Erm, not very liberal these peeps

The Observer:

At the root of our economic problems is the bankruptcy of a political idea: that an individual\’s drive to get rich is also an engine of social progress;

I\’m not convinced that anyone has ever even imputed that let alone made it the cornerstone of a political idea.

The individual\’s drive to enrich themselves is certainly accurately defined as the root of all economic progress. But no one is silly enough to conflate the albeit important subject of the economy with society as a whole.

Just when we needed politicians to express moral lessons from the economic crisis – the idea, for example, that financial reward should be linked to social contribution,

And that\’s the illiberal bit. Once we start to wander away from the measurable economic stuff and into the mushiness of "social contribution" then we find that someone, somewhere, has to be the measurer of what that contribution is. And then the awarder of that financial reward.

The income of everyone in the country determined by the social workers over a plate of mung beans.

Erm, no, I think not. I\’ll stick with the iniquities and horrors of a market economy if I may.

6 thoughts on “Erm, not very liberal these peeps”

  1. Ah yes, but I’d argue that in a free market, your ‘social contribution’ is in fact pretty much the same thing as the value of your output or income (measured in £-s-d).

    A premier league footballer makes a higher ‘social contribution’ than the likes of you or me because the paying public (i.e. society) are prepared to pay him more than they pay you or me because they value his contribution more highly.

    Heck knows why, but that’s the way things are.

  2. Who suggests that “an individual’s drive to get rich is also an engine of social progress”?

    In fact, everyone from Smith on is talking about self-interest not in terms of people trying to get rich – very few do try – but trying to feed, clothe and house themselves.

    Conflating this with rapacious greed is a necessary piece of deceit for this kind of argument, so the proposed alternative, whatever it might be, stands in contrast to something we feel ought to be frowned on – greed.

    It’s either a deliberate piece of deceit, or ignorance and incomprehension.

  3. Peter is parially correct.

    Markets and liberalism aren’t just driven by people trying to get rich.

    But nor are they driven by people trying to feed, house and clothe themselves – which sounds like a form of satisficing behaviour that many on the left are advocating (need not greed etc…)

    Rather they are driven by people paying for (in time and money) and promoting (by buying or advocating or working for) more of what they like, whether it is football, wealth, the RSPCA, meditation or binge drinking.

  4. Johnathan Pearce

    When these characters talk about “social contribution”, it is just them saying “contribution towards stuff I want rather than what they want”.

    The intellectual vacuity of such people never fails to amaze.

  5. You could look at it another way and suggest that the problem was indeed trying to use an individual’s drive to get rich as an engine of social progress, by regulating and incentivising banks to make social loans; Community Reinvestment Act, and all that. If you prosecute and harass banks that fail to drive enough social progress, so the only way for them to get/stay rich is to buy in to the socialist agenda, the market will look for a way to exploit it, despite its evident stupidity. One obvious tactic being to make the sub-prime loans being asked for, but to protect oneself by offloading them as fast as possible. It turns the banking system into an unfunded arm of welfare.

    The bankers get rich, and the poor get houses, but somebody, somewhere, has to pay for this socialism. Eventually, the idea goes bankrupt.

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