Bill Niskanen, Trinitarian by Jeremy Lott.
Taken as a whole, Reflections of a Political Economist is a fine collection of essays. But if you want to get an idea of the esteem William “Bill” Niskanen was held in at the Cato Institute, go ahead and skip to the end, chapter 41, “A Personal Reflection on the Trinity.” There is nothing political in this chapter. It is a sermon that Niskanen, who died last week of a stroke at 78, delivered at his Christ Church in Washington D.C. on Trinity Sunday, 2006.
Niskanen’s book was published by Cato, which has a reputation as a very secular institution. I worked there and can say from experience that the reputation is both deserved and overstated. Cato is nervous about religion, true. However, it is OK with the use of some religious texts to help support its vision of libertarianism in politics.
Cato vice president David Boaz, following in the footsteps of Thomas Paine, opened The Libertarian Reader with a passage from the first book of Samuel, chapter 8 — the bit where the prophet warns the people of Israel about the catastrophically high price they will pay if they insist on a having a king. (“He will take your sons, for his chariots. And he will take your daughters, to be cooks. And he will take your fields…”) Boaz elsewhere included the same passage as part of “the prehistory of libertarianism.”
So there was some precedent for Catoistas pointing out that religion-inspired liberty and the more secular varieties can play nice. But to publish a sermon on a specific aspect of theology, and one unique to Christianity and not even accessible to natural theology? The only person in the building who could pull that one off was Bill Niskanen.