September 2022

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  
Blog powered by Typepad

« Talking Austrian Economics on "Scully: The World Show" | Main | How the Keynesian Revolution Changed Everything »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

One of the most disturbing elements when faced with criticism of the free market approach is precisely this insistence that "capitalism" or "laissez-faire" implies a disinterest and most likely a disdain and "hatred" of the poor and less well-off.

Anyone who reads Adam Smith, or Thomas Malthus, or David Ricardo, or Jean-Baptiste Say, or . . . soon discovers their deep and sincere desire for unearthing the "laws" of the market precisely to see what institutional arrangements would be most likely of offering avenues and opportunities to raise up the material standards and qualities of the human condition. And most especially for "the poor."

Anyone who reads, say, Herbert Spencer, soon realizes that he, too, is searching for an understanding of the social order and how it influences and can improve the human condition.

Many point to Herbert Spencer's phrase, "the survival of the fittest," but they seem rarely to have actually read his discussion of the processes of social evolution in his "Principles of Sociology."

One discovers his distinction between the "militant" and "industrial" type societies. In militant societies, the human characteristics most useful for survival are brutal strength and force, cunning, and power for conquest.

The physically weak and mentally gentle have little ability to survival in such societies. Survival goes to the "strong."

But in "industrial" society -- the society of peaceful commerce, complex division of labor, collaborative interdependency -- it is not brutal force that is the avenue to survival anymore.

It is intelligence, mental creativity for purposes of production, innovation, and artistic work.

In the "militant" society those weak of body, poor of eyesight, mild of spirit have little or no chance of survival in the "struggle" for life.

But in the "industrial" society those qualities in men that would result in their death or enslavement in a social system of conquest and plunder, now find their place in the peaceful social system of division of labor.

Poor eyesight in the "hunt" may find its place in the delicate work of the dress-maker; the physically weak who are unfit for combat find their place in the counting house of commerce; the gentle spirit who has no chance in a social setting of violent intrigue finds his place in the world of art, music and dance, and even in the trading house of the merchant.

The "militant" society places a premium on the qualities of the "brute." The "industrial" society values and has a place for the "gentle" man.

Spencer highlighted the humanity and humaneness that can and had started to come with man's evolution from the "militant" to the "industrial" society.

It is why he lamented the rise of socialism and collectivism in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. This trend was a movement backwards in human development, as far as Herbert Spencer was concerned.

It is why he entitled some of his last essays analyzing this retrogressive movement before his death in 1902, "Re-Barbarization," "Regimentation," and "Imperialism and Slavery."

It is the classical liberals and the free market economists who have been the true friends of humanity -- analytical "citizens of the world" searching for insights to raise up all men, everywhere, to a material, cultural, and social standard of well-being, dignity, and respect.

One of the tragedies of our times has been our inability to convincingly demonstrate what the (classical) liberal friend of freedom is really all about in his pursuit of understanding and analysis of the "laws of economics."

Richard Ebeling

Anyone else notice that Tyler Cowen got everything upside down in his NY Times article -- Bentham attacked notion of rights and provided a rationale for using the individual as an expedient means for the general good. The conceptions of valuing and respecting the individual and his rights can be traced to British common law tradition, to the Christian tradition and to the natural law tradition going back even to Rome.

Bentham attacked all this as nonsense and gave reason for abandoning respect for the individual and his rights, and for sacrificing the individual and his rights for the common good.

Even the basics of the utilitarian idea comes from British Christian theology & theologians.

Economic theory began and markets arose when individuals recognized and approved the non-shared and non-equal results of exchange, and when they established traditions of equality before the *law* allowing this to take place.

And this had nothing to do with 19th or 20th century mathematics or 19th and the 20th century mathematics of "rational man".

As I say, Cowen has everything backwards and upside down.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Our Books