Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

Nicholas Phillipson’s biography of Adam Smith and slavery

Posted Aug 21, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

Nicholas Phillipson’s new biography of Adam Smith would have deserved all the praise it has received, if slavery had not been such a fundamental contributor to the wealth that Smith, Glasgow, and Scotland enjoyed.  Philliipson’s omission of the role of slavery in early capitalism, however, continues the legacy of an economics of dissociation that began with Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.  It is time to tell the whole truth, or at least those elements that could actually promote the integrity of economics. See my review of Phillipson’s book, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life, in the August issue of the  Review of Social Economics

Glasgow: A Merchant’s City, The Labor of Slaves

Posted Jun 21, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 1 Comment

The last city on my recent trip to Ireland and Scotland was Glasgow; a city whose early wealth depended on the labor of African slaves in the British colonies. If there were one city in Europe that should be obligated to pay reparations for African slavery, it would be Glasgow.

Adam Smith & Slavery

Posted Nov 12, 2010 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 3 Comments

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, or almost a thousand.  As I demonstrate in Civilizing the Economy, Adam Smith knew that the slave-based tobacco trade was a major source of wealth in Scotland and especially in Glasgow, where he lived when collecting material for The Wealth of Nations.  Instead of telling us this, he tells us about the invisible hand, a good illustration of what we can call the economics of dissociation:  a process of splitting off the misery of the real providers of wealth and then feeling optimistic about market dynamics.

Scarcity in Economics

Posted Oct 19, 2010 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 3 Comments

One of the key ideas in modern economics is the idea of scarcity.  In fact, sometimes economics is defined as the “allocation of resources in the context of scarcity.”

Scarcity means that there is not enough to go around.  If everyone had access to everything they desire, there would be no economics.  There would be no need to determine how to allocate resources. At least that is one view of the field of economics. This notion of scarcity, however, is a bit more complicated than it might appear.

Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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