Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hyperbole About Adam Smith

‘Alhwang’ (?) writes:

“Adam Smith was a big proponent of free market economics. Some may say that he “invented” capitalism. But who invented Adam Smith? Clearly, saying that Smith invented capitalism would be a naive statement, and nobody invented Adam Smith, but it was the old tale of the Walletin spectre that scared him straight into supporting self interest and competition.”

The above is from ‘Prince Al in A Can’ Blog ('and other embarrassing stories from my childhood') HERE which you should read to follow the context.

Some may say that he ‘invented’ capitalism” is fairly common hyperbole. It’s also nonsense.

Nobody ‘invented’ capitalism, or any other social arrangements to secure subsistence. Among the people who contributed to the discovery of how to manage their resource-based survival from way back in what Adam Smith called (Lectures On Jurisprudence) the ‘first age of man’, or ‘hunting’ (he missed out the all-important role of gathering, a large female-driven occupation upon which all depended), there were no moral philosophers around to awake from their deep thinking and to pronounce the solution that worked.

And every other ‘age’ was discovered by trial, error, and experiment, and passed through the generations by multitudes of anonymous individuals.

Adam Smith never knew the phenonemon or the word ‘capitalism’, a word invented in English in 1854 and the roots of which were formed in the ‘age of commerce’ from the 15th century in Western Europe (and which was previously practiced in the classical era of Greece and Rome up to the 5th century) and before that in the middle-east, Asia, and India.


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