Chapter

Moral Problems, Scientific Solutions

in Friends of the Unrighteous Mammon

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226137063
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226137087 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226137087.003.0005
Moral Problems, Scientific Solutions

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“It has been often questioned whether Political Economy be a moral science,” John McVickar admitted in 1825, and then confessed: “The decision of Adam Smith and his followers is against it; the production of material wealth is the only question they admit.” Six years later, Henry Vethake, another one of America's first clerical economists, expressed similar thoughts about the apparent incompatibility of Christianity and political economy. All of the clerical economists wanted to respond to these religious suspicions about their discipline and its subject. The most pressing question, as always, was about the morality of political economy and the economic system it claimed to describe. The clerical economists largely dealt with these objections by making a critical distinction between the emerging market capitalism and the behavior of individuals within that system. This chapter explores how the clerical economists understood the market capitalist system that political economy described and how they defended it and its science against religious objections with their own religious arguments.

Keywords: clerical economists; political economy; capitalism; morality; science; Adam Smith; John McVickar; Henry Vethake; Christianity

Chapter.  5827 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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