Nick Gruen on New Thinking on Current Problems
Nick Gruen, a leading economist and lateral thinker in Australia, interviewed in The Zone, in the Sydney Morning Herald, Full Transcript HERE
Much of it covers topics of new perspectives on society and government from the frontiers of modern thinking, somewhat beyond me, coming from over a generation earlier than Nick...(half joking).
I extract an early part of the exchange that I did understand between the SMH interviewer, Michael Short (MS) and Nick (NG):
NG: “...Think what happens when you get on a tram. There are quite elaborate social rules about how we interact, what space is public and personal, what’s private, We have an entire system of mores that governs these things. The first book that the first modern economist, Adam Smith wrote – a book he and his contemporaries preferred to the Wealth of Nations was on this very topic – about the evolution of social mores as a public good (though he didn’t use that term).
We don't really think like that, and I think that there are lots of quite exciting avenues for doing things better if we do think like that."
MS: "There is a danger though Nicholas, isn't there [?], on that sympathies argument in that there is no monopoly on morality. The left would sort of say `we are the good guys’, whereas there would be a lot of people on the quote right unquote who would argue freer markets in the community and society is what creates wealth and lifts people out of poverty and therefore it is offensive to be told by people on the left that they are the good guys and that the people on the right – in inverted commas again, because I don't like the language – are the bad guys. I just don't think that is helpful in public debate."
NG: "I couldn't agree more. The best example of that is Adam Smith. Adam Smith was left-wing; there is no question about Adam Smith being left-wing. He was a favourite of the French revolutionaries, and the reason he was in favour of freer markets is that he felt that markets had been rigged by the powerful for the powerful.
The example that most people are familiar with is tariffs and Mercantilism, but in fact there was an archaic institution in his day and age, which was apprenticeship, which was a creature of the apprenticeship laws. They told you that if you were an apprentice, you were a sort of indentured labourer to your master and you had no right to go and get another job or even move counties. So, Smith was trenchantly against that sort of thing. As the nineteenth century founder of the Austrian school of economics Carl Menger pointed out, of all Adam Smith’s comments on such matters, he always writes with sympathy for the poor and the weak and against the wealthy and the privileged."
MS: “To finish the point, the thing that annoys me about the so-called right is that they often appear to me to be into a free market for everything but ideas. If you disagree with them, you are at best well-meaning but misguided, which is a very condescending view. And the thing that annoys me about the so-called left, as you just said, is this pathological appropriation of the moral high-ground.”
NG: “I agree with that. But re what you've just said about the right about ideas; the right would complain that is what the left have been doing to them for years, and so they are getting a bit of their own back. There's not much point in that kind of thing. I mean solidarity has its uses in human life but not particularly in trying to think about ideas. But unfortunately it's a habit.”
Nick Gruen has been a correspondent with Lost Legacy since 2005 and we have exchanged papers and ideas over that period. He is knowledgeable of the authentic Adam Smith and of both TMS and WN.
I agree with his interpretations of Adam Smith – he wrote some interesting applications of Smith’s moral sentiments to the work of Jane Austen, showing an educated appreciation of both Smith and literature.
I recommend readers to follow the link above to read the interview in full. There is also a video link provided by the Sydney Morning Herald.
A brief look Nick's views on the current possibilities for the near future is also worth your time.