≡ Menu

Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 219 of Albert Venn Dicey’s monumental 1905 volume, Lectures on the Relation Between Law & Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century:

The age of individualism was emphatically the age of humanitarianism – it was the philanthropy of the day which, in the midst of the agitation for parliamentary reform, would not suffer the wrongs of the negroes to be forgotten.

This short quotation challenges many myths born of lazy thinking, including the myths that

– freeing the individual to pursue his or her own ends within the confines of a private-property-rights regime (rather than forcing the individual to pursue ends imposed by god, tradition, the tribe, a monarch, the state, or some other force or entity “larger” than the individual) makes people more narrowly selfish and both destroys humanitarian sentiments and ensures against humanitarian results;

– the scientific endeavor (especially that of the science of economics) to understand and explain the motives that lead individuals to conduct commerce peacefully and productively with strangers – and the demonstration that these largely self-regarding motives are both natural to human beings and generate mass flourishing in private-property markets – is an apology for greed and a sinister effort to protect the privileges of the ‘haves’ against the aspirations of the ‘have-nots’;

– individualism and the capitalism that it spawned were forces allied in support of chattel slavery.  (In fact, these forces undermined chattel slavery intellectually and ethically [and economically].  [See here, for example, the pioneering work by my colleague David Levy and his co-author Sandra Peart.])


Next post:

Previous post: