Markets and Morality

Faith provides the foundations for free markets, says new IEA book


In the Media

Prof. Len Shackleton appears on Times Radio

In the Media

Christopher Snowdon appeared on talkTV

An upcoming book from the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that the foundations of a free society can be found in the teachings of the three major Abrahamic religions

  • Religious faith is often presented as conflicting with market economics – but support for free trade, free markets, and property rights have firm roots across Abrahamic faiths

  • Moses’ teachings allowed Israelite societies to develop from subsistence to commercial and property-owning economies

  • Christian theologians have made scriptural arguments for property rights and wealth creation including Pope John XXII’s “unequivocal endorsement of the right to own property”

  • Mohammad gave Muslims a blueprint for strong voluntary welfare institutions and a thriving civil society

Faith in Markets? Abrahamic religions and economics, a new collection of peer reviewed articles, charts the intersection between faith and economics in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book will be released on Tuesday, 27 June 2023.

The book draws on a wide array of key economic and religious academic thinkers – from Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek to Emile Durkheim and Sir Thomas More, whilst also examining the teachings of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.

The chapters, written by religious studies scholars, economists and historians, provide insights across religious faiths and topical issues.


  • IEA Economics of Religion Fellow Benedikt Koehler shows that Moses applied religion to cast rules for ownership, welfare, and trade.

  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Middlesex University David Conway explores the tensions between Israel’s liberalism and the growing number of Orthodox Haredi Jews. Haredi education and culture are geared towards full time study of the Talmud, making limited contributions to the Israeli economy – a challenge exacerbated by official policy providing welfare handouts and discouraging work.


  • Koehler highlights the Islamic tradition of voluntary social welfare and property rights in Waqfs, which use private donations for philanthropic purposes.

  • Director of the European Centre of Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, Dr Nima Sanandaji, argues that, like China and India, the Islamic world’s cultural heritage of commerce and trade may allow it to grow towards prosperity faster than most small and medium-sized economies.

  • Islam and Liberty Network CEO Ali Salman writes that the ‘original spirit of Islamic economic policy’ opposed extensive state intervention and wealth redistribution. Islamic law, he argues, venerates traders and endorses a market-friendly and pro-limited government philosophy.


  • Koehler writes that Francis of Assisi (from whom Pope Francis takes his name) was an opponent but Thomas Aquinas a supporter of private property. Pope John XXII sided with Aquinas.

  • University of Jyvaskyla Senior Economics Lecturer Esa Mangeloja and Youngstown State University Distinguished Professor of Economics Tomi Ovaska analyse Sir Thomas More’s Utopia that supported a common property system. Shared religious values and social enforcement mechanisms provided an alternative to failed collectivist economic systems (like communism).

  • President of the Austrian Institute of Economics and Social Philosophy Martin Rhonheimer argues that a ‘true meaning’ of social justice, derived from Roman and Catholic teachings, can lead us to reconsider F.A. Hayek’s opposition to using ideas of social justice to make moral claims about free markets.

Benedikt Koehler, Editor of Faith in Markets and Fellow in the Economics of Religion at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The interaction between religions and political economy has been brought into focus by Harvard economists and historians Benjamin Friedman (Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, 2021), Robert Barro (The Wealth of Religions, 2019), and Eric Nelson (The Theology of Liberalism, 2019). ‘Faith in Markets?’ is the IEA’s contribution to the economics of religion in public discourse in the UK. Highlighting the liberal core of Abrahamic faiths is a barrier against their hijacking by political extremists.”


Notes to Editors

CONTACT: [email protected] / 07763 365520

RELEASE DATE: Tuesday, 27 June 2023

REVIEW: Please contact the IEA for a review copy of the book.

About the authors

David Conway

David Conway is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Middlesex University, where he taught for over thirty years and was Head of its School of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He has also taught at the Universities of Essex, Roehampton and Malawi. After leaving Middlesex, he worked for a decade at the Westminster-based social policy research institute, Civitas. His publications include A Farewell to MarxClassical LiberalismFree-Market FeminismThe Rediscovery of WisdomA Nation of Immigrants? A Brief Demographic History of BritainLiberal Education and the National Curriculum and With Friends Like These: Why Britain Should Leave the European Union and How?

Benedikt Koehler

A Fellow in the Economics of Religion at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Dr Koehler studies the impact of Abrahamic religions on medieval economics and business. He is the author of Early Islam and the Birth of Capitalism (2014). He has also written biographies of Adam Müller (1980) and Ludwig Bamberger (1999). He was educated at Yale, Tübingen and City University London.

Esa Mangeloja

Currently working as a Senior Lecturer of Economics (University of Jyväskylä) and Adjunct Professor (Docent) of Economics (University of Tampere), Esa Mangeloja received a doctoral degree in 2001 with a dissertation on Nordic Stock Market Integration. In addition to his academic career, Dr Mangeloja worked for several years as a stock market analyst and financial strategist. His main research interests are in applied macroeconomics, particularly in questions related to economics of religion and economics of sport, in addition to themes of economic growth, finance and economic history. His research has been published in international journals and books.

Tomi Ovaska

Having studied political science at the University of Jyväskylä in his native Finland, Tomi Ovaska moved to the US to pursue economics at graduate level. He took an MA and a PhD at West Virginia University and is now Distinguished Professor of Economics at Youngstown State University, Ohio. His research interests include behavioural economics, comparative economic systems and entrepreneurship. He is also Docent in political economy at his alma mater, the University of Jyväskylä.

Martin Rhonheimer

Swiss-born Martin Rhonheimer studied history, philosophy, political science and theology in Zurich and Rome. He holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Zurich. In 1983 he was ordained a Catholic priest. From 1990 to 2020 he was Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He remains associated with the university as a visiting professor. In 2014 he co-founded in Vienna (where he currently lives) the Austrian Institute of Economics and Social Philosophy ( of which he is the president. Father Rhonheimer is the author of many books and articles in the field of ethics, action theory and political philosophy.

Ali Salman

Ali Salman is co-founder and CEO of Islam and Liberty Network, a global platform for researchers and academics active in Muslim-majority countries advancing understanding of religious, political and economic freedoms. He is the author of Islam and Economics: Markets, Morality and Justice (Acton, 2021) and several monographs and edited volumes. An economist by training, Ali Salman is also the founder and Executive Director of Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), an independent economic policy think tank in Islamabad.

Nima Sanandaji

Dr Nima Sanandaji is the director of the European Centre of Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, and an entrepreneur. He has published in areas as diverse as economics, social sciences, history, biotechnology, polymer technology and physical chemistry. The author of thirty books, on topics such as policy reform, innovation, entrepreneurship, women’s career opportunities, crime prevention and preventive social work, his favourite topic is the historical origins of the modern capitalist economy.