DiscoverFaithful EconomyJohn Anderson on Justice in Public Finance
John Anderson on Justice in Public Finance

John Anderson on Justice in Public Finance

Update: 2021-08-05


In January 2021 at the ASSA meetings the Association of Christian Economists hosted two academic sessions. One of those was a panel of theologians and economists, all tasked with answering the following question: “What does a Christian Vision for Economic Justice Require of United States Policy Regarding Taxation and Government Spending?” The four participants were John Anderson, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Daniel Finn from St. John’s University, Enoch Hill from Wheaton College, and Christina McRorie from Creighton University.

Over the course of four episodes, we are sharing each of the presentations from that panel discussion, followed by a longer interview conversation in which we dig into the ideas in their remarks. If you prefer, you can also go and read printed versions of each of the panelists’ contributions, which appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Faith & Economics.

Today, we lead off with John Anderson. John is the Baird Family Professor of Economics at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and the Executive Director of the Central Plains Research Data Center. John is an established leader in the field of public finance, with numerous publications including a textbook on the topic. John has also served on the President’s council of economic advisors in 2005 and 2006, and has advised foreign governments on taxation and government budget issues, as he discusses in our conversation here.

John has, over the years, turned some of his scholarly attention to thinking about Biblical principles for taxation, spending, and government debt, and since that is the topic of our conversation, you can find links to some of that writing in the notes to this episode.

What I appreciate about John’s contribution is that he has a flexible and pragmatic approach to these policy questions. He does not think that God ordains specific tax laws or rules for government debt. At the same time, he finds lots of broad guidance in scripture for how we should think about these policies. I suspect I could have pushed him to a point where we found real disagreement on some policy questions, but that would have been a bit of a distraction. His real message is that there are different legitimate priorities that we need to balance and that we need to pay attention to the long-term consequences of our choices.

What Does the Lord Require? A Christian Perspective on Justice in Public Finance - Faith & Economics, Spring 2021. (

Government Debt and Deficits - Faith & Economics, Spring/Fall 2013. (

A Biblical and Economic Analysis of Jubilee Property Provisions - Faith & Economics, Fall 2005.



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John Anderson on Justice in Public Finance

John Anderson on Justice in Public Finance

Steven McMullen