Tuesday, January 22, 2013

 

Quotable: Economix

The excerpts below are from Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr. All page numbers below are from Economix or the book's online references.

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members [the workers] are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 27 (Goodwin quotes only the first sentence); Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, p. 90.


People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.-Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 28; Smith, p. 148.


The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from [capitalists], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 29; Smith, p. 288.


Great is the usefulness of Ricardo's method. But even greater are the evils which may arise form a crude application of its suggestions to real problems. For that simplicity which makes it helpful, also makes it deficient and treacherous. -Alfred Marshall qtd. in Economix, p. 40; Alfred Marshall, Money, Credit, and Commerce, p. 190. This is a comment on the pitfalls of taking economist David Ricardo's economic models too seriously.


Its limitations are so constantly overlooked, especially by those who approach it from an abstract point of view, that there is a danger in throwing it into definite form at all. -Alfred Marshall qtd. in Economix, p. 70; Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, p. 461. This is a comment on the pitfalls of taking Marshall's own market equilibrium models too seriously.


An industrial system which uses forty per cent of the world's resources to supply less than six per cent of the world's population could be called efficient only if obtained strikingly successful results in terms of human happiness, well-being, culture, peace, and harmony. I do not need to dwell on the fact that the American system fails to do this, or that there are not the slightest prospects that it could do so if only it achieved a higher rate of growth of production. -E. F. Schumacher qtd. in Economix, p. 162; E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, p. 96.


All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith qtd. in Economix, p. 198; Smith, p. 444.


Everything the communists said about communism was false. Everything they said about capitalism was true. -Economix, p. 242; William J. Duiker & Jackson J. Spielvogel, World History Since 1500, p. 763. This is a bitter joke that Russians reportedly told one another in the wake of devastating economic reorganization after the collapse of the Soviet Union--the rise of the oligarchs.

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