On this Independence Day, rather than reflecting on the great Founding Fathers or heroic politicians, I’d like to celebrate my two favorite freedom-thinkers: C.S. Lewis and Milton Friedman. A theologian and economist, the unlikely pair both preach that the freedom to choose is derived from human dignity, and without freedom of choice, human dignity is compromised.
Free will is a principle central to both Christianity and classical liberalism, but the correlation between theology and economic philosophy is often ignored.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts into plain words why God gave human beings free will:
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is that happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other…And for that they must be free.
Classical liberalism echoes the theological concept of free will with the belief that individual freedom dignifies the human being and allows the market economy to flourish.
Professor James Otteson, professor of philosophy and economics at Yeshiva University and senior scholar at The Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C., suggests God-given free will lays the groundwork for sound economic policy because, “respecting the dignity of a human being is giving that person the freedom to choose.”
Otteson beautifully intertwines the C.S. Lewis-like “free will” theology with Milton Friedman-esque “free to choose” economic philosophy using a simple metaphor in this short clip from LearnLiberty.
This article was originally published at the Values & Capitalism blog.
But I would like to give a shout out for one of my favorite Founding Fathers, James Madison. Happy 4th yall.
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- Econ 1: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2012: Why We Are Reading Milton Friedman and Rose Director Friedman, “Free to Choose” (delong.typepad.com)
- The Legacy of CS Lewis: Michael Ward on the Lewis Memorial in Westminster Abbey (christianthought.hbu.edu)
- It’s Famed Economist Milton Friedman’s Birthday! Here are His Top 6 Quotes (theblaze.com)
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