Reading Genesis, an Economist Sees a Tale of Technological and Social Progress

Upon rereading the book of Genesis, Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, found “embedded” in its narratives a story of “technology-led economic growth, similar to what you might find in the work of Adam Smith.” This growth begins after Adam learns to till the soil, and takes off from there:

Most of all, in the Genesis story, the population of the Middle East keeps growing. I’ve known readers who roll their eyes at the lists of names, and the numerous recitations of who begat whom, but that’s the Bible’s way of telling us that progress is under way. Neither land nor food supplies prove to be the binding constraints for population growth, unlike the much later canonically classical economic models of Malthus and Ricardo. . . .

In the book of Genesis, the underlying model of economics is a pretty optimistic one, and that is another way in which Western history draws upon its Judeo-Christian roots.

That said, Genesis is by no means entirely positive about the impact of technology. . . . The story of the Tower of Babel is the clearest instance of the possible dangers of technology, [although] it is striking how much potential productive efficacy is ascribed to mankind. People with a single language are building a tower with a top reaching up to the heavens, and “now nothing they plot to do will elude them.” God then scatters the humans and takes away their common language, to limit their productive capacity. There is a hint that people are seeking to become the rivals of God, who needs to keep their ambitions in check.

If we transplant this tale into a modern setting, you might think that God is skeptical of globalization, world government, a universal language, and unhindered communication.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Adam Smith, Economics, Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Technology, Tower of Babel

 

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy