The Creative Tension in Being a Quaker Economist
by Kenneth Boulding
As another Quaker economist - a somewhat rare breed - I have read Jack Powelson's "personal journey" with great interest and sympathy. It is indeed a modem version of the classic Quaker journal which brings out dramatically something I have felt in my own life, the "creative tension" between two cultures. One is the intimate, highly personal but demanding culture of the Society of Friends, with its roots in the Judeo-Christian phylum, as Teilhard de Chardin called it, as it evolves through recorded history. The other is that of the professional economics community, also with deep roots in Christian Europe, but branching out from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment with its dominating emphasis on the search for truth, that is, images in the mind which correspond to some real world.
These two cultures intersect, at times tortuously, as Jack Powelson has found out. The Quaker movement resisted domination by authority and insisted on testing Truth through personal experience. "This I knew experimentally," said George Fox. "You will say Christ saith this and the Apostles say this, but what can'st Thou say?" asked Margaret Fell. But the Quaker search for Truth also corresponded to the four moral principles around which the scientific community has been built: (1) CURIOSITY: what is the world really like? (2) VERACITY: truth-telling, and