James Buchan’s new book provides further evidence to support Murray Rothbard’s thesis that Adam Smith was a somewhat brilliant man without direction and significant insight. And yet, Smith’s views were embraced by many, including both Margaret Thatcher and Karl Marx.
He was the supposed “champion of laissez-faire” economics without ever using the phrase. The supposed “free-thinker” who argued that people should “respect the established powers and privileges.”
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, in his Telegraph review, states that Smith was “an ‘infirm and sickly’ child, as an adult he was a champion hypochondriac who collected medical tracts, and could be heard murmuring to himself, ‘a day in bed – a day in bed.’
Renowned in Scottish Enlightenment circles for being ‘alert, practical, cautious, urbane and businesslike,’ he also had a dreamy, distracted air, ‘moving his lips and talking to himself, and smiling.’”
Buchan reports that Dr. Johnson once told James Boswell that Smith “‘was as dull a dog as he had ever met with,’ while Boswell, never one to let dull dogs lie, complained when Smith came to London in 1773 that he could not recognise his old tutor when faced with this ‘professed Infidel with a bag wig.’”
Buchan is also aware of the inherent contradictions in Smith’s life as he highlights Smith’s denunciation of the “unjust and oppressive restraints” on foreign imports at the same time that he was being paid Â£900* a year as a commissioner of customs.
*It appears as if Adam Smith was paid Â£600 a year as a Scottish Commissioner of Customs. The extra Â£300 came from his pension for tutoring the Duke of Buccleuch and his younger brother for a few years.