Monday, March 28, 2005

Adam Smith's Lost Legacy is picked up on other Blogs!

Truck and Barter is an active Blog (www.truckandbarter.com), roughly in the smithian tradition.
First the comments from Turck and Barter, then mine:

March 26, 2005
Truck, Barter
By Kevin
Much of what I have read lately references the words of Adam Smith that inspired this blog's name.
THIS division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends that general opulence to which it gives occasion. It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility; the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.
Adam Smith - An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 1776. Book I, Chapter 2
In his 1964 SEA address, What Should Economists Do? ($) James Buchanan quotes Smith's text, and get's right to it:
Somewhat surprisingly, it seems to me, the relevance and the significance of this "propensity to truck, barter, and exchange" has been overlooked in most of the exegetical treatments of Smith's work. But surely here is his answer to what economics or political economy is all about.
Economists "should" concentrate their attention on a particular form of human activity, and upon the various institutional arrangements that arise as a result of this form of activity. Man's behaviour in the market relationship, reflecting the propensity to truck and barter, and the manifold variations in structure that this relationship can take; these are the proper subjects for the economist's study.
In other words, study what people do to make economic activity successful. Notice that Buchanan cuts off "exchange" for rhetorical effect. I've noticed that many others routinely do this.
Via AL Daily, we now find Gavin Kennedy using the phrase to describe what Adam Smith really meant:
He saw society as becoming naturally harmonious through the intense dependence of each person on the labour of every other person and taught that the propensity to "truck, barter and exchange" led to people serving their own interests best by serving the interests of others from whom they needed daily necessities.
That is his true legacy, the melding of his moral sentiments with liberty, justice and his economics. It is time his legacy was claimed back.
As I wrote last year, I still think a closer, scholarly look at why Smith uses all three words is warranted.

My comments:

I welcome the challenge to incite a scholarly look at this famous passage, and I wondered why you clipped Smith's words for your Blog. Interpretations of this passage feature strongly in my book, "Adam Smith's Lost Legacy", chapters 22-24, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Exchange does not require an equality in an exchange transaction and nor should it imply a fraud by either party. We negotiate because at the moment of the transaction both parties value the items in exchange differently. Inter-personal comparisons of utility are neither possible nor necessary. Each person offers in exchange that which is valued less for what is valued more. Your gain is not my loss; my gain is not your loss.
This is central to Smith's legacy.

Gavin Kennedy 27 March 2005

Friday, March 25, 2005

What or who should be the real target?

What or who is the real target?

From Dr Eamonn Butler, Director
Adam Smith Institute, 23 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BL, UK
E-mail eamonn.butler@adamsmith.org - Visit us online at www.adamsmith.org
Tel +44 (0)20 7222 4995 - Fax +44 (0)20 7222 7544:

“THE SCOTTISH ARTS COUNCIL is giving a £30,000 "Creative Scotland" grant for someone to write poetry about this summer's G8 meeting in Gleneagles. No doubt it will be very moving. But if we really are riddled with poverty and injustice as the anti-globalization campaigners claim, wouldn't £30,000 of our hard-earned cash be better put to that problem instead?
http://www.creativescotland.org.uk/artists/2005/bell.htm

My colleague, Dr Madsen Pirie, has penned his own poem on it:

"I think the G8.
Is great;
But to get an Arts Council Grant,
I'd probably need to take a different slant."

(He asks if the £30,000 could be mailed to his home address.)”

Copyright of Butler and Pirie acknowledged.

A bit of Punch and Judy is always fun but beyond the banter we have to think a bit more deeply. I should declare a mild ‘interest’ here in that I attended a meeting on Wednesday in ‘deepest’ Perthshire , Scotland, on 18th century portrait painters given by Dr Stephen Lloyd, Senior Curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where Robin Bell, the recipient of the Arts Council grant was present and spoke when moving the vote of thanks, but I have never met Bell, nor spoken to him ever. I know nothing of him.

Robin Bell is quoted as saying:

“The political agenda for the past thirty years has been all about the wealth of nations. I will be writing about the health of nations. I will examine what it takes to make human beings healthy as individuals, and what makes for dysfunctional organisations both locally and internationally. It will be my job to cut through the double-talk and the cynicism that obstructs genuine goodwill. I’ll keep on asking the simple questions. The judging panel has placed quite a responsibility on me. I will do my best.”

First, I should say that for the comfortable intelligentsia, the wealth of nations is not of great importance; they already share well in the current distribution of wealth. For many millions of others, even the poorest of which in Britain, one of the richest countries on Earth, are much better off than the average – let alone the poorest – of the poorer nations in the United Nations. For the latter, fortunately a declining minority in world affairs, the wealth of nations is somewhat higher in their order of priorities than the ‘health’ of nations as experienced (it is too much to say ‘suffered’) by the comfortable intelligentsia alluded to and spoke of so eloquently by Robin Bell.

But I must make a comment on Dr Butler’s contribution, as he is Director of the prestigious Adam Smith Institute (see links). I think he is too ‘tabloid’ on this issue. We can always point to any item of government expenditure and link it to another item or need and ask ‘is this worth it?’

Now, I have no brief for the attempts by groups of demonstrators (and the violent among them) who will try to disrupt the G8 meeting in Scotland in July. The millions that will be spent protecting the G8 could be spent elsewhere in alleviating poverty rather than deterring demonstrators from wealthy countries from trying the patience of the individual police officers trying to uphold law and order. It is not as if the British political system is devoid of processes to change policies democratically (the least worse of its alternatives, evidenced by history not utopian theory).

But the protection costs for the leaders of democratic countries is the fixed cost of having democracy. By definition, the leaders of democratic countries do not choose to meet in countries, including poor countries, where law and order is attained by robust means well beyond the range of powers open to non-tyrannical governments who would ‘clear the streets’ with scores of dead and injured bodies left behind.

So £30,000 pounds for a poet (I know nothing of his credentials) writing about the issues that may be discussed by the leaders of the democratic countries from whence they come and, perhaps, the demonstrators who enjoy the freedoms of protest of which the country they intend to demonstrate within, seems not a large issue, or even a symbol of a large issue.

The millions that will be spent by public and private media services in the environs of Gleneagles make insignificant the £30,000 allocated to a poet. Yet the poet and the Scottish Arts Council receive the criticism of Dr Butler?

I have no idea of what Robin Bell will write. I would rather judge the worth of his £30,000 after I read his poems, not before.

If we object to the Scottish Arts Council spending public money in this manner, we have a remedy at the ballot box. Most of the world doesn’t. If we do not approve of demonstrators we can stay away. If we want to change the agenda of meetings of the G8 we can elect leaders who will deliver the changes we want.

What point is Dr Butler raising and how is it consistent with the legacy of Adam Smith?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What happened to moral sentiments?

From John Bartholomew's web site: www.thewelfarestatewerein.com (the best site for examples of state failure engendered by the way state administered activities are organised) there is a classic example of what is continuing to happen and worsen in the UK in this week's Blog:

"From Instructions to American Servicemen in Britain, 1942:
The British are tough. Don't be misled by the British tendency to be soft-spoken and polite.
___
They are not given to back-slapping and they are shy about showing their affections. But once they get to like you they make the best friends in the world.
___
The Briton...is... the most lawabiding citizen in the world, because the British system of justice is just about the best there is. There are fewer murders, robberies, and burglaries in the whole of Great Britain in a year than in a single large American city.
___
You will find that English crowds at football or cricket matches are more orderly and polite to the players than American crowds. If a fielder misses a catch at cricket, the crowd will probably take a sympathetic attitude. They will shout 'good try' even if it looks to you like a bad fumble. In America the crowd would probably shout 'take him out'.
___
They are good sportsmen and are quick to recognise good sportsmanship wherever they meet it.
___
It isn't a good idea to say 'bloody' in mixed company in Britain - it is one of their worst swear words.
___
The British dislike bragging and showing off.
___
In peace or war, 'God Save The King' (to the same tune as our 'America') is played at the conclusion of all public gatherings such as theater performances. The British consider it bad form not to stand at attention, even if it means missing the last bus. If you are in a hurry, leave before the national anthem is played. That's considered alright.
___
On the whole, British people... are open and honest. If you are on furlough and puzzled about directions, money, or customs, most people will be anxious to help you as long as you speak first and without bluster. The best authority on all problems is the nearest 'bobby' (policeman) in his steel helmet. British police are proud of being able to answer almost any question under the sun. They're not in a hurry and they'll take plenty of time to talk to you."

For the rest of this alarming, indeed shameful, account of the world we appear to have lost and how far we are drifting from a society as envisaged by Adam Smith's vision in Moral Sentiments and what existed within my lifetime, see www.thewelfarestatewerein.com

The UK has not changed much in ten years, or even thirty years, but it sure has changed since 1942. I defy anybody to argue credibly that the aspects revealed by John Batholemew's quotations are not disturbing.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I was clearing some of the loose papers littering my office floor or rather my daughter was tidying up because she was fed up with the mess, when I came across a cutting from The Economist, for 6 December 2003. It is headed ‘Competition is all’ and reports a speech given at the Royal Society of Edinburgh by John Vickers, a distinguished academic economist and Chairman of the UK’s Office for Fair Trading.

In it he quotes two passages from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776):

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

and

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

However an anonymous journalist from The Economist adds his or her comments:

“The point of the first quotation is to say that self-interest, unco-ordinated except by the invisible hand (that is by competition) promotes the public good. The second says, in contrast that producers set out to subvert competition unless they are somehow prevented from doing so. So the first remarks is broadly sympathetic to the principle of laissez faire, whereas the second apparently takes the opposite view.”

Anybody unversed in Adam Smith’s legacy would get entirely the wrong idea of his economics from the three errors in the journalist’s comments.

The exchange with the butcher, the brewer and the baker has no connection to laissez faire (never mentioned anywhere in Wealth of Nations). It is about how people exchange what they have for what they want, and they do so, not by promoting their own self-interest but by serving the self-interest of others. You cannot get what you want without giving others what they want. This is the meaning of the human propensity to exchange: ‘Give me some of what I want and I will give you some of what you want.’ This is known as negotiation, a universal behaviour among human kind.

The invisible hand is only mentioned once in Wealth of Nations (in Book IV, whereas the exchange principle is discussed in Book I), it has become iconic of Smith’s economics not because it was a major principle – nor even a minor one - of his approach. It never was important, and in all his writings it is mentioned only three times as a metaphor in different contexts of ‘unintended consequences’ (once when Smith discusses pagan religious superstition!).

That the second quotation is ‘apparently’ broadly unsympathetic to laissez faire is an understatement. Smith was never sympathetic to laissez faire (a maxim of some leading French economists of the time) and his second statement does not contradict his views. Smith was hostile in Wealth of Nations on numerous occasions (far too many to cite here) to the monopolising and anti-competitive proclivities of ‘merchants and manufacturers’.

The harmful effects of monopoly are a constant message that he repeats over and over. That fact alone should have alerted the journalist from The Economist to the possibility that he or she was incorrect in implying that there was a contradiction here between the two passages. Of course, not having read Professor Vickers’ speech I cannot assert that he was the source of the error.

* By the way, Adam Smith was a founding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783. For respect, if nothing else, reports of Annual Public lectures at RSE should present Adam Smith’s views accurately.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Gavin Kennedy's Book Launch Address

Adam Smith: address by Professor Kennedy in the Raeburn Room, University of Edinburgh, 15 March 2005, for the book launch

Adam Smith could not foresee that 215 years after his death in 1790, it would be necessary to welcome a book defending his intellectual legacy in the splendid setting of the Raeburn Room, with its portraits of Professors Robertson and Ferguson, of whom he made sour assessments.

I approached my task as the author of Adam Smith’s Lost legacy with a high degree of humility, though, I must confess, not a little indignation. In it, I criticise distinguished members of my discipline and for that I was angered: how could so many of them get Smith so wrong?

Reading Adam Smith many years after graduating in economics, I was struck by the uplifting nature of his thinking in Moral Sentiments, and how striking and rich was the Wealth of Nations, compared to what they have been reduced to since 1776.

Of his Moral Sentiments, the profession, with few exceptions, ignored it altogether. In the process, the legatees of a Moral Philosopher became, first, Professors of Political Economy, then Professors of Economics, and finally today, in all but name, devotees of a sub-branch of applied mathematics. What happened to moral sentiments? What happened to Natural Liberty? What happened to the Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy?

Smith warned against arranging people as if they were wooden pieces on a chess board, moved at will by theorists (and fanatics), who forgot that every single person moved through life entirely under their own volition. Modern economists have substituted the arguments of their equations for the very essence of real societies peopled by real individuals.

Smith took the long historical view. That is why Wealth of Nations is so long. Many find it ‘hard going’ and itch to reduce it to a few, albeit, elegant equations. I think of it as a one-man Royal Commission, reporting evidence and conclusions drawn from two thousand years of classical history and from the thousand years it took Europe to recover from the fall of Rome.

This is where the Moral Philosopher, the Constitutional Lawyer and the Political Economist should begin their quest to understand what Smith was about. The growing commercial societies of the 17th and 18th centuries were not something ‘new’ to Smith – they were, and remain, new only to those unversed in the Smithian Long view. For Smith, the ‘new’ commerce was a rebirth of the very old commerce that featured in classical Rome and Greece, and continued in India and China in his day, while, as John Locke expressed it, all of the rest of the world was ‘like the Americas’: savage, primitive, and without even farming or flocks.

Smith knew nothing of ‘capitalism’ (a word not invented until the 19th century);
he did not favour laissez faire; he was suspicious of ‘merchants and manufacturers’;
he held landlords in contempt; he knew nothing of the industrial revolution;
and he raged against the prodigality of governments that fought wars over trifles and passed laws on behalf of special interests that inhibited the growth of the real wealth of nations.

The despoilers of Smith’s legacy have taken bits of his ideas and applied them as if they automatically translated into prescriptions for modern capitalist economies, of which he knew nothing. They dropped everything else in his legacy, which for Smith was an indivisible whole.

Moral Sentiments is about the propensity to harmonisation of personal relations in society, first within families, then among friends and acquaintances and finally to complete strangers. As the spheres of influence of individual overlap – those who are strangers to each of us are themselves the family and friends of other strangers whose families and friends eventually overlap with ours. The Impartial Spectator within us all sets boundaries to wilful immoral and amoral disorders, and through which we share the ‘gift to gie us, to see ourselves as ithers see us.’

Jurisprudence – from his lectures at the University of Glasgow – is about the emergence of law and personal liberty over many millennia to protect property from the depredations of others through an independent system of justice, monitored by the Impartial Jurist, under the rule of law, Habeas Corpus and representative government.

Wealth of Nations is about the propensity for humans to ‘truck, barter and trade’ and the benefits that flow in abundance whenever conditions are conducive. Ensuring that conditions are conducive to trade is the key to the growth in wealth and to the spread of opulence to all levels of society, especially those of the labouring poor, the main victims of poverty in 18th century Britain.

For wealth to flourish, you need Impartial Competition, free of monopoly, price rigging, barriers to trade and restrictive practices. Those who read that admonition as a cry for laissez-faire, free of all restraint, no matter how dangerous their processes, nor how they exploit those unable to protect themselves, waste Smith’s legacy.

For wealth to flourish in the long run you need State intervention, paid for either by its beneficiaries (tolls; dare I say from ‘congestion charges’?) or by taxation; local taxes for street lighting, and national taxes for defence, education and health. But be clear. He did not have much faith in the government managing anything other than the collection of the taxes, and he left the issue of who shall manage – public commissioners or private entrepreneurs? – subject only to the Principle of Utility, i.e., whichever system worked best. Those who demand state funded state employment only and whatever the state dictates, waste Smith’s legacy.

It remains to correct an unforgivable lapse in my acknowledgements in the book. That Professor Sir Alan Peacock played a large role in the gestation of my book is well known. I also mention my grateful thanks to Professors Lumsden, Main, O’Farrell, Scott, Skinner, Simpson, Thompson, and, even, to an anonymous referee.

But what I did not do is acknowledge my debts in time and stress to my wife, the real sufferer from life with a grumpy author. So please permit me to make amends here and now by saying that all my books, including this one, are, like me, dedicated to Patricia.

Gavin Kennedy

Monday, March 14, 2005

How ‘Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy’ came to be written

The fact that my books appear, at first sight, to be on two widely different subjects – one reconciling differences peacefully and the other preparing to reconcile differences violently - my approach to both subjects began coincidentally with an exposition of ideas from Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776).

From Smith’s Book 1, I took the exchange model of negotiation (‘nobody has ever seen two dogs negotiate over bones’; ‘a certain propensity in human nature … to truck, barter, and exchange’; ‘give me some of what I want and I will give you some of what you want’). I incorporated Smith’s trading concepts after several years’ field research observing live negotiations in business. I define negotiation as:

‘the process by which we obtain what we want from somebody who wants something from us’.

On that proposition in 1987, I founded an international consultancy, Negotiate Ltd (www.negotiate.co.uk), based on the identification from my field research of the common Phases (‘8 Steps’) of negotiation that are universal across all cultures during 1972-4.

From Book V, I took Smith’s exposition of the first duty of the Sovereign, ‘that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, [which] can be performed only by means of a military force.’ I read this concept of Smith’s (plus ‘defence is more important than opulence’) after being asked by Professor (later Lord) John Vaizey to stand-in for an absent colleague who was due to give a series of lectures on the economics of defence at the National Defence College, Latimer. With only a couple of days to prepare, I consulted the Wealth of Nations, but found next to nothing in the NDC library on the economics of defence. In 1975, I wrote one of the earliest UK books on defence economics.

From such an ‘accidental’ start, I played a minute role in the Cold War, educating military officers, politicians and civil servants in the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA on the validity of allocating scarce resources to defence expenditures, even though other socially worthy, but less pressing, ends competed for the same funds.

By the late 1980s, I had read Smith’s Wealth of Nations for the first time. Fortuitously, with my voluntary retirement from the Cold War, I had time to spare, at least for a short while, and I started dipping into the literature on the Wealth of Nations, eventually extending my reading to Smith’s earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

What I found disturbed me. Up to then I had accepted what ‘every economist knew’ about Adam Smith: he was inter alia the ‘Father’ of modern economics, he advocated ‘laissez faire’, he was the ‘High Priest of Capitalism’, he established his economics on the principle of selfishness, he favoured the smallest possible ‘night watchman’ State and he was an unsentimental realist relying on the eventual public good of the ‘invisible hand’. But by the 1990s I intended to write about the discrepancies between what ‘every economist knew and believed’, including me, until I read his books and discovered he had written otherwise.

At the start of the 21st century, a publisher’s editor asked me if I would be interested in writing a book on Adam Smith’s ‘philosophy’ for ‘A’ level and first year university students. I agreed with some enthusiasm but negotiations with the owner of the publishing company degenerated into bad tempered disorder when I asked a couple of innocently routine minor questions about asserting my moral rights as an author (as permitted by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), which he claimed to be indicative, perish the thought, of me being a ‘troublesome author’! .

We never got to the money. I wondered if I was to blame, after all I was an experienced professional negotiator (at least I got paid handsomely for what I knew about negotiation) and I wondered if there was something applying to negotiators analogous to a lawyer being advised never to defend himself in court.

However, by the time these unhappy months concluded, I was already working on the scope of what become the ‘Lost Legacy’, and did not feel like putting it aside. So, the ‘Adam Smith Project’ got underway, without a publisher, in my spare time and without funding. Researching and writing became something I did in whatever time I could muster from my ‘day job’ at Edinburgh Business School. In time, even my day job, which already stretched into evenings and weekends, was intruded upon by my wandering attention as I read through a vast literature.

When I had compiled a thematic outline, a number of draft chapters and the elements of a draft manuscript, I circulated them to colleagues and to an Author’s agent (wishing to avoid repeating the first unhappy experience). Academic colleagues were enthusiastic. The Authors’ Agent was not. She reported fairly, I soon realised, that my outline was ‘too academic’, ‘read like recycled lecture notes’, and ‘would not be commercial’. She prompted what was the first of several re-drafts.

I had hoped to publish ‘Lost legacy’ in Edinburgh. This seemed an appropriate ambition, not because I felt ‘Lost Legacy’ had prospects only for purely local sales. Far from it. Books on Adam Smith enter a potential global market, evidenced by the number of publishers of ‘Adam Smith’ books in North America and the UK and by the dispersal of Smithian scholars writing in the professional journals from universities in North America, Australia, Europe and Japan.

By 2003 I had a workable draft and decided it was time to approach publishers on my own account. I tried a couple of Edinburgh publishers. They were polite and helpful but ‘Lost Legacy’ fell outside their plans because they did not think they could ‘make it work’ (concurring with the Literary Agent’s assessment). I then tried some London publishers; after all I had published about 20 books with London houses since 1980. Again failure – always stated with impeccable politeness.

The problem appeared to be either that ‘Lost Legacy’ covered several themes – a bit of biography, bits of philosophy, law and economics, and did not ‘fit easily into their lists’, or, as one distinguished (and friendly) publisher put it, ‘your book expresses the view that Adam Smith was opposed to laissez faire and this narrows the market for it because those who want to believe that he favoured laissez faire won’t buy it.’ Fair comment - candour in affairs of business, and affaires de cœur - is always the best policy.

If people who know their business give advice it is often a good idea to listen carefully. I listened and as a result I re-wrote the manuscript several times in different styles. I took footnote references off the page; I refrained from making comments in them; I broke the original eight long chapters into what became 57 short ones; I took one, admittedly rambling, chapter out and placed a shorter version as an appendix; I dropped several long explanations of some themes; simplified or summarised others; I cut down on some of my more polemical remarks, and, in editing the ms, I removed over 20,000 words net, losing some carefully contrived turns of phrase, e.g., ‘rumour is the mother of belief’.

In early 2004, Professor Sir Alan Peacock kindly mentioned ‘Lost Legacy’ to Palgrave Macmillan, the academic publishers with a strong economics list, and said it was worth reading by an editor. In due course, contact was made with Amanda Hamilton, Palgrave’s commissioning editor in economics, and she sent the manuscript to be refereed. The anonymous referee’s report was positive and included several pages of comments on errors he or she had noticed, suggestions for clarification of certain sentences or paragraphs, some recent work I had not commented upon when I should have, and mentioned a few comments I should leave out. All of which was excellent advice (I recognised a soul mate, interested in Adam Smith’s works from a detailed knowledge of the subject). I took his or her advice, except for one item on the dating of when young Adam Smith began his essay on the ‘History of Astronomy’ (Chapter 3, ‘Lost Legacy’).

When the contract arrived for signature, I decided to sign it without reading it in case we got sidetracked again. Either you deal with reputable publishers whom you can trust or you deal with those whom you cannot (especially if they open by denying you your legal rights!).

Many will be surprised at my apparent recklessness with Palgrave, who acted from the beginning with professional integrity. Lost Legacy had taken three years by then to write and numerous years before then to conceive. I had some few months left before Palgrave wanted the printable ms delivered (time for another rewrite?) and I did not consider the money at stake to be worth the effort and risks.

The cover was the last problem. Over recent years I have accumulated a fairly large library of books by or on Adam Smith and I am familiar with most covers on Adam Smith books. My original idea was for an 18th century street market scene; after all these were the markets that Smith wrote about. Professor Alan Thompson suggested I visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery where Dr Stephen Lloyd is Senior Curator and is an expert on 18th century prints.

I still preferred the market scene theme but in the course of my visit to the Gallery, Dr Lloyd showed me the original Tassie medallions of Smith’s image. I had recognised from illustrated books on Smith the remarkable similarity of Tassie’s image of Smith with the only known portrait of Smith’s mother. When Dr Lloyd showed me a photograph of the Museum’s 1787 Tassie medallion of Smith, it was striking, far more so than the object itself in its case.

The Tassie has been used many times on book covers but never so well as in the photograph in the Gallery’s files now on the cover of Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy. The problem is that most representations of the Tassie image are left with the heavy black frame that holds the original piece. Also, most reproductions from the original are taken from above, the lighting flattening the shapes and shadows of Smith’s face. The best effect is when the face is lit from the side. The Gallery’s photographers have faithfully captured this image, allowing Palgrave’s designers to produce one of the best Smith book covers of any I have seen.

Incidentally, after all details of the book and its cover were completed but before publication, I received a copy of Samuel Fleischacker’s On Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations: a philosophical companion (Princeton University Press, 2004) covered with a beautiful coloured print of Covent Garden Market in 1737 (Balthazar Nebot, Tate Gallery, London). It is quite stunning.

But I am glad that Dr Lloyd showed me what could be done with the Tassie medallion. I hope that the Nebot market and the Tassie medallion signal a new, higher level in cover designs for books on Smith. Both these books certainly set new standards in their covers, and having read Fleischacker’s book, I am convinced that the contents of both books suggest that the re-establishment of Adam Smith’s reputation for what he did write is assured.


14 March 2005