Sunday, May 09, 2010

On taking quotations out of context -

How many times have these words of Adam Smith been quoted in support of the neo-capitilist ideals of disaffected Americans -
"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 interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love."

Me old mates at ALD tagged a commentary at New Statesman that picks up this point and correctly places it in the context of his earlier "The Theory of Moral Sentiments".

Read the article for the detail. I recommend it.

What does deserve quotation is another (equally out of context) relating to the "political economy" from Adam Smith -
..."first, to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or more properly to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and second, to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services".

Next thing will be members of the American right quoting the likes of Karl Marx's economic theories in support of their neo-neo-capitalism. The driver behind such a move might well come from this thoughtful article from Der Spiegel -
Greece is only the beginning. The world's leading economies have long lived beyond their means, and the financial crisis caused government debt to swell dramatically. Now the bill is coming due, but not all countries will be able to pay it.
A Huge Bubble

The world was saved, temporarily at least, but since then it has accumulated more debt than ever before in peacetime. The national deficits of the 30 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have grown almost sevenfold since 2007, to about $3.4 trillion today. Their total debt burden has also grown dramatically, to a record-setting $43 trillion. In the euro zone, national deficits have even grown 12-fold in the same time period, with the euro-zone countries accumulating $7.7 trillion in debt.

The current government debt bubble is the last of all possible bubbles. Either governments manage to slowly let out the air, or the bubble will burst. If that happens, the world will truly be on the brink of disaster.

When Greece faces a possible bankruptcy, the euro-zone countries and the IMF come to its aid. But what happens if the entire euro group bites off more than it can chew? What if the United States can no longer service its debt because, say, China is no longer willing to buy American treasury bonds? And what if Japan, which is running into more and more problems, falters in its attempts to pay for its now-chronic deficits?

The conditions that prevail in Greece exist in many countries, which is why governments around the world are paying such close attention to how -- and if -- the Europeans gain control over the crisis.

Now that is frighteningly close to some of the ol' probligo's worst fears. Galahs like MK should, but won't, listen.

Time to go play Gorillaz...

1 comment:

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