Thursday, May 26, 2016

R. H. Tawney

Is it a natural characteristic of acquiring money that, having acquired it, one should be able to do whatever one likes with it? The attractive component of capitalism, for those with no morality, has always been that they can do whatever they want with it—I should rather say, with the money that comes out of it. The requirement of the system is that you need to pay for what you get. Deirdre McCloskey gave me a long lecture on this. We may work for six months, then go to the market, to spend our wages. Are seller and buyer the same? The seller earned a profit in a few minutes, based on perhaps six months of hard labor on the part of the other person. It was just these kinds of opportunities that became the surplus value component of capitalism.

     This was quite an opportunity for someone. Is it all bad, to explore this opportunity for profit? NO, I don’t think so. I do not think we need to label it as bad but I do not think it is good, either, although this seems to be the position that McCloskey ends up in, which seems to be rather untenable, considering its extreme unlikelihood. And this she calls “virtue.”

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