Chapter Twelve: On economic liberalism

Adam Smith was an asshole. It’s either this or he’s very badly quoted. I must admit I haven’t read him, but to be honest the phrase he’s most famous for doesn’t particularly encourage me to read him. Apparently he said that the private pursuit of self-interest would lead, as if by an invisible hand, to the well-being of all. Now, what kind of half-witted can throw that phrase out and expect people not to laugh at it? And worse of all, what kind of people can quote that phrase as if it was something else than pure ridiculousness? Now, someone must explain to me how this Molierian drama was staged and in which moment we all forgot about the satiric factor and started taking it seriously.

For my part, I think there has been a huge, but unintentional mistake from the part of Mr. Smith. I understand his idea when it comes to science and art. Scientists are interested in developing technologies that will improve the world and artists fill us with new ways of interpreting reality. But that’s about it. When it comes to money, a coin more in my pocket is a coin less in the public vaults. I don’t see where the addition from self-interest can come from. Money is not something that grows the more we handle it; it just passes from the hands of the most unfortunate to the hands of the most powerful. Einstein, just to mention someone who is worth quoting, said that energy is not destroyed but transferred. From this we can also surmise that energy is not created. Therefore every technology we have is just a different manifestation of an essential good we had from the beginning of humanity. Computers are just a reflection of our brains and an evolution of other visual technologies such as the film projector, which is a plagiarism of our own visual abilities. The same goes to all the rest. Some people prefer cars, other people prefer walking or biking. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. We never created something that didn’t subtract from something else. How can it be any different with money? The best scientist are those who seek the best proficient way of profiting from a natural good with the least amount of destruction. But money is nothing more than a pile of unused energy. No one profits from it. Money is just fear disguised as security. We all have money in the bank for a rainy day. But if it never rained, we wouldn’t have to waste energy amassing something that we’ll never use. And unfortunately our self-interests are tinged with socio-economic realities. The opposite statement makes actually more sense: We should all contribute to the wellbeing of society, because it will have a good impact on our lives. But sacrifices are being done everywhere where something is achieved. We sacrifice time for a cause or project, we sacrifice money to acquire things we need. And there’s no one among us who wouldn’t like to finish a project in one second or pay zero for a house. We’re all selfish people and that’s just instinctive. We face nature and society, both of which threaten us. So we’re used to taking care of ourselves first and thinking about others only when we’re safe. Fear is a natural instinct and no one is to blame but the mean-spirited people who promote an idealistic view of economy, while they’re the most materialistic and pragmatic of all. Someone who embraces Smith should not obviate the essential link of his logic: That people should be selfless. Only in that way can his theory work. If people are selfish, we will have the same world we’ve always had and nothing more.


I'm a writer born in Argentina, but currently living in Poland. I work as an English and French teacher, translator and copywriter.

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