Read it first, then weep…


It surprises me how often great men—it is rarely women—fail to actually read or consider the actual sources of their thought as they roll through life.

For example there is a bit of a war splashing about relating to what Adam Smith had to say about taxation and other anti-capitalist tools.

The star of CBC’s Dragon’s Den, Kevin O’Leary, seems to feel Adam Smith was completely opposed to taxation because that is so anti-Capital.

Except it’s not true. Really not true. Smith was a strong supporter of taxation. All you have to do is read the opening chapter of the fifth book of the Wealth of Nations, the foundational textbook of capitalism. Smith seems very clear:

“The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor.

“They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable.

“It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion”.

If bond traders would just read their own stuff a little more they could avoid a lot of wasted time… And we could avoid fights amongst stupid people. Time for a Wente column on taxation and Smith.

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6 Responses to Read it first, then weep…

  1. RossK says:

    And it’s not just a lack of reading comprehension…

    It’s a lack of ‘watching’ comprehension too.

    How else to explain all those crony capitalists (and their enablers) that just love ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.


  2. None of the Above says:

    Kevin O’Leary….great TV personality, but a lousy commentator on social issues.

    This smackdown on Mr. O’Leary by a 14 year old girl always makes me smile:

  3. James King says:

    I hope you happened to catch Bill Moyers interview with David Simon on PBS.
    Always wonderful when we have a chance to read your again Ian.

  4. Scotty on Denman says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how the supposedly indoctrinated “invisible-hand-of the- market” guys seemed not to have read their self-proclaimed bible—at least not the part where Smith acknowledges the legitimacy of sovereign intervention upon capitalist activity. Convenient, no?

  5. macadavy says:

    Indeed! “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”
    “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”
    “Fear is in almost all cases a wretched instrument of government, and ought in particular never to be employed against any order of men who have the smallest pretensions to independency.”
    “It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.”
    “Every tax, however, is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery but of liberty. It denotes that he is a subject to government, indeed, but that, as he has some property, he cannot himself be the property of a master. ”
    “All registers which, it is acknowledged, ought to be kept secret, ought certainly never to exist.”
    “That of beaver skins, of beaver wool, and of gum Senega, has been subjected to higher duties; Great Britain, by the conquest of Canada and Senegal, having got almost the monopoly of those commodities. ”
    “The value of money is in proportion to the quantity of the necessaries of life which it will purchase. ”
    “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. ”
    “But what all the violence of the feudal institutions could never have effected, the silent and insensible operation of foreign commerce and manufactures gradually brought about. ”
    “t is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.”
    “The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers.”
    “With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches, which in their eye is never so complete as when they appear to possess those decisive marks of opulence which nobody can possess but themselves. ”
    “Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favor of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters.”
    “This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or, at least, neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. ”
    “When the happiness or misery of others depends in any respect upon our conduct, we dare not, as self–love might suggest to us, prefer the interest of one to that of many. The man within immediately calls to us, that we value ourselves too much and other people too little, and that, by doing so, we render ourselves the proper object of the contempt and indignation of our brethren. ”
    “Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased”
    “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. ”
    “We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of the workman. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. ”
    “A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more, otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation. ”
    “A great stock, though with small profits, generally increases faster than a small stock with great profits. Money, says the proverb, makes money. When you have a little, it is often easier to get more. The great difficulty is to get that little. ”
    “”Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”
    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. ”
    ‘Nuff said, n’est pas?

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