HART: The Economics Of One Of World’s Most Influential Philosophers Turns 300

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Ron Hart Contributor
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When I look back on college, there are few things I can remember learning. One was that you can throw up well after you think you’re done. On one particularly hungover morning, I called the Memphis Alcoholic Helpline and asked how to make a Singapore Sling. 

But what I remember and liked most about college was reading works that really made sense to me. That animated me. First, the works of Ayn Rand. Then, in a particularly fair-minded economics class (a program hidden in Georgetown University’s summer curriculum), I discovered economist Adam Smith.

Born in Scotland on June 5, 1723, the best economist in history, Adam Smith, would be 300 years old this month. If he were alive, he would be happy to see that he was entirely right in his books, including Theory of Moral Sentiment and his seminal work, Wealth of Nations. Both should be required reading.

Adam Smith was the first to study and write about economics as an academic subject worthy of study and exploration. Before Smith, wealth distribution was considered to be “God’s Will,” so as to keep the common man down and wealth in the hands of the inheritors. It served the purpose of the (then) liberal elites by making financial upward mobility harder and caused the average man to pay more for goods and services by restricting competition. Adam Smith was the “Father of Capitalism,” and Capitalism has done more to improve the lives of people than any form of faux altruism or big government socialism on earth.

He was the first to call out crony capitalism; he called it “mercantilism.” It is a state of economics from which Democrats love to grift, a form of Mafia-like protection. Politicians give you governmental protections for your business and you funnel money back to them. 

It is why the cost of the products of the most heavily government-regulated businesses goes up more than the overall rate. Think about state-run colleges, healthcare, insurance, cable TV, etc. The more businesses are in bed with government, the more we pay – and for lower quality. For example, 95% of the country only has one cable provider. 

In his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith said, “A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly understocked by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate. The price of monopoly is upon every occasion the highest which can be obtained. The natural price, or the price of free competition, on the contrary, is the lowest which can be taken, not upon every occasion indeed, but for any considerable time together.”

Wealth ensures that those who bring goods and services to others do so at the best price for the quality of the product delivered. This, instead of socialism or monopolistic economies, results in average people getting a better deal on goods they purchase, thus living a better life.

Smith first wrote of economics as enlightened self-interest benefiting the masses. He called it “rational self-interest,” that all of us, going about our business in a manner that benefits us, also benefits all others. He said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.” That certainly gets rid of the need for the DEA, FDA and the Commerce Department.  

Fentanyl is put in drugs now because “The War on Drugs” via the DEA makes drugs illegal, thus sending production to underground gangs and thugs.  There is no accountability by the manufacturer. 

I learned about drinking and economics in college. I guess it worked out. In addition, in my fraternity I learned many other life lessons, some things Biden should know after all his falls of late. It does not matter how many times you fall on your face; it matters how many times you get back up. That works in life, but, as it turns out, not so well during a Memphis Police Officer’s roadside sobriety test. 

A libertarian op-ed humorist and award-winning author, Ron does commentary on radio and TV. He can be contacted at Ron@RonaldHart.com or @RonaldHart on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.