An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation

Posted: 6 Sep 2002

See all articles by Robert B. Ekelund

Robert B. Ekelund

Auburn University - Department of Economics

Robert F. Hebert

University of Louisiana at Lafayette - College of Business Administration

Robert D. Tollison

University of Mississippi - School of Business Administration

Abstract

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good 'spiritual services' on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Suggested Citation

Ekelund, Robert B. and Hebert, Robert F. and Tollison, Robert D., An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 110, June 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=309724

Robert B. Ekelund (Contact Author)

Auburn University - Department of Economics ( email )

415 W. Magnolia
Auburn, AL 36849-5242
United States
334-844-2929 (Phone)

Robert F. Hebert

University of Louisiana at Lafayette - College of Business Administration ( email )

P.O. Box 44570
Lafayette, LA 70504-4570
United States

Robert D. Tollison

University of Mississippi - School of Business Administration ( email )

PO Box 3986
Oxford, MS 38677
United States
601-232-5041 (Phone)
601-232-5821 (Fax)

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