Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II,  'Of The Order in which Societies are by Nature Recommended to Our Beneficence':

"The man whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and benevolence... When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion, he will not attempt to subdue them by force; but will religiously observe... never to use violence to his country... He will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people; and will remedy as well as he can, the inconveniencies which may flow from the want of those regulations which the people are averse to submit to. When he cannot establish the right, he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong; but like Solon, when he cannot establish the best system of laws, he will endeavour to establish the best that the people can bear."

Monday, 24 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter III,  'Of Universal Benevolence':
"Though our effectual good offices can very seldom be extended to any wider society than that of our own country; our good-will is circumscribed by no boundary, but may embrace the immensity of the universe. We cannot form the idea of any innocent and sensible being, whose happiness we should not desire, or to whose misery, when distinctly brought home to the imagination, we should not have some degree of aversion."

Friday, 21 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Kevin Grier:
"Neither the Fed nor the President “runs” the economy. There is no stable, exploitable Phillips Curve / sous vide machine that lets us cook at a certain temperature."
Hat tip to Alex Tabarrok for this one.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II,  'Of The Order in which Societies are by Nature Recommended to Our Beneficence':
"Amidst the turbulence and disorder of faction, a certain spirit of system is apt to mix itself with that public spirit which is founded upon the love of humanity, upon a real fellow-feeling with the inconveniencies and distresses to which some of our fellow-citizens may be exposed. This spirit of system commonly takes the direction of that more gentle public spirit; always animates it, and often inflames it even to the madness of fanaticism. The leaders of the discontented party seldom fail to hold out some plausible plan of reformation which, they pretend, will not only remove the inconveniencies and relieve the distresses immediately complained of, but will prevent, in all time coming, any return of the like inconveniencies and distresses. They often propose, upon this account, to new-model the constitution, and to alter, in some of its most essential parts, that system of government under which the subjects of a great empire have enjoyed, perhaps, peace, security, and even glory, during the course of several centuries together. The great body of the party are commonly intoxicated with the imaginary beauty of this ideal system, of which they have no experience, but which has been represented to them in all the most dazzling colours in which the eloquence of their leaders could paint it. Those leaders themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their own aggrandisement, become many of them in time the dupes of their own sophistry, and are as eager for this great reformation as the weakest and foolishest of their followers. Even though the leaders should have preserved their own heads, as indeed they commonly do, free from this fanaticism, yet they dare not always disappoint the expectation of their followers; but are often obliged, though contrary to their principle and their conscience, to act as if they were under the common delusion. The violence of the party, refusing all palliatives, all temperaments, all reasonable accommodations, by requiring too much frequently obtains nothing; and those inconveniencies and distresses which, with a little moderation, might in a great measure have been removed and relieved, are left altogether without the hope of a remedy."

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II,  'Of The Order in which Societies are by Nature Recommended to Our Beneficence':
"...it often requires, perhaps, the highest effort of political wisdom to determine when a real patriot ought to support and endeavour to re-establish the authority of the old system, and when he ought to give way to the more daring, but often dangerous spirit of innovation."

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Alberto Mingardi, writing recently on EconLog about Theresa May's Tory Party Conference Speech:
"...I find it bizarre that so many people wonder about why people feel poorer - and nobody, even among the Tories, dares to say that perhaps taxing them a bit less would be a way--which is entirely within the power of governments, without entailing bold plans for driving the market this or that way--to make people less poor. This would seem a rather obvious policy choice, for 'conservatives.' But apparently it is not."

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Quotation of the Day

Is from Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II, 'Of The Order in which Societies are by Nature Recommended to Our Beneficence':
"The love of our own nation often disposes us to view, with the most malignant jealousy and envy, the prosperity and aggrandisement of any other neighbouring nation. Independent and neighbouring nations, having no common superior to decide their disputes, all live in continual dread and suspicion of one another. Each sovereign, expecting little justice from his neighbours, is disposed to treat them with as little as he expects from them. The regard for the laws of nations, or for those rules which independent states profess or pretend to think themselves bound to observe in their dealings with one another, is often very little more than mere pretence and profession. From the smallest interest, upon the slightest provocation, we see those rules every day, either evaded or directly violated without shame or remorse. Each nation foresees, or imagines it foresees, its own subjugation in the increasing power and aggrandisement of any of its neighbours; and the mean principle of national prejudice is often founded upon the noble one of the love of our own country. The sentence with which the elder Cato is said to have concluded every speech which he made in the senate, whatever might be the subject, 'It is my opinion likewise that Carthage ought to be destroyed,' was the natural expression of the savage patriotism of a strong but coarse mind, enraged almost to madness against a foreign nation from which his own had suffered so much. The more humane sentence with which Scipio Nasica is said to have concluded all his speeches, 'It is my opinion likewise that Carthage ought not to be destroyed,' was the liberal expression of a more enlarged and enlightened mind, who felt no aversion to the prosperity even of an old enemy, when reduced to a state which could no longer be formidable to Rome. France and England may each of them have some reason to dread the increase of the naval and military power of the other; but for either of them to envy the internal happiness and prosperity of the other, the cultivation of its lands, the advancement of its manufactures, the increase of its commerce, the security and number of its ports and harbours, its proficiency in all the liberal arts and sciences, is surely beneath the dignity of two such great nations. These are all real improvements of the world we live in. Mankind are benefited, human nature is ennobled by them. In such improvements each nation ought, not only to endeavour itself to excel, but from the love of mankind, to promote, instead of obstructing the excellence of its neighbours. These are all proper objects of national emulation, not of national prejudice or envy."

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Quotation of the Day

From Adam Smith's 'Theory of Moral Sentiments', Part VI: Of the Character of Virtue, Section I: Of the Character of the Individual, so far as it affects his own Happiness; or of Prudence:

"The prudent man always studies seriously and earnestly to understand whatever he professes to understand, and not merely to persuade other people that he understands it; and though his talents may not always be very brilliant, they are always perfectly genuine. He neither endeavours to impose upon you by the cunning devices of an artful impostor, nor by the arrogant airs of an assuming pedant, nor by the confident assertions of a superficial and imprudent pretender. He is not ostentatious even of the abilities which he really possesses. His conversation is simple and modest, and he is averse to all the quackish arts by which other people so frequently thrust themselves into public notice and reputation. For reputation in his profession he is naturally disposed to rely a good deal upon the solidity of his knowledge and abilities; and he does not always think of cultivating the favour of those little clubs and cabals, who, in the superior arts and sciences, so often erect themselves into the supreme judges of merit; and who make it their business to celebrate the talents and virtues of one another, and to decry whatever can come into competition with them. If he ever connects himself with any society of this kind, it is merely in self-defence, not with a view to impose upon the public, but to hinder the public from being imposed upon, to his disadvantage, by the clamours, the whispers, or the intrigues, either of that particular society, or of some other of the same kind."

Friday, 5 August 2016

Quotation of the Day

"It takes a lot more to justify regulation of other people's behaviour than your own indignation and offence about what they're doing."
That is from Richard Epstein talking to Russ Roberts on this EconTalk episode.

Friday, 24 June 2016


Emily Skarbek offers her thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the referendum result:

"The results of the referendum are in and the UK has voted to leave the European Union. The official campaign was littered with awful arguments that play to the public's worst sentiments - and the decision was likely driven by ignorance and the older voting population. As a foreigner in the country and someone who believes passionately in free trade, open immigration, and the principles of a free society - I am nervous.
The markets have slid and there is uncertainty over what this will mean for the future of the UK and Europe. David Cameron has resigned. No one knows just how this is going to play out. The longer horizon will depend on the course that is chartered in policy negotiations and positions adopted by the UK. 
Many of the people I have discussed this with in academic and policy circles want a freer, more open society. This led some to vote remain and others leave, based on divergent predictions about which course of action would lead to a more open society. I take this as one reason for optimism amidst the fear. 
The aftermath of this vote will require a broader coalition of liberals to push for an open trade and immigration policy. Trade policy that is crafted in the next few years will be crucial to the economic impact of Brexit. Britain desperately needs policy entrepreneurs, City of London, and leaders in Parliament to craft a solution that maximises openness to counter the populist, nationalist, and collectivist sentiments that may have got us here. It is hard to see this now, having just voted to leave the EU single market.
As my friend Sam Bowman points out, the biggest reason London is a great city is due to immigration. We want more of that, not less - from Europe and everywhere else. The voices for free trade must be louder than ever."