By Donald E. Frey
Lines the background of 2 rival American monetary moralities from colonial occasions to the current.
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Additional resources for America's Economic Moralists: A History of Rival Ethics and Economics
This prejudice against government continued even after independence. In 1785, Samuel Wales declared that those with the most power “are in the greatest danger of abusing it” (Wales, in Sandoz 1991, 852). Already in 1747, Charles Chauncy was advocating a notion of government’s role in economics that almost could have served as a model for laissezfaire. A “just” government had several functions, which may be clustered into two groups. ” Except for the last item in this list, all the items are what laissez-faire would come to accept as the only legitimate economic functions of government.
Hence, Mather became intolerant of the idle, who presumably chose their condition: “take pains to cure them of their idleness: do not nourish and harden them in it, but find employment for them; set them to work, and keep them at work” (50). ACTING FOR SELF ’S SAKE 27 The main theme of Essays to Do Good was that Christian laypersons should care for those about them. Following the lead of German Pietism, Mather urged young laymen to form groups for devotions and mutual spiritual encouragement; he also suggested they find ways to do service to their neighbors.
42 AMERICA’S ECONOMIC MORALISTS The only optimistic aspect of the ideas of Malthus was that free markets make the best of a bad situation. Scarcity is inherent in nature, but the incentives given by unfettered markets to self-interested actors provide the most that can be hoped for. If inequality and poverty are the result, any alternative would be just as bad, if not worse. In effect, the economic world operates by its own laws, which render social reform, morality, and compassion irrelevant. FRANCIS WAYLAND: LAISSEZ-FAIRE FOR THE EVANGELICAL MIND It is hard to believe that Malthus’s dismal vision of Old World scarcity would ever have had much appeal in America, whose opportunities drew people from that Old World.
America's Economic Moralists: A History of Rival Ethics and Economics by Donald E. Frey