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It is interesting to see how blogs evolve - eventually people (not the bloggers but the blog readers) start having conversations, some which are not related to the topic at hand. This spontaneous dialogue can be interesting and entertaining.


SPECIAL REQUEST to Professor Becker and Judge Posner:

When you mention specific comments from readers in your responses, would you please consider linking to them.

When the comments run over 125 readers long, linking helps us go back to the comments to compare views.

Example: In his most recent response, Professor Becker says, "I am surprised by the claim--especially given who wrote it--that competition among religions might lead to a "race to the bottom"."

A simple link to that comment would enhance the hypertextuality and argumentative richness of an already superb site

In this case, linking also helps us assess Professor Becker's surprise regarding the person who wrote the comment.


Professor Becker cites Caroline Hoxby for evidence that greater school choice increases average student performance. But Jesse Rothstein has found some serious problems with that evidence. See http://papers.nber.org/papers/w11215.pdf. Hoxby's response is at http://papers.nber.org/papers/w11216.pdf
Both are forcoming in the American Economic Review.


"This spontaneous dialogue can be interesting and entertaining."

Or it can be extremely frustrating and remind one of Cass Sunstein's papers on group polarization and echo chambers.


Or it can be extremely frustrating

Not a single commenter agreed with you. The nearest you got was Palooka who had to put words in your mouth before going along with it. What kind of populism goes completely unsupported?

You are clearly out of your depth.


Professor Becker,

I think you have mispriced the fundamental structure of religious inclination.

From what I have experienced, the economics of religion include a number of fundamental groups trading ideals. These groups are elements of religious structure existing in all societies and appear to be religion independent.

The groups are quite simple. Every society has:

1. Orthodox
2. Conservatives
3. Reform
4. Diests
5. Agnostics
6. Athiests

These groups are often in conflict with one another. It is not clear that the rights of all of these groups can be equally maintained although they can peacefully exist.

For instance, the Athiest is quite libertarian and does not stand for much, but the Diest stands for a great deal, and is especially reverent of God.

An Orthodox person always seems to place religion above all while claiming to practice for God.

Conservatives feel no natural inclination to change, whereas reformists sincerely desire change.

These groups tend to exist in a social equilibrium that can be mapped from time to time and from country to country.

Religious expression, for instance, in the United States from 1860-1900 was remkarably deistic, following naturally Lincoln's expressions.

Religion today is more active in trying to define political questions, and there is an Orthodox revival throughout the world.

So in response to the rights of an Athiest, I believe their rights should be more limited than the Diest in our country, which amounts to saying that I do not approve of the Soviet Union, which was an Athiest society and persecuted the religious.

I do not think we can have it both ways economically. Either the political market rewards those who believe in God or those who do not. This does not mean the state has to sanction a religion. At a fundamental level, it simply means that the state has to be thankful to God for its existance. A state may also choose to promote a particular religion, which is common in many countries through out the world. I personally believe in the separation of Church and State, but I also recognize that the secular state is secular from religion and not from God.

An interesting study of the economics of religious thought is China. If you carefully study the Ming dynansty, and the extensive war against the Bhuddists that began a number of centuries earlier, you will appreciate the effects of law upon cultural developments.

At one point, Bhuddists enjoyed considerable freedom in China. I believe Emporer Wu took your position, that religion should not be free from property taxation. The motivation was not kindness to the people, but rather a challenge to the cultural value of religious practice.

In the end, Bhuddist practice in China declined and the cultural development stagnated.

It is not clear why religious development is important to cultural development, but economically, this seems to be a positive externality.

You have spent considerable amounts of your life mapping externalities both positive and negative.

One aspect of religion is that it encourages the development of literate minds. Great artistic works began in our world first with religious roots. Music itself was almost entirely religious until the 15th century.

Of course, a person could claim that the state should not involve itself in religious practice. This is a very different ideal than promoting the belief in God.

Of course, China and Russia were Athiestic states throughout most of the 20th century and to a large regard today. Their political legal cultures advanced the argument that religion should not be promoted and should be properly taxed.

Taxation policy is naturally a very complex equation, and at the federal level, one for Congress to decide.


"Schools that lose students to better schools would be under great pressure from parents and others to improve themselves."

I find this assertion to be logically unsound.

implicit in the assertion is the assumption that there is strong positive correlation between parental involvement with a school and its performance. moving a student to a new school requires a high level of parental involvement with the student and suggests the likelihood of a high level of parental involvement with the old school. hence, a student's move to a new school suggests a likely decrease in the overall level of parental involvement in the old school contrary to the assertion's hypothesized increase. (implicit in the assertion is the assumption that the loss of students will somehow stimulate increased parental involvement among the remaining parents, but that's questionable on two grounds: first, the assumption is that the old school is underperforming, so why weren't these suddenly motivated parents motivated by that? second, mightn't they choose instead to increase their involvement with the student rather than with the old school by moving him/her too?

of course, this says nothing about the assumed increase in the involvement of "others", whoever they might be.


Are you up for vouchers for people who fly airlines that are not owned or partially owned by govt or govt-agencies?


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