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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 203 of the final (2016) volume – Bourgeois Equality – of Deirdre N. McCloskey’s pioneering trilogy on the essence of bourgeois values, on their transmission, and on their essential role in modern life:

[Adam] Smith is not recommending selfishness, merely the literal minding of one’s own business.

Such simple advice.  But it’s not simplistic, for to recommend that each person mind his or her own business is to recommend that each person devote his or her attention to that tiny range of reality that he or she both knows best and cares about most.  This recommendation, when heeded, prevents Jones from diverting his attention from those things about which he knows relatively much to things about which he knows relatively little, such as Williams’s business – relatively little in comparison both to what Jones knows about his own business and in comparison to what Williams knows about Williams’s business.

With each range of reality attended to by the individual who knows that range of reality best – and who has the strongest incentive to attend carefully to that range of reality – all ranges of reality, taken together, are attended to with as much knowledge, care, and concern as possible.

It’s often less sexy and thrilling to stick to your own knitting than it to tell others how to knit.  But the world can do with much fewer attempts by arrogant individuals to seek their thrills by ordering others about.