The Fruits of Civilization (27) Economists


Economists distinguish themselves from other social scientists through their much better material situation, their more individualist worldviews, and in the confidence they have in their discipline’s ability to fix the world’s problems. ~ American sociologist Marion Fourcade et al

The societal consequences of commerce have long been on men’s minds. Polar opinions predominate. By far the common sentiment is that private enterprise benefits society: via a miraculous inversion of intent, the “invisible hand” of avarice is a benevolent guide to prosperity for all.

Every individual neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. ~ Adam Smith

The contrarian view, very much in the minority, takes stock of human nature as imminently corruptible when materialism becomes the dominant value system, and thereby the inversion of avarice as a means to societal well-being is a chimera. Instead, the rationalization of capitalism amounts to trickle-down economics: a regime rigged by the wealthy for the wealthy, albeit, perhaps, with a hardscrabble ladder of limited upward mobility.

Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer. Trickle-down economics stumbles on its first hurdle. ~ Ha-Joon Chang

A rising tide may lift most boats, but some much more than others, and those with holes in the hull never escape the penury of dry dock. This unbalanced fleet is the seascape of capitalism.