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November 29, 2007

Re: A Tie You Cannot Steal

But .. but ... but what about The Invisible Hand?? Everyone acting in their own self-interest resulting in a higher common good, greater happiness, Heaven On Earth?

Interestingly, I think the libertarians' case on economic policy matters is still largely the right one, insofar as the concern at hand is governmental policy and scope of power. Which of course is to say that I don't see the attempt to create human happiness as a secular government's role. (Bummer ... guess I'm not a "compassionate conservative.") I realize that this wasn't precisely your point, Roberto, but the matter is ultimately linked, given the government's role in energy policy.

But reliance upon Adam Smith's theory to wholly anticipate future happiness ultimately fails due to the reality of the human appetite, which your Deneen quotes capture poignantly. For, while capitalism may excel at largely enabling the creation of wealth, it cannot do anything to restrain the self-destructive nature of man. So that the more self-destructing humans any society possesses, and the greater availability of the means to so self-destruct (greenbacks, baby!), the more the society will implode due to the pressure of its appetites. ("Implosion" sounds like a final disposition. I don't mean that; hopefully, that's obvious.)

But what can provide happiness by voluntarily shifting one's focus away from oneself? Or Who? Hmmmm ... let me think. Perhaps He in whom, and only in whom, all things hold together?

Anyhow, great quotes and thoughts Roberto. I realize that much of the above is a restatement of the thoughts you express, but it's a topic that fascinates me, so if I find myself merely playing the echo, then so be it.   

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jason taylor

I never read Adam Smith, but I don't think he meant that free-enterprise was the key to happiness. I think he just meant that it removed an impediment to happiness. For one thing if free-enterprise is the be-all and end-all of happiness, what happens if a horde of hungry barbarians see your ideal capitalist utopia, and swarm through spreading desolation and misery? You can't count on free-enterprise being the answer to that. And that is just a corpereal problem. Free-enterprise doesn't of itself satisfy spiritual needs, though it can if done in the right spirit(a Christian merchant can trade to the glory of God, etc).
I think the point Smith was making was to compare free-enterprise to the system of "mercantilism"* of his day which required more government control then he felt was appropriate.
To say free enterprise brings wealth is fairly demonstrable. To say it brings liberty is also worthy of argument-besides assuring that a man's home is his castle, making a greater proportion of people wealthier gives them an ability to defend against encroachments. However to say that one must ride one element of normal human life to it's logical extreme comes close to fanaticism.

* Dictionary.com-1. The theory and system of political economy prevailing in Europe after the decline of feudalism, based on national policies of accumulating bullion, establishing colonies and a merchant marine, and developing industry and mining to attain a favorable balance of trade.

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