Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Sympathy for Homo Religiosus


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What might religion do to improve our understanding of economics and human behavior? Here I contrast the mainstream economics view of choice and behavior with the religious view. In the mainstream economics view, human beings are rational calculating maximizers of utility. In the religious view, human beings are fundamentally flawed, they are endowed with conflicting desires, and they are seekers of meaning and community. While these two views may lead to different implications for behavior, I focus on the implications for how they affect economists’ behavior in the policy arena. I suggest that developing sympathy for ‘homo religiosus’ could lead an economist to a policy outlook that is humbler, less expansive, and perhaps more productive.