By Donald E. Frey
Lines the heritage of 2 rival American monetary moralities from colonial instances to the current.
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Perhaps Franklin foresaw where his ideas were pointing and recoiled from it. Perhaps he perceived that something transcending the harshness of nature commanded a charitable inclination and a true concern for the public good. As is well known, Franklin devoted his later life to the service of his new country. It would have been difficult to have predicted his later deeds from the values promoted in his earlier teachings. PATRIOTIC CLERICS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ERA As tensions with the British government increased, American pulpits expounded distrust of the British government, and government in general.
Paley asked, “Why am I obliged to keep my word”? His answer was, “because I am [motivated by] the expectation of being after this life rewarded, if I do, or punished for it, if I do not” (59–60). He reiterated that personal happiness was the human motive, to be obtained by obeying divinely appointed rules. Paley thus managed to mesh the Enlightenment’s emphasis on self-centered motivation with a pre-Enlightenment emphasis on authority (the will of God). Even if Paley retained the “will of God,” the clash of such a morality with the earlier colonial Calvinist morality was enormous.
In place of the relatively balanced Puritan view of government, the revolutionary-era preachers produced an emphasis on distrust of government. The eighteenth century produced hints of two ideas that would reach maturity in nineteenth-century laissez-faire. First, there emerged the view that a major role of morality and social policy was to provide harsh incentives to deter idleness, to which people were apparently naturally attracted. Second, because individuals were understood to be free enough to choose among incentives, they earned moral praise or blame for their own economic condition, which resulted from their choices.
America's Economic Moralists: A History of Rival Ethics and Economics by Donald E. Frey
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