Friday, September 11, 2009

A Wholly Innocent Adam Smith

George Hanshaw comments on an article by Mary Lyon: “What Still Ails America” on California Progress Report HERE:

“…it's fundamental ideology at the root of all America's political "smack down" events.. it's embedded with a convoluted of view of what a society should be... for all... yet, thanks to the legacy of our founding fathers.. devoted Calvinists.. there can never be social justice here in USofA.. economic equity... certainly any thing like "national health care for all" is blasphemous if you are Calvinist. The Repig party was founded on the social construct laid down by John Calvin in 17th Century and their bible is not King James, it's "wealth of nations" written by Adam Smith, a devout Calvinist that wrote a socio-economic doctrine based on keeping separate the "chosen" and the "not chosen" .. and that is a covenant that cannot be broken in their view.”

For a rant by somebody with a forest, not a chip, on his shoulder, this is pretty strong – and wrong – stuff, at least in reference to Adam Smith.

Smith was not a “devout Calvinist” at least from 1744, when he experienced a ‘secular epiphany’ and in severe stress eventually drove the childhood demons from his mind by starting his first essay he intended for publication.

This can be read under the title, “The Principles which lead an direct Philosophical Enquiries illustrated by the History of Astronomy”, which he finished some time before 1758. It was published, at his insistence, posthumously in 1795, edited first by Joseph Black and James Hutton, his literary editors. It appeared in several editions in the 19th century (example: in 1872) and is now available from Liberty Fund in “Essays on Philosophical Subjects”, edited by W. P. D. Wightman and J. C. Bryce, Indianapolis, 1982.

For an account of the alleged religiosity of Adam Smith, see my paper: “The Hidden Adam Smith in his Religiosity” (from gavin AT gmail DOT com) (presented as a paper at the History of Economics Society Annual Conference at the University of Colorado at Denver, June 2009), which discusses the background to popular (but mistaken) views about his religious affiliations and illustrates the arguments by reference to his carefully worded, and deliberately obscurantist prose, aimed at confusing religious zealots in the Calvinist Protestant Church of Scotland to avoid the persecution aimed at his friend, David Hume.

George Hanshaw, whatever his dispute with President Obama (on which I have no view, as I only comment on current political issues in the country, Scotland, where I vote), he appears to implicate Adam Smith in a role for which he was wholly innocent.



Blogger Doleys said...

Interesting. Can Smith be called a Calvinist in very broad sense, a kind of "secular Calvinist"?
His origin at least appears to be Calvinist, what concerns his family, his mother, right?
Thanks, WD

11:57 a.m.  

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