Sunday, March 06, 2016

LOCAL PAPERS PICK UP A DEBATE ABOUT ADAM SMITH

Tom Hall when replying to a Mr Doug Wardwell’s letter of 3 March in “Providence Journal” opines:
Worst, he [Doug Wardwell) seems unaware that the hero and framer of the laissez-faire system he champions recognized the need for governmental oversight lest the greed and collusion of powerful special interests impair the general welfare. Adam Smith observed in "The Wealth of Nations" that "Protecting every member of society from injustice and oppression necessarily involves such issues as the abolition of slavery, rights of women, regulation of monopoly, and redistribution of income and/or wealth.
Comment
Robert Sandy comments on the above:
The quote in the letter from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, "Protecting every member of society from injustice and oppression necessarily involves such issues as the abolition of slavery, rights of women, regulation of monopoly, and redistribution of income and/or wealth" doesn't appear in that book. One could argue whether any of those sentiments might have been expressed by Smith but the quotation is obviously bogus based on the language. For example, "and/or" is not an 18th century usage….”
I too didn’t recognise the quotation attributed to Adam Smith by Tom Hall. One clear clue was the reference to laissez-faire - words that Smith never used in all of his Work and correspondece. Those words were a 19th-century invention by political writers who assumed that Smith would have used them. Instead, Smith wrote of the quite different ideas implicit in “Natural Liberty”, a conept whose properties were multi-sided to incorporate all human kind. 
Laissez-Faire, a French word, from its first use at the end of the 1680s, refered to the one-sided rights for property owners versus government inspectors, in this case to market place merchants, but not to their customers. 
In the 19th century merchants and factory owners sought to defend their powers to set labourers wages and their weekly hours of work in the new factory system and also to repeal the Corn Laws so as to reduce their labour costs. Smith’s names was used to imply that he supported these measures.

As for “rights of women” methinks that Tom Hall has jumped from the 18th century forward to the 20th century! So thank goodness that Robert Sandy was able to put him right.

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