Perhaps contrary to your intuition is the idea that the study of God could have anything to say about the study of economy. And in some important way, you'd be right. In the first place, theology does not say anything about human economy; theology studies God. But in the Christian tradition, the revelation of God to Man was also the revelation of Man to Man. This is because Christians believe Jesus was both fully Man and fully God. As such, the study of God is also the study of man. And so in learning the truth about man, we learn things that we necessarily need to incorporate into our economic thinking. That is, if our economics is going to have any basis in reality, any basis in the nature of man.
Theology can teach us about anthropology, and anthropology is, or ought be, the basis of economics. And so Cavanaugh's book teaches us about human anthropology. His first major argument is that democratic capitalism explicitly condemns the notion of a public telos, a public purpose, and that this is a bad thing:
All of this indicates that there are true desires and false desires, and we need a telos to tell the difference between them. The second corollary of free-market economics is that freedom is maximized in the absence of a common telos. A market is free if individuals are free to choose their own ends based on nothing more than their own wants. (pp.10)I am following along with the professor until he states his "second corollary" of free-market economics, which seems to me to be largely of his own convenient invention. He says that free-market economists believe 'freedom is maximized' in the absence of a common telos. Is that quite right? Yes, but it's not the whole story, or the most important part of the story. If he is going to criticize the free-market economists, he ought to fairly represent their argument. They do not love freedom qua freedom. They value freedom because they believe that freedom is the key to the maximization of prosperity. They also believe that the free market best respects the the nature of man. So the point of the free economy is not just that people are free; it is that this freedom is most conducive to human flourishing and creating wealth - i.e., moving people out of poverty. So I think Prof. Cavanaugh, at least in these first few chapters, is misreading the free-market economists and making a straw-man argument. He is correct about the necessity of a telos - nothing can or ought to happen in a moral or spiritual vacuum, economic choices included. (Whether it ought or can be common to all members of a society is another question.) But he is not fairly representing their whole argument, he is reducing it to love of freedom for freedom's sake.