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Who Was Adam Smith?

By Maria Pia Paganelli

Born in Scotland in 1723, where he lived most of his life and where he also died in 1790, Adam Smith is a mythical figure who fathered the modern discipline of economics, embraced unbridled self-interest, and fought against the government to promote capitalism and the interest of business and the rich. Jesse Norman's goal in his recent biography, Adam Smith: Father of Economics,1 is to show that the mythical Adam Smith is, well... a myth. His tools are the availability of an immense body of scholarship and an awareness of current events. But how it is possible? Adam Smith did coin the idea of "invisible hand" and claimed that we don't get our dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, baker, and brewer, but from their self-interest. True, we do not get dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, baker, and brewer, but that does not mean they are not benevolent, or that benevolence does not exist (or worse, should not exist), and it does not even mean that morality (or anyth...

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