Friday, January 16, 2009

A Left of Centre Thinker on Society's Welfare

Stuart Holland is quoted in the Casino Crash Blog, (14 January)HERE for something he wrote in Red Pepper magazine, “The world after Keynes

After a typical trail through Stuart Holland-type, ‘big thinking’, he asserts that:

It also means recovering the claim of Adam Smith that, in any competition, the welfare of society should cast the balance against all other motives.”
Stuart Holland is billed “as a leading architect of Labour economic programmes from 1972 to 1983

Stuart Holland was a Labour MP in the early 80s, who gave up a safe seat (Vauxhall) to join research bodies close to the administration of the European Community. He wrote, at the time, something to the effect that the most potent place to be to affect a social democratic reform programme was through Brussels as it gradually took over social legislation from the different national parliaments.

At the time too, Mrs Thatcher epitomized national governments’ resistance to the imposition from the EU of Statist solutions, in place of competitive markets (though she acquiesced in ‘privatisations’ that turned state monopolies into private monopolies, which side-stepped the consequences of competition).

Only recently, I was wondering what had become of Stuart Holland when I noticed his "Capital versus the Regions" (1976), among books I sent to a charity shop.

Well, he turned up as a visiting professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. It is not evident how sure he is still of the role of the European Community.

He does not mention above how “the welfare of society” should “cast the balance against all other motives”. Whose version of the ‘welfare of society’ does the ‘casting’? Is it an injunction on legislators and those who influence them to consider the ‘welfare of society’?

I would appreciate some directions to find in Adam Smith’s Works where he says what Stuart asserts on his behalf.

I can think of several things that Smith said in this context, but nothing that suggests that a supra-state like the Economic Community should be charged to do so on our behalf.

Adam Smith’s critique in Wealth Of Nations of the state-managed commercial economy of the 18th century did not exude over-powering optimism that legislators and those who influenced were minded to act in such an exemplary manner even within the confines of a single (small) polity such as Britain.

His Moral Sentiments speaks of individual moralty and society's moral norms, but not of government's roles, other than in justice, but leaves open how "the welfare of society should cast the balance against all other motives".

I cannot see how the countries of the European Union, and the state-apparatus of Brussels, has moved us closer to such a morality, not least because the Commission's accounts have once again been refused approval by its accountants.

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