Medallion Name – PRIVATE PROFITS AND THE PUBLIC GOOD
Significance – Benevolence is often in short supply. Self-interest, on the other hand, is not.
The theory of trickle-down economics is that self-interest inadvertently serves the public good, allowing society to prosper even if people are not driven by benevolence. Profits become a guide to the value that companies create for society.
Inscription – Unlike San Francisco, which the Spanish founded as a mission, and Salt Lake City, which the Mormons started as a communal religious utopia, Denver originated as a place to make money.
From the beginning, the town aspired to be the supply hub: the business, manufacturing, service and political center for the surrounding mines, farms and ranches.
Denver’s history remains an ongoing struggle between those interested in private profits and those pursuing the public good a tug of war between givers and takers. – Thomas Jacob Noel
Location – 39.749477, -104.995179
Details – Americas founding fathers believed that every individual should work to build a better life for themselves and, in return, this would build a better society. Our early leaders shaped our country’s strategy as outlined in The Wealth of Nations. This classic essay on governing was written by Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith in 1776 – the year the United States became a country. The book is one of the world’s first collected descriptions of what builds local and national wealth. ?The Wealth of Nations it is still a fundamental work in classical economics.
Early economic theorists note that people generally, neither intended to promote the public interest, nor knew how much an individual was promoting it. They believed that man intended only his own gain, and that he was led by a moral compass, an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
Take gold rush-era businessman Horace Tabor, for example. The Tabors made their fortune setting up shop in a succession of mining camps filling the need for supplies. Then, with his new wealth, Tabor established newspapers, a bank, the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, and the Tabor Grand Opera House and the Tabor Block in Denver ventures that served his own best interest, but also benefited the public.
The Wealth of Nations laid the foundation of classic free market economic theory. Author Smith’s then-controversial writing became the precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. He developed the concept of division of labor, and expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity. As Smith notes, That is fortunate, since benevolence is often in short supply. Self-interest, on the other hand, is not.
- How would you describe benevolence?
- Who was Adam Smith?
- What was the economic vision of Americas founding fathers?
- Why is the book The Wealth of Nations still relevant today?
- In what way does the invisible hand works in your life?
Thomas Jacob Noel
We thank Thomas Jacob Noel for having the vision to preserve Colorado history with the series of Wall Street of the Rockies medallion inlays. Known as “Dr. Colorado,” Noel curated the 42 bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalks along 17th Street from Larimer to Broadway as part of the Denver Public Art Program.
Noel is a Professor of History and Director of Public History, Preservation & Colorado Studies at the University of Colorado Denver. He is also director of the Center for Colorado Studies at the Denver Public Library and the author or co-author of 50 books. He appears regularly as Dr. Colorado.