Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Conservatism in Your Wallet!

Adam Smith (Photo: James Hooper)

If you are a visitor new to London and have just arrived at Heathrow you are very likely to already have significant conservatism in your wallet!  Did you change money at the airport?  Open your wallet now.  Is there a 20 pound note inside?  Take it out  There, opposite the Queen, is a portrait of the long haired gentlemen on the 20 pound note.  This is not, however, some rock star!  No, you see before you the portrait of Adam Smith, author of the "Wealth of Nations".   The butcher does not cut my meat out of charitable feelings for my welfare.  It is not altruism that drives the baker to wake up early to bake my bread.  By each of us pursuing our various self interests we also end up serving our own wider collective interests as well.  The invisible hand guides our forward progress as individual interests are catered to in new and different ways.

In Smith's own immortal words, ""It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own neccessities but of their advantages."

Christopher Wren wrote of St Paul's that if you want to see my work you need only look around you.  To see the works of Adam Smith you need only look around the City of London.

Any economic system ungrounded in man's self-interest must inevitably founder.  A lesson apparently forgotten by the Occupy Wall Street crowd!

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