Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Adam Smith and Capitalism

Paul Martin writes 'It isn't capitalism, it's greed' for Revolution Radio HERE:

What we have is a bunch of greedy people who we, the people, have elected to office. Keep in mind that Adam Smith who created the capitalist system (just as Karl Marx created the socialist and communist systems that redistribute wealth) said that capitalism was a profit-motivated form of economics. He made it very clear that when greed became the driving factor behind an economy, it was not capitalism at work. It was greed.”

Comment
Much as I admire the life’s work of Adam Smith, to describe him as the person ‘who created the capitalist system’ is, well, breathtaking in its sheer ignorance, much as a teenager, or younger, looks in awe at favourite celebrities.

Smith observed and described, with more than a few conceptual flourishes of great merit, but he in no way at all ‘created the capitalist system’.

Indeed, he never knew anything of ‘capitalism’, a word invented in English for the first time in 1854 (Smith died in 1790).

Philosophers do not ‘invent’ systems and nobody invented ‘capitalism’ or the ‘commercial society’ which Smith described, and which had been around since long before he was born in 1723.

It follows that Smith did not make ‘it very clear that when greed became the driving factor behind an economy, it was not capitalism at work. It was greed’.

Of the two men mentioned, Adam Smith and Karl Marx, it may surprise some readers to realise that Adam Smith was far more condemnatory of ‘merchants and manufactures’ for their monopolising behaviours, out-right scheming against the public interest, and their corruption of the legislature, than Karl Marx was of 19th-century capitalists.

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