic growth, citing an example from the Netherlands in the 17th century, but also cautions that efforts to impose religious freedom from the top-down can cause conflict in the short-run, and that a strong culture of tolerance is needed for religious freedom and economic freedom to work conjointly.  Timur Kuran shares these views noting that many skilled entrepreneurs leave places such as Pakistan in the search for more spiritually free environments and this harms their growth potential (while benefiting those countries where migrants move t0).  At various points throughout the conversation he uses examples from the Ottoman Empire and contemporary Turkey to show how laws on religious behavior and towards religious minorities can have important economic impacts.  Rachel McCleary offers a competing view noting an important difference between “believing” and “belonging.”  Whereas certain religious beliefs may be conducive to economic growth, she notes that religious institutions either have no or a negative effect on economic growth and reducing political corruption.  She cites her extensive research in Guatemala to support this claim.  Ilan Alon sees both positive and negative effects on economic growth created by religious freedom and brings his experience in China and Norway to bear on this topic.  Brian Grim peppers the discussion with a number of his own observations how particular companies such as the Kellogg Corporation have promoted religious freedom at various points in time.  It is also noted that the Quakers were great at making chocolate and founded Cadbury.  Near the end of the panel discussion, Anthony Gill makes a controversial point that bourbon is better than scotch as the participants field a number of questions from audience members. Recorded: November 15, 2016.



Video presentation of the panel at the Religious Freedom Project (Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs).

Religious Freedom and the Common Good Symposium webpage.

Coming soon: Religious Freedom Institute.  (The same project, but now in institutional form!)

Brian Grim’s bio at the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation.

Ilan Alon’s bio at the University of Agder.

Timur Kuran’s bio at Duke University.

Rachel McCleary’s bio at the Hoover Institution.

Anthony Gill’s bio at the University of Washington.

Explanation of bourbon vs scotch and definitive proof of which one is better.


Religious Liberty & Economic Prosperity: A Panel Discussion.

Proselytism, Social Stability, and Development: A Panel Discussion.

Religious Freedom & Political Flourishing: A Panel Discussion.

Proselytism, Humanitarianism, and Development: A Panel Discussion.

Brian Grim on Religious Freedom & Business.

Timur Kuran on Islamic Law and Economic Development.

Timur Kuran on Islamic Economics.

Rebecca Shah on Religion and the Enterprising Poor in India.

Allen Hertzke on Religious Liberty.

Carrie Miles on Religion, Gender, and Missionaries.

Timothy Shah on the Case for Religious Liberty.

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