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While Adam Smith died 200 years ago, it is clear his work has had more impact than any other leader in economic history on modern economic policy. While Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes’s prescription did not withstand the time test, Smith’s ideas are continuously invoked and modern economic policies are measured in line with his principles. In a more fitting year, with the global disintegration of communism and the growing support of the markets, the bicentenary could hardly have fallen. Throughout Eastern Europe the works of Smith are still being translated and circulated and their importance is renewed. Smith has gained the international reputation that he holds today as a testimony to the influence of the theories. Given its character, it is even more striking. As Leo Rosten tells us, he had once walked the streets of his clothing, engrossed in a question of reason, quiet and absent-minded teacher.
Smith was not the founder of economics, strictly speaking, and his work draws clearly on the ideas of contemporaries. Nevertheless, he was highly clear in his analysis of capitalism and its practice in a coherent system. The wealth of the nations, his most widely-discussed work, was to be found in a collection of plays that interacted with all aspects of human action, including the ethical sentiments.
Adam Smith’s enthusiasm must not be limited to college activity. He was a popular writer at that period and should stay that way today. This volume contains one essay by a minister of the government and one by a mainstream British journalist, as well as several by scholars and academics, reflecting the wide relevance that Smith has, and the fact that his ideas can be understood and discussed by a wide circle of readers. Smith may extend this gratitude even further on the bicentenary of his birth.
What about Western Europe? What would Adam Smith have said about the future direction of the Community from the current arguments? First, he likely would have seen the allegations about Britain becoming ‘non-communitarian,’ dragging his feet over the ‘New Union,’ ‘falling short of the Western dream,’ as the exclusive appeal for interest groups. He will, I am sure, say, as with domestic investors, that their ideas ‘want to be listened to with great caution and should never be accepted unless long and carefully examined’
He would have been shocked and deprived by the suggestion made by some of Britain’s leading politicians that for political reasons we would sign the control of major macroeconomic policy instruments. He would probably not be surprised to find that those who boast loudest about their good Europeanism are often the ones who have done the least to implement the Single Market Directives, certainly the key litmus test almost as if the rhetoric of commitment to the ‘Common Market’ of Europe had nothing to do with reality.
Had his pen worked to deflate the windy nonsense spoken about in Europe by exposing special stakes behind the slogans and helping us to build an Europe in which all citizens can pursue their own interests in a community which is genuinely a free and unconventional market, with no monopoly, state direction, intervention or unnecessary rules And as Margaret Thatcher said, for the centrally based European Community the citizens of Eastern Europe do not want to shed the centralized Eastern system.
As Adam Smith wrote about the wealth of nations, David Hume prophetically concluded, ‘It takes so much publicity to be written and so little to be given to people, that for a while I often question its success.’ I guess the sad truth is that a strong element of human nature is a tendency not to know, to be seduced by revolutionary ideas and philosophies. The adamant anti-romanticism of Smith was never a view that applied to us utopian. But for state policymakers who assume, as we do, that a free market is the best basis for both the wealthy and the ethical community, this offers a stable intellectual framework. These are the precepts that have been learned by us. The rabble rouser could never be provided with a forum. The ale and circuses don’t provide it.
The term ‘ morality’ calls for creation because some see Adam Smith as promoting a kind of conservatism focused on a view of society that is purely driven by human ambition and egotism. Such a denial of his faith and his personality could hardly attract people who had just sacrificed everything in order to ‘die in reality.’ It is impractical and unjust to represent Adam Smith, since his ideology, which is also fundamental to his economic thinking, was actually based on a strong moral foundation.
They should assert the moral basis of free-market society here at home before we can proselytize in Eastern Europe. When thinking at what such moral principles should be, Smith introduces the notion that we are all instinctively compassionate towards others to others and allows us to determine whether a particular situation leads to the individual’s satisfaction or unhappiness. Then people come up with an idea of possession and ethical behaviour.
And because the need to be accepted by others is part of the self-reliance side of human nature, it induces self-restraint and kind of internal control in the actions of individuals.
Modern capitalism is ethically vague, individualistic and most often distant from specific life forms (especially in its more egalitarian manner) and places no positive moral duties on individuals. It assu precisely because it is the only code synonymous with pluralism and the only one which can accommodate incommensurable and often contradictory ways of life, the value of such a social code of ethics lies. It is as if international trade rules were to form the ethical model of life. This is indeed a metaphor, as apologists for liberalism from the nineteenth century claimed that these laws are necessary to peace and that the creation of strong, collective ideologies contributed to the victory of war and thus the development of permanent conflict. Yet Smith did not mourn the loss of capitalism’s ‘martial spirit?” that all the economic agents need is a set of rules that can govern their activities.
I would say that whatever the ‘republican’ flourishes of Smith, in fact his ideology contains the morals suited for contemporary transactions, the political of private property and that his scepticism about other life forms was ingrained sufficiently, while he might have had any reservations about some broader implications of that morality.
There have been attempts in recent years to understand government based on Thomas Hobbes and David Hume. However, those who engage in such activities would often see themselves as the children of Adam Smith, in the sense that they bring ideas derived from economic theory into this task. In my view you should be cautious what Smith suggests regarding ethics and the issue of political legitimacy and why we are obeying the magistrate. This system is interpreted by Smith as operating in contrast to the people who held prominent positions in their own community so that ordinary people were influenced with their views and concerns. Yet — and this is the issue— in Smith’s culture there was a conflict between the individuals in terms of whose system his process was going to work and the kind of viewpoints they would need in order for a capitalist society to work.
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