Adam Smith was not an economist but a philosopher who initiated modern capitalism. On the contrary, Thomas Hill Green was a political radical, temperance reformer, and English philosopher, and he supported the human freedom theory. Although both individuals aimed to improve people’s living standards in society, they had contradicting ideas of achieving it. Therefore, it is essential to understand how each philosopher approached political economy.
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Smith made consistent and interdependent arguments in his presentation about the political-economic system. The primary theory during Smith’s time was mercantilism, which explained that the wealth of a country was measured by the goods and money within its borders referred to as stock (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). Therefore, mercantilists opposed trade because they argued that it increased the nation’s wealth. However, Smith counters this idea by saying that any country’s primary source of wealth is labor (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). Smith explains that more labor increases individuals’ income and, satisfies their necessities resulting in enhanced living standards.
Smith supports the idea of free trade because it increases the chances of more labor and wealth acquisition. He argues that limited trade keeps wealth inside a country, minimizing the possibility of broader markets. Therefore, Smith divided stock into two; individuals use one to earn more revenue (capitalism) while the other allows people to get necessities (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). According to Smith, wealth refers to combining a person’s money and assets to acquire more for circumstantial adjustment and cultivating the skills to enhance the potential. He believes in creating a universal opulence for the people of lower ranks. Smith explains that everybody needs to live a good life; therefore, a commercial system would benefit the lives of the worst-off people in society.
According to Adam, this system will enhance the general public and particularly the poorest members’ wealth in a country (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). He argues that the masses’ betterment key is an increase in workforce, productivity, and labor. However, this improvement is affected by two factors: the dexterity, judgment, and skill used to apply labor and the working versus non-working numbers proportion. For instance, Smith uses the division of labor concept to support his idea(“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). He gives an example of a person who makes pins alone compared to a group of people doing the same. Working together as a team increases productivity and benefits many individuals in society. Moreover, Adam emphasizes the essentiality of specialization and focus because it creates innovation in the market. The reason is that every person becomes an expert in their specific field, increasing the science quality in a commercial society.
Smith focuses on the self-interest role and its advantages in economic life. He argues that a free market uses individual desires to better not one person but an entire community (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). Smith illustrates that the needs of people are not mutually exclusive but are complementary. For example, a customer does not get dinner from a butcher’s benevolence but from their self-interest. This is a tectonic moral prescription shift philosophically because Christianity argues that self-interest actions are shameful and sinful (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). However, the commercial society proposed by Smith accepts that people who focus on their needs enhance the public’s good; therefore, self-interest is beneficial.
Adam does not support rampant consumerism but is critical of the rich. Smith explains that when a person buys a product, many people benefit more than they would have done through charity work (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). However, Adam does not suggest that buying a single item helps many people, but he means that different individuals’ efforts were invested in making it; therefore, they will earn some income. Smith’s invisible hands’ remark suggests that a person who tries to manipulate the system does more harm than the one who trusts it (“Adam Smith 1723-1790”). Adam believes that the operation of nature on principles makes it logical, increasing the possibility of predicted outcomes.
On the contrary, Thomas believes that appropriation is an individual’s consciousness of self-satisfaction as an attained object. Therefore, a person should be aware that they are a permanent subject served by their use of material items (“Thomas Hill Green”). As a result, a person recognizes that nature is a pool of resources and raw materials. Thomas believes that people gain a powerful sense of potential by laboring for an object; they develop and become complete. Additionally, Green argues that owning private property is morally essential in the community (“Thomas Hill Green”). Thomas believes that a person cannot claim their rights’ strength and ability to determine the course of their life while denying the same to other people who have those qualities. Thomas explains that through working hard, people achieve their goals and objectives in life. Moreover, Green argues that forming an object is externalizing an individual’s will.
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At some point, Thomas tries to prove that property illustrates a person’s worth and being. For instance, individuals can use their property to express their emotions and do what they want (“Green Thomas”). Green believes that having personal belongings is self-fulfilling and actualizing. Thomas says that a person’s sense of responsibility improves after property ownership. As a result, Green feels that individuals should not be treated as a means but as an end simultaneously (“Thomas Hill Green”). However, Thomas argues that reaching rational personal development and respect differs in various people. Owning resources as a community prevents the choice of individuals, imposes different uses and allocations while restraining others. In contrast, private ownership helps people focus on activities that help them develop and gain more wealth (“Thomas Hill Green”). Thomas believes that property is essential for the development of human beings in a non-neutral manner.
Green also argues that a person should self-impose a truly moral life. For instance, an individual living by communal appropriation rights and property cannot live a moral life (“Thomas Hill Green”). The reason is that they lack an opportunity to distinguish between right and wrong therefore do not know what is good for them. This happens even though they appear perfect on the outside because their living is not internalized. Green explains that private property helps people become self-disciplined and overcome different life challenges (“Thomas Hill Green”). Thomas opposes the idea of the government distributing free goods to individuals who could work and attain them. Instead, Thomas argues that the items should be given to people who cannot gain the resources for themselves, such as those with disabilities. Unequal resources’ distribution is defensible to Green because it enables individuals to exploit their talents in society (“Thomas Hill Green”). He argues that there are capable people in the community, but they do not have the power to own property privately. As a result, they live in a near-slavery state, endure poor housing and working conditions, and suffer from severe illnesses.
Green explains that poverty pushes people into alcoholism and the inability to educate their children. The needy in society are forced to take up jobs with low payments (“Thomas Hill Green”). This denies them the developing power; therefore, they fail to actualize their potential to become self-determining and conscious. Thomas gives an example about landlords who are accorded more powers than they deserve. Consequently, he argues that an essential part of planning a person’s life is the ability to decide their wealth’s fate (“Thomas Hill Green”). Contrary to Smith’s disapproval of charity works, Green embraces the idea. Thomas disagrees with the concept of inheritance and explains that parents should have a right to do it or not. Moreover, Green supports the taxation of an individual’s private property. He argues that the government plays a significant role in protecting the belongings (“Thomas Hill Green”). Thomas explains that the acquisition of property by one person does not diminish another individual’s wealth; therefore, capitalism benefits all people.
In summary, Thomas and Smith were philosophers who believed in different political economy ideologies. Smith believed that the division of labor benefited all community members. On the contrary, Thomas argued that individuals who exploited their talents single-handedly acquired more wealth. Smith opposed inequality in resources distribution while Green supported the idea. Adam argued that all individuals should be accorded a similar opportunity to earn income. In contrast, Green explained that equality would prevent people from showcasing their talents and minimize their possibility of becoming wealthy. Smith was optimistic about charity work, while Green opposed that idea.
“Adam Smith 1723-1790” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
“Thomas Hill Green” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.