Banter on The Banter - Adam Smith Debate

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Ben Cohen
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Professor Gavin Kennedy challenges David Cox on his essay 'Economics The Hard Way':

Taking


the first paragraph: “Smith’s rights of man could be condensed down to


the rights of wealthy Englishmen”, I accept it as a point of view,


presumably by a US citizen, but it is, in my humble view, more than a


little unfair to Adam Smith, who, incidentally, being Scottish, would


hardly have been overly concerned with “the rights of wealthy


Englishmen”.

Smith’s Wealth Of Nations is studded with examples of his concerns
with the rights of the poor majority of British society, most of whom
were badly treated labourers, tenant farmers and landless farmhands,
with corresponding poverty-level, subsistence only, incomes.

Smith’s mocking contempt for the rich and powerful is only
restrained by the necessary proprieties of public discourse in
mid-18th-century Britain. It may be taken for granted by David Glen
Cross that under US law he is free to write and speak as he pleases to
a degree that was not enjoyed by Adam Smith and his fellow professors.

That is one of the benefits of liberty, still almost unique in the
entire world 232 years later. And bad as life was for David’s parents
and grandparents, and during his own childhood years, those of us who
take a more dispassionate view of the whole world, have to note, out of
respect for hundreds of millions who do not live in North America or
Europe and a few other places, that the sort of rotten lives lived by
the poor in the 1930s US depression, illustrated so eloquently by
David, have been and still are the permanent lot of all of those in the
poorer and less free countries (except the kleptocratic, hopefully
jail-bound, refuse who form their governments and administer their
crummy tyrannies).