October 12, 2010
In the Service of Their Lord

From Larry Beinart’s political thriller, The Librarian:

They had two prophets. The first, of course, was Jesus Christ. Scott claimed to have been saved, and the hard core of his support were Jesus people…

Their second prophet, and to Hagopian their real prophet, was Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and philosopher who had coined the phrase “invisible hand” to describe the surprising, unplanned, and unlooked-for effects of each individual pursuing his own domestic plans for gain.

To the intellectual mind, that was a simile, an “as if,” but to the believer mind it was God and God wanted us each to pursue profit to our utmost and then His “invisible hand” would combine those efforts and guide them to the true good.

Adam Smith had also said, “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”

Hagopian thought that was true.

If Scott’s people were men of vice, merely greedy, there would be limits to what they might do. If they were men of virtue, there were no limits, no point at which they would stop. There was no lie they would not tell, no fraud they would not perpetrate. No murder they would not commit.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at October 12, 2010 05:11 PM
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An interesting book that could have benefited by some editing.

There was a time when I wanted to grow up to be a librarian, but I was warned against it.

Posted by: JoyfulA on October 13, 2010 11:43 PM

There are a few restaurants that do have regard for others and practice the Golden Rule by donating leftover food to the homeless. I can understand Smith's ideology in the abstract, but it doesn't work in practice. Look at Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller and how many other men Rockefeller destroyed to make his fortune. And today, look at how modern corporations literally destroyed themselves recently by letting those who were supposed to look after the corporation look after themselves instead. Even Alan Greenspan got this and once admitted that he had been wrong on this subject for his whole life. Wall Street ditto. Ditto Enron. I could go on and on but there are so many examples present in daily life, particularly in the modern capitalist corporation that there is no need to. Everyone knows one example or another. The only "winners" are those who behave like the apes or Neanderthals that are shown in the beginning of the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" when two of them gang up on another one of their species to steal his belongings. The losers are the majority of humanity. I never saw the movie but viewed a clip once of the opening scene so I know the beginning of that movie. Capitalist society as it exists today is the very essence of that opening scene. Humans as group have not progressed at all since those apes or Neanderthals, if they ever existed in that form, were present. Except for societies that are ordered differently than ours.

Perhaps the humans are the worst and meanest survivors of human evolution. Neanderthals may have been the nice guys and we the savages were those who survived. So the movie may have the scene all wrong. The humans may have been the attackers and destroyers of other species. History seems to prove the point. Wars for profit, the destruction of the Aztecs and the Indians, the destruction of the Jews (and what they have largely become in Israel themselves) and thousands of similar examples from history all point to this conclusion as being the correct one. With sincere apologies to my Jewish friends and a few of my Jewish relatives who haven't gotten the analogy yet including Marty Peretz.

Posted by: Buck on October 14, 2010 10:17 AM
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