Interview with John Davis
Ronald Coase (1910-2013), RIP

The Dangers of Theocracy (Revisited)

By Guest Blogger John S. Morton

I was reading your blog on the dangers of theocracy.  I'd recommend a better book: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John Barry, a fascinating biography.  

Proger-williamsRoger Williams [who became the founder of Providence, Rhode Island, a haven of religious liberty] was one of the first people in North America to define liberty in modern terms.  Though deeply religious, he worried that not only would religion corrupt the state but the state would corrupt religion.  His vision was the opposite of John Winthrop's "city on a hill."  

Ironically, Williams is one of 12 people, including John Calvin and Oliver Cromwell, honored at the Reformation Wall in Geneva.  He was greatly influenced by Edward Coke, who said "Every Englishman's home is his castle."  

It puzzles me that the NSA surveillance hasn't sparked more discussion about why the 4th Amendment right to privacy is so essential in protecting our 1st Amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech.  Somehow, I don't trust the government to do the right thing when they make political use of tax returns, tap the phones of reporters, and promote the people who gave guns to the Mexican cartels.  

I think this nation needs an adult discussion on the relationship between the government and individual rights.  But I doubt if we'll get this discussion.

[JW’s Note:  John Morton is the co-author of Teaching the Ethical Foundations of Economics (New York: The National Council on Economic Education, 2007) and many other books for economics instructors.  He is likely the best econ teacher in America(!) and the founder of the Arizona Council on Economic Education.]


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