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January 12, 2012

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Thanks for highlighting this! It is very interesting how these concepts get confused. I feel like this line of thought is the same the claims neoclassical is without normative assumptions.

I have always said that the great line:

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. "

Should be followed by

"But it is by our benevolence that we do not steal it from them."

Hi Kyle. Excellent quote of Smith's to raise in this context. As a minor point, Smith might say that the instinct that keeps you from stealing is not benevolence but the instinct for justice. "Not harming others" is a slightly different thing than "helping others."

Thanks for the point. --JW

Jonathan,

I never considered that. I guess its my inner Humean nature that thinks in a perfectly benevolent society there would be no need for justice.

Actually, Kyle, this is an interesting point. Adam Smith insisted that in addition to an instinct for self and an instinct for benevolence, humans have an instinct for malevolence. This instinct is needed, Smith argues, because it leads to systems of justice. You might want to watch this slideshow: https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~jwight/Adam/Wight.CNU.Oct22_compressed.pdf

Best. -- JW

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