Friday, March 11, 2016

Desirable but unintended consequences

From How The Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman. Page 27.
The Schools Act of 1696 had set off far-reaching changes the Kirk could never have foreseen--a good example of how social actions have unintended consequences, as Adam Smith and a later generation of Scottish thinkers so well understood. Smith observed, in his Wealth of Nations, how Scotland's parish school system taught "almost the whole common people to read, and a very great proportion of them to write and account." Today we recognize that literacy and its mathematical counterpart, numeracy, are fundamental skills for living in a complex modern society. In that sense, no other society in Europe was as broadly prepared for "takeoff" as was eighteenth-century Scotland.
The Schools Act was intended to facilitate the individual's direct connection with God through the word of the Bible but incidentally set the stage for a rare intellectual blossoming.

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