Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Look At Adam Smith from a Different Angle?

John Médaille writes in The Distributist Review (here) (26 December): “Taxes: Advice from Adam Smith

When considering any subject relevant to government and economics, I always like to consult Adam Smith. Now, there are many who would disagree with this. Smith gets attacked from both the right and the left, usually for all the wrong reasons. Worse, he gets “defended” for all the wrong reasons; his “supporters” often attribute to him opinions he never held and against which he used his strongest arguments. For example, Smith was not a mindless supporter of “big business,” but in fact fulminated against it. For more on this theme, see my The Forgotten Agrarian: On Rereading Adam Smith. It may be Smith's fate to be among the most often quoted but least actually read of the modern philosophers.

It is not that I consider Smith infallible, but I usually find him sensible, and even when he is wrong or incomplete, he usually highlights the correct issues. In Book V of the Wealth of Nations, Smith has an extensive discussion of taxation, one that still serves us well today. Smith begins his discussion by laying out four maxims by which any particular tax can be judged.”

My advice is to read this lively piece from someone with a different angle to what regular readers of Adam Smith will be used to.

It is also a useful test of your knowledge of Wealth Of Nations and early 19th century classical economics.

Can you see where John Médaille may be misled by the terms of the ‘ground rent’ debate? What do you think of his criticism of ‘flat tax’ proposals?


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