by Catherine Ruth Pakaluk
Mary L. Hirschfeld’s volume on economics, Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy, has been long awaited. This is for good reason. While she is not the first to raise thorny questions about the nature and use of the rational-choice framework in economic thought, and not even the first to propose that economics belongs to moral philosophy and not to positive science, she is the first to attempt a systematic integration of the economic model with Aquinas’s treatise on happiness. And she’s well-qualified to do it: after obtaining a PhD in economics and working for several years a professor of economics, she went back to school and earned a second PhD, this time in moral theology, and now teaches both theology and economics at Villanova.
Her project is ambitious, and while I find myself ultimately unsympathetic to the integrative portion of her project, it is nonetheless a serious work. Though it has several serious faults, the book has the potential to open many nuanced conversations about the nature of economic science and its role in the acquisition of human knowledge.
What’s Wrong with Economics?
It doesn’t take a theologian, or even an economist-turned-theologian, to observe that there is something fishy about mainstream economics—as it is taught, as it is studied, and as it understands itself. Economists without any theological instincts whatsoever have been saying this for more than a century, spurring great debates over the nature and meaning of economic science.
Originally published on 27 March 2019 at Public Discourse, the Journal of the Witherspoon Institute.