During the Age of Reason Edinburgh was known as “the Athens of the North.” Scottish Enlightenment thinkers pioneered a lasting legacy of global political thought; from Hume’s dissection of the passions and empirical codification of human behaviour to Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market. The impact of our small, yet perfectly formed country on world affairs has been profound. Following the banking crash and the clear failure of the current pervasive global economic model, it is time for us to join international affairs and contribute our unique analytical, scientific intellect again.
Most, including the Adam Smith Institute, think that the invisible hand developed by Adam Smith meant that the market ruled and man’s selfishness should go unchecked. Leading to the excesses of the Chicago School and the cruel extravagance if Pinochet and Thatcher, money and greed became our gods in the 80s. Greed was good, money never sleeps, lunch is for wimps etc. Like Chomsky says, however, “growth for growth sake is the ideology of a cancer cell.”
What good is the UK being a top growth economy when people visit foodbanks and the wealth gap continues to grow? Growth has to be seen on the ground – the growth of society, man, our intellectual and humane achievement are equally important, if not more so. The recent disgusting behaviour of the banks has demonstrated this.
Adam Smith, in his ‘Wealth of Nations,’ spoke about how, unchecked, the invisible hand would lead to such wild excesses and inequality. He was one of the first philosophers to expound why we needed a welfare state for those at the bottom – a safety net. In his ‘Moral Sentiments’ he spoke eloquently of the idea of conscience, empathy, and the “man within.” Our internal dialogue that stops us from behaving inhumanely to our fellow man.
I believe the Scottish Government is developing this new moral economic model. Look at their Procurement Act with its focus on localism and community benefit clauses in public contracts. Mandating the living wage for suppliers and ensuring blacklisting (where, for example, construction firms keep lists of trade unionists) is banned. The Social Enterprise Strategy and the Community Empowerment Act seek to embed a moral ethos, participation, and rights. To have people owning the means of production, for the common good, and communities being central to the way we do business – what is good for society is good for our economy.
When people participate we have good mental and physical health, we cost the state less. The commitment to a public NHS and not selling off state assets for PPP is another way we keep the excess of the private sector out. A national rail service and maintaining basic functions of government in the state. Utilising progressive tax and social security based on human rights and dignity are central tenets throughout.
A decent honest country needs a decent honest economic model, Scotland is developing it. You’re welcome world! Feel free to follow our lead once the banks run off with all your money… again.
The Butterfly Rebellion