[lbo-talk] Reading Adam Smith

Jeffrey Fisher jeff.jfisher at gmail.com
Thu Dec 3 09:36:01 PST 2009

On Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 11:09 AM, Wojtek S <wsoko52 at gmail.com> wrote:

> This seems to me like water under the bridge. What I find far more
> interesting is how such theological/ideological systems find their priests
> -
> i.e. intellectual warriors maintaining and defending these systems of
> thought for little or no personal gain. Guys like Milton Friedman spent
> their entire lives on modestly paid university sinecures instead of being
> captains of industry or finances, where they could get fabulously rich.
> But
> they were far more ardent supporters of the market rationality that the
> captains of industry and finances that benefited from it the most.
> Likewise, medieval monks that pieced together theological discourse lived
> rather spartan lives without sharing much of the spoils of the feudal power
> system that their theology legitmated.

This is a good point, standing in contrast to the crowing I always hear about "professorial wages."

> So my question is, what circumstances or personality traits make these
> intellectual "gardener's dogs" fervently protecting what they will not eat
> themselves? That is, how does one become a dogmatic theologian or an
> economist manufacturing legitimacy for the rich and powerful without
> sharing
> the spoils their wealth and power?
> Any thoughts?

Well, the obvious answer is, "those who can't do, teach/preach." It might be why Ayn Rand doesn't work very well as an example for you above. But as a teacher, I'm not sure I want to stick with that. :)

I think the answer is that at the end of the day, they believe in the importance of ideas more than they believe in the *usefulness* of the ideas they espouse/defend/attack/decry/whatever. We don't want a whole society made up of such people, but I guess I think they're good to have around.

that's kind of off the cuff, so probably needs adjustment or I might even abandon it altogether, but it's what occurs to me.


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