Reading Adam Smith (was Re: Chomsky and Hero Worship

John K. Taber jktaber at
Sun Oct 11 19:56:48 PDT 1998

Well, I've just started reading Smith. I'm about 400 pages into it. Remember, I'm an economic naif.

Mike Yates wrote:
> Friends,
> I'm not sure what Chomsky said about Adam Smith. Of course, Smith is
> not the libertarian some of his modern advocates think and he did think
> that businessmen were ordinarily up to no good from the society's point
> of view.

I get the same thing. And I detect some irony in his matter-of-fact tone on combinations of workers (strictly forbidden under law) vs his angry tone on combinations of "tradesmen", especially in light of his contrast later between the ridiculousness of the State taking the side of business interests, and his claim that in every case (few in number) of the complete justice of the State in taking the workingman's side.

> But his view on the detailed division of labor is ridiculous
> as he confuses this with the social division of labor.

If you would explain both points, I would appreciate it. I didn't notice a confusion myself, but I could easily have missed it.

> He does admit
> that people who do detail work are as stupid as it is possible for human
> beings to be. But then he recommends education for the poor saps, in
> homeopathic doses! Plus if I remember correctly Marx suggests that he
> is something of a plagiarist. In any event, if I were a worker I'd put
> my trust in Marx not Smith.

-- I've been able to string more words into fewer ideas than anybody I know, and I'm continuing to do that.

- Alan Greenspan to the Senate Budget Committee, Sept 23, 1998

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list