Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 22, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Growth, History

… is from page 107 of Jacob Viner, Studies in the Theory of International Trade (1937):

A constant note in the writings of the merchants [in early- and mid-18th-century Britain] was the insistence upon the usefulness to the community of trade and the dignity and social value of the trader, and in the eighteenth century it appears to have become common for others than the traders themselves to accept them at their own valuation.

Here we have more evidence for Deirdre McCloskey’s thesis of the “bourgeois revaluation” as explained in her 2010 book Bourgeois Dignity.

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W.E. Heasley June 22, 2011 at 11:23 pm

“….insistence upon the usefulness to the community of trade and the dignity and social value of the trader, and in the eighteenth century it appears to have become common for others than the traders themselves to accept them at their own valuation“. – Jacob Viner

A question for Dr. B.:

At what point did those you trade with, the counter party of trade, become the villain when the domestic economy hits a rough spot? Stated alternatively, if the social value of trader X in economy Y was eventually commonly accepted, when did the counter party depicted by trader A in economy B become the villain for problems experienced in economy Y and visa-versa? When did the counter party and the counter party’s associated economy become commonly accepted as the villain for economic problems experienced in the initial trading economy?

Today China is commonly portrayed as the villain causing US economic woes. In the Great Depression many countries including the US viewed other economies for their economic woes. When is the historical starting point for this exogenous vilification? 1800’s, 1500’s, earlier? Exactly how long has this economic fallacy persisted?

vikingvista June 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Interesting how recently merchants became seen as socially advantageous. But what I want to know is, when did politicians become legends in their own minds?

Tim June 23, 2011 at 1:51 am

Hum…since the Pharaohs?

vidyohs June 23, 2011 at 6:09 am

More likely since the city of Ur.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm

The city of Ur-from-the-government-and-ur-here-to-help-me?

High five! Anyone? No? Okidokee then…

dsylexic June 23, 2011 at 4:10 am

it is difficult for us to realize that liberty is a young idea.

Purpendicular June 24, 2011 at 6:31 am

I sort of disagree. Liberty was alive and well in Greece up to the conquest of Philippe of Macedonia 338 B.C. It might have been called “Ancient Liberty”, liberty of the collective according to Benjamin Constant, but our “modern liberty” is also subject to social conformity. Why else ban things that are “foreign to our culture” but that does not harm others, i.e. drugs.

But liberty is easily snuffed out. 2-3 centuries in Greece and a couple of centuries in the “modern” world, compared to millennia of serfdom. As far as I can see though, Medieval Europe from 1000 to 1517 A.D. scored fairly high on the liberty scale. Then came the reformation and religious purity and war. (The “Dark Ages” is a myth created by a small intellectual clique that also invented the concept of the renaissance.)

Scott June 23, 2011 at 5:28 am

History repeats itself. I see the US undergoing an economic decline similar to Great Britain’s at the turn of the century.

vidyohs June 23, 2011 at 6:11 am

I see it not so much as in decline as it is being deliberately and methodically poisoned.

Gordon Richens June 23, 2011 at 7:41 am

I dunno. Some people are pretty good at being incompetent.

vidyohs June 23, 2011 at 9:24 am

That is the result of being fed ideological arsenic steadily over decades.

vikingvista June 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Monopoly grows and consumes prosperity like a cancer.

Complete the following prediction:

The UK is to the USA as the USA is to ______.

Purpendicular June 24, 2011 at 6:37 am

My take is Tocquevillean one. Trade creates the conditions of liberty by destroying the states’ abilities to control and plan. But civility comes from the experience of self-organization (which is made possible and NECESSARY by the state being forced out of the way of people), from the practice of having to live together peacefully.
I live in France and whilst driving the children to school I had an idiot driving half a meter behind me. To exaggerate only a bit, in France, following the law is “for suckers”. You only behave when the police is watching. Governments have worked for five centuries to render self-organization impossible, and unintentionally the idea of civility in the absence of compulsion an alien concept.

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