David Warsh on Adam Smith
By David Henderson
I’m reading and enjoying David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations. I hadn’t read it when it came out, but I need to now to write the Paul Romer bio for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Warsh, who was a long-time economics columnist for the Boston Globe, is an excellent writer. Not many people can write a 300+ page book about economic thinking that is a suspenseful page turner. Normally I hate suspense in non-fiction writing; I want the author to tell me the damn point in the first few pages. But Warsh has succeeded in keeping me reading.
By the way, he did a nice review of The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics in the Boston Globe when the book came out in 1993.
So with that preface, guess what: I’m going to do what I sometimes do, which is be critical. On page 44, Warsh quotes the following famous passage from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations:
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.
Warsh then writes immediately following:
Collusion for a time can make it so. In these circumstances, government has certain responsibilities to act.
Walsh seems pretty clearly to be expressing his views, but readers who don’t know Smith well may think that he is telling us Smith’s views.
Question: Is Warsh telling us Smith’s views? If so, why? If not, why not?