Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ayn Rand and Adam Smith Were Opposites

Rod Dreber hosts Crunchy Con (‘conservative politics and religion’) HERE: to which two correspondents offer contrasting views:

Adam M. offers this comment:

From Alan Greenspan to Ayn Rand and way back to Adam Smith, there exists a type of social and economic Darwinism. "Don't give to charity, because the weak need to die out for the preservation and betterment of society" (feel free to accuse me of oversimplification, I am guilty). From Reagan to Bush I to Clinton to Bush 2, the model of Chicago Economics has had their fingerprints all over economic and foreign policies to the ultimate detriment of global economics and social welfare, working directly against redistribution of wealth, and the separation of social and economic classes.

Ayn Rand claimed that unmitigated greed was ultimately good for a society. It was needed in order that common wealth may be shared among those with the common greed. Alan Greenspan, a direct ideological descendant of Rand, claimed later there seems to be a serious flaw in his economic model. Unchecked greed has brought us all to the point where we are today. Irresponsible lending, borrowing, spending, and a lack of concern over our neighbor (whomever it may be) has flushed away life savings of those in search of the prototypical American dream
.”

To which Jon responds:

Re: From Alan Greenspan to Ayn Rand and way back to Adam Smith, there exists a type of social and economic Darwinism. "Don't give to charity, because the weak need to die out for the preservation and betterment of society"

Putting Adam Smith in the same class as Ayn Rand is like putting Mother Teresa in the same class as Torquemada. Smith was not any kind of Social Darwinist (And not just because Darwin was still some years in the future). He was in fact deeply suspicious of the machinations of the rich and powerful (very much on rank display in George III's England) and he was in favor of the public amelioration of the sufferings of the poor
.”

Comment
It is pleasing to see others correcting the usual parade of unchallenged attributions to Adam Smith which are not erroneous, but also the exact opposite of his ideas, sentiments, and writings.

Smith throughout his writings showed an abiding passion for steps towards opulence as the only sure and certain means by which the families of the labouring poor – the overwhelming majority of society’s populations – would participate in the benefits of commercial society from the increased annual output of the ‘necessities, conveniences, and amusements of life’.

It is too fashionable in the opulent economies of the world to decry the importance of economic growth (ironically, and noticeably, in Blogs emanating from California) on some confused ideas of morality, as if being poor was a blessing, when in fact it is a curse, as any acquaintance with poverty – the absence of wealth – in large parts of the rest of the world would quickly be appreciated by those who, comparatively are rich beyond avarice, write those sanctimonious Blogs.

Good on ‘Jon’ for pointing out to ‘Adam M’ his grasp of the history of ideas leaves much to be desired.

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3 Comments:

Blogger illogicist said...

I do agree with you about the differences between Smith and Rand, and I am glad that it is being pointed out. I missed your point, however, on economic growth. Care to explain once more?

8:03 p.m.  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Additional Comment;

California is one of the richest, per capital, places on earth. Many of the critics of economic growth live in a ultra-materially rich (‘beyond avarice’) community compared with the slums of Mumbai, the shanties of Africa and South America, and the likes of North Korea.

Productive labour growth, when capital is applied to it, is characterized by producing a net growth in revenue over and above costs and the extent to which the profits from that flow are re-invested in productive labour, and not prodigality (a feature I suggest that is part of the ‘opulent consumption’ of Californians), the growth cycle continues, bring more labour and capital into circulation. The ultra-poor of the world could do with large doses of growth from capital applied to their potential labour force and the only means of attaining this outcome is by setting to work productive labour in these places, from capital accumulated in these places, not by decrying capitalism in California as a model to be avoided by poor countries. The advocates against US capitalism makes their stance without leaving California (it’s too comfortable there), but not by going to these other places and exporting their capitalist knowledge to the poor communities on ‘show how’ missions, or mobilizing them for anti-capitalism.. Exporting anti-capitalist rhetoric helps to continue the impoverishment of the poor, and not to liberate it (and is cynically adopted by the rulers of these poor countries as an excuse for their failures, thought not for their considerable corruption).
Gavin

9:14 a.m.  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Additional Comment;

California is one of the richest, per capital, places on earth. Many of the critics of economic growth live in a ultra-materially rich (‘beyond avarice’) community compared with the slums of Mumbai, the shanties of Africa and South America, and the likes of North Korea.

Productive labour growth, when capital is applied to it, is characterized by producing a net growth in revenue over and above costs and the extent to which the profits from that flow are re-invested in productive labour, and not prodigality (a feature I suggest that is part of the ‘opulent consumption’ of Californians), the growth cycle continues, bring more labour and capital into circulation. The ultra-poor of the world could do with large doses of growth from capital applied to their potential labour force and the only means of attaining this outcome is by setting to work productive labour in these places, from capital accumulated in these places, not by decrying capitalism in California as a model to be avoided by poor countries. The advocates against US capitalism makes their stance without leaving California (it’s too comfortable there), but not by going to these other places and exporting their capitalist knowledge to the poor communities on ‘show how’ missions, or mobilizing them for anti-capitalism.. Exporting anti-capitalist rhetoric helps to continue the impoverishment of the poor, and not to liberate it (and is cynically adopted by the rulers of these poor countries as an excuse for their failures, thought not for their considerable corruption).

9:17 a.m.  

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