Monday, October 15, 2012


Today, conservatives and glibertarians consider Adam Smith as one of their great thinkers but conservatives, at least, did not always think so. Edmund Burke wrote a pamphlet titled "Thoughts and Details on Scarcity" in which he made clear his profound disagreement with Smith:
Burke does not mention Smith in the pamphlet. But he paraphrases the Wealth of Nations at some points, and contradicts it at many others. "Nothing can be so base and so wicked," he says, "as the political canting language, 'the laboring poor"; Smith uses the phrase six times in a few paragraphs of his chapter on wages. Smith says that wages are determined in contracts made between "two parties, whose interests are by no means the same"; Burke says that "in the case of the farmer and the laborer, their interests are always the same." Burke saw the first duty of the state as "the exterior establishment of its religion"; Smith favored the competition of some "thousand small sects." Monopolies, for Smith, were a wretched derangement of natural order; for Burke, "the monopoly of capital . . . is a great benefit, and a benefit particularly to the poor." Smith thought that the children of the poor should be educated to take part in political discussions; for Burke, they were no more than "present drains and bloodsuckers," although "growing from less to greater utility."

SOURCE: Economic sentiments : Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment by Emma Rothschild, page 64

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