2.5.2) Wealth Inequality Prevents More Damage: Adam Smith’s second way of minimizing the importance of economic inequality is to claim that it is a relatively gentle alternative to other forms of inequality that will emerge if economic inequality is reduced. Smith argues in Book III of the Wealth of Nations that the rise in inequality in market income and consumption went along with reduced inequality in social status and hierarchy—and in reduced societal violence as well. Great landlords who cannot earn and spend their wealth in the city will focus on arming and maintaining retainers, and the result will be that they will “make war according to their own discretion, almost continually upon one another, and very frequently upon the king; and the open country still continued to be a scene of violence, rapine, and disorder”. But once there are luxuries to be purchased by wealth earned by selling produce to the growing cities, “it was impossible that the number of their retainers should not as gradually diminish, till they were at last dismissed altogether”, and so peace came to the countryside.
As John Maynard Keynes was to write a century and a half later: “It is far better for a man to tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow citizens…”
Here the full files are—unfinished: https://www.icloud.com/pages/0howtV7CndvjkSCCLmtjmq_SA
And the course slides:
#books #highlighted #history #historyofeconomicthought #moralphilosophy #politicaleconomy #2019-11-24