ADAM SMITH AND SLAVERY
Harry Shamir posts (26 October) on Wicked Local Marion HERE
“Slaves were plentiful in Adam Smith's time. With all the emphasis on labor as the source of all riches, he does not mention slaves.
Slaves were plentiful in Adam Smith’s* time. Irish slaves were in greater number than African slaves in North America. Plain English poor people were forced to indenture themselves as servants for years on end. With all the emphasis on labor as the source of all riches, he does not mention slaves. Best ignored, lest people begin thinking about the vast amount of customers lost to every business since slaves of all origins had no wherewithal to buy anything. (* I am rereading Adam Smith, the 17th century author of “...On The Wealth Of Nations,” truly difficult to read – needs be studied, no alternative. Cliff Notes help. )
In the 1600s mercantilism reigned, another mind-restricted concept claiming it is the government’s income that must be maximized if the country is to be great (a noise-word again heard these days). Yea, “great,” as in lots of guns, at the expense of butter and all else. Yea, “great,” in A.S.’s days the great ability to kill competitors using young soldiers before people die off at an average age of 35. “Great,” as in lots to be afraid of. It took an Industrial Revolution to increase life length a bit, and a social revolution led by our own youth in the 1960s to make. society wise up to “great.” In part. Temporarily. Tentatively.”
The root of all evil is money! A truism from ancient days. ‘Tis time to recognize its message and modify its impact.
I was drawn to Harry Shamir’s post by its opening paragraph where he makes a clear assertion that Smith “does not mention slaves”. How true is Harry’s assertion?
Not very true at all. In fact it is quite untrue:
In Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) he discusses slavery 12 times. In his Lectures on Jurisprudence (1762-3) Smith mentions slavery 38 times. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) he mentions slavey once.
Whereas slaves had no money, and they remained slaves for life and their labour was unpaid (though it cost the slave masters their low subsistence), indentured people did have some little money from agreeing to be indentured for a fixed term of years.
Smith never visited the America’s nor had he knowledge of the slavery of Africans, nor how it matched that of the numbers of indentured Irish (or Scottish/Welsh/English) people. Slavery was illegal in Scotland - indenture wasn’t.
Smith was a leading critic of ‘mercantalism’ and colonialism (see Wealth of Nations, Books III and IV), and the wars they created.
The ‘industrial Revolution’ was a 19th century phenomenon in Britain - that is after Smith had died in 1790. It was named as such and then backdated to the 1760s, though neither Smith and others noticed the phenomenon. Smith did notice and criticise the prevalance of Europen wars, much of it over trade and colonies.
Smith lived and wrote in the 18th century, not the 17th century.
I suggest that Harry carries on with his reading of Adam Smith.
By the way: "The root of all evil is money!" says Harry. In fact the CORRECT saying is: "The love of money is the root of all evil".