Saturday, March 6, 2010

Adam Smith was a prostitute for slave traders

When it comes to the deities of the economics profession in America, Adam Smith is right up there with mammon. So, not surprisingly, you have to turn to the Philippines and to India to learn the full, sordid history of what "free trade" and "free markets" was really all about:

Adam Smith: ‘Intellectual Prostitute’ For British East India & Slave Traders

Smith-Ricardian ‘Free Trade’ Justified Slave Trade

Amitav Ghosh on "Opium and Empire"

When these historical embarrassments are pointed out to the "free marketeers" of today, they really freak out, like in this article from the Cato Institute.

But the plain fact is that Adam Smith was paid by slave traders to come up with a justification for their immoral exploitation and murder (how many captives died in transit?) of other human beings. Back in Adam Smith's time, his "free market" doctrine was called laissez faire and it was emphatically rejected by the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. (Unfortunately, though the slave trade was ended in the U.S. by the early 1800s, the institution of slavery itself continued and festered until it helped cause the rupture of the 1860s.) It was not until the 1960s and 1970s, when laissez faire was repackaged as "free markets" and "free trade" by Milton Friedman and sold to Americans as "freedom to choose" that the economic doctrines of the slave trade and opium wars began to destroy American from within.
A particularly important book to read, for anyone who wants to understand more about the actual economic policies that created the United States, is The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic, by Frank Bourgin. Interestingly, Bourgin's book is his 1940s PhD dissertation, which was rejected by the University of Chicago (where Friedman later taught). Bourgin published the book in the 1980s after being encouraged hy historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

2 comments:

  1. "Laissez faire" is a French term. You might want to look that up. It would round out your narrow education.

    ReplyDelete