Hayek on Social Welfare

Much more “liberal” than his present-day ideological followers:

[T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody. … Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individual in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. 

Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. There are many points of detail where those wishing to preserve the competitive system and those wishing to super-cede it by something different will disagree on the details of such schemes; and it is possible under the name of social insurance to introduce measures which tend to make competition more or less ineffective. But there is no incompatability in principle between the state’s providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom.

To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state’s rendering assistance to the victims of such ‘acts of God’ as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.

There is, finally, the supremely important problem of combating general fluctuations of economic activity and the recurrent waves of large-scale unemployment which accompany them.  This is, of course, one of the gravest and most pressing problems of our time.  But, though its solution will require much planning in the good sense, it does not — or at least need not — require that special kind of planning which according to its advocates is to replace the market.

Many economists hope, indeed, that the ultimate remedy may be found in the field of monetary policy, which would involve nothing incompatible even with nineteenth-century liberalism.  Others, it is true, believe that real success can be expected only from the skillful timing of public works undertaken on a very large scale.  This might lead to much more serious restrictions of the competitive sphere, and, in experimenting in this direction, we shall have to carefully watch our step if we are to avoid making all economic activity progressively more dependent on the direction and volume of government expenditure.  But this is neither the only nor, in my opinion, the most promising way of meeting the gravest threat to economic security.

In any case, the very necessary effort to secure protection against these fluctuations do not lead to the kind of planning which constitutes such a threat to our freedom.

—The Road to Serfdom, 148-49

A Seven-Week Sabbatical

Having been informed by my supervisor that my Ph.D thesis is considerably closer to completion than I had deemed, I have resolved to throw caution, sanity, and blogging to the winds, and try to finish it by the 1st of June, the date at which I will be leaving these shores for good.

Accordingly, I will be spending the next seven weeks in an ascetic regimen, refusing to to indulge the urge to comment on matters of current debate and interest, or to compose ponderous essays on political or historical theology, as I frequently do here and elsewhere.  I may, and probably still will, post occasional quotes from my reading, and links to important things other people are writing, but don’t expect any substantial commentary again until June.  Indeed, if you do catch me blogging as before, you have my permission to chide me publicly for my irresponsibility.

I trust this silence won’t be too unbearable, and if you’re looking for good things to read in the meantime, just consult my Blogroll (or, better, go read the entirety of Hooker’s Lawes).

Till June, farewell!

Announcing “The Bible: Culture, Community, and Society”

I am pleased to be able to bring to your attention the publication of a new book by T&T Clark, entitled The Bible: Culture, Community, and Society.  Edited by Angus Paddison and Neil Messer, the volume offers perspectives from leading contemporary theologians on the how to understand Scriptural authority in modernity—in relation to community, to science, and to politics.  Contributors include such distinguished theologians as David Fergusson, Ellen Davis, Ben Quash, Gavin D’Costa, Andrew Bradstock, and last and almost certainly least, myself.

This is, I confess, a rather striking example of the problems of modern academic publishing. My paper that appears here, “Sola Scriptura and the Public Square: Richard Hooker and a Protestant Paradigm for Political Engagement,” was written nearly two years ago, and comprised a sort of condensed prospectus of what I hoped to accomplish in my Ph.D research, on which I had just set out.  As such, it seems amusingly naïve and over simplistic now, largely on-track in substance, to be sure, but lacking a good deal in precision.  Nonetheless, I’d be an idiot not to tell you that you ought to buy the book (or at least encourage your librarian to buy it)—even if not for my contribution, then certainly for the other fine thoughts on offer here (particularly Andrew Bradstock’s essay, “The Bible and Public Theology”), and for the lovely cover image.

Late Great Natural Law Debate, Pt. 2

So, the good news is I’ve finally completed the promised second installment.  The bad news is it’s not here.  But the good news is that it is over at Mere Orthodoxy, where Matthew Anderson kindly proposed to offer it a roomier home.  But the other bad news is that it doesn’t, actually, do everything I promised to do in this second installment (i.e., it offers no constructive or synthetic proposals of my own).  But the other good news is that a third installment will do that, hopefully next week, and probably also at Mere Orthodoxy.

Whether Idols Ought to be Destroyed by Magistrates

The following is a passage I translated from Peter Martyr Vermigli’s massive Commentary on 1 & 2 Kings, published in 1571. Only it is not, it turns out, written by Vermigli, but by his colleague in Zurich, Johannes Wolff, who completed the Commentary after Vermigli died, since it was left unfinished after the first few chapters of 2 Kings. The substance, however, is very similar to what Vermigli wrote elsewhere. It is a fascinating example of how the Reformers argued for the magistrate’s cura religionis—responsibility for overseeing the good order and right teaching of the church in his realm—within the terms of their two-kingdoms distinction between the realm of faith and that of practice. Moreover, although Wolff is convinced that the Old Testament laws provide a rule to direct magistrates in this work, we can see also the idea, one particularly prominent in Vermigli’s work, that the care for religion is a natural duty, since there is a natural knowledge of God to which commonwealths are accountable. Read More