THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC HAGIOGRAPHICALIZATION OF ADAM SMITH`S THEORIES CONTAINED WITHIN THE WEALTH OF NATIONS: HOW THE CURRENT ELITE PLUTOCRACY HAS USURPED AN ESSENTIALLY NOBLE ECONOMIC THEORY AND IS USING IT TO JUSTIFY THE GROWING GLOBAL SOCIO-ECONOMIC DISPARITIES ON THE LEVEL OF THE SOCIAL DARWINISTS OF YORE.
I am currently re-reading an old college textbook of mine called ‘The Great Political Theories Volume 2.’ I’m having a great time rediscovering the great wellspring of political philosophy which sprang out of the late 18th century Enlightenment and Revolutionary eras in Britain, France and Germany.
Among the many thinkers I have come across in this four hundred plus page opus is Adam Smith. Of course being a student of history, politics and economics, I was familiar with Smith’s great contribution to economics and political thought in the form of his work entitled ‘The Wealth of Nations.’
However, I was only familiar with it by reputation and by what I’d read about it based on what historians had said about it in undergraduate textbooks. But I’d never actually read extracts much less the entire Wealth of Nations work.
This gave me the opportunity to discover Smith in all his genius. The extracts I read were entitled ‘The Division of Labour’ and ‘Private Interest and Public Benefit.’ In these extracts, Smith essentially lays out his theory that self-interest is in the public good, since individuals, acting for their own benefit, in the form of selling, exchanging or trading goods and services which they are best suited by nature to produce, ultimately benefit the greater society by supplying said goods and services to those persons who need them and who are less able or unable to produce them for themselves.
Hence, according to Smith, this division of labour, of which he used the example of traditional hunter-gatherer societies and that of small town British society of the day, created a social order whereby the greater collective good of the whole was best served through the instrument of individuals acting in self interest which would result in a form of mutually-beneficial material prosperity.
Smith saw this tendency towards bartering, trucking and exchanging as natural and good and as an elemental aspect of human nature which distinguished the human animal from the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, which had no need to enter into socio-economic relations of material exchange so as to survive in this mortal coil.
However, I feel that as the centuries have gone by and the process of economic development, barter, trucking and exchange which Smith described has taken on a distinctly more global, corporate structure and nature, I think that there are those within the current corporate elite community of banking, finance, commerce and industry, who, as representatives of corporately-established persons before the law, accountable only to themselves and their boards of directors and shareholders, have essentially usurped Adam Smith’s very idealistic and idealized and somewhat simplified model regarding socio-economic organization.
They have, in essence hagiographied his model of social and economic activity regarding the self-interest and division of labour model, which originally was modelled on traditional hunter-gatherer and small town British societies who essentially were oriented towards either subsistence or producing small surpluses, and have transposed it to the entire edifice of the globally emerging world of plutocratic neo-fascist corporate feudalism.
In the same book, I later went on to read Marx’s interpretation of political and economic philosophy, written soon after Smith, and by this time, in the mid 19th century, the ‘self-interest’ which Smith had so lauded in The Wealth of Nations, which harkened back to older, simpler times, had now been superseded by a form of self-interest which was in one way reductionist, in another expansionist.
It was reductionist in the sense that by its very nature, it tended to reduce the division of labour to that of a variable cost of human capital, one which was to be reduced at all costs by either paying labourers in credit at the company store then overcharging them for the goods they exchanged for their credit, thereby keeping them in a state of perpetual debt peonage, or by paying them pitifully low wages, which were insufficient to make ends meet.
This, therefore, went against Smith’s very idealistic notion of the division of labour in the sense that labourers were no longer viewed as instruments of their own individual self-interest, ready, willing and able to produce goods and services with their God-given talents so as to supply those who were not able to produce them for themselves and vice versa, but rather as pawns in the game of corporate ‘persons’’ self-interest, which was to explicitly de-value and de-humanize and de-nature their productive capacity to that of an unskilled labourer in a mostly mechanized process of production whereby the labourer became more of an adjunct to the production process, which the employer saw more as an impediment to his own self-interest of an aggrandizational nature, which was to maximize profit for himself and his shareholders.
In essence, his labourers became more of an impediment to his self-interest than an instrument of its fulfillment, because, if the logic of the argument were to be fully carried out, production would be fully mechanized and the capitalist would be able to maximize his own self-interest of pecuniary gain by minimizing labour costs to almost zero through the use of machines so as to produce his goods more ‘efficiently’ and in a more ‘cost-effective’ manner so as to make more money.
I don’t think Smith ever foresaw the full measure of the results of capitalism as they eventually have been borne out today. The factory system ultimately created a lot of economic disparities and pockets of unemployment as millions of people were driven off their land as the last vestiges of the feudal system were dismantled in the late eighteenth century and onwards. Towns which were already overrun with poor displaced people from the countryside throughout the 17th century in Britain and elsewhere in Europe were now faced with even worse scenarios of overcrowding, poverty, pestilence, disease and violence.
The factories never were able nor did they ever intend on absorbing this mass of humanity into their system of economic exchange based on this concomitantly reductionist/expansionist system of division of labour and distorted self-interest. In essence, they contributed towards the continuation of the core-periphery development of the planet whereby the surplus labour of Europe was emptied into the Americas to build new civilizations upon the ruins of the indigenous ones.
Essentially what we now have is an elite in the western world which has taken Adam Smith’s notion of self-interest described earlier and purports to make us believe that it will somehow lead to ‘the wealth of nations’ by allowing men of money, power, property and prestige to arrogate even more of such things to themselves through their privileged access and use of both existing capital as well as the increasing instrumentalization of government policy proposals and outcomes to favour the furthering of corporate expansion into the emerging world and out of the developed world.
This can only serve to impoverish the developed world’s market position even more, as even more well-paying jobs are exported overseas with the complicity of both government and corporate stakeholders, thereby eroding further the level of consumer confidence in the west’s ability to re-produce a stable and viable socio-economic form of class stratification, with a sufficiently large middle class of income earners to spur and sustain consumption domestically as well as promote social, emotional and spiritual stability at home.
The notion that wealth will ‘trickle down’ of and unto itself by this process is patently false and is borne out explicitly by increasing levels of socio-economic disparity between the wealthy and the poor, an increasing erosion of the social fabric with an alarming rise in obesity, fatherless families, abusive conjugal situations, secularism and a the rising tide of pop-cultural info-tainment hegemony as a sort of junk-food pseudo religion of consumption of information and pop-cultural products as a poor substitute for the time-honoured traditional balm of conventional Christianity.
Rather, the ‘free enterprise’ system which has arisen out of Adam Smith’s idealized vision of economic exchange has essentially become a monstrous serpentine Medusa of Mammon. It feeds upon its self-appointed and self-perpetuating privileged access to the levers of liberal democratic governance, voting itself through its ‘democratically-elected’ representatives in Parliament and Congress massive access to privileged quantities of monies from the public purse, by virtue of outright cash grants, interest-free loans, and tax holidays, all the while utilizing the democratic process of freedom of expression as a process of instrumentalizing its agenda of disentitlement to public services for ordinary citizens under the guise of them being ‘inefficient’ or ‘unfair competition to private interests.’
It is a system which, through the ‘natural’ process of accretion of money, power, property and prestige by prominent personalities has managed to arrogate to itself a wildly disproportionate percentage of the planet’s wealth, creating in the process an international plutocracy of monopolies, monopsonies, cartels, oligopolies and oligarchies.
However, anybody who knows anything about the ‘natural’ accretion of anything, especially money, power, property and prestige in the hands of a small number of big personalities, is that ultimately, like the water in the river which is prevented from flowing freely, it causes an ice jam or log jam of some sort and the river overflows its banks and you get massive flooding and damage to people, places and property, which is ultimately detrimental to everybody, including the elite.
One of the words used for ‘money’ is ‘currency’ which relates to the current of a river, meaning that for money to continue flowing and passing through the hands of as many people as possible, it must flow freely and not accumulate in one place or in the hands of one person or small group of persons. Otherwise it will, as the water-based analogy just mentioned, will cause the river of international high finance and economic exchange to ‘clog up’ and some sort of ‘flood’ or ‘ice jam’ will occur in the form of an international economic or military crisis, which is what we’re witnessing now.
In WWII we fought for liberty and democracy, for the ability to freely exchange not only goods, services and information, but also ideas and to associate freely with each other for our mutual benefit. Corporations do this for their own ‘corporate’ benefit. The word ‘corporate’ comes from the Latin ‘corporare’ meaning ‘to make into a body.’ Corporations ‘incorporate’ themselves, meaning they ‘make themselves into a body’, a person before the law, so as to pursue the common self-interest of the gain of the corporate ‘person’ and its shareholders. However with corporate self-interest also comes the notion of ‘corporate responsibility’, because the very notion of being ‘corporate’ implies having responsibilities which are shared by all members of the unified group or corporation.
Therefore corporations have responsibilities not only to themselves as corporate entities, but also to the greater ‘corporation’ of humanity, which unto itself is unified under the auspices of one God, one world and one fellowship of all humanity, not to mention, eventually and ultimately, one world government.
If we are to re-establish Adam Smith’s original notion of self-interest and the division of labour as being mutually-beneficial to humanity, then corporations will have to re-discover the hidden altruism behind Smith’s original interpretation of self-interest found within the division of labour. For the wealth-creators of this world are also part of this worldwide division of labour and as such they are just as much subject to Smith’s immutable laws of self-interest within the rapidly emerging Global Village.
Corporations cannot blithely develop and arrogate to themselves wealth in one corner or ‘neighbourhood’ of the Village and expect not to negatively impact somebody somewhere else in another ‘neighbourhood.’ The laws of self-interest as advocated by Smith prescribe and put forth the notion of if not a classless society ‘a la’ Marxian utopic analysis, then certainly he envisioned a society whereby wealth creation would be a much less compartmentalized and much less socio-economically class-stratified process than it is presently.
The examples given by Smith of traditional hunter gatherer societies precluded the notion of the emergence of a ‘wealth creating’ class of persons who were to eventually utilize their method of material exchange to create such conditions as to motivate an element within said society to take it upon itself to ‘rise above’ the status of traditional hunter-gatherers and to use its process of material production and consumption to subjugate the land and its inhabitants so as to exalt themselves temporally and spiritually by first making low someone or something else.
This however is precisely what happened and I think that the example of small town British society of bakers and butchers portrayed by Smith himself was somewhat hagiographied to begin with because Britain by this time had already embarked upon the process of global domination of the planet through the domination of global trade and finance.
So perhaps Smith was somewhat complicit in the hagiographicalization of his own ideas from the get go. Regardless, one thing remains for certain, the process of ‘the wealth of nations’ unleashed by Smith’s famous book and now misappropriated by subsequent generations for their own personal gain, will more than likely result in such egregious disparities of wealth and opportunity as well as degradation of the earth’s resources, that a third global military conflict will more than likely result from it.
After which, once all the bodies have been counted, buried, the victors have punished the vanquished and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions will have sat and tabled their final report, and the official histories of the events written, then and only then will some semblance of Smith’s true meaning of ‘self-interest’ and ‘division of labour’ be borne out by the outcome of history, when the bloodletting will have resulted in a new global ‘thesis’ which will be a more accurate reflection of Smith’s original thesis of individual interest leading to mutual benefit.
For the ‘log jam’ or ‘ice jam’ in the ‘current’ of world finance, commerce, industry as well as spirituality, and ethno-linguistic culture kampf will have finally abated sufficiently to lead us to the next step in the process of core-periphery development: Life off-world and contact with off world-life forms.
Adam Smith. What a guy. Karl Marx. Ditto. Who would have thought such musings would have led to such a discussion of socio-economic hagiography? I’ve really gotta stop reading those old College textbooks of mine. I’m starting to fly off into the hagiosphere!!!