Quote of the Day, Free Trade and Peace Edition

28 April 2010 at 10:40 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

Go into the London Stock Exchange — a more respectable place than many a court — and you will see representatives of all nations gathered there for the service of mankind. There the Jew, the Mohammedan, and the Christian deal with each other as if they were of the same religion, and give the name of the infidel only to those who go bankrupt. There the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist, and the Anglican accepts the Quaker’s promise. . . . If there were just one religion in England, despotism would threaten; if there were two religions, they would cut each other’s throats; but there are thirty religions, and they live together peacefully and happily.

—Voltaire (Letters on England, Letter 6)

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. srp  |  30 April 2010 at 6:22 pm

    This is why we need aggressive antitrust policy in religion. Low concentration ratios are socially beneficial, so we should apply strict merger review (and possibly rule-of-reason non-price collusion review) to attempts at interfaith conciliation. This policy should be pursued especially vigorously in cases like the Roman Catholic/Episcopalian talks which threaten to monopolize the “high church” Christian segment and the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox overtures which target the long-heritage markets.

    In addition, aggressive prosyletizing, while of course essential to maintain healthy competition, may become illegal if pursued by a religion that already possesses an overwhelming market share. Hence the Latter Day Saints should be enjoined from further conversions in Utah (and possibly Hawaii and Guam) but can go full speed ahead in other parts of the world. Mormon temples in Utah should be required to carry fliers for competing religions in their lobbies. (In the European Union, this remedy might be seen as inadequate, and a dominant religion might have to allow competing clergy to use its facilities to offer competing services on the same terms as the owner’s.)

    There should be lots of work for expert witnesses here, so that would be good. Who else will calculate the Holy Herfindahls?

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  30 April 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Brilliant observations. In terms of theory, would you model competition among sects as a finitely or infinitely repeated game? I guess papers would have to include a section, “Assumptions About Eschatology.”

  • 3. srp  |  30 April 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Supergames definitely called for–all these outfits have long memories and react to stuff that happened centuries ago (either historically or mythologically). Why do you think most churches don’t target each other’s members for conversion? The “Bertrand” retaliation phase would be super costly. Hence, apparently pro-competitive shifts in the stage game, such as ease of transmitting doctrine over the Internet, may paradoxically increase collusion in the repeated interaction.

    By the way, I do know how to spell proselytize, despite my previous comment.

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