Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adam Smith, protectionist, progressive income tax supporter and unionist

Here is a great "interview" with Adam Smith, he who is idealized by shallow libertarians and Clintonoids who think the NAFTA is just swell!

Michael Lind, who wrote the article, may have been familiar with others who have made similar points about Adam Smith, including John Kenneth Galbraith, who wrote an article on this very subject for Harper's about 30 years ago. Here is one quote from the "Wealth of Nations" that Lind missed:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” [Wealth of Nations, I.x.c.27: p 145]

Hat tip to David Brin. David believes Democrats are well-advised to re-claim Smith as our own. Perhaps. I'd like to claim Hamilton, who is very close to home. I think he'd sniff a bit at my support of unions, but I don't think a man who proposed the government regulated bank would be against government paid for health insurance...Plus, he was a big promoter of tariffs (See Federalist Paper No. 11, paragraph 3, for example).


At November 19, 2009 at 4:57:00 PM PST, Blogger MSS said...

But Hamilton was a monarchist. Oh sure, independence and all that was fine. But he wanted to recreate a monarchy. Probably someone a democrat (small d, or big, for that matter) should think twice about embracing.

At November 19, 2009 at 10:46:00 PM PST, Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Oh MSS, I must disagree. One may find a stray comment like that, but most of the time, it was Hamilton who stood for an immediate end to slavery, internal improvements, developing the economy and ensuring that the money was spread out in a decent way. He was the only Founder who truly knew what poverty was like. He was a better democrat in practice than Jefferson.

My strong recommendation is Ron Chernow's bio of Hamilton which is went through a hardcover and a soft cover edition. It was outstanding and understood Hamilton quite well.

Having said all that, Hamilton did have his cruel political spots, in the way he manipulated Adams' cabinet members, spread falsehoods about Jefferson and Burr, and double crossed John Adams. He was vain, and would likely have opposed labor unions, but would have today seen the need for a strong tariff policy, something that would make him a friend to unions.


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