We are very happy to have Matt Ridley here, to talk about what I think is the foundational issue in economics. The very first paragraph of the second chapter of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations says that economic prosperity rests on the:
division of labour… not originally the effect of any human wisdom… [but] the necessary… consequence of a certain propensity in human nature… to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another…
The fact that human group sociability and solidarity is based on exchange rather than, as with chimpanzees, grooming each other or, as with dogs–well, I don’t think I should go there–has, Adam Smith thought, extraordinary consequences. I think Smith was right. So does Matt Ridley. He is here to tell us about them.
Of course, the nutters over at the nef take exactly the opposite view.
That we should stop being sociable in this uniquely human manner and reverse the division of labour and go off and do everything (or at least more things) for ourselves.
Which is why they’re nutters, they’re advocating for humans exactly the opposite of what makes us humans.