Adam Smith

On Foucault on 17 January 1979 On the Market's Role (as site) of Veridiction (III)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 2:50am in

In the middle of the eighteenth century the market no longer appeared as, or rather no longer had to be a site of jurisdiction. On the one hand, the market appeared as something that obeyed and had to obey “natural,”* that is to say, spontaneous mechanisms. Even if it is not possible to grasp these mechanisms in their complexity, their spontaneity is such that attempts to modify them will only impair and distort them. On the other hand—and this is the second sense in which the market becomes a site of truth—not only does it allow natural mechanisms to appear, but when you allow these natural mechanisms to function, they permit the formation of a certain price that Boisguilbert will call the “natural” price, the physiocrats will call the “good price,” and that will later be called the “normal price,” that is to say, a certain price—natural, good, normal, it’s not important— which will adequately express the relationship, a definite, adequate relationship between the cost of production and the extent of demand. When you allow the market to function by itself according to its nature, according to its natural truth, if you like, it permits the formation of a certain price which will be called, metaphorically, the true price, and which will still sometimes be called the just price, but which no longer has any connotations of justice. It is a certain price that fluctuates around the value of the product.
The importance of economic theory—I mean the theory constructed in the discourse of the économistes and formed in their brains—the importance of the theory of the price-value relationship is due precisely to the fact that it enables economic theory to pick out something that will become fundamental: that the market must be that which reveals something like a truth. This does not mean that prices are, in the strict sense, true, and that there are true prices and false prices. But what is discovered at this moment, at once in governmental practice and in reflection on this governmental practice, is that inasmuch as prices are determined in accordance with the natural mechanisms of the market they constitute a standard of truth which enables us to discern which governmental practices are correct and which are erroneous. In other words, it is the natural mechanism of the market and the formation of a natural price that enables us to falsify and verify governmental practice when, on the basis of these elements, we examine what government does, the measures it takes, and the rules it imposes. In this sense, inasmuch as it enables production, need, supply, demand, value, and price, etcetera, to be linked together through exchange, the market constitutes a site of veridiction, I mean a site of verification-falsification for governmental practice.
Consequently, the market determines that good government is no longer simply government that functions according to justice. The market determines that a good government is no longer quite simply one that is just. The market now means that to be good government, government has to function according to truth. In this history and formation of a new art of government, political economy does not therefore owe its privileged role to the fact that it will dictate a good type of conduct to government. Political economy was important, even in its theoretical formulation, inasmuch as (and only inasmuch as, but this is clearly a great deal) it pointed out to government where it had to go to find the principle of truth of its own governmental practice. In simple and barbaric terms, let’s say that from being a site of jurisdiction, which it remained up to the start of the eighteenth century, the market, through all the techniques I discussed last year with regard to scarcity and grain markets, etcetera, is becoming what I will call a site of veridiction. The market must tell the truth (dire le vrai); it must tell the truth in relation to governmental practice. Henceforth, and merely secondarily, it is its role of veridiction that will command, dictate, and prescribe the jurisdictional mechanisms, or absence of such mechanisms, on which [the market] must be articulated.--Michel Foucault, 17 January 1979, lecture 2  The Birth of Biopolitics. translated by Graham Burchell, 31-32

Foucault's second lecture is dazzling (recall lecture one; and here). It's full of fresh distinctions, creative resonances, and polemical arguments. And I intend to trace these in a number of follow up posts. But today, I am more modest and I want to point to a latent positivism (note his 'verification') or empiricism in his thought (despite the popperian 'falsification') so that he misses a complication in the way markets are a site of veridiction (a word I was unfamiliar with). I call it 'modest' because in a way my two corrections will reinforce and even strengthen his general analysis.

Here is my revision in terms of a possible slogan: it is not actual markets that can act as a site of verdication, but theory-mediated-counterfactual markets that can as a site of veridiction. And the key point here will be that theory helps to construct the counterfactual markets. And the markets will not be counterfactual merely in virtue of their theoretical construction, but rather theory will enable  the construction of the right sort of counterfactuals. And that is to say that there is a sense in which the discerning of the correctness of policy cannot be done merely by inspecting or colelcting market prices, as it were, directly, but itself has to require the intervention of political economy and (specialist) political economists who compare actual prices to theoretically constructed prices. (This is the first correction.)

The underlying logic is, in fact, best illustrated by an example from Hume's work on demography (and this hints at the second correction). Since Locke's art of government (recall here; here), a growing population is a proxy for good government. A growing skilled, population extends the markets and also helps keep prices (of labor and goods) down while improving quality. Foucault had made this point, too, already in lecture 1 (without mentioning Hume):

[Government] has an underside, or rather, it has another face, and this other face of governmentality, its specific necessity, is precisely what political economy studies. It is not background, but a permanent correlative. Thus, the économistes explain, the movement of population to where wages are highest, for example, is a law of nature; it is a law of nature that customs duty protecting the high price of the means of subsistence will inevitably entail something like dearth. (16)

In this (1752) essay on the populousness of ancient nations, which is a major scholarly and intellectual feat (recall here; here), Hume postulates a natural rate of propagation relativized toward particular geographic context: slightly more than a doubling in every generation of the human species. (Strictly speaking Hume does not call it a “natural rate” although a page later he says, the rate “seems natural to expect.”) Hume stipulates that “everything else being equal” (vegetation, climate, etc.) this rate can be achieved only under “wise, just, and mild government” with the “wisest institutions.” The natural rate is, thus, for Hume an optimal rate.  Deviations from this rate can be explained in two ways: climate induced famine and bad political governance. The two are connected because, and this echoes Mencius and Chinese political governance, excellent governance (that is, one that has free market in grain, and good price signaling,. etc.) should also be able to ameliorate the effects of famine.*

So, the observed data are by themselves uninformative. They become so in light of background theory. This is is also so with market prices. When it comes to economic data, somebody like Adam Smith makes a sharp distinction between market prices and natural prices. To simplify: natural prices are the counterfactual price that would occur were the factors (e.g., rent, labor, profit) left free. But, as Smith notes, there are many different sources/causes that generate "deviations, whether occasional or permanent, of the market price of commodities from the natural price." This deviation can last for centuries.

And because factors of one commodity influence the costs or supply/demand (and so market prices) of other commodities, until there are free markets in most important commodities all natural prices must be estimated. And the way to estimate them is, in part, by using theory and in part by using existing market prices. One way in which theory enters in, is that Smith assumes that there are basic staples that are essential to the diets of the mass of working poor. On this model the market prices of these basic staples (rice in Asia, potato in Ireland, corn in the UK, etc.) influence whether people can survive (and/or population grows/declines) and how many other goods can be consumed. In Smith's terminology these basic staples/commodities 'regulate' the prices of other goods. But they, in turn, and the factors that compose them, are determined by the "general circumstances of the society, their riches or poverty, their advancing, stationary, or declining condition."

So, as an aside, and this is the second, promised correction to Foucault, which simultaneously strengthens his argument: the political economy of the eighteenth century cannot calculate natural prices without bringing in questions of population growth (or decline, that is, starvation or not). So, to be a good government doesn't just mean to govern according to the truth in the market, but, simultaneously, according (recall lecture 1 above) to the  truth of the (growing) census data. 

So, in order to establish a natural price for any commodity, Smith first has to figure out what the natural price of the regulating (staple) commodity is and then look at how the prices of the most important factors for that commodity are determined, etc. To discipline these estimations, Smith, in turn, relies on the kind of proxies/natural rates (which will involve population). 

I hope it is somewhat clear now why the market as site of veridiction involves the theory mediated construction of the right sort of counterfactual prices deviations from which then can be informative. This has three implications, two technical one more metaphysical. First, the more markets can be free or are made free the easier it becomes for them to act as sites of verirdication.** Second, the more government starts collecting data the easier it becomes to guess and construct the relevant counterfactuals, which in turn allow such political economists to improve on estimating the deviations from natural prices, in an open ended process of improvement. So, while this is a skilled practice, it is hard to see how to remove arbitrary judgment from this discipline. These are the two technical points.

The third implication is that strictly speaking, the conceptual apparatus of the political economists are such that existing markets cannot tell the truth before all markets are free. And at that point their truth becomes boring/uninformative. 


*Hume recognizes this may not always be possible. And he has a whole discussion about the right of necessity.

**Strictly speaking, all that's needed is that the magnitude of an intervening cause (i.e. policy) that generates a deviation from a natural price is well understood. 

On Foucault on 10 January 1979 On the Origin of Political Economy (II)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 8:31pm in

I said that this fundamental transformation in the relations between law and governmental practice, this emergence of an internal limitation of governmental reason could be located roughly around the middle of the eighteenth century. What permitted its emergence? How did it come about? Obviously, we should take into account an entire, comprehensive transformation (I will come back to this, at least partially, afterwards), but today I would just like to indicate the intellectual instrument, the form of calculation and rationality that made possible the self-limitation of governmental reason as a de facto, general self-regulation which is intrinsic to the operations of government and can be the object of indefinite transactions. Well, once again, the intellectual instrument, the type of calculation or form of rationality that made possible the self-limitation of governmental reason was not the law. What is it, starting from the middle of the eighteenth century? Obviously, it is political economy.
The very ambiguities of the term “political economy,” and of its meaning at this time, indicate what was basically at issue in all this, since you know that between 1750 and 1810–1820 the expression “political economy” oscillates between two semantic poles. Sometimes this expression aims at a particular strict and limited analysis of the production and circulation of wealth. But, in a broader and more practical sense, “political economy” also refers to any method of government that can procure the nation’s prosperity. And finally, political economy—the term employed by Rousseau in his famous article in the Encyclopedia—is a sort of general reflection on the organization, distribution, and limitation of powers in a society. I think that fundamentally it was political economy that made it possible to ensure the self-limitation of governmental reason.... 

it was formed within the very framework of the objectives set for the art of government by raison d’État, for what objectives did political economy set itself? Well, it set itself the objective of the state’s enrichment. Its objective was the simultaneous, correlative, and suitably adjusted growth of population on the one hand, and means of subsistence on the other. Political economy offered to ensure suitable, adjusted, and always favorable competition between states. It proposed precisely the maintenance of an equilibrium between states such that competition can take place. That is to say, it took up exactly the objectives of raison d’État and the police state that mercantilism and the European balance had tried to realize. So, to start with, political economy lodges itself within the governmental reason of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and to that extent is not in the kind of external position occupied by juridical thought. Michel Foucault, 10 January 1979, lecture 1  The Birth of Biopolitics. translated by Graham Burchell, 13-14.

As I noted earlier in the week, Foucault starts his lecture series in his first lecture with Walpole whom he assumes is unfamiliar to his Parisian audience; and I suggested that the manner in doing so implies that he is shadowing Locke and Hume. In the quoted passage above, half-way through the lecture, he reverses and he explicitly ("you know") assumes that the audience is familiar with the vicissitudes of the term 'political economy.' I assume he is taking for granted awareness of Marx's discussion of what Marx called "classical political economy" (in Capital 1, chapter 1; or in A Contribution to the Critique of political Economy). 

Political economy can refer to three perhaps four distinct even heterogenous projects/practices: (i) a theoretical "analysis of the production and circulation of wealth;" (ii) a practical art or "method of government that can procure the nation’s prosperity;" (iii) a "sort of general reflection on the organization, distribution, and limitation of powers in a society." What they have in common is their effect, that is, the taming or domestication of reason d'état, the self-limitation of governmental reason. And Foucault's claim is polemical because it goes against the self-understanding of liberals their marxist critics (recall here and here), who claim that the  rule of law is the ground of the development of liberal state and governmentality.

Crucially, Foucault's approach doesn't make the material conditions on the ground explanatory (of large social change), but rather an intellectual conceptualization and practice that appeals to the self-interest of rulers and their desire to control the social levers.** That is to say, Foucault's explanatory schema is unproblematic from a liberal perspective, and can be seen as a friendly corrective to it (while it should be anathema to a dialectical materialist).

But what about the fourth? In his own words, Foucault suggests (iv) that political economy aims at the "state’s enrichment." And its two main causal variables (or levers of control) are population and means of subsistence.** Put like that classical political economy can be traced back (recall here; and here) to the city of pigs. But with this difference that the city of pigs is treated as isolated from its surroundings (because deliberately left too poor to be worthy of conquest) whereas the more modern classical political economy assumes (with Hobbes and in the spirit of Westphalia) a competitive state system with a balance of power in equilibrium.

The joke, of course, is that the form of the assumed political background condition that is constitutive within the practice (of classical political economy) will then become a normative model within the practice (where stable and unstable competitive equilibria are treated formally). Simultaneously, and no less serious, Foucault thereby announces that his study -- of the birth of biopolitics -- is coextensive with (recall this treatment of the lecture of 24 january, 1979) the discovery of Europe and the evolution of the European state system (jnto imperialism).+ The history of  imperialism suggests against the assumption in the city of pigs is false; poverty need not prevent unwelcome conquest.

I already noted earlier in the week that according to Foucault the natural tendency of political economy is to promote despotism. Foucault reminds his readers of the well meaning physiocrats to make the point "political power must be a power without external limitation, without external counterbalance, and without any bounds other than those arising from itself, and this is what they called despotism." Marx makes the same point less subtly when he remarks in a note that Petty's "wonderful keenness shows itself e.g. in the proposal to transport "all the moveables and people of Ireland, and of the Highlands of Scotland...into the rest of Great Britain."" (A Contribution to the Critique of political Economy, translated by N.I. Stone, p. 57)

Perhaps, Foucault's audience expects an unmasking of political economy. But this is not what happens. Foucault closes the lecture by noting that political economy "revealed the existence of phenomena, processes, and regularities that necessarily occur as a result of intelligible mechanisms" (emphasis added). Of course, political economy is aware and diagnoses the many ways the mechanisms effects are hindered by policy. I don't mean to deny (and I will discuss in the next digression) that Foucault intends to interrogate the 'naturalness' with which these phenomena are (ahh) fetishized and the character, or "regime of truth" (18-9; recall here) they constitute; nor does he need to disagree with Marx (and Smith) that this plain of necessity is historically conditioned. But rather, he will resist the impulse -- so common among critics-- to insist that political economy is "wicked illusions or" mere "ideological products,"(if it is ideology at all) or self-justifying falsehoods of the rich (19). 

To be sure, prior (conceptually and historically) to political economy and its art of government these phenomena would not have existed. Foucault puts it like this:

That is to say, what I would like to show is not how an error—when I say that which does not exist becomes something, this does not mean showing how it was possible for an error to be constructed— or how an illusion could be born, but how a particular regime of truth, and therefore not an error, makes something that does not exist able to become something. It is not an illusion since it is precisely a set of practices, real practices, which established it and thus imperiously marks it out in reality.(19)

That is to say, political economy is a reflexive activity that helps bring about and stabilizes that which it studies. (This is why the art of governance and governance are so tightly linked for Foucault.) In my view, and I have argued this, this that political economy helps legislate and constitute that which it studies, is, I have argued, exactly how Adam Smith conceives of his own enterprise. And so one way to understand Foucault's lecture series is that by going native -- echt liberal -- he hopes to "grasp" "biopolitics." (22)

Now, we must retrace Foucault's retracing of liberalism, not because we are unaware of the fissures in the liberal edifice, but because we will need to perform the necessary plumbing while the boat is taking on water, even at the edge of capsizing. And, as Foucault promises on the first page of his lecture, he may be the therapist who can turn vicegerent that can guide us.


*That is not entirely certain because what Marx has in mind starts ca 1650 (with Petty). I even checked the French to see if '1750' wasn't a misprint in the translation (and not '1650'),* but it's not. And, yes, I wonder whether it is a transcription error! Marx can be read to imply that classical economics (as distinct from classical political economy) is an eighteenth century phenomenon, but I doubt Foucault would be conflate them. I learned from Stefan Hessbruggen, that Constantin Pecqeur, 1850 uses 'classical political economy' (see the whole thread).

**That political economy is a causal in a mechanistic sense (and uninterest in form or end) is key to Foucault's claims later in the lecture (15ff). See also below.

+In commenting on my post on the first lecture, John Protevi called attention to the fact that Foucault's manuscript reveals he always intended to discuss imperialism's development out of liberal political economy:

"this self-limitation of governmental reason characteristic of ‘liberalism’ has a strange relationship with the regime of raison d’État.—The latter opens up an unlimited domain of intervention to governmental practice, but on the other hand, through the principle of a competitive balance between states, it gives itself limited international objectives.—The self-limitation of governmental practice by liberal reason is accompanied by the break-up of these international objectives and the appearance of unlimited objectives with imperialism." (p. 21)

On Foucault on 10 January 1979 On the Art of Governing and the Origin of Liberalism. (I)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 11:24pm in

FREUD’S QUOTATION: “Acheronta movebo.” Well, I I would like to take the theme for this year’s lectures from another, less well-known quotation from someone who, generally speaking at least, is also less well-known, the English Statesman Walpole, who, with reference to his way of governing, said: “Quieta non movere,” “Let sleeping dogs lie.”* In a sense, this is the opposite of Freud. In fact, this year I would like to continue with what I began to talk about last year, that is to say, to retrace the history of what could be called the art of government. You recall the strict sense in which I understood “art of government,” since in using the word “to govern” I left out the thousand and one different modalities and possible ways that exist for guiding men, directing their conduct, constraining their actions and reactions, and so on. Thus I left to one side all that is usually understood, and that for a long time was understood, as the government of children, of families, of a household, of souls, of communities, and so forth. I only considered, and again this year will only consider the government of men insofar as it appears as the exercise of political sovereignty.
So, “government” in the strict sense, but also “art,” “art of government” in the strict sense, since by “art of government” I did not mean the way in which governors really governed. I have not studied and do not want to study the development of real governmental practice by determining the particular situations it deals with, the problems raised, the tactics chosen, the instruments employed, forged, or remodeled, and so forth. I wanted to study the art of governing, that is to say, the reasoned way of governing best and, at the same time, reflection on the best possible way of governing. That is to say, I have tried to grasp the level of reflection in the practice of government and on the practice of government. In a sense, I wanted to study government’s consciousness of itself, if you like, although I don’t like the term “self-awareness (conscience de soi)” and will not use it, because I would rather say that I have tried, and would like to try again this year to grasp the way in which this practice that consists in governing was conceptualized both within and outside government, and anyway as close as possible to governmental practice. I would like to try to determine the way in which the domain of the practice of government, with its different objects, general rules, and overall objectives, was established so as to govern in the best possible way. In short, we could call this the study of the rationalization of governmental practice in the exercise of political sovereignty.--Michel Foucault, 10 January 1979, lecture 1  The Birth of Biopolitics. translated by Graham Burchell, 1-2.

Foucault subtly draws a contrast between [I] (a) the ancient and traditional conception of governing and (b) a modern one; the modern one involves political sovereignty. He presents this as a narrowing of scope along some dimensions, although the presence of sovereignty suggests it is expansive in another dimension. Within the modern conception, and we are very much in the ambit of Max Weber here, Foucault draws a further contrast [II] between (c) what I am going to call a normative (as distinct from ethical and moral) conception of the art of governing and(d)  an empirical practice of governing. Foucault is explicitly focused on the normative version. It is normative because it is a reasoned reflection on the optimal (note the repetitive 'best' & 'the best possible.') species of the art of government. Tis normative conception is developed (III) by people who may have experience (e) with the empirical techniques of governing ("within" government) and (f) those at a distance from it (say in the academy, or what used to be called in retirement). And, (IV) while Hobbes thought one "must read" oneself and Machiavelli thought distance created proper perspective, Foucault will try to be "as close as possible to governmental practice." 

So, much for repetition. Foucault draws these distinctions within a more subtle form of references that will elude some in his audience. First, he is going to use Walpole as an exemplar. And so, second, he invites his learned reader to compare his account of Walpole, and what he stands for, with the only other "portrait," (of Walpole), David Hume's neglected one. Third, the inventor of (IIa) the normative conception of the art of governing in the sense Foucault is using it, is John Locke (in chapter 5 of the Second Treatise, recall here; and the first to develop it (recall) John Toland). 

Let sleeping dogs lie is a species of laissez faire. And Foucault thereby signals, with great, art that liberalism is heterogeneous. For Walpole is not to be confused with, say, Manchester liberalism, or Locke, or Hume (or they with each other). 

I don't mean to ignore the fact that Foucault also inscribes his lecture to an unfinished, and inherited therapeutic practice. There is a sense in which the 1979 lecture series is presented as a form of dream analysis (with liberalism's art of governing the fantasy). And while Foucault is also mirroring himself to Freud, I think it is pretty clear, in turn, that he is aware that the artful use of this gift turned Joseph into the Vizier of Pharaoh. 

I could stop here, but it is notable that Foucault then reminds his audience, first, not to confuse his lecture with either perennial philosophy of the historicist kind (both start from universals). He embraces the nominalist spirit and "let’s suppose that universals do not exist" and implies that to do so means, in part, giving up or setting aside the inherited categorizations of political life.

And, second, that in contrast to Walpole (and the unnamed Locke and Hume), there is another historically prior and (even by Foucault's lights) inferior art of government, raison d'etat, which presupposes that "the state only exists as states, in the plural." And each state has a kind of conatus. And raison d'etat has three features. First, mercantilism. Importantly, Foucault explicitly rejects the reductionist interpretation of mercantilism as a mere economic doctrine. "first, the state must enrich itself through monetary accumulation; second, it must strengthen itself by increasing population; and third, it must exist and maintain itself in a state of permanent competition with foreign powers." (5)

In addition to Mercantilism, raison d'etat has two other characteristic expressions: "unlimited regulation of the country according to the model of a tight-knit urban organization," (5) that is, what one can call a "police state;" (9) and "third, is the development of a permanent army along with a permanent diplomacy." (5) That is to say, it is directed against "imperial types of unification across Europe."

What is most striking about this is that Foucault here recapitulates, (recall) liberalism's self-understanding in two ways. First, like liberals themselves, Foucault is insistent that liberalism is not a clean break with what precedes, but that, in fact, reason d'etat and mercantilism not merely shape liberalism but remain permanent (inferior) temptations within it. And, second, he recognizes that law was both an instrument of royal authority and a countervailing power to it. But, crucially for Foucault, whereas in raison d'etat, countervailing powers are extrinsic to the practice, liberalism makes countervailing powers intrinsic to its normative art of governance. (10ff)

But rather then jumping to the familiar story of the division of powers (or the multiplicity of sovereignty), as Liberals tend to emphasize, Foucault thinks the crucial move is a conceptual division "between what must be done and what it is advisable not to do." (11) We might say, it is the distinction between necessity and possibility, with this understanding that the possible is governed by self-command (that is, to be able to act one what is advisable not to do). The latter is (and Foucault is now quoting Bentham) left of the agenda. (12) And crucially, the agenda-setter can be mistaken about what should be on or off the agenda (17). And oddly enough, there is a science that can diagnose and keep track of such mistakes. 

And suddenly, with a sudden clarity, the nature and origin of political economy is exposed (13): it is the skilled practice of organizing and conceptualizing the advisable, and not advisable, and the play, even interplay, of these domains. And while tracking what is on the agenda or not is a factual matter, that it is a mistake is an evaluative one. And this evaluation, this judgment is itself endogenous to political economy.

But, at least initially, in keeping with existence of raison détat, political economy presupposes that what must be done is done.* And as Foucault emphasizes, until political economy becomes liberal (that is, understands the significance of what must be left of the agenda) its natural tendency is despotic. 

Walpole himself is not presented as a liberal or much under the influence of political economy. Rather, he is presented as somebody who almost instinctively understands that "when the people are peaceful, when they are not agitating and there is no discontent or revolt, stay calm." (As Foucault implies, Machiavelli could have said this.) And this is the, almost accidental, discovery of liberalism.

Hume grants Walpole's "want of enterprise." But treats it as a vice. So, importantly, from Foucault's perspective, which on this point is the liberal self-understanding, Hume, who is undoubtedly one of the great political economists, initially (in 1742) misjudges the significance of this. 

You ask: why 'initially'? Because Hume withdrew the piece eventually.**

*This is (recall) the protection of life (as in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).

*While writing this Digressions, I noticed that  and have written an excellent essay on Hume's little study of Walpole, but it focuses on a different set of themes.





On Providence, Siedentop and The Re-Invention of Liberalism (III);

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:06pm in

It would be a mistake therefore to see only the tyrannical potential of the growth of sovereign authorities, that royal ‘absolutism’ which came to the fore during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For it contained the seeds of individual liberty. By claiming a monopoly of legal authority, sovereigns deprived many traditional attitudes and practices of legal status. What royal commands did not positively enjoin or forbid, defined – at least potentially – a sphere of choice and personal freedom.
Of course, full awareness of the model of society entailed by the claim of ‘sovereignty’ did not develop overnight. Even the late sixteenth-century French theorist of sovereignty Jean Bodin wavered over the nature of the unit of subordination entailed by the claim. Yet the time of Thomas Hobbes, in the next century, the distinctive nature of the claim to a sovereign authority was made clear, not least by Hobbes’s referring to sovereigns as secular deities.

There is one final, formidable piece of evidence about ‘inventing the individual’ available. It comes from what remains the most reliable source about social change, language itself. If we look at the word ‘individual’ in historical dictionaries of the English or French languages, we will find that it first became current in the fifteenth century. The word ‘state’, with its stipulation of a sovereign authority, became current at about the same time. And that is no accident, for the meanings of these two words depend upon each other. It was through the creation of states that the individual was invented as the primary or organizing social role.--Larry Siedentop, (2015) Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, p. 347 [HT Bart Wilson]

The quoted paragraphs are the conclusions of the central argument of Siedentop's book (that I have discussed here and here). This central argument includes two strains: first, that more than a millenium of organized Christianity created, inspired by Paul's commitment to a fundamental species of equality, entities capable of being (self-)accountable individuals with interiority, including conscience and choice. Second, the ways in which canon laws developed a notion of sovereignty (first papal, then copied by other authorities) that created a system founded on the "belief in fundamental equality of status as the proper basis for a legal system." (332) This formal equality of status is compatible with political hierarchy. For, the highest authority of such a legal system is the sovereign, which both originates law and resolves tensions in the law. The roots of canon law can be found in monastic reform movements that developed the work ethic, a democratic sensibility, and, most important, the idea of corporate life founded on consenting and voluntary association.

Siedentop is repeatedly explicit that his protagonists often do not intend nor foresee the liberal outcome of their actions (e.g., 3, 104, 197, 218, 239-240, 316,). Siedentop is  fond of unintended consequence explanations. More strikingly, many behaviors and outcomes are explained by Siedentop, by the operation of "tacit" motive/intuition/commitment to fundamental equality (e.g., 68, 123, 186,2 281) or the claims of an independent moral/spiritual order (220, 227); throughout the text such implicit understandings later become "explicit" (e.g. 252, 258, 273-6).  The problem with implicit claims is not just that their full meaning is left vague, but that their social telos is indeterminate. 

Okay, with that in place, let's consider Siedentop's claim that "it would be a mistake therefore to see only the tyrannical potential of the growth of sovereign authorities, that royal ‘absolutism’ which came to the fore during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For it contained the seeds of individual liberty." Before I criticize it, I want to acknowledge what is right about this. That is, (reall) liberalism arose as an ameliorative project in opposition to the state as developed on the ruins of feudalism. That is, originally liberalism is a mitigating project in response to state absolutism and mercantilism. And I grant, Siedentop that as a moral and political project liberalism is much indebted to Christianity (although I noted how he eliminates all traces of Judaic influence).* Now I want to make three substantive points.

First, what is peculiar about Siedentop's argument is that while it would be indeed "a mistake therefore to see only the tyrannical potential" he finds it extremely difficult to acknowledge any tyrannical potential in the legal and conceptual structures whose unfolding history he describes. I already noted his peculiar treatment of the inquisition: this he treats primarily as a legend (362), even though its existence was real enough to rest on shaky juridical foundation (288). The rhetorical implication of this last move is to prevent anybody from using the existence of the institution of the inquisition as evidence against his main argument.  At no point does Siedentop even acknowledge the crimes of the inquisition. When, in fact, the existence of true crimes are acknowledged -- see Charlemagne's mass murder of the "pagan Saxons" or his combat with "Muslims" (155) --, these have nothing to do with Christianity or the main arc of development (which is the unfolding "universality or moral equality"). [I note this because Charlamagne is one of the heroes of the book.] Siedentop has no interest at all, in exploring the role of his ideas when applied to native populations in the Americas. We might agree that Las Casas (who from a liberal perspective is not without problems) is the truer Christian, but is Sepúlveda really not a representative of true Christianity at all?**

Second, there is something very odd in Siedentop's reasoning. What he is saying is akin to the claim that 'it would be a mistake to only see bad consequences of  the emergence of the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente, which caused WWI, not the least because it, in turn, led to WWII, because the alliances contained the seeds of the European Union, which, as we know, is a response to horrors of WWI-WWII.+ More subtly, not unlike Machiavelli (recall), (recall) Rousseau and Kant, he wants to take a bad history and vindicate it in terms of the good-making potential of that history. This is a kind of secular theodicy. I am not against secular theodicy, but it can easily devolve into special pleading.

Now, third, what the existence of this secular theodicy reveals, and what makes it intelligible, is Seidentop's commitment to the (soft Hegelian) idea that the last man of liberalism is the end of history. The seeds of tyranny can be safely ignored if you are confident enough that true liberalism** will prevail. But if liberalism -- qua mitigation and amelioration -- is historically and structurally parasitic on 'the growth of sovereign authorities'  then there is every reason to wonder to what degree the 'tyrannical potential' latent in, and so reproduced by, the liberal order can be successfully contained by liberalism. Even if one grants the existence of a direction to history,  no reason has been offered to think Siedentop's preferred outcome is the final word. He himself recognizes something like liberal implosion in his epilogue.  

I could close here, but I want to note one final conceptual omission in Siedentop's narrative. Throughout the book Siedentop moves and toggles between the first two central arguments, that is, (a) the invention of moralized interiority and (b) "belief in fundamental equality of status." And I have noted the similarity between his argument and Nietzsche's (who never gets mentioned). But a key Nietzschean component of the genealogy of modern individuals is missing from his argument. For, the belief in fundamental equality of status, while being compatible with other forms of social hierarchy, is also presupposed by another world-historical and older than Christianity social institution: contractual, financial debt. It is no coincidence, after all, that liberalism first presents itself in the form of a contract theory. 



*His refusal to acknowledge Islamic influence is, in fact, a feature not a bug of his approach. He wants liberal individualism (recall) to come out as the opposite of Islam. 

+The Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente taught the great powers of Europe collaboration and even adhering to treaties of friendship.

**The real problem lurking here, tacitly, is that one wonders whether Sidentop doesn't endorse what one might call civilizational liberalism (as distinct from a more pacific true liberal order); civilizational liberalism ends up supporting imperialism, species of colonialism, and humanitarian intervention. 

On The Origin of Capitalism: Meiksins Wood, The Ordos, and Walter Lippmann on Productivity of Property

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 8:23pm in

In fact, capitalism, in some ways more than any other social form, needs politically organized and legally defined stability, regularity, and predictability in its social arrangements. Yet these are conditions of capital's existence and self-reproduction that it cannot provide for itself and that its own inherently anarchic laws of motion constantly subvert. To stabilize its constitutive social relations - between capital and labour or capital and other capitals - capitalism is especially reliant on legally defined and politically authorized regularities. Business transactions at every level require consistency and reliable enforcement, in contractual relations, monetary standards, exchanges of property. The coercions that sustain these regularities must exist apart from capital's own powers of appropriation if it is to preserve its capacity for self-expansion. (178-179)

England's particular process of feudal centralization produced a legal and political order more unified than was the European norm. So...England had long had a unitary national parliament; ...England had a more nationally unified legal system, especially its 'common law' adjudicated by royal courts, which had become the preferred and dominant legal system very early in the development of the English state.....Instead, state formation took the form of a cooperative project, a kind of division of labour between political and economic power, between the monarchical state and the aristocratic ruling class, between a central political power that enjoyed a virtual monopoly of coercive force much earlier than others in Europe and an economic power based on private property in land more concentrated than elsewhere in Europe. (172)

Here, then, was the separation between the moment of coercion and the moment of appropriation, allocated between two distinct but complementary 'spheres', that uniquely characterizes capitalist exploitation. English landlords increasingly depended on purely 'economic' forms of exploitation, while the state maintained order and enforced the whole system of property. Instead of enhancing their own coercive powers to squeeze more out of peasants, landlords relied on the coercive power of the state to sustain the whole system of property, while they exercised their purely economic power, their concentrated landholdings, to increase the productivity of labour, in conditions where appropriators and producers were both becoming increasingly market-dependent. Ellen Meiksins Wood [1999/2017] The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer view,  172-3

Yesterday, I noted that according to Meiksins Wood and Adam Smith, the origin of agricultural capitalism can be found in a change in the character of land-leases (which became fixed-term, but lengthy) such that tenants and landlords submitted, mediated by the estimations of surveyors, to the discipline of the market-place which internalized a practice of unceasing improvement. As Smith noted this system was made possible, in part, by a change in legal practice in which the state provided legal remedies to  tenants.

This last point also fits a key strain in Meiksins Wood's argument: that agricultural capitalism is made possible by the state's capacity and willingness to maintain "order" and enforce "the whole system of property." In particular, on her view it also meant a willingness to give preference to a notion of property right that itself both encouraged improvement and, in part, is ground in or justified by such improvement. While she claims the account of property precedes Locke, she treats Locke (and by ignoring Grotius) as its greatest spokesman of a view she calls the "productivity of property" (111).

While her view skips the intrinsic defense of property rights (beloved by libertarians), that is, what Locke has to say about natural rights, I am not unsympathetic (recall) to her more instrumentalist and consequentialist reading of Locke's account of property (as an interpretation of Locke). This latter, more instrumentalist account is also (recall) visible in Toland's argument for Jewish naturalization and emancipation. Meiksins Wood is not inclined to see the productivity of property approach as emancipatory. Rather, she sees it rooted in the original sin of enclosure and the violation even "extinction of the customary rights of English commoners" (159) on which "many people depended for their livelihood" (108). 

My  interest today is not to debate the merits of the charge. Rather, I assume the 'productivity of property' is a doctrine that has entered and become entrenched in aspects of legal practice and statecraft; we see it, for example, in the practice of eminent domain (even though Locke has historically been associated with the natural law inspired criticism of eminent domain). This 'productivity of property' two important characteristics the first familiar, the second less so to liberal thought. First, as Meiksins Wood notes, the productivity of property presupposes independent state capacity to create a stable system of property rights that can shape expectations. And she is right to note that capitalism itself may create the institutional conditions -- rent-seeking, state capture, etc. -- that also create the incentives under which the impartial rule of law is undermined. One need not be a marxist to recognize she is onto something; the past two sentences describe the central obsession of the Ordoliberals (ORDOS), who worried that without both independent judiciary and independent civil service with esprit des corps, democracy provided a fast-track to the mechanisms by which the productivity of property was undermined. 

This is all familiar enough. But there is also a second feature, which she notes in the following paragraph:

We need to be reminded that the definition of property was in Locke's day not just a philosophical issue but a very immediate practical one. As we have seen, a new, capitalist definition of property was in the process of establishing itself, challenging traditional forms not just in theory but also in practice. The idea of overlapping use rights to the same piece of land was giving way in England to exclusive ownership. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, there were constant disputes over common and customary rights. Increasingly, the principle of improvement for profitable exchange was taking precedence over other principles and other claims to property, whether those claims were based on custom or on some fundamental right of subsistence. Enhancing productivity itself became a reason for excluding other rights. (114-115)

Now, Meiksins Wood's rhetorical point is to give a reader a sense of the unfairness or suffering that accompanies the exclusion of other rights. But lurking in it is the seminal point that to embrace the 'productivity of property' also means embracing unseizing conflict over property rights. That is, it is not just accepting the friction that accompanies a change in legal regime (from, say, common and customary rights to the productivity of property). But once the productivity of property is hegemonic even more legal friction is to be expected.*

To the best of my knowledge, writing in the midst of the Great Depressions (1937), Walter Lippmann (no Marxist) was the first to really grasp this point (although surely elements of it are in Marx); entrenched technological change would help drive open ended possible improvements in productivity, and, thus, constant relative changes in productivity of different factors of and property in production, but technological change would also drive a constant reconceptualization of what counts as property (and commodity), as witnessed by recent debates inspired by changes in artificial intelligence, financial innovation, and the status of genetic code of (say) plants and animals.

The elements of the second features give rise to the need for what (echoing Lippmann) one might call the 'spirit of adaptation' in government and law. The legal and political system can't merely stand back, but must "adapt itself successfully to the intensely dynamic character of the new technology.” (Lippmann's The Great Society: 16) Drawing in part on Adam Smith, Lippmann notes that this dynamic character of technology and property involves showing “how law and public policy may best be adapted to this mode of production which specializes men's work, and thereby establishes an increasingly elaborate interdependence among individuals and their communities throughout the world.” (174)

That is to say, Meiksins Wood is right that the productivity of property generates innumerable sites and constantly new forms of legal conflict. The rise of capitalism puts great, perhaps too great, demands on state capacity. It must provide a legal and tax framework that can generate reliable expectations, and simultaneously the governing elites must be willing, despite great temptations to profit from or steer it to partial ends, to adapt that framework in light of the friction generated by the practices shaped by it in open ended fashion. And it must do so while pursuing other political goals (connected to defense, public health, public goods, etc.)

Meiksins Wood closes her book with the observation that "as capitalism spreads more widely and penetrates more deeply into every aspect of social life and the natural environment, its contradictions are increasingly escaping all our efforts to control them." (198)  As should be clear, I agree that the contradictions are real; they are features not bugs. This suggests, in fact, that the marxists are right in thinking that political and economic crises are intrinsic to capitalism, despite their shape and content being often wholly new or genuinely uncertain. Writing in the pandemic, with living memory of the financial meltdown of 2007-9, this fits the lived experience of adult life under capitalism. But despite repeated and entirely justified collapses of confidence in the liberal project (broadly defined), it has also shown enormous resilience under adversity. And this resilience is also ground in lived experience. What's needed is a firmer grasp and critical evaluation of the spirit of adaptation that is itself shaped by the forces unleashed by the productivity of property, and that shapes these in turn. 

*It's to be expected, in part, due to the nature of modern sovereignty which is legalistic in character (recall Siedentop on the canon law roots of the modern conception of sovereignty). I develop the significance of this soon.

On the Origin of Capitalism; On Ellen Meiksins Wood, and Adam Smith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/04/2020 - 8:12pm in

it was unfixed, variable rents responsive to market imperatives that in England stimulated the development of commodity production, the improvement of productivity, and self-sustaining economic development. In France, precisely because peasants typically enjoyed possession of land at fixed and nominal rents, no such stimulus existed. It was, in other words, not the opportunities afforded by the market but rather its imperatives that drove petty commodity producers to accumulate....The same process created a highly productive agriculture capable of sustaining a large population not engaged in agricultural production, but also an increasing propertyless mass that would constitute both a large wage-labour force and a domestic market for cheap consumer goods - a type of market with no historical precedent. This is the background to the formation of English industrial capitalism.--Ellen Meiksins Wood (1999 [2017] The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer view, 102-103

Meiksins Wood  (whose book I warmly recommend) relies on a distinction between commerce and capitalism. Commerce is historically ubiquitous; whereas capitalism originated once,  relatively recently in human history (in the English countryside). The former is characterized by voluntary exchanges in which people buy low and sell dear and occurs primarily in (what we may call) arbitrage opportunities. While societies in which commerce exists are durable, their growth potential is limited. The latter occurs from necessity, that is survival, in which in order to survive people engage in ever cheaper and more efficient production of their factor. Growth in capitalism is, in principle, open-ended bounded at some limit by Earth's resources (and internal instability). Crucially, in a capitalist system everybody, or all factors, experiences structural domination by the market: "compulsion lies at the heart of the new economic dynamic." (138)

Meiksins Wood explores the question of the origin of capitalism in order to (use her terminology) denaturalize it (cf. p. 74). In particular, she attacks the idea, which she repeatedly associates with Adam Smith and the phrase associated with him, 'truck, barter, and exchange' (11, 21, 28 75, 193), that there is an "economic man" whose shackles (e.g., feudalism, slavery, trade-protection, etc.) simply need to be undone in order for capitalism to emerge naturally. The idea behind this thought can be found in a famous passage in the Wealth of Nations (hereafter WN): "all systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord."

For Meiksins Wood, capitalism emerges, as it happens (but this is less important) under a certain version of feudalism, in which, and this is important, term-limit leases are introduced in agriculture and the price of these leases are determined by an estimation by surveyors of the value of that land after improvement (a key word) in light of prevailing, or at the least the abstract perception of prevailing, market conditions. I quote two representative passages: "As for the tenants, they were increasingly subject not only to direct pressures from landlords but also to market imperatives that compelled them to enhance their productivity." (100) And "We can watch the development of a new mentality by observing the landlord's surveyor as he computes the rental value of land on the basis of some more or less abstract principle of market value, and measures it explicitly against the actual rents being paid by customary tenants."  (101) These new kind of leases create the "rupture" (8) that generates the "laws of motion" associated with capitalism "that uniquely compel people to enter the market, to reinvest surpluses and to produce 'efficiently' by improving labour productivity - the laws of competition, profit maximization, and capital accumulation." (16) 

Some other time, perhaps, I'd like to discuss her fascinating treatment of Thomas More and, especially, Locke. And the role of the state in facilitating the growth of capitalism. For now I want to note that one need not be Marxist to appreciate her effort. Determining the historical origin and naire of capitalism is fascinating  and undoubtedly sheds some light on the possibilities, if any, of articulating alternatives or changes to it. This is so, even if one were to reject the commerce vs capitalism distinction. So, for example, if one has a liberal mindset, the relevant distinction is within capitalism: one between mercantilism and commerce (or liberalism). And the liberal is willing to grant that mercantilism is historically prior (albeit not, perhaps, conceptually). 

Above, I suggested that it is not unfair (to Meiksins Wood and Smith) to see Adam Smith as the proper target of Meiksins Wood's analysis. Even so, while reading her book I had the recurring thought that Smith had anticipated her in a key respect. This is not strange because as many authors have noted that despite the pin factory example, Smith seems almost ignorant of the industrial revolution (if he notices it at all), and focuses quite a bit of attention on land rents. For, in fact, Smith calls attention to the very leases singled out by Meiksins Wood, and he concludes his discussion of them: "Those laws and customs so favourable to the yeomanry, have perhaps contributed more to the present grandeur of England than all their boasted regulations of commerce taken together." (Wealth of Nations, 3.2.14, p. 392)

The three features Smith singles out are [i] "When such farmers have a lease for a term of years, they may sometimes find it for their interest to  lay out part of their capital in the further improvement of the farm; because they may sometimes expect to recover it, with a large profit, before the expiration of the lease." & [ii] since the time of Henry VII, the protection of the tenants'  value in improved land by "the action of ejectment" which allowed legal remedy of recovery against premature. (WN 392; in the next paragraph, Smith  notes that some such law was introduced in Scotland already in 1449) 

Before I get to the third feature, I want to stress this is not a side comment, in Smith's analysis. I offer two kinds of evidence. First, when Smith formally analyzes 'rents of land' in (WN 1.11) he describes variable, fixed-term leases of agricultural capitalism described by Meiksins Woods as the exemplary kind: landlords "In adjusting the terms of the lease, the landlord endeavours to leave him [the tennant] no greater share of the produce than what is sufficient to keep up the stock from which he furnishes the seed, pays the labour, and purchases and maintains the cattle and other instruments of husbandry, together with the ordinary profits of farming stock in the neighbourhood. This is evidently the smallest share with which the tenant can content himself without being a loser, and the landlord seldom means to leave him any more." (WN 1.11.1, 160). Throughout the chapter, Smith makes clear that these leases drive productivity and that they represent a conflictual model (and, but I explore this some other time, in some ways even violate our sense of fairness and justice).

Second, Smith praises the Physiocrats (or "Oecenemists"), when in their plans to eliminate French famine and to have French agriculture catch up with English standards, they emulate British practices:  "it has been in consequence of their representations, accordingly, that the agriculture of France has been delivered from several of the oppressions which it  before laboured under. The term during which such a lease can be granted, as will be valid against every future purchaser or proprietor of the land, has been prolonged from nine to twenty-seven years. The antient provincial restraints upon the transportation of corn from one province of the kingdom to another, have been entirely taken away, and the liberty of exporting it to all foreign countries, has been established as the common law of the kingdom in all ordinary cases. (WN 4.9.38, 678);

So, Smith both knows that the paradigmatic cases of rent, which are crucial to the analytic core of his system, are themselves historically conditioned by institutional factors and not eternal pre-existing forms of exchange.* And it is this paradigmatic case that drives commercial development as he sees it. So, why has this not been emphasized (even missed by friends and critics of Smith). This gets me to the third point.

In explaining the downfall of feudalism and monastic estates, Smith emphasizes [iii] that foreign commerce developed vain, new tastes in landlords, who, in order, to increase revenue from their holdings set in motion the kinds of leases which form the backbone of what Meiksins Wood calls agricultural capitalism.  In fact, scholars love to quote the passage, which emphasizes the political effects, of the rise of agricultural capitalism:

The expensive vanity of the landlord made him willing to accept of this condition; and hence the origin of long leases...The tenants having in this manner become independent, and the retainers being dismissed, the great proprietors were no longer capable of interrupting the regular execution of justice, or of disturbing the peace of the country. Having sold their birth-right, not like Esau for a mess of pottage in time of hunger and necessity, but in the wantonness of plenty, for trinkets and baubles, fitter to be the play-things of children than the serious pursuits of men, they became as insignificant as any substantial burgher or tradesman in a city. A regular government was established in the country as well as in the city, nobody having sufficient power to disturb its operations in the one, any more than in the other. (WN 3.4.13-15, p. 421; elsewhere Smith makes the same claim about the demise of feudal, monastic landholding: "But this increase of rent could be got only by granting leases to their tenants, who thereby became in a great measure independent of them.")

Scholars and critics have loved to focus on the moral psychology and providential morality tale, even theodicy, immanent in [iii], which Smith himself attributes to Hume. But there is no doubt that Smith has the very same explanation [i-iii] of the origin of commerce as a social stage in the four stages of development as Meiksins Wood. (Well not entirely the same because she downplays the significance of the existence of foreign trade.) It is in what she calls the slow development of agricultural capitalism made possible by a certain kind of variable but secure lease that Smith sees the great source of England's wealth. These leases represent  the (improving) reproductive potential of the tenant and the discipline of the market-place. 

So, while I think it is correct to say that Smith also propagated the rhetorical seeds of the naturalized version of the origin of capitalism, he is crystal clear about the origin and significance of agricultural capitalism. None of the above is meant to deny that Meiksins Wood and Smith offer different interpretations of the wider moral significance of agricultural capitalism (Smith thinks it generates a new kind of interdependent independence; Meiksins Wood a new kind of structural domination), but about these matters some other time more.


*"By convention chapters 1-7 are the analytic core of Smith's system. So, here's evidence for my claim from there: "In settling the terms of the lease, the landlord and farmer endeavour, according to their best judgment, to adjust that rate, not to the temporary and occasional, but to the average and ordinary price of the produce." (WN I.7.18, 76) Here the surveyor's activity is presupposed. (As I often note, Smith's analytical core only applies to one of the stages of development.)

Das Adam Smith problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/04/2020 - 3:59am in


Adam Smith

A short lecture on Adam Smith's problem for a Principles class. This might be of more general interest, and perhaps something to watch during the quarantine. The book I used for the lectures on history of economic ideas was Heinz Kurz's Economic Thought: A Brief History, a book that I highly recommend. The discussion here is heavily influenced by Tony Aspromourgos' book The science of wealth: Adam Smith and the framing of political economy, another one you should read if you have the opportunity.

On the Function of Money in Adam Smith according to Veblen and Graeber

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 8:46pm in

It may, however, be worth while to point out another line of influence along which the dominance of the teleological preconception shows itself in Adam Smith. This is the normalization of data, in order to bring them into consonance with an orderly course of approach to the
putative natural end of economic life and development. The result of this normalization of data is, on the one hand, the use of what James Steuart calls "conjectural history" in dealing with past phases of economic life, and, on the other hand, a statement of present-day phenomena in terms of what legitimately ought to be according to the God-given end of life rather than in terms of unconstrued observation. Account is taken of the facts (supposed or observed) ostensibly in terms of causal sequence, but the imputed causal sequence is construed to run on lines of teleological legitimacy.
A familiar instance of this "conjectural history," in a highly and effectively normalized form, is the account of "that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of and."* It is needless at this day to point out that this "early and rude state," in which "the whole produce of labor belongs to the laborer," is altogether a figment. The whole narrative, from the putative origin down, is not only supposititious, but it is merely a schematic presentation of what should have been the course of past
development, in order to lead up to that ideal economic situation which would satisfy Adam Smith's preconception. As the narrative comes nearer the re known latter-day facts, the normalization of the data becomes more difficult and receives more detailed attention; but the change in method is a change of degree rather than of kind. In the "early and rude state " the coincidence of the "natural" and the actual course of events is immediate and undisturbed, there being no refractory data at hand; but in the later stages and in the present situation, where refractory facts abound, the coordination is difficult, and the coincidence can be shown only by a free abstraction from phenomena that are irrelevant to the teleological trend and by a laborious interpretation of the rest. The facts of modern life are intricate, and lend themselves to statement in the terms of the theory only after they have been subjected to a "higher criticism."
The chapter  "Of the Origin and Use of Money" is an elegantly normalized account of the origin and nature of an economic institution, and Adam Smith's further discussion of money runs on the same lines. The origin of money is stated in terms of the purpose which money should legitimately serve in such a community as Adam Smith considered right and good, not in terms of the motives and exigencies which have resulted in the use of money and in the gradual rise of the existing method of payment and accounts. Money is "the great wheel of circulation," which effects the transfer of goods in process of production and the distribution of the finished goods to the consumers. It is an organ of the economic commonwealth rather than an expedient of accounting and a conventional repository of wealth.
It is perhaps superfluous to remark that to the "plain man," who is not concerned with the "natural course of things" in a consummate Geldwirtschaft, the money that passes his hand is not a "great wheel of circulation." To the Samoyed, for instance, the reindeer which serves as unit of value is wealth in the most concrete and tangible form. Much the same is true of coin, or even of bank-notes, in the apprehension of unsophisticated people among ourselves to-day. And yet it is in terms of the habits and conditions of life of these "plain people" that the development of money will have to be accounted for if it is to be stated in terms of cause and effect.--Veblen (1899), "The Preconceptions of Economic Science" The Quartely Journal of Economics, 404-406

Glory Liu, the world's expert on Smith's American reception, called my attention to Veblen's paper, which I had missed. Sadly, this paper lacks the rhetorical panache one expects from Veblen. It's not -- to use one of his key words -- an elegant read. Even so, Veblen puts forward a distinctive interpretation of Smith's chapter on the Origin and Use of Money. And because Veblen can hardly be thought of as a lazy defender of laissez faire, Veblen's interpretation of Smith is a useful corrective, avant le lettre, to one made popular recently by David Graeber.

There is a quite a bit to Graeber's reading of Smith on the origin of money (recall) in Debt, (a book I admire (recall herehere, and here)). But here I focus on the main thrust of Graeber's analysis of Smith. For Graeber, Smith is the originator of a mythical "and most important" (to subsequent economists') "story" in "founding the discipline of economics" and "the very idea of economics." The key feature of this story is that the function of money is, in the first instance, a "medium of exchange," and secondarily a "unit of account" as well as "a store of value." And so before Graeber gets to all of his rich and fascinating anthropological and conceptual detail in Debt, Graeber first offers a textually grounded interpretation of Smith by way of a careful reading of the chapter on the"Origin and Use of Money." I suspected Graeber's line of reading is so influential (also among those that admire Smith and/or laissez faire) that I started my book with an alternative proposal, which I call "Smithian social explanation." 

As an aside, the main point of Veblen's article is not to offer an interpretation of Smith on the origin of money. This is merely exemplary to illustrate the not entirely simple relationship and interplay between Smith's theological commitments and Smith's attitude toward empirical facts. (As Liu noted in her letter to me, Veblen's reading of Smith anticipates Viner's (1927) argument, which is still cited among scholars.) And this is treated as an important contrast to the "preconceptions" of the later "classical economists" influenced by Bentham and the rise of utilitarianism with a very unSmithian metaphysics. And these post-Benthamite classical economists are Veblen's true target. That's for another time.

It's key to Veblen's interpretation of Smith, that Smith is not a simple empiricist. But that Smith's treatment of the data is mediated by a theologically grounded theory. This theory provides the providential structure of what naturally ought to be the case. This structure provides a base-line from which to analyze and organize empirical facts. In Veblen's interpretation of Smith, this structure provides a "distinction between reality and fact" (399), which, in turn, is presupposed, "in weakened form" according to Veblen, in Smith's famous three-fold distinction between natural, real, and market prices. In this interpretation reality seems to accord with the natural price (and, more intuitively, facts with market prices). Reality is thus thoroughly normative and, because according to Veblen it is causal, it supports counterfactuals. My own reading of Smith (which emphasizes the evidential import to Smith of the deviation of observed facts from counterfactual 'reality') can be  treated fairly as a descendant of Veblen's even though I have a tendency to downplay commitment to providence in Smith. 

With that in place, let's turn to (and close with), Veblen's interpretation of Smith's account on the origin of money. According to Veblen Smith's treatment of the origin of money is functional. And according to Veblen Smith is, in fact, at least a partial critic of the account that Graeber attributes to Smith and the economists following him. The function of money is clearly not in the main to be "an expedient of accounting and a conventional repository of wealth."So, two of the three functions of money Graeber attributed to Smith are clearly absent according to Veblen.

Veblen does claim that for Smith money is a medium of exchange ("the great wheel of circulation," ). But in a manner very much unlike Graeber's interpretation of Smith. It is a medium of exchange not, as Graeber emphasizes, in the absence of politics and government, but rather  as a mechanism or instrument of the "economic commonwealth." Unlike 'the great wheel of circulation,' the phrase "economic commonwealth" is not in Smith and is also not vaguely Smithian. Unfortunately, Veblen does not use the phrase again in the article.

Prior to 1899 the "economic commonwealth" is not a common phrase at all. The main instance I have found (but I welcome correction) is in a description of the origin of the meritocratic scholarships -- then a novelty! -- to help students from Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina enter The Johns Hopkins University in the will of Hopkins. This description (not the will) seems to have been reprinted a few times. In this text an "economic commonwealth" seems to be used to define an economic zone that is economically integrated and has clear political boundaries even though these are part of a larger political commonwealth.

The connection with Veblen is not obvious. But Veblen went to Hopkins and, as it happens, publishes one of my favorite books, the Theory of Leisure Class, also in 1899 (the same year as the article). The Theory of Leisure Class is, amongst other things, a meditation on the genealogy of the evolving character of meritoriousness, including its belated arrival in higher education. So, it's not impossible he read up on the development of higher education and encountered the phrase there.

As it happens, Veblen does use the phrase "economic commonwealth" again in his (1918) On the Nature of Peace. There it is used to describe the independent, but subservient to political ends, of economic policy by "dynastic statesmen." In particular, an "economic commonwealth" is self-sufficient, self-balancing, and capable of feeding the needs of war. And while Smith may be associated with promoting a self-balancing economy; and while Smith allowed that self-defense may trump economic needs, nobody would think  that Smith writes in defense of self-sufficiency or that statecraft should promote war-making capacity (which Smith associates with the mercantilists he attacks). And. in fact, the whole book relies on, as the late Warren Samuels noted, on the contrast between the pacific liberal state and the dynastic state (which is held responsible for the Great War by Veblen).

I am inclined to think that in 1899 Veblen used the "economic commonwealth" to help explain how for Smith the function of the institution of money as a medium of exchange is itself embedded in a larger political or juridical (note Veblen's "legitimately") framework in which  it can "serve" the "community." So, rather than being a figment of the fantasy of apolitical money, it serves to remind us of the essentially political nature of money in Smith. For Veblen's Smith this functionality need not be part of the psychology of the original inventors of money nor present users. But it can be discerned, theoretically, in reality.*

 *Veblen's Smith comes rather close to  Locke's account of (recall) the origin and legitimacy of money in discernable social utility.




On a Refutation of Adam Smith and Early American Anthropology and Linguistics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 11:02pm in


Adam Smith

Among those philosophers the celebrated Dr. Adam Smith stands pre-eminent. In an elegant treatise on the origin and formation of language, he has endeavoured to shew that synthetical forms of speech were the first rude attempts which men made to communicate their ideas, and that they employed comprehensive and generic terms, because their minds had not yet acquired the powers of analysis and were not capable of discriminating between different objects. Hence, he says every river among primitive men was the river, every mountain the mountain, and it was very long before they learned to distinguish them by particular names. On the same principle, he continues, men said in one word pluit (it rains,) before they could so separate their confused ideas as to say the rain or the water is falling. Such is the sense and spirit of his positions, which I quote from memory. 

This theory is certainly very ingenious; it is only unfortunate that it does not accord with facts, as far as our observations can trace them. You have shown that the comprehensive compounds of the Delaware idiom are formed out of other words expressive of single ideas; these simple words, therefore, must have been invented before they were compounded into others, and thus analysis presided over the first formation of the language. So far, at least, Dr. Smith’s theory falls to the ground; nor does he appear to be better supported in his supposition of the pre-existence of generic terms. For Dr. Wistar has told me, and quotes your authority for it, that such are seldom in use among the Indians, and that when a stranger pointing to an object asks how it is called, he will not be told a tree, a river, a mountain, but an ash, an oak, a beech; the Delaware, the Mississippi, the Allegheny. If this fact is correctly stated, it is clear that among those original people every tree is not the tree, and every mountain the mountain, but that, on the contrary, everything is in preference distinguished by its specific name. Peter S. Du Ponceau to John Heckewelder, 21st August, 1816, Letter XX, in History, Manners, and Customs of The Indian Nations who once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States. 406-407  (1881)

I was alerted to the the quoted passage by  p. 137 in James Turner's entertaining Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, which is (recall) prompting a number of these digressions. I was elated to read Turner and Du Ponceau. Let me explain. Smith's "elegant treatise" is now fairly obscure. For reasons I will never understand, nor approve, the editors of the most widely used modern edition of Adam Smith's works, the so-called Glasgow Edition of the Works of Adam Smith, moved Smith's "very ingenious" essay on the origin languages (hereafter Languages) from its original role as an appendix to The Theory of Moral Sentiments (hereafter TMS)-- where it appeared from the third (1767) edition onward -- to an appendix of the student notes to Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (largely ignored by contemporary philosophers). This means that modern readers of Smith's moral philosophy get a truncated version of his intended moral psychology and his more general system.

I learned from Glory Liu's wonderful forthcoming work on the American reception of Smith that there were serious readers of Smith's TMS. So most early American readers of Smith could have known of Languages through it. 

In context, Turner treats Adam Smith as a representative of the Enlightenment tendency toward baseless conjectural speculation that retarded the development of American linguistic and anthropological science (see also p. 144). Du Ponceau remark is interpreted with quotes from another American philologist John Pickering as an important signal of the "sober," more scientific, inductive mindset focused on the collection of "data" about languages in comparative fashion. Now, I note this because some other time I want to turn to the peculiar and to my mind regrettable feature of Turner's larger argument which celebrates the slow discovery of historicism as the great achievement of scientific philology, while treating the rival conceptions of philology and science in whiggish terms. But that's for another time.  Unfortunately, Turner is not really interested Du Ponceau's own argument.

Du Ponceau's argument relies on a tacit premise: that the languages spoken by American 'savages' are, in a conceptual and temporal sense, closer to the original language(s) spoken by the first inventors of language. So, to study then contemporary 'savages' is then to be offered a picture into the immaturity of mankind. The premise is, as Chris Berry has shown, indebted to Lockean anthropology widely used in eighteenth century 'science of man' and familiar to modern scholars through Ferguson's works. This premise, of course, fed into a more noxious colonial ideologies.

But while there are Lockean strains in Smith I argue in my book against Berry (44-45) that Smith rejects this premise. In Languages, Smith clearly has "early" savages in mind not then-contemporary ones. Since Du Ponceau alerts the reader that he is quoting from memory, the natural reading of his letter is that he conflated the striking example from Smith as purported evidence for a more familiar theory that relies on the Lockean premise (mistakenly attributed to Smith). There are two further bits of evidence for my reconstruction.

First, that Du Ponceau is misremembering Smith is clear from an important fact unremarked upon by Turner. Du Ponceau explicitly takes himself to be refuting with empirical data  an argument for the synthetic theory of language (to be opposed to an analytic theory that he endorses). But while Smith uses such a distinction in other places, it is not part of his theory of language let alone its origin. And, in fact, in context Du Ponceau explicitly notes that applying the analytic-synthetic distinction to the origin of language is his own (""as I call them" (p. 405)) not Smith's.

Second, the so-called analytic theory is couched in terms familiar from Locke's philosophy: in it comprehensive compounds...are formed out of other words expressive of single ideas. This seems the doctrine of Locke's chapter (XII) on Complex Ideas (see also Ch. XIV). Smith, nor Hume, never use 'single ideas" in this sense, preferring 'simple' ideas.

As it happens, despite the reputation for offering conjectural history, Smith's theory of the origin of language does rely on empirical data. It's data is not derived primarily from comparative linguistics,+ but rather from the (quite perceptive) observations of children's babbling.* Smith is relying on another kind of premise, one that later came to be associated with (the now discredited) Haeckel's Biogenetic law, that early childhood development recapitulates the development of the species.

So, one natural way to interpret what's going on here is two kinds of data being brought to bear with the help of auxiliary premises derived from a much broader anthropology on a topic (the origin of language) that may not seem especially amenable to empirical enquiry.+ It's not good vs bad science. It's two kinds of science, both relying on limited data.

I could stop here, and use this as a morality tale about the way Turner is in the grip of a certain kind of scientific success story (philology's discovery of Indo-European language family) and so mis-represents  the underlying history. (This is part of my larger gripe about his book.)

But life turns out to be more complicated in two distinct ways. First, recall that Smith interprets the data in order to secure another claim, that the development of language and mind requires the development of certain kind of mental operations; each such operation he calls an abstraction (from the senses), and these operations of abstractions are themselves measure for the mind's capacity for metaphysics. And the child's slow development of abstraction is, then, a proxy to study the slow development of metaphysics in the species and, thereby, the identification of a kind of natural metaphysics common to adult members of the species (uncorrupted by learning). [And, in a further twist, this natural metaphysics is not true.] I have told this detailed story in my book.

And, second, it turns out De Ponceau introduces the distinction in order to discuss a different debate altogether, namely which kind of language (an analytic or synthetic one) "is the most perfect or is preferable to the other." (405; recall also my treatment of classics last week; Turner misses this.) De Ponceau goes on to write:

In the course of my reading, I have often seen the question discussed which of the two classes of languages, the analytical or the synthetical (as I call them), is the most perfect or is preferable to the other. Formerly there seemed to be but one sentiment on the subject, for who cannot perceive the superiority of the Latin and Greek, over the modern mixed dialects which at present prevail in Europe? But we live in the age of paradoxes, and there is no opinion, however extraordinary, that does not find supporters. To me it would appear that the perfection of language consists in being able to express much in a few words; to raise at once in the mind by a few magic sounds, whole masses of thoughts which strike by a kind of instantaneous intuition. Such in its effects must be the medium by which immortal spirits communicate with each other; such, I should think, were I disposed to indulge in fanciful theories, must have been the language first taught to mankind by the great author of all perfection.

All this would probably be admitted if the Latin and Greek were only in question: for their supremacy seems to stand on an ancient legitimate title not easy to be shaken, and there is still a strong prepossession in the minds of the learned in favour of the languages in which Homer and Virgil sang. But since it has been discovered that the barbarous dialects of savage nations are formed on the same principle with the classical idioms, and that the application of this principle is even carried in them to a still greater extent, it has been found easier to ascribe the beautiful organisation of these languages to stupidity and barbarism, than to acknowledge our ignorance of the manner in which it has been produced. Philosophers have therefore set themselves to work in order to prove that those admirable combinations of ideas in the form of words, which in the ancient languages of Europe used to be considered as some of the greatest efforts of the human mind, proceed in the savage idioms from the absence or weakness of mental powers in those who originally framed them.--Letter 20, (pp. 405-6)

And because Du Ponceau assumes that Smith is working with Locke's anthropology, he treats Adam Smith as an exemplar of the debunking kind of philosopher who shows that what was once taken as evidence of civilizational ingenuity can be explained by the operation of rather minimal mental powers. To put this in terms familiar of Dennett, Smith is treated as somebody who uses cranes to explain the appearance of skyhooks. 

As it happens, Smith is committed to the idea that over time languages develop from a kind of original simplicity of expression to a more complex form of expression.  And he is committed to explaining this by way of the development of mental operations. (He compares this to the evolution of a machine.) But he also thinks that over time as nations and languages intermingle (which he approves of on political grounds), the "modern mixed dialects," languages also get simplified (in the manner he takes to occur among pidgins): "And thus upon the intermixture of different nations with one another, the conjugations, by means of different auxiliary verbs, were made to approach towards the simplicity and uniformity of the declensions."** So, Smith simply would reject the way Du Ponceau sets up the problem even though Du Ponceau recalls correctly some of the most striking features of Smith's theory.

What does this have to do with early anthropology? Not much except that Du Ponceau's letters are published as an appendix to Heckewelder's book (1819), which is among the first works in which we can discern the methodology we now associate with scientific ethnography. But about that some other time.


*I call it perceptive because Smith recognizes that there is a critical period for language acquisition.

+As it happens Smith is mis-represented in another way. For, Smith also relies on the comparative method characteristic of philology--he appeals to comparative claims about Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, too. 

**And, in fact, Smith thinks that simplicity and complexity are both going to be present in any language, because "in general it may be laid down for a maxim, that the more simple any language is in its composition, the more complex it must be in its declensions and conjugations; and, on the contrary, the more simple it is in its declension."

Toland, Locke's Statecraft, and Jewish Emancipation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/04/2020 - 7:09pm in


Adam Smith, Racism

NOW, what ought to rejoice us all, thoſe of our own Nation are not only long ſince divested of ſuch barbarous and bloody Pračtises but likewise have by very sensible degrees (tho’ not so far as might be wished) quitted certain narrow and bigoted Principles, not more contrary to common Humanity and Genuine Religion, than to their own publick and private Interest. Our political Contentions, both the sign and support of Liberty, are no contradićtion to this Assertion. The vulgar, I confess, are seldom pleased in any Country with the coming in of Foreigners among 'em: Which proceeds, first, from their ignorance, that at the beginning they were such themselves; secondly, from their grudging at more Persons sharing the same Trades or Business with them, which they call taking the Bread out of their Mouths; and thirdly, from their being deluded to this aversion by the artifice of those who design any change in the Government. But as wise Magistrates will prevent the last, and are senſible of the first, so they know the second cause of the People's hatred, to be the true Cause of the Land's Felicity; and therefore, not minding those who mind nothing but their selfiſh Proječts, they'll ever encourage a Confluence of Strangers. We deny not that there will thus be more tailors and shoomakers; but there will be also more suits and shoes made than before. If there be more weavers, watchmakers, and other arteficers, we can for this reason export more cloth, watches, and more of all other commodities than formerly: and not only have ’em better made by the emulation of so many workmen, of such different Nations; but likewise have ’em quicker sold off, for being cheaper wrought than those of others, who come to the same market. This one Rule of More, and Better, and Cheaper, will ever carry the market against all expedients and devices. But to these Reasons we may further add, that the same vulgar, who are so averſe to the coming in of poor Strangers, are as well pleas'd with the rich, which will generally hold true of the jews, who moreover do always take care of their own Poor, wherever they are, and can not therefore be said, (according to our own Country phraſe just now cited) to eat the Bread out of the Mouths of others. All these Advantages are yet more evident with respect to the produćt of Lands, which shews (to uſe the * words of Mr. Locke) how much NUMBERS of MEN are to be preferred to LARGENESS of DOMINIONS and that the INCREASE of LANDS, and the right employment of them, is the great END of Government. That Prince (says he) who shall be ſo wiſe and god like, as by ESTABLISHED LAWS of LIBERTY, to secure Protection and encouragement to the HONEST INDUSTRY of mankind, against the OPPRESSION OF POWER, and the NARROWNESS OF PARTY, will quickly be too hard for his Neighbours. Such a Prince thou haſt upon the Throne, O Britain As a GENERAL NATURALIZATION is your peculiar interest, ye Men of fruitful acres. --John Toland (1714) Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland, Chapter XVI. (All italics in original; I will quote Toland's Reasons by paragraph below.)

A few days ago I bumped into Toland's Reasons while looking for an online copy of his The art of governing by parties because the latter is discussed in Isaac Kramnick's wonderful Bolingbroke & His Circle (recall last week). Reasons calls for (nearly) full citizenship rights for Jews. (The exception being positions of authority in the Church of England.) Since anti-semitism is not uncommon among even very perceptive Enlightenment thinkers (recall Hume), I thought it worth digressing.

One of the oddities of our age, in which so many scholars embrace the reality and significance of moral progress, is to be found in the near total neglect of John Toland. Even historians of philosophers, who pride themselves on their contextual knowledge of the history of philosophy, are, by and large unfamiliar with his pioneering views, including (recall) his feminism, and his clever use of genealogical reasoning (recall; and here). I have never heard his very early advocacy of Jewish emancipation mentioned in a scholarly context. Toland has not been very well served by those with more familarity with his writings. For example, back in 1969 Isaac E. Barzilay argues (not incorrectly) that "most of the arguments are drawn from Rabbi Simone Luzzatto's Discourse on the Jews of Venice." (76)

As it happens, Toland does not hide debt to Luzzatto (who he praises greatly). But even if Barzilay were right, that still leaves some arguments not drawn from Luzzato. And while undoubtedly there are many excellent reasons to study the past, it cannot hurt from time to time, to reflect a bit on how it is possible, amidst so much wanton cruelty and intellectual perniciousness, some thinkers arrived at the right moral and political position well ahead of their contemporaries. And why, perhaps, they were ignored by them.

It is, of course, natural for readers to connect Toland's argument in favor of the naturalization of Jews to Locke's account of toleration. So, for example, the eminent Toland scholar, Ian Leask, writes in a recent article, "Toland cites Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government in the Reasons – but it seems that Locke’s First Letter concerning Toleration, the Epistola, is a more significant formative force." (3) He is right about the significance of Locke's views on toleration--Toland makes an explicit point that because the Jews lack a homeland, they will not naturally serve a foreign power. (VI) Laesk has lots of interesting to say connecting the arguments to Toland's fascination throughout his writings with Jewish history, Machiavellianism, and what has come to be known as political hebraism, in particular, of the Harringtonian kind (Toland edited Harrington). But somewhat oddly while he mentions it, Laesk ends up ignoring the explicit argument drawn from Locke (quoted above). 

Toland's general argument assumes, against prejudicial "bias," that humans are by nature equal; it is only "the different methods of government and education" that account for observed differences. (ch. VIII; in my terminology, he is a methodological analytic egalitarian.) And, he also assumes, as common knowledge (at least among the learned), "we all know that numbers of people are the true riches and power of any country." (ch. III) In addition, he offers empirical-historical reasons (by contrasting Dutch experiences with other European countries) for claiming that a number of policies are conducive to growing populations and wealth: population will grow in those countries that practice "liberty of conscience;" that are welcoming immigrants from "all nations to the right of citizens" (III); and practice "inviolable security of...goods and persons." (IV) These points are not original in Toland; they are implied, conceptually, in the final chapters of Spinoza's Theological Political Treatise; we find them developed more empirically in De La Court's True Interest of Holland (which was (recall) quite popular in England). These are works are familiar to Toland.

Even so, the particular turn Toland gives to the argument draws out an important strand of Locke's second Treatise. Well, it is important to me because. as it happens, I quoted the very same paragraph  from Locke's second Treatise (recall) a few months ago.* I noted that Locke treats it as an aside on the "art of government." In particular,  the art of government is presented while Locke offers an instrumental defense of property rights as conducive to consumption and rising standards of living with the development of a growing, skilled labor force. Locke is, in fact, committed to policies that promote population growth, including immigration. It's that argument that Toland notes explicitly in the passage quoted above.

In fact, Toland's argument is directed, in part, at those among the British pro commercializing elite (the "wise magistrates") for whom national economic policy meant a growing population, increasing production, growing exports ("export more cloth, watches, and more of all other commodities than formerly"), increasing competitive markets, and cheaper and technologically improved commodities ("have ’em better made by the emulation of so many workmen"). And while there is undoubtedly a hint of mercantile doctrine in here, Toland addresses the concerns of the working poor head-on. Yes, they will have to compete with new workers. But these new workers will also ensure a larger internal market with an improved cost of living ("cheaper wrought" goods).+ That is to say, Toland grasps and fully articulates the more liberal win-win logic that is essential to Locke's argument.** 

I do not mean to suggest Toland's argument for Jewish emancipation is only couched in enlightened self-interest of national greatness rooted in a growing population with a growing economy and high quality goods. As the opening sentence above suggests, Toland also offers an argument from "common humanity" (the eighteenth century conceptual framework made popular by Hume and one of the roots of human rights talk down the road). That argument is rooted in the particular historical injustices committed against the Jews in England. But that's for another occasion.

For now, I wish those of you that celebrate it, a happy socially distanced Passover!


*Toland's footnote reads: "*A manuscript Addition he left in the margin to Paragraph 43, of his incomparable Essay concerning the
true Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government." (In my edition this is paragraph 42.)

+Toland also addresses the still topical concern with migrants who end up on welfare. Here is argument is not generalizable; he claims that Jews are known for doing their own poor relief. 

**Obviously, Marxists deny that it is win-win, but see structural exploitation.