Teaching Prosperity in the Underground, Composing, 29/07/2018

So it’s been almost a week since the last post. I didn’t mean to do this on purpose – it’s just been a busy week. Thankfully, it’s mostly been busy with some promising business opportunities starting to come together.

And sometimes, just some incredibly long days. So long that I’d run out of energy before getting down to write. At least to write this, as I’ve mostly been working on other things that I actually get paid for. The blog is meta – a writing project about my writing projects – meta takes a back seat to actual.

I'm one person, not a mechanical writing machine. I'm powered by
food, coffee, and serotonin.
I’ve started work on a small media project that will involve interviews, and I’m starting to line those up for later in August. More updates to come.

But there are some other interesting developments in my teaching job as well. As you might remember, I published my review of Raphael Sassower’s book The Quest for Prosperity last week. I read it months ago, and only got around to writing it all now.

But that means I’ve had a few months to stew over its arguments and ideas. I think the book does come up short in some areas. But its critical chapters on the political economy of the 21st century global economy are wonderfully insightful.

There's a lot going on in those early chapters of The Quest for Prosperity that I couldn’t fit in all their detail into the main review. I only had so much space and so much time to write the thing. But in working over the ideas, I've begun incorporating them into my teaching work.

To give you an update, I’m the head of a program in Business Administration at a small private college. We’re using a standard set of textbooks, but I’m working on lecture content that itself goes beyond just those lines.

For example, I’m not about to present uncritically a map from Freedom House ranking the economic freedom of different countries around the world. I’m not going full communism in there. I’m just asking students questions about what economic freedom means to them, whether they ultimately agree with Freedom House’s terms, and how to articulate their differences.

The marketplace should be a friendly place.
Actually criticizing some aspects of business school orthodoxy as part of the program is turning into a pretty effective value proposition for the place. Unfortunately for the rest of North American civilization, this is how we stand out from the crowd.

One idea of Sassower’s that I’ve incorporated into my program’s business lectures is how he distinguishes between markets and capitalism. Markets are a matter of what Adam Smith called “truck and barter,” small exchanges among community members that add up to mutual benefit.

Capitalism as an ethical attitude is a spirit of competition, where you can all too easily see another person’s benefit as a potential loss for you. Worse yet, you expect others to see your benefits the same way you see theirs. So you become paranoid, aggressive, and suspicious.

Solidarity is broken. Friendship is impossible.

Manuel DeLanda covered the differences of markets and capitalism in a book published more than 20 years ago. But he had an ontological focus on the macroeconomics of the massive capital flows that industrialization and colonialism powered.

Sassower’s emphasis on political economy foregrounds moral principles and ethical attitudes, so we can see the transformation of a society’s values along with their economic system. Good is no longer giving benefits to your community, but leading your community as a function of your wealth. You don’t want to be part of a community – you want to own it.

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