Via Economic Policy Journal

Roger Scruton (1944-2020)

On the news of the recent passing of the conservative British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, I see the below quote from his writing being passed around in the Twittersphere:

And in an ironic manner, the quote reflects what I have generally thought of the writing of Scruton, broad-based but as shallow as a street puddle after a summer shower.

Scruton has created, via his observation above, two trains crashing into each other head-on. It has his turgid writing style smacking into incorrect economics.

No one, for a moment, who truly understands economics would hold the view that free-market exchange reflects only exchanges that take place in the street bazaar and that education, love and art are outside the circle of exchange.

Indeed, the term free market is slang for free exchange between individuals and also the ranking by individuals of choices.

Education must be ranked all the time, within the circle of education itself and outside it. I have to choose between reading book one or book two. And outside the circle, I often have to choose between continuing to read or, alternatively, answering a phone call from a friend who might want to discuss a topic that Scruton would surely rank as non-educational.

As far as love goes, if I have about seven women chasing me but I really don’t have time for them all, I certainly would have to choose based on what I most value.

And for those who have broken a heart or had one broken, you know that potential interpersonal exchanges may not work because of different ranking systems between different individuals.

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And art is certainly about the subjective. Not everyone appreciates the same kind of art. We sometimes see art being sold for exorbitant amounts that most of us wouldn’t pay a devalued dollar for.

And so, there are exchanges and valuations everywhere.

Buying and selling may not always be in terms of the coin of the realm but there is always trading, even if sometimes it is only the trading of time to do one thing rather than another.

Scruton appears to have wanted to devalue trading when it is for material goods as if other types of goods, spiritual and high-brow are not part of the same valuation and trading scheme. But they are all served in the cafeteria of life with the cashier demanding that you make choices always and everywhere.

This shallowness of thought by Scruton has, of course, stopped now that he is in a deep grave.

RW