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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 153 of Deirdre McCloskey’s wonderful 2008 essay “Sacred Economics,” which is Chapter 6 in the 2008 collection edited by Sandra Peart and my colleague David Levy, The Street Porter and the Philosopher:

That businesspeople buy low and sell high in a particularly alert and advantageous way does not make them bad unless all trading is bad, unless when you yourself shop prudently you are bad, unless any tall poppy needs to be cut down, unless we wish to run our ethical lives on the sin of envy.


The most distressing aspect, for me, of the enthusiasm among so many people on the political left over Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is the further elevation of envy into an allegedly respectable basis for government policy.  That is the main problem with the book.

Explore and debate, by all means, the accuracy of Piketty’s numbers, the definitions he chooses for “capital” and “income,” the merits of measuring net as opposed to gross investment.  Debate and discuss and do further research on these, and other, technical and analytical matters, for they are important.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that in a civil society it is simply indecent and immoral – were I religious, I would say sinful – to envy (not to mention to confiscate) any of the honestly gotten possessions of others, no matter how many more possessions others might have compared to what you have.