Religion’s Role in the American Conception of Economic Freedom

In this excerpt from his forthcoming book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Benjamin M. Friedman seeks to find in American Christianity the roots of the economic ideas that have long prevailed in this country:

Even before the American Revolution, leading clergymen like John Witherspoon made clear that they saw robust religious institutions as a precondition underlying their belief in the argument for limited government that they took from political theorists like John Locke and Montesquieu. Witherspoon was himself an influential figure in the debate over the creation of the new United States—he signed the Declaration of Independence—and his influence was even greater through his student James Madison. . . . But he was also active in church affairs.

According to Witherspoon and others who shared his viewpoint, religious institutions were essential to a polity like the new democratic republic they were establishing. Strong religious institutions cultivated the civic virtue that made individual liberty possible, and they therefore filled the vacuum that limited government necessarily left as the counterpart to that liberty.

In Witherspoon’s thinking, religious institutions filled a dual role: circumscribing individual behavior so as to enable people to live together amicably, and providing for the material needs of those who for one reason or another failed to provide for themselves—in both cases, so that government would not have to do so.

The numerous religiously based voluntary societies that so struck Tocqueville in the 1830s—the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, the American Temperance Society, the American Anti-Slavery Society, to name just a few—grew out of attempts during the early federal period to fill just that vacuum.

Read more at Harvard Magazine

More about: American Religion, Capitalism, James Madison, Political philosophy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7