Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Snigger on Me...I'll Loosen Up...

Hume’s Ghost’in his Blog, The Daily Doubter ("Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." – Voltaire’) writes (19 October) HERE:

Communist Adam Smith on spreading the wealth'

"Servants, labourers, and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged." - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations Bk. 1, Ch.8

[More precisely it's: WN I.viii.36: p 96]

To which I posted a comment, taking it seriously:

“I am surprised that you equate Adam Smith’s concern for the relative position of labouring people in society and their families with a ‘communist’ view.

Smith believed that commercial economies, if allowed to grow by the use of sufficient of the revenues from business for investment in productive enterprises (those that sold their output and recovered their costs, plus a profit), instead of spending the bulk of their revenues on non-productive activities – prodigality in consumption, wasted government expenditure on wars for trivial ends such as dynastic successions of princes, colonies, and ‘jealousy of trade’- would enable employment to expand year-on-year and thereby permit labourers to participate in the trend to opulence.

Now his language may have been antiquated by today’s standards and as there was no welfare state or even a call for the redistribution of income (except from fairly active charities), nevertheless this view formed an important part of his Wealth Of Nations.

Read the quotation in context and sample commonly held views to the contrary of Smith’s about keeping workers on low wages to induce them to work longer hours, and so on.

Smith a communist? No! He was a man of ‘humanity

To which ‘Hume’s Ghost’ replies (20 October):

Hume's Ghost said...

“It was sarcasm, dude.”

Oh, dear!


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