Adam Smith Thinks Donald Trump Sucks
by nanobot, Thu Apr 14, 2011 at 07:44:36 PM EDT
(Cross posted from comment 101 at Crooked Timber diary, Comment 101, Towards An Economics of Unhappiness)
http://crookedtimber.org/2011/04/12/towards-an-economics-of-unhappiness/#comment-355116s of Unhappiness)
(Wealth of Nations quote courtesy of Brad DeLong) http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/04/what-is-human-nature-two-views-from-adam-smith.html
What Is Human Nature? Two Views from Adam Smith:
But in Book III things change. Humans are no longer naturally sociable beings with a propensity to trade seeking material comfort. Instead, they are creatures of "rapine and violence," desperate for "power and protection," vain and seeking luxury, unwilling to take pains to pay attention to small savings and small gains, loving to domineer, mortified at even the thought of having to persuade his inferiors. (hmmmm. Sound like anyone we know who has a bad hair day every day?)
This is a different "Adam Smith problem" than is usually posed. And, I think, it is in many ways more interesting than the standard Adam Smith problem from Book III of the Wealth of Nations:
According to the natural course of things... capital of every growing society is, first, directed to agriculture, afterwards to manufactures, and last of all to foreign commerce.... But though this natural order of things must have taken place... it has, in all the modern states of Europe, been, in many respects, entirely inverted. The foreign commerce of some of their cities has introduced all their finer manufactures, or such as were fit for distant sale; and manufactures and foreign commerce together have given birth to the principal improvements of agriculture. The manners and customs which the nature of their original government introduced, and which remained after that government was greatly altered, necessarily forced them into this unnatural and retrograde order....
It seldom happens... that a great proprietor is a great improver. In the disorderly times which gave birth to those barbarous institutions... [h]e had no leisure to attend to the cultivation and improvement of land. When the establishment of law and order afforded him this leisure, he often wanted the inclination, and almost always the requisite abilities.... To improve land with profit, like all other commercial projects, requires an exact attention to small savings and small gains, of which a man born to a great fortune, even though naturally frugal, is very seldom capable.... The elegance of his dress, of his equipage, of his house, and household furniture, are objects which from his infancy he has been accustomed to have some anxiety about ....
The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen.