The wonderfull world of adam smith

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THE
By Robert L. Heílbroner

THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS BEHIND THE VEIL OF ECONOMICS THE ESSENTIAL ADAM SMITH THE NATURE AND LOGIC OF CAPITALISM MARXISM, FOR AND AGAINST AN INQUIRY INTO THE HUMAN PROSPECT BUSINESS CIVILIZATION IN DECLINE BEYOND BOOM AND CRASH BETWEEN CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM THE LIMITS OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM ECONOMICS EXPLAINED
(wíth Lester C. Thurow)

WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERSThe Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers
SIXTH EDITION, UPDATED

Robert L. Heilbroner
A TOUCHSTONE BOOK PUBLISHED BY SIMÓN & SCHUSTER, INC. NEW YORK

THE ECONOMIC PROBLEM
(with James K. Galbraith)

A PRIMER ON GOVERNMENT SPENDING
(with Peter L. Bernstein)

THE GREAT ASCENT THE MAKING OF ECONOMIC SOCIETY THE FUTURE AS HISTORY

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF ADAM SMITH

43III

The Wonderful World of Adam Smíth

A visitor to England in the 17608 would quite probably have learned of a certain Adam Smith of the University of Glasgow. Dr. Smith was a well-known, if not a famous, man; Voltaire had heard of him, David Hume was his intímate, students had traveled all the way from Russia to hear his labored but enthusiastic discourse. In addition to being renownedfor his scholastic accomplishments, Dr. Smith was known as a remarkable personality. He was, for example, notoriously absentminded: once, walking along in earnest disquisition with a friend, he fell into a tanning pit, and it was said that he had brewed himself a beverage of bread and butter and pronounced it the worst cup of tea he had ever tasted. But his personal quirks, which were many, did notinterfere with his intellectual abilities. Adam Smith was among the foremost philosophers of his age. At Glasgow, Adam Smith lectured on problems of Moral Philosophy, a discipline a great deal more broadly conceived in that day than in ours. Moral Philosophy covered Natural Theology, Ethics, Jurisprudence, and Political Economy: it thus ranged all the way from man's sublimest impulses towardorder and harmony to his somewhat less orderly and harmonious activities in the grimmer business of gouging out a living for himself. Natural theology—the search for design in the confu-

sion of the cosmos—had been an object of the human rationalizing impulse from earliest times; our traveler would have felt quite at ease as Dr. Smith expounded the natural laws that underlay the seeming chaos ofthe universe. But when it carne to the other end of the spectrum—the search for a grand architecture beneath the hurly-burly of daily life—our traveler might have felt that the good doctor was really stretching philosophy beyond its proper limits. For if the English social scene of the late eighteenth century suggested anything, it was most emphatically not rational order or moral purpose. As soonas one looked away from the elegant lives of the leisure classes, society presented itself as a brute struggle for existence in its meanest form. Outside the drawing rooms of London or the pleasant rich estates of the counties, all that one saw was rapacity, cruelty, and degradation mingled with the most irrational and bewildering customs and traditions of some still earlier and alreadyanachronistic day. Rather than a carefully engineered machine where each part could be seen to contribute to the whole, the body social resembled one of James Watt's strange steam machines: black, noisy, inefficient, dangerous. How curious that Dr. Smith should have professed to see order, design, and purpose in all of this! Suppose, for example, our visitor had gone to see the tin mines of Cornwall. Therehe would have watched miners lower themselves down the black shafts, and on reaching bottom draw a candle from their belts and stretch out for a sleep until the candle guttered. Then for two or three hours they would work the ore until the next traditional break, this time for as long as it took to smoke a pipe. A full half-day was spent in lounging, half in picking at the seams. But had our...
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