200 Years Later, Adam Smith Still Shows Way to Progress

By Paul A. Samuelson. Paul A. Samuelson, institute professor emeritus of economics Technology, won the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize . He has often served as an economic adviser to Democratic presidents and presidential candidates. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 1990 | Go to article overview

200 Years Later, Adam Smith Still Shows Way to Progress


Paul A. Samuelson. Paul A. Samuelson, institute professor emeritus of economics Technology, won the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize . He has often served as an economic adviser to Democratic presidents and presidential candidates., The Christian Science Monitor


ADAM SMITH died 200 years ago this month. But phoenix-like, his vision of market freedom has taken a new lease on life.

Pop culture paints its pictures in crudest tints. So to speak, Karl Marx and Adam Smith have met in a Wagnerian duel these last seven decades, and Adam has roundly defeated Karl.

Never mind that matters are not quite so simple. It is West Germany's mixed economy, and not the pure capitalism advocated by the Austrian-born economist Friedrich Hayek that has incited to envy the footloose East Germans.

But why quibble about what will seem details to several hundred million inhabitants of Eastern Europe?

Smith was well named Adam. He really is the founding father of economic science. Quite apart from his being in the winning camp of ideology, Smith's stock as an original economic theorist has risen strongly during my lifetime in academia.

There are many bright stars in the heaven of economics. But I say, surely the three brightest of all are these:

- Adam Smith, 1723-1790, a Scot.

- Leon Walras, 1834-1910, a Frenchman.

- John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946, an Englishman.

I might call Smith the economists' Aristotle; Walras, our Newton; and Keynes, our Einstein.

Smith's "Wealth of Nations" with its laissez-faire arguments was well-timed, being published in 1776 just when America's democratic capitalism proclaimed its independence. In Britain, the original home of the industrial revolution, Adam Smith's fame was instantaneous.

Not quite so in Germany. In that yet-to-be-developed region, the gospel of free trade was regarded as apologetics for British capitalism, which had begun with a head start over the rest of the world.

There is a paradox here. You might say that it was the backward German economy that needed most the ideology of economic deregulation. De facto, Manchester liberalism had evolved pretty much autonomously, so that the academic scribblers were only catching up in their doctrines with what already existed.

Instead, however, the German reaction was a wooly Romanticism that glorified its own lack of logic. Nationalism was extolled at the expense of cosmopolitanism and glory was valued beyond a long and comfortable life for the individual citizen.

Back in the summer of 1953, when Henry Kissinger was still a junior academic, he asked me whether I would mind admitting to my Harvard International Seminar an applicant who had been a Storm Troop Officer. Regarding World War II as having ended in 1945, I espoused free trade in ideas. The applicant in question turned out to be an eager disciple of Milton Friedman. From Charybdis to Scylla!

"We Germans," he said, "are tired of politics and armies. We want to cultivate our gardens. Work hard. Make money. Let my money make more money for me. For me, not for them and not even for us."

The ghost of Max Weber (1864-1920), who associated the rise of capitalism with the Protestant ethic, must have smiled. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

200 Years Later, Adam Smith Still Shows Way to Progress
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.