Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

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Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

Economist Daniel Klein believes using the term “free market economics” or “free market economist” to identify the ideas of Smith is too general and slightly misleading. Klein offers six characteristics central to the identity of Smith’s economic thought and argues that a new name is needed to give a more accurate depiction of the “Smithian” identity. Economist David Ricardo set straight some of the misunderstandings about Smith’s thoughts on free market. Most people still fall victim to the thinking that Smith was a free market economist without exception, though he was not. Ricardo pointed out that Smith was in support of helping infant industries. Smith believed that the government should subsidise newly formed industry, but he did fear that when the infant industry grew into adulthood it would be unwilling to surrender the government help. Smith also supported tariffs on imported goods to counteract an internal tax on the same good. Smith also fell to pressure in supporting some tariffs in support for national defence.

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, in the County of Fife, Scotland. His father, also Adam Smith, was a Scottish Writer to the Signet (senior solicitor), advocate, and prosecutor (Judge Advocate) and also served as comptroller of the Customs in Kirkcaldy. In 1720 he married Margaret Douglas, daughter of the landed Robert Douglas of Strathendry, also in Fife. His father died two months after he was born, leaving his mother a widow. The date of Smith’s baptism into the Church of Scotland at Kirkcaldy was 5 June 1723, and this has often been treated as if it were also his date of birth, which is unknown. Although few events in Smith’s early childhood are known, the Scottish journalist John Rae, Smith’s biographer, recorded that Smith was abducted by gypsies at the age of three and released when others went to rescue him. Smith was close to his mother, who probably encouraged him to pursue his scholarly ambitions. He attended the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy—characterised by Rae as “one of the best secondary schools of Scotland at that period”—from 1729 to 1737, he learned Latin, mathematics, history, and writing.

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

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Adam Smith considered the teaching at Glasgow to be far superior to that at Oxford, which he found intellectually stifling. In Book V, Chapter II of The Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote: “In the University of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.” Smith is also reported to have complained to friends that Oxford officials once discovered him reading a copy of David Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, and they subsequently confiscated his book and punished him severely for reading it. According to William Robert Scott, “The Oxford of time gave little if any help towards what was to be his lifework.” Nevertheless, Smith took the opportunity while at Oxford to teach himself several subjects by reading many books from the shelves of the large Bodleian Library. When Smith was not studying on his own, his time at Oxford was not a happy one, according to his letters. Near the end of his time there, Smith began suffering from shaking fits, probably the symptoms of a nervous breakdown. He left Oxford University in 1746, before his scholarship ended.

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

Very differently, classical economists see in Smith’s first sentences his programme to promote “The Wealth of Nations”. Taking up the physiocratical concept of the economy as a circular process means that to have growth the inputs of period2 must excel the inputs of period1. Therefore, the outputs of period1 not used or usable as input of period2 are regarded as unproductive labour as they do not contribute to growth. This is what Smith had heard in France from, among others, Quesnay. To this French insight that unproductive labour should be pushed back to use labour more productively, Smith added his own proposal, that productive labour should be made even more productive by deepening the division of labour. Smith argued that deepening the division of labour under competition leads to greater productivity, which leads to lower prices and thus an increasing standard of living—”general plenty” and “universal opulence”—for all. Extended markets and increased production lead to continuous reorganisation of production and inventing new ways of producing, which lead to further increased production, lower prices, and increased standards of living. Smith’s central message is therefore that under dynamic competition a growth machine secures “The Wealth of Nations”. Smith’s argument predicted Britain’s evolution as the workshop of the world, underselling and outproducing all its competitors. The opening sentences of the “Wealth of Nations” summarise this policy:

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

The bicentennial anniversary of the publication of The Wealth of Nations was celebrated in 1976, resulting in increased interest for The Theory of Moral Sentiments and his other works throughout academia. After 1976, Smith was more likely to be represented as the author of both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and thereby as the founder of a moral philosophy and the science of economics. His homo economicus or “economic man” was also more often represented as a moral person. Additionally, economists David Levy and Sandra Peart in “The Secret History of the Dismal Science” point to his opposition to hierarchy and beliefs in inequality, including racial inequality, and provide additional support for those who point to Smith’s opposition to slavery, colonialism, and empire. They show the caricatures of Smith drawn by the opponents of views on hierarchy and inequality in this online article. Emphasised also are Smith’s statements of the need for high wages for the poor, and the efforts to keep wages low. In The “Vanity of the Philosopher: From Equality to Hierarchy in Postclassical Economics”, Peart and Levy also cite Smith’s view that a common street porter was not intellectually inferior to a philosopher, and point to the need for greater appreciation of the public views in discussions of science and other subjects now considered to be technical. They also cite Smith’s opposition to the often expressed view that science is superior to common sense.

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

The neoclassical interest in Smith’s statement about “an invisible hand” originates in the possibility to see it as a precursor of neoclassical economics and its General Equilibrium concept. Samuelson’s “Economics” refers 6 times to Smith’s “invisible hand”. To emphasise this relation, Samuelson quotes Smith’s “invisible hand” statement putting “general interest” where Smith wrote “public interest”. Samuelson concluded: “Smith was unable to prove the essence of his invisible-hand doctrine. Indeed, until the 1940s no one knew how to prove, even to state properly, the kernel of truth in this proposition about perfectly competitive market.”

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

Smith’s most prominent disciple in nineteenth-century Britain, peace advocate Richard Cobden, preferred the first proposal. Cobden would lead the Anti-Corn Law League in overturning the Corn Laws in 1846, shifting Britain to a policy of free trade and empire “on the cheap” for decades to come. This hands-off approach toward the British Empire would become known as Cobdenism or the Manchester School. By the turn of the century, however, advocates of Smith’s second proposal such as Joseph Shield Nicholson would become ever more vocal in opposing Cobdenism, calling instead for imperial federation. As Marc-William Palen notes: “On the one hand, Adam Smith’s late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Cobdenite adherents used his theories to argue for gradual imperial devolution and empire ‘on the cheap’. On the other, various proponents of imperial federation throughout the British World sought to use Smith’s theories to overturn the predominant Cobdenite hands-off imperial approach and instead, with a firm grip, bring the empire closer than ever before.” Smith’s ideas thus played an important part in subsequent debates over the British Empire.

Smith & Hawken Outdoor Furniture

Following the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith became so popular that many wealthy students left their schools in other countries to enroll at Glasgow to learn under Smith. After the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith began to give more attention to jurisprudence and economics in his lectures and less to his theories of morals. For example, Smith lectured that the cause of increase in national wealth is labour, rather than the nation’s quantity of gold or silver, which is the basis for mercantilism, the economic theory that dominated Western European economic policies at the time.

In 1766, Henry Scott’s younger brother died in Paris, and Smith’s tour as a tutor ended shortly thereafter. Smith returned home that year to Kirkcaldy, and he devoted much of the next ten years to his magnum opus. There he befriended Henry Moyes, a young blind man who showed precocious aptitude. As well as teaching Moyes, Smith secured the patronage of David Hume and Thomas Reid in the young man’s education. In May 1773, Smith was elected fellow of the Royal Society of London, and was elected a member of the Literary Club in 1775. The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776 and was an instant success, selling out its first edition in only six months.

Smith was described by several of his contemporaries and biographers as comically absent-minded, with peculiar habits of speech and gait, and a smile of “inexpressible benignity”. He was known to talk to himself, a habit that began during his childhood when he would smile in rapt conversation with invisible companions. He also had occasional spells of imaginary illness, and he is reported to have had books and papers placed in tall stacks in his study. According to one story, Smith took Charles Townshend on a tour of a tanning factory, and while discussing free trade, Smith walked into a huge tanning pit from which he needed help to escape. He is also said to have put bread and butter into a teapot, drunk the concoction, and declared it to be the worst cup of tea he ever had. According to another account, Smith distractedly went out walking in his nightgown and ended up 15 miles (24 km) outside of town, before nearby church bells brought him back to reality.

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