31 May 2013

Now Available in Paperback!

My book Adam Smith, which was first published by Continuum in 2011 as part of John Meadowcroft's "Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers" series, is finally coming out in paperback. It is slated to appear on August 1st, and will be brought out by Bloomsbury Publishing, which bought the rights. (Here's a linkif you would like to pre-order it.)

The book gives an overview of Smith's life and works, and it offers an assessment of what Smith got wrong and what he got right. (Spoiler: It turns out there is a lot more of the latter than the former.) The book includes a bibliography, and it closes with a discussion of whether Smith is in fact "conservative" or "libertarian"--or something else entirely. 

It is intended for the educated lay person, and our hope is that professors will use it as a complementary text in courses that discuss Smith. I hope you will have a look.

P.S. What do you think of the cover? 

17 May 2013

He Said It: Williamson

Kevin D. Williamson
"Take, for example, the problem of designing a national health-care system. Washington is packed to the gills with people who believe that they have the ability to design an intelligent national health-care system, but there is not one who does—no Democrat, no Republican, no independent. The information burden is just too vast. Imagine a radically simplified health-care system, one in which any medical problem could be treated by taking one of fifty pills, but you can have only one pill a month, so you have to prioritize. That presents each individual with 58,150,627,116,341,760,000 options (that's '58 quintillion')--the number of ways to rank 12 choices out of 50 options--and political managers would have to do so for every American. Since there are 300 million Americans, we have to do a calculation for each one, meaning that we have to consider 1.74 x 1028 options, one of those numbers so large we don't have a common name for it. And since we'll assume that people's needs will change over time (an eighteen-year-old doesn't have the same health-care needs as an eighty-one-year-old), we'll want to review everybody's plan once a year. As they say in the political speeches, we're going to consider all of our options and take all of the information into account.

"Except we pretty obviously aren't.

"[...E]ven at the rate of one scenario per second we're in big trouble, since the number of seconds that have passed since the beginning of the universe (dated from the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago) is a lot less than the number of possibilities we have to consider, only 4.42 x 1017 seconds in total. Put in perspective, the number of options to be examined in our ridiculously simplified system is 30 billion times the number of seconds that have passed since the beginning of time."

08 May 2013

He Said It: Mackey

"[B]usiness is not inherently flawed and sinful or in need of redemption. Business is fundamentally about people working together cooperatively to create value for other people. It is the greatest creator of value in the world. This is what makes business ethical and what makes it beautiful. It is fundamentally good. It becomes even better when it is more fully conscious of its inherent higher purposes and extraordinary potential for value creation."

--John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business(Harvard Business Press, 2013), p. 263.

07 May 2013

The 2012-'13 Academic Year in Review: Talks and Lectures

The end of the academic term means that it is time for professors to supply their employers with an accounting of what they did during the previous year. 2012-13 being no different, I thought I might supply here a list of my highlights. 

In this post, the talks and lectures I gave, in chronological order:

1. "Do Markets and Morality Mix? An Introduction to Moral Philosophy," the University of Rochester, September 2012.

2. "Wealth and Modern Democracy," a series of five lectures delivered at the Tikvah Post-BA Fellowship Program, New York City, October 2012.

3. "Adam Smith on Justice and Social Justice," Dartmouth College, October 2012.

4. "The 'Adam Smith Problem': Can Economics and Morality Mix?" Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, November 2012. 

5. "A Conversation on the Morality of Capitalism" (with Ron Sider) Eastern University, January 2013.

6. "The Morality of Capitalism" (panel discussant), the Manhattan Institute, New York, February 2013.

7. "Adam Smith and Social Justice," Loyola University of Baltimore, February 2013.

8. "Justice, Social Justice, and Adam Smith" and "Rethinking Capitalism and Equality," the McConnell Center, University of Louisville, March 2013. (Here is a link to the video of this talk.)

9. "Adam Smith, Justice, and Social Justice," the University of Arizona, March 2013.

10. "Adam Smith on Justice and Social Justice," University of North Carolina-Greensboro, April 2013.

As you can see, my talks reflect themes I am most interested in, especially at the moment: Adam Smith, the morality of capitalism, and some arguments I am exploring in the book I am working on, The End of Socialism.

In separate posts, I will give some highlights of other activities, like courses I taught, things I wrote, and conferences I attended. I will also post my plans for the summer (hint: finish writing my book and the article I have promised, but am late with, for Princeton University Press and Ryan Hanley).