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Home / Brad Delong, Berkeley / Should-Read: Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman: Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation

Should-Read: Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman: Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation

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Should-Read: Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman: Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: “We document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation… …a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To under- stand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the

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Should-Read: Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, and Noam Yuchtman: Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: “We document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation…

…a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To under- stand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West…

Bradford DeLong
J. Bradford DeLong is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary during the Clinton Administration, where he was heavily involved in budget and trade negotiations. His role in designing the bailout of Mexico during the 1994 peso crisis placed him at the forefront of Latin America’s transformation into a region of open economies, and cemented his stature as a leading voice in economic-policy debates.

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