Sunday, July 19, 2009

Liberty and Property Require Civil Society

Thomas Brewton writes in AntiMisandry (‘curing feminist indoctrination’)(?) HERE:

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (published in 1776) demonstrated that wealth and higher standards of living emanated, not from the political state, but from the sum of individuals working in conditions of political liberty, most especially private property rights.”

Adam Smith did no such thing. Thomas Brewton seems to think that a ‘political state’ is separate from the ‘conditions of political liberty’ and the assurance of ‘private property rights’, which is absurd.

Now, of course, the majority of states in the history of the human species did not guarantee political liberty (most do not do so today) and many have a chequered record on guaranteeing private property rights, but you cannot have either condition without a civil society behind them.

And Adam Smith understood and made these points several times Moral Sentiments (1759), Lectures in Jurisprudence (1762-63) and Wealth Of Nations (1776).

In fact he went further in Wealth Of Nations to assure readers that despite his adherence to the principles of liberty, though they were sufficient conditions for prosperity, they were not absolutely necessary, though, of course, they were preferable:

Mr. Quesnai, who was himself a physician, and a very speculative physician, seems to have entertained a notion of the same kind concerning the political body, and to have imagined that it would thrive and prosper only under a certain precise regimen, the exact regimen of perfect liberty and perfect justice. He seems not to have considered that, in the political body, the natural effort which every man is continually making to better his own condition is a principle of preservation capable of preventing and correcting, in many respects, the bad effects of a political œconomy, in some degree, both partial and oppressive. Such a political œconomy, though it no doubt retards more or less, is not always capable of stopping altogether the natural progress of a nation towards wealth and prosperity, and still less of making it go backwards. If a nation could not prosper without the enjoyment of perfect liberty and perfect justice, there is not in the world a nation which could ever have prospered. In the political body, however, the wisdom of nature has fortunately made ample provision for remedying many of the bad effects of the folly and injustice of man, in the same manner as it has done in the natural body for remedying those of his sloth and intemperance.” (WN IV.ix.28: 674)

Living standards and wealth (the annual output of the ‘necessaries, conveniences, and amusements of life’) have ‘prospered’ in many societies that were and are well short of liberty and the sanctity of private property; indeed, some of the worst oppressors and thieves of private property have also been the worst offenders in this regard.

Follow the link if you are curious about the rest of Thomas Brewton’s piece. He is a long-established contributor to the (ultra) conservative US press with strong opinions to match.



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