"He even goes through a back of the envelop calculation that I’m sure economists will find ludicrous to estimate that our true GDP per capital is only $39,520, not its nominal level of $60,800."

I'd be curious to know how he did his calculations. I know when Simon Kuznets was developing the concept of GDP and how to measure it, one question was whether and how to include government spending. Unlike private spending, where individuals demonstrate their willingness to pay for something (i.e., they value what they're buying over alternative uses of the money), government spending has no necessary relationship to what consumers value, and yet he decided to count it just the same. Real resources are used to build bombs sent to Ukraine and these are counted in GDP just the same as bread and cars, but obviously they don't make Americans wealthier. So clearly some adjustment has to be made if we want a more accurate representation of actual per capita wealth, but I haven't dug enough into the numbers myself.

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I don't remember all the adjustments he made, but he said that a large share of our health care expenditures were fictitious, given that our results are so far. I think maybe he reduces the health care component of GDP by 40% or something.

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Echoing comments from Russ White and Spouting Thomas, there is a serious theological and historical misunderstanding at work when someone blames the kind of inequality found in Nazi Germany on the Protestant "idea of the elect and the damned."

First, he seems to be referring to the uniquely Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, not to a general Protestant doctrine. Germany was largely Lutheran and also quite a bit Catholic, and neither Lutheranism nor Catholicism adheres to a doctrine that people are predestined to damnation, which is a Swiss Reformation idea.

Second, no clever explanation is needed for the phenomenon of inequality and for societal tolerance of inequality. These are part of the history of every society known to mankind, going back far earlier than the Protestant Reformation. Maybe the author is indoctrinated in the egalité of the French Revolution and thinks that is the normal condition of any society.

The rest of the author's comments certainly give much occasion for thought, however.

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It's easy to try to explain things away, but Protestant areas of Germany were much stronger supporters of the Nazis in elections than the Catholic areas were.

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May 1·edited May 1

Yes, but what does that have to do with Protestant doctrines of election, etc.?

Luther and some early Protestant reformers expressed a good deal of anti-semitism, before they had even finished developing all of the distinctly Protestant doctrines. That attitude lingered on for quite a while. A lot of this history was traced in detail by the Catholic writer Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in "LIberty or Equality: The Challenge of our Times." As a Catholic, he was not too sympathetic to the early Reformers including Luther, but he never claimed that their anti-semitism had anything to do with a doctrine of election.

By the way, how does my original comment qualify as explaining things away? My only point is that election had nothing to do with it.

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It's a valid point. I don't think I've read a good book on this specific point. My best understanding is that Nazism, despite being led by a native of Catholic Austria and initially founded in Catholic Bavaria, was deeply Prussian in its attitudes. And Prussia's culture was deeply intertwined with Protestantism. The Prussian state was in fact founded by the decision to turn a Catholic martial order, the Teutonic Knights, into a Protestant monarchy.

I think that Catholic Germans were generally slower to buy into the Prussian way, more inclined to see the merits of the Austrian way that was less ascetic and militaristic, more cultured and diplomatic. The Kulturkampf didn't help.

The comment of Todd's that I have a tougher time buying into is regarding slavery. I'm not aware of any sense in which Protestant North America was crueler towards slaves than Catholic Latin America. Protestants led the charge to end slavery. This isn't to discount the fact that the Roman Catholic Church itself was more often than not a force for moderation in the treatment of slaves and subjugated peoples in the New World, against the baser profit-seeking instincts of cruel Catholic men in the field.

What could perhaps be said is that Latin America isn't guided by the one-drop rule. I don't think the one-drop rule has much to do with Protestantism, and a lot more to do with the fact that North America came to be dominated by a people of near-100% European stock, while Latin America's population has a much more intermingled history, largely because European women were rarer there and native women more common.

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Just adding on to this, was Protestant Germany more de-churched by the 1930s than Catholic Germany? To buy into Todd's frame, was it deeper in the "Zombie State"? I think probably, but I'm not positive.

In Europe as a whole, Catholic belief seems to have lingered longer than Protestant. I've never seen anyone offer a good explanation for this. I've proposed that:

1. The Protestant state church is the worst possible form of church organization. It lacks both the dynamism of independent Protestant churches and certain safeguards and time-honored practices built into the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

2. A lot of Europe's most pious Protestants left for America specifically due to conflicts with their sclerotic state churches. Had they stayed, maybe they would have led revival movements or pushed to reform those churches. Instead, they contributed to America becoming the center of faithful Protestant practice.

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Thanks for this write-up, Aaron. It sounds like this work is highly uneven, with good insights mixed with inexcusably bad ones. There are some advantages to an outsider's perspective when it comes to cultural criticism, but more disadvantages, I think. At least if you don't ever spend enough time in the country you're criticizing.

I want to point out that I don't think Douthat even said what Todd says he said about evangelicals. I read Douthat's "Bad Religion" several years ago. It's a good book, with a good summary of the mid-20th century Mainline and its collapse. IIRC insofar as it criticized "evangelicals", it was criticizing Osteen and Prosperity Gospel. While Douthat is obviously Catholic and not Protestant, I don't think you'll ever find him referring to SBC or PCA doctrine as "heresy" the way he does Prosperity Gospel.

My guess is that Todd probably didn't really even read Douthat's book, he just skimmed a few parts and somehow came away with an understanding that Osteen and American evangelicalism are synonymous.

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"If Protestantism brought positives to Europe, it also introduced the idea of inequality in a profound way, through its idea of the elect and the damned. "

Much of the analysis here is flawed because of a lack of understanding about theology and progressivism. This statement, which undergirds the entire piece, assumes:

Protestantism == Calvanism + post/a-millennialism + covenant theology

There are many branches of protestant thought. If you look through American history--and world history, actually, but let's keep things simple for the moment--postmil thought always captures most of the protestant and catholic churches when progressivism is ascendant. Between progressive ages, premil and other forms of Christian thought are dominant in the church.

Where did Christian forms of racism come from? A Calvinistic understanding of the Scriptures combined with a postmil view of the world that meshed well with Darwinian theory. Where did those who opposed racism come from? The "other side of the reformation" and some parts of the Catholic church. Specifically, the amil parts of the Catholic church and the premil parts of the protestant churches. On the protestant side, specifically, it is the spiritual heritage of the Anabaptists and the "reformer's stepchildren" that opposed the Darwinian view of "progress through eugenics" and it's racist ilk.

If you can see the difference, you will suddenly make a lot more sense out of things like the varied reaction within the Catholic church to the Third Reich, the Crusades, and many many other things.

It's unfortunate that we, today, think we have "risen above" theology, or that theology doesn't matter. The most radical thing God said during the Exodus is that each child of Jacob is his child. Progressivism inherently treats people as malleable objects rather than as children of God--this is the root of slavery, racism, and even surveillance capitalism.

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