Thursday, July 19, 2012

George H. Smith on "Social Darwinism"

 Summarizing the thought of Spencer and Sumner:
In a free society people are able to pursue their own interests as they see fit, provided they respect the equal rights of others. As cooperation in a regime of contract replaces exploitation in a regime of status, the fittest prosper not by coercing others but by assisting them through voluntary exchanges. (Adam Smith had previously dubbed this process the “invisible hand.”) Here as elsewhere survival of the fittest is an iron law of social existence, but this standard of fitness is far removed from that invoked by the specter of social Darwinism. Voluntary cooperation, not coercive exploitation, is the standard of fitness in a free society.

Spencer and Sumner emphasized that market competition differs dramatically from biological competition. Market competition, unlike biological competition, produces immense wealth, thereby making it possible for many people to survive and prosper who otherwise could not. Moreover, the sophisticated division of labor that develops in a market economy generates specialization, and this specialization generates social interdependence — a condition in which every person must rely on the cooperation and assistance of others for necessary goods and services. The solitary individual cannot produce everything he needs or wants in a market economy, so he must persuade many others to assist him. This condition of survival cultivates the character traits (or virtues) necessary for peaceful interaction – those civilizingmores, as Sumner called them, that make social interaction not only productive and mutually beneficial but pleasant as well.
Smith doesn't defend Darwin against the charge of promoting bloody conflict between the classes (we know who really does that - typical case of psychological projection).  This guy does, at the same time showing how idiotic it is to call someone a "social Darwinist" in the sense its coiner intended.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Word of the Day: Casuistry

I was having a bi*** of a time trying to remember this word.  The desire to have it at hand has been recurring at least once a week for many months.  Google has been no help until today when I finally found it via

They define it as "overgeneral reasoning," by the way.  I swear I looked for it there before under every synonym on that list.  Today I found it under 'equivocation'.  I probably looked for it under 'equivocate'; there may not be a verb form.  I know I looked for it under 'sophistry' and 'sophism'.

I don't like what The Free Dictionary and have become.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Russ Roberts

One of the points I make in The Invisible Heart is that those of us who want smaller government because we think it will make the world a better place are the allies, whether we like it or not, of purely selfish people who want smaller government in order to avoid taxes and who have no intention of giving to charity. That should give us pause. At the same time, those who care so much about others that they would run their lives for them are allied with those who would run the lives of others because of less attractive motives–for power and profit.