Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Monday, October 31, 2016
Looking Out For Number One Only?
Edmund Burke by Joshua Reynolds
Capitalism is predicated on the idea of individual
initiative. The most obvious economic manifestation of that is
entrepreneurship, a talent that’s touted on the television show Shark Tank, a
kind of American Idol for those with an acumen for business. But the greatest
capitalist of them all Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations,which did for capitalism what Das Kapital would for revolution, also
wrote a book called The Theory of Moral
Sentimentsin which human empathy was the subject. Talk about Originalism,
what a different attitude early proto-conservatives like Smith and Edmund Burke
had in comparison to our right wing Tea Party firebrands, latter
day Social Darwinists, advocating the dog eat dog vision of human society
propounded by Herbert Spencer. In their view man is no different from the animal
on the veldt competing for scarce resources, with the strongest, the pythons,
the hyenas triumphing over more docile species. Advocates of this laissez faire view envision a society freed from entitlements
and over constitutionalized with protections for those
who may not be strong enough to defend themselves. The fact is that the
ancestors of man may have been apes, but why throw the baby out with the
bathwater? If individual liberty is at stake, why don’t those
who virulently argue for the free market, and less government intrusions, use
their heads. Without the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment there would be no
democracy to defend. Robert Ringer wrote the bestseller, Looking Out For Number One. But is that all there is?
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.