Friday, July 01, 2005

This Month's Lost Legacy Prize

This month's "Lost legacy" prize for the most accurate use of Adam Smith's True Legacy goes to John Tammy, a Washington DC writer, for his article: "Unocal Hysteria: China's bid for the US oil firm has the usual suspects in an unwarranted lather".

Tammy's superb article is published in National Review Online (at

I quote two paragraphs from it for you to judge their quality, but you should read the whole article at National Review Online:

"People in certain quarters, those who believe in such things as “U.S. energy goals,” worry that the sale of Unocal will make us more reliant on “foreign” (Chinese oil). But there’s a great deal of history that proves this fear unfounded. In the 18th century a similar concern arose in England over the country’s ability to import gold if excluded from trade with Portugal. Adam Smith showed the folly of this kind of thinking in pointing out that “Gold, like every other commodity, is always somewhere or another to be got for its value by those who have that value to give for it.” Even if Portugal had cut off trade with England altogether, its gold would still have been “sent abroad, and though not carried away by Great Britain, would be carried away by some other nation, which would be glad to sell it again for its price.”

Future events proved the wisdom of Smith’s words. National security issues were raised during England’s Corn Law debates in the 19th century, only then they were about food. The theory among those who supported tariffs at the time was that if England’s agricultural interests were decimated by free trade, there would not be food to supply the troops or England’s citizens in times of war. The problem for those who defended the Corn Laws was that England had been at war in 1810 with nearly every European power, yet it still managed to import 1,491,000 quarters of wheat from those same European powers."

If only we had more people like John Tammy who understood what Adam Smith was about, and fewer who parrot misleading quotations and made up assertions, we would have better inputs into policies and clearer understanding of the benefits of commerce.

Congratulations, John Tammy. You won on the last day of the month. Can you (or anyone else) do better in July?


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