Adam Smith and the Occupy Wall Street movement

George Will is one of my favorite columnists/commentators. I appreciate his historical perspective and his logical approach. But every so often he seems to lose his perspective and become a shill for ideologues. This past Sunday’s edition of  the TV news show This Week was one such occasion.

Will asked Jesse LaGreca, a blogger for the liberal website Daily Kos, the following question about the Occupy Wall Street movement

Mr. LaGreca, I hear a certain dissonance in your message. Your message is, Washington is corrupt, Washington is the handmaiden of the powerful. A lot of conservatives agree with that. But then you say this corrupt Washington that’s the handmaiden of the powerful should be much more powerful in regulating our lives. Why do you want a corrupt government bigger in our lives?

This is a classic “when did you stop beating your wife” trick question. LaGreca did a reasonable job answering, but I would have been shorter:

Adam Smith

Adam Smith, An economist, philosoper from 1723 to 1790. He's considered the father of the modern liberal economy.

Mr. Will, as a historian, I am sure you are familiar with the works of Adam Smith. In his book The Wealth of Nations he described how individuals pursuing their selfish ends were guided “as if by an invisible hand” to achieve the common good. I think we can call this the “Capitalist Manifesto”. But he also said that the “invisible hand” can only function within a system of laws and common morés.

Is it so unreasonable for the people to demand that their government institute and enforce laws to prevent people from turning our vital financial institutions into giant Ponzi schemes?


About dougstinson

Doug Stinson enjoys pondering unexpected connections and sharing his discoveries. He is also a physicist, a photographer, a new product realization executive, and a student of history, the environment and religion. You can learn about his other creative ventures at
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3 Responses to Adam Smith and the Occupy Wall Street movement

  1. mindwarpfx says:

    I think so, that we need a government to support laws and to make laws that we should all live by, including those in government. But as long as these lawmakers support things like SSI another ponzi schemes then what do they expect? The rich along with those in government are the ones that make the laws in the first place. No wonder that the rich will always be alittle richer no matter what form of government is inplace. We on the other hand should have all of those same opportunities as long as we make the same efforts to also become rich. Equal opportunities not equal outcome.
    All the best!

  2. dougstinson says:

    Thank you for your comment.
    I, too, believe in “equal opportunity” and let outcomes be what they may. And it may be a trueism that the rich always have an inordinate influence on the workings of government. However, I also see a long history in the United States, including the efforts of figures such as Lincoln and Teddy Rosevelt, to shape American law to move closer to the ideal of “equal opportunity”. So I am optimistic that in the long run we can get past some of the “name calling” that seems to substitute for rational discussion these days and develop at least tentative concensus on the role of government in creating the environment in which we can all strive to achieve our goals.

  3. mindwarpfx says:

    Like the way you think. Will look forward to following your blog. All the best!

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