Monday, January 19, 2009

Adam Smith redux

Gavin Kennedy at Adam Smith's Lost Legacy, a site I was unfamiliar with but which, based on my short perusal so far, is a site well worth reading, has a comment on my earlier post about Adam Smith. Gavin's comments are correct, I agree with what he has to say, although I believe that my main point still holds.

Basically, the passage I quoted went on at some length to the effect that the merchant and manufacturer are much better situated in knowledge and experience than are either the laborer or the country farmer to manipulate government policy to his or her advantage. Gavin's point was that while that was perhaps quite true in Smith's day, it is much less so today. All three of Smith's orders of men are today quite savvy at manipulating government policy to their advantage.

I did not mean to suggest that the merchant's and manufacturers still have that advantage as a general rule. My intended points were two fold. One point was that Smith's claim that the interests of the merchant and manufacturer are more often than not at odds with the interests of society as a whole and the general welfare of the nation. Adopting the policies and proposals of this order of men and women without very careful scrutiny is as foolish a move today as it was in Smith's time. Yet we have spent much of the past eight years doing exactly this foolish thing. Secondly, I wanted to advance Smith's other point that the proposals of the merchant and manufacturing class should be met with long study, close scrutiny and a healthy dose of skepticism. I would agree with Gavin's commentary to the extent of saying that the important practice is to address all proposals from any part of society with a healthy dose of critical review.

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