Economists did not need psychology to tell them that people can act irrationally and unjustly, says Michael Hendrix. They just needed to listen to theologians:
Why don’t we study the links between the two fields? Both economists and theologians operate on the basis of certain fundamental beliefs on the nature of humanity. They are subjects under the sway of irrationality. They are both, as Michael Jinkins put it, “in the business of constructing belief systems based on faith assumptions, and both of us are subject to irrational forces.”
Economics is a long way off from developing a fully coherent and versatile alternative to the rational actor model. The alternative is a certain bounded rationality, informed at turns by psychology and theology. Individuals become more than creatures bent solely and selfishly on maximizing utility. Humanity is seen as both created and creator, fashioned in the image of God and yet embedded in its fallen nature and institutions. The potential ultimately is for economics to be both a hard science and a social science.
Theology can and should serve as a foundation for interdisciplinary study into economics, especially its behavioral kin. Economics needs to know why humans act the way they do and begin to construct a more complete science that reflects human nature. To be clear, Christian anthropology and secular psychology are not quite on speaking terms, but their contributions to economics may prove far more complimentary than most people think. Groups like the Acton Institute and the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics are blazing a path toward the reconciliation of these disciplines in the economic sphere.