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Freedom and Morality

F.A. Hayek, in The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, offers us one insight into the nature of freedom and morality. Hayek argues that the major world religions have succeeded and endured because they reinforce the weak and imperfect points of human nature. Hayek believes that civilization is based on the family and on private property, institutions that Judaism and Christianity, in particular, have strongly emphasized. The question that Hayek should have raised, but did not, was that of the relationship between the high civilization of wealth and culture in Western Europe and America, and Western Christianity. Since the success of wealth-creation and freedom has occurred only in the areas of the world where Western Christianity gained acceptance, it is important to attempt to determine what special characteristics of Western Christianity contributed to this unique development.

The interdependence of religion and family in Western cultures was first explored by Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges in his work The Ancient City, and while there have been many challenges to Fustel's arguments and methods, his central insight retains its significance. Fustel found that certain traditions of Indo-European culture took strong root and flourished among the Western Indo-Europeans—the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Germans. Among those societies, the role of religion was paramount. Religion was first and foremost the...

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