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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Capitalism and Judeo-Christian Religion

With apologies for lack of clarity, I restate the original message.

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Professor Gavin Kennedy has published a rebuttal in the IntellectualConservative website to my article Adam Smith vs. Robert Reich.

Professor Kennedy, whose latest book is “Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy,” is an economist who has taught in universities for thirty-two years. He is Managing Director of Negotiate Ltd. and a Professor at The Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland.  In addition, he taught at the University of Strathclyde Business School for eleven years and was a Professor in the Department of Accountancy and Finance, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh from 1984-1988. And he ran the UK’s first Negotiating Workshop at Brunei University, London in April 1972.

Professor Kennedy’s rebuttal declares:

“The notion that the road to ?maximizing? a nation?s wealth is to combine the ?invisible hand? with the Judeo-Christian Bible cannot be taken seriously, though Thomas E. Brewton advocates it in his posting of 20 April 2005, ?Adam Smith vs. Robert Reich.?

“....To generalize from a single observation, aimed at making a different point, into the general ?law? of economic policy is absurd, especially when the law is interpreted to mean that all actions of modern business should be without constraint on the grounds that the invisible hand is something real, universal and constant.”

What I actually wrote in my opening paragraph was:

“An ?invisible hand? maximizes a nation?s economic and social welfare, when individuals are permitted the maximum possible economic liberty AND WHEN THEY ARE SELF-RESTRAINED BY THE MORAL DICTATES OF OUR JUDEO-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE.? ONE CANNOT FUNCTION EFFECTIVELY WITHOUT THE OTHER.”  [emphasis added]

This is scarcely interpreting Smith “to mean that all actions of modern business should be without constraint on the grounds that the invisible hand is something real, universal and constant.”

The intended point of my article was to stress the stark differences between the anti-individualistic collectivism of liberal-socialism and the Judeo-Christian individualism that characterized the colonists who populated the original thirteen colonies here in North America.

The intent, further, was to say that unfettered commercialism could easily become little more than the law of the jungle, with emphasis upon “buyer beware.”  The counter-balancing element must be individuals’ Judeo-Christian morality.

That was expressed in the following paragraph from my article:

“Economic liberty and personal moral responsibility are two sides of the same coin.? One cannot function effectively without the other. They worked hand-in-hand to create and to sustain the highest and best form of political society that the world ever has experienced: the England and the United States of the 18th and 19th centuries, when individual liberty and personal responsibility were paramount.? Without that liberty and the vast accumulations of wealth it generated, today?s technological marvels would have been unattainable.? Without the restraints of Judeo-Christian morality, law and order could not have survived this period of rapid change, and slavery would still exist.”

My intention was not at all to opine about the best way to maximize a nation’s wealth.  Adam Smith did that in 1776.  Nor was my intention to comment upon the relationship between Protestant Christianity and capitalism, a subject covered decades ago by Max Weber and R. H. Tawney.

Another of Professor Kennedy’s criticisms is:

“Given also that Brewton features David Hume (Smith non-religious friend) as a major contributor to his false story of the necessary inextricable intertwining of capitalism and Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, Brewton conveniently mentions not a word at Hume?s persecution by the same Christian zealots during his lifetime.”

In no way did I suggest that Hume was “a major contributor” to my thesis.  The only mention of David Hume in my article was:

“In 1759 [Adam Smith] published ?The Theory of Moral Sentiments,? which was largely based on his lectures at the university.? His teacher had been the famous Francis Hutcheson, who held the Chair of Moral Philosophy from 1730 until 1746.?

“Hutcheson is credited with kick-starting the Scottish Renaissance that produced such famous thinkers as David Hume, in addition to Adam Smith.”

The thrust of my article was upon moral virtue, not maximizing national wealth.  For example:

“Our Judeo-Christian heritage admonishes us both to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, vitally important, to love others as we want to be loved.? It calls on everyone individually to do his best to deal decently, pleasantly, and honestly with his fellows.? It is the opposite of liberals? progressive education that teaches future business leaders the moral relativism that says right and wrong are unscientific value judgments.

“Those two doctrines of human understanding ? individual economic liberty and individual moral responsibility ? are inseparably intertwined.? Mandating a purely secular society, as liberal-socialists do, is the equivalent of removing an individual?s oxygen and draining his life?s blood.? It is metaphorically to decapitate civilization.

“An interesting insight on the close connection between individual economic freedom and the morality of the Golden Rule appeared in Forbes Magazine online.? In Ten Laws Of The Modern World , Rich Karlgaard lists the following:

“?Drucker?s Law. Odd as it seems, you will achieve the greatest results in business and career if you drop the word ?achievement? from your vocabulary. Replace it with ?contribution,? says the great management guru Peter Drucker . Contribution puts the focus where it should be—on your customers, employees and shareholders.”

If an article about Professor Kennedy’s just-published book on Adam Smith accurately represents his views, it’s hard to see why he disagrees so strongly with my article.  The Edinburgh Evening New of March 3rd says regarding Professor Kennedy’s views about Smith:

“That capitalism created the highest per capita incomes ever known in history is not in doubt.  But if, instead of relying on isolated quotations from Adam Smith?s works used to justify the worst vestiges of human behaviours in the 19th century, and still so used in the 21st century, what a difference it would make if we took his real advice and merged secular democracies and ethical conduct in our open market economies.  That would be a true realisation of Adam Smith?s moral legacy.”

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