Samuel Wilson & Tony Gill on Religion and Euvoluntary Exchange
Date: April 13th, 2014

How really “free” are you to choose your own religion?  While this topic has been fodder for theologians and moral philosophers for centuries, can contemporary economists bring anything to this debate?  In a special “simul-podcast” with the Euvoluntary Exchange website, freelance thinker and prolific blogger Samuel Wilson discusses the potential coercive (or non-coercive) aspects of religious choice, both at the individual and societal level.

We begin our discussion by laying out what this odd concept of “euvoluntary exchange” (EE) is.  Samuel presents a story originally told by Prof. Michael Munger on EconTalk regarding some young entrepreneurs who sold bags of ice to hurricane victims at an “inflated” price, leading many of the town residents to accuse them of price gouging (even though those same residents were willing to buy the ice at a higher price).  This parable raises the issue of whether or not these disaster victims were being coerced by their circumstances to engage in a trade they normally would not have agreed to.  Samuel then lays out what exactly EE is, which is an exchange that meets the following six criteria:

  1. conventional ownership
  2. conventional capacity to exchange
  3. absence of ex post facto regret
  4. no uncompensated externalities
  5. no coercion by human agency
  6. no coercion by circumstances (no BATNA disparity)

The condition excluding ex post facto regret becomes an interesting condition for religious choice to the extent that one of the “products” of religion is often salvation after death.  Since it is difficult to verify the quality of the product “until it is too late,” the concern over regret looms large.  We discuss this aspect of religious choice, but then move the conversation to look at how children are brought into the faith of their parent and whether church membership is truly euvoluntary or not.

The discussion is rather “free range” and we bounce from topic to topic, much the way two scholars would be talking over a few beers at a bar.  (Note: We were not at a bar and no beer was consumed during our conversation.)  We talk about the goals or religious organizations, virtuous behavior, church-state arrangements, religious liberty, divine-right kingship, apostasy, Jonestown, and a number of other interesting topics.  Join us for this fascinating and fun discussion, which has “nudged” Tony into a new set of research questions.  Recorded: March 21, 2014.



The Euvoluntary Exchange Blog, starring Samuel Wilson, Michael Munger, and Jeffrey Horn.

Mike Munger on Price Gouging, from EconTalk podcast (containing the hurricane ice story).

Mike Munger on Exchange, Exploitation, and Euvoluntary Transactions, from EconTalk.

The Political Origins of Religious Liberty, by Anthony Gill.

Rendering unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America, by Anthony Gill.


Russ Roberts & Anthony Gill on Religion and Religious Liberty (a EconTalk simul-podcast).

Anthony Gill on the Political Origins of Religious Liberty.

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

Jason Jewell on John Locke and Religious Toleration.

Art Carden on Christian Ethics, Charity, and Economics.

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

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