Friday, July 16, 2021

Xenopol's Musings on Adam Smith

"indeed, the Enlightenment really is a dirty word; and the partisans of Enlightenment were always dangerous extremists—as they demonstrated when they drenched France in blood."


"Smith claimed that man is primarily a trader. The claim sounds harmless enough in itself; [...] If man is a trader, then wars and social strife are aberrations—probably caused by religion, the aristocracy, and the king"

Caste warfare, rather than class. If man is a merchant, then the scholar and warrior are aberrations, and clearly all strife flows from their rebellion against their own nature.

Naturally this is merely sordid politics. The merchant-lord disparages the warrior-lord and priest-lord, because they compete for followers. As should be the null hypothesis, it's selfishness dressed up in a fancy suit. Naturally its need to conceal its own nature is self-refuting. The best argument Smith could come up with was fallacious; Conquest's first law: Smith knew better than anyone else. If the best argument is bad, the representative argument is trash.

Possibly low-resolution thinking. Much as Fascism simplifies their model of humanity to one sex, Smith types simplify humanity to one job, because their minds can't handle the complexity of three flavours. 

We can perhaps have some compassion for this, as industrial society is very complicated. Modern society is even overcomplicated on purpose. Simplifications will be desperately seized whenever possible. However, also, perhaps, never let a simplifier anywhere near decision-making. 

"Smith granted that soldiers and priests were necessary, but only in a very grudging way; from his tone—his condemnations of aristocratic extravagance—Smith conveys a deep contempt for those who do not produce."

Naturally, in reality, they do produce. They merely don't produce things Smith values, so they're invisible to him. It's not installible capital or whatever. But the fact remains that demand for their products exists, and rather a lot of demand, at that. I gotta say I am amused at Smith trying to dictate what the market ought to demand. 

'I'm a nihilist, and therefore you are morally obligated to do as I tell you.' Uhhhh.... well I guess I can't blame this one for trying. Just as they can't blame me for offering a quick helicopter ride. No, no, I insist.


"Men like Smith and Thomas Carlyle—non-stop Scots—contributed to the rise of that very 20th-century phenomenon, the labour camp. “Work sets you free,” so went the famous Nazi slogan over their camps; the middle class or the Jews or the aristocrats would be made to do real work—productivity would set them free."

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