J.E. Lendon favorably reviews John Armstrong’s In Search of Civilization. The upshot of Armstrong’s book, Lendon means to show, is that economic liberty entails artistic liberty. Here are a few highlights from the review:
The two imps of the ancient mind, that wealth is either irrelevant to the good life or its bane, still rule the world of higher thought today. And the second, grimmer goblin has given birth to monstrous modern offspring: first, the notion that others should be deprived of their wealth for the good of their souls; and second, that the height of human aspiration—the very perfection of the soul—consists exactly of high-mindedly depriving others of their means.
A laswegian [I think he means: Glaswegian–AT] contrarian in the tradition of Adam Smith, Armstrong scorns this deep-rooted suspicion of money. Civilization, says he, is essential for humans to flourish, and civilization consists of mutually vivifying material and spiritual prosperity. Beautiful things are essential to the good life, and so also the means to get them: There is nothing morally corrosive in comfort.