Adam Smith (1723-1790) Top Ten Conflict Tips

As part of our continued exploration of conservative thinkers, I thought it would be good to produce one of our Top Ten Conflict Tips on the founder of modern conservative economics Adam Smith, though one should always note that conservatives tend to focus on his more famous book ‘The Wealth of Nations’ without having read much of it, and ignore his other equally important book ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’, which was intended to balance the ‘Wealth of Nations’; and indeed Smith is thought to have considered the Theory of Moral Sentiments his more important book. All his contemporaries said he was a very kind man….

  1. Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”  
  2. No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.
  3. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion
  4. Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.
  5. People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices
  6. Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.
  7. The learned ignore the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of the ideas of their imagination
  8. How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it
  9. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did and never can carry us beyond our own persons, and it is by the imagination only that we form any conception of what are his sensations…His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have this adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels
  10. 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
  11. The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities
  12. In a nation distracted by faction, there are, no doubt, always a few, though commonly but a very few, who preserve their judgment untainted by the general contagion. They seldom amount to more than, here and there, a solitary individual, without any influence, excluded, by his own candour, from the confidence of either party, and who, though he may be one of the wisest, is necessarily, upon that very account, one of the most insignificant men in the society.
  13. The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations
  14. Though those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by the private interests and prejudices of particular orders of men, without any regard to, or foresight of, their consequences upon the general welfare of the society…
  15. The first duty of the sovereign [is] that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, [which] can be performed only by means of a military force

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith

File:AdamSmith.jpg

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Economic Conflict, Philosophy of Conflict, Top Ten Conflict Tips from Great Thinkers, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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