We've all heard of him in our basic history and economic courses. We've heard of his world changing principles and ideas. We've heard he was briefly kidnapped by gypsies as a child (ok maybe not all of us...but it's true). Who is this man, you ask? Adam Smith (duh)! Sure, sure we've heard of the "invisible hand" and "self-interest" as mentioned in his The Wealth of Nations (Sorry, I can't underline on Blogger), but have we heard of much more?
In Jonathan B. Wight's fictional adventure Saving Adam Smith, Adam Smith channels his spirit into the mind of Harold Timms, a Romanian immigrant, in order to communicate with doctoral student, Richard Burns. Burns is on the verge of being launched into the highly privileged domain of academia with a revolutionary dissertation, much to the interest of his mentor, Bob Lattimer, and the WorldChemm, a major corporation. However, his attention is diverted when Harold comes to Burns regarding the voice of Adam Smith, who is taking over Harold's mind. Adam Smith is infuriated with the current state of the economy. Forced to listen to this voice, Richard goes on a road trip (from the Virginia to the Silicon Valley) and learns the "morality behind markets" from his conversations with Adam Smith. However, their lives are soon endangered when radical Max Hess plots to kill them. A jam-packed journey filled humor (including a poker game with your favorite Enlightenment thinkers), peril, romance, and economic theory, Saving Adam Smith is certainly a page turner. Wight aims to bring attention to The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the essential root to Smith's later novel. Now, if Saving Adam Smith has piqued your economic interest, I highly recommend it!
Now that you know the basic plot line, here's a brief discussion:
This book brings light to the true intentions of Adam Smith and the core of his philosophy as it differentiates between self-interest and selfishness, explains that justice is needed in a society before free markets can be adopted, and emphasizes the need for "healthy competition."
People are often mistaken with Smith's philosophies and believe that he glorified any and all means to make a profit, which is untrue. Yes, Smith was an advocate for free markets and capitalism, but he also believed that justice is essential to a society before such economic models can be implemented. All of this is explained in his lesser known work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which emphasizes that morality is the foundation for an economically sound world. Smith also believed that a balance of competition in the market leads to technological progress. As stated on page 127: "The perennial search for profit leads to unending innovation and business transformation! Every business re-makes itself to survive."
And that is just a small nibble of the wonderful insights this book has to provide, now go read it!
Wight, Jonathan B. Saving Adam Smith. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Question of the Post: If Adam Smith were able to come back to life, what do you think he would suggest to fix the economy?