Saturday, August 23, 2008

A False Summary of Adam Smith is Published

Publishing ventures that seek to milk cash cows have their uses. Corrupting their authors' intentions ought not to be one of them.

In the Business Standard 23 August, New Delhi, a new series is announced of short summaries of 100 pages that 'explain' ideas from classical texts at popular, low prices HERE:

Adam Smith’s The Invisible Hand has been extracted from his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Because he hasn’t been read carefully, Adam Smith has been projected as an advocate of laissez faire who opposed any effort by a government to control self-interested activities of individuals that led to exploitation. This interpretation is false because one of Smith’s constant themes is that the unintended consequences of good intentions are often bad: the mysterious “invisible hand” provides a corrective. Smith’s dictum is simple: proper reasoning does not infallibly lead men to proper conduct.”

It sure is a ‘mysterious invisible hand’ that ‘provides a corrective’ that also manages to mangle two ideas – Adam Smith was not an advocate of laissez-faire (TRUE) but he advocated the ‘invisible hand’ instead (NONSENSE).

Governments fail in attempting to lead individuals to ‘proper conduct’ (TRUE) and ‘proper reason does not infallibly lead men to proper conduct’ (TRUE), therefore leave it to the ‘mysterious invisible hand’ (NONSENSE).

Society can prevent ‘improper conduct’ by the rule of law (justice), not men – do not legislate for restrictions, monopolies, and tariffs.

Dismantle – gradually and with due consideration for their immediate affects – the mercantile political economy which is hostile to competitive trade. The only case for notional tariffs is to raise revenue for necessary public expenditure where other sources are not available.

How many readers of this series will understand Adam Smith from reading it?



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