The Inconsistently Virtuous Economy

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:
The Inconsistently Virtuous Economy

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Although the clerical economists cared deeply about the problem of individual economic morality, they barely touched on the subject in their textbooks. In general, they subordinated ordinary people and day-to-day issues to the big intellectual picture: the stages of a nation's economic development, and the large-scale production, exchange, distribution and consumption of wealth. Employing a division of labor of their own, the clerical economists acknowledged issues of individual morality, but left it to, in Francis Wayland's words, “the teacher of ethics, to show in which mode of expenditure a man may best secure his future happiness, and act most worthily of the moral nature with which he is endowed.” When the clerical economists confronted the dangers of economic immorality, they always couched their proposed solutions in the tried-and-true vocabulary of Christian republicanism. In other words, the problem was never with the economic system, but always with the character or spirit of the people. For John McVickar, an education in political economy was not just a matter of personal duty and civic responsibility, but of national security as well.

Keywords: clerical economists; morality; economic immorality; republicanism; economic development; John McVickar; political economy; Francis Wayland

Chapter.  4164 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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