No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous. — Benjamin Franklin

No nation was ever ruined by trade

What do you think Benjamin Franklin meant by “no nation was ever ruined by trade”? Do you think that his words apply to today’s Western economy?

Of course, Ayn Rand was a big proponent of free trade. Value for Value. And Christians, perhaps for the same and perhaps for very different reasons, should view free trade similarly.

Chapter 5 of The Soul of Atlas (entitled “Capitalism“) explores the Christian and the Objectivist view of Capitalism.

With economic turmoil and volatility in the capital markets today, skeptics come out of the woodwork like bugs in an old farmhouse. They question the validity and the viability of Capitalism, particularly the idea of laissez-faire, that the state should not intrude in the economic activities of entities in a free market. Media commentators reference the invalidation of a “free-market economy.” What G. K. Chesterton once said about Christianity can easily be addressed to today’s critics of laissez-faire Capitalism in the West: laissez-faire Capitalism has not been tried and found wanting. Rather, its moral basis has not been found “palatable” so it has not been tried.

Capitalism is Rand’s political system. She defines Capitalism in terms of the fundamental building blocks: a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

 

Both of my fathers espoused Capitalism despite their adherence to world views which stand opposed on many issues. Ayn Rand understood Capitalism to be the economic system that supports the individual to the greatest extent, the Christian sees Capitalism as an economic system that recognizes and incorporates the inevitability of self-centered human behavior.

Similarly, both of my fathers agree on free trade, but for different reasons. John (a follower of Ayn Rand) sees free trade as a core principle supporting the productive individual who creates value and trades for other values with a reasonable party. While Dad (a Christian) agrees with Ayn Rand‘s assessment, he also sees the ultimate benefit of others. Trading value for value is a means to multiple bottom lines. It’s not charity, but it happens to benefit everyone. There really is such a thing as a “win/win.”

Reason.com

An article headlining this quote was published on Reason.com. Ronald Bailey makes a strong case for free trade and observes that most politicians do not subscribe to it, or cloud their support for it.

So why do people, especially politicians, believe the opposite? The 19th century French economist Frédéric Bastiat explained this sort of disheartening policy myopia his brilliant essay, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” People tend to focus on the seen consequences of a policy, in this case, competition from trade eliminating some jobs at relatively inefficient companies.

But they miss the unseen benefits, such as new jobs that result from increased average productivity. Naturally, the people who lose their jobs are worried and angry, so they call their member of Congress to complain about “unfair” trade. Fearing that they may lose their jobs, the denizens of Capitol Hill seek to enact legislation to block imports or mandate “Buy American” to protect their complaining constituents against “unfair” trade. In politics, as in much of life, the squeaky wheels get oiled.

Some of the clearest and most thoughtful rationale for free trade comes from the CFA Institute, an organization of which I am a member and a CFA charterholder. Still, I appreciate Bailey’s simple and straightforward explanation and I hope to hear more from Reason.com on the subject.

Benjamin Frankin
The Life and Miscellaneous Writings of Benjamin Franklin (Edinburgh: William and Robert Chambers, 1839), 80

a-preface-to-paradise-lost-400x400-cslewisThe older poetry, by continually insisting on certain Stock themes–as that love is sweet, death bitter, virtue lovely, and children or gardens delightful–was performing a service not only of moral and civil, but even of biological, importance. Once again, the old critics were quite right when they said that poetry “instructed by delighting,” for poetry was formerly one of the chief means whereby each new generation learned, not to copy, but by copying to make, the good Stock responses. Since poetry has abandoned that office the world has not bettered. While the moderns have been pressing forward to conquer new territories of consciousness, the old territory, in which alone a man can live, has been left unguarded, and we are in danger of finding the enemy in our rear. We need most urgently to recover the lost poetic art of enriching a response without making it eccentric, and of being normal without being vulgar. Meanwhile–until that recovery is made–such poetry as Milton’s is more than ever necessary to us.

Reading John Milton‘s Paradise Lost has been a delight and C. S. Lewis is one of my favorites. In this “Preface” (a series of lectures), Lewis illuminates the entire genre of epic poetry.  Even Ayn Rand recognized the beauty of poetry and art to inspire and elevate to new heights.
What have been your experiences with art and poetry?
In what way do you value art and poetry? Why?
I would love to hear your recommendations.

 

On Goodreads.com

Preface to Paradise Lost
by C. S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347999313l/207546.jpgThe sixth chapter is entitled “Virgil and the Subject of Secondary Epic.” After arguing that Homer’s subject is not what makes an epic, Lewis seems to say that Virgil’s subject rescues the Aeneid from obscurity when he builds so much depth and substance around his characters and events that we feel as if national, or even cosmic, issues are at stake.

You can find more reviews and discussions of this and many other books on Goodreads.com (including my own reviews and comments about this and other books). It’s one of my favorite sites to help me organize my own reading and keep up with others. When you’re on Goodreads, please visit my author page and “Like” The Soul of Atlas. Consider writing a review and sharing it with your friends on Goodreads and Facebook.com.

 

C. S. Lewis
Preface to Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 57

TSOA-HB-282x317Four questions helped me understand and compare each world view: What is the nature of the universe? What is an individual’s highest pursuit? What is wrong with the world? How do you fix it? Even as I recount them, my experiences with Dad and John afforded many opportunities to think, compare, and search.

Mark David Henderson
The Soul of Atlas (Henderson, NV: Reason Publishing, 2013), 20

If you separate the government from economics, if you do not regulate production and trade, you will have peaceful cooperation, harmony, and justice among men.

Ayn Rand
Interview with Mike Wallace on CBS

…if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking…. the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.

Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1996)

For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a protection racket – by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from the sinners.

Ayn Rand
For the new Intellectual (New York : Random House, 1961)

The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence…Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God… Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith….The purpose of man’s life…is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.

Ayn Rand
For the new Intellectual (New York: Random House, 1961)

The only standard we have for judging all of our social, economic, and political institutions and arrangements as just or unjust, as good or bad, as better or worse, derives from our conception of the good life for man on earth, and from our conviction that, given certain external conditions, it is possible for men to make good lives for themselves by their own efforts.

Mortimer Adler
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago)

In that world, you’ll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit you had known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe.

Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged (New York: Dutton Plume, 1957), 648