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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

If Your Heart Is in the Right Place, You Better Get Your Facts Straight

When we make moral decisions, whether as individuals or as a society, we need to take the actual facts of the matter into account.

Adam Smith is widely regarded as the “father of economics,” but what isn’t as widely known is that he never considered himself an economist. He thought of himself as a philosopher. And, indeed, in the tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment, he was one. In the Scottish Enlightenment, study was largely divided into two categories: natural science and moral science. Natural science largely explains itself, but moral science was an attempt to ground ethics and morality in as much scientific reality and fact-based reasoning as possible, and it’s from that branch of study that the subject of economics bloomed. If you want to make moral statements, if your heart is in the right place, then you need to have your facts straight. And while, over time, we’ve seen a more and more tightly defined division of labor and specialization, particularly in academia, perhaps it’s time to get back to a more holistic form of study when it comes to economics and ethics. Join Antony Davies, James Harrigan, and special guest David Schmidtz as they discuss this and more on this week’s episode of Words and Numbers.

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Quick Hits

Manipulating matter at the atomic level

People are fleeing California’s taxes

Foolishness of the Week

Jim Bakker

Topic of the Week: David Schmidtz discusses political philosophy

David Schmidtz


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  • Dr. Antony Davies is an Associate professor of Economics at Duquesne University, and co-host of the podcast, Words & Numbers.

  • James R. Harrigan is a Senior Editor at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also co-host of the Words & Numbers podcast.