[Marxism] The "Adam Smith Problem" and Adam Smith's Utopia

Shane Mage shmage at pipeline.com
Mon Dec 3 20:04:43 MST 2012

On Dec 3, 2012, at 6:46 PM, Doğan Göçmen wrote:
> The Adam Smith Problem concerns the relationship between Smith’s  
> two major
> works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) and An Inquiry into the  
> Nature
> and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (WN). Two passages in  
> particular, one
> in TMS and the other in WN, triggered off the whole debate some 150  
> years
> ago. In TMS, Smith asserts:
> "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some
> principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of  
> others, and
> render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing  
> from it
> except the pleasure of seeing it." [TMS, I.i.1]
> Yet in WN he observes:
> "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the  
> baker,
> that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their interest. We
> address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and  
> never
> talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages." [WN,  
> I.ii.2]

I have never felt any contradiction between the two, since I long ago  
saw the same distinction made by Socrates in the Republic:  the  
shepherd is also the owner of his flock. Qua shepherd, his sole role  
and function is to care for the welfare of his flock, but qua  
"moneymaker" his role is to sell them for meat.  Smith's distinction  
is less drastic--both roles benefit the customer--but the logic is the  
same. When the shepherd spares a favorite cow, or the butcher gives a  
free christmas turkey to a poor family, they both act as humans and  
contradict the logic of their moneymaker roles.

Shane Mage
"Thunderbolt steers all things." Herakleitos of Ephesos, fr. 64

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