George Walford: Ideology in the Reviews (60)

Adam Smith wanted government to stop meddling in markets, but he did not advocate unrestrained competition. No man might violate the laws of justice, and by that he meant that none might indulge in fraud or use force. These laws were to be enforced by government, protecting each member of society from oppression by others. Government was also to provide national defence, highways, criminal courts and primary schools. Another Scotsman told us that freedom and whisky gang thegither; Adam Smith, if not every one of his followers, was well aware that the same holds good for freedom and limitation, for government and the market. (J. Muller, Adam Smith in his Time and Ours, NY: Free Press, reviewed by Wm. Letwin, TLS 26 February).

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Freeman Dyson believes the greenhouse effect can be dealt with by reforestation to absorb surplus carbon dioxide. He also offers reasons why concentration of this gas has not yet reached expected levels. (R. Penrose,reviewing From Eros to Gaia, NYR 4 March).

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Reviewing Noam Chomsky’s Terrorizing the Neighbourhood (AK Press) in Anarchy #35, Ben Price says:

the media lend no credence to any of Chomsky’s well-considered political views, simply because they require thought, even a re-evaluation of received political wisdom. Such a political debate seems unlikely to ever generate substantial advertising revenue, and so the issues he raises are denied existence… Nothing exists that can’t turn a profit.

Anarchists prize thought above money. They see that the media reverse these values and enjoy a circulation exceeding that of anarchist journals by a factor of thousands. Yet they persist in believing that anarchism, rather than the media, voices the wishes and aspirations of the people. (We can’t, incidentally, claim much success for our attempts to induce Anarchy to re-evaluate their own received political wisdom).

Christians often take an active part in capitalism in spite of those awkward passages in the Bible about selling all one has and giving it to the poor, passing through the eye of a needle and so on. Reviewing Stephen Hart’s What Does the Lord Require? how American Christians think about economic justice (Oxford UP) Richard Neuhaus reminds us that the Bible was written in pre-capitalist society when economics was a zero-sum proposition, the poor losing what the rich gained.(TLS 26 February).

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Johanna Nichols has written Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. She offers evidence supporting the belief that over the last 100,000 years language has not evolved; ‘our speech today is no more complex or precise than when human- kind began.’ (John Greppin, reviewing the book, TLS 5 Feb).

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Siberian factory workers, in heavily-polluted towns such as Novokuznetsk, have a life expectancy of forty-four years; 38 per cent of children are born deformed. (S. Zinovieff on The Taming of Eagles; exploring the new Russia, by Imogen Edwards-Jones TLS 12 Feb.)

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There may be an independent world out there, one unaffected by our thinking, but if so we can never know it, for to know the world is to think it. Similarly with people. Anthropologists grow increasingly aware of the way in which our museums, by collecting and displaying the artefacts of other cultures, manufacture them. Less obviously, by arranging our perceptions of the people we meet and their behaviour we manufacture also our own culture and its members. At least, we manufacture our assumptions about it, and those are what we respond to; only those can we ever know. (Michael O’Hanlon, reviewing Equatoria, by Richard and Sally Price, Routledge, TLS 12 February)

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WITTGENSTEIN charged Sir James Jeans with the worship of idols, namely ‘science and the scientist.'(Frank Cioffi)

from Ideological Commentary 60, May 1993.