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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Aug 19, 2021

Jared Rubin is a professor of economics at Chapman University. He works at the intersection of religion and economics. This is not an entirely obscure field, as evident in 2010’s Marketplace of the Gods: How Economics Explains Religion. Nevertheless, Rubin talks about how he was somewhat of an odd duck in the field of economic history due to his interest in religion. His advisor indicated that it would be difficult to find a job. Luckily, that prediction did not come true.

Most of the discussion is given over to Rubin’s 2017 book, Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not. He argues that the ideological content of Western Christianity matters in terms of the development of capitalism and liberal institutions. Though in the details the model is quite different from the sort of thesis promoted by Max Webber, Rubin does believe that ideas have consequences. In particular, we talk extensively about what a “legitimating ideology” is, and why Islam managed to check the rise of the capitalist class despite the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was himself a merchant.

Rubin’s argument dovetails in many ways with Joe Henrich’s in The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous.

Finally, we close out the conversation talking about the book which will be out next year, coauthored with Mark Koyama, How the World Became Rich: The Historical Origins of Economic Growth. You can’t say that they don’t have ambition.

You can find the transcript of the conversation here.