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How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future
Pete Peterson says we are 'running on empty' due to economic theologies from both parties. He says Social Security benefits must be cut.

Peter G. Peterson is chairman, The Blackstone Group, and chairman of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. At a meeting of the latter group he discussed his new book Running on Empty which attacks what he calls "economic theologies" as being "faith-directed" which means they are economic views which are "more or less untouched by analysis, history, or evidence." Then he even quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer calling him a philosopher rather than the Lutheran theologian that he was.

When I sat down and read several economics textbooks some years ago I was myself amazed the degree to which they were based on "faith-like" assumptions, such as the "maximizing man" and the invisible hand notion whereby if everyone acts according to their own self-interest then the most good will occur for the whole community. That seems to me simply a way to justify greed.

But that aside, Paul Peterson goes after several groups of people, including those who believe that tax cuts solve every economic problem. Indeed, such is what calls an economic theology with no evidence that it is true.

It's worth taking a look at this article partly because it demonstrates what Republicans really want to do. They want to reduce Social Security benefits. At least Peterson is being honest and he is making arguments that need to be addressed by real policy debate. Meanwhile President Bush wants to create private savings accounts by allowing folks to pay into these accounts with part of their Social Security taxes each month. But he doesn't tell anyone this will cost a trillion dollars over ten years, as Peterson clearly states, unless benefits to the elderly are reduced substantially.

I would like if conservative economists and politicians would be a little more faith-directed, would affirm the theology of telling the truth. Paul Peterson is at least moving in that direction. And let's encourage him to put the Bonhoeffer standard ("The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children.") above the economic ideology he learned from Milton Friedmann.

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Date Added: 9/14/2004 Date Revised: 9/14/2004 1:14:12 PM

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