Reinhold Niebuhr and Catholic Social Teaching on ‘Why Nations Fail’: Constructing a Common Christian Ethical Analysis of a New Theory of Political Economy

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Abstract: In this paper the author undertakes a Christian ethical analysis of a prominent new theory of political economy by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. The analysis utilizes two commonly juxtaposed Christian sources, Reinhold Niebuhr and Catholic social teaching (CST), which allow for a common Christian analysis while also highlighting the nuance and variations of the Christian view. The author first makes the case for the compatibility of the understanding of basic social justice in Niebuhr and CST. Subsequently, the author expounds Acemoglu and Robinson's account of the roots of development, poverty, and prosperity and then applies the insights of Niebuhr and CST. The aim is not to argue for the accuracy of Acemoglu and Robinson's theory, but rather to show that Niebuhr and CST reveal deeper theological and ethical dimensions of this highly regarded empirical account, and that these dimensions compel greater action by the developed nations of the world.

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