Religious Liberty & Economic Prosperity: A Panel Discussion
Date: December 22nd, 2013

Does religious freedom promote religious liberty?  This was the question posed to a distinguished panel of scholars at Georgetown University in early October 2013.  Sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, this panel was moderated by William Inboden (University of Texas) and included (in order of appearance) Ilan Alon (Rollins College), Timur Kuran (Duke University), Ian Linden (Tony Blair Faith Foundation), and Rebecca Shah (Berkley Center).

The panelists were given a set of questions exploring the causal connections between religious liberty and economic prosperity.  Prof. Alon emphasizes the important role that institutions, the allocation of labor resources, and trade & investment occur in an environment of greater religious liberties.  Institutionally, religious liberty is often embedded in a broader set of civic freedoms that re-inforce one another and enhance optimal use of resources and encourage investment.  Prof. Kuran echoes a similar theme and emphasizes the importance of fostering new ideas (innovations) in society.  He illustrates how this plays out with examples from Turkey and other parts of the Middle East, with a focus on Islamic law and how religious minorities often had access to other forms of legal systems.

Dr. Linden turns the conversation away from causality and towards a big think approach emphasizing the role of dialogue, empowerment, building capacity, and ways to think about development.  He poses an intriguing question as to who has emerged from the total destruction of the world economy – Western or Islamic banking?  In discussing whether there is a causal linkage between religious liberty and economic prosperity, he raises the intriguing point about the sacralization of violence and how this creates binary choices for young people who just want hope and opportunity.  Finally, the discussion turns to Dr. Shah who moves us back to the micro-level and shares stories about her research in the slums of India wherein religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, has been helpful in alleviating the dire circumstances of women in these communities.  She ties this together with research on microfinance to demonstrate how greater religious toleration is creating an environment that is conduvice to improving living standards among the poorest of the poor.

The podcast concludes with a series of audience questions and responses by the various panelists.  Recorded at Georgetown University: October 10, 2013.


 The panel discussion in video format available at YouTube.

Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs (Georgetown University).

William Inboden’s bio at Religious Freedom Project and University of Texas.

Ilan Alon’s bio at Rollins College.

Timur Kuran’s bio at Duke University.

Ian Linden’s bio at the Religious Freedom Project.

Rebecca Shah’s bio at the Religious Freedom Project.


Religious Freedom & Political Flourishing: A Panel Discussion.

William Inboden on Religious Liberty, Foreign Policy, and the Arab Spring.

Timur Kuran on Islamic Law and Economic Development.

Timur Kuran on Islamic Economics.

Rebecca Shah on Religion and the Enterprising Poor in India.

Jared Rubin on Christian and Islamic Economic History.

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

Mark Koyama on the Economics of Jewish Expulsions.

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

Art Carden on Christian Ethics, Charity, and Economics.

Theodore Malloch on Spiritual Capital and Virtuous Business.

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