The Institutional Foundations of Religious Freedom

How did religious freedom emerge? I address this question by building on the framework of Johnson and Koyama’s Persecution & Toleration: The Long Road to Religious Freedom (2019). First, I establish that premodern societies, reliant on identity rules, were incapable of liberalism and religious freedom. Identity rules and restrictions on religious freedom were part of a political-economy equilibrium that ensured social order. Second, I examine developments like the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution, as shocks to this premodern identity rules and conditional toleration equilibrium. Finally, I consider several examples that support the claim that the move from identity rules to general rules allowed religious freedom to flourish.

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