THE BLOG
10/31/2016 09:23 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Looking Out for Number One Only?

2016-10-31-1477920104-1344290-EdmundBurke1771.jpg

Capitalism is predicated on the idea of individual initiative. The most obvious economic manifestation of that is entrepreneurship, a talent that's touted on the television show Shark Tank, a kind of American Idol for those with an acumen for business. But the greatest capitalist of them all Adam Smith, the author of The Wealth of Nations, which did for capitalism what Das Kapital would for revolution, also wrote a book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments in which human empathy was the subject. Talk about Originalism, what a different attitude early proto-conservatives like Smith and Edmund Burke had in comparison to our right wing Tea Party firebrands, latter day Social Darwinists, advocating the dog eat dog vision of human society propounded by Herbert Spencer. In their view man is no different from the animal on the veldt competing for scarce resources, with the strongest, the pythons, the hyenas triumphing over more docile species. Advocates of this laissez faire view envision a society freed from entitlements and over constitutionalized with protections for those who may not be strong enough to defend themselves. The fact is that the ancestors of man may have been apes, but why throw the baby out with the bathwater? If individual liberty is at stake, why don't those who virulently argue for the free market, and less government intrusions, use their heads. Without the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment there would be no democracy to defend. Robert Ringer wrote the bestseller, Looking Out For Number One. But is that all there is?

portrait of Edmund Burke by Joshua Reynolds

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}