Adam Smith: Myths and Realities
August 27, 2020
Sometimes one hears criticisms of markets as allegedly presented by Adam Smith because these markets dehumanize human beings. The dehumanization may be the result of a sort of commodification of human beings who are now forced to sell their labor as if human labor were apples or sofas.
Read our previous #SmithMyths:
- Myth 1: Adam Smith argued that markets are activated exclusively by people’s self-interest.
- Myth 2: Adam Smith argued that the welfare gains from free trade among nations were limited to countries’ exploitation of their production cost advantages.
- Myth 3: Adam Smith Argued that Markets Would Be Driven Exclusively by the Likes of Gordon Gekko
- Myth 4: The Wealth of Nations is about he harmony of markets.
- Myth 5: Adam Smith was a Libertarian
This is a great treatment of an unfortunately persistent myth. I wonder, however, if the humanizing element of markets might owe at least something to values, customs, or attitudes that are independent of, and possibly prior to, the market... can't culture at least partially shape the degree to which markets act as a social leveler? Couldn't mutually beneficial exchange still take place in a context where the overall social status of each participant is still pretty clear, and even clearly hierarchical? This is not at all to discredit the humanizing arguments in favor of markets (or the fact that they are facilitating mutual benefit), only to query where there might be limits... but thank you again to the author for prompting thought here!