Thursday, September 15, 2011


Wow! This will be the third post in a row drawing on the wisdom of Adam Smith.  Maybe it's the conservationist in me, I've always gotten a charge out of that kind of  high mileage.  Then again, maybe it's just the imp in me who likes skewering the right-wing with their own ignorance.

The Picayune this morning has David Brooks once again floundering to understand things which he would already know if only he had ever read and taken on board the intellectual underpinnings of his own philosophical outlook.  This time it's a bunch of rambling in the blind trying to come to grips with the amoral wasteland of modern society, specifically as it is reflected in young adults. Brooks cites any number of recent surveys and opinions on the general subject, but never manages to land on the truth.

The irony of it all is that the icon of modern day unregulated free market profiteering, Adam Smith, got it right way back in 1759.  Even though today Smith is thought of almost exclusively as an economist, he in fact was a moral philosopher.  At that time the term economist either had not been invented or at least had little or no currency; it certainly was not widely concieved.  Economics itself was not yet a science in any sense of the word.  Therefore, while Smith got many things right concerning the value of free markets, he failed miserably to understand or enjoy any meaningful insight into their capacity to deliver much human carnage and suffering in the absence of sensible and responsible regulation.

However, the subject of morality and its characteristics had by then piled up a long history of study and contemplation.  As a result, Smith was at his most perceptive and instructive on that subject.  He succinctly and unabashedly proclaimed that all morality derived from our capacity for sympathy with the plight and suffering of our fellow humans.  The problem today is that the right-wing has preached vehemently for decades that we are all in it for ourselves, sink or swim, we are not our brothers' keepers.  That is why all the cheering occurred the other night at the Republican/Teacan debate when the case was being made to let some unfortunate soul in a coma just die in the absence of the ability to pay for needed care.

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