Editor’s note: Dr. Anne Bradley was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle. Below are a few highlights of that conversation centered around business and economics from a Christian perspective. You can watch the interview in full here.
Do Worldviews Grow Together or Clash?
I really like this question. I dealt with some of it when I was working on my doctoral dissertation because I was thinking about Al Qaeda: Why then? Why that group? What motivated them? What influenced them? Part of it was this clash of civilizations; the West is imposing its values, Al Qaeda is trying to restore the caliphate. It’s a clash of ideas, a clash of identities. And that’s just one specific example of that.
I guess my broader answer to the question is: it depends. When we look at modern, global market economies, I think the most profound thing to understand about this is when we trade with Mexico—we give them dollars and they give us bananas—you’re not just trading bananas for dollars, which become pesos in that foreign exchange. We’re trading ideas, we’re trading values, we’re trading conceptions about what it means to engage in a contract with each other, we’re exchanging ideas about the value of property rights—that’s a profound and amazing thing, and a good thing.
Economists talk a lot about cosmopolitanism, which is this notion that when we start engaging in trade over goods and services, and we start engaging in this trade of culture and ideas, then we actually have a really neat opportunity to evangelize ideas about property rights, about trade, about people being free, things that we would trace back to the roots of Christianity.
So I don’t think just because cultures are different and they come into contact with one another that it necessarily means there has to be a fight to the death—but, as I said, it depends. If somebody views a culture as being imposed upon them, I suspect there will be a big fight, a turf battle. But in the global age we’ve viewed over the last hundred years, but even more specifically in the last fifty years, we’re engaging in all sorts of cultural and idea exchange—and it’s exciting! Because what we’re seeing is that more places in the world are adopting property rights, these bigger ideas of economic freedom that we think are so important, those are spreading! And we want that to happen as much as possible, so I don’t think it always has to be a clash.
(Watch this part of the interview here.)
Does Your Worldview Influence Your Daily Life?
If you have a worldview that you believe is absolutely true, it should influence your daily life and your choices. What does that look like for me? I can tell you one just from having small children, it influences every aspect of how I’m raising them. And it’s a very countercultural thing that we’re saying, which is that you can’t be anything you want to be. That is a lesson I’m teaching my kids—this is not what the Disney Channel teaches my kids. It teaches them to choose anything, it’s like you’re looking at a menu of career choices and say, “I want to be X. I want to be a doctor because doctors get a lot of prestige and they make a lot of money.” It doesn’t work like that.
Why do I not believe it works like that? Why do I believe it does not work like that? Because God created us in a very unique and specific way. So that’s one way that it influences daily decisions, which is how I’m raising my kids. I’m raising them to believe that God created them for something specific, and the best way to live a fulfilling life is to live into that and not listen to what the culture tells you—which is get the biggest number of zeros on your paycheck, or be as famous as you can be. Because when you try to do something that’s counter to how God created you, you’re going to be frustrated. And I’ve experienced this in my own life!
In fact, during my time at the CIA, which is what everybody gets excited about on my bio, I was miserable. It was not the right job for me based on my skills. I don’t regret it, but it wasn’t the place for me to be long-term. So I want my children to think about that.
I also want my children to believe that they have a responsibility on this earth. Nobody owes them anything just because they’re here. I think that is part of my economic way of thinking and my biblical way of thinking, which is that people have a great capacity to serve their neighbors and to love each other and to create great wealth—but we need the right setting to do that. I want my children to advocate for that in their future lives.
(Watch this part of the interview here.)