Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Once upon a time....

Adam Smith is almost always credited as the inventor of our modern economic system: Capitalism. He was actually a social philosopher. "Although The Wealth of Nations is widely regarded as Smith's most influential work, it is believed that Smith himself considered The Theory of Moral Sentiments to be a superior work." *link* This work is about ethics. While Smith believed man gravitated towards self interest, he attempted to explain the reasons men made the moral decisions they do. He believed the underlying reason for this moderating of self interest was the concept of sympathy.  "Smith proposes a theory of sympathy, in which the act of observing others makes people aware of themselves and the morality of their own behavior." *same linkie*  In The Wealth of Nations one of the stronger passages describing the "invisible hand" (which is oddly rarely mentioned in his book considering it's preeminent position in today's thought,) Smith says "By pursuing his own interest [man] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it."

While this does show that Smith theorized that the "invisible hand" did indeed tend to work in the direction of the good for society, hedging his bets he uses the word "frequently." I believe sincerely that Adam Smith was a moral man who came up with ideas far ahead of his time. He attempted to assimilate these ideas into economics. The mishmash of speeches and essays that is The Wealth of Nations by no means indicates a man devoid of moral insight who would as soon sell Coca-Cola with Cocaine as an ingredient in order to assure a continued customer base. I doubt he would have favored the cigarette companies withholding information that was dire and important to the public health. From reading him, I see a man who, while fairly elitist in his view of class and workers, truly wanted a moral world.

This series of essays which I have aimlessly set to the titles of the George Martin compositions on the Yellow Submarine Soundtrack will probably have little continuity but, as always, I experiment knowing that someday I will be dead and none of it will matter. :)  The essays are meant to be read together. As in all blog entries, the last is first and the first is last. It does my heart good to know that this is true somewhere.