Monday, July 14, 2008

Personal Economics--The First Law--Judge by Works

The first law--judge others the way God judges us, by their works, comes from Adam Smith. In his great book, The Wealth of Nations, he is trying essentially to convince his fellow countrymen that they should apply the Golden Rule to foreigners as well as to friends and neighbors. In his most famous quote, largely famous for the mention of the "invisible hand", he points out that we do not judge people with whom we have daily dealings by their benificence or other qualities, we judge them by their works, and such judgement leads to social good. When was the last time you heard a customer in a grocery store tell the clerk that he would only buy the loaf of bread in his cart if the clerk could prove that the baker was a good Protestant, or even a nice guy? In our daily actions we tend to judge others by their works, unless we are influenced by politicians to otherwise. And to do otherwise is one of the chief aims of many, if not most, politicians.

My favorite example of this stems from a series of TV ads I saw as a teenager. Bob Hope, who was considered a sort of "superpatriot" because of his work in entertaining the troops, was hired by The American Ladies Garment Union to do a series of ads. The main idea behind the ads was when buying a garment before you do anything else, "Look for the Union Label." In other words, do not judge the suit, or dress, or shirt, or other garment by the quality or price of the garment, i. e. the work, until you have first determined (1) that the garment was not made in a garage or a basement, but in a Union shop, (2) that the garment was not made in Korea or Brazil or anywhere else but in the good ole USA, and finally, (and maybe most important) that the garment was not made by a man.

We see politicians always attempting to get us to judge other people by almost anything but their works. It is now, of course, "politically incorrect" to judge others by their religion or race, so now we are told to judge others by the country in which they reside, or by their attitude, i. e. are they greedy, money crazy, only interested "in the bottom line" etc., their political affiliation or outlook; indeed, almost anything but their works. Unfortunately, this carries over even into the supposedly "free market" where we encounter signs proclaiming products made in USA or in the home state.

Economists, when they are acting as economists, generally agree that we should judge products, at least, by the works of those producing them, i.e. their quality and price. Politicians, on the other hand, almost always advise us to judge products and people by almost anything but their works.

1 comment:

Gavin said...

It reminds me of all the MADE IN THE USA commercials they use to have in the 80's. I remember even as a child thinking, "Why does it matter if it is made here?" I find it ironic that public leaders who are supposed to be the most accepting of others (ie. people pushing for affirmative action and gay rights) are the same people who are against free trade.