Comment 74866

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 29, 2012 at 12:29:43 in reply to Comment 74860

I pointed my link there as a convenience. Obviously I'm going to suggest that you read the book before drawing conclusions about it, but for a brief summary: Smith explicitly argues that benevolence - the ability to sympathize with the plight of others - should drive public policy, and that morality cannot be reduced to self-interest.

While the market system, broadly understood, is the full, unintended consequence of individual freedom to pursue voluntary trades and transactions, such a system cannot function well except in the context of a strong, clear morality to moderate people's passions and indulgences and to govern their conduct.

Quite simply, without morality - without sympathy and a well-developed sense of fairness, justice and reciprocity - it becomes impossible to engage in good-faith market transactions of the sort that, taken as a whole, tend to increase wealth and uplift society.

This makes a priori sense. Without mutual trust, the capacity for fair exchange is severely constrained and the potential for market forces to enrich society is crippled. As it happens, a century of economic research supports this axiom.

(As a sidenote, the book is surprisingly psycological and empirical - surprisingly modern - in its approach to the subject of morality and human motivation.)

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-02-29 12:32:20

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