Friday, January 31, 2014

Learning From Adam Smith

Ian Buckley, (Emeritus Faculty, The Australian National University) posts an interesting article: HERE  [Last accessed 1 February. 11 am]
Learning from Adam Smith - Help at Hand Today: an essay on How the World’s Economies Might be Justly Optimised”.
This is an interesting essay even for beginners studying Adam Smith and would benefit to some ‘old hands’ too.  The first 25 pages of 44 are devoted to a well- written, fairly comprehensive account of aspects of Wealth Of Nations, complete with copious and well-chosen quotations from Smith’s historical account of the evolution of commercial society from pre-history to the 18th -19th century, including Britain’s and other European countries’ Empires. 
This covers a lot of ground and for many readers may be new, at least in its coverage in one short essay.
Ian Buckley writes well and clearly, qualities not always found in this area.
The second theme is an account of the beginning of the end of colonialism marked by the recommendations by Smith at the end of Wealth Of Nations (see the very last paragraph). But no European governments followed his advice, including London after its arrogance lost it its first empire and immediately embarked on seizing its second Empire (West Indies, South Africa, India, South-East Asia, Australia, the Pacific and Canada).  The over-reaching phenomenon of Empire building and its associated historical rivalries led to much waste of blood and treasure on war preparations that diverted much capital (fuelled by taxation and borrowing), and especially so by the First and Second World wars in the 20th century.
Ian Buckley is masterly in his use of politico-historical sources that led up to the First World War in this section, which I am sure will be informative for many readers of Lost Legacy.
Now, Britain is in its twilight years and continues to assume a world military role that it can hardly afford the billions required.  UK politicians have learned nothing and tend to regard its past glories as solid evidence that it plays a world role today and will do so tomorrow. Instead of becoming a beacon for world moral leadership with its humanitarian impulses and standard-setting, and democratic institutions, it chooses to assume its continuing role by sullying the positive sides of its historical reputation and its example.
Adam Smith had a lot to say about Britain’s potential place in the world that is worth reading, ‘warts and all’.   Ian Buckley’s essay in a good place for readers to start their reflection of what we can learn from Adam Smith.


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