Wednesday, September 14, 2016

THE INFLUENCE OF THE IDEAS OF PHILOSOPHERS

94.1 KPFA, a radio station in California, hosts (13 September) a discussion/debate on Adam Smith’s alleged ideas on Moral Philosophy, such as the “invisible hand”, ‘division of labour” and “self interest” HERE 
Adam Smith is regarded as the father of the free market, based on the notion that if we follow our self-interest without the intervention of governments, it will lead to the best possible outcome.  But his moral philosophy has been forgotten or discarded by his supposed disciples.  A documentary series, which features the likes of David Harvey, Ha-Joon Chang, and Noam Chomsky, shows how Smith’s arguments about the division of labor, self-interest, and the invisible hand of the market have been distorted to justify rampant greed.
COMMENT
I’d probably agree broadly with the radio programmes expressed views. I am, though, always reticent to use the language of “father of the free market”, “supposed disciples”,  and “justify rampant greed”. 
Absent Adam Smith, the British economy, and others that emerged elsewhere and the events of the 19th century, would have happened quite independent of the influence of Adam Smith (his books were limited in readership in the thousands not tens of millions) as events had happened long before Smith (1723-90) throughout all history.
Philosophers may be the “father” of ideas that may or may not be noted by other philosophers and much of the  general public, but philosophers do not “father” actual events. There are plenty of willing ordinary “bastards” in life exercising their natural inclinations to greed, amorality and the general awfulness of barbarism, feudal slavery and wage exploitation, or the likes of communist/fascist tyranny.

2 Comments:

Blogger Paul Walker said...

"will lead to the best possible outcome"? Really? Surely what economists would argue is that the market outcome is, by and large, not perfect just better than the alternative.

11:40 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

PAUL
TRUE. I WOULD ALSO ARGUE THAT MARKET OUTCOMES ARE WHAT HAPPENS, FOR GOOD OR ILL. WHETHER THAT IS BETTER THAN ANY PRACTICAL ALTERNATIVE IS AN EMPIRICAL QUESTION. MALFUNCTIONS ARE A FACT OF LIFE THROUGHOUT HISTORY. DON'T FORGET THE PRESENCE IN ALL MARKETS - AND GOVERNMENTS - OF THE 'BASTARDS'.
GAVIN

10:57 am  

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