JARED(Economic history in lieu religion) (1)
5:44AM Aug 4, 2021
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was the cons unsupervised learning. Hey, everybody, I am here with Dr. Jared Rubin of Chapman University. Jared, could you introduce yourself? Yeah, thanks for having me on.
Yeah, I'm a professor, as you noted of economics at Chapman University, and mainly study economic history, economics of religion, culture, all these fun things, mainly in the Middle East and Western Europe, really interested in Islam and Christianity and their role in economic development over history.
Yeah, which is, you know, and this is a very interesting field, but it's also pretty atypical, I think, for an economist, so I don't know too much about it. Well, I mean, I know a little bit about the economics, I read how verions you know, intermediate, and I read a fair amount of economic history, actually. So I'm interested in the topic. But uh, you know, economics is a very, like, I would argue, that's the highest status, social science out there. You guys work with these complex mathematical models and these formalisms and you know, you work with game theory, you guys get Nobel prizes, and you get like, a lot of high level appointments in the government. But um, you know, you study religion. That's a little strange, isn't it? Can you just talk about how you got, not where you are, and why you made the decision and the consequences for you.
strange enough, that when I was when I went to my PhD advisor, probably say, 2003 2004, and told him that I wanted to do religion, he told me that his first reaction was, I'll support you, if that's really what you want to do, do you know that it's gonna be very hard for you to get the job? But, you know, go Go for it, if that's what you want. So yeah, no, you're right. This is not not typical at all, even though it's actually becoming much more typical. In fact, you know, we have a whole subfield now economics of religion, a lot of which is done by economic historians, but much of which is also not. And we have a conference that runs, you know, over 100 people every year is kind of doing stuff at the kind of confluence of religion and culture, it's still not a huge field, by any means. But the the way I got into it is I was just in a sense, following what I found interesting, I minored, in religion in undergraduate, in fact, and I only I wanted to major in it, but they but I didn't have enough time to finish the, the triple major. So I thought it would always be something that I read on the side, I was particularly interested in Islam and Christian history, as well as the both in terms of the kind of secular side of things. Yeah, how they played a role in politics and things like that. But also, yeah, the actual kind of theological and the the development of doctrine over time, that was just something that interested me and I should say this, not as somebody who is really religious themselves, so you know, I'm not religious, but it always fascinated me. And, you know, I realized later it fascinated me, in part because of my interest in economics and economics. I think, especially micro economics, at its heart, is the science of, or maybe not science, it's a study of why people do what they do. And religion very clearly in history has always played a pretty big role in shaping people's incentives. And just the way the, their mindset, you know, you say, their culture, their, the heuristics they use to make decisions. And this was something I never really understood, fully understood. And probably because I'm not religious, which is why it always, I think, attracted me as something to study. And I was very fortunate in my graduate school is that my advisor was somebody who had studied religion, particularly Islam and Christianity and their role in long run economic development. I kind of stumbled on this in grad school, I didn't go to graduate school thinking it that it would be something I could do, I didn't know that this field existed. And when I was in graduate school in the early 2000s, it really wasn't a big field. It was a very small field. It was a field. My colleague at Chapman Mariana Coney is one of the founders of the field and he's the reasonable chap and as well and but when he was doing it, he was more or less completely on an island. He was him and some sociologists of religion, Ronnie's are almost no other economists doing it now there's now there's a lot more and it's it's to the point where it gets published enough in top journals that we hit see grad students that are interested in as well so I'm not by any means claiming that this is a large field but it's a it's it's gone beyond just you know, a few people at a few Random universities doing?
Yeah. So, um, you know, about 10 years ago, I actually read marketplace of dogs, which I think talks about some of Larry's research, and the whole field of economic understanding of religion, religious competition, kind of the rational, rational choice model, which, you know, presumes, or like, you know, posits religions as, as firms like kind of supply side framework. So, I thought that was an interesting book, to be totally Frank, I'm not sure if how empirically robust it is cross culturally at this point. But that's, but that's, you know, that's why they framed it in that way. Because you can test the hypotheses, right? You can, or your own scholarship, from what I can tell, takes a somewhat different angle in that, like, you're looking at, like more macro patterns, and then trying to make various connections relate to the macro patters. And so what I, when I read your book couple years ago, and I'll just mention the book, we're going to talk about it extensively. So rulers, religion enriches why the West got rich, and the Middle East did not. And, you know, West, Middle East, I think, you know, listeners can infer that that has something to do with Christianity, and Islam maybe. So your book kind of reminded me a little about the the libertarian tradition, in some ways. And that idea of like religion and ideology, and how that influences just economic outcomes, cultural outcomes, social outcomes, material outcomes, more generally, maybe, or phenomenological. outcomes. And, you know, I came into it to be entirely Frank, pretty skeptical of that I came out of after reading your book, like more convinced that it matters, I probably actually am more convinced even now from after your book, like now over the last couple of years, that beliefs matter. But um, can you talk about like your relationship to say they were varying ideas, and how they've shaped the reception of your thesis? And also what your thesis is, obviously?
Yeah, no, well, you know, first of all, I should say, Thanks, it's, it's a, it's always amazing to hear that, you know, when somebody reads your book, and, and maybe has their priors even just moved a little bit. So that's, that's one of the greatest compliments, I think he can give somebody writes a book. Yeah. So I mean, I think what and with respect to vabre, there's two, there's really two questions or two aspects of the vai barian framework. One is a more general one, that, you know, beliefs, values matter. For, for really all types of outcomes, the outcomes, my book is interested in, I'll get to, you know, what it's about in a second, and, you know, are kind of economic and political outcomes. And there. Yeah, I mean, the book very much follows in that tradition, as opposed to the kind of more straightforward, you know, not just not just what I think many people have, in their mind as a stereotype of economists, where, you know, it's all about very tangible things like, money or, or, you know, just incentives that are more extrinsic. But even the institutionalists, which, you know, there's a growing kind of field of institutional economics over the past three, four decades, especially starting with people like Douglas north and Oliver Williamson. Both know, Nobel laureates, who, for the most part, even though North was kind of a convert very late in his life, values play a secondary role at best. There are so in in that tradition, I'd say I'm much more of a barian. than, than many others, even though again, I think the field is kind of moving more towards that direction, in part, for reasons you just noted, too, that it's becoming harder and harder to interpret a lot of what's going on, in politics worldwide, really, you know, the US being an obvious example, but I mean, you can look at what's happening in England with having an India, Turkey, you know, you can use various parts of the world where you, you just, it's really hard to understand, I think, without considering the role of cultural values, cultural norms in and how they interact with institutional development. The second part of the vai burian hypothesis, though, is, you know, vabre had a very specific hypothesis about the role of the Protestantism play, you know, it's arguably his most famous work the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism pinpointed a few specific values associated with who or what he associated with Protestant to mainly Calvinist thought, namely, that because Calvinists and Calvin put forth this idea of predestination, that people are either part of the elect or not, you know, the elect that would, you know, enter the kingdom of heaven, that you could show that you were part of the elect by having worldly success. This is according to vabre. And this made people want to work harder. I made them thrifty or made them save more. Yeah, these are the things that he viewed. I think he viewed rightfully so those be as being values that helped contribute to a capitalistic spirit. On the other hand, the question is whether this was really something to do with Protestant values or whatever you want to call it a Calvinist values. And there I'd say my theory diverges quite a bit on the specifics with vabre. My so my maybe this is a good way to segue into you know, that maybe a very brief overview of what the book has to say the book focuses on the role that religion plays mainly in legitimating political power. And it, it traces it from the the beginnings of Islam, the beginnings of Christianity, noting that Islam grew alongside rapidly expanding empire that needed doctrine to help legitimated through all over newly conquered people. And because Islam was forming at this time, it was amenable to such doctrinal changes or not even changes but doctrinal formation. And that's there's a lot of doctrine in Islam that would that does support following a ruler who acts like a good Muslim, whereas in Christianity, I was born of the Roman Empire, its first 300 years it was a minority religion. And as and this was also the period when a lot of its doctrine was forming. And you really don't see nearly as much doctrine that supports legitimating of rule. You know, there's very famous doctrine fact that does the opposite, that you know, there should be two separate kingdoms, you know, Jesus is famous saying, render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.
So, there, the idea then pushes forward and says, alright, this doesn't mean that Christianity couldn't be used to legitimate rule. Well, it does mean is on the margin, Islam was, was better at this, and it started in Utrecht tries to trace out what this means for political and economic outcomes. One thing that I think is rather important in this is that there are economic benefits to be to having religious legitimacy, especially in large Empire, you know, so large Empire relative in the pre modern time in particular, had had benefits such as you know, protection for traders over long distances, common currency, perhaps common religion, things that that might have knitted groups together that wouldn't have otherwise been knitted. And this is something that's that's been noted by other historians as well, as you know, all of these things combined, helped spark the early, not just spread of Islam, but the economic advance as well, you know, Islam in its golden age, the first 400 or so years, after, after Muhammad was probably the wealthiest part of Eurasia if the maybe maybe on par with some China, but certainly much wealthier than Western Europe or, you know, certainly any Well, yeah, certainly Western Europe, and probably a little wealthier than Eastern European under the Byzantine Empire. But on the other hand, it also overtime can be stifling as well, religious legitimacy. And what the reason that it can be is that it's all for one, it's it's relatively inexpensive. So when it's effective, it's something that as it is, in Islam, it's very enticing to use for a ruler. Whereas when it's less effective, and other sources of legitimacy or other means in the economy, for your economic advance arise, there's more incentive for rulers to start using these other sources of legitimacy. And this is what ends up happening as the economy really starts to expand in Europe, after you know, a good five 600 years of decline after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 11th through 13th centuries, where you start to see other sources of power arise and and what they the sources of power. One thing they do when one reason they're able to be powerful is they help they help legitimate rule. And eventually, this gets consolidated in Parliament's. And as a as an economist, I'm looking at economic outcomes, you know, what are the economic consequences of this arrangement? And well, one thing that you know, Parliament's did is they comprised the economic elite, among others, you know, there would be churchmen in there as well. But the economic elite, this is one place where they were able to have their voice heard. Now, you know, this isn't to say that they wanted things that were good for society, necessarily, but they wanted things that were good for themselves, and the types of things they want for themselves, at least the big prizes are the types of things that we tend to think of as being pretty consistent with economic development, such as relatively secure property rights, you know, at least for themselves, investment in large scale public goods like infrastructure, improvements to you know, travel networks, road networks, things like that, that benefit again themselves, but over Time What this means is that you start to get a divergence in the, the way that you know who's in who's in the ruling coalition, in places that, you know, are Christian and particularly Protestant. And this is kind of circling back to vabre. The book spends a good amount of time, you know, focusing on first on just the spread of the reformation, but then what that meant for these ruling Coalition's because one thing that the Reformation did was it pretty much knocked out religion as being a religious authorities as being a primary source of legitimacy in the places that became Protestant. And there, those were precisely the places where Parliament's because rulers had to turn to somebody, when they lost the church, they so they turned to Parliament, they turned the other powerful people in society. And that's where you start to see take off, you know, so one thing I note in the book that I think's kind of a, it's a, it's a nice insight, and it's kind of a very macro way of, of noting things as your neighbor was on to a correlation, he probably didn't have the causal pathway, right. And there's been a number of other studies that have shown another a bunch of other different causal pathways. But if you really consider the macro of it, you know, soon after
the Dutch went underwent their reformation, you know, the 50s, late 50s, and 60s and 1570s, they soon after, became the world's leading economy. They were eventually supplanted in the 18th century by the English and the English. And the British were eventually supplanted in the late 19th and early 20th century by the US. It's you know, so really, what what this is saying is that, you know, it's for the last nearly 500 years, the world's leading economy has been Protestant, more or less since the since the spread of the Reformation. Now, this could be coincidence, but again, what the, the logic that I just spelled out, would suggest that it's not purely coincidence, either it is in those places that the people that had access to the levers of political power, were able to manipulate them in ways again, they've benefited themselves, but the types of things they wanted tended to be a little bit better than for economic, broader economic development, then things that other groups wanted.
Yeah, I, you know, so I want to, you know, caution, the listener that, you know, in a podcast format, in a discussion format, a lot of the details are going to give, you get, get lost. And so I recommend you read the book, rulers, religion and riches, because, obviously, I don't think, you know, Jared, can give, you know, like a full exposition here, but I do want to, like, ask a few questions. So are you basically, is this an extension of the pieces that Muhammad was his own Constantine, where Islam from the beginning has both a temporal and the spiritual side that are kind of fused together? Almost foundationally are necessarily, and that is the Great Divergence?
Yeah, yes. And no, I'd say in that there is an aspect of, of the early the early spread of Islam, where you did have early Islamic rulers, yeah, even after Muhammad, you know, the first the first Caliph set, and then even the who had an opposite Empire were viewed themselves as having kind of both of these authorities, both, you know, religious, and second, and secular. And to the extent where there was no real distinction between the two, you know, they wouldn't have talked about it. Really, in that in those terminology. This is, you know, more modern terminology used to look to look back on this. So, on the one hand, yes, I mean, I do think that this, you know, that this early development, played an important role in shaping the incentives for for later developments. For sure. I think there's two things to note here, though, that would diverge from it a bit. The first is that later, later rulers, especially the Ottoman Empire, who was, you know, the, the primary rulers of what we think of as the broader Middle East, as well as, you know, North Africa, Eastern Europe, you know, all the way until, you know, parts of even Central Europe for more or less the late 14th century until the end of World War One, yet, they had no claims to, you know, they had no bloodlines to Muhammad, they didn't even speak Arabic, you know, they were Turkish, they were more than more central European bloodlines, or Central Asian babalons. So they, but what they did is, instead of claiming this authority that previous groups had because of some, whether it be made up or not claimed to bloodlines to Muhammad, they still use the meccan the institutionalized mechanisms, like, you know, like getting religion so so the one of the more famous things they would do is, you know, in the Friday sermons, they would have local moms Especially in the capital, but you know, elsewhere as well, you know, important cities throughout the Empire, invoke the the Sultan's name, you know, so to, to kind of tie the two together to, you know, in the people's mind in the, in the broader populations mind, you know, religion bringing religion and politics in the same sphere was still important but they did it through other people in society rather than being able to claim something divine, they were able to, you know, use religious authorities which of course, gave religious authority significant power within society, especially, you know, what the, the office known as the Grand Mufti and you know, the kind of, you know, you might think of it as the Ottoman Pope for maybe lack of a better a better term there. Yeah, that kind of the central religious figure, you know, this is one of, if not the most, after, maybe the grand is your powerful people in the, in the, in the entire state. So, on on one front? Yes. You know, yeah, this kind of goes back to this idea. And I, on the other front, though, you know, that, that capacity for rulers to make such claims like Muhammad and his accent, his immediate successors made kind of dwindled over time, but, but it's still mattered, for the way that rule rule is, was made, if that makes sense. And I also would like to reiterate your caution, Deborah, because it is really hard. Yeah. And, and the, you know, the book was more or less, you know, often on 10 years of work. You know, it's it's not easy to summarize in just a few minutes.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, like, and like, you know, whether you agree with the thesis of your book or not, there's a lot of interesting and fascinating empirical facts in there that make it worth reading anyways, even if you just disagree with your argument. So I want to ask you, in terms of Christianity, so you know, you talk about the western church, and its relationship, obviously to the state. What do you do you think that the Eastern Church, or Eastern Orthodoxy is kind of a control situation for you insofar as there's the argument that this is a sasural papers dynamic where basically the patriarch is subordinate to the Byzantine Empire in a very Emperor in a very similar way that the movie would be subordinate to the Sultan later?
Yeah, I mean, I think in a sense, right. Because the it's, you know, in terms of it being the almost in many ways, it respects the, the opposite way of looking at things. Whereas you really have religion tied into the state in a way that in the Eastern Orthodox Church knows, especially the Byzantine Empire, in a way you just don't have in the West, in the West Western Christianity. So there, I, I do have a few works that really look into this and think about this in this way, I don't bring it up as as much in the book, because, you know, the book tries to streamline some of some of these arguments. But yeah, no, I mean, I think that, you know, a good work of social science, as I like to think I was trying to put forth with the book, will, you know, will, will give a framework for thinking about how, you know, whatever you want to look at, in my case, it's, you know, this confluence of religion and politics. You know, you start by thinking about how those two are tied together. And then you think about, well, well, what will be the outcomes, if it's done in a certain way? And this is precisely what the framework does suggest that the framework that I put forth can account for more of a say, zero purpose, institutional arrangement, and it yes, it certainly yields different predictions in terms of the degree to which you would expect a separation of church and state eventually, and that, you know, in the end, you know, if you really want to, if I really want to, like, nail it down in one sentence, what the books about, I've had to do this a few times in various guises in Europe, or Western Europe, eventually, where it took off was where the, the church lost political power. And so to get to your question about a Eastern Orthodox Byzantine, than the Byzantine Empire, maybe specifically, this is an outcome that's just less likely to happen, given its its institutional structure than in the West. And I think, you know, that that proved true. Yeah, I also like to talk in terms of, you know, I use terms like less likely, you know, it is a prop, you can think about it, that might not necessarily purely probabilistically, but also very much not determinant. It's not deterministic at all, you know, there's a lot of different things that could have happened, that would have shifted, you know, the institutions or the incentives, they're in a bit and you know, could have ended up you know, via, say path dependence or something like that, leading to very different outcomes. So I do also want to stress that that nothing about it Anything in this book is meant to be deterministic by any means.
Also, I want to, I want to push a little bit on this issue with Western Christianity and the relationship in church and state. Because, you know, Lutheran pastors in in Prussia are basically civil servants. And some of the same from what I that can happen to Lutheran states and Scandinavia. And obviously, the head of the church in England, is the monarch was the monarch. It still is the monarch. But you know, I mean, in a more active way, I think, in the early modern period. And so what you're trying to say is okay, religion is less of a legitimating force in Protestant Europe. And yet on the other hand, it seems like religion and state are fused in a much more inextricable, inextricable way, in most Protestant Europe. Now, there are exceptions, Netherlands, for example, the elderly has a different turn. But then you have like a country like France, or in Italy, or proto Italy, because Italy was not a country until 1870, where the church is a kind of an independent institution. And so can you talk a little about the contrast here and how they fit into your thesis?
Yeah, I mean, I think there's a few answers this question, that is the way I've been thinking about it. And yeah, I'd also like to briefly plug the work that I've been working on with my advisor, I've known Dr. For the last decade, and we're turning into a book now that kind of gets at the answer, I think, to this question. And, you know, we're kind of expanding this idea of thinking about the wave, you know, how the state is legitimated what that means for economic outcomes. And, you know, one thing that's really important, it was important that all the examples you brought up in the Protestant states, and is still true today actually, is a, a, not just a church, but you know, any type of figure who might legitimate role we'll talk about religious figures here, who's under the thumb of the ruler really doesn't have much legitimating capacity, because they can't say no, you know, so one thing that would legit one reason that people you know, in society, we call them legitimating agents to use some kind of economic see terms. But you know, these these people in society, the reason that one of the reasons that they might be good at legitimating rule is that they're, they're viewed as independent, and thus, you know, their word means more when it's independent. So the church, say, of England by being, you know, directly under the thumb of the king or queen of England, is not a very good source of legitimacy. And what is the real thing that comes out of this, though, that manifests itself is that yes, this is not to say so somebody like Queen Elizabeth certainly used religious imagery in a lot of different things she did, you know, the, the Stewart's who followed her were, we're big proponents, in fact, they tried to move back, just want to kind of the pre reformation, institutional setup, but more importantly, what this what happened in England is, despite this, you know, importance of religion and day to day, and frankly, even you know, in terms of symbolism, is that the church itself was not a very powerful political player. This is certainly true in Scandinavia as well, I mean, even today, you know, in Germany, you have the option paint, you really have to pay taxes by religion, you know, some of it goes to the church, and this is, you know, run by the state, but, but they're still the church is very, you know, both Catholic and Protestant churches, Lutheran churches, mainly in Germany have very little power in politics. And that's what this is, that's what the the thesis is more about is, you know, on the one hand, it's fine to say, you know, religion is important in society, but how important are those? You know, it's really the religious authorities, the people in society that, you know, essentially not just control the religion, but help spread the religion interpret the religion, things like this, how powerful are they? And you know, what, I use a metaphor, and throughout the book, we think about the political bargaining table, you know, you can imagine a world where, you know, the the key players, the the, the coal, the ruling coalition are getting around a table bargaining over various policies or something, obviously, that's not really the way it works. But you can think about about it that way. I think. And I think you can think about politics in general in that way. You know, in the US today, you can think about lobbyists, and you can think about other special interests as being at some metaphorical table. But what what, what position do they have at that table? What position we're talking going back to our talking about, do religious authorities have at the table? How strong is their position? What what are they trying to, to push for? And it does, you know, if you look at the Protestant countries, in particular, no matter appeals to religion or not, religious authorities just had very little position and really little seat at that at that political bargaining table. And that's what I argue is important, not the other appeals or things like that. Okay, so
you know, obviously You know, again, this is probabilistic, you know, probably like, I mean, would you say that the framework that you're presenting here is not a sufficient condition, but it's a necessary condition?
I would absolutely say it's not a sufficient condition. In fact, I almost think nothing, kind of when we think about longer run history is a sufficient condition. Just because when, you know, in all of the in, I maybe even should have said this upfront, too. I'm pointing to one, what I view is really important institutional feature of these nations, but there's a whole host of other things that matter, including including stuff like, you know, what we might broadly view as culture, you know, a cultural anthem, and I mean, that by, you know, the way cultural anthropologist thinks, think about it, you know, like, the type of heuristics that a society kind of jointly shares, you know, so if you're, if you're thinking about, you know, the, the culture of a country, that's a monarchy, you know, you need to have beliefs that the the ruler or the maybe, if this is how it works, the son of the the next king is the rightful ruler, that's, that's the type of cultural norm that makes a monarchy work, where you might not have such cultural beliefs, maybe because there was no history of monarchy, monarchy is not likely to flourish. And you can use those exact words that I just said and replace monarchy with democracy. And I think I, in my view, that's why you get an idea for why democracy has not flourished in a lot of places where it was imposed from the outset. So yeah, so on the one hand, it's not at all a sufficient condition, it's nothing I'm saying here is a sufficient condition. I don't even think I go as far as to say, it's necessary. I think, you know, having what you might say, as the economic elite or, quote, unquote, right people in place in the ruling coalition, makes economic development, you know, in really what we might think of as modern economic development, much more likely. But I also don't think it's necessarily necessary. And this is something I've kind of moved on a bit in my career, and maybe even have moved on a bit since the publication of the books. You know, you noted you came out in early 2017. I was probably finished with it in late 2015. Yeah, so it's a good six years or so now, since I finished that last version of it. And I think that, yeah, I've moved more towards there being other real other paths. Now, those paths are fraught with much more peril and much more, much more less likely to come to fruition. But you know, what I would view is the Chinese path, say to economic development, is not really one now, you know, religion plays less of a role there. But also the types of things that the types of reasons that I think religion, or religious authorities having power can help slow down economic development, there are there are features like that in the Chinese economy, and rather the Chinese political landscape. So I wouldn't say you know, it's necessary either. But on the other hand, just because something's neither necessary nor sufficient, doesn't mean it's unimportant. And also doesn't mean that when you have it, it is pretty likely for the type of outcomes that you're interested in to emerge.
Yeah, I mean, I'm reading you're reading your book. One thing that I did think about is like, there's a particular way of viewing religion and its relationship to relationship to state and culture that is normative, expected and comprehensible in Islamic and Christian societies, which might not work as well, if you just poured a Wahby is not mine. It just doesn't work as well, when you put it over to East Asia or even South Asia. Yeah. And so I think, definitely, that needs to be like understood. I do. Um, I do have a question. As you as you I'm sure. No, Joe Henry came out with a book last year called the blockchain more than last year, it was last year, the weirdest people in the world. Yeah. 2020 weirdest people in the world. And that kind of has an argument about capitalism and other things in there, too. And, you know, the western family marriage program, and obviously, the church plays a really big role, the church's role as an independent institution. What did you think of about that book, honestly, and like how it fits in with your thesis?
Yeah, no, I mean, I love Hendricks work in general and I think that this book is almost precisely what I had in mind. When I was just saying I there there are all these other aspects and in fact, when I think of kind of what you know, the type of cultural definition that and you know, the this group of people have in mind it is the type of work that Henrik does that I really have in mind for what I think is being really just the cutting edge. And yeah, and applying this broader arguments to history. So his his is that you know, the West you know, the wild the western educated and Industrial rich democratic parts of society a weird is the acronym there have different psychologies, you know that he he views as a remnant at least in part of practices of the medieval church, namely, the breaking up of family norms is a big thing. You know, Matt, cousin marriage bans, things like that, that, that lead to all these different ways that people view each other, and they view strangers and things like this. All of this, I think is very consistent with the type of stuff I have in mind. Now, that I, my argument is mainly more kind of a more meta institutional level. And his is, I think, down to like individual psychology that helps build up but when you know, the stuff I was just discussing, that you have to have kind of, so he's actually more and ends up being more interested in more democratic norms, because that's what he views as something that is very unique to this Western mindset. I think that that's precisely Right. Right. And I think you can expand upon it and say that all of these institutional forms, the the way that these institutions are structured, have to have a corresponding cultural outlook that supports that in one way or the other. Now, obviously, a cultural outlook like one that recognizes democratic norms as being important, or, or possibly support some degree of autocracy, these don't come out of out of the ether, right? They don't come out of just nowhere, they they are historically driven. And within each society, one thing that you know, that I think that hopefully my book pushes on, at least, and I think others have done this as well, including, I think, probably I've known graph more than just about anyone else, is, you really have to kind of pull back and go and look at the history of each society to understand where you get that from, there's no, while there are some general generalities and the way we should be thinking about how to look at that history, there's not going to be really a generality that applies to all societies, because each side is as its own history. And one, when you really start digging into the history, you start to see how divergence happens all over the place. And that's where I think that the way henrichs thinking about it is yeah, I mean, it's, obviously it's a little different, we're full, we're focusing on different aspects of what you might call the divergence, you know, he you know, he's also to some, to some degree, interested in the economic divergence. He's more I would, I would say that at least his last book is more interested in what you might call a psychological divergence. But again, I think what he would say, and I would agree with him, and I think it's completely consistent I've been discussing here is that the psychological divergence, and what I'm describing as more of an institutional divergence go hand in hand, that that you can't really understand one without the other.
Yeah, I mean, I kind of think you guys are using like different lenses on the same issue and kind of coming to congruent conclusions in real in relation to that. Right. And I think it's fascinating. Oh, one issue or question that I have actually now that I'm thinking about it is, I feel like there is a kind of, you know, maybe this isn't the only online thing, but to think in terms of cultures and how they influence societies that outcomes and how that matters. It seems like it's almost perceived as chauvinistic, or like, quote unquote, problematic today.
have you encountered any of that? Because I know even pinker with his book, like about the, you know, the decline of violence? Some people claimed, oh, it's Eurocentric, because it's talking about, which, honestly, I didn't pay too much close attention to those critiques. But that was 10 years ago, and things have changed. And I just wonder about this argument that you're making? Oh, well, you know, it's because in the West, as opposed to the Middle East, and like, you know, these sorts of contrasts like people might be like, Who are you to be making these contrasts? Jared Rubin? Of course.
Yeah. No, it certainly if I were as famous as pinker is I would probably be getting orders of magnitude more than this. But yeah, no, I think, you know, certainly people, you know, so for instance, you know, I, I, I actually I joined Twitter in 2016, in part because, yeah, I knew I had this book coming out. Other people had recommended it as a way of, you know, like, letting some people know that what you're doing and then I found it to be this kind of fascinating source of other stuff as well. And that's, you know, how I came across your stuff and that, a lot of a lot of other things actually. But, you know, when you join something like that in your world It becomes a bit more public because of that, you know, anyone can jump on. Yeah, I mean, especially even, you know, frankly, academics, you know, that had no idea what my thesis is about, they just saw, you know, precisely, more or less exactly what you just said, Who are you to, say x, y, or z? Whereas, you know, I would say, to be honest, since I've gotten a bit less from people who actually kind of read the work or, you know, or frankly, you know, people, they, you know, Middle Easterners, you know, and Muslims, because what I think the book does is, on the one hand, it's not in the it, I'm not interested in absolving, or loading religion one way or the other, like, that's not the goal of the book. It's not meant to say this is this is Islam, bad, this is Christianity good, or anything like that. It's trying to understand the role that religion may have played in politics, so on. So on the one hand, you know, for those who I think actually have taken the time to, you know, either read the book Oreo at when I've been invited to do discussions like this, or at, you know, at events, things like that, when you actually hear the thesis, it's like, oh, well, you know, because one thing the thesis also tries to do, as I mentioned briefly before, is it tries to explain, you know, in one coherent whole, why the Islamic world pulled ahead for so long as well, you know, so it's not, it's not this kind of, Oh, it's, you know, Western culture is the reason why everything is, is great. On the other hand, yeah, I mean, it really is, it really is what you said, I mean, it's, it's very easy to make it seem like, this is a simplistic Western Western culture, good type thing, and it's not. In fact, I, I have tried my best throughout the book, and really throw my academic works to keep stuff valueless. I do think questions need to be asked on most things. I think there's very little out there that should be off limits. I would say, I mean, I think that the nuance in my answers to some of these questions, ends up being stuff that I would say, falls on the, the lower side of controversy when you're talking about this type of stuff, you know, so another person, I'm very close with Timur Quran has worked on, on Islam, you know, he was kind of the Trailblazer. And in looking at the book, The long divergence, it's also a great read, you know, I know, you know, he faced some criticism, too, for this type of stuff, just because and it's, again, it's the same type of stuff is like, how can you How can you be saying that, you know, Islam or Islamic laws behind the world, or the Islamic world falling behind stuff like that. And, and, to that, you just have to, I think, you know, there's parts of me that have to, to shrug my shoulders, when the criticism comes from a place of not really engaging with the arguments, that, I mean, there's nothing you can do about that, when I have had some people that have engaged with the arguments and still think it's wrong, there, it's fine there, um, you know, there, I do the very opposite of shrugging my shoulders and, you know, try to try to see where people are coming from. And, you know, occasionally, occasionally, I'll be convinced that, you know, there's aspects of the arguments that are that need modifying, or maybe more nuanced. Now, I'd say, the final thing is that, you know, as you mentioned, the very beginning, this is very much a macro view of things that I'm taking.
When you do something like that, there are going to be a lot of counter examples that to whatever you're saying. So it's very easy to kind of cherry pick counter examples and say, Well, you know, Middle Eastern political history or, or, you know, Western European political history, or and obviously, even when I use those terms, you know, the Middle East is not an entity, Western Europe's not an entity. There's many states within them over time. Yeah, yeah. It's, it can be it's, it's, at least it makes for a bigger challenge. We'll put it that way when when writing this type of stuff, but on the other hand, you know, there's a lot of economists out there that I, you know, that I think are doing good work, but tackling much smaller questions. And that's just not something that that interests me.
Well, I mean, I hope I hope you get famous enough to get the finger you know, like, yeah, like to be Icarus is a good problem to have. Yeah, you know, definitely. Once when you come to the big dance, you know, what's going to happen? So I, you know, I just recently recorded a podcast with our mutual friend Patrick Wyman, actually, Patrick was how I got introduced to your work through his podcast. And you know, his his recent book is called The Verge. And it's about the 40 years reformation Renaissance. And I asked him straight up, I mean, I think your work kind of some of the citations and like I said, like, you know, what, notice in academic work you did to help convince me about this too. But is was the Reformation inevitable due to technology? Not, you know, let's be probabilistic here. Like, maybe inevitable is only 50%. Probable, as opposed to like, 1%. But um, what do you think about the soul? I mean, I'm kind of convinced by I think some of the your citations, but also, you know, St. Patrick's point to do that, okay, printing press happen, information is free. something was going to happen to Western Christianity in light of what had happened, the medieval period, but kind of been squelched by centralizing tendencies of the council's What do you think about that?
Yeah, I mean, so I still have the, his, the copy of his book has not arrived yet, on my doorstep. I think it's just, it's coming out, like, you know, this week or so. Um, but I know, the argument, and I and I, you know, and for this particular question that you're asking, The Verge is actually a, you know, an appropriate term, because for hundreds of years, there had been movements that ended up looking a lot like luthers movement against the church, you know, Jaan husen, Bohemia was probably the most famous and most threatening to the church, but the church, you know, the the centralized church, they were able to eventually stop that stop that movement in its tracks, they burned him alive, and then the hussites went underground. So the fact is, on the one hand, you know, to use maybe some economics terminology, the demand for such reform had been there, and it had been there for centuries. You know, whose was only one of the more maybe well known and threatening versions of this? And yeah, I mean, one thing that you see again, and again, in these, these, you know, with the church classified as heresies is it gets up, they end up getting suppressed, often violently, you know, with the help of secular rulers, of course, but it's because the movement, it's because the church can get it suppressed before it gets too, too spread out. Right. So this is where having, you know, and there's a, there's a few conflicts, there's a confluence of a few events here, that really matter as well, because on the one hand, it is the reformation, really does get helped by the spread of printing, you know, this, the spread of printing happens, mainly, as you just noted in the last half century, in the last half of the 15th century. And pretty much, you know, not it's within a couple decades of it being widespread that you get the first major event that very actively uses the new technology, or the the Martin Luther himself, you know, printed hundreds of or had wrote hundreds of pamphlets that were reprinted throughout Europe, as did other, you know, prominent reformers, they, they very much knew how to use this new technology. So, you know, going back to what you were using that necessary versus sufficient conditions, I think that having something that made tech, the spread of information, much less expensive, and much quicker, was a necessary but possibly not sufficient condition for reform happening when and where it did. So somebody like the early reformation in particular was also aided by actually the Ottoman Empire, knocking on the doorsteps of the eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire. So you know, this is also where Luther is writing, you know, is in the Holy Roman Empire modern, in his case, modern day in Germany. But the the Emperor, the Holy Roman Emperor had had a much bigger threat than some theological disputes that were that were going on the northeastern part of his empire, he had an existential threat coming from the east. So it was kind of this combination of events that I think was really important. Now, when you say inevitable, you know, eventually there's going to become a situation when you have access to cheap to too cheap propaganda, let's say that, that what stuff's going to start to spread when secular leaders just don't have the will to push back against it. So I do think that something like the Reformation in that something that was going to eventually undermine church authority, especially as the church became more more greedier, over time, it became very flagrantly corrupt, things like that something was going to eventually happen. When the when the where and, and the shape it took, though, is, you know, because because I think the shape it took is probably close to the end of the spectrum in terms of most radical in really kind of fundamentally undermining church power wherever it went, because it wasn't just a matter of reform. You know, the early reformers, you know, go back to like, say the, the, you know, ersan you know, the 13 whitecliff Wyclef might have been a little more radical but a lot of them and even Luther early on, just wanted to reform the church. from within. And you know, there are no designs on, on fundamentally, you're breaking from the church. So the fact that it ended up being so radical, which, you know, for reasons I spell out, but yeah, there's actually a small literature that looks at many different outcomes associated political and economic outcomes associated with the Reformation. The fact that was so radical that led to all this stuff. And I think that that was not by any means preordained, that that the reform would be as radical as ended up being.
Yeah. So I mean, you know, I'm asking you a question about inevitability. And it kind of turned out that you actually threw out a lot of stuff out there about contingency, right, like so the Ottomans make, Charles will kind of keep his eye off these heretics in the north. And like, look to the east, and that had an opening. So Frederick the Wise, the elector, I think of Saxony. And he protected Martin Luther. And then obviously, Luther had access to the printing press, all these things come together in this kind of crazy World Wind, which as you imply and kind of say, it got out of luthers control, like this was not his initial attention, intention. Lutheran 1517 or 1518, would be shocked about Luthor. 1545. Right.
Well, yeah, for sure. Yeah. You know, very much became his intention. Yeah,
yeah. Yeah. I mean, he became, he became the man, he became the man who you became, which was a fundamentally different thing than the Augustinian friar that he was. Yeah. And I guess the point here is like, that's why you That's why you read the history, you write the history, you study the history, because you know, you can have some a priori beliefs. But, you know, that might not be exactly how things might not work out the way your operatory believes would you know, in 10, cuz it's not deterministic. Yeah. I mean, so you know, you were talking about Muhammad was his own Constantine, Muhammad was also a merchant. So if you had to, like think about which, which, which religious civilization would be more fostering, to mercantile activities, wouldn't it be the one with the founder, the, you know, the wrote the founder of the revelation, who was actually a merchant himself was a business person. And yeah, this is not what we see in history. And it's not what we see in the outlines of your book. One thing that Patrick going back to Patrick in the verge that he he, he kind of implied, and I clarified with him on the podcast is the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century was kind of a lean, mean machine, it was an extractive machine. Yeah. But he kind of implies that it got stuck at a local optimum. And I wonder if that's the way we can think of the Islamic, you know, legal, like the Sharia system, its attitude towards banking corporations, just, you know, break into law in general, as opposed to the Christian civilization, which was left more unspecified and allowed for more novel developments, that were kind of expanded the parameter space of the possible.
Yeah, no, I mean, I think that that's, that's definitely right. And this is, this is something I dive into a bit in my book as well, that, namely, when you're thinking about while you So you mentioned, law and laws, really. And I briefly mentioned to mark, Ron's work. So his work is mainly about the role Islamic law played in long run economic development. Now, a key aspect of Islamic law is that well, two key aspects. One is that it was mainly, you know, under the Ottomans, mainly the law of the state, but particularly there were there, there was some types of law that the Ottomans, you know, they had a secular law as well, the canoe that is, that held sway over a lot of things that were of interest as particularly to the Sultan, you know, stuff like taxation, stuff like that. But one thing that remained under the purview of Islamic law was mainly all types of commercial law. And that is really important for the type of stuff that you're discussing here. Mainly, because, you know, for a variety of reasons, and it's not just the fact that it's religious law, but it was a Islamic law ended up being a lot less flexible than the types of legal systems, especially common law, but civil law as well, that that emerged in Europe over a very long period of time, that actually, you know, and many, in many ways, do do emerge from Canon Law in Europe as well. But they ended up being because of the incentives faced by those that were actually interpreting the law and eventually, you know, in Europe, of course, you start to get law that is really top down but also from Parliament's it's a it's a, it's a variety of power players that are both, we're not necessarily interpreting the law because they're judiciary's, but really kind of pushing forth the laws, whereas in the Ottoman Empire, and you know, the Ottoman Empire being kind of the, again, the, the big player in the Middle East at this period, there was much less room for development of law, because because of the constraints placed by Islamic law, and the fact you know, as my my book points out, the reason that this doesn't because you then ask, Well, why doesn't this change Why doesn't if, if this is something that had so much economic value? Why don't the Sultan's take commercial law out of the purview of Islamic law or something like that. And this goes back to I, I believe the main reason is that religious authorities were really important in legitimating rule. And one of the one of the bargains that you know, one of the outcomes of, you know, what I call this proverbial bargain, is that Islamic law carried a lot of weight over a whole host of things. It wasn't just commercial law, the laws of inheritance, laws of marriage, Family Law, things like that. Were also under the purview of Islamic law. And this is an outcome. It's not It's not something that's necessarily just kind of written in, in the Sharia or something like that. And then, and then is there forever, this is ever changing, but it changes in a way that, in a sense, makes sense when you think about who what were the incentives of the relevant players? And yeah, so because of that, you do get what I think Yeah, and I think Patrick was right here to say, you know, that, that there might have been some, some some type of local optima, that, really, after the 16th century, at least, you can say that the Ottomans actually we're not even at anymore that they had reached that optimum, probably some point in the 16th century. And then as some of their military games really started to contract a bit, the entire the entire thing that was underlying the system started to unravel. Alright, so
we've been talking for a while, um, let's, let's talk about the future cuz we've been talking about your past. Well, we're always gonna be talking about the past. We know, your future, you got a book that you just got the draft completed. So what's, what's the future? What are we going to hearing from?
So yeah, this is gonna be one of the first places where I think this is kind of noted. But so it's a book co authored with Mark Koyama, who's a economic historian at George Mason University. And we, it's it's actually a book meant for a bit more of a popular audience, even though it's also meant to make you know, a bit of an academic contribution as well. It's written very much so a popular audience can read it. For if you have professors, especially of economics, or economic history that might listen, this is certainly targeted undergraduates, or you graduate students that are interested in this as well. But it's a it's it's actually very, you mentioned pinker early on it's very Pinker's in the way it it, it describes the world as you know, becoming better. So the question, the the answer, or the the title of the book is how the world became rich. And yeah, the idea is that the world is much richer, and this is, you know, this is very much like Pinker's last book, in a sense, not that not that by any means. We're, you know, kind of drawing on pinker In fact, you know, we don't necessarily think that, you know, we don't even know, I don't think we end up citing him, because we I don't think, you know, that's not an inspiration for this book at all. What we're trying to do in this book is look at the last few decades of research that has exploded on this topic, on a whole host of read, gives a whole host of reasons on why the modern world came about the way it came about. So the first half of our book is just kind of trying to distill these various explanations, you know, the ones that focus on institutions, like what we've been describing here, or culture, or colonization, or demography, you know, stuff like Malthusian pressure, stuff like that, or geography. And then, you know, what, what, where we go from there, and the latter half of the book is to do is to really try to bring these various theories together, because when writing one of these books here, both Mark and I have written, recently written a book that is, you know, in this very broad literature, you know, by construction, you're just you're focusing on your own theory, you're, you know, you're not yet sure you're, you know, you're placing it in a broader context. But I think, because it's almost what you have to do to put forth the theory, you're not really taking it and seeing how your theory fits with, you know, all the various other major theories out there. Well, that's, that's something that you know, this and this was something I mentioned the beginning of our discussion here. My own book, I don't think it is, you know, by any means, the only reason why western parts of western Europe became wealthy. And you know, and I should note that it's really Northwestern Europe, not all of Western Europe, became wealthy, and parts of the Middle East didn't. But I think it's not only one of many, but I think, you know, when you say you brought up, you know, Joe Hendricks work. You know, I think, you know, when you really think more deeply about some of the connections between, say my work and his work or you know, gripes work and his work or whatever. You start to see a bigger hole. And that's what we are trying to push forth in this Book is, you know, to think about how this literature has evolved. And then when we bring it together, what is what are the stories that are being told in a kind of a more holistic way? And it's, I'm excited about it'll come out early next year, early. Winter 2022. You know, as you mentioned, our final draft is in so it's now a matter of production and all that other fun stuff. But yeah, that's, that's the the next big thing that's coming out.
Well, I mean, that sounds like a really ambitious, ambitious project. So I mean, I wish you the best of luck, I do want to say, Mark, you know, he's co author of book persecution and toleration, the long road to religious freedom. So, you know, he's active on social media have engaged with him, I really follow his stuff. And like his stuff, and you are active on social media, too. So I really appreciate that. And just putting information out there putting your ideas out there, you know, the whole idea of the ivory tower is kind of meant to be pejorative, partly because so often, intellectuals and academics don't get out there and talk about their ideas to the interest of public, you know, your ideas, I think, are very accessible. And I think the public is quite interested, and I hope, you know, they, they really, really pay attention to what you're talking about, and you know, your opinions, because I think they're, they're important, just just to understand how the world that we have around us came about, right?
Yeah, yeah, I appreciate you saying that. That's obviously always nice to hear. Because as you mentioned earlier, too, you know, when you when you do put your, your stuff out there, especially when it's on topics, like the ones I'm talking about, there's always there's always a decent chance you're going to get some pushback, and some of it's not. Not always so pleasant.
Yeah, for sure. Well, I really appreciate you coming on. I really appreciate your work. And, you know, I'm going to be looking forward to your co author new book early next year. Thank
you. Thanks. I appreciate your work as well. Thanks for me. Yes, podcast for kids. David