One of the strangest coincidences in British political history – to my eyes – is the shared Kirkcaldy heritage of Adam Smith, the genius of market economics (ie. “real life”), and Gordon Brown, the tax-crazed Destroyer of Worlds, whose extraordinarily cynical plundering of the wealth of Britain to finance his ‘voter client group’ stands in stark contrast to Smith’s clear cut assessment of human behaviour, psychology and economics, most famously in the masterly The Wealth of Nations.
To quote Smith:
“The property which every man has in his own labour; as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable”
Which is what is inscribed on the slab fairly recently placed in front of Adam Smith’s tomb in the Canongate Kirkyard, on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. (The exact spot, for Google Earthers, is: 55°57’5.58″N, 3°10’47.75″W).
Having been reminded a few years ago of Smith’s resting place in an article by another great Scot, Fraser Nelson (who I think used to eat his lunch there when he worked at the Scotsman), when I was in Edinburgh I went to have a look. As Fraser pointed out in one article, the place is not exactly hoaching with tourists (though this has been disputed), but it lies in an idyllic spot overlooked by the magnificent buildings of Calton Hill. Smith is still lauded the world over though. A couple of years ago in Vienna I met an American economist who was planning a several thousand mile detour just to visit Kirkcaldy. Seriously.
Smith was the optimist with faith in human nature, who could see the beneficial role to society of natural self interest. Brown remains the gloomy paternalistic predator, luring people into a highly damaging and expensive dependency, for anything but altruistic reasons. For the real Smith, go here.
The weird thing is that Brown, possibly in a confused and self-loathing state, has frequently praised Smith, and rather desperately tried to recruit Smith’s humane realism to support his destructive statist beliefs.
The only thing they really have in common is Kirkcaldy.