The Mortar of Capitalism

Written by Josh Light on August 31st, 2009

“Knowledge is of little use, when confined to mere speculation.” This motto captures the “the practical side of the Scottish Enlightenment,” because many of the Scotts greatest contributions to the world were in the form of inventions rather than theory. For instance, two Englishmen invented the steam engine, but James Watt perfected it into a practical invention. It is Watt who everyone recognizes as the inventor of the steam engine, not the Englishmen. This same pattern of perfection for practical purposes can also be seen in other Scott contributions towards medicine, road construction, railroads, gasoline, and even scientific areas such as geology and biology. While the rest of the world was speculating on how things could be beneficial, the Scotts were acting in their own rational self interest to provide value for these speculations.

Scotts were able to innovate like they did because they were in a petree dish for entrepreneurship considering that the very origin of capitalism had sprung from their homeland and was deeply woven into their redefined culture. Without this critical support for innovation, the rest of the world was sluggishly inventing, while the Scotts were innovating at an exponential rate. This is why, with every new acquisition of some theory or concept, the Scotts improved upon it and were able to make the concept into something greater than just an idea. Ideas are just bricks. Bricks can be piled to make a wall, but that wall will never reach its fullest height and grandeur without the mortar of capitalism.



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