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Sacks on trade

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on trade from his book, The Dignity of Difference:

In an age of resurgent tribalism, the global market offers—as trade has always done—an alternative script to difference as a source of conflict, and therefore tragedy. It turns difference into a form of blessing from which not only I, but others also, benefit. Adam Smith was not wrong when he invested the market with a quasi-religious significance in speaking of the ‘invisible hand’ by which our individual contributions combine to enhance the general wealth of nations. Economic virtues—hard work, inventiveness, the profit motive—have always seemed tame when set against the heroic virtues of military societies. But military societies kill. Wars destroy. Valour, courage, dying in a noble cause seem heroic from the point of view of victors, but not from their victims.

If the price of war has become too high, which it has, we will have to value the habits of trade—the only thing that—throughout history, has brought tribes and nations together, benefiting from one another and from their several and different skills. The interlinking of nations in a network of trade causes many problems to which I now turn. But it is also our last best hope for peace. Unlike the battlefield, the market is an arena in which both sides can win.


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