Sunday, June 16, 2013

Perspicuity is Better Than Obscurity

Johannes Mosmann addresses the “IndyBay Area” (translated from the German original).
How Does Justice Come to the Economy?  Here  A website copyrighted by the “San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center”.
Obviously there have been many idealists with sublime ideas before us. Comprehensive drafts of society were dreamt up by individual minds and then introduced somehow. Individual heads believed they had the perfect idea for the life together of all people and tried to promote this idea in reality. An idea simply extrapolated from a head into reality is a foreign body for this reality, something stiff, rigid and inflexible that cannot be digested by the living process of social life. Thus an idea becomes a tyranny for life. For that reason the great social utopias from socialism to neoliberalism must become tyrannies for people.”
… “Therefore returning again and again, going inward again and again and visualizing the ideal from which one starts is essential for a social project. One has to go beyond and submerge. One must return to oneself and make clear one’s goal. …
…” The publication of the book “Wealth of Nations” of a famous theologian is commonly considered the birth-hour of the national economy. This famous theologian and moral philosopher was Adam Smith. Adam Smith sought God behind the bustling activity of humans, behind a drive and behind egoism, not in the state. You know this. Smith assumed the well-being of everyone is greatest when everyone indulges his egoism uninhibitedly. However when a person intends to do something good to another, he would actually do something less good. The theologian explanation is that God works in the person when he surrenders his selfish drive. A metaphor for this work of God has become famous in this connection: an invisible hand, Smith said, increases the happiness of everyone in the moment when the individual only thinks of himself. “
That is the core of classical economics. The dear God appears to economic theologians differently than to state theologians. God is more a fate-God, a nature-God…”
That’s just a small sample from a very long set of posts.  Frankly, I found much of it incomprehensible.   It is typical of a strain of Germanic philosophising – the school that produced Karl Marx – and is often mimicked by today's leftish thinkers expressing ideas that defy reality in the belief that obscurity is better than perspicuity, in the belief, perhaps, that obscurity sounds more 'intellectual'.  (For Smith's view see: Adam Smith, "Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres', LRBL, i.9.10: 6).   
In a world of very small populations, the majority not living much beyond 40 years old, and most on the equivalent of less than $1 a day, Johannes Mosmann focuses on the 30 million today who live their short lives in appalling levels of absolute and relative deprivation, and starvation out of 6 billion mostly living in relative plenty compared to the 30 million staring to death each year from starvation.  And there are many hundreds of millions now living to average ages well beyond this experienced in the past.  (When I reached 73, I was the first male member of the Kennedy family for several preceding generations, that I know of, who lived beyond 72).
Simultaneously, Johannes Mosmann, bitterly criticises what he considers the cause of the appalling deprivation (which it was and is) of the 30 millions, namely “capitalism”, the only arrangement of economic affairs in all of history and pre-history that raises many billions above absolute poverty and deprivation.  The poor in the richest countries are incomparably richer than even their very rich forebears in the millennia of human history.  Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the 99 per cent today are better fed, with better access to material goods than any earlier 1% comprising the minority of social elites in all pre-market economies, as they moved to machine manufacturing, only a few centuries ago in a small part of North-Western Europe and then spread across the world.
As for the nonsense about the “famous theologian and moral philosopher … Adam Smith”, I recommend readers consult either my article, “The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology”, published in The Journal of the History of Economic Thought, September, 2011, or my chapter, “Adam Smith on Religion”, in The Adam Smith Handbook, 2013. eds. Chris Berry, Maria Paganelli, and Craig Smith, Oxford University Press.


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