The Role of the Virtue of Prudence in a Racing Competition and in an Economic Competition in the Market Place: Prudence Is the First and Only Virtue Applied in Both Situations
27 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2019 Last revised: 19 Dec 2019
Date Written: July 31, 2019
Just as there is a division of labor and specialization of function in the economic realm, the application of the different virtues also is divided up and specialized in actual application.
Adam Smith’s example of running a race emphasized the fact that, when preparing and training and running the race, the only virtue that could be applied was the virtue of prudence. It is simply impossible to train for and run a race to win if the racer is considering the interests of the other competitors in the race besides his own. In fact, it is an oxymoron to argue that the racer needs to be simultaneously concerned about how he finishes the race and how others may finish the race. It is only after he has finished the race and won(lost) that the virtues of temperance, justice (fairness), benevolence and magnanimity can come into play. So it is also in the economic competition in the market place. It is the virtue of prudence that is especially applicable in the economic competition in the same manner that it was applicable in the racing competition. However, after the competition in the market place has been won (lost), the other virtues are to be deployed.
It is a very severe error to assume that Smith’s prudence is Jeremy Bentham’s maximizing utility. They are not the same and there is no connection between the two. Economists err because they have confused and conflated Smith’s virtue ethics conception of self interest with Jeremy Bentham’s conflicting utilitarian conception of self interest.
Keywords: Smith, Virtue ethics, Benthamite Utilitarianism, Kennedy, money, banking, prodigals, Imprudent risk taker, projectors
JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation