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Biography of Adam Smith.

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Introduction

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. The exact date of his birth is unknown, however, he was baptized on June 5, 1723. Smith was the Scottish political economist and philosopher, who became famous for his influential book "The Wealth of Nations" written in 1776. Smith moved to London in 1776, where he published "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," which examined in detail the consequences of economic freedom. It covered such concepts as the role of self-interest, the division of labor, the function of markets, and the international implications of a laissez-faire economy. "Wealth of Nations" established economics as an autonomous subject and launched the economic doctrine of free enterprise. The Wealth of Nations was influential since it did so much to create the field of economics and develop it into an autonomous systematic discipline. In the Western world, it is arguably the most influential book on the subject ever published. One of the main points of the The Wealth of Nations is that the free market, while appearing chaotic and unrestrained, is actually guided to produce the right amount and variety of goods by a so-called "invisible hand." If a product shortage occurs, for instance, its price rises, creating incentive for its production, and eventually curing the shortage. The increased competition among manufacturers and increased supply would also lower the price of the product to its production cost, the "natural price." Smith believed that while human motives are often selfish and greedy, the competition in the free market would tend to benefit society as a whole anyway. ...read more.

Middle

In the real world of unregulated markets, successful players get larger and, in many instances, use the resulting economic power to drive or buy out weaker players to gain control of even larger shares of the market. In other instances, "competitors" collude through cartels or strategic alliances to increase profits by setting market prices above the level of optimal efficiency. The larger and more collusive individual market players become, the more difficult it is for newcomers and small independent firms to survive, the more monopolisitic and less competitive the market becomes, and the more political power the biggest firms can wield to demand concessions from governments that allow them to externalize even more of their costs to the community. Given this reality, one might expect the neoliberal economists who claim Smith's tradition as their own to be outspoken in arguing for the need to restrict mergers and acquisitions and break up monopolistic firms to restore market competition. More often, they argue exactly the opposite position--that to "compete" in today's global markets, firms must merge into larger combinations. In other words, they use a theory that assumes small firms to advocate policies that favor large firms. Market theory also specifies that for a market to allocate efficiently, the full costs of each product must be born by the producer and be included in the selling price. Economists call it cost internalization. Externalizing some part of a product's cost to others not a party to the transaction is a form of subsidy that encourages excessive production and use of the product at the expense of others. ...read more.

Conclusion

For at least a century it has been virtually taboo to talk about economic power in the capitalist context; that was a communist (Marxist) idea. The concept of class was similarly banned from discussion. Adam Smith was as acutely aware of issues of power and class as he was of the dynamics of competitive markets. However, the neoclassical economists and the neo-Marxist economists bifurcated his holistic perspective on the political economy, one taking those portions of the analysis that favored the owners of property, and the other taking those that favored the sellers of labor. Thus, the neoclassical economists left out Smith's considerations of the destructive role of power and class, and the neo-Marxists left out the beneficial functions of the market. Both advanced extremist social experiments on a massive scale that embodied a partial vision of society, with disastrous consequences. If corporate libertarians had a serious allegiance to market principles and human rights, they would be calling for policies aimed at achieving the conditions under which markets function in a democratic fashion in the public interest. They would be calling for an end to corporate welfare, the breakup of corporate monopolies, the equitable distribution of property ownership, the internalization of social and environmental costs, local ownership, a living wage for working people, rooted capital, and a progressive tax system. Corporate libertarianism is not about creating the conditions that market theory argues will optimize the public interest, because its real concern is with private, not public, interests. FAHIM TALUKDER L6SD ...read more.

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