The Wealth of Nations-but how is it measured?


The Wealth of Nations(1776) was the seminal text of Adam Smith, in which he outlined his vision of the best way of ensuring a prosperous economy, and with it, the optimal levels of human happiness.

Its central prescriptions -of free trade, unfettered markets, freedom of information and expression-are too well known to be expurgated again here. On the whole, his notions have stood the test of time better than that of rivals such as Marxism or religious theocracy. As with any creed, the problem came with believers who took it too seriously, whose logic and zeal out runs their reason.

So if taxes are bad, they say, why not abolish them altogether?(at least for rich people) If the state can be a drag, why not get rid of it altogether? Surely any government activity is evil, and should be avoided religiously. It is interesting how the most perfervid expressions of these beliefs come in novels, not works of fact.

Yet in a crisis, the state can create wealth. Does in fact, in ways that a pure free market can neither facilitate nor measure. No one can doubt that a society with antibiotics is infinitely richer than one without. Yet one cannot measure that in the way one can for a cup off latte macchiatto, a mobile phone, or a tube of lipstick.

Below we reference two articles from the website of the charity AntibioticsResearchUK. In which Vicki Joughin describes the partnerships which created Penicillin, the first designer antibiotic. For us, the key quote is:

The story of the mass production of penicillin to help the Allied Forces win World War II is a remarkable one. It was brought about by an unparalleled collaboration between governments, industrial giants and renowned scientific establishments who had a common goal – which was not a financial one.

Advocates of low taxes and weak states must always make an exception for strong armies and police; can biological threats be excluded?

#antibioticsresearchuk #penicillin #worldwartwo #vickijoughin

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