Economics as America’s Sovereign Religion: Is it Time for a Reformation?

The most powerful religion in the Western world is no longer Christianity. It is economics.
It can actually be quite instructive to consider economics not as a science or sociology but as a religion, complete with doctrines, priests, and constant references to faith. So says John Rapley in his essay from The Guardian last July.
“Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle” … it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.”
If the economy is the new religion of the masses, then economists are its priestly class replete with their own denominational squabbles and even scandals. The economists are like priests,
“…giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment. For a long time, they seemed to deliver on that promise, succeeding in a way few other religions had ever done, our incomes rising thousands of times over and delivering a cornucopia bursting with new inventions, cures and delights.”
Economics dominates modern ethical discourse. Profitability now equates with ethical virtue. The bottom line ethical question for Western society–the question behind all of our other questions–is no longer “what is true?” or “what is good?” and certainly not “what is beautiful?” The bottom line ethical question of our day is “what is profitable?”


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