Thursday, October 13, 2005

William Peterson on "Market Democracy"

William Peterson, the winner of the 2005 Gary G. Schlarbaum Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Human Liberty and the 2006 Schlarbaum Laureate, gave his acceptance speech, “Mises in America” (delivered October 8 and published 12 October by Ludwig von Mises Institute), contains the following interesting passage:

“So, Miseseans, see how market democracy explains the success of the West, how Adam Smith's vivid metaphor for self-interest as the "invisible hand" fits into his system of "natural liberty," of winning self-help by helping others. Recall a famed line in his The Wealth of Nations: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard of their own interest."


While not altogether sure of Peterson’s linking of the invisible hand to self-interest, I endorse the potential value of the phrase: “of winning self-help by helping others”, especially in the context of direct reference to Smith’s example of the ‘butcher, the brewer and the baker”.

Mises called this “market democracy”, and much of Peterson’s eloquent speech is directed to contrasting this “true democracy” with electoral democracy (which you can read by referring to the web site ). I discuss the principle of Smithian one’s self-interest being best served by serving the self-interest of others, particularly in negotiation, “Adam Smith’s Lost legacy” (Palgrave Macmillan).

[The citation of the Award says: William Herbert Peterson has served a crucial role as a leading public intellectual, elaborating on the insights of Mises through teaching, writing, and speaking on the relationship between free enterprise and human liberty.]


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