Banter on The Banter – Adam Smith Debate

Professor Gavin Kennedy challenges David Cox on his essay ‘Economics The Hard Way‘:


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


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).

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.