The Great Betrayal (Boston: Little, Brown, 1998) is a work of major importance by one of the finest minds on the current scene. What it has to say is of very great importance, both economically and politically. My purpose in this review is not to describe Buchanan's superb analysis but to point to its theological importance, one of major importance in our time.
It has become commonplace in this century to see free trade as basic to American and world economic advancement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Free trade is an economic concept with theological roots. Because God is the Creator of heaven and earth and all things therein, it follows therefore that basic to all meaning is the theological interpretation. Now the essential meaning of free trade is the essential goodness of men and nations, so that all things work naturally together for good, not by God's ordination, but by man's. Now it is true that economic protectionism is plainly affected by original sin, but it can have other objectives as well. Buchanan rightly points out that "global free trade" is at odds with early American thinking and is rooted in a secularism which is "a first cousin to Marxism" (174 f.). It is associated with a deep animosity towards our historic American views of church and state. Free trade represents a shift in man's worldviews "from a God-centered universe to a man-centered one" (201). Free trade also shifts the burden of taxes from trade to the citizen.
Clearly, ideas do have consequences, and free trade represents a world view alien to a Biblical one.
For men of the last century, like Richard Cobben, "free trade was the way, the truth, and the life" (189). Buchanan represents a Biblical perspective.
It is understandable why Buchanan's study is so important. It represents a return to Christian premises in the economic and political spheres, and to neglect Buchanan is to neglect our future. This is a book to read and circulate.