Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Good Article on Adam Smith's Actual Views on Defence

Shikha Dalmia writes in Reason (HERE): and reproduced in Bastian Institute (HERE) (Ignore the remark about John Bolton's mustache!):

“Sorry Neocons, Adam Smith Was Not One of You”

“Defense hawks seem to be hitting Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations like sophomores cramming for an exam. In the last few days, three separate hawks have invoked Smith three separate times to excoriate the potential defense cuts in the phony debt deal.

John Bolton, the Bush-era neocon whose mustache makes everything he says more menacing, pulled a passage from the book that says that “the first duty of the sovereign” is “protecting the society from the violence and invasion” to warn darkly about all the bad things that would befall America if it doesn’t keep pumping about $700 billion a year that it doesn’t have into the Pentagon (even if it just goes down the $700 toilet, presumably). Meanwhile, Brian Stewart of National Review Online and David Frum no longer of the American Enterprise Institute paraded Smith’s statement that “defense is superior to opulence” to suggest that anyone who questioned why America needs to spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined obviously has zero regard for national security.

Sadly, their interpretation of the great political economist’s magnum opus is a bit sophomoric
[Follow either link for the rest of the excellent article.]

This is a mainly excellent account of Adam Smith’s approach to defence outlays and conduct. You could also add his trenchant opposition (and implicit apology for) the Spanish and Portuguese depredations against defenceless local peoples in Central and South America, while seeking gold under the cover of exporting their version of (Catholic) Christianity.

Moreover, the very last line of Wealth Of Nations was indicative of his real advice to the British Government and the King’s Ministers, written in early 1776 before the Declaration of Independence of the British Colonies in North America:

“If any provinces of the British Empire cannot be made to contribute towards the support of the whole empire, it is surely time that Great Britain should free herself from the expense of defending these provinces in time of war, and of supporting any part of the civil and military establishments in time of peace, and endeavour to accommodate he future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances” (WIN.V.iii.92: 947).

Unfortunately, Smith’s advice was ignored and Britain went on to the expense and wasted capital in forming a second empire in Canada, Caribbean, Africa, India, South-west Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Is the USA following a similar folly?



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