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February 2018 posts

Adam Smith on Stage

By Jonathan B. Wight

The New York Times reports that Adam Smith’s ideas will soon be on the stage:

‘THE LOW ROAD’ at the Public Theater (previews start on Feb. 13; opens on March 7). A freewheeling approach to free market theory, this 50-character picaresque from Bruce Norris (“Clybourne Park”) is set in the late 18th century and inspired by the theories of Adam Smith. Good thing a drama about unrestrained markets and morally dubious economic modes won’t resonate today. Michael Greif directs.

Hmmm…. Could be interesting, except this clipping has to throw in the “morally dubious economic modes” snippet. The writer accepts the bad and inaccurate press foisted on us by many econ teachers and others that Smith’s morality was one of selfish individualism. How hackneyed and so 20th century! What a shame to miss so much about the man.


By Jonathan B. Wight

Tim_Robbins_(8235175646)“I don’t trust mobs of any kind, even when they’re advocating for things I support. People losing their careers based on innuendo or accusation is troubling for me. There is a process for this: a legal system. Convicting someone on an accusation is really dangerous territory to be living in.”

--Actor Tim Robbins (here)

[Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tim_Robbins_(8235175646).jpg]

Cheating (Revisited)

By Jonathan B. Wight

According to a new study in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, incentivizing students and teachers with monetary incentives for learning produced …. (drumroll….) increases in cheating!

Not only did students cheat more, they may have learned to cheat as a result of the monetary incentive. 

In virtue ethics, by contrast, people become motivated to do the right thing for the right reasons.  Building a solid and genuine relationship between the teacher and student may be necessary for this approach to work. 

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-W0409-300 _Bertolt_Brecht"In business you ask what price, not what religion.  And Protestant trousers keep you just as warm."

--Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, Translated by Eric Bentley (NY: Grove Press, [1941] 1955, pp. 52-53). 

Ostensibly set during the Thirty Years' War between Catholics and Protestants (1618–1648), Mother Courage is the tale of a wandering saleswoman who follows armies across devastated battlefields, supplying soldiers and generals with alcohol and other comforts.  

War creates the opportunity for profit, and peace the devastation of falling prices.  Ironies abound, of course, and the play is a reflection of the devastation of World War II.  While Brecht's play is ultimately anti-market and anti-entrepreneurial (I won't give away the ending), the quote above is a moving reminder of why markets solve some problems that ideology cannot.  

[Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-W0409-300,_Bertolt_Brecht.jpg]