Go To Church and Save Mammon

In our continuing effort to understand the rather complex world-view of VA-07 Republican nominee and economist Dave Brat, here’s an excerpt from a Gabriel/Perez-Pena New York Times profile of Brat and his fellow Randolph-Macon College faculty member and general election opponent, Jack Trammel:

Religious ethics rarely enter into mainstream economic theory, but they are topics that Mr. Brat, who describes himself in his writing as a Calvinist, has turned to repeatedly. In a 2011 article, “God and Advanced Mammon — Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?” published in a journal of religion, Mr. Brat questioned whether Christianity could be reconciled with government programs.

“Are you willing to force someone you know to pay for the benefits for one of your neighbors?” he asked. “Very few Christians I know are willing to say ‘yes’ to this question.”

In the same essay, he argued: “If we make all of the people good, markets will be good. If markets are bad, which they are, that means people are bad, which they are. Want good markets? Change the people.”

Several economists said in interviews that Mr. Brat often appeared not to be writing as an economist. “I did find him pretty confusing,” said Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “This dude just really wants us all to go to church, and that appears to be his economic policy conclusion.”

Sounds perfectly suited for today’s GOP.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.