Ett av de mer spännande forskningsfälten inom nationalekonomin är religion. I senaste numret av Journal of Economic Literature recenseras en ny bok, The Marketplace of Christianity (MIT Press), av Robert Ekelund, Robert Hébert och Robert Tollison (EHT). Katolska kyrkan analyseras som ett monopolföretag. Som recensenten, Barry Chiswick, formulerar det:
The medieval Roman Catholic Church is viewed by EHT as a contemporary corporation, with a CEO (the Pope), with upstream directors of various functions (the curia and cardinals), with geographically dispersed downstream divisions (local bishops, parish priests, and monks) that collect revenues from selling services (p. 94–95). The main church product was spiritual redemption, and the Roman Catholic Church offered this through a continuous price system. … The entry of competitors seeking to weaken the Roman Catholic monopoly was thwarted by manipulation of doctrine and by penalties, ranging from the mild to excommunication and death.
Men så kom protestantismen och utmanade monopolpriserna:
EHT contend that by raising the price it charged for monopoly services the Catholic Church encouraged individuals to seek a cheaper religion, and for the civil authorities that relied on the Church for legal services to find a cheaper (local or country-specific monopoly) supplier. … Those whose demand for religion was most sensitive to the Roman Catholic Church’s monopoly pricing were the first to break away.
Världen, även dess ”icke-materiella” inslag, förstås bättre med ekonomiska glasögon.