Adam Smith Comics: Not From Benevolence

art self interest self love butcher brewer baker comics

August 3, 2023

Though benevolence and charity are good and necessary things, they are not how most wants can be met. Even beggars must trade. 
Artist Sally Madden gives us a colorful exploration of human wants, how they are satisfied, and how we serve the life around us in wonderful, connected and often unexpected ways.

From Book I, Chapter 2 of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
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 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. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence. But though this principle ultimately provides him with all the necessaries of life which he has occasion for, it neither does nor can provide him with them as he has occasion for them. The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase. With the money which one man gives him he purchases food. The old cloaths which another bestows upon him he exchanges for other old cloaths which suit him better, or for lodging, or for food, or for money, with which he can buy either food, cloaths, or lodging, as he has occasion.

Want more?
Sally Madden's comic How The Theory of Moral Sentiments Begins
An alternate comic take on this same quote, "The Butcher, The Baker, and the Brewer" from Paula Richey and Jeremy Lott
Paul Crider on Smith on animals and the environment, "Adam Smith in the Anthropocene."
Jacob Sider Jost's Bargaining with the Butcher, Baker, and Brewer: A New Look at Smith’s Most Famous Sentences
AdamSmithWorks "An Animal That Trades" Video Series
For teachers: Bellringer on Butcher, Brewer, Baker and Lesson plan on Trade for the Win
Stephen Wahrhaftig

I love these comics but I am biased towards both Adam and Sally…