Thursday, October 9, 2008

Being in The Wealth of Nations

The Wealth of Nations seems to require being built on the backs of others. Think of it: Egypt. Persia. China. England. America. Rome. These empires and countries required a free labor force for the institution of its greatness. Before free markets was free labor out of which capitalism sprung. The self-driven impulse of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations lays bare the natural impulse of man. The work realizes that man is driven by self-interest out of which structures are then built. It goes like this: Man is first. Systems are next.

Capitalism is an outgrowth of natural inclinations, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But can we move beyond what is natural to forever pursue what is good en masse? Many things we do are natural in private space, but in public spaces are not good. (This is the reason we are trained as toddlers to go to the potty.) The beauty in capitalism might be the challenge of forever finding means beyond self-interest for the betterment of the whole. Would this then be an altogether different system? No. Systems when they go bad are not nefarious nebulous non-associated things. Systems are structures built by people out of which come both good and bad. Systems, as people, need constant adjustments, constant checks and balances.

The market is us. Society is us. Communion is us. The natural self-driven impulses of man are seen in every system, capitalism socialism or communism. How should we continue in ways that are equitable for all while freedom reigns? The Wealth of Nations was built on the backs of others, whatever the system. The question becomes what will get us to understand the golden rule of loving our neighbors, those who are near us, as ourselves? (And, with technology and globalism our neighbors are increasingly nearer.) No system seems to have embraced this rule consistently.

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