One Response to Montaigne on Profit and Loss, Part 2

  1. crossofcrimson August 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I’m not really all that familiar with Montaigne, or Mises’ critique of him in this context. And I think, from what I’m reading, that you’re pointing out a distinction that clearly isn’t being made by Mises (or Rothbard, I suppose) for whatever reason. Although, I have to say, I can see why a brow might be raised here.

    For instance, I wonder if Montaigne makes any moral distinction between profit from loss and profit from need (need being something to prevent potential loss perhaps). His allusion to physicians maybe comes closest to touching this at the surface-level. Perhaps the need is completely natural/biological (food, shelter, water, clothes, etc.) or otherwise circumstantial.

    I’m curious because, while I understand the unfortunate opposition of interests he rightfully points out, it seems like you could really stretch out such a reflection to a great number of very normal/typical transactions. I suppose there’s a sense in which my local butcher is happy that I have no choice in repeatedly growing hungry and needing food. But I don’t think I’ve ever had any moral qualms about his profiting from my very real, life-and-death, need for food.

    I don’t see any particular reason to find my arrangements with a butcher any less morally concerning than my arrangements with a doctor or lawyer. In fact, to the extent that I can draw any distinction, it seems like the ex post facto stuff is less morally questionable than the “sword of Damocles” type arrangements that pervade most of my daily transactions.

    These are just some off-the-cuff thoughts here.

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