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Thread: Did Adam Smith really accomplish anything of substance?

  1. #37

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    Big, I'm just curious. Have you ever read "The Wealth of Nations" or are you just basing all this on Wikipedia, and some book you read "about Smith?"

    I'm just having a hard time going with the point of this thread. Are you just dissing Smith? Are you dissing Smith while trying to build up Marx? I'll readily admit that I have little knowledge on the specifics of Smith's and Marx's writings, however to try and paint either one of them as insignificant is kind of ridiculous. (although this hasn't stopped you in the past)

  2. #38
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    I haven't read the Wealth of Nations itself but this guy in the book gives many excerpts and explains the main points of Smith. This is the book that was required for one of my classes back at the private high school I went here in NY. I doubt a top private school in NY would suggest some bogus book.

    Sure, Smith achieved a lot for his time but it seems his theories don't pan out for our time. In fact everything he holds dear about Capitalism is being broken and eliminated in our time.

    Smith traveled Europe and laughed at all the inhumane conditions of factory workers and of peasants looking for work for little pay. He felt there were much better ways of doing business. However, I believe Smith would equally laugh at Chinese sweatshops and Mexican illegals in America.
    Last edited by Big; 04-30-2007 at 09:18 AM.

  3. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big View Post
    Secondly, outsourcing of jobs to other countries is not against Smith's writings at all. In fact, Smith's writings support it. Smith did not write about human behavior only within political borders. Finding the most cost-effective labor may involve moving operations to other countries. Again, it all goes back to human behavior.

    Smith made no such statements. Smith claimed all businesses would be able to maintain themselves in their own country without breaking any laws, without lowering any standards, and with all businesses having good and bad times.

    In fact, Smith ridicules the kind of conditions sweatshops in China have or Mexican illegals have in America. Smith felt all workers would have similar rights. There is no comparison between the conditions in sweatsahops in China and similar factories in America. Smith was against such differences.
    I don't really think that Smith meant for each country to be only self-sufficient within its own borders. In fact, that would be entirely opposed to many of Smith's observations and theories, such as competitive advantage and specialization of labor. We both agree that Smith was a "free trade' guy. As part of that, he believed that the most efficient method of production generally prevailed. If that means outsourcing labor to other countries, then so be it. The quality of living for those in the other countries would rise because they now have more money. Don't twist this to mean that Smith endorsed sweatshops or that sweatshops are always good. If you honestly investigate the facts, you'll see that those people are much better off under free trade than they were without it, regardless of its pleasantness to you.

    As for workers having similar rights, Smith theorized that EVERYONE has the same rights. He did NOT, however, theorize that everyone would have similar outcomes. Smith would not dare meddle in the affairs of private producers, beyond reasonable safety assurances, because such actions would be another form of wealth redistribution. Smith knew and observed that people didn't want similar everything. He saw that the ability to be better than and have more than someone else is part of human nature. To take that away by seeking similar outcomes in all circumstances is the death of capitalism and takes away any and all personal initiative, a principle on which capitalism rests.

    In short, capitalism occurs when people act how they naturally behave. We talked about this many months ago when we talked about your parents selling things in underground markets in Russia. They found a way to make a market economy. No matter how many laws a country may pass against it, the people will always tend toward a market economy. This is one of Smith's central points.

  4. #40
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    Yes, Smith was in favor of free trade. However, in his mind free trade was goods made within each country traded between countries. In his system one country never went to produce anything in another country because it was cheaper over there or the laws for human rights were more flexible.

    In fact, Smith argued that due to human nature and forces of the market system, all jobs that employers can come up with in any country would be able to be filled by the citizens of that country.

    Smith never anticipated the need for foreign workers as it exists now in America and Smith never anticipated the need to build factories in other countries.

    Smith argues that with more jobs available, more people would be born and more workers would emerge.

    It is obvious Smith was wrong and his ideas are nothing more than CAPITALISTIC UTOPIA.

    BUT, people like you skipster will take his ideas and engineer them to fit your agenda.
    Last edited by Big; 04-30-2007 at 03:24 PM.

  5. #41
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    As to Smith's central point, he argued that it did not matter what system humans use, capitalism, communism or slavery system in order for some improvements to emerge. He observed that even during Middle Ages many improvements emerged.

    What he argued is that a true market system was the most efficient system and it would not require sweatshops and illegal immigrants and people that would work for little pay doing jobs no one wants. Obviously, that is not the case.

  6. #42

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    You haven't read Smith, have you, Big? In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith rarely gives his own opinions. He only observes human behavior and seeks to explain why it occurs. Thus, he can not prefer one over another -- he merely calls it as he sees it.

    As for your jobs that no one wants, I would say that you surely can find people who want those jobs. Now, those jobs may not be the highest on the desirability scale, but when faced with the alternative (starvation, bankruptcy), a less desirable job becomes more desirable.

    Capitalism is essentially the greates amount of freedom for the greatest number. It is everyone acting for himself. It does not entitle anyone to what he wants. It merely allows everyone to choose what paths to pursue. You may want to be a great wrestler, but if you don't workout and improve, you will not be the best -- you will be somewhere between the worst and the best. Similarly, if you want a great life, you must work for it.

    Don't forget the first growing season for the Plymouth colony in the New World. They lived by the axiom "each gives what he is able and each takes what he needs." That system failed and the very next year they set up a private property/enterprise system.

  7. #43
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    Again skipster, you have missed the point. Whether Smith gives his opinion or describes what he sees, in his book it says that a true capitalism will have as many citizens in a country willing to work as there are jobs available for appropriate wages. When wages are too low, fewer workers will emerge since many will die as children due to poor care from the parents. This will increase the wages since there won't be enough workers. As wages increase, so will people since fewer will die with better care in the family.

    This is Smith's cycle and it does not consider running and looking for cheap labor in other countries nor does it consider foreign workers coming in.

    Smith allows that wages will increase and decrease and more or fewer people will die due to fluctuations in parental care.

    This system is primitive, barbaric and totally unrealistic today.

    Can you imagine economists today saying more children dying is actually a good thing?

  8. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big View Post
    This system is primitive, barbaric and totally unrealistic today.
    Hence why we don't run the verbatim version of Smith's system today...

    Again I'm really failing to see any semblance of a point in this thread, although I'm assuming its to tear down Smith in an attempt to play the "Marx wasn't really that bad" card. His "system" certainly worked a whole lot better than Smith's.

  9. #45

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    But I can see that you haven't read Smith because he does not speak of brith and death rates within a nation's borders. He speaks of birth rates and death rates globally, not nationally. He also makes no judgment as to the appropriateness of wages. One hallmark of Smith was his refusal to make subjective judgments. Whether a wage is appropriate is totally subjective -- what you think is an appropriate wage may not be the same as my version of an appropriate wage. Smith does not deal with subjectives.

    To focus on the birth and death rate section of the Wealth of Nations is to declare that 890 pages of the 900 page piece are mere details and filler. You're missing the point. You are swatting mosquitoes while the elephants are running over you.

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