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Religion and economic success

December 14th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m an atheist and generally find most arguments on behalf of religion to be tedious and self-serving. But I just read an interesting one from none other Charlie Munger:

I’ll go further: I say economic systems work better when there’s an extreme reliability ethos. And the traditional way to get a reliability ethos, at least in past generations in America, was through religion. The religions instilled guilt. We have a charming Irish Catholic priest in our neighborhood and he loves to say, “Those old Jews may have invented guilt , but we perfected it.” (Laughter). And this guilt, derived from religion, has been a huge driver of a reliability ethos, which has been very helpful to economic outcomes for man.

The rest of the presentation is pretty teriffic, too. Here are a couple other chestnuts.

On Arthur Laffer:

When I talk about this false precision, this great hope for reliable, precise formulas, I am reminded of Arthur Laffer, who’s in my political party, and who is one of the all-time horse’s asses when it comes to doing economics. His trouble is his craving for false precision, which is not an adult way of dealing with his subject matter.

On Freud:

The third weakness that I find in economics is what I call physics envy. And of course, that term has been borrowed from penis envy as described by one of the world’s great idiots, Sigmund Freud. But he was very popular in his time, and the concept got a wide vogue.

Get it here.

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