I don’t know what I will do if I read one more commentary about how Martin Luther and Ayn Rand may be on the verge of deciding the fate of the world. I included two of the more articulate commentaries here, but just type Ayn Rand or Martin Luther into a news search engine and see what you get. Of late it is politics and economics, including a lot of nonsense written by those who concern themselves with religion. But there is also a lot of food for thought, mostly from historians and sociologists who understand that being theologically of a certain ilk does not make one socially so and that elections and the economy are more the culture that grows out of religion or the lack thereof than the philosophies to which they are attached. If Protestantism ended tomorrow (and it is trying its best), we would still have the nation-state, free markets, and democratic elections which came from it. The same is true of any other church or religion which have all left indelible marks on the world in ways that have little to do with the life of faith.
I am more familiar with Luther than Rand, so I can offer little commentary on her influence in getting the world out of the mess it has gotten into, but it seems every since Romney picked his VP choice I should read up. To be fair to Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic, I will note that he does not agree in any way with Rand’s hardline atheism that would let liberty run amok, but there is also little to suggest he has in any way divorced himself from her economics. This could play very well after four years of charity to the American people and even more to American corporations. I know many of my very Protestant friends and family would welcome this presidency, even if I am less than thrilled (not that I have any particular love for the alternative.) And it may not make “Lutheran” Germany too unhappy either. (Philosophically Germany is a third Protestant, a third Catholic, and a third everybody else, but it is as culturally Lutheran as America is Calvinist.)
The strength of the Republican ticket here in America points to Merkel’s possible out in the euromess and speaks volumes of history. The Iron Frau and uber-Lutheran Merkel is left with trying to save Europe. She has said publicly again and again she supports the euro and the joint economy. She especially says this when the markets need a boost, but you get the very strong impression she would love to have the German nation-state and its beloved Deutschmark back, perhaps even envying America which vehemently preserves both its national identity and its currency. And many Germans, no matter their confession, would agree with her….let Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain solve their own problems or at least let them do it on Protestant terms which honors reciprocity as much as charity. Merkel has her work cut out for her, though. Latin Europe and the Protestant Obama seem to care little for her thrift, even if many an economist think she is on the right track (though many also think she is dead wrong and stimulus is necessary in such difficult times.)
Now suddenly Merkel has an odd ally in the guise of a Mormon/Catholic presidential ticket. I will say it is not an ideal match and I doubt she really wants to see them elected (her CDU is Germany’s “Catholic Party” and endorses many ideas of social justice which Protestants take up with reserve and true libertarians take up not at all), but they would make her rhetoric of austerity easier to get away with without being chastised by stimulus loving America, so I cannot imagine she loses much sleep at night over the prospect of a Romney presidency. If such a thing were to happen then no matter what any of the leaders of America or Europe call themselves in terms of religion, the days of Eurocharity and American stimulus are over. Welcome to the economic world of American objective libertarianism bolstered by European Protestant responsibility. (Social Objectivism and Theological Protestantism will continue to barely crawl along.)
If America does turn to Romney, then Germany may well be embolden to take up an even more “Lutheran” understanding of hard love charity and tell its Latin neighbors to accept its take on reciprocal relationships or take a hike (not that Greece is going to get another pass no matter who is elected.) The Latins may be inclined to do this seeing no alternative, but the thought of the Germans (not to mention the Dutch and Finns) viewing them as insolent and irresponsible children who do not know the value of money and will have to use their allowance the way mom and dad say they will will certainly stick in their crawl. If the Latin nations do not agree, Germany and the other Nordics may be as willing to eat up the bad money of letting them go their way just as America will no longer “throw good money after bad” in the form of entitlements and bailouts.
Would this be good thing? It depends on your take. There are many intelligent Americans willing to write off four years of stimulus, just as many equally intelligent ones talk of how dire a situation the world would be in had we not. On one side are those who say we only waylaid our pain and brought ourselves bigger troubles, and on the other are those who say we saved the world from depression. Only history and academic banter will answer that question, but if we make Obama a one term president, we may very well at least get a point of comparison and allow economic Libertarianism to have its say in America which may well let economic Protestantism have its say in Europe. If that happens we can see if these two strange bedfellows can save the world.