Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Reader Sends in a Tip

Jerome J. Schmitt writes in American Thinker 3 May (HERE):

Biofuels: The lesson for Biomedicine

’SCIENCE and NATURE are the two premier world publications in science yet Al Gore assured Congress in late March that the "science is settled". Not one human has ever been harmed by "Climate Change", but we see millions of Haitians, Egyptians, Mexicans and others in the third-world now demonstrating and rioting because of US government-induced famine. The only beneficiaries of these harmful policies have been Al Gore's adherents who have profited on this misery by their "green investments". None of this would surprise Adam Smith who noted that:

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

In this case, the conspirators are the "green" industrialists seeking a "contrivance", in this case a congressional mandate, to raise bio-fuel prices for their benefit regardless of the suffering it causes to the world poor

I understand the sentiments but I am a trifle suspicious of appropriating a quotation from Adam Smith and transposing the context.

The quotation is at Wealth Of Nations (WN I.x.c.27: p 145) and is discussing the everyday consequences of the two centuries’ old legal monopoly established in Elizabeth I’s reign of local town government which placed tradesmen, artisans, and shopkeepers, in monopoly positions.

Whatever its original intentions, it resulted in local monopolies aimed at restricting competition, raising prices, and exploiting consumers. It was the legal privileges that these petty tradesmen were awarded by the government that enabled them, indeed prompted them, to engage in their nefarious practices.

The intentions of the governments may have been well meaning – raise the quality of apprenticeship training, orderly management of uncontrolled markets, good order and discipline, and such like, but they had the unintentional outcome that became a brake on innovation, slowed competing searches for lower-priced quality products, and lowered the real incomes of consumers and slowed the spread of opulence.

Where was the so-called invisible hand that the myths about Adam Smith keep proclaiming leads to social benefits and other nonsense? There are over 50 similar instances of Adam Smith pointing to the negative outcomes of self-interest in Books I and II of Wealth Of Nations – this is one of them.

[Many thanks to ‘Tom of Texas’ for the hat tip reference.]


Blogger Tom Moeller said...

Thanks for commenting on my submission. I would be inclined to see Adam Smith's words as applicable here just as "a torrent of water" would apply equally to Victoria or Iguacu Falls. The objects are different but the descriptors are apt. I find much of A.S. applicable to goings on today. While a thorough understanding of context really gives impact to correct, modern usage, I believe A.S. would approve of his simple words to illuminate an example of "conspiracy against the public."
(Here, a conspiracy is assumed, not defined.-TM)

Texas Tom Rides Again...

8:34 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home