24 March 2010

Adam Smith and Barack Obama

I received in yesterday's mail a complimentary copy of a new edition of Adam Smith's 1759 The Theory of Moral Sentiments, edited by my friend Ryan Patrick Hanley and published by Penguin Classics. It boasts an introduction written by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. Hanley, for his part, is a first-rate Smith scholar; I highly recommend his recent book Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009.

The cover letter that accompanied the copy of the book writes, "President Obama has cited The Theory of Moral Sentiments as key to his thinking." That was something I didn't know, so I did a little looking. It turns out that in 2008 the New York Times asked then-candidate Obama to supply a list of books and writers that were significant to him. He included both Smith's Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments in the list. Here is an article discussing his list.

17 March 2010

He Said It: Burke

"You have theories enough concerning the rights of men; it may not be amiss to add a small degree of attention to their nature and disposition. It is with man in the concrete; it is with common human life, and human actions, you are to be concerned." --Edmund Burke, Letter to Charles-Jean-Francois Depont, dated November 1789

15 March 2010

He Said It: Oakeshott

"To govern is to turn a private dream into a public and compulsory manner of living. Thus, politcs becomes an encounter of dreams and the activity in which government is held to this understanding of its office and provided with the appropriate instruments." --Michael Oakeshott, "On Being Conservative," reprinted in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays (1962)

13 March 2010

Update on FEE Talk

My FEE talk has gone viral! Well, not exactly, but it has been reposted in a few places:

1. WallStreetBlips, here.

2. The Mises Blog, here.

3. The Independent Institute blog, here.

4. The Division of Labour blog, here.

5. Vimeo, here.

Please click on the links to view other interesting material those blogs have.

(Also, a special thanks to Professor Art Carden, who is responsible for at least some of those postings.)

10 March 2010

Talk at FEE

Last Friday I gave a talk at the Freedom 2010 Homeschool Debate Tournament, which was held at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. What a great group of students--bright, engaged, motivated.

The title of my talk was "The Classical Liberal Tradition: Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx." FEE has put up a notice of my talk, which includes a copy of the presentation I made and a video of the presentation itself, here.

09 March 2010

Marx's Argument?

In his early essay "Free Human Production," Marx writes, "Since our exchange is selfish on your side as well as mine and since every self-interest attempts to surpass that of another person, we necessarily attempt to defraud each other" (on p. 279 of this edition). By "exchange" here Marx means market exchange within a regime of private property.

The structure of that sentence, including especially the word "necessarily," seems to suggest that Marx intends here an argument--that is, premises leading to a conclusion. Yet I am finding it difficult to figure out what it is.

Can anyone help?

E. O. Wilson at the University of Alabama

E. O. Wilson is perhaps the University of Alabama's most famous graduate. Although he has spent his entire professional career at Harvard, he will be returning to UA in a couple weeks for a celebration in honor of the twelfth annivesary of the publication of his book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which I highly recommend.

I will be one of three speakers at the event, along with Michael Ruse and Richard Richards. The title of my talk is "Wilson's Scottish Enlightenment." Here is the university's press release about the event.

UPDATE 3/10/10: As one of my friends reminded me, there are probably athletes who are more famous than E. O. Wilson. I should have said that Wilson was Alabama's most famous graduate who made his fame as an academic.