The Classical Dynamics of Hume, Smith, Ricardo and Malthus
Chapter 3: Trading Animosity: Adam Smith and the Ambiguity of Nations
I A Projected Science and the ‘Project’ of an Empire Samuelson and Nordhaus once described the Wealth of Nations as ‘a practical handbook that might be entitled How to Make the GNP GT-OW’.~~ While this captures the spirit of the W ” s very important ‘Introduction and Plan of the Work’ it tends to obscure the fact that by the end of the work Smith has become s o perturbed by the history of British policy making that he advocated a subtle but ultimately far-reaching move in the direction of supra-national governance. Any suggestion that Smith sought to transpose government activity to a higher (than national) level, rather than simply to reduce it, must be controversial and decidedly tentative. Controversial because it impeaches Smith’s, retrospectively is sued, laissea-faire credentials. Tentative because it relies upon the never-to-be-completed last third of his ‘science of the legislator’. Tentative also, however, because it runs the risk of providing Adam Smith the free marketeer with a long-lost twin brother-a fully fledged and quite modern supporter of global governance. I will argue that two problematic elements in Hume’s literary legacy became central to Smith’s (skeptical) advocacy of a dramatic transformation in the nature of the British polity, and to his ambivalent attitude f towards the nation state. Though the Wealth o Nations (WN) might seem to take them for granted, national boundaries are actually a very potent threat to social progress throughout Smith’s intellectual system. National boundaries hinder the progress of material welfare in the WN, and...
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