The other things Adam Smith believed

September 21, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

I keep reading inane statements about how the world will simply take care of itself if only we get rid of government. Here is merely the latest example.

I’d like to counter this tidal wave of free market fundamentalism with the following quotes by the man the free market fundamentalists put on their pedestal: Adam Smith

“Sympathy . . . cannot, in any sense, be regarded as a selfish principle.”

“[These laws come] from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it”.

“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

“This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful . . . is, at the same time, the greatest and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

“Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. The affluence of the rich supposes the indigence of the many.”

People of the same trade seldom meet together but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some diversion to raise prices.

“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.”

“Every tax, however, is, to the person who pays it, a badge, not of slavery, but of liberty.”

“Of the origin of Ambition and the distinction of Ranks”, e.g. “It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow that we make parade of our riches and conceal our poverty. … [I]t is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty.”

See also, this post discussing Frans De Waal’s criticism of free market fundamentalism.


Category: Economy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tony Coyle says:

    Adam Smith, as one of the Scottish Enlightenment, is recognized (in his homeland, at least) as demnstrating those qualities Scots find valuable:

    fiscal prudence

    social conscience

    intellectual rigor

    honest dealing

    His writings are not a 'free market bible', unless of course you are reading them as many fundamentalist people read the bible – the elements that support their particular biases are factual, the others are parables at best.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Eliot Spitzer:

    "The entire rationale behind self-regulation was that we could trust the good judgment of the investment banks: They would behave well because it would be in their interest to behave well. The record of the past decade is patently clear: They can't be trusted to do this. But as the banks lobby once again to be released from even the meager rules that were passed, and Congress seems intent on releasing them, it bears asking: Where is the evidence they ever showed the restraint or discipline that is incumbent on a self-regulated sector?"

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