Recently, while on a short vacation, I was able to read Bruce Koerber’s book, “More Than Laissez-Faire”. After having communicated with Bruce on social media occasionally, I thought I’d finally go ahead and read about what he calls, “The Divine Economy.”
The book is professional looking and an easy read. Bruce Koerber is a good communicator and this book demonstrates that aspect quite well. Although there are charts illustrated throughout the book, they are not difficult for the average person to understand as Bruce describes each illustration with clarity. As I read through the preface and introduction, I was surprised to learn that this was not going to be an ordinary re-branding of Austrian Economic Theory. Not in the least. Bruce had discovered an even deeper, more spiritual aspect of human action which only augments and enhances my understanding of “praxeology” or human action in the economy. Earlier Austrian economists had neglected to discuss the spiritual aspects of economic human action but Bruce Koerber does a splendid job with his “Divine Economy Theory”.
Understand, this book is not a religious or Judea-Christian spin on the many economic principles. Such works are already plentiful in the literature. Bruce has forged a solid thesis together from what is already accepted Austrian Economic Theory based on prior peer review in academia. What the reader will discover is that all human action in the economy has an intelligent design and pattern behind it. Something that can only be described as divinely inspired. It’s no mistake that the one base vice of humankind, the desire to covet, is aptly transformed into something virtuous under a pure capitalist system. This is something I discovered before reading Bruce Koerber and found his book to be a strong confirmation. Is it by happenstance that self-interest and greed can best become a virtue by allowing individuals to freely exchange with one another? The freedom to associate and do business with one another is the key factor in turning around what has been the root of war, degradation and tyranny for so long in human history.
In the beginning of the book, the reader will quickly discover that as each person pursues to improve his or her situation, with each action comes a transformation. In ancient history, these transformations were small and slow. But as history progresses, each new action and subsequent transformation from that action increases the living standards of humankind exponentially. This dynamic interplay between action and transformation builds upon previous transformations until we find ourselves in this current technological age and the advanced economy that was hard to imagine just a few generations ago.
As Bruce Koerber describes this interplay,
“As I just mentioned, the economy is a uniquely human institution. Since the human being can dwell in the world of relative perfection or imperfection the potential then exists for the economy to be in one of two states. If the higher nature of humanity is realized then the institution (the economy) that is a tool for the expression of human action will itself be elevated and celestial. Frankly, it is the divine nature of the human being which is his true reality and therefore it can be deduced that the highest potential of the institution of the economy is divine.”1
But all of this progression has had it’s cumulative burdens placed upon it. Because of human blunders, mistakes and most importantly, ego-driven interventions, the economy has had to slow its pace in the advancement towards prosperity. As Bruce explains, when human beings are left to exercise their higher nature by freely associating and exchanging with each other, the economy viz. the tool of the market, will tend towards prosperity.
This book takes the reader into a deeper understanding of the market mechanism and how it relates to the higher functions of the human experience. Bruce diagrams these relationships through the use of the Cartesian coordinate system. This he does by describing, through illustrations, five different, but complimentary dimensional models. Something akin to Mr. Spock’s 3D chess of Star Trek fame.
He also incorporates Divine Macro-Economic theory by superbly using the Austrian macroeconomist Roger Garrison’s Production Possibilities Frontiers (PPF) technique. By doing so, he is able to illustrate the trade-offs between capital goods and consumption goods. The reader will discover that the basic economic element of ‘Transformation’ is the capital structure. Moreover, Bruce uses the PPF technique to illustrate how the human spirit, the foundation of the Divine Economic Model, is the key to all economic growth. He is even able to illustrate how the human spirit, humans acting as they do in the economy, is stifled due to imperfect knowledge and intervention. When human liberty is thwarted, so is economic development.
In his own words,
“When conditions are right for an expanding economy the effect is universal. Similarly the effects of a contracting economy are also universal, however, the equilibrium force that is inherent in the economy naturally eliminates the deleterious effects of interventionism once the intervention is stopped at its source. It is cast ashore like the foam on the ocean and discarded as worthless. In contrast, the equilibrium force operating in the expanding economy nurtures in ways described in the divine economy theory, and that leads naturally to an ever-advancing civilization.”2
The book continues to describe every facet of human action in the economy by centering on the divinely inspired human being. Everything from, price theory, marginal utility, the disutility of labor, profit and loss and so on that is taught in Misesian economic theory is covered and well explained in “More Than Laizzes-Faire”.
In this concise 119 page book, the reader will discover the mystery about how the economy works and also to learn that there is no justification for human intervention in this “Divine Economy”.
Bruce Koerber has answered Mises’ call when he wrote,
“The flowering of human society depends on two factors: the intellectual power of outstanding men to conceive sound social and economic theories, and the ability of these or other men to make these ideologies palatable to the majority.3
“More Than Laizzes-Faire” is a moral and easily understood attempt by Bruce to fulfill this need in economic theory. The seed has been planted and now it’s up to us to spread this great teaching and let it blossom in the minds of young economists everywhere.
1More Than Laizzes-Faire pg.24
2More Than Laizzes-Faire pg.45
3Human Action pg. 985