Book Reviews

25 novembro, 2007

161) Esses escoceses geniais...

How the Scots Invented the Modern World
Arthur Herman (Crown, 2001).

To understand the central truths of Scottish character and culture, from their origins to today, you could do no better than to look into "How the Scots Invented the Modern World." Arthur Herman covers it all: Scotland's contributions to democracy, capitalism and banking, as well as to literature and the arts. From the Scottish Reformation of the 1600s to David Hume and the Enlightenment in the 1700s, from Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1800s to the devolution of 1997 that restored the Scottish Parliament for the first time in nearly 300 years, Herman conjures the spirit of a people rooted in education and reason. His description of the opening of Edinburgh's first medical school in 1726 is particularly telling: "Edinburgh taught its doctors to be hands-on generalists, who could spot a problem, make a diagnosis, and apply treatment themselves."

The Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith (1776).
With its espousal of freedom, industry and self-determination, "The Wealth of Nations" is considered a founding document of the Scottish Enlightenment, which deeply influenced the great political and philosophical movements of the modern era. I prefer to think of Adam Smith's seminal work as an economist's treasure trove. I have spent countless hours delving into its arguments about taxation, trade, public works and the division of labor, pausing for classic passages such as: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."