Adam Smith, joke or no joke?

The war on terrorism, meltdown in the financial markets, and now the election of Obama are watershed events. We seem to be crossing a divide from old to new. It has been obvious for some time that we as a people have struggled with the implications of now being in the 21st century.The old labels of conservative vs liberal and Democrat vs Republican suddenly seem time-worn and intellectually hollow. What will replace them? Editor: Fran Miller of Parker and Ross Kaminsky of Nederland, cadres in the local conservative conspiracy, got into it today over my request for interpretations of the election. You're reading Miller's opening salvo, which continues below. See further down for Kaminsky's comeback and the ensuing crossfire.

I believe a renaissance in our core beliefs and approaches must take root. It is abundantly clear that there is much confusion over the pros and cons of a capitalistic and market driven system as opposed to more socialistic and communitarian approaches. Our education system has failed to impart the nuances of how a market system that produces I-pods may not work when it comes to health care.

The education of our populace is an existential requirement that has been neglected in favor of patriotic boosterism and mudslinging. I strongly believe that unless a moral ecology, independent of political party and religious denomination can be instilled in our citizenry, the ruthless, self-maximizing behavior of man and his corporate organizations will prove to be destructive.

Please know, I am a political agnostic and only concerned with pursuing truth in ideas. I have long since abandoned engaging in any endeavor that seeks to promote the cult of personality or to derive my identity from any political party, religious institution or corporate entity.

Above all, yesterday's election proves that the people of this country want things to change. None of us really knows what that entails, but there is some deeply held intuition that we have been on the wrong path and it is not leading us where we want to go. In the future, for any organized group to be relevant and make a positive contribution they will have to transcend personal power seeking and work for the common good of the people. I don't care to participate in any group that fails to measure up to the spirit of that intention.

Kaminsky mildly responds...

Adam Smith pointed out that "ruthless self-maximizing behavior" only works when someone is providing a benefit to someone else. Presuming someone is behaving in a way which does not trample on the rights of others, one can not behaving in a "self-maximizing" way without contributing to the maximization of others. Therefore, in my view, the demonization of corporations and of profit-seeking is completely misplaced.

Miller returns a Montana horselaugh:

Quoting Adam Smith is a joke. Just because two people both enjoy something does not ethically legitimize it. The world is full of financial intermediary parasites who could not grow their own food if they tried. Which, by the way, is exactly the kind of person I want to avoid being around during the 21st century.

Kaminsky, ever the rationalist, persists:

Huh? I'm pretty certain I could grow my own food if I tried (and we do grow a bit of stuff), and certain I could shoot my own food, but what is the inherent virtue in that? Should everybody be able to do everything? Ever hear of comparative advantage?

Fran Miller can be reached at Ross Kaminsky can be reached at Kaminsky's own thoughts about the Nov. 4 results are on his blog here.