Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In a brilliant recreation of the epoch between the 1770s and the 1820s, Emma Rothschild reinterprets the ideas of the great revolutionary political economists to show us the true landscape of economic and political thought in their day, with important consequences for our own. Her work alters the readings of Adam Smith and Condorcet--and of ideas of Enlightenment--that underlie much contemporary political thought.
Economic Sentiments takes up late-eighteenth-century disputes over the political economy of an enlightened, commercial society to show us how the "political" and the "economic" were intricately related to each other and to philosophical reflection. Rothschild examines theories of economic and political sentiments, and the reflection of these theories in the politics of enlightenment. A landmark in the history of economics and of political ideas, her book shows us the origins of laissez-faire economic thought and its relation to political conservatism in an unquiet world. In doing so, it casts a new light on our own times.
if it is the outcome of a fair procedure. Something very similar can be said of economic decisions. Turgot’s and Condorcet’s idyll of perfect commercial freedom can indeed be understood in a procedural sense. The true price of a commodity is the price that would be revealed under entirely fair procedures. The conception of value is counterfactual; true prices are the prices which would obtain if all the relevant procedures were to be fair. The problem, in relation to markets as well as to voting,
benefit, laziness into diligence.”144 The empress Catherine, advised by Voltaire, wished to “exterminate laziness in the inhabitants,” and to be rid of “supineness and negligence” and “disregard for everything.”145 The “business of a statesman,” for Sir James Steuart, was “to model the minds of his subjects,” or to model “the spirit, manners, habits, and customs of the people.” “By properly conducting and managing the spirit of a people, nothing is impossible,” Steuart said, although he conceded
concerned were interested, for several different reasons, in the prospect of uncertainty. They were obliged, by their political opponents, to think about the insecurity of a world with very much less government Economic Dispositions 47 47 restriction. They were subject, in their own lives, to continuing uncertainty, from the possibility of sudden imprisonment (the arbitrary justice of the ancien régime in France) to the fluctuating jurisprudence of excise duties on imported commodities.191
“understandable,” is of more general interest. Vaughn, following Hayek, says that “without some notion of an invisible hand in human actions, social science would be impossible,” and Arrow and Hahn, too, see the invisible hand as the principal contribution of economic thought “to the general understanding of social processes.”129 All phenomena, for Hayek, should be divided into three classes: the natural, the artificial (or those that are the “product of human design”), and the “distinct middle
corrupting the air, causes illnesses in neighboring homes.” In this case, government is justified in forbidding certain uses of land, and in undertaking public works to “restore the salubriousness of the air,” without the consent of (but with compensation for) the property owner.62 In his Vie de M. Turgot, Condorcet turned to the misuse of the property Economic and Political Choice 173 173 rights of “owners of rivers, proprietors of ponds,” especially in constructing dams and causing