• 12 Jun 2014 at 1:19 PM

Meet David Brat

Among the many things 36,110 people found charming about Cantor-slayer David Brat, one of the most prominent was certainly his plucky stand-uppity-ness to the elite, be they the U.S. House Majority Leader elite or the “intellectual elite at Princeton” that his campaign bio so proudly notes he stood in opposition to.

As Gail Collins points out, this could be a slippery little bit of bait-and-switch: Brat didn’t go to the Princeton you’re thinking of, but to the adjacent Princeton Theological Seminary, which is indeed an elite seminary, but that’s probably not the elite that Brat was expecting the voters of Virginia’s seventh to rail against. On the other hand, Brat did stand up to one very eminent Princetonian, indeed, for failing to see what seems so very obvious when one attends an elite Presbyterian seminary.

In a 2005 paper, which he presented at an economics conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he took on Mr. Bernanke, the former Fed chairman, Fed governor, and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

In the paper, titled “Is Growth Exogenous? Taking Bernanke Seriously (But How Can a Fed Guy Forget the Institutions)”, Mr. Brat waded into a debate among economists over the determinants of long-term growth with this conclusion: Mr. Bernanke’s work on economic growth overlooked the role that religious institutions–particularly Protestant ones–play in driving a country’s growth rates….

“Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant led contest for religious and political power and I will show you a country that is rich today,” he wrote.

Not, perhaps, terribly relevant to the running of a central bank, you might think, and perhaps maybe even a little offensive to its Jewish then-chairman. But you’ll have to forgive Dr. Brat (he did eventually earn a Ph.D., just not at Princeton): He’s built an academic career on such arguments.

Mr. Brat, who just notched a stunning upset over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary race in Virginia, wrote his doctoral thesis on “Human Capital, Religion and Economic Growth.” The Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of the thesis from the American University library.

In the three-part thesis, Mr. Brat analyzed the determinants of economic growth, with a focus on the 19th century where some countries became vastly wealthy and others languished….

Mr. Brat concluded that Protestantism expanded education, broadened patterns of thought and improved governments in ways that led to a swifter advancement of science. The dissertation primarily compares Catholic France with Protestant Britain and Germany.

David Brat to Bernanke: Don’t Underestimate the Value of Protestants [WSJ Real Time Economics blog]
David Brat’s PhD Theses: “Human Capital, Religion & Economic Growth” [WSJ Real Time Economics blog]
Putting a Cap on Cantor [NYT]

19 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (19)

  1. Posted by Quant me maybe... | June 12, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    This guy is so far to the right he's going to hand the election to any democrat that chooses to stand against him.

  2. Posted by Oliver Nesbit | June 12, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Hi David! I'm Oliver

  3. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    I am surprised his supporters could see which lever to pull through the pillowcases

  4. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    it also upset a jewish primary contender

  5. Posted by Brat | June 12, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Our God is an Awesome God!

  6. Posted by Judge Schmaels | June 12, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    The far right is never going to get it. The country has changed so dramatically they will never be in power again. Wall St is drowning and the conservatives are slowly dying off. Which means your children will be selling fruit by the side of the Holland Tunnel after you are done paying 500K for college. Start drinking now

  7. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Not sure what the big deal is. The broad outlines of Protestantism are pretty closely aligned with the tenets of capitalism. New York – cradle of capitalism and finance in the New World – was founded by members of the Dutch Reform Church.

  8. Posted by Max Weber | June 12, 2014 at 3:59 PM


  9. Posted by Kant_Quant | June 12, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    This is a 10/10 comment and needs to be recognized as such.

  10. Posted by guest | June 12, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Agreed, but only because of the last sentence

  11. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    I'd do a little reading up on his opponent, and on the district, before jumping to any conclusions.

    If th choice is between a guy who rails against Wall Street and a guy who writes vampire novels, well, that'll be the easiest decision any Virginian with a gun rack in the truck and two hunting dogs ever made.

  12. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    We would just like to day that he has no idea what he is talking about, and that there is no connection between the exercise of religion, and the making of unholy amounts of money in finance.

    – The Sacred Order of the Knights Templar, LP (London, Paris, Cyprus, Malta, Jerusalem)

  13. Posted by History Major | June 12, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Tenents of the Dutch Reformed Church also help create and sustain Apartheid in South Africa. So you win some you loose some.

  14. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    The only sensible solution is to replace this Cantor guy with someone named Jefferies.

  15. Posted by perpetual intern | June 12, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    There were no countries in 1600 that were Jewish-led, so I don't see why Bernanke would be offended. Though it seems like his hatefacts hurt *your* feelings, Shazar.

  16. Posted by ESL Minor | June 12, 2014 at 6:24 PM

    Tenents? Loose? OTTNC.

  17. Posted by Karl Rove | June 12, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    Why is everyone looking at me??

  18. Posted by Guest | June 12, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    No more impressive than your ability to post that comment while ski poling Rachael Maddow and Hillary Clinton.

    – UBS tired cliche quant

  19. Posted by Catholic | June 13, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    What Brat said about the Protestant Work Ethic isn't offensive. It's demonstrably true.

    BTW, low blow on the photo, Shazar. I'm sure if we saw a pic of you speaking to the other members of the Power Puff Girls fan club you'd look exciteable, too.