"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Birthdays Today - Smith and Keynes

Today, somewhat ironically, is the birthday of both Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations, which includes the seminal idea of the market as an "invisible hand" guiding production of useful goods, and John Maynard Keynes, the 20th Century economist most associated with the intrusion of government into free markets.   If you've followed the Regular Guy Believes, you'll know that I'm more of an Adam Smith guy (or a Hayek guy), and that I think government intervention in the markets has, for the most part, been damaging and dangerous, and remains so.   As Smith said, "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things."

On the other hand, as Keynes would say, in the long run, we're all dead anyway.*

* By the way, there was a recent kerfuffle about the great economic historian, Niall Ferguson, who had the temerity to note that Keynes may have believed this because, as a childless bisexual, he had little stake in the future.   Ferguson was essentially subjected to online re-education camp and made to abjectly apologize for this thought crime, although it strikes me as almost completely banal and true that people without children (whether homosexual or not... that was undoubtedly Ferguson's mistake), have less stake in the future.   I would even stretch the point further... cultures with low birthrates (like much of Western Europe), which tend to have high debt and low savings rates, also tend to have fallen away from religion, which, among other things, gives human beings a longer time horizon (eternity) and sanctifies having more children and passing on one's faith.   The connection between smaller families and less religious belief is the subject of a new book by Mary Eberstadt called How the West Really Lost God.   

No comments:

Post a Comment