Misled Consequences of a Views Reporter
Eric Zuese, an ‘investigative reporter’, posts (21 January) on OpED News HERE on
“The Invisible-hand of Crooks”
“This is the reality of what Adam Smith called the "invisible hand". This reality is no "invisible hand," but instead merely the hidden hand, of top organized criminals. These elite criminals, our aristocracy, buy their selected politicians, in our "democracy," in this "capitalism." Andy Denis's brilliant and devastating 2005 "The Invisible Hand of God in Adam Smith" in Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, traced the origin of the "very significant apologetic aspect to Smith": "The message is clear: what is good is good and what is bad is good as well; everything is for the best, so whatever happens rejoice, and accept." Smith himself, in 1790, explicitly heaped praise on the "all-wise Being, who directs the movements of nature," and he said that, "God himself is the immediate administrator and director" of everyone. Smith wrote, there, that, "All the inhabitants of the universe, the meanest as well as the greatest, are under the immediate care and protection of that great, benevolent, and all-wise Being, who directs the movements of nature; and who is determined, by his own unalterable perfections to maintain in it, at all times, the greatest possible quantity of happiness." He went on to urge "magnanimous resignation to the will of the great Director of the universe," and he said that, "The care of the universal happiness of all rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man." So, unquestionably, it's God's "hand." A writer like that is the perfect propagandist for the aristocracy; so, his career was financed by them, and they still spread his fabrication. They call it "the free market." Of course, back then, buying and selling slaves was a booming part of it. That's how "free" it really was.
Is this updated feudalism really just fascism, not "capitalism," at least not any democratic form of capitalism? Is it just a Big Lie?
Whose hand is it, really, that's secretly rummaging through our pockets, while we would get life imprisonment for stealing just a millionth of what they have already filched?
And celebrations are held in their honor? Why? Who is paying for this party?”
Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" of Crooks is tendentious.
Part III of Moral Sentiments was added to TMS in Smith’s final revision, published in January 1790, some months before his death after the ms went to his publisher in December 1789 which was long delayed after his fifth edition, 1781 (see Smith’s apologetic correspondence with his publisher). It also contained much of his revisionary editing of his earlier expressions with open and subtle and retractions of his declining religious faith, instigated from during his days at Oxford 1740-46.
In TMS Part III, pp. 109-78, Smith describes the two sources of the ‘Sense of Duty’ in mankind, ‘Nature’ and the ‘Will of a Devine Deity’. Smith was careful all of his life to avoid antagonizing the considerable powers of the religious zealots, then active in the Church of Scotland and known for their disruptive powers over those who, in their theologically narrow views’ could, and did, cause personal problems for signs of deviation from their strict interpretations of biblical doctrine. [For more detailed treatments, see my paper, “The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology”, Journal of the History of Economic Theory, September 2011, and my chapter in “Adam Smith on Religion”. 2013. Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith, eds. Berry, Paganelli, Smith, Oxford University Press].
In consequence, when Andy Dennis, a formidable young intellectual, who teaches in London and has written widely and deeply on Adam Smith (we have met and discussed his work at UK History of Economic Theory seminars, which encounters were always conducted with the proper scholastic proprieties, and both of us remain unconvinced by each other’s arguments), is quoted by Eric Zuese, an ‘investigative reporter’, he accepts Andy’s statements without question.
I am bound to say that Zuese apparently has probably not read TMS and explored what Smith was really saying, and has simply accepted what Andy wrote in his brilliant published PhD, in the appropriate context of Smith’s circumstances in a clerically dominated 18th-century, Scottish society.
In the chapter quoted by Andy Dennis, Smith discusses the ‘rule of duty’ in human behaviour and identifies the “coarse clay of which the bulk of mankind is formed, cannot be wrought up to such perfection”, and thereby requires “general rules” to guide conduct.
Smith discusses men in how societies “during the ignorance and darkness with pagan superstition” of religious ideas of their fear of “mysterious invisible beings”, called “upon Jupiter to be witness of the wrongs that was done to him”. Smith originally analysed this mystical phenomenon in his 1744 essay on the “History of Astronomy” (published posthumously in 1795). He added in 1790:
“And thus religion, even in its rudest form, gave a sanction to the rules of morality, long before the age of artificial reasoning and philosophy. That the terrors of religion should thus enforce the natural sense of duty, was of too much importance to the happiness of mankind, for nature to leave it dependent upon the slowness and uncertainty of philosophical researches”. (TMS III.5.4:164].
With the replacement of pagan superstition in parts of Europe, the revealed religion of the New Testament took over reinforcing what ‘”Nature” had prescribed inadequately in its execution and replaced it with the religion of a single (also invisible) Deity.
Smith described the role of that religious single Deity but, as is typical throughout the last 6th edition of TMS, presents this knowledge very carefully, not absolutely.
“Since these, therefore, were plainly intended to be the governing principles of human nature, the rules which they prescribe are to be regarded as the commands and laws of the Deity, promulgated by those vice-regents which he has thus set up within us.”
Note that Smith alludes to ‘the rules of nature” that have now become “to be regarded as the commands and laws of the Deity” and decidedly are not “the commands and laws of the Deity”. This is an example of many other similar qualifying terms that avoids Smith’s embarrassment of conflicting with and, thereby, raising the hue and cry of the ever vigilant vigilante-like zealots (during Smith’s time at Glasgow, as both student and professor, the zealots in the Glasgow Presbytery charged three Professors of Moral Philosophy with heresy and hauled them before them to answer the charges).
Near his death-bed in January 1790, Smith was free of that threat but if he believed in Christian religion he would have been aware that he was supposedly about to meet his maker. However, his conduct was not risky for a defiant non-believer!
Readers who seek more comments on the quotations from Smith’s TMS selected by Eric Zuese (or Andy Dennis) should consult my above-mentioned papers in JHET and the Oxford Handbook.
As to the implied nonsense about “financed by the aristocracy” and “fascism”, by a so-called ‘investigative reporter’, I respectfully suggest that he does a lot more “investigative” work into the Works and times of Adam Smith before moralising negatively about a long dead person who cannot answer back.