What Went Wrong
Chapter 1: The Smithian inheritance
1.1 WHAT HAS BEEN LOST It has been suggested that, ‘Despite all the recent scholarship on the impact of Scottish thought on the American founding, curiously little attention has been paid to the influence of Adam Smith’ (Fleischacker 2004a, p. 1). This is curious, because we know that the Founders read both The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments,1 and because the Founders’ views on moral and political philosophy and on commerce were influenced by Smith’s work. The influence of, or congruence with, Smith’s view of human nature – developed in its essentials, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) – will be discussed in Chapter 2. Of immediate interest is the influence of ideas articulated in The Wealth of Nations (WN). It is perhaps not surprising that WN has been widely characterized as a paean to self-interest. We know, for example, that the ‘invisible hand’ metaphor, invoked only once in WN and once in TMS, suggested that ‘By pursuing his own interest [every individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it’ (Smith  1976, p. 456), and that The rich … in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity … are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessities of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society. (Smith [1759...
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