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Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth

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  • Bénabou, Roland
  • Ticchi, Davide
  • Vindigni, Andrea

Abstract

We analyze the joint dynamics of religious beliefs, scientific progress and coalitional politics along both religious and economic lines. History offers many examples of the recurring tensions between science and organized religion, but as part of the paper’s motivating evidence we also uncover a new fact: in both international and cross-state U.S. data, there is a significant and robust negative relationship between religiosity and patents per capita. The political-economy model we develop has three main features: (i) the recurrent arrival of scientific discoveries that generate productivity gains but sometimes erode religious beliefs; (ii) a government, endogenously in power, that can allow such innovations to spread or instead censor them; (iii) a religious organization or sector that may invest in adapting the doctrine to new knowledge. Three long-term outcomes emerge. First, a "Secularization" or "Western-European" regime with declining religiosity, unimpeded science, a passive Church and high levels of taxes and transfers. Second, a "Theocratic" regime with knowledge stagnation, extreme religiosity with no modernization effort, and high public spending on religious public goods. In-between is a third, "American" regime that generally (not always) combines scientific progress and stable religiosity within a range where religious institutions engage in doctrinal adaptation. It features low overall taxes, together with fiscal advantages or societal laws benefiting religious citizens. Rising income inequality can, however, lead some of the rich to form a successful Religious-Right alliance with the religious poor and start blocking belief-eroding discoveries and ideas.

Suggested Citation

  • Bénabou, Roland & Ticchi, Davide & Vindigni, Andrea, 2015. "Forbidden Fruits: The Political Economy of Science, Religion, and Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 10548, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10548
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Science, the religious right and inequality
      by noname in ZeeConomics on 2015-05-03 17:55:40

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    Cited by:

    1. Serafinelli, Michel & Tabellini, Guido, 2017. "Creativity over Time and Space," CEPR Discussion Papers 12365, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Herzer, Dierk & Strulik, Holger, 2016. "Religiosity and long-run productivity growth," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 284, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:164:y:2018:i:c:p:241-253 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Strulik, Holger, 2016. "An economic theory of religious belief," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 35-46.
    5. Maleke Fourati, 2018. "Envy and the Islamic Revival: Experimental Evidence from Tunisia," Working Papers 1235, Economic Research Forum, revised 10 Oct 2018.
    6. William F. Maloney & Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 2017. "Engineering Growth: Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas," CESifo Working Paper Series 6339, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. repec:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:8:p:2855-88 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Julio J. Elías & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis, 2019. "Paying for Kidneys? A Randomized Survey and Choice Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(8), pages 2855-2888, August.
    9. Bursztyn,Leonardo A. & Fiorin,Stefano & Gottlieb,Daniel Wolf & Kanz,Martin & Bursztyn,Leonardo A. & Fiorin,Stefano & Gottlieb,Daniel Wolf & Kanz,Martin, 2015. "Moral incentives : experimental evidence from repayments of an Islamic credit card," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7420, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    beliefs; blocking; censorship; Church; discovery; economic growth; inequality; innovation; knowledge; politics; redistribution; religion; religious right; science; secularization; state; technical progress; theocracy; tolerance;

    JEL classification:

    • E02 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Institutions and the Macroeconomy
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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