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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 495 of James Otteson’s superb essay “Adam Smith and the Right,” which is chapter 29 in Ryan Patrick Hanley, ed., Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (2016) (original emphasis):

Unknown-2With the advent of the digital age, however, economic production has been utterly transformed; what constitutes “means of production” has now become broad and open-ended.  Accordingly, socialism has had to adapt to the times: rather than owning the means of production outright, it now proposes to centrally regulate people’s behavior, and to redistribute portions of their productive output, in preferred directions.  Whether realizing socialism’s moral goals requires owning the means of production depends, then, on historical circumstances, but what will always be required is to centrally organize political-economic decision making.  Without that, there is no socialism; with it, fairness, equality, and community can, it is hoped, be achieved.

By contrast, socialism’s antithesis, capitalism, has at its core decentralized political-economic decision making.  Its preferred values might be justice, liberty, and individuality (again, properly defined), but it holds that allowing individuals or voluntary groups of individuals to make political-economic decisions for themselves with little state interference is what enables the realization of the values it holds dear.  So the former position tends to favor planned patterns of social order, or the correction of unplanned patterns, according to principles and authority centrally derived and administered; while the latter tends to favor unplanned or “spontaneous” patterns of social order that are deferential to what individuals and voluntary groups decide to do and skeptical of what third parties might like to mandate or nudge them to do.


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